10 Questions with Samir “Sandman” Seif

Posted in Martial Arts, 10 Questions, Jiujitsu, MMA, Mixed Martial Arts with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 24, 2015 by hybridfightingmethod

Samir Sandman Seif

Take a moment to tell us a bit about your training and professional backgrounds
My professional background began at Red Lobster, ironically enough. I was working tables, washing dishes and cooking, trying to pay off my Police Sciences degree – that course now is called Police Foundations.  I had done some “bouncer” type stuff at parties for cash, on account of my martial arts background, yet nothing too serious. One day as I was serving a table, a man named Randy introduced himself to me, and complimented me on my people skills. He asked if I had ever thought of doing security.  I told him I wanted to be a cop, and he said this would be a perfect start.  That was the start of my security education and the end of me ever being a cop.  I worked the hardest, grimiest bars in Hamilton for 2 years.  It was a security temp (Ranton Security) agency, so I was sent to the bars no one else wanted to work.  In 1993 two things happened, I began training in wing chun and I met a bartender who introduced me to the Canadian Division head of Griffon Group International who trained and hired me.  I went from being a bouncer/martial artist to a professional in executive protection, close protection, and casino security.  Training took place in Toronto and Windsor Universities.  These were my formalative years transitioning from a martial artist into a professional Law Enforcement/Security specialist trainer.  Working the travelling casino’s, protecting clients and training correctional/Law Enforcement in baton, handcuffing and pepper spray use-of-force programs.  The training was based on effective communications, prevention and prediction.  That lasted until 1997 where I went on my own and began training people under the Samirs Combat Reaction name. I continued training in Pain compliance and control systems under Stay Safe President Steve Summerville.  I learned how to be a true professional and legally articulate use-of-force.  That brought me to the next level of teaching and applying Law and Security in my professional capacity as a trainer and operating in the field.  I was hired on full time as the use of force trainer at a large security Company in Hamilton.  Doing work protecting Liberal assets (insured persons), fleshing out RCMP details, and running large security crews for multiple night clubs.
Who have been your major influences in training and teaching?
Major influences in my training and teaching has been Wayne Wells of Griffon Group International.  If you look him up, he has a long line of martial arts qualifications himself.  Ironically he was the first that treated my black belt in jiu jitsu and black sash in wing chun as only a small part of the greater subject when it comes to combatives, close protection and security/law enforcement.  His socially acceptable techniques, politically correct nomenclature and proper training heavily guided my own hand when I began designing programs.  His experience also played a factor in my development as he had committed so many years of his life to training trainers as professional, with himself having trained with the best in the world.  For locks and holds- specific to control and restraint, and with corrections experience my next major influence would be Master Robert Krantz and Master Alex Andrews.  I was a member of the CJC, and CJA during the 90’s.  Master Alex taught me small circle ju jitsu and Judo that would work specifically for Corrections and Law Enforcement.  The timing was perfect, as I was able to apply my skills as a trainer for Wayne’s company and use the skills myself as the head doorman at several clubs.  Master Robert actually graded me in one of my jiu jitsu black belts under the WKF.  He has a no-nonsense style of locks, and with his correctional back ground his method was invaluable.  Between the two, I tightened up my physical locking game, and brought a very high level game to handcuffing and grounding subjects.
The greatest striking influences was Master Chris Hader for giving me the gift of wing chun.  The only martial art that allowed me to assimilate every physical course I have learned and apply it within a solid theory and concept.  He was an old school, hardcore Sifu that put his stamp..and his foot on my spine.
The last phase of major influence in training and teaching has been Grandmaster Bram Frank and Shuki Drai.  As much as I had been doing weapon training throughout my entire professional and martial arts life, a fundamental and moral pillar changed. From a young age I trained with known weapon experts like Grandmaster Rudy Timmerman, Master Robert Doiron and Guru Brian ‘Buzz’ Smith.  All three are traditional martial artists.  Gifted,respected and in the Kuk Sul Wan, Hap Ki Do and Kuntaw world very well known.  They trained me to strike to kill.  In the sense, how most martial arts train..the kill shot.  Meaning that my use of weapons was literal, with no thought to the law and the consequences of armed combat.  I was a martial artist ,with a martial artists mindset.
Meeting GM Bram Frank and then continuing my work with Shuki taught me a new world of reality. How society views weapons of gun, stick and knife. How I view it as a tool like any other item you might find in a tool box. Knowing case law, applicable law of use and defense.  My teaching ability and success by using GM Bram’s “train the trainer” methodology and gross motor skill progressive training under pressure has swelled the curve of skills and attributes.  I can teach and learn new skills or refine old skills in 1/10 of the time it used to take me.  Thats how we get our troops ready-in months not years.  My understanding of anatomy, nerve systems and use of modern day weaponry (firearms) has made me a much more evolved combatives instructor and practicing combatant.  Bram in particular introduced me to many men and women that either had seen or yet remained in active duty in the war theatre, active duty as a police officer or form of duty that included weapons.  It forced me to reevaluate my martial arts training, and get to the range ,and work with skilled shooters.  The impact of reality training, experience in the field coupled with my own experiences has made me search and continue to develop realistic skill sets for modern Combatives.
Lastly the literature of Bruce K. Siddle and Lt.Col Grossman along with the translation and interpretation of Book of 5 Rings by Steven Kaufman have influenced me since I was old enough to pick them up and study them.  They are constant companions to all my combative efforts.  Their work is influential and in my personal opinion iconic.
What systems have you trained in that you find applicable to the kinds of attacks you see in your profession?
The systems that I have trained in that have been most applicable to the kind of attacks in my profession as a security specialist, and close protection specialist has been Wing Chun, Kali, Muay Thai, wrestling and Jiu Jitsu.
Wing Chun has allowed me to deal with the conversation that goes bad.  Most people speak with their hands.  They point, they grab and push.  Welcome to hundreds of hours of chi sao (sticky hands).  If it’s standing and arms are in the touching or within the intimate zone of personal space wing chun has been the answer.  Then the use of KALI becomes equally important as weapon sense from bottles, ashtrays (back in the day), stantions and anything else a person could grab comes into play.  The relationship between wing chun and Kali is synergistic and they complement each other in the CQC area.  If wing chun didn’t have the answer, my Kali filled in the blanks and vice versa.  When it comes to subjects that are actively resisting and striking back, I have to say Muay Thai is the most applicable and has been personally the best “show stopper”, in the arsenal. The neck-tie up (plum), and the devastating elbows conclude any form of aggression very quickly. I have personally had great success with single strikes to assaultive subjects using the elbow, the knee and the round kick. Wrestling tie ups and takedowns go hand in hand with Muay Thai clinching skills; its never my first choice to fight on the ground, yet it’s my first choice for anyone I’m trying to control.  Wrestling allows me to apply that pressure when number of people, size and strength come into play.  A hard head snap or duck under and boom down they go.  Saying that, brings me to the last art I find applicable to my profession.  Bjj/Jiu Jitsu.  Grounding a subject and skillfully lifting them back up with minimal effort and damage to oneself and them.  The controls gained by vascular restraints, joint-locks and come-a-longs are invaluable.  When it comes to mitigating collateral damage, liability and negligence the system of Jiu Jitsu is hand crafted for my profession.
What role does MMA play in your training?
It’s the pressure tester of the weeks drilling, training and specific sparring.  MMA training allows for learning, growth and adaption under real or closely simulated combative pressure.  Resistance to submission attempts, and being stuck in a pound-and-ground position.  Basically have full resistance with protective equipment to see how everything works, and improve the next weeks drilling where the holes were found.
Does MMA prepare someone for street violence?
 
