Saturday, August 23, 2014

Guro Dan Inosanto

Guro Inosanto 1985 at Raymond Crow's school demonstrating a kali counter to a turn kick

My Influences in the Martial Arts

This was originally part 7 of a series on the main influences on my training in the martial arts of what has yet to be posted, but then since Guro Dan was the man who got me started in the FMAs, I guess it is appropriate he is first one I post about.

In a few hours I’ll be attending a seminar with Guro Dan Inosanto in Hurst TX, as usual for events like this I couldn’t sleep so I’m up at 4:30am ready to get going, I thought I should write. 

It was about 32  years ago (in 1982) I saw a flyer about a Dan Inosanto seminar in Sherman/Dennison TX that ended up changing my life. I was 20 at the time and was as a Orange belt in American karate.  I knew nothing about the FMAs but I knew Dan had worked with Bruce Lee. I called up the instructor to find out about the seminar and he tried to explain the FMAs to me, finally telling me that “Do you remember the cellar scene in Enter the Dragon?  Do you remember Bruce Lee using the two sticks?  That’s Filipino martial arts and Dan taught those sticks to Bruce.”    Cool, I was sold.

Guro Dan, Sifu Larry Hartsell, and I think Cass Magda were there at that seminar, Since I had needed to get a pair of rattan sticks, I went to my friend who was in the SCA at the time and got some huge piece of rattan (like 1 ½ “ diameter) 5 ft long and I put in a lot of work cutting, sanding and heat treating those sticks.  I was swinging those sticks and beating the crap out of my partner’s sticks during Sinawali drills and I remember Larry laughing at them (as he took a look at them).  I think he let me borrow a pair of his for the remainder of that seminar.

Anyway what I saw and practiced at the seminar influenced me enough that it changed my direction in the martial arts in many ways.

·        It sparked my interest in the FMAs (which became a HUGE influence on my martial arts journey)

·        It sparked my interest in JKDC (and adapting other techniques and strategies to my primary art)
  ·        It sparked my interest in training with other martial artists in other martial arts; such as Larry Hartsell (JKD, boxing and grappling), Master Chai (Thai Boxing), Master Toddy (Thai boxing), Ted Lucay (JKD Kali), Tuhon Gaje (Pekiti Tirsa) and others.

Guro Dan and Sifu Hartsell demonstrating a Thai Boxing drill/technique at the same seminar
·        One of the biggest areas of influence was that it got me thinking about recording or taking notes of the seminar (this came from a conversation about the Tao of Jeet Kune Do by Bruce Lee).  It is this practice that allows me to draw drills and instruction for my classes today from things I did 25+ years ago.

During the 1980's-1990's I attended several seminars with Guro Dan and what always impressed me was his interest in history, his interest in promoting the FMAs and teaching and documenting what he learned from his teachers or his influences.  Guro Dan is a great communicator so his instruction is pretty clear if you understand where he is coming from.  

Over the years I stopped going to Guro Dan’s seminars, the last one I went to was in 2000 so it’s been almost 14 years since I last saw him.  My main interest was in his FMA instruction and that was getting less and less time in his seminars, so I went elsewhere for that instruction.  But what Guro Dan for me did was to lay a solid foundation that others (my other influences) built on.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance seminar #2

Participants at the 2nd Mapa seminar

Last Saturday (August 2nd) we held the 2nd Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance seminar hosted by Beck Martial Arts in Richardson Tx, and it was a great success.  First off you might wonder what is the Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance or MAPA for short.  Basically it is an loosely based organization to promote cross training in the Filipino Martial Arts (FMAs), and to promote the FMA instructors in the Dallas Ft. Worth metroplex.  We mainly do this by hosting small seminars every 2-3 months in various schools in the DFW area.  The 1st seminar we held here at the Roanoke Rec. Center and Hidden Sword Martial Arts was the host school, and the 2nd MAPA seminar guro Beck hosted at Jerome’s gym where he teaches martial arts classes.  Our 3rd seminar is currently scheduled for Nov. 1st 2014 and will be hosted by guro John Bain’s school.

Guro Bain demonstrating a point with Dylan
So far the feed back I received from my students and those people who attended the seminar was that it was a great time and they thoroughly enjoyed it.  Currently the teaching format has been 3 - 4 instructors teaching for about an 1hour on a subject matter of their choice.  This time guro Abel Martinez started off with teaching a session on the use of the Abaniko or fan strike, he taught drills related to using the fan motion in disarming and double stick flow drills.  Guro John Bain then taught on knife to knife skills and disarming and empty hand to knife skills.  Guro Beck then taught a brief session on a group sinawali drill, after which I taught a session on Policing techniques from Kombatan.  Guro Beck then finished the seminar with a session based on the use of the punyo or butt of the stick in locking and controlling techniques.

