Realities Created, Maintained and Destroyed, WHILE-U-WAIT!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Pacific Island Gathering and Tournament '09

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Every year my friend John Bednarski voluntarily allows himself to go completely insane for a few weeks. (which is, I believe, an important qualification for hosting successful martial arts tournaments).

The outcome of this descent into madness it one of the finer tournaments for people who practice the martial arts of the Philippines, and Indonesia, as well as other "island" arts such as Lua. Every year the event gets better, this year was no exception. This year we were again hosted by the Midway Kodenkan.

I would have to say that this year's event had the best fighting yet, taking nothing away from previous years, I think everyone just found the groove for the more blade oriented style that this tournament specializes in.

My group was only able to field one fighter this year being as the rest of us were called on to act as judges and referees. I had originally intended to fight this year myself in the senior division, but the person I had come to have a match with was unwilling to get out on the mat (more on that later)

So, "The Good"

We had four events this year, adding "combat knife" to the usual three we always have, Sayaw/kimbangan (forms), single sword and point knife.

The long blade and knife events were truly a thing to behold this year and I couldn't have asked for a better group of competitors.

The long blade competition is "continuous action", that means we do not stop the match to call points. This makes the play quite exciting. (That's me in the back corner, counting points for the two fighters) Point knife, because the short blade is so much harder to follow, stops the action when the ref see what he thinks is a point and gets a call from the corner judges.

Along with the usual suspects, which include the Dekiti-Tirsia-Siradas guys who host the event, Dekiti-Tirsia-Siradas Florida, my folks, Datu Tim Hartman's Presas Arnis and John Cipkar of Bandalan Eskrima, we had some newcomers that really added to the event as well. There was a group of JKD Concepts/Dog Brothers FMA guys from Bloomington, Illinois that brought a lot to the party, they were great fun. There was a group from Missouri, the Backyard Brotherhood – una sa laban (Ya gotta love um just for the name) who fielded the only female competitor this tournament. We had at least one person from Kapatiran Madirigma out of, I believe, Kansas City. Last, but not least, we had a couple of members from The Philippine Combat Arts Club of New Hope Minnesota, who, besides being great fighters, also brought some exquisite examples of traditional Philippines weaponry.

There were other folks as well, but I was so busy I didn't get a chance to meet everyone, so if I didn't mention someone, I hope they will forgive me.

The Bad

My only complaint about the tournament was that there were not enough people interested in the Sayaw/Kimbangan event. In years past we had a good number of competitors, but for some reason this year it was not the case.

I really can't complain, because a goodly number of people did come to fight, which was what the event is about at its core, but I think the forms competition does add something to the event, highlighting the "Art" part of martial arts.

Here is my student Cole Van Harn performing one of our sayaws, "Navadisha dua"

Even though I tend to look at these things with a somewhat critical eye, seeing the areas where he could use a bit more polish, I have to say he did a pretty good job of it. I was quite happy to tell the truth.

Anyway, back to the Good (or perhaps the even better)

One of the very kewl things that happened at the tournament was that one of the competitors decided that since the rules allowed it, he would fight in every division. He was a lightweight, and the rules allow you to move up to a higher division, so he chose to fight middleweight and heavyweight as well as his "natural" weight.

His name was Juhn Occidental and he represented Datu Tim Hartman's school (Presas Arnis) out of Buffalo New York. (That's him in the red trunks above). He did a superb job. While he didn't win every match, he made a very good showing in every division. Interestingly, he took first in both heavyweight sword and knife. I think in some ways the heavyweight were his best fights. They demonstrated that skill and a good blade can negate advantages that are much harder to cope with empty hand. He reminded me a bit of a barracuda in those fights, using his speed and mobility to move in to score a hit and then back out of range.

Everyone was impressed with the sheer warrior spirit he showed with his willingness (I would go so far as to say eagerness) to meet all comers. He did the Filipino martial arts proud that Sunday.

It was almost as much fun to watch his teacher, Datu Hartman, as it was to watch Juhn. If he were any prouder (and rightly so) of his student, I think he might have burst. It IS the sort of thing we teachers live for, to see our students excel.

The last event of the day was the new one, Combat Knife.

There were very few rules, no weight or age classes and an incredibly fast pace. This was the brainchild of my friend and training partner Chris Renfroe. Each match lasted 30 seconds max (less if you got a "clean kill") and used a marking knife and white tee shirts to show the cuts and thrusts.

A goodly number of people were interested in trying this event out. The guys from Bloomington were particularly taken with this form of play, as it was closer to what they were used to from their Dog Brothers training, or at least so it seemed to me.

