Saturday, August 29, 2009

2009 Gathering Pics of Uncle

Here are some pics of Uncle that didn't come out as well as I'd hoped due to the lighting and distance. But you can still see him and one of his students as Uncle was demonstrating.
Guru Brian (a good friend and excellent martial artist while also being a Cigar Dalem Practitioner of Uncle's as myself) is beginning to assist.

In the background you can see Sigung Conrade Bui and Guro Ben Fajardo, all excellent martial artists and very good people.

2009 Gathering Pics

The Gathering in Denver this year was outstanding by any measure. Above you'll see the dragon and lion dance pics which I took in the park. The gamelan players were fantastic as well as the dragon and lion dancers who worked very hard.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Guru Daniel Prasetya at The Gathering 2007

In preparation for leaving for this year's Gathering 2009, I'll include some basic knife handling of Guru Prasetya from the Gathering in 2007. He's a very nice, and very skilled, guy.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Timing is the Essence

From Merriam-Webster's Dictionary, latest edition--
  • Main Entry: timing
  • Function: noun
  • Date: circa 1659

1 a : placement or occurrence in time timing of the sale couldn't have been better> b : the ability to select the precise moment for doing something for optimum effect timing>
2 : observation and recording (as by a stopwatch) of the elapsed time of an act, action, or process

His hands move in a blur, fingertips slapping the torso pointedly and palms grazing the face and neck to show targeting without harm while his feet and legs slide and drop into position in an instant. "See," he says eyes opening wider for emphasis, "Speed is bullshit! Timing is the essence." As is typical, a simple statement carrying a tremendous weight of principles and ideas with implications that reach into every aspect of the art we practice. And every bit true in every sense that can be considered. Such is the way of Uncle.

I recall the first time I heard that and smiled while thinking, 'Easy to say when you're that fast,' while wishing I was that fast as I watched his hands explode into pattern of movement as the opponent attempted to close or shift. While speed certainly helps, that's not what Uncle was teaching; quite the opposite. Proper timing overcomes speed every time-- every time. The crux of course, is proper timing.

You'll hear some teachers tell you to, "Time your opponent and find the rhythm." This approach will allow the person to enter and strike or attack during the dead moments, or in between the beats of time that the opponent has created. Some of the more experienced instructors state, "Time yourself so that you'll know exactly when you'll be where you need to be should you choose." Sound advice, but only a piece of the puzzle. Proper timing requires the practitioner to understand timing of the opponent, of the self, and at various ranges, skeletal structures and terrain because as Einstein revealed, "Time is relative." Indeed, timing is different dependent upon a myriad of factors.

Moreover, combative timing involves both of the definitions provided at the beginning of this article. The "ability to select a time" and "the amount of time that has elapsed" are both important to proper timing. In fact, during self defense they are dependent upon each other for success.

Timing is especially important with respect to weapons work since the speeds are very quick, often quicker than the eye can see, and weapons are unforgiving to error while maximizing effect; that is the nature of weapons. It isn't the fastest that wins the match, but the fencer that has the best sense of timing. If you can time the strike and your response relative to the surroundings and resources at hand, you decide what to do with the strike far more than the striker even if you're slower. If you're quick and have range, destroy it on the way in; if you're slower than the attacker, simply shift to evade and/or deflect during you're own counter, or even allow the strike to hit while diminishing the damage through body movement and counterattack on the retraction. You'll do far more damage and be in a better position with each type of response due to timing. There are a host of possibilities.

Timing of internal movements are also necessary for maximum force generation.

Of course, you can't time what you aren't aware of, and that's another lesson.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

There Is No Silat Without the Knife

I've been told by Uncle that "There is no silat without the knife." At first, I thought it was an interesting and quite good mnemonic device to keep in mind that silat was created in a culture that heavily utilizes the knife. While true, it goes far deeper than that. After practicing countless hours, year after year, I'm beginning to comprehend the depth of that statement. Kuntao Silat de Thouars always considers that the opponent and the practitioner have available, and is actually using, a bladed weapon. Every step, technique, hand wave, body shift, turn of the head and breath accounts for knives being applied, defended against and preparing to be presented. Our grappling is also performed with knives. Yes, it can be done successfully. Yes, you will get cut. However, continued practice and adherence to principles will lead the student down a path where the cuts become fewer and less severe as time goes on while the student learns to implement the knife(s) more competently in an encounter.

Indonesia is an iron poor area relative to the rest of the world, therefore, the metal obtained was highly prized. Often the bladed weapons used were far smaller than in other cultures due to the relative lack of resources. Even the neighboring Philippine Islands had access to more ferrous metals in many instances, and due to that connection to the Spanish, yielded larger bladed weapons in most of the areas with resulting concepts, principles and techniques that made use of those larger blades as opposed to using predominately small blades. This lack of exchange in Indonesia created heavy reliance on small blades, or knives, scattered throughout the archipelago in some very isolated communities. From this culture a unique perspective on bladed combat can be observed as opposed to the excellent bladed arts of escrima, eskrima, arnis and kali of the Filipinos. As an example, look at the Indonesian kris (or keris) and the Filipino kris. Despite many opinions to the contrary, the Indonesian kris was indeed intended to be used as a cutting and stabbing implement while sometimes fulfilling the role of a ceremonial piece. Surely, since the other bladed cultures are nearby there is a great deal of overlap and trade, but there is also a distinguishing difference that can be observed in the way silat systems handle the knife as opposed to cultures outside Indonesia, Malaysia and the southern Philippines that don't specifically train in silat. (Silat is also practiced in Malaysia and the southern Philippines, but my perspective is predominately Indonesian as learned). This difference pervades the very thought process of the practitioner regardless of range or primary intent. Moreover, while there certainly are large blades used in silat such as the golok or machete, and many small blades trained in other systems (and very well practiced) the general trends are apparent.

Ideas of accessing the knife quickly, presenting the knife while being attacked from ambush, using it while being pressured from the ground, or the trees, by opponents and being stabbed and/or restrained at the same time; all with the goal of being able to walk away and live another day with everyone having their own blade(s). How does a person with a small knife (e.g., karambit) defend against and overcome a man with a stick and knife? Women in Indonesia had to find out and make it work. Entire systems have been devoted to finding a way for the small blade to prevail against what would normally be considered a superior weapon. Their lack of resources left no choice. Even when empty-handed, the knife is being trained when performing djurus, langkahs, moving on the pantjar, or any other fundamental and advanced movement-- or anything at all. It is up to the guru (instructor) to show how and why that is so, and guide the murid (silat student) down the path of proficiency.

I generally don't demonstrate how the blade is being taught within kuntao silat until I get to know the person and understand their morals; after that, if still present, general and specific knife work is practiced continually. It is far too easy to abuse knowledge gained in the arena of the knife.

Silat does not train "for" the knife; silat does not train "with" the knife; silat is knife training.