How does a high-powered advertising executive find inner peace? For alumnus Taum Dell’Armo (’69), the answer lies in the way of the samurai.
The Bronx-born Dell’Armo—whose first name, “Taum,” is based on a Sanskrit holy word and is pronounced just like his given name, “Tom”—is trained in five martial arts and has been studying Iaido, an intricate Japanese sword art, for the last 12 years. Of Iaido, he says, “You draw the sword, make the cut, and ceremoniously sheath it. It couldn’t look simpler, yet it’s the most complex and spiritual of all the martial arts.” Westerners are rarely trained in Iaido because it requires experience with other martial arts and, according to Mr. Dell’Armo, demands a lifetime of dedication to searching for spiritual perfection through the samurai sword.
“People in the East laugh at our Chuck Norris, strip mall–style dojos,” says Dell’Armo, who now proudly resides in Carmel-by-the-Sea, California. “Everyone here just wants a black belt. But, as they say in the East, ‘The end is nothing; the road is everything.’”
Today Dell’Armo’s mission is to share the artistry of Iaido with a wider community. In addition to lecturing on samurai history, technique, and art, he has also started a special project he calls “The 8 Samurai, the most exclusive art club in the world.” Over the next decade, he will commission the top eight swordsmiths in Japan to create a custom series for eight select clients, each sword set with genuine, antique samurai fittings. “Quite a challenge,” he says.
Dell’Armo’s samurai journey has been a winding one. After graduating from Baruch, he joined the Air Force, which he credits with opening his eyes to the world outside of New York City. Years later he traveled across the country in a van, meeting friendly strangers along the way, and finally settled down in California, where he landed a job as senior vice president of West Coast operations at Ogilvy & Mather.
Although technically retired, Dell’Armo keeps busy with the 8 Samurai project and volunteering with several nonprofits, working primarily with children. “People all across the country have been so nice to me throughout my life,” he says, “and I used to ask them, ‘How can I repay you?’ They’d say, ‘Just pay it forward.’ So that’s what I’m trying to do.”
—Gregory M. Leporati