Here is a video of the Action. This is Cole Van Harn (Navadisha) fighting Chris Copeland (Kapatiran Mandirigma)

Here is a picture of the fight for first place between Cole and Glen Young (Backyard Brotherhood – una sa laban). It was an epic battle lasting well into 20 seconds.

And here is a shot of the judges awarding the Grand Champion 1, Juhn Occidental, Grand Champion 2, Cole Van Harn, and Top Fighter, Sylva Smotherman, who was the only woman in competition this year. She went toe to toe with the guys and did very well. It was an honor to see her fight.

Of course It wasn't all fighting. There was plenty of time to hang out with old friends and make a few new ones. I have to admit, that is my favorite part.

Of particular note for me was the chance to hang out with my Moro brother and good friend in person for a couple of days. I don't get to see him enough, and I missed him the last time he was in the area because of work commitments. There is something particularly enjoyable about being to swap Halal "in jokes" and Muslim humor with someone over dinner. Though I have to say, people were looking somewhat confused at us because we were cracking up over the question "would you like shrimp or crab with your pork ribs?".

And then there was the Ugly.

I tend to not involve myself in the ceaseless Internet back-biting that goes on in some areas of the martial arts. It's a waste of time and energy. I mostly take the tack of "consider the source" and let it slide on past. When I do feel the need to say something, or take some sort of action, I prefer to deal directly, face to face with the person involved rather than playing stupid games on the internet. Until I do speak with the person directly, it has alway always been my way to not say anything in public. It is best, in my opinion not to air one's dirty laundry in public if at all possible. Sometimes though, dealing with a person directly doesn't resolve the problem. Then all bets are off.

I was interested to discover last Spring that "Maha Guru" Buzz Smith had initiated a public personal attack against me in print because I did not attend a private event to which I had not been invited, put on by someone for whom I have no liking or respect (and who feels the same about me). It seemed a bit odd to me that Buzz would insinuate himself into a situation that had nothing to do with him and to make false claims about it to boot. Those claims being that I had not attended the event because of "ego" (rather than lack of invitation) and that I had kept my students away. I found the last rather odd being that there was one guy there that trains with me every week and has for the last couple of years.

But I figured that the best thing to do was to ignore the whole thing, lots of people have no life and need to get their ya-yas by trolling the net. No big deal.

But then, a couple of weeks later I get a call from the mother of one of my students. She was both upset and furious. She had just had a long chat with Buzz on Facebook, the topic of which was what a no good person I was for various different reasons. My student's mother was not, of course, upset because she gave any credit to what Buzz was saying, we have known each other for quite some time and she has been able to form a first hand opinion. She was upset because of the blatant character assassination he was attempting.

While I could care less about the generalized "he sucks" sort of attack perpetrated by a petty individual like Buzz, when someone starts attacking me to my friends I do take notice.

It's a pity really. When one of his senior students dumped him for ginning up his rank and claiming that he did a Tausug art (he doesn't) and treating his students quite badly, I stayed out of the whole thing. I remained neutral (and silent) even though it cost me his student's friendship (he really wanted me to take sides).

So I decided to pay a little attention to what was being said, and wait. The thing is, the martial arts community, at least the part in which I am involved, is pretty small. Sooner or later I knew Buzz would cross my path. One thing I know for sure, there is always a reckoning.

This of course happened when he showed up at the tournament. I suspected he would, and had intended to meet him on the mat, which is the proper place to settle such things as "who has no skills" and other little internet slanders.

Also I wanted witnesses. I made sure there were onlookers when I confronted Buzz about his trash talking me. Interestingly he denied having done anything. He basically suggested that my student's mother was lying. I know that he will try to spin what happened, but plenty of people saw and heard, so the truth is out there. He lied to my face.

When Buzz arrived, he had quite the spring in his step, but shortly after he discovered that he was expected to fight, he developed a really pathetic limp. He claimed he was too ill to compete (though he has not been too ill to do seminars, which take more out of you, or to compete in other venues) My take is that he is not ill, he is just overweight, out of shape, lazy and coasting on his past accomplishments. There is a certain kind of individual who, rather than working to maintain their skill level, thinks that they can impress potential students by talking smack about everyone else. It never really works, at least not for long, and sometimes it comes back to haunt you.

A couple of the senior teachers at the tournament tried to convince Buzz that getting out on the mat was the thing to do, but he declined no matter what anyone said.

Perhaps it was for the best. If I fought him and won he would have just claimed that he was really too sick to fight. Now he has a whole year to get rid of that spare tire and lard overcoat he was sporting and meet me next year. We can have an exhibition match! The great "maha guru" with the "room full of trophies" and his "vast knowledge" of the Moro arts against the rankless nobody who does not feel that he has mastered even one Moro art yet. I figure it would be a good fight. Once upon a time he was a pretty good competitor, he has trained some competent people over the years, and even though I have a bit of reach on him I also have a few years on him, so I think it would be a fair fight as well.

