This was by far the most exciting gathering we have had to date, and for so many reasons I hardly know where to start.
It was also the largest gathering we have had to date, with over thirty five participants. Here is a picture of most of us, though we never managed to get everyone in the room at the same time.
At the moment I am just going to run down the highlights of the event as best I may . We are still going over the 3000 + photos that were taken, so my illustrations may be a little sparse, but when we have them all sorted out you will be able to view them on the Innovative Martial Arts website.
Here's how the weekend went.
(or, "hey, that's a cool knife")
People started arriving from various and sundry places Friday morning. The day and afternoon was focused on getting people from the airport and settled in.
While this was going on I prepared the evening's meal, New Mexico style venison chili, a recipe I got from my grandmother no less. This was part of a plot to make sure Bobbe Edmonds got here (or perhaps a bribe).
By dinner time most folks were here and it was the usual free for all, with people catching up, folks getting acquainted with people who were new to the gathering, and the inevitable "show and tell" of new knives, swords, saps and other fun toys that has been made or acquired since the last gathering. Of particular note, Bill Bednarick had started producing a line of the sweetest saps and blackjacks you have ever seen, and had brought a number of them along. Soon bruises and welts were appearing on everyone within arms reach as we tested out his wares. (I will be reviewing his saps soon so keep a look-out)
The Friday meet and greet was, as always, a delightful time. The only thing that I could complain about was that we were missing a couple of important people. Bill Anderson is back on Guam at the moment, so could not make it this Spring, and Todd Elner was ill and could not travel on doctor's orders. Steve Van Harn just had shoulder surgery and so had to go to the Indie 500 instead, poor fellow. They were missed.
The formal clinics started as always on Saturday morning. This Saturday was a little different, as I explained to our attendees. Chuck was testing for his fourth dan today. We had been intending to do this three years ago, but Chuck got really ill for a while, so we had to put it off until he was well again. Everything that would hapen this day was part of the test, and the board of testers would be evaluating Chuck, not just for his skills but also for what kind of teacher he is as well as what kind of student he is.
One of the real treats of this Gathering was that we had live drumming thanks to Andrew and Josh, two friends of Buddha (that would be our Buddha, not the enlightened guy). It really added a nice touch to the practice.
This is how it went down.
I took the first session, as is the usual for the Gatherings (get the old guy up there before he needs his nap).
I concentrated on the positional and flow aspects of my art. I used a meta movement called "dragon's tail" which is sort of horizontal figure-eight, to generate various techniques, entries and such.
Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves, and it was a good warm-up.
The second session was taken by our own Guro Buzz Smith.
One of our best kept secrets here in Michigan is Maharlika Kuntaw as taught by Guro Buzz, it is a superior martial art that very few people have any experience of. It is always a pleasure to delve into Buzz's vast experience at the gatherings, and everyone comes away the better for it.
Guro Buzz covered some really interesting aspects of his Kuntaw, focusing on the idea of the Shield and of deception.
(Alas, I haven't gotten the photos of the first two sessions yet)
Congress Knife Work
The third session of the day had Sensei Chuck Pippin and Sensei Don Young going over some of the knife work from the Scientific Fighting Congress. Don and Chuck have been renewing their acquaintance with Hock Hochheim lately, and wanted to share some of the interesting things they had been exploring.
Everyone had much fun trying out the different variations that Chuck and Don presented.
Balintawak Arnis Cuentada
One of the great treats of the Gathering was a complete surprise. We found out shortly before the event that we would be having a special guest, Grand Master Bobby Tabaoda of Balintawak Arnis Cuentada.
These days you can find a "grand master" at just about any strip mall dojo, but as Rumi pointed out "If it were not for fools gold you would not recognize real gold when you see it".
Well, Grand Master Bobby is the real deal in every sense of the phrase.
This was the first time I had met him, though of course I had heard of him for years, and he was everything I could have hoped for, profoundly knowledgeable, highly skilled, yet humble, open and friendly. He was a great example of what a grand master truly is.
