Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Branching Out - My Workshop Experience

I had the opportunity this past weekend to attend a workshop organized by Sigung Burt Vickers at Impact Martial Arts in Houston. First, I would like to thank Sigung Vickers for putting together this workshop with so many fabulous martial arts instructors and allowing me the honor of attending. I would also like to thank Impact Martial Arts for allowing us to use their facilities. It was an amazing training event with a lot of knowledge being passed on to the students.

It was a two day workshop focusing on multiple styles that started Friday night and finished with five hours of straight martial arts training on Saturday. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to Houston for the Friday session but still got to spend Saturday learning from some very skilled and knowledgeable instructors and other attendees. There's no way I can do justice to the techniques and drills covered; I would simply like to provide an overview of the instruction we received, my impressions on it, and perhaps give you motivation to seek out similar workshops whenever possible.

We started the day with Sigung Vickers instructing us in some Kajukembo defensive striking and blocking drills against punch combinations. These focused on alternating hard blocks with fan blocks, combining simultaneous blocks and strikes, and capitalizing on offensive openings created by effective blocking and evasion. Moving smoothly between strong, hard techniques and flowing parries, deflections, and evasions is one of the core concepts of Kajukembo and it was wonderful being instructed in the finer points by Sigung Vickers himself. I also was privileged to perform these drills with one of Sigung Vickers's students, Brandon (Sorry, Brandon. I didn't catch your last name). He was quite helpful in working me through some of the specific drills that we don't perform on a regular basis at Dallas Kajukembo. Sigung Vickers then led us in some classic Kajukembo ground striking (hitting an opponent who is on the ground -hitting the ground itself would hurt a lot and not be very effective). The Hawaiian Guillotine is a technique where, after taking an opponent to the ground, you strike the groin causing his head to raise. Then you strike the chin or jaw bending the head backward and finish with a strike to the throat. It is a devastatingly fast and effective technique that will end an attack quickly.

Next, Master Karloff Fontanosa took the lead and instructed us in a drill focused on defending against some of the more common knife attacks; overhead, side-swipe, and upward thrust. The intent of this drill was to focus on fluid movement, redirection, and body positioning. This was a good drill that incorporated attacks from either side and using both hands in defense. His insight into knife fighting was invaluable in understanding not only the most common attacks but the pitfalls inherent in blocking an edged weapon instead of evading and redirecting the attack. Unfortunately, as I said, I missed the Friday night session where Master Fontanosa gave instruction on fast and deceptive/untelegraphed kicking techniques. However, I got to be Master Fontanosa's kicking dummy as he gave an impromptu demonstration of the techniques to those of us who missed his Friday session. I know he was only kicking me with a fraction of his true power, but I can now say without a doubt that you never want to be on the receiving end of a Taekwondo Master's kick. Master Fontanosa actually kicked me in the back of my ribs while standing in front of me. It was so fast, I barely had time to flinch before feeling the impact.

After two and a half hours of training, we took a short food and water break then were graced with Grand Master Joe Lansdale, Shihan Richard Hartstein, and Sensei Adam Coats instructing us in the art of Shen Chuan. Like Kajukembo, Shen Chuan is a self-defense oriented martial art that incorporates aspects of several traditional martial arts; Kenpo, Hapkido, Jujitsu, Aikido, Judo, and Jeet Kune Do to name a few. Shen Chuan relies heavily on disrupting the opponent's balance, invading his or her space, and using natural body mechanics to put the opponent wherever the Shen Chuan practitioner wants. When done correctly, it appears effortless and fluid. When watching Grand Master Lansdale perform the techniques it appears almost supernaturally simple. Of course, that's not the way it looked when I did it but Grand Master Lansdale patiently corrected my form. Shihan Hartstein and Sensei Coats were also quite helpful in my understanding of the techniques we were learning, taking the time to demonstrate the techniques against me so I could experience what they should feel like. Grand Master Lansdale then taught us some of the Shen Chuan interpretations of classic Jujitsu wrist locks. As any Kajukembo practitioner knows, these joint locks are extremely painful (even for someone like me with freaky-flexible joints) and the Shen Chuan style incorporates them well.

Next, Sensei Chris Kimbrough gave instruction on some knife defense techniques that he has been developing. These are intended to be simple, effective techniques that the average person can use without years of training. One in particular, a defense from a knife being held at the stomach as a threat, involves only two basic moves; grab and control the knife hand while slipping the stomach to the side (to avoid a reaction-induced lunge) followed by a solid kick to the groin. This is a fast technique that can be performed from a seemingly submissive position with the hands out in front as if to say, "Woah, buddy. I'll do whatever you say." I've had the pleasure of being instructed by Sensei Kimbrough before at a workshop here in the Dallas area and it was good to receive additional instruction and train some of his techniques against different individuals.

Finally, Sifu Jeff Grant gave a demonstration of some of his variations on Kajukembo techniques. These are some of the techniques we learn from Sifu Grant at Dallas Kajukembo. Sifu Grant showed how basic techniques can be strung together in powerful combinations to overwhelm an attacker and finish a conflict quickly. This is precisely what I love about Kajukembo and studying under Sifu Grant. While demonstrating these techniques, several groans and moans could be heard from the attendees who obviously were sympathetic to the pain endured by the Uke, Tim Smith. This was a great demonstration of the power and effectiveness of Kajukembo.

All said, this was an amazing workshop and I would not trade the experience for anything. Learning new styles from outstanding instructors, being open to incorporating different techniques, and being pushed outside your comfort zone is sure to make every attendee a better overall martial artist. If you get a chance to attend such a workshop, I highly recommend it.

Thank you to every one of the instructors; you have my deepest respect.


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