Guro Beck demonstrating a wrist lock
The great thing about this format has been that my students (and I’m sure it is the same for everyone else) get to see a wider view of the FMA expressions or styles.  They get to see that the way they might practice isn’t the only way but that there are variations in techniques or strategies.  They also get to work with others of various sizes, skills, gender, age etc. etc. outside of their classmates which I believe is vital for proper growth in the martial arts.   They get to interact and problem solve with other individuals asking for and giving input to learn new techniques or maybe gaining a new view point on an old technique.  

As an instructor I believe the additional input makes me a better instructor.  For instance guro Beck’s material on the use of the punyo allowed me to practice the side by side throw/take down in a manner in which I hadn’t thought about in almost 15-20 years.   On Monday night I was asked to review that technique by my students, thus teaching it to students who couldn’t come to the seminar.  Likewise in my adult class Kevin taught a different version off the lock, one that  he was shown by another instructor at the seminar.  Then we went over some of the knife work that guro Bain taught and so on.  In my advanced karate class on Tuesday we went over some more material from the seminar but I related it to techniques found within a Tae Kwon Do kata. Tonight will be some more review on guro Abel’s material and so on.

In the end for me; I view my participation in MAPA as a supporter, organizer, promoter, and teacher as really more of an investment in my school, my students, and others then just having a good time for myself. 

If you want to get involved, to see more photos from both MAPA seminars, or to find out more about MAPA visit and like our FB page at 

Friday, May 30, 2014

Working with Others

 As an instructor I want to give my students every opportunity to grow and train in the martial arts.  I believe strongly in having my students cross train in other arts or with other students and schools outside of my classes. I believe also that it is my responsibility to reach out to other schools and other instructors to not only set up training opportunities for them but for me as well.  I believe no instructor is an island and we all some added input to help us become students again.

My daughter Em. and I demoing and instructing double stick combative responses during the MAPA seminar.

Recently on May 3rd we (my students and I) hosted a cross training event at the Roanoke Rec. Center for my arnis students.  While we held it on May 3rd of 2013, the idea came about in September of 2013 when at an Iain Abernethy seminar; I was approached by an old Modern Arnis seminar buddy Guro Abel Martinez.  Over several discussions we were trying to set aside time to get our Modern Arnis classes together to cross train.  Then my assistant instructors (Jackie and Kevin) reached out to Guro David Beck about also getting our classes together and in time MAPA was born.

Guro John Bain instructing on finger locks with Kevin
The Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance (MAPA) was formed with the intent of setting up cross training events with other Filipino martial artists, and others martial artists who are open minded to learn and work with each other.  While it was a lot of hard work to arrange and then to put on it was a big success overall with over 20 people showing up from 10 year old kids to adults from several different martial art styles.  We hope to set up another seminar this summer in August.

Double stick training during the MAPA seminar

Right after the seminar I had to travel to Houston for work, and while I was there I met three other Modern Arnis instructors and trained with them.  On Monday night I worked out with Master Ed Kwan and his students, then Tuesday morning bright and early (like 6:00am) I trained with John and his students, and then Tuesday night Master Earl Tullis was gracious enough to set aside time for me to train with him.

Empty hand drills
Master Kwan instructing
A week later Master Ed contacted me and told me that he was coming to Dallas on business and asked if he could visit my classes.  The only problem was he was visiting on my Tae Kwon Do nights.  However seeing a cross training opportunity for my students I invited him to work with my students on empty hand drills.  Master Ed showed up early and worked with my Modern Arnis students and then taught my advanced Tae Kwon Do class empty hand tapi flow drills and applications.
Class photo with Master Kwan

 Lately on Wednesday nights after my Modern Arnis class I travel to another martial arts school in Hurst for a JKD Kali/Pekiti Tirsa class.  This class is a lot of fun for me since I can be a student again and just sit back and relax with the sole intent on learning.  No pressure to formulate lesson plans, no need to jump in and correct etc. etc.  I just have the pressure that I put on myself to keep up with the other students and to adapt to their drills and techniques.

In future posts I’ll discuss more about how each one of these training opportunities affects my teaching, my training and learning.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance Inaugural Seminar

Well I haven't posted much this month (March is almost gone already), and just because I haven't posted on this blog doesn't mean I'm not actively working on creating opportunities for my students to train.  I have been steadily working on arranging for my TKD advanced students to help out and spar on a black belt exam, getting other students ready for an upcoming tournament, teaching on the side etc. etc. as well as arranging this seminar so my arnis students can have a cross training event like my TKD students do.  This is so much worth the effort, I can hardly wait for the 3rd of May.  After a lot of work, a lot of emails, phone calls etc.etc. I'm very glad to announce the following.

