Team Proper grows into a force 

The 2010 National Blackbelt League Super Grands World Games, held in Sacramento the last week of December, were dominated by Team Proper, a San Francisco-based sport karate team.

Coach and co-founder Junior Salientes was one of 12 Team Proper competitors to win world titles at the super grands.

For Salientes, his victory at the tournament was the culmination of an undefeated season that began with an uncertain comeback from reconstructive ACL knee surgery and ended with the senior lightweight championship.

The excitement for his personal success was surpassed only by Team Proper’s junior team world sparring title, anchored by Salientes’ eldest son, 17-year-old Patrick.

“That was the most breathtaking, emotional win there was,” Junior Salientes said of the 13-11 victory over defending champion Team Schumann from Guatemala. “When they call that division up, everyone gathers around, everyone is pumped. It’s the most exciting event of the tournament.”

A 1991 Vallejo High School graduate, Salientes, 37, has been wholly focused on karate since the age of 4. He admits to having never attended a Giants game, despite living for the past six years in the South Beach area of San Francisco, home of AT&T Park.

“Our lives revolve around martial arts,” Salientes said.

After completing his shift as a materials manager at Kaiser Permanente Vallejo, Salientes picks up his two older boys from school, and the remainder of the day is devoted to training.

His middle son Derek, 12, has won amateur titles. Salientes’ girlfriend Nicole Bentley, a martial arts instructor and Team Proper competitor, is on board as is to a lesser degree 9-month-old Xavier Salientes, who accompanies his mom to the karate studio.

“He’s there everyday,” Salientes said. “He crawls on the mats.”

Team Proper members are considered an extension of his family. Salientes, who founded the team in 2008 with Sean Arceo, expects more than mere physical talent from his athletes.

“If teams don’t mix together, it won’t work,” Salientes said. “It boils down to chemistry, while at the same time being the best.”

Allowing young martial arts competitors the opportunity to vie for world titles also takes funding. Team Proper was established to allow Salientes the ability to “give back” to the sport that he loves. All proceeds from the martial arts seminars that the nonprofit organization conducts are used to finance the team’s travel and tournament expenses. Sponsors are being sought to help send the team to the 2011 Super Grands and a chance to defend the world titles.


Team Proper

TEAM: Roster consists of three female and 15 male competitors

2010 SUPER GRANDS: In addition to the 12 world titles, the team compiled 22 championship belts (third place or higher)

UPCOMING EVENT: Proper Challenge at Merritt College in Oakland, March 5


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David Liepman

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