That really depends, as does the last question on what you define as MMA and how it’s being trained/taught.
If your “MMA” training does not include the following variations of multiple opponents, weapons, hostile environment and role playing I do not believe it will fully prepare you  for street violence.  An example is on several occasions I personally have taken out high level MMA fighters, and watched even my own staff of guards take out good  level MMA fighters for drunken and disorderly.  Their mindset prepared them for the one-on-one, and in that they won hands down.  It was the follow-up of hostile environment, tables, people, hard surface, wet surface and multiple opponents that quickly overcame them.
MMA only prepares you for resistance and pressure. Cardio under battle stress, elevated heart rate and blood pressure.  Exertion and blunt force trauma.  It does not prepare you for pre-indicators of violence, violent confrontation through words. Threat cues, prediction and prevention.  The anatomy of violence and street confrontation can be markedly absent from MMA training.  For the record I would put my money on a well trained MMA fighter to survive a confrontation better than a traditionally trained martial artist.  That being said, as the variables increase, so does the MMA fighters advantages decrease if he is trained in MMA rules, single opponent training.
How can martial artists alter their training to make their system suitable for the street?
 
As previously mentioned I believe to street-proof any system the following fundamentals must be included.  Multiple opponents, weapons (stick,knife,gun), hostile environment and role playing.  Then all of these need to be trained with progressively increased pressure of resistance.
This is just the physical aspect.  One needs to learn the physiology and phycology of violence to oneself and to others.  The ability to prevent, predict and proactively train.  Confrontation does not just happen.  There are cues and steps that are not part of the regular martial arts training program.  These have to be taught and trained.  It’s a science and must be treated as such.
What are some common traits you see among unprovoked attacks?
The common traits I have observed that unprovoked attacks carry are the attackers are 99% male and under the age of 40.  My reports and court cases would average late 20’s.  They include intoxication or drugs.  They involve criminal elements, meaning that person or persons doing the unprovoked attack have either been through the criminal system or associated with a criminal element.  The person being attacked almost always have their hands down, and are not in control of their intimate zone. It’s like they don’t realize they are in an argument or that the other person could actually hurt them.  The number one has been the attacker was prepared to fight or attack, and the victim or victims were not.
Among the ambushes you’ve seen, what tactics have the defenders employed successfully, and what tactics have they been unable to employ successfully?
I have seen many ambushes via cctv in my years of working security. Among the ambushes the defenders have had success or failure dependent on the reaction to the attacks.  I use the  3F system (First,Fast,Furious) to measure success or failure.  If the attack is first, then the counter-response must be fast and furious.  In all cases of success the reaction time from the subject not simply becoming a victim is they retaliated fast and furiously.  They grabbed a weapon and closed the distance instantly.  If no weapon was grabbed they gave up no room and instantly grappled.  The most successful move is to crash the attacker, hug and hold the attacker and not allow for repeated blows of the dominant hand.  They also covered up initially as they moved forward, blunting whatever attack was coming in.
The reaction that failed almost every time was moving backwards or away.  The environment did not allow for unimpeded movement.  That means they tripped or fell and damaged themselves more on the way down, were continued to be attacked and mounted in most cases.  Ironically it’s not the first reactive block that fails, it’s the fact that time and time again the victim has continued to try to block without any counter.  In one case I watched as the first block worked to stop a knife, and that the person being stabbed had not realized they had been ambushed with a palmed knife.  They continued to back away from “punches”, and was stabbed 3 more times still trying to block the same angled attack in the same manner.  They at that point collapsed, and the ambushed escaped.  In another example, the ambush happens perfectly, but someone behind the ambusher flinches and the victim reacts by putting out their arms.  The knife is blocked barely and the victim slips to one knee, where they are “nicked” in one artery and nicked in a vein,they barley survive and take 6 months to come out of serious condition.
Blocking and not moving forward, blocking and repeating the same block allowed for the ambusher to gain momentum,timing and distance .
Successful defense against the ambush has been that the reaction has not only been fast and furious,but also that the furious included striking and defending.
Failure has come from being slow to react ,creating too much distance that allowed the ambusher momentum and increase in number of attacks.  They also were not being struck back, as the victim was too busy concentrating on defense and not counter attack.
The ambush attack in all cases was missed,as it was clear watching the videos that all threat cues are missed. Clenched fists,blading of the body, puffing of the chest, lifting of the chin..all for naught.  In one case I remember watching in awe as a male takes their jacket off and makes like he is turning away.  He takes off his jacket..how does one miss this..??!!
If someone could do only one thing to defend themselves successfully from an attack, in your opinion what would that thing be.
Be First, Be Fast, Be Furious.
That’s my one thing.  You feel it coming, you see it coming, you predict it’s coming..Doesn’t matter.
Be FIRST!  Thats a concept and that’s a technique. Eyes, Groin and Neck.
Smash it, bite it, kick it, slap it, stab it, bring blunt force trauma..Just make sure your FIRST.
Being first makes you FAST. You will be at the right place, at the right time to bring on maximum force, with minimum effort.
Which brings you to a place of momentum.  When the engine is rocking and rolling, it brings a furious energy.  Chain your attacks until no one is standing.  Bring an element of controlled passion and anger and rage and even cold tempered steel.  BE FURIOUS.
No matter what reaction you have, nor the style you train you need one method to withstand a seen attacker and the unseen ambusher. BE FIRST, BE FAST, BE FURIOUS.
Where do you see the martial arts as a whole in ten years?
In ten years I see the same evolution of what UFC did for martial arts, blending and merging the best techniques and concepts to create the MMA era happening in the Reality Based Self Defense and Combatives.  The difference will be the best technologies will be brought to simulate weapons of modern and traditional origins.  We will see swords, knives, bats, guns, explosives and multiple persons.  We will have simulated gang attacks, and small armies battling.  We will know how the sword works against the axe, and crossbow against 45 pistol.  The martial will be brought back, and it will become an arena for true to the death combat between not just two dueling combatants, but a plethora of situations that will include multiple simultaneous attacks.  They already have multiple opponent MMA in Russia.  They have prototype weapon and at our dueling in Australia.  A decade from now we will simulate injury, pain and trauma to find the essence and truth of combat which is death on the battlefield without actually killing anyone. That is I’m sure until someone wants to try it for real.  Then we may even return to gladiators and the true arena.
– Interviewed by: T.J. Kennedy
Hybrid Fighting Method
Samir Sandman Seif