On May 3rd 2014 at the Roanoke Recreation Center in Roanoke TX Hidden Sword Martial Arts will be hosting the first (hopefully of several more to come) Filipino Martial Arts seminar for the Metroplex Arnis Players Alliance (M.A.P.A.).  This kickoff seminar will feature three instructors who all earned instructor ranks and have trained in different Filipino Martial Art (FMAs) systems along with other martial art styles and all of whom teach the FMAs in their respective schools.  For a VERY low price of $15.00 for preregistration and $20.00 at the door every participant will receive over 3 hours of training and instruction from these three experienced martial arts instructors.  We know the price is way way low for us as professional instructors; cheaper even than a one hour private lesson, or frankly any seminar event like this that I have ever attended, however we decided to create an event to promote cross training in the martial arts first and a price structure that basically just covers our costs and time.

Guros Lynn, Martinez, and Beck all share a common bond in training at one time or another with with either Grand Masters Remy or Ernesto Presas; the creators of Modern Arnis and Kombatan Arnis respectively. the Guros also share their instructor's vision of  learning from, connecting, training with, and reaching out to martial artists of all styles and systems.  This seminar was created in the spirit of wanting to connect with other like minded practitioners and instructors in the FMAs, and then through discussion amongst others  we expanded the vision of the training opportunity to include students or instructors from all martial arts.  To register for the event go to

Modern Arnis seminar     

 (Note: type in Modern Arnis seminar in the search engine for the class, please be aware that there is small fee for internet and credit cards usage.  This is the Rec. Center website, none of the instructors have any control of this nor gain any income from these fees.)

Short Bios on the Instructors

Guro Abel Martinez has over 20 years training and teaching experience in the martial arts; earning black belt ranks in 5 arts; Northern Shaolin/Preying Manits Kung Fu (3rd), Progressive Jujitsu (4th), Progressive Jujitsu -Kempo (2nd), Modern Arnis (2nd) and Luzviminda Arnis( 1st).  Guro Martinez currently teaches Modern Arnis and Thai Chi at TNT Self Defense in Stephenville TX.

TNT Denfense Website

Guro Martinez will be instructing on connecting mid -close range distances with using solo baston flow drills.

Guro David Beck is a multilevel black belt in Hapkido (6th dan), TKD (4th dan) and Arnis Delon (lakan Isa, 1st dan).  Guro Beck has trained for over 30+ years in the martial arts and over 20 years in the FMAs training with Guro Anding Delon, GM Remy Presas, GM Ernesto Presas, Datu Tim Hartman, Guro Dan Inosanto  and others.  Guro Beck teaches Hapkido, TKD and Modern Arnis at Jerome's Gym in Richardson TX.  For more information see Guro Beck's website at

Beck Martial Arts website

Guro Beck will be teaching on the use of the punyo (butt of the stick) to aid in locking and striking of pressure points.

Guro Mark Lynn is a multi level black belt in Renbudo karate (7th dan), Pacific Archipelago Combatives (6th dan), Kombatan Arnis (Lakan Lima, 5th dan), Modern Arnis (Lakan Apat, 4th dan), and Kobudo (traditional weapons 1st dan) with over 30 years experience studying and teaching the martial arts.  Guro Lynn has received instruction from some of the leading teachers in the FMAs including GM Remy Presas, GM Ernesto Presas, Hock Hochheim, Datu Dieter Knuttle, SM Dan Anderson, Datu Hartman, Guro Dan Inosanto, The Masters of Tapi Tapi, to name but a few.  Guro Lynn is the chief instructor for Hidden Sword Martial Arts and currently teaches Modern Arnis and American Karate at the Roanoke Recreation Center in Roanoke TX.

Guro Lynn will be teaching on translating double stick techniques to empty hand defenses.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sparring School Culture part 4

School Culture 4
All pictures taken and printed by Mark Lynn for a college photography course project on the Proctor dojo, these are scans of the photos.

Sensei Proctor kicking Joseph
In previous posts in this series on School Culture I was comparing a sparring type school culture in posts 1 and 2 in a commercial school setting, this post is a continuation of my personal experience of training at my instructors home dojo that was a sparring type school as well which was started in post 3 of this series.

