Roundtable Discussion 003: Mentor

Six martial artists, from six different disciplines were asked,

“If you could train with any instructor/athlete/guru/etc (living or deceased) for a day, who would it be, and why?”

Gray Cook

JOHNNY KUO –  I had to think long and hard about this question. The simple answer would have been to pick my sifu Sam F.S. Chin, but I already get opportunities to train with him. Instead, I’m going to venture into the realm of physical therapy and pick Gray Cook.

I have a long-standing interests in strength and athletic training in addition to martial arts. The thing that carries over between those interests is functional movement. Any physical activity (sports, martial arts, or daily life) involves moving the body. Due to the sedentary nature of modern life, a lot of people don’t seem to move very well; people have tight muscles, immobile joints, weak muscles, weird movement compensations, poor proprioception, or just plain can’t fire their muscles in a coordinated fashion.

Since my primary non-work passions are movement based, I notice these movement dysfunctions all around me (and with myself also). As a teacher, I often have to correct movement patterns so that (a) the students don’t injure themselves and (b) the students learn what efficient and functional movement feels like. It’s not unusual for me to encounter a student with dysfunctional movement patterns beyond my ability to readily diagnose or correct.

I like hanging out with physical therapists and body workers because I learn so much about how the body is supposed to work and pick up little tricks for diagnosing and correcting poor movement. I realize there will always be students whose movement issues are beyond my abilities to correct, but I’m always striving to learn more and reduce the number of cases that elude my abilities.



Helio Gracie

ADAM DAVIS Being the Jiu-Jitsu fanatic that I am I would train with Helio Gracie, the founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He took the ground techniques (ne-waza) from Judo which could be applied using leverage and momentum by a smaller guy, like himself, on a larger man and molded them into what is now the complexity of Jiu-Jitsu. Gracie would be the best person for me to train with not only because of his knowledge of the martial arts but also because of his views on the relationship of life and competition. He saw competition as essential to training due to the exercise, diet, and sportsmanship which came with it. Fighting for sport is what BJJ became known for as a result of Helio Gracie’s ideas and it was always my dream to meet him after I read a book about the origins of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Unfortunately, Helio Gracie passed away on January 29th, 2009 at the age of 95. He lived an extraordinarily healthy life (I heard stories of him tapping out Ricardo Arona while he was in his 90’s, rumors…maybe) and left an extensive family, full of world champion fighters, to carry on his legacy. I have been fortunate enough to train with a couple of his children (Royce and Rodrigo) and my experiences with them assure me that Helio Gracie, at any age, would be the best person to train with.


O'Sensei

ROBERT LARA SENSEI -If I could train with any teacher at anytime in history for one day it would have to be under Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei. The founder of Aikido. The reason why is because he founded the art that I live my life by. The art of peace. I know in just one days time with O’Sensei you would learn more of Aiki. In body,mind,spirit.

Some of my teachers were students of O’Sensei. And the stories they tell of their training under O’Sensei are so great. You won’t find most of those stories in books. These men and women who trained direct from the founder who are still with us are living treasures in my view point as they are links to the living teachings of O’Sensei.

The time I would love to train with O’Sensei is during the last years of his life. His Waza was so strong. Yet fluid and fully controlling. And upside to training in the internal arts is as you age you only get better at Aiki waza because you do not have the physical strength to over power. These are just my humble view points and I respect all arts.

Lao Tzu

SIFU FREDDIE LEE– I would love to meet and learn from Lao-Tzu.  Author to the “Tao Te Ching.”  The truth contained in the text is penetrating, that short simple text transformed my entire life and really got me to see the deeper meaning behind Martial Arts and life.  Bruce Lee died at an earlier age but there is still a decent amount of wisdom left behind from him of where you can grasp his spiritual essence, same with many sages and Artists.  But Lao-Tzu, there is very little known about him, I would be very interested in seeing his day to day way of living.  Applying the unique wisdom he had in a world filled with confusion.

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Jet Li

SENSEI BRANDON VAUGHN– I’m gonna have to go with Jet Lee for any living person. I think it would be an awesome experience and he seems like a really great guy who would be nice about showing you how much more he knows than you.

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Alan Watts

COACH MICHAEL JOYCEI approached this question from a practical point-of-reference.  Being that the duration of said event is only a day, my choice is based on someone I could have a deep and meaningful conversation with over tea.  Alan Watts, the British philosopher and writer was (and continues to be) a huge influence in how I came to understand myself and my environment.  Say what you want about the man (he had his eccentricities), but he was both brilliant and articulate.  He had a way of describing things, and opening people’s minds to concepts that, to me, made “only good sense.”

I often contemplate our existence, who we are, and how it is best to live.  I am forever grateful to Alan Watts, and to his son Mark (who is now the curator of his father’s works) for being so prolific and giving.  Alan Watts has a free podcast that is available for subscription on Itunes.  I suggest everyone give it a try.  That is, however, if you wish to view the world and yourself with great clarity.


2 Responses to “Roundtable Discussion 003: Mentor”

  1. Well I would pick Erle Montaigue, but it would take me 3 lifetimes to begin and understand all he knows. He is an experienced street fighter, and knife fighter. And what he teaches is training reflexes for when your life is on the line. Regarding Alan Watts: Poems and quotes pointing to nothing:

    b]”God, whose love and joy
    are present everywhere
    can’t come to visit you
    unless you aren’t there”[/b]

    Angelus Silesius, [u]The Enlightened Heart[/u], Stephen Mitchell, ed., p. 87, Harper and Row, 1989

    “…Men forget that the chief purpose of being incarnate is not to exploit and conquer external nature, but to conquer the self, to evolve beyond the commonly-held concept of an individualized personality, to transcent appearances, to realize the untenability and delusiveness of the doctrine of ego, or soul…”

    Price, A.F and Mou-Lam, Translators. THE DIAMOND SUTRA AND THE SUTRA OF HUI NENG. Shambala, 1969,
    p. 17

    “Birds have vanished into the sky,
    and now the last clouds drain away.
    We sit together, the mountain and me,
    until only the mountain remaiins”.

    Li Po, ibid, p.32, The Enlightened Heart[/u], Stephen Mitchell, ed., p.32

  2. (by: James F- via Facebook)

    Without a doubt, Earl Montaigue, head of the World Tai Chi Quan Boxing Association Yang Old Style Tai Chi Quan from Yang Lu chan, on a one to one basis for years in China. See the depth and variety of his training on his free video tape clip at taichiworld.com and click on “downloads” There is a lot of BS out there in martial arts. And he is the REAL thing!!!
    Look for yourself!

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