Master of Goshin Ryu Seif Jiu Jitsu

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Low Kick Defense and Counters [Video]

Posted in Muay Thai, Techniques, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2015 by Combative Corner

Chris Clodfelter profile picI love getting the opportunity to do some videos for.Sean Fagan and Muay Thai Guy. Here is good one on evading leg kicks and firing right back. Dont forget to check out Nakmuaynation.com for even more solid muay thai info.

Chris Clodfelter, Eight Points Muay Thai

 

Exceptionally Answered Questions : on Fencing

Posted in 10 Questions, Swordsmanship, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2015 by Combative Corner

Over the years we’ve had the privilege to interview countless athletes, fighters and teachers.  At the CombativeCorner we love to not just ask the about “the story” (what got them to where they are), but the probing questions that will more likely resonate with the student looking to find a method/style/philosophy/etc that can bring their game or area of expertise to the next level.  To read the full interview from whence the question was pulled, click on their hyper-linked name.

The Princess Bride Duel 001Regarding the art of FENCING (Sport, Classical, or Combative) here are some of the exceptional answers from our 10 Question Interviews.

What was your biggest challenge when you first started?

My first semester of fencing I actually got a C! I had a hard time focusing and paying attention for long periods of time when I was younger so fencing really helped me to improve my focus an discipline, but focusing was also my biggest challenge at the start.

Tim Morehouse

What goes through your mind before you begin a bout?

I’m thinking about what action I’m about to execute and also telling myself to “come to my baseline” mental place. I always want to be fencing from a familiar and strong mental place. Never get too high and never get too low.

Tim Morehouse

In teaching students, what are some of the core principles that you try to instill?

Firstly control. With weapons you need control before you can progress. Control is mostly about mind-set I think – learning to respect the weapon, your capabilities and be respectful of the training partners. Next is how to move – the students generally don’t realise they are being taught this, because they think they are learning techniques of attack and defence. For the first few months though what they are really learning is a new way of moving their bodies. In everyday life we just don’t move our bodies in these ways. At first even strong and fit students exhaust themselves in an hour class because they just aren’t moving right. Learning to move is all about efficiency of course and once a person knows how to move with a given weapon then they only use a fraction of the energy to do things that used to exhaust them. Once a person has learned control and how to move, then they really effectively start to learn about attack and defence, time, distance, judgement, line and the other basic themes of fencing.

Matt Easton

What is your current view on the way they teach (modern/sport) fencing today?

I actually have a lot of respect for modern sport fencing and I think it has some very well-established and effective teaching methods. Some of how we train historical fencing is taken directly from sport fencing. What I have criticised about sport fencing are some of the rules and some of the equipment – I think it has led to a sport that is further and further removed from swordsmanship and therefore is less and less like what most people actually want to do when they start fencing. A huge proportion of historical fencers are former sport-fencers who started because they wanted to learn how to use a sword – some people do both historical and sport fencing, and the two need not be exclusive. I myself did sport fencing for many years and would recommend any child to do it as a basis for historical fencing. In the future I expect that historical fencing will become more like sport fencing in its attitudes to professionalism, teaching and athletic excellence. I certainly hope that historical fencing will learn from some of the mistakes of sport fencing though and not repeat them.

Matt Easton

What weapon appeals to you the most and why?
Foil, sabre then epee in that order. It’s like watching three different movies. They’re all exciting but each brings different feelings to you. The structure of the foil fencing allows you to set up and have resolution in the most powerful way.  Sabre feels like playing cat and mouse with me being the cat.  Epee is like dancing: structured with only three rules that, if you follow them,  you can win the Olympics.  Of course when I was young in the Soviet Union, girls only had the choice of foil.