As I mentioned in my previous post one of the great things that developed in sensei Proctor’s home dojo was a deep bond between those that trained there.  This attitude was fostered and built into the training by sensei Proctor; for instance we have New Years Day workouts each year to celebrate the New Year and then celebrate lunch afterwards with family and friends.  Even if you didn’t workout people and students would still show up for lunch afterwards to

visit with old friends.  This is one of the great things about the sparring type of a school if it is fostered right is that feeling of family, comradely, that feeling we are special because we all go through this together.  

But there were some negatives as well.
Tony side kicking Meg

Looking back on it from an instructor’s point of view now, I’ve realized that I wasn’t really prepared to teach karate in this type of environment.  Sensei Proctor taught me how to fight which in and of itself was a valuable lesson, but as a young blue belt (early 20’s) being taught in this type of an environment I didn’t have the years of training in a formal class that sensei Proctor and the others had.  By not having the years of training under my belt I didn’t have the experience of practicing nor developing my kata, basic techniques, sparring drills, etc. etc. leaving me with  nothing or very little from which to draw from in order to develop others.  By not going through the type of training my sensei had, or put in the time he had to develop his kicking skills, I couldn’t or wouldn’t really develop the body mechanics or methods to pass on and teach that material later on in years. 

I’m not saying that I wasn’t trained in my basics (i.e. blocking, punching and kicking skills) because I was in the commercial schools and the private lessons when I was at college.  In fact I took over the karate program at the college I was attending because I knew more about the basics, kata and such than the black belt instructor who had gotten his black belt in Korea (when he was younger) and at the time I was a brand new 4th brown. The next year I ended up teaching the karate program three nights a week at two hours a night for my last year in college.

Sensei Proctor is/was a mentor to me who was and is still instrumental in my growth as a martial artist; he not only taught me karate and how to fight, he also encouraged me to look into the Filipino Martial Arts, Thai Boxing, JKD and other martial arts.  The down side was I had no real way to incorporate what I was learning, because I didn’t have that type of training foundation in the first place.  Also I had no idea how to lay out, design, or structure classes much less a curriculum when I really started teaching on my own in 1994 several years later.  I simply used the kata in our system as a basis to structure things around and went from there but as a curriculum it wasn’t really well thought out.  

While the sparring type school can build that feeling comradely, it can build good fighters, it can be used as an attitude building mechanism.  The big draw back I see in a school that is focused mainly on sparring and teaches kata or basics only as a method of rank progression is that it could be stunting the student’s growth in the martial arts, and in turn for many students of theirs in the future.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Our Modern Arnis Way

Our Modern Arnis Way (How we are different part 2)

Last week I wrote about how “my Modern Arnis is different than ‘Normal” Modern Arnis”.  This week I want to continue with how our empty hand, espada y daga, and knife work is different as well.

Our empty hand material comes from several different sources, built around GM Remy’s Modern Arnis.  The first noticeable difference is the basic four defensive responses, these are taken directly from the double stick responses taught in Kombatan.  This is one of the first areas in our curriculum we stress to help the student to start translating the motions between blocking and countering a swinging stick and blocking and countering a punch.  We use the teaching drills and methodology inspired by Hock Hochheim such as the Wooden Man and Statue drills along with his punching drills to add meat and muscle to the skeletal structure so to speak.  These four defensive responses are tied in not only to empty hand punches etc. etc. but also to grabs, pushes, shoves, as well as weapon attacks. 

We also use the empty hand Sinawali drills to tie together the double stick and empty hand material, but we also tweak it by inserting the four defensive responses mentioned earlier into the empty hand sinawali flow drills making a more spontaneous blocking and entering  component to the drills.  Building on a similar format as we did with the single stick; in the more advanced rank levels we combine various empty hand flow drills i.e. Hubud, Empty Hand Sinawali, Empty Hand Tapi flowing in between the different patterns and using them to teach blocking, passing, locking, and striking skills.

SM Dan Anderson teaching at the 2007 DAV Summer camp
The Professor (Remy Presas) combined Small Circle Jujtisu with his Modern Arnis so he taught a lot of locking skills and drills.  Our Modern Arnis keeps that teaching alive and our locking, throwing, and off balancing skills come from the Professor along with a heavy influence of Dan Anderson’s teaching material.

SM Dan Anderson teaching off balancing skills at 2007 DAV Camp
We still teach the Modern Arnis Anyos or katas but we use them to teach application and translation of techniques instead of just for rank progression.  Here again SM Dan Anderson’s influence is found through his motion application principles, and body management principles to help us apply techniques found within the anyos.

