*My heartfelt thanks to Colin, Simon and Dan, my Senior Students, for keeping our home team on track and focused. You guys rock!
Traveling has a way of changing your perspective. Being away from everything familiar, from your support network, family and community leaves you exposed and reflected by the others with whom you share the journey. Traveling to Italy this summer allowed me to see myself and my martial arts in this stage of learning and developing in a new light.
I went to Italy with the intent to increase my understanding of Silat, to train with a particular group and to discover the basics that I need to be able to train this style. What I got was so much more than my limited goal. I encountered a community builder, and the community that he built. I discovered a man who found himself in demand and in a position to share; and by sharing, ensure the legacy of his family’s martial art and spread a rich history of a little known, but remarkable culture. As I learn more, I will have more to discuss about this instructor and his art, but at this time I want to talk about what I have learned, as a teacher, as a person, from seeking this instruction.
Maul Mornie attracts instructors from an international audience; I have yet to attend one of his seminars without noting other well-known and established martial artists in attendance or at least dropping in to pay their respects. This is the group I was training in, and they are good at what they do. Each of them are masters in their own disciplines and are putting that aside to discover what is distinct and awesome about Silat and Maul’s work. For the first three days of the seminar we worked on the basics and motions that lay the foundation for the art. I felt no egos at battle in the training, no resentment about the choice of content, and no complaints about the repetitions or simplicity of the motions. In fact, toward the last days that were full of exciting applications, all the senior guys in the training group wanted was more basics. It was martial bliss.
The seminar organizer, Carlo arranged for the whole crew to have dinner together at his restaurant, Ristorante Colomba and took amazing care of us each night. In that environment we bonded again, shared our favorite martial stories, backgrounds and talked about the teacher who inspired us. We commiserated about the difficult things that happen in the industry, with training partners and I continuously found strength in it. The thing is, this is a group of established martial artists and instructors, and their stories related to mine and I could see myself. I found friends in that group, some of whom I couldn’t speak with, but still learned who they are, still found I wanted to bring them home and introduce them to my friends, my students. I discovered instructors I had never heard of that I now want to train with. But most of all I realized where I am and what I have become as a martial artist.
As if to acknowledge my realization, chance had it that I was invited to Turin by some of my new friends. People that I found it particularly easy to work with, effectively retaining the material we were being shown. Of course we accepted the invitation, Andi had joined me by the final night of training, and we had no set plans for the rest of the week. We took a couple of days to take in the sights of Venice and Sirmione and then jumped on a train for Turin.
It was a fair ride, three and a half hours but we dropped our things at the hotel, got the wifi running and headed out to take in the sights before being picked up to spend a night with our friends from DSF Academy of Martial Arts
Torin is a beautiful city, amazing architecture, and a wonderful meeting of modern and ancient, Italia and the world. My new friends picked me up and we drove to their gym, an awesome old garage located in the parking areas between a group of apartments. Gian Mario Mele and his team had transformed it into an effective multidisciplinary training facility. They have found a way to have it all in about 2000sqft. , cage, mats, mook jong…even change rooms with showers! And they did it all with their own hands and they did it well.
We began the class with some basic stick work, and kept moving through the drills till we found material they hadn’t seen before (I have Pekiti Tersia to thank for that material). For the second hour I got to show them something that until now has only been shared with folks inside my own circles. I went through the first few modules of my Strike Foundations Pad Drill series and I was gratified to see them soak it in and to see the coaches find value in it.
When the class was over, the group formed a circle and closed for the night, much like we do at home with a very positive vibe in the room. We were all excited to work together and as the evening progressed on toward dinner, we agreed that we will continue to work together, meeting and building one another, sharing in the art and working on our friendships. I can’t wait to see them again.
Our next stop was in Rome. I had been in contact with other friends from the Silat seminar, training under the guidance of Roberto at Lions A. Segreteria. They had booked us a lovely B&B near the main train station in Rome and took us on a very efficient express tour of some of the main sites in the city before class. This group was particularly interested in Dog Brothers martial arts, and I shared with them aspects of the training I have done with Philip Gelinas, Arlan Sanford and Mark Denny, contrasting the styles as I’ve seen it, and sharing with them what I have personally learned from actually fighting my fellow Dog Brothers. It could be that we see another European school producing fighters who wish to challenge for their Dog names. I had another reminder of what it means to have earned the Dog Brother title. From time to time I forget how much it means to other martial artists, which is probably a good thing if I am going to avoid resting on my laurels.
The class was fun, and I got to laugh at myself and my inexperience working with a translator. There were times where I fully forgot to wait for them to translate which resulted in an enthusiastic discussion in Italian and five more questions in English on what it is I was saying.
This school was located in a boxing gym Boxe Valle dell’inferno and after class I had the opportunity to do some pad drills with Coach Testasecca, himself a national champion. It was an exciting bit of training as this is an area I am very interested in, and he is a world class coach. In just a few minutes, and without common language, we worked through some drills that notably improved my cross. He told me to make sure to drop in and train with him again when I return.
One of the students was a chef at a local restaurant and after class Andi and I were treated to dinner with Roberto and several school members. We had a fine Roman meal, with several dishes I had never heard of. Andi and I will be planting zucchini next year so we can remake one of the appetizers. Though we were all thoroughly exhausted, we chatted and laughed through the night. Occasionally struggling to translate the things we were excited to share. At the end of the night it was again agreed that I will be returning to Rome to teach. And again we stood out front of the restaurant, saying goodbye four and five times each as the laughter carried us on into the night. In the end we were dropped off at the B&B with hugs and warm wishes.
Exhausted, and with a few good hours of sleep, we hauled our things to the station for the very long progression of trains, line ups, security and inflight movies that would bring us home. The whole way we were beaming, filled with the excitement that comes with the profound shift of perception, of having seen yourself reflected in others, by another culture, isolated from your daily experience. There is stability and solidity of character that comes from realizing that ‘it’, is happening; that the hard work and the sacrifice is actually bringing the goals closer, causing visions to materialize. I am filled with a sense of gratitude, and worth that I have been working to feel for a very long time. I am grateful to all of my teachers and for my experience leading up to this. And I am grateful for this time in Italy, the SSBD training group and all of the fine people I spent extreme quality time with. Thanks all!