Julia Richey

Students often have a hard time understanding the difference (besides the grip being used).   If we are talking about aspects (other than the gripping of the weapon) what philosophical, strategic or postural differences does the foil fencer exhibit?

I think that the definition of the classical fencer by Maître Louis Rondelle answers this question the best;

“The Classical Fencer. –  A classical fencer is supposed to be one who observes a fine position, whose attacks are fully developed, whose hits are marvelously accurate, his parries firm and ripostes executed with precision.

One must not forget that this regularity is not possible unless the adversary is a party to it. It is then a conventional bout, which consists of parries, attacks, and returns, all rhyming together.”

In contrast to:

“The Blunderer. – Is a fencer who strives to hit his adversary by all means, fair or foul, without preparation or opposition. His arm drawn back of its position, he advances or retreats without necessity, effects a tension on any attack, attempts to execute time-thrusts on simple attacks, beats the blade and changes the engagement without motive.”

The prime directive in fencing is always defense. If there is no defense it is not fencing. Some may repeat the tired old adage “The best defense is a good offense” but that is not necessarily true. This is because the mentality of the real fencer is centered on self-preservation. The premise in all fencing is to touch without being touched. It does a fencer no good to theoretically kill his adversary as he himself is killed in the process.

Maestro Ramon Martinez

As a masterful fencer yourself, is it hard to contend against a student or challenger (in a bout) using their natural gifts (i.e. athleticism, speed) or even scoring touches in a wild, uncalculating manner?

My obligation as a teacher is to guide the student; not to contend with them. When students are first introduced to the assault in our school, they are only allowed to fence against the master or provost. This is to ensure that the student is given precise responses that he recognizes. These academic assaults have specific rules. The student is the designated attacker. This allows them to use any of the various attacks they have learned. If they are successful, then the master will attack and the fencer cannot step back until he has parried and reposted. As a teacher my job is to give the students tools to overcome their weakness and to build upon their natural attributes. I use the assault as another means by which I polish the skills of my students. As they build their confidence and become more skillful they are allowed to fence with others.

Maestro Jeannette Acosta-Martinez

Why are pronated attacks (such as those from tierce, seconde and quinte) and parries so prevalent in the French Small-sword? As Evangelista once wrote “Pronation will invariably generate muscular parries. That’s why the French style, by and large, avoids pronation in its delivery?

The French small-sword fencer seeks to control the adversary’s blade by proper placement and leverage, not muscular strength. The pronated positions allow for strong beats, froissements, croises as one is using the same edge as one uses for the same techniques in quarte. That said, there are actually more supinated attacks and parries used in French small-sword. The use of sixte instead of tierce did not become common until the second half of the 19th century. Even then, most masters did not discard tierce. Correct training will allow the student to develop proper parries without generating a lot of force. In fact to develop sentiment du fer (tactile sensitivity with the blade) one cannot be heavy handed.

Maestro Jeannette Acosta-Martinez

LOOKING FORWARD

10 QUESTIONS WITH SAMIR “THE SANDMAN” SEIF

AS WELL AS…(A RETURN TO)

ROUND-TABLE DISCUSSIONS

 

Conor McGregor’s #1 Trait

Posted in Martial Arts, Mixed Martial Arts, Philosophy with tags , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2015 by chencenter

“… I have an answer. I have an answer for everything.”

-Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor 1Speaking as a fan, as a martial artist, as an Irishman (albeit long since removed), I’m excited to see someone burst on the scene with such fervor.  Leading up to the fight between Chad Mendes and Conor McGregor in UFC 189, I educated myself on this man.  I honestly wanted to see what all the hype was about.

What I saw, even in just his interviews, was a man destined for greatness.  Some people can talk smack, as Conor often does, but I’ve never seen someone back it up quite like he does.  Plus, he knows it’s for show.  As arrogant as he may seem, it’s clear that he knows the game, knows how to get attention, and with it, how to get inside your opponent’s head.

Some people have been pretty vocal against this guy – Jose Aldo accusing Conor or taking performance enhancing drugs, and lately, famous comedian Bill Burr.  Bill, who admittedly says that he “knows nothing of the sport,” slams Conor on his tactics of intimidation and smack-talking.

The point that I’d like to make is a lot of fighters these days smack-talk- it’s a soundbite; sometimes it’s personal… most of the time it’s business.  If you’re a fight fan, how many times have you seen these athletes belittle and agitate their soon-to-be opponent, only to hug, give kind words and thank/congratulate them for a well-faught event afterwards?  If you’re a fight fan, we know this is true.  As a human being of the modern age; at this point at least, we should know what grabs people’s attention – drama, controversy and rivalry.

“Knowing the game” and “Talking the talk” may be good enough to bring in the numbers, but you have to be able to back it up… and back it up time-and-time again.  Conor has certainly done just that.

Conor McGregor 2It is undoubtable that Conor has an excellent training regiment, focusing on becoming not necessarily the best fighter, but the most adaptable fighter.  He does what it takes to win.

I am fairly sure that he’ll get beaten (at some point), as all fighters typically do – but as long as he listens to his body, keeps up with his training and continues to exude this extremely deep self-belief, he’ll continue to reign for as long as he wants.

While seated at the Bar & Grill with my fellow CombativeCorner crew member Brandon, I speculated on what the upcoming fight between Chad Mendes and Conor McGregor would be like and why I thought that (even with Chad’s tremendous wrestling skills) Conor would continue his glorious unbeaten streak (in the UFC).  “It’s about self-belief.  There is almost an inhuman amount of self-confidence in this guy. While most people might get hit and wonder this and that, Conor remains a confident, beast-of-a-fighter, that in most circumstances becomes even stronger against more stout opposition.  When you strike such a balance between your level of arousal and motivations for a fight, and you couple it with superb training and a monstrous amount of confidence…how can you lose?”