Perhaps the two areas of the least influence of Modern Arnis that we have in our program is the espada y daga and the knife material.  Both of these bodies of material are heavily influenced by GM Ernesto Presas’s Kombatan, Hock Hochheim, Guru Inosanto and Bram Frank.  The espada y daga material is mainly from Kombatan and the espada y daga flow drills from Guru Inosanto, where as the knife material is from all four men.  In all of the camps and all of the 1 day seminars I went featuring GM Remy Presas, he covered this material only 2-3 times which is why GM Remy’s knife and espada y daga material is so sparse in our curriculum.  I reserve this material for the advanced ranks.

In a previous post I stated that we (my school and the instructors associated with Hidden Sword Martial Arts) are not part of or associated with any of the Modern Arnis governing bodies at this time.  One of the reasons this is so, is because that what I teach, how I teach, and what I believe should be taught is different because of all of my (our) influences.  It is not that my Modern Arnis is better than anyone else’s, but mine is different.

Datu Dieter teaching a spiraling take down at the 2007 International DAV Summer Camp

Sunday, February 23, 2014

School Culture Post 3

 The Home dojo  (Note all photos were taken and printed by Mark Lynn for a photography class at Collin County Community College these are scans of the original photos.)
Sparring in the Proctor Dojo around 1989/90
In the first two posts of this series I talked about the sparring type culture in a martial arts school using a black belt test that some students of mine and I had just attended as an example of that type of culture.

This time I want to discuss another type of school culture and which is again of the sparring culture but from my own training background, which is the family or private dojo.  It was in the summer of 1983 when I was invited over to train at my instructor’s house.  He had quit teaching at a commercial school (Texas Karate Institute in Plano) and had opened up his garage in his house as his personal dojo.

Meg watching and waiting for her turn at the door
There was a small group of men and occasionally women who would work out and spar at the dojo, many of the individuals would come 2-3 times per week for the work outs, sometimes there would be 1-2 people that would show up sometimes more.  What formed was a close knit group of people who trained with each other for several years.  It is a testament to this group that several are still training there even today almost 30 years later.

Generally sensei Proctor and I would work on kata when I came home from college, in private workouts.  However the vast majority of time for the group work outs focused on sparring.  As a group we never wore full uniforms, nor belts, nor lined up by rank, we didn’t do any real punching and kicking combinations drills like in a normal school, we simply sparred.  But not in the normal sense, sparring at the Proctor dojo was vastly different than in the commercial dojo; we fought hard, we got taken down to the floor, we got kicked into the walls, we wrestled, we did the ground and pound before it was named the ground and pound, we kicked to the legs, we elbowed and kneed each other, all with leaving our belts and egos at the door.

Vince Roundhouse kicking John

Some of us (like myself) ended up training there for a time and leaving only to come back again and train some more only to leave again etc. etc.  For me I ended up leaving for college, then relocating for work etc. etc. but we all still remained connected to the dojo.  So I trained there when I could as well as at other schools when I relocated along with the weekend classes at SMU or the kobudo workouts we had down town.  While I had outside influences from all of the other training I did; I learned to fight here in this dojo.
What sparring at sensei Proctor’s dojo brought about was a deep bond between those of us who trained there over the years.  Many of us developed deep friendships and respect for one another and a closeness that was and is almost like family.  This resulted in having the trust in others that when they kicked at your knee (one of my favorite entries) they were just playing the game and not trying to break it.  Once I took a side kick to my ribs breaking them, and having developed the deep trust we had for each other helped me to understand it was my fault for not blocking because the other guy was just kicking at the opening I left; he wasn’t trying to purposely cause me harm.  Getting black eyes from well placed kicks or punches, getting a nose broke, getting knocked out or put through the sheet rock that lined the walls was just part of our training experience.   The price we paid was blood sweat and tears as well as commitment to the training and to each other, a price that we all gladly and painfully paid.

Vince catching Meg with a left hook
While I believe there were many many benefits to training this way, in the 4th part of this series I’ll explain what I believe to be some of the downsides to this type of training.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

My Modern Arnis isn't Normal Modern Arnis pt 2

Our Modern Arnis

Last week in a previous blog entitled “My Modern Arnis isn’t Normal Modern Arnis”  I described why I called what I teach Presas Arnis, my influences, and how I went back to calling what I teach Modern Arnis.  This week I thought I would explain how our Modern Arnis is different than “normal Modern Arnis”.

First off I believe I still teach with the spirit behind Modern Arnis, a spirit of innovation, a spirit of creativity, to translate the motion of techniques, and with a spirit that teaches the student to make the connection between techniques.  All of which the Professor (GM Remy) demonstrated at his seminars and through out his DVDs etc. etc.

