Fun Times in Chicago.
Last Sunday (Sept 16) I took some of my students to compete in their (for most of them) first tournament.
The event was put on by Sensei Norm Basile, Sensei Marcia Chandler, and Guru John Bednarski. Norm and John attended the Spring Gathering this year and suggested that we might enjoy participating in their tournament.
I talked the idea over with my students, and they thought they were ready to step outside the safe confines of our school and discover how they might fare in the larger world of open competition.
I should mention at this point that Silat schools here in the States don't really compete very often, and never, to my knowledge has their been a Silat tournament here in the US.
There are a number of reasons for this I suspect.
First, all the older Silat teachers seem to hate each other with a passion equaled only by a Republican at a Gay Pride parade.
Most of them would not be willing to be in the same town, let alone in the same room with each other. Unfortunately, this is something that has been passed down to some of their students, much like racism can be passed down in dysfunctional families.
And then there is that little problem of one of their students losing a match. If you have been claiming for years that some other Silat teacher has no skills, or has gotten his rank off the back of a vegetable cart or some-such, then your students lose the tournament to his........... Well that might be a little difficult to explain.
Which brings us to the second
excuse reason. That being "we would have to water our art down too much".
I have to admit, I do not see this as a problem. So far I have found that I can train my students for both competition and still give them the "martial realism" that is needed for more serious conflict. As a matter of fact, competition seems to help. Being able to work with fully resistant opponents, even when working under rules that protect the competitors from harm, can tell you some important truths about your game. Admittedly, sparring within one's own school can give a lot of benefit, but I personally suspect you will learn different, very valuable lessons from competing against people who have a different approach.
Finally, I have heard "our art is too deadly for competition". OK, maybe so, but then how do you learn such an art? Wouldn't you be losing students right and left to injury and death? And if the art is not tested, how do you know it is a deadly as you suspect.
The fact is, all the great warrior cultures from Japan to Northern Europe and Native America have found ways to test themselves without having to kill ones opponents.
But enough philosophizing, back to the tournament!
The Sulong has a "traditional karate" ring, an "open karate" and a "Pacific Islands" ring. The last is where we were going to play.
This ring had three events, forms, knife and single stick. This event has had mostly participants from the Arnis/Eskrima arts of the Philippines, but the rules were "blade rules", so I thought we might do OK. Indonesian and Filipino martial arts have enough in common that I was willing to give it a try.
Some of us met up at the school on the morning of the event to make the three hour drive to Chicago. Mariah, and her father Randy were providing one of the cars going all the way to the tournament, and Janet was driving some of us as far as Holland (MI) where we were going to meet up with my student/training partner Steve Van Harn and his son Cole, who would be the second car to the event.
So Stephanie, Scooter, Adam, Janet, Mariah, Randy and I headed off down the road to meet up with the rest of the crew. We grabbed Steve and Cole at a park-and-ride, divvied up people and set our sights for the Windy City.
We met up with the last of my hooligans, Marc, at the tournament site.
So team Zulfikari/Navadisha was ready to play.
We spoke with Norm and John, both of whom were holding onto their sanity by their fingernails with all the last minute details of the event.
We also hooked up with Buzz (that would be Mahaguro Brian "Buzz" Smith, head of American Maharlika Kuntaw) and Bill, his student, who had come down from the North Country to play.
Buzz had stayed at my place on the way out to Chicago a couple days before, so we had managed to catch up on things, and Bill had been down to train with us in preparation for the tournament so we had been talking about the event a great deal and were pretty stoked to be here.
The day started off with forms competition.
First we had the "beginners" forms and they were all pretty good, there was a lot of potential there.
Then came intermediate forms and Mariah was up.
Mariah is one serious player and took first quite handily. As she transformed from cute farm girl into blond Cuisinart with her double talibongs she even drew the attention of the spectators from the karate rings.
Next came Master Forms. Buss did one of his superb Kuntaw staff forms and walked away with first place.
After forms came fighting. First we started with the womens competition. There was only one problem with this, the only two women competing were from my school.
The girls were disappointed, as they had hoped to test themselves against women from other schools, but they got out and did their best. Mariah took first and Steph took second.
Then we had men's knife.
As the first couple of matches were going on the officials were consulting, they then invited Mariah to compete with the men, she jumped at the chance needless to say. The event was changed to an open ring, with no weight or rank classes, so everyone fought everyone.
This was great as it allowed my students to fight outside "beginners" class, being as most of them had been training for less than two years.
She won her first match.
And her second as well.
At the end of this event Cole had taken first place and Mariah had taken third in Men's knife.
(I don't yet have the names of all the winners, but will add them as soon as I can)
Next came men's stick. This event had the biggest number of players and it would take making it through five fights to take first.
after a few matches some of my guys ended up having to fight each other.
In many ways this was my favorite fight of the day. Adam and Marc are about the same size and weight as well as close in skill level. It was an excellent demonstration of our style. Marc took the match.
Mariah was doing quite well against the guys and winning their respect I think.
Marc's next fight was with Scooter. This was a "David and Goliath" match, Scooter being about a foot taller and fifty pounds heavier than Marc. Marc too this match as well, putting him in contention for first place.
Mariah's next fight was with Bill. It was by far her hardest of the day, Bill being a superb stick fighter. Bill took this match and Mariah retired from the field.
The fight for first place was between Marc and Bill. It was a hell of a good fight with each player reaching down deep and giving it their all. At the end of the match the judges counted up the score and gave the match to Bill by one point.
The rankings for Men's Stick were Bill first, Marc second, Cole third, Scooter fourth, and Mariah fifth with a field of about twenty five fighters.
The last match of the day was between Buzz and a Modern Arnis Guru (I don't have his name but I believe his rank was sixth degree black belt)
It was a very well fought match, and Buzz won it, which gave him the Grand Champion spot.
John understands these things, so instead of getting trophies or medals, the winners were given weapons.
Here is the obligatory group photo. Not everyone was there, many having already left by the time this was taken, but it was a nice shot nevertheless.
And here is a final shot of Cole, Steve, Mariah, and your humble servant.
A good time was had by all and I am already looking forward to next year.