Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Black Belt = Graduation from Kindergarten

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 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".

Monday, October 03, 2005

Using Competition so it does not ruin our Self-defense.

Using Competition so it does not ruin our Self-defense.

I went to the Cold Steel Challenge just the other weekend (9/24-25) with a couple of friends and had a really good time watching different MA schools compete in knife and sword fighting competitions put on by Cold Steel. This was the second year that CS put this on and the prizes were awesome for an amateur event: The IMPERIAL SERIES-Katana, Wakazashi, O Tanto from CS worth about $2500+.

But what I would like to think/write about is how this competing effected or can affect self-defense. We saw various styles of MA and some reenactment groups that act out medieval swordplay. Now the major MA groups there were of the FMA (Filipino MA), but other style were seen too: Kenpo, Kung-Fu, etc.

I saw people that just use their knife or sword like a bat, I saw people trading shots to get points & then I saw a few (very few) people that put their training & skill into practice.
The prizes were very nice, I would have wanted them myself and probably would have done what was needed to get the job done, but would that have helped my self-defense?

I learned by watching that competition that we must not give up good sound techniques just to win the next point or we might carry that “sport leakage”(Hock) into the streets where it will get us mimed or killed.

It just so happened that one of the few groups that use their skill consistently was a FMA called Atienza Kali (a sister system to Sayco Kali); which it turned out to be the instructors I would be seeing at a 5-hour seminar the following weekend.

The nice thing about these guys was no matter whom they fought they always played by their rules, which was not to trade hits or double kills. I saw blocks/deflections and then counters, I saw them going in for the 1st attack by slapping the opponents sword and then thrusting. They were just fun to watch. All of them might not have made it to the end, but by what I saw they were not going to let “sport leakage” creep in JUST to win the point. (Their top student won the sword competition)

That is all I was going to write and post, but got back from the Kali seminar and was impressed with what I learned; I had already seen these techniques applied on the competition floor appropriately. They taught us how to read the opponents movements better so that I could pick up the strikes easier and I know that drilling with these ideas in mind that I can apply this to stick, knife and hand strikes. All these ideas blend well with what I have learned and still learn at Hock’s seminars and just gives me “1 more bullet for my gun” (Hock).

Atienza Kali’s approach to blade fighting/training is keeping it as close to the chaos of combat as possible.

P.S. I was able to meet Tom Kier of Sayco Kali who is one of the people who helped choreograph/trained the FMA scenes in the movie the Hunted. It was fun talking to him about his work on that film.

Just My Thoughts. (JMT)