However I’m not a purest, nor a preservationist in regards to only teaching what Remy taught.   Even though I have hundreds of pages of detailed notes out lining what he taught, in what order, at what seminar etc. etc., I don’t teach in the same format as GM Remy taught me.  I can’t.

Instead we (my assistant instructors and I) teach a curriculum that is a blended curriculum of the Modern Arnis of GM Remy and Kombatan Arnis created by  GM Ernesto Presas, along with various drills and a teaching methodology inspired by Hock Hochheim.  I teach with the goal of primarily teaching  a method of self defense first and stick fighting a distant second through a martial art. 

Gm Ernesto Presas instructing a student  on response #2
Here at Hidden Sword Martial Arts one of the big differences in our Modern Arnis program is the heavier influence of double stick techniques and instruction.  One of the core set of techniques is the four defensive responses; this material comes from GM Ernesto's and Hock's influence, however we teach this material much earlier in our curriculum than in Kombatan's.  The four defensive responses are then translated to empty hand techniques as well as self defense techniques.  Another difference is the amount of double stick flow drills or Sinawalis, that are taught.  In many Modern Arnis schools there are generally 3-4 Sinawali’s taught and in our Modern Arnis curriculum we have chosen to teach several more.  We use the Sinawalis to teach different concepts like the double double, the abaniko (or gunting), reverse principle, etc. etc. and much of this material comes from the Kombatan and Guro Inosanto's influences.

GM Remy demonstrating stick locking techniques with Jeff  Delaney

For the single stick the body of material is largely from GM Remy’s Modern Arnis.  Although in addition to Remy's material, we do incorporate the Dos Manos drills from Hock, disarming concepts and techniques from both Datu Dieter and SM Dan Anderson, angling and body shifting skills and drills from SM Dan Anderson, and Policing or releasing techniques from Kombatan.

Our single stick and empty hand flow drills come from several different sources mainly Remy, Guro Dan Inosanto, and Hock.  In our advanced ranks we start teaching various Hubud, Sumbrada (Remy’s six count drill), and the Tapi Tapi drill series.  Where we differ is when we combine the drills together and flow from one to the next.  So you might start out in long range with single sinawali (with one stick) break in and go into Sumbrada then into Hubud then into Tapi Tapi with the right hand, back into Hubud then into Tapi with the left hand etc. etc. 

Next week I will continue this with describing how our empty hand, espada y daga, and knife material is different as well.

Monday, February 17, 2014

School Culture

The sparring school part 2

Libby (red belt) sparring with Kimberly (brown belt)
There are many different aspects about a martial art school's culture; is it inclusive, is it secretive, is it focused around building the community, student or character development etc. etc. and all outside of the scope of this series.  This series has a more narrow focus in relating the culture of the school as it relates to training.  This is a continuation of school culture as it relates to the sparring focused school so please read that post first for context.

As I watched Libby perform her kata, her form was very good, however later in the instructor’s conference, I pointed out some concerns to Mrs Hawkins which she replied was their (the instructors) fault.  Specifically some of Libby's blocks weren’t in the right places, twisting of her hips for power generation was non existent, at times her hands weren’t clenched tight when punching, there was no turning of the head prior to turning (to see where she was going), her stances were off slightly etc. etc.   

At one point during the exam, I asked Libby after watching her run through Chug-Mu where a particular technique was, she replied “to the neck” but she was striking about rib level.  I then had her run back through the kata again with more power and told her to focus her techniques and to her credit she did, although her focus for other techniques were still off. 

When asked later by sensei Hawkins what was the reason that she practiced kata, Libby recited verbatim why you practice kata for belt tests listing out four reasons without hesitation.  But when sensei Hawkins told her “that’s good for why you do it for tests, but what is the purpose of kata or why should you practice it?” Libby didn’t have an answer.
In short I believe there was no real thought behind the techniques of the kata other than needing to memorize the movements for her next rank promotion.  Compared to the amount of time devoted to the sparring part of the exam and her skill in sparring, it seemed clear where the focus of the instruction lie.

This isn’t alone to sensei Hawkins’s school by any means.  I’ve talked with many other school owners and instructors and it is common to hear something like the following “We only practiced kata for tests, we mainly spar.”  “My instructor didn’t like katas, so he took out some”.  I’ve seen this not only here in Texas, but also in Oklahoma where I lived and trained for a time.  While in Oklahoma I met a whole group of instructors  who didn’t know any kata or forms above Wha Rang which is our 2nd brown kata.  A general view on internet forums is that it is more important to spar than to learn kata so I believe that many many schools focus more on sparring and sparring related themes such as prearranged punching and kicking combinations etc. etc. for advancement than kata,  and proper basics (blocks, hand techniques and kicks).

