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Instructorship at the Inosanto Academy

I feel extremely privileged to have been able to train at the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts in Los Angeles California for the past 5 years. Recently, I have attained Associate Instructorship Level 1 at the Inosanto Academy in Kali and Jeet Kun Do, and I received my Black Ikat from Guro Dan in Silat as well.

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This event marks the greatest personal achievement I have ever attained. I am very honored to train under the famous Guro Dan Inosanto for as long as I have, and to continue to do so. He is an amazing thinker, who’s scope of study and experience goes far beyond the movements of Martial Arts; Guro Dan is a scholar of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Education. Through his eyes, and by his example, I have learned how inter-disciplinary Martial Arts is, and the myriad of benefits it can bring to an individual.

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This video I made with two of my training partners from the Academy. It aims to demonstrate the variety and depth of knowledge in Martial Arts I was able to gather in the past five years. It shows me demonstrating the arts of Filipino Kali, Indonesian Silat, Thai Boxing, and Jeet Kun Do. I learned far more than just movements and self-defense at the Academy, but this is an example of the self-defense techniques I did learn. _/|\_

“The Highest Form of Learning is Teaching”

As a martial artist, there comes a point in your path when simply taking classes is no longer sufficient to progress your training. In order to fully progress from student to master, there is usually an interim phase were one must be a student AND a teacher at the same time. Guro Dan Inosanto, my teacher in so many ways, often quotes Socrates, saying “the highest form of learning is teaching.” These words always made sense to me, and I naturally agreed with the idea, but I never really knew what it truly meant, until I started teaching.

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I had the privilege of teaching a women’s self-defense program at The New High School Project, in Monterey, CA. TNHSP is a very unique learning environment; it is an independent high school that specializes in teaching children with Learning Differences such as Dyslexia, ADHD, and Autism. I myself have Dyslexia and ADHD, and I went through extensive after school programs to help me learn simple things like reading and writing. I, like many people with a Learning Difference, don’t learn these skills the same way as most people do. As an adult, I have learned many things through martial arts that made me say to myself, “I wish I knew this when I was a kid!” So I tried to take these techniques and ideas that I think are helpful for those with a Learning Difference, and tie them into my women’s self-defense program.

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We covered two martial arts in the women’s self-defense class, Jan Fun Gung Fu and Filipino Kali. Jan Fun Gung Fu is a style of fighting developed by Sijo Bruce Lee, my teacher’s teacher. It is a very utilitarian and street oriented system of fighting. It has very straight forward fighting concepts like western boxing and low groin kicks, but Sijo Bruce also added a lot of Wing Chun, a martial art developed by a Chinese nun. Wing Chun is one of the very few martial arts that was developed by a woman, and it’s techniques are ideal for close quarter combat and self-defense, naturally. One of the hallmarks of Wing Chun is “hand immobilization”, basically trapping someone’s arm or hand in a pre-emptive move so that they cannot attack you. I taught some of these hand immobilizations techniques, but also how to counter hand immobilization as well.

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No self-defense system is complete without some kind of offense, so I taught them the finer details of the eye jab! A poke to the opponents eyes really is the easiest and safest way to defend one self, but it must be in self defense. Using this technique to assault someone is a serious crime, as it should be. All the ladies at TNHSP fully understood this, however, and I was happy to teach them some life survival skills.

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Towards the end of the class, I taught them Filipino Kali. Kali is a mother art of various Filipino Martial Arts. It involves literally every form of combat imaginable: spears, swords, shields, daggers, punching, kicking, grappling, trapping and wrestling. For this class however, I stuck to the basic double rattan stick training method. This is the first fighting modality that people learn in Kali; out of all the vast choices, two rattan sticks is first. The reason for this is that the rattan sticks are excellent tools for performing various coordination and attribute development drills.

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In Kali, the emphasis isn’t on learning techniques first, but in developing the practitioners attributes so that they can adequately execute the techniques. This is atypical compared to most martial arts, that mostly focus on techniques through repetition. In Kali, the focus is on attribute development through repetition. Ambidexterity is a prized asset in the martial art world, and Kali is one of the few martial arts that actively develops this attribute. By using both hands simultaneously and in conjunction with each other, you’re increasing the brains ability to use both hemispheres of the brain. This activity will increase the hemispheres abilities to communicate with each other, which is a valuable attribute for dyslexics in particular to have. So I snuck in a little bit of cognitive training while developing the students’ attributes such as coordination, dexterity, and sensitivity.

