By Joel Persinger
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar in Long Beach California. It was put on by three brothers, with amazing sword skills. Their father, realizing the dangers of their New York neighborhood, taught them how to fight. Since guns were inaccessible (and illegal for the boys to carry) he taught them the discipline of the blade. They call their art Atienza Kali (there last name being Atienza).
It was a wonderful experience attending this seminar. After many years in the martial arts, I walked into this group of men feeling that I knew absolutely nothing. I was convinced after I had spent two minutes introducing myself to the other students and to the instructor, that everyone in the place was a better fighter than I. You know what… I was right!
These men knew how to fight with a blade in ways I could not have envisioned before I arrived. In fact, learning what little they were able to impart to us in the following five hours was like drinking from a fire hose. I felt completely overwhelmed. You would have had a great laugh watching me trying to practice the footwork they were teaching. I must have looked like a chimpanzee trying to do the cha-cha. I guess that's what happens when you take a 47 year old Karate stylist and try to teach him to walk the hour glass. Suffice it to say that I have taped an hour glass on my practice floor at home and plan on walking that thing regularly in my training.
After the seminar Adventure Collins and I had a great opportunity to spend some time talking with Tom Kier from Sayoc Kali http://www.sayoc.com/. This is the fellow who choreographed the fighting scenes in the motion picture “The Hunted”. David was asking him about some defensive techniques we had learned from a very well known expert in close quarters combat. Tom took one look and said “that might work on someone with no training, but if you try that with a trained person it’ll get you killed 100% of the time”. I ask “can you give me an example?” He spent the next half hour using David and I as practice partners. He easily killed both David and I three or four times. After sharing with Tom how enlightening our conversation and his demonstrations had been, I showed him what I would have done to defend against a knife attack before our talk and was quickly shown how my attacker could gut me like a fish if I approached the situation in that way.
There are a couple of points to this story:
- If you every wanted to be convinced that you should avoid trouble whenever possible, study martial arts for years and then go to a seminar and have a guy show you how easily he can kill you just the same.
- No one instructor can teach everything.
- No one course of study is going to impart all that you can or should know.
- We each have many weapons to consider. It would be wise to learn each that can be practically deployed in our own defense. This includes, empty hand techniques as well as stick, knife and gun.
- I’ve spent years learning how to fight empty handed, but never focused much on how to defend against a person who is not empty handed. Learning how to use a weapon is also an exercise in learning how to defend against it.
- If you are a close minded, "my way or the highway" type martial artist… look out, because there are many ways to approach fighting and the effectiveness of the other guys way might surprise you.
- Perhaps the most important thing is humility. So, if you have received your "Black Belt" or instructor certification or whatever, don't get too full of yourself. As my first instructor who took me to 1st degree black belt once said, "you have only graduated kindergarten".