So is this bad?  It depends upon how you look at it .  On the face of it focusing on sparring and fighting can produce really good people who spar, if that is the focus of the school.  Likewise having only a few kata to learn means that the student can really perfect those kata and have really great looking forms.  Having only a few self defense techniques to practice also allows more time to spend on punching and kicking combinations, more time for sparring etc. etc.  So schools with a sparring culture I believe will produce some students who are good at sparring and who can look good at kata as well.  I though see some down sides to the sparring culture school.

Let me be clear here I’m not saying that the sparring culture school is bad, or that Mrs. Hawkin’s school is bad, or Libby didn’t or earn her rank; far from it.  The sparring school culture generally produces a type of student and it is what it is, nothing more and nothing less.  In future posts as I write about  the other types of schools my reservations about the sparring culture type schools, as well as the other cultures, will be brought out in greater detail than trying to discuss them here in this post.   

Next week I’ll discuss my experience coming up in a sparring culture at my sensei’s private dojo.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Modern Arnis isn't Normal Modern Arnis pt 1

Our Modern Arnis Way

At Hidden Sword Martial Arts I teach what I have called Presas Arnis for several years now and only recently have I started referring to it as Modern Arnis since there as been a shift in my teaching.  In short however let me state up front that my Modern Arnis isn’t normal Modern Arnis and we are not associated with or governed by the other Modern Arnis associations.

So what is Modern Arnis?  In short Modern Arnis is a martial art that was created by Grandmaster Remy Armador Presas in 1957.  GM Remy went on to promote his art all around the world till his unfortunate death in 2001.  Modern Arnis was designed and created as a method of self defense using his knowledge of the Filipino martial arts, Judo, Jujitsu, and Karate which he blended together into his self defense system.

Double stick defensive response #1 from Kombatan Arnis
So why did I call it Presas Arnis?  Well I studied under Hock Hochheim who not only studied with GM Remy but with Remy’s younger brother GM Ernesto Presas.   GM Ernesto has his method of Arnis as well called Kombatan Arnis (among other names over the years including Modern Arnis).  Hock took elements of GM Remy’s art and elements of GM Ernesto’s art and combined them and called it Presas Arnis in order to honor both brothers and set it apart from their separate arts as well.  For many years I simply followed suite.

Early on in my training, Hock encouraged me to study with both brothers and I did, eventually earning Lakan (black belt) rank under Hock, Remy and Ernesto in each of their systems.  So what I learned and subsequently taught was a blend of these three instructors.  After Remy’s passing I continued to study with a variety of leading instructors in Modern Arnis through camps and such and I incorporated their teaching and drills into my classes as well.  So I felt it was proper to call what I teach as Presas Arnis, because at the core of my art it is a blend of the two brothers systems.

After GM Ernesto passed away in 2010, I started shifting the name of what I teach back to Modern Arnis, because by that time I had trained a lot more with people like Hock, Datu Dieter, SM Dan Anderson, Bram Frank, the Masters of Tapi Tapi (MoTTs) and others all of who were more associated with GM Remy’s Modern Arnis than GM Ernesto’s Kombatan Arnis.  

In the opening paragraph I stated “My Modern Arnis isn’t normal Modern Arnis” and it is a true statement. Due to my training with several different instructors of Modern Arnis under GM Remy, as well as Hock and Dieter who trained with both brothers, along with my training with both GM Remy and GM Ernesto; my Modern Arnis curriculum is different than many other Modern Arnis curriculums since I freely blend in these other influences. This is what led me to struggle over between calling the martial art that I teach Modern Arnis or Presas Arnis because I didn’t want to misrepresent what I teach.
Double Stick Defensive Response #1 applied to empty hand

In this series entitled Our Modern Arnis Way I will discuss the way I teach and the way I do things, my influences, principles of learning, the differences between our way and others etc. etc. as it relates to Hidden Sword Martial Arts and our Modern Arnis programs.  My goal is to write about how Modern Arnis is the core art within my art and my martial art programs.

Monday, February 10, 2014

School Culture Series

The Sparring School

In this series I’m going to talk about different school cultures and use examples of different schools and how that can effect training, what is learned and so on
Libby side kicking Julia as Master Starnes observes
This past weekend our school was invited to participate on another school’s black belt exam for one of their students; specifically Kevin and I were part of the exam board and two of our 3rd brown students were extra people for the young lady to spar with.  I encourage our students to take part in cross training opportunities like this because I believe it is good for them to see other schools and be watched by other instructors.  It’s also good for them to see other students earn their black belt and it can help them stay focused on their goal of earning their future rank.  It can also be a good learning or teaching opportunity for me to discuss subject matters like these with them afterwards.