He was also very generous with his knowledge. Rather than just showing us some techniques, he shared with us the training methodology of Balintawak. During this session he taught how to gain power, control and speed with a stick.
When Grand Master Bobby was not teaching he enjoyed sitting in with the drummers.
San Yun Do Cane method
As part of Don and Chuck's test I instructed them to develop an original weapons curriculum. They chose the walking stick length cane for this purpose.
They first taught a set of basics with a series of exercises to develop attributes.
Then they worked a series of drills to develop flow with the cane.
We finished with some free sparring with padded sticks.
Chuck and Don go for their fourth Dan
After the cane session we got right into the formal testing. The test was conducted by a panel of senior members of The League of Nonaligned Martial Artists, consisting of Guro Buzz Smith of Maharlika Kuntaw, Guru Bobbe Edmonds of Pak Bambang Sawanda's Sundanese Silat, Guro Jay Carstensen of Kapatiran Suntukan Martial Arts, and myself.
The test consisted of several phases starting with the origins and history of San Yun Do. We then progressed to a detailed examination of the first San Yun Do form in all its details, with an eye toward both practical and and artistic application.
Then we got down to the fun stuff.
Chuck and Don were put through a series of multiple attacker scenarios that included defending themselves, working together, and defending each other. It was something that was designed to test the limits of their skills, and it worked well for this.
Then they each got to knife spar with Guru Bobbe.
Did I mention that Don did not know that he was testing? Well, that was part of the test. Chuck had to make sure that Don was ready and prepared without ever letting him know what was up.
We were very honored to have Grand Master Bobby witness Chuck and Don's new certificates.
We then called an end to the formalities and had a pot luck dinner that couldn't be beat!
RMAX Circular Strength Training
The Sunday morning session is traditionally dedicated to ways of keeping ourselves healthy and injury free, This gathering was the same but even better.
My good friend Coach Cody Fielding of RMAX International attended this spring's gathering, so I prevailed on him to take the morning session.
Cody started his session with material from Intu-flow to help everyone work the kinks out, them moved on to various related exercises.
After Cody got everyones blood flowing again he introduced some material from the "SoftWork to HardWork" continuum specifically to help us develop the skills necessary to be good training partners for each other.
Cody was a very popular person at the gathering with any number of people taking a little time with him to get advice on training throughout the weekend.
For the next session we had Guru Bobbe Edmonds of Sundanese Silat out of Seattle WA give us a taste of Silat from West Java and Sumatra.
We indulged ourselves in a lot of tripping, sweeping and kneeling on tender bits at Bobbe's urging, and everyone had quite the good time.
This was Bobbe's first gathering, and the consensus from everyone was that we would all be happy to see him teaching here again.
Sneakiness as a Vocation
Terry Trahan is such a quiet, unassuming person (when he isn't giving Bobbe a hard time) that it is easy to forget his well earned reputation as one of the more dangerous street combat artists you will ever meet.
Terry gave us a session on reverse edge method knife combat that was quite eye opening. One of the things I really liked about Terry's session was that he worked everything from a sheathed blade, adding both an extra level of complexity and realism to his presentation.
Balintawak Arnis Cuentada part two
Next up was Grand Master Bobby. This time he concentrated on empty hand skills.
Again, rather than just doing technique, he concentrated on his training protocols, emphasizing how to coach each other to bring out the best in one's partner.
Grand Master Bobby worked with everyone and then had us all working with each other as coach and student.
By the end of the session everyone was dripping sweat, but was very satisfied.
Balintawak Arnis Cuentada
Guro Robert Klampfer Took an impromptu Monday morning session. He gave everyone a welcome review of material already covered and then expanded on it. He discovered that this group are really gluttons for punishment.
Gulat, Indonesian Grappling
In the afternoon I did a clinic in the clinch phase of Indonesian style grappling, and we did a little rolling to everyone's delight.
The Rest of the Evening
The Rest of the evening was pretty free form with lots of good fellowship and swapping of stories and skills. We finally packed it in around 2:30 am with promises of being in touch soon.
All in all it was the best gathering yet.