In his own words…

“Doubt is only removed by action.  If you’re not working then that’s where doubt comes in.”

Now I know that smack-talking isn’t everyone’s cup-of-tea… and it certainly isn’t mine either.  Fighters like GSP, Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida are amazing sportsman, martial artists and gentlemen of the sport.  But everyone is different. Everyone has their path.  One thing is true; you have to respect the talent of this guy. You have to recognize that it’s because of this brashness, wit and his sharp tongue that he’s been able to turn people’s heads in so short of a time.  Would I like Conor more if he just shut up and towed the line? Nope, because it just wouldn’t be him… and to a certain extent, we all have to agree that personalities make fights.

What are you thoughts on Conor McGregor, and the fight from UFC189? 

Michael Joyce

ChenCenter.Com

3 Essential Tai Chi Reads

Posted in Martial Arts, Products, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2015 by chencenter

Just the other day, I had a student come up to me and ask if there is “Anything I can do or read to help me improve” [in Tai Chi].  Immediately, three books shot to mind (out of several dozen that I’ve read over the years).  The first book that I think anyone with an interest in the art of Taijiquan should acquire and read (and definitely if you’re an instructor of Taijiquan) is Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain by Chungliang, Al-Huang. [click on the image for Amazon.Com link]
Embrace Tiger, Return to Mountain

Embrace Tiger Chungliang

Published in November of 1973, it is probably safe to say that North American hadn’t had its influx of Taijiquan influence, however it was this author and masterful teacher, Chungliang, Al-Huang that helped me to form my vision of what I wanted (my personal) Taijiquan to become.  There are many parts to Taijiquan and although everyone will see them differently, Master Al beautifully illustrates what they can grow into, and how you can use the power of Taijiquan to create boundless energy and freedom.

Pros: This book is highly under-rated. Because of this, people are selling used copies for only pennies.

Cons: Many people are interested only in the combative potential of martial arts (even Taijiquan) and will thus will get very little joy from this movement/energy/spirit-based book.

Taijiquan: The Art of Nurturing, The Science of Power

Taijiquan Book Yang YangPublished in 2008 by one of my early teachers, Master Yang Yang, this book is  more detailed on the science and study of Taijiquan as a martial art and system of mind-body therapy.  If you are looking for a clear explanation how and why Taijiquan practice can benefit you, look no further! Very thorough and well-written, Master Yang Yang gives you the foundation for not only Taijiquan practice but gives you principles that can benefit all martial artists.

Pros: This book encompasses everything that is great in a martial art book. Very easy-to-read, and explains what is (for some) a difficult, and deep subject to breech.  As an indoor disciple to the late Grandmaster Feng Zhiqiang, and someone who stands strong to his Master’s teachings, you can feel and can’t help but to get swept up in the feeling that this could have easily been written by the founder of Hunyuan Taijiquan (GM Feng) himself.

Cons: Available only in Hardback, this book comes with a higher price tag of approximately $30-40

Chen Style Taijiquan Practical Method, vol. 1: Theory

Chen Style Practical Method BookThis book, written by Hong Junsheng was translated and published by his disciple, and my primary teacher, Master Chen Zhonghua.  Hong Junsheng, as many of us know, was the most senior disciple of Chen Fake; one of the true legends of all Taijiquan.  Hong spent his lifetime dedicated to the cultivation and perfection of his master’s art, faithfully practicing and passing on his master’s teaching.  If any book can be called a “Masterpiece,” this one should!

Pros: The one and only book diving right to the source of Practical Method theory, a useful resource for any martial artist (particularly those that study Taijiquan).  Although the book can be costly ($39.99 at PracticalMethod.Com), you can get a digital copy for only $20.

Cons: In order to obtain a copy of this book, you’ll have to spend $39.99, which makes this the most expensive book on the list (and it’s not even hardback). Although you’ll be reading a well-translated volume, the read can be a bit tedious; more cerebral in parts.  There are parts of the book that are quite poetic and without a bit of clarification here and there (most likely from Master Chen’s articles, videos and workshops) you might misunderstand certain concepts. Needless-to-say, this book is certainly for all serious practitioners of Taijiquan (particularly the Practical Method).

Well there are certainly some other books that I could add to the list, but these are my TOP 3.  Do you agree with my list?

WHAT BOOKS WOULD MAKE YOUR LIST?

LET US KNOW!

MICHAEL JOYCE

CHENCENTER.COM

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10 Questions with Ronnie Yee

Posted in 10 Questions, Internal Arts, Taijiquan with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 25, 2015 by chencenter

Ronnie Yee copy

Ronnie Yee is a martial artist from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada but now lives in Vancouver, BC.  He is a student of Chen Zhonghua and a dedicated Chen Style Practical Method practitioner and teacher.  I (Michael Joyce) first met him at Hunyuan World, a gathering that Master Chen set-up at the end of our extensive training course.  During these few days, I got to meet, speak and get-to-know my taiji brother Ronnie.  One thing was very true – this guy knew his stuff! Those of us training towards our certification were even more impressed with Ronnie’s explanation of complex taijiquan concepts and his willingness to share his knowledge with others.  Nowadays, with social media and advances in communication, it’s even easier to reach out to him.  For anyone interested in learning more about Mr. Yee, please comment on this interview or email us directly at CombativeCorner@gmail.com and we’ll make sure he gets it.  Now,… for our Special World Taiji Day Interview!

10 QUESTIONS

What brought you to the martial arts?