Originally we had four students going but Kate was hurt in an accident at home the week prior, and Emily ended up having a test for band at school so we only had Kimberly and Julia go. This particular exam was a good one for our students to have seen, and I wished more of our young ladies could have gone because the school culture is very different from ours.

Messerschmitt AKC located in Jacksborro is a small school (by DFW standards) in a small town.  From what I saw of Libby (their newest black belt), and from Laronda Hawkins (their chief instructor for the American Karate) they really have a big heart.  Their school is built around a sparring culture for the martial arts and that was the main focus of the exam. 

Libby sparring Julia, with some of the fighter's in waiting looking on
Libby on her exam had to spar a set amount of rounds for 2 minutes with one minute rest in-between.  I believe she had close to 12 rounds with a couple of them with instructors, the vast majority being brown and purple belts, and only a couple of beginner belts.  She had one match of two vs. one.  It speaks to her heart or attitude that she, as a small 13 yr old, toughed it out and made it through this part of the exam.  She fought students of all ages, sizes, different ranks, both male and female and she did a really good job.

The first part of the exam Libby had to demonstrate 5  (Chungi, Do San, Won Hyo, Hwa Rang, and Chug Mu) katas and then go through 6 one steps (traditional attacks with a punch) that I believe she made up on her own. After her one steps each of the students that she was later to spar with came up and did some sort of attack on her a couple involving a knife, a couple involving a gun, a couple with a stick, and then rest with some sort of a grab.  Libby had previously performed her board break and something else at a earlier demonstration.

In part two of this series I’ll talk about why I came to the conclusion about the culture of this school and how this affects the training at the school etc. etc.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Junior Modern Arnis class

Dylan practicing Response 1 with double sticks

Over the years that I have been teaching American Karate/TKD at the Roanoke Recreation Center I have always desired to teach Modern Arnis to kids, however the way I had learned Modern Arnis wasn’t the best way to teach kids.  This past year when we rewrote our curricula  for both the Modern Arnis class and the American Karate classes it gave us an opportunity to create a Junior Modern Arnis curriculum as well.  So new for 2014 is the Junior Modern Arnis program.

Modern Arnis is a martial art and self defense system from the Philippines and it has a different training and teaching method than the Japanese, Korean, or Okinawan martial arts systems of Karate or Tae Kwon Do.  In Modern Arnis a rattan stick is used as a training device to teach empty hand skills plus weapon skills at the same time and a emphasis is placed on the student learning how to move from one type of weapon combination to another.

Modern Arnis similar to our American Karate program in several ways.
·        Modern Arnis has a similar belt rank structure.
·        Our Modern Arnis program uses a similar belt stripe system to track the student’s progress.
·        Our Modern Arnis program teaches similar kicks and strikes up to about the Green belt level in the American Karate program.
·        Modern Arnis uses similar stances, similar blocks i.e. similar basic techniques to our American Karate program
·        Our Modern Arnis program teaches Anyos or forms (kata) just like the American Karate program.

However the Junior Modern Arnis is very different as well.
·        Junior Modern Arnis is designed for students 10yrs old and older.
·        Modern Arnis is a fun exciting class that is geared for student partner training.
·        Modern Arnis has 5 anyos up to black belt in empty hand as well as 4 anyos for solo baston (single stick), where as the American Karate program has 10 empty hand kata.
·        Students learn three different weapon combinations, double stick single stick and empty hand for each rank.
Emily and Rian practicing Response 2 with double stick
·        Greater emphasis is placed on learning self defense techniques
·        Greater emphasis is placed on learning locking and controlling skills.
·        Greater emphasis is placed on learning sweeping and takedown skills.

The big difference between the Junior Modern Arnis class and the adult Modern Arnis class is that the material is taught from an age appropriate perspective.
·        The edged weapon (knife) training, as well as the espada y daga (stick and knife combination) has been removed and replaced with learning the bankaw (staff)
·        Many of the chokes, neck cranks etc. etc. have been removed as well.

Our new Junior Modern Arnis class is perfect for students who are new to the martial arts but are looking for something that is different than Tae Kwon Do or karate.  Our Junior Modern Arnis class is perfect for younger students who have had training in karate or another martial art but want to train in another system to get a wider view of the martial arts.  Modern Arnis also is a good self defense based system for those students that are seeking self defense skills.

Click on the Modern Arnis page above to view more information about this class.