So here's hoping he grows a pair and shows up next year.

But enough of that, I don't want to take away form how much fun this tournament was, or how well the fighters represented their schools.

Here are the results of the matches, every one of these people, and everyone else who competed were superb. It was an honor to have spent time with them. Also, I want to say that my fellow judges did an exelent job. This was perhaps the most consistent judging we have had to date. It's never an easy job to judge such fights, but we were pretty much in agreement on the outcome of every match, not an easy thing to do at all.


And this all took place on Cole's sixteenth birthday!!!

Happy Birthday Cole

Adult Sayaw –
1st Cole Van Harn - Navadisha Martial Arts

Adult lightweight Sword
1st Juhn Occidental – WMAA
2nd Mark Basel – Philippine Combat Arts Club
3rd Sylva Smotherman – Backyard Brotherhood – una sa laban
Adult middleweight sword
1st Carlos Flores – DTS Chicago
2nd Chris Copeland - Kapatiran Madirigma
3rd Frederico Malibago – Philippine Combat Arts Club
Adult heavyweight Sword
1st Juhn Occidental – WMAA
2nd Bill Cihak – DTS Chicago
3rd Glen Young – Backyard Brotherhood – una sa laban

Youth Sword
1st Cole Van Harn – Navadisha Martial Arts
2nd Craig Spillman - DTS Florida
3rd Patrick Rogers - Backyard Brotherhood – una sa laban

Adult Lightweight point knife
1st Cole Van Harn – Navadisha Martial Arts
2nd Juhn Occidental – WMAA
3rd Sylva Smotherman – Backyard Brotherhood – una sa laban
Adult middleweight point knife
1st ChrisCopeland – Kapatiran Madirigma
2ndCarlos Flores – DTS Chicago
3rd Juhn Occidental – WMAA
Adult heavyweight point knife
1st Juhn Occidental – WMAA
2nd Terry, Crutcher - JKD Concepts Bloomington
3rd Mike Wharfield - JKD Concepts Bloomington
Youth Point Knife
1st Craig Spillman – DTS Florida

Combat knife Sponsored by Chris Renfroe of Freestyle KravMaga and Navadisha Martial Arts
1st Glen Young – Backyard Brotherhood – una sa laban
2nd Cole Van Harn – Navadisha Martial Arts
3rd Chris Copeland - Kapatiran Mandirigma
4th Patrick Rogers - Backyard Brotherhood – una sa laban
5th Terry Crutcher - JKD Concepts Bloomington

Grand Champion 1 - Winner of the Negros Talibon
Juhn Occidental – WMAA

Grand Champion 2 - Winner of the Custom Sansibar
Cole Van Harn – Navadisha Martial Arts

Fighter of the Day – Winner of the Kukri
Sylva Smotherman (sp) - Backyard Brotherhood – una sa laban

Honorable Mention awards
Bill Cihak – DTS Chicago
Sylva Smotherman – Backyard Brotherhood – una sa laban


Salma said...

Dear Mushtaq,
I'm glad to see you had a good time! S

Steve Perry said...

Sounds like a hoot. As to the ugly part, why, I cannot believe that martial artists would have such contentions! What is the world coming to when guys who like to fight get into arguments such as these?

And the beat goes on ...

Mushtaq Ali said...

It was a very good time Steve. And yes, who would have thunk it! Contention in the martial arts. Even stranger, who would ever have suspected that a martial artist would want to indulge in internet sniping, but not want to prove the truth of their contention out on the mat. We've never seen that on before

Anonymous said...

The mat is always the best place to settle arguments about martial skill. It says a lot about someone who chooses to not participate...they pretty much lose the argument by default.

Steve Perry said...

Well, as somebody who has offered to learn by having somebody show me their art is superior via crossing hands, I understand the notion; however, it doesn't really prove any kind of innate superiority of the art per se.

If, on a given day, one football team can beat another, the same is likely true of martial artists. A superior fighter in one art might beat a lesser fighter in an art that would seem intrinsically superior. (Fill in your own example of contrasting arts here.)

If Master Knowitall beats me in a match, that doesn't mean his art is necessarily superior. If I beat him, same difference. All it means is that one of us loses bragging rights. And certainly if somebody claims that what he does is vastly superior to what I'm doing, if he doesn't win, it tends to cast that claim in a bad light. Doesn't mean that his little sister, doing the same art, couldn't eat my lunch on the morrow.

If any one art was intrinsically superior, then its practitioners would always win against anybody not of that style. Haven't noticed that such is the case.