I grew up in the 70-80s in a small prairie Canadian city. At that time, there was very little social media influence and no martial arts schools. My sole exposure were television and movies; the martial arts stars: David Caradine, Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan and my favorite, Bruce Lee are what got me hooked from a young age. The city’s first martial arts school, a traditional kung fu school, opened in 1979; I learnt of its existence in 1980 and I joined right away. From that moment on, the practice of kung fu consumed my life. As time went on, more styles of martial arts began to emerge in the city such as: Tae Kwon do, Karate, Judo, Aikido and Muay Thai, to name a few. I became friends with students in the other martial arts and trained with them all. My momentum in the martial arts exceeded many of my classmates and my ego was in full-bloom. I was a case of “big fish, small pond”. In 1986, everything changed, I met Master Chen and was humbled to the core. Master Chen was the embodiment of the true martial artist and as much as I feared him, he became one of my greatest mentors and helped me to become the martial artist that I am today. 

What were the first few years like studying under Master Chen?

I was a juvenile sixteen-year-old when I first met Master Chen. At the time, Master Chen was teaching ESL in my high-school and he decided to start-up a wushu/taiji class after school. I was excited to attend his first class and show-off because, as far as I knew, I was the best! Needless to say, I was quickly proven wrong. The very first demo of the very first class, Master Chen used me in a demo and made an example out of me. My ego collapsed and I became his student. Master Chen had a very strict regime but it didn’t begin with taiji. He wanted all of his students to have a foundation of wushu basics and the discipline that came with it. His training was gruelling. As students we had no structure, no discipline, no natural talent and no maturity. We were never fast enough, never low enough, never flexible enough, and never up to his standards. After roughly 3-months of wushu basics, the classroom size shrunk from 15 students down to only 3. It wasn’t until he knew that we were devoted to the arts that he began teaching taiji. Master Chen always wanted perfection from his students; it was very frustrating for all of us but probably most frustrating for him!

You have a great skill at teaching and expressing your ideas. How did you excel as a teacher in your own right? 

After having studied 2 years intensively under master Chen, he left Regina in pursuit for his career in teaching at a secondary school in Edmonton. I was thrust into the role of instructor to my classmates. I had to validate my theories into practical reality regardless of the skill level I was at for that time. This way of teaching has always been an ongoing, evolving process throughout my life. If one thinks they have found the absolute ultimate truth, then they have stopped learning and stagnate. That is why my philosophy is based on being humble and learning from everyone regardless of their skill level. I put my ego on check, and take all criticisms seriously and try to better myself. Even the most diehard beginner that walks into your class for the first time can teach the instructor something of great value. 

Master Chen’s way of teaching using many concepts and analogies to describe one paticular move definitely had significant influence on me. To look at one thing from numerous angles so that a student can understand. Presently I come to the realization that I am very critical of myself. Watching recent videos I see so many mistakes and weaknesses. I see these same errors in many others. I have become obsessed with finding ways to express the way some particular move or application is being performed. Also I have been to workshops or classes with other instructors in other systems. You watch for ways that work well for people and you borrow teaching methods. It’s important to know how each individual student learns best and suit the teaching to them. 

Out of all that you’ve studied, is there something you enjoy most (form, weapon, etc)? 

 If there is one thing that I enjoy most, it would be the validation when an application is successful. 

What does Taijiquan mean to you?

As a martial art, Taijiquan challenges practitioners both intellectually and physically. For me, Taijiquan is the balance between good body mechanics, physics and health. 

How important is “Qi” or understanding of “Qi” to you

I believe Qi is the energy of all things. I do not understand how Qi relates the the practical application of martial arts but I do recognize Qi’s benefit to the spirit. 

Besides Master Chen, have there been other mentors/influences that have greatly impacted your evolution as a martial artist?

In 91′ I went to China for a summer and trained under Hong’s disciple, Zhang Lian En. He influenced my physical mechanics by improving my grounding and strength. Around this time, Joseph (Master Chen) and I were introduced to Liu Chengde (another one of Hong’s disciples). Liu Chengde taught me the soft side of chen taiji which helped balanced the art. 

Over the years I have sustained my share of injuries and have endured many pains in the body. In the Early 2000s I met a woman named Amelia Itcush who taught me the Mitzvah technique. In simple words, the Mitzvah technique is the base of body alignment through natural movements. Following 3 years of consistent Mitzvah practice, all my pains disipated and I began to incorporated the techniques into my taiji. 

In recent years I have had my eyes opened to real world effectiveness of the Filipino Martial arts and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I like to study these two arts specifically because it helps me think more critically of taiji applications.

When you train yourself, how do you arrange your session? (Do you add other non-taijiquan exercises, endurance or resistance training, etc)

Presently I mostly focus on single drills, positive and negative circles and specific movements of both yilu and paochui (the 2 main hand forms in the Chen Practical Method). I rarely practice the forms from beginning-to-end as I prefer to isolate each movement within the form and deconstruct its application. I also do modified pole shaking exercises, modified chin-ups, and modified pushups, that simulate taiji mechanics. As stated in the previous question, since the early 2000s the Mitzvah technique has become a part of my everyday motions. 

Do you feel that Taijiquan will sustain your interest/passion forever, or do you wish to supplement your training with other systems of study?

Taiji as a martail art is so beautiful, detailed and complex that it could capture my attention for multiple lifetimes. I love it for the counter-intuitive approach to body mechanics. Although I plan to practice taiji for the rest of my life, it would be unwise to be blind to the strengths of other martial arts. One of my character flaws is procrastination but I do plan to learn more from Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and the Filipino Martial Arts.

When I first met you, I was amazed at how multi-talented you are (magician, wushu, rope dart, massage therapy). Do you still engage in all of these activities and do you have any other things that take up your day these days? What’s new in the life of Mr. Ronnie Yee?

My girlfriend of 6 years and I recently moved to Vancouver. I still teach taiji, still do massage therapy and am still very passionate about magic. I personally think the study of magic has helped my taiji. Puts me into the mindset of drilling every nuance to perfection. I dabble in many things but those are the main pieces of my life. 

BONUS QUESTION

If you could meet one martial artist, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

It’s a tie between Hong Junsheng and Rickson Gracie. They have both been or are true legends of their craft. Hong Junsheng obviously because he is my grandmaster and is the one that shaped the art for how my teachers taught and how I practice. I briefly met him in 1991. But unfortunately did not get to experience his ability. So that is why I would like to meet him again. To learn taiji but very importantly to feel his skill. 