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This was a very rewarding experience for me as a student, and for me as a teacher. I realized that you really don’t know something until you can teach it to someone else, and than unfortunately you can become so self-aware that you realize you are making so many mistakes that previously had gone unnoticed. And than you realize that there may be a million other things that you’re probably missing, and than you get anxiety because you no longer have a hold on things like you thought you did. And than it all becomes clear, again, and the wise words still echo in your head, “the highest form of learning is teaching…”

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Tai Chi with Liping at Tassajara Zen Center

After such a wonderful initial trip, I decided to return to Tassajara Zen Mountain Center the first chance I got, which was the beginning of the Guest Season in May. I signed up for a week long retreat, studying Tai Chi with lay monk and Tai Chi Master Liping. A week at Tassajara is an ambitious feat: no electricity, no cell service, no contact with the outside world at all. When you are at Tassajara, your are AT Tassajara. But, after all, that is the point…

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Although I was eager to get back in touch with the world by the end of the week, I throughly enjoyed my week long stay there, and made many personal discoveries. It truly is a wonderful place for contemplation and self exploration. As far as I can tell, that’s what Zen Buddhism is about. Abbot Myogen told me once, “Just sit, and see what happens. See where your mind takes you…”. So even though I was there to learn Tai Chi and study Zen, ultimately I was there to “inquire within”.

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Tucked away throughout the grounds are numerous alcoves and nooks for people to sit down, relax, contemplate, read or just simply observe.

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I had numerous spots that I frequented while I was here, but my favorite was a flat stone down by the creek that meanders it’s way along the Monastery’s grounds.

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Many of the guest quarters are built along the creek as well, which has been a home for humans since prehistory.

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These hollowed out holes in the stone were used by Native Americans to grind acorns into mush that they would eat as their main staple.

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The love and care that has been put into making Tassajara what it is today is palpable. This handmade walk way leading to the Zendo from the Monks quarters is a piece of art in itself. Observe how each piece of wood was independently measured and cut to make a smooth a sinuous path that leads to the Zendo.

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All over the grounds there are small pieces of art that act as functional pieces of the Monastery: A dead Sycamore tree turned into bench seating, tiny shrines tucked away in obscure places, everywhere are small details some Zen monk took the time to create with care.

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The entrance to the Monastery.

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One of the several gardens on the Monastery grounds.

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Another great reading nook to take a book, or to just sit and observe.

The Tai Chi retreat was an amazing experience. Liping is a Chinese national who immigrated to the US almost 20 years ago. She lived at the San Francisco Zen Center, studying Buddhism, for over ten years. During her time in the US, she has been a practicing Zen Monk, as well as a practitioner of holistic Chinese medicine. Liping is a very unique individual indeed: a native practitioner of Chinese medicine and arts, but also a devotee of Japanese Buddhism.

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Liping demonstrates a Tai Chi sword form.

She has taught numerous Tai Chi retreats at Tassajara. The style of Tai Chi that she teaches is very rare, dating back all the way to the last royal family of China. Her style is known as Swimming Dragon Tai Chi, and it is known for it’s fluidity, grace, and athleticism.

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Liping, mid form, with students looking on.

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Liping performs while Phillip, her husband and also a Tai Chi Master, watches on and names the techniques Liping is demonstrating.

Tai Chi was a challenge for me because of how slow we were required to move. Tai Chi is very much an Internal art, but I saw numerous correlations to self defense, or “External Arts”. Swimming Dragon Tai Chi was developed by an Imperial General while he was held prisoner during the cultural revolution. It was designed to enhance and maintain physical attributes such as grace, strength, flexibility, and stamina. From some of the photos posted, you can easily see that this is the case.

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Liping getting grounded with Swimming Dragon Tai Chi.

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Effortless grace.

By the end of the week I became close friends with many of the participants at the Swimming Dragon Tai Chi Retreat. Everyone at the retreat, and at the Monastery in general, are extremely warm and inviting people. It is easy to make friends, but I was surprised at how many GOOD friends I made.

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The Swimming Dragon Tai Chi Class, Spring 2014.

As if learning the ancient art of Swimming Dragon Tai Chi with amazing people in an inspiring environment wasn’t enough, Master Liping asked me to teach a small workshop the last day of her retreat. I was, and still am, extremely honored to be asked to share my knowledge by such an esteemed master as Liping. It truly is an honor beyond words. I demonstrated various southeastern martial arts: Kali, Silat, and Muay Thai. All of these arts have a history of music, dance, meditation and ritual connected to them, similar to Tai Chi and it’s relationship to Kung Fu. So instead of showing the lethal our fanciful techniques of these arts, I decided to do a “Tai Chi Speed” demonstration of Kali, Silat, and Muay Thai.

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Urban Warrior_1 giving a short lecture on the Southeast Asian Martial Arts and their various elements, which includes meditation and restoration.

In the Indonesian art of Silat, they have what is called the Bua and the Bunga, or the fruit and the flower. The Bua, or the fruit, is the actual application of a technique, but the Bunga is the flowery presentation of the art. Just like the fruit and the flower can’t exist without each other, the external application and the internal practice of the art cannot be separated from each other. The Bunga will often be performed very slow and gracefully, with music accompaniment. This concept is very akin to Tai Chi and how it relates to the External Martial Arts of China.

