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Alliance Martial Arts Event Report
Path II - March 19-20-21, 2010 - Ithaca, NY
This last weekend we held our second annual Seeking The Path event here in Ithaca NY. The event brought together people from all different styles - Arnis, Combatives, Karate, Kenpo, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do, Jeet Kune Do, Wrestling and more - for three action packed days and nights of training; over 18 hours of active work in all!
Starting at 2pm on Friday we began with exercises based on mastering the draw and open with the small folding knife. Especially if you hope to have any chance of putting a folder into play after an assault has started and the punches are flying fast and furious this work is essential. While it is easy to all kinds of fancy openings when there's no pressure, here we were doing the same while dealing with stand-up boxers, on the ground against grapplers, and in other positions of disadvantage.
On Friday night we reviewed the day's lessons and added drawing a fixed-blade from concealment to the mix before covering some of the basics of mental training for the martial arts that we refer to as the Dojo of the Mind. This was very well received, and afterwards everyone went for a few beers at the Irish pub upstairs.
Saturday morning started with a warm-up where Lily shared some of the meridian energetic exercises to get everyone primed for the long day ahead and I covered solo basics that would help in making the "hand and knife connection" we were to focus on. From there we went into purely defense mode to build the confidence of participants in their unarmed fighting skills.
As a tool / weapon user, I feel it is both legally and morally important that we have the skills to defend ourselves unarmed so that we never use a weapon unless it is absolutely necessary to save our lives. So, we put the students through the ringer, fighting against one, two, even three people who were trying their best to "punch hell out of them". In this dynamic environment everyone quickly learned to use footwork and the Hellbow Shields to create an air-tight defense.
To make things even harder form them, we then tied up their hands and had them again work against people trying to take their head off with punches. By tying the wrists it forces correct body mechanics in both defense and offense - for as everyone quickly learned even when tied up they were far from helpless.
(See the earlier article I wrote on this called "The Ties That Bind" for more information on this unusual topic!)
After you've had to defend while tied up and against a wall with someone throwing bombs at you with boxing gloves on you learn to relax, and when you're untied and can move again it seems almost too easy!
By the time that I started allowing them to fight back and not just defend, their skills in picking off punches from any angle with the Hellbow Shields was automatic and they could concentrate on closing the gap to finish their opponent. From here we started into the use of the knife and see how it related to the unarmed work, seamlessly going from to defense to offense to draw and open all out of "live", spontaneous contact.
Saturday evening we decided to do some contact stickfighting since many people there had never done it before. We brought along all the gear so people could try it out and had matches with single stick, double stick, stick and dagger, single vs. double, stick vs. knife, and knife vs. knife before going back up to the pub for some (well deserved) beers!
Sunday started with mass fighting exercises where students were able to get a sense of flowing in chaos of a huge melee where you don't know who is friend or foe. Then it was time to revisit some of the drills from Saturday but this time we were armed with a blade to even the odds against a group. Suddenly fighting three boxers was a lot easier!
Through many different scenarios people fought stand up and on the ground against boxers, wrestlers, stickfighters and groups of mixed opponents, using all the skills they had developed now seamlessly integrated. Though there were a few people who came to the event with next to no prior blade training it was impossible to tell who they were as we went through these evolutions. The skills were now theirs and had been hardwired in over the previous two days and participants asked each other to push them even harder, testing the limits of their abilities and finding that "Yes, they could survive!"
By the time it came to pass out certificates late on Sunday the crew was tired and sweaty, but still going with smiles on their faces. They had all worked hard and knew it, but the spirit was strong with this group and no one would quit. Unlike other events I've been at where people devolved into "talkers" and not doers by day two, these men and women hung tough for the whole three days and left with the skills they had come seeking because they had earned them the only way one can. To everyone who was there, you have both my respect and admiration for a job well done!
We have already set things in motion for Seeking The Path III in 2011!
All my very best to you,
HELLBOWS: Destructive Elbow