Rickson Gracie is undeniably a legend in the world of BJJ. To me high level BJJ appears to have a lot of the same physics as high level taiji. I would love to experience the crossover between taiji and BJJ at this level. 

FIN.

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10 Questions with Jeannette Acosta-Martinez

Posted in 10 Questions, Fencing, Swordsmanship, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , on April 21, 2015 by chencenter

Jeannette Acosta-Martinez FencingMaestro Jeannette Acosta-Martínez is a traditional master of arms, teaching classical and historical fencing. Maestro Acosta-Martínez is on the Board of Directors of the Association for Historical Fencing, was one of the original founding members of the International Masters at Arms Federation and is married to fencing master Ramón Martínez. In 2009 she created a three-volume instructional DVD on the French school of small-sword, L’École Française: A Practical and Combative Guide to the French Small-sword (Palpable Hit Productions).  For more information on the Martinez Academy, please visit their website by clicking on the above image.

10 Questions

How did you get your start in Fencing (& how did you gravitate to the small-sword in particular)?

I moved to New York City to apprentice as an antique restorer in the late seventies. As part of my training I often went to auctions to learn to evaluate the authenticity of antique furniture. In the 1980’s Sotheby’s and Christies often had antique arms and armour auctions. I became interested in all the swords I saw and decided I needed to learn more about them. I gravitated to the small-sword early on because at that time they were frankly less expensive than rapiers. In 1982 I decided I should learn a little fencing to help me understand the usage of these elegant swords. I felt that learning to fence would help me to better understand why they are constructed as they are. I therefore looked in the yellow pages (as one did in those days) and found several schools of fencing. I decided to visit all of them and decide which one I preferred. I made my appointments and went to the Rohdes Academy first as it was by location closer to where I worked. The old world atmosphere of the salle and Maître Rohdes’s demeanor appealed to me and I knew immediately that I did not need to look any further. I liked the traditional approach in the teaching and the strict etiquette of the school.

What are your thoughts regarding sport fencing and do they have any merit when it comes to being considered a “martial art”?

When I began I did not know there was a difference between sport fencing and classical fencing. I just understood that I was learning fencing. In a rare stroke of luck I was able to study for a year and a half with Maître Rohdes before he passed away. He instilled in me the love of classical fencing, but more importantly for me the love of learning about the art and science. The first time I saw sport fencing was in the Los Angles Olympics in 1984 and it was then that I understood I was learning something very different. I don’t have any thoughts regarding sport fencing, as it is a completely different entity. More importantly I don’t like to speak about subjects I know nothing about.

If smallsword fencing is considered “combative,” why are the deep targets of the torso (like that in foil) emphasized? It would seem that L’Ecole Francaise would focus on hits to any open target (i.e. wrist/forearm, knee, etc).

Fencing is the art of defense. The primary consideration in an assault, a duel or street self-defense is to prevent the adversary from hitting you. In order to accomplish that you may have to attack. In the attack you must make choices that prevent the adversary from attacking you at the same time or attacking you at all. As the weapons move with relative ease, the best way to be safe is to control the adversary’s blade with opposition. Hence French small-sword fencing is an opposition system. The foil was the training tool for the small-sword, so practicing targeting the most lethal areas helps to develop the necessary skills required in fencing, for example: knowing your exact lunge distance (determined by the rear foot without sliding in), control of the adversary’s blade in opposition, proper placement of the hand in the thrust to provide cover, sentiment du fer (tactile sensitivity with the blade), yielding parries, etc. Also, one is learning from the beginning that this is a lethal art. Striking someone in the wrist or arm may not stop the adversary; a thrust to the body may not stop them either, but the probability is greater because of shock to the nervous system and its demoralizing effect.

Here is a quote that addresses that from: The art of Fencing or, the Use of the Small Sword by Monsieur L’Abbat, 1743, translated from the French by Andrew Mahon:

Many people say that with sword in hand the rules of the school are not observed, and that tis sufficient to have a good heart. It is certain the people who are subject to this error, are not capable of following the rules which are to be acquired only by putting a good theory in practice; which, by frequent use, disposes the eye and the parts of executing so well, that it is almost impossible to act other wise: And as to the practice of schools and of the sword, tis the same; for no one ought to do anything with the foil, but what he knows by experience to be without risk, according to his rules. In some cases, it is true, what is esteemed good in one, is not in the other. For example: thrusts with the foil are good only on the body, and with the sword they are good everywhere; and that in an assault with the foil, the joining is reckoned as nothing, whereas in battle tis the seal of victory: but except in that, it should be alike in everything.

Sport fencing has a parry quinte that defects the blade to the inside and downward, whereas in small-sword fencing it’s a “sweeping” (supinated) parry that deflects the opponent’s blade to the outside (or inside). Why are there such differences in how parries are represented in sport, Italian (referencing Gaugler’s The Science of Fencing) and French Small-sword?

Different schools of fencing (the 19th century French school, the 19th century Italian schools, the 18th century French school of small-sword) view theory differently. Therefore classifications of parries are different and changed over time.

For example:

In the 19th century southern Italian school, the parries are classified by the hand position and correspond with the positions of the grip in the engagement: prima, seconda, terza, quarta, mezzocerchio

In the 19th century northern Italian school, the parries are designated numerically. However not all masters agree on what they are. Some use: prima, seconda, terza, quarta, quinta, sesta, settima, ottava. Other masters use: prima, seconda, terza, quarta, quinta (which is mezzocerchio) and or quarta bassa. These parry positions are not necessarily the same as the Southern school.

In small-sword the parries are designated both by hand position and wrist position (supination and pronation). They are also designated by their relation to the adversaries blade (to the outside, to the inside, above or below) and in the case of demi-circle; the semi-circular movement from high outside to low inside.