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Yours truly, Urban Warrior_1, demonstrating a Hari Mau Silat technique.

In the Filipino art of Kali, there is something called Karenza, or “Dancing with the Wind.” In this practice, the Kali practitioner will often ask a question or seek guidance from God. Than the practitioner will practice Kali in the air, visualizing opponents and attacks, but also entering a meditative state through motion. Often they will dance with their shadow from candlelight or the moon. After a certain amount of time of moving meditation, the practitioner will find a solution to the problem that they face. This practice, although Filipino, bares striking resemblance to Tai Chi and the other Internal Arts of Asia.

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Karenza at Tassajara, an honor beyond words.

In Thailand, Muay Thai has been the warrior art for centuries, if not millennia. All warrior arts have an internal element, a time for the warrior to turn inwards, refelct and be introspective, heal and recuperate, and Muay Thai is no different. In Thailand they have what is call “Wai Kru”. It is a ritualistic dance that today is practiced by combatants before a Muay Thai fight. It symbolizes what camp you are from, part of your history, your connection with God, and your confidence and ability as a Warrior. Essentially it is a war dance. Again, it is practiced very slowly, much like Karenza or the Bua.

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Demonstrating “Wai Kru”

Creature Work for ABC’s Grimm

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I’ve been a professional stuntman for about six years now, and some of my favorite work has been playing a supernatural creature of some sort. Over the years I’ve done creature work on True Blood, Priest, Star Trek 2, and most recently on ABC’s Grimm. I’m flying to Portland next week to work on Grimm for the second time. Portland is a great city, and a welcome break from Los Angeles. The cast and crew on the show are all exceptional to work with. There’s a pervasive sense of happiness on the show, which I am very grateful to be apart of.

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I often use a lot of Capoeira and Silat when I do creature work. The quadrupedal movement of both these martial arts are very useful for unorthodox body movement. Surfing also helps with maintaining fluidity and balance throughout different low crouching poses.

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Creature Work usually involves wearing intricate prosthetic makeup. The first step is they must make a mold of your face, head, and torso. This takes about an hour. Than on the day of filming, the application of the prosthetics can take up to three hours in the make up chair. Star Trek 2 I had three makeups artist working on me and it still took about 3 and a half hours. The prosthetic make up is done by B2B EFX, located in Burbank, CA. They’re a great group of people that basically read scripts, draw and sculpt monsters, and than bring their vision to reality on the silver screen. Not a bad gig.

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Does a handgun really make you safe from an attack?

Many people think that owning a handgun is the best answer to self defense, but in many cases this is not the case.  If you have a holstered gun, most times an assailant can close a gap of more than 20 feet before you can draw your sidearm properly, aim, and pull the trigger.

This video shows Guro Dan Inosanto in a training exercise with various officers from the LA police force. It clearly demonstrates the superiority of hand held weapons versus a firearm in a close quarter situation.

In the end, the human body is the ultimate weapon. Your reflexes, and hand to hand comabat skills, will save you from an assault better than a firearm in most situations. Not that firearms aren’t an effective means of self defense, but just owning a gun does not guarantee your safety.

Jeet Kun Do with Sifu Dan Inosanto

I regularly attend classes at the Inosanto Academy in Marina Del Rey, California. Tonight in the Advanced JKD class, Sifu Dan talked a lot about the history of Jeet Kun Do, and specifically about the time when he was teaching the classes at Sigong Bruce Lee’s Chinatown Academy in Los Angeles. Sifu Dan showed us xeroxed copies of hand written notes that Sigong Bruce gave him during private lessons. We saw all the material that was written out and that had ben practiced over a six week period, and I have to say it is about as many notes as I get with one weekend Seminar with Sifu Inosanto.

Sifu frequnetly states that “All knowledge comes from the creator.” He believes that knowledge should be shared, not hidden and hoarded. A truly revolutionary concept. The truth is, knowledge isn’t power, it’s your ability to use that knowledge that gives you power.

Sifu Dan Inosanto travels 40+ weekends out of the year teaching seminars all over the world. If you have the opportunity to attend one of his seminars, do so, and you can thank me later.

 

Capoeira Angola

Capoeira is a great martial art that increases your bodies attributes, such as balance, coordination, agility, core and leg strength, timing and rhythm. It is a great way to increase your range of motion and flexibility as well. Capoeira Angola is a traditional form of Capoeira that emphasizes stylized movements and expression, as well as guile and trickery, over flashy kicks and brute strength.  A style of capoeira that is very richly steeped in history and culture, Capoeira Angola also has an elaborate percussion ensemble that produces beautiful hypnotic music.

If this looks remotely interesting to you, than look for Capoeira classes in your area today! Capoeira must be seen first hand in order to be truly appreciated.