In the French school during the 19th century the thrusts, the parries and the engagements all have the same numbering designations. i. e. prime, seconde, tierce, quarte, quinte, sixte, septime and octave.

Follow-up… why is there no parry of sixte, but instead it is called “carte to the outside.”

The parry position of “carte outside” is exactly the same position of the parry of sixte. In the 19th century the term sixte replaces carte outside. The term carte outside was used to designate that the hand is in supination and that it is parrying the blade to the outside.

In Small-sword fencing, opposition is created in carte and tierce. Why is tierce a starting position when a hand position of carte is so much stronger?

(I ask this question because the realities of combat would have an adversary beat and change lines quickly [and often] and tierce doesn’t seem like the strongest of hand positions)

The small-sword is a sidearm and could be used for self-defense against another small-sword, rapier, or against a spadroon or other cutting weapons. Small-swords typically have knuckle bows to protect the hand. As any tool, you want to use it optimally, hence tierce on the outside and quarte on the inside orientates the knuckle bow to offer more protection to the hand.

If by “starting position” you mean the en garde, then tierce was not always the default position. Some masters recommend a middle position where the hand is not in quarte or tierce. From this position they believe you can quickly close either line. Also the fencer can go en garde in quarte. Domenico Angelo states: “The guard in quarte is the most advantageous, and the most elegant position in fencing.”

Also, there should be no difference between how one trains and how one uses the small-sword in earnest. Hence dexterity in the use of both of these positions is a necessity. Fencing masters in the 18th century understood the realities of combat and the French school in the 18th century addresses that.

Why are pronated attacks (such as those from tierce, seconde and quinte) and parries so prevalent in the French Small-sword? As Evangelista once wrote “Pronation will invariably generate muscular parries. That’s why the French style, by and large, avoids pronation in its delivery?

The French small-sword fencer seeks to control the adversary’s blade by proper placement and leverage, not muscular strength. The pronated positions allow for strong beats, froissements, croises as one is using the same edge as one uses for the same techniques in quarte. That said, there are actually more supinated attacks and parries used in French small-sword. The use of sixte instead of tierce did not become common until the second half of the 19th century. Even then, most masters did not discard tierce. Correct training will allow the student to develop proper parries without generating a lot of force. In fact to develop sentiment du fer (tactile sensitivity with the blade) one cannot be heavy handed.

As a masterful fencer yourself, is it hard to contend against a student or challenger (in a bout) using their natural gifts (i.e. athleticism, speed) or even scoring touches in a wild, uncalculating manner?

My obligation as a teacher is to guide the student; not to contend with them. When students are first introduced to the assault in our school, they are only allowed to fence against the master or provost. This is to ensure that the student is given precise responses that he recognizes. These academic assaults have specific rules. The student is the designated attacker. This allows them to use any of the various attacks they have learned. If they are successful, then the master will attack and the fencer cannot step back until he has parried and reposted. As a teacher my job is to give the students tools to overcome their weakness and to build upon their natural attributes. I use the assault as another means by which I polish the skills of my students. As they build their confidence and become more skillful they are allowed to fence with others.

Follow-up… how do you deal with a student like this? (to those that say “Well, it wasn’t pretty, but it worked!”)

Form and function go hand in hand. If a student is just interested in hitting at any cost, they don’t belong in our school. As a traditional school, we also work on cultivating the proper mindset. That is to say, the fencer should have a respect for what the weapon can do; the fencer should strive to defend as if the weapons were sharp.

I’ve noticed that you and your students use a back-weighted en garde “ready” position. Other classical schools, even those that I’ve seen that do small-sword use more of a 50-50 balance. Is this just to be respectful of the time period or does it come down to personal preference? What are your thoughts on this issue.

The balance of the position of the body when en garde is determined by the weapon and school that one is practicing. In our classical French system we use en garde position that is weighted more towards the back leg. In our small-sword system we have our weight supported on the back leg. In our Italian systems we use a 50-50 balance. The balance point affects how we move and is an intrinsic aspect of each system. That said, we also work with each individual and we will modify the stance to suit their particular physique if needed.

As an avid follower of yours on Pinterest, I noticed that you pin lots of pictures of historical weapons. Besides the small-sword, what other two swords (if you had to choose) hold a fascination/fondness to you (and why)?

I have a particular fondness for rapiers and falchions. I am fascinated by the variety of styles and the decoration that was applied to these swords. The craftsmanship in combination with their functionality astounds me. As an antique restorer I have the utmost respect for craftsmen/artists of the past.

Finally, are there any difference between smallswords? French, English, Scottish, etc?

Yes. However, this is a highly complex and lengthy question to answer. I highly recommend The Rapier and Small-sword 1460 -1820 by A. V. Norman.

BONUS QUESTION

Besides teaching and fencing, what else is Jeannette Acosta-Martinez passionate about or enjoy doing with her Life?

I suppose I am most passionate about antique restoration. While over the years I have developed allergies that prevent me from doing a lot of the restoration work I used to do, there is still nothing better than bringing a piece of fine furniture back to its former glory. I also enjoy traveling to other countries and visiting museums, churches, castles, etc. I can never get enough of seeing antique arms & armour, furniture, paintings, sculpture, architecture, textiles, etc.

FIN.

We at the CombativeCorner would like to thank Maestro Jeannette for her time and for answering these probing questions.  If you have any further questions for the Martinez Academy, please comment in the section below and we’ll do our best to get an answer.  For others that are intent on learning all they can of the small-sword, visit and request to join the Facebook Group Smallsword Symposium.

Also, don’t forget to re-visit the 10 questions with did with her husband, Maestro Ramón Martínez.

RELATED ARTICLES

10 QUESTIONS WITH MAESTRO RAMON MARTINEZ

A SHORT STUDY OF THE SMALLSWORD

Interviewed by: Coach Michael Joyce

@wsfencers / Winston-Salem Fencing Club

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