Last Thursday, I went to train with Gat Ninong Tim Rivera of Garimot St. Louis. (Tim also hosts the website FMA Katipunan, a site dedicated to promote all the styles of FMA in Missouri.) I went to college with Tim at the University of Missouri – Rolla (renamed to the Missouri University of Science and Technology), and we both studied FMAs. Tim began studying Garimot way back then, and he has continued to study Garimot arnis since that seminar, accumulating knowledge and building skills. Tim is a kind and skilled teacher who welcomed me with a smile and a hug.
At Olympia Fencing Academy, the class covered material from the Tres Puntos portion of Garimot. We started with Sak-Sak (hammer grip) and progressed to Pakal (ice pick grip) – though, I’m unsure what their terms are for the different grips. The basics that we worked were based off similar stabbing motions that Pekiti Tirsia knife tapping uses. The defense portion was different than what Counterpoint Tactical teaches. Concepts were discussed and progressive drills were introduced. While working the drills, the students rotated partners so that we experienced different energies. The knife tapping training from Counterpoint Tactical Systems prepared me to learn the Garimot skills. Having done knife work before, I was able to visually pick up the knife well and relax during the training. As the drills increased in difficulty, I found that I had to focus my reactions on the techniques I had just learned instead of the ones I already had.
I picked up some interesting drills to add into the play aspect of my knife training. For the first drill a student had his back to a wall, and I, being the attacker, had to continually attempt to stab him; a controlled jab – a soft touch with the dull practice weapon – into my opponents body counted as a stab. My objective was to get as many stabs as I could. The other student’s job was to defend himself and get off the wall to run away or draw his own weapon. The next drill involved the student facing the wall with me at his back; when the student turned, I started the attack. The student, again, had to defend and get off the wall. The final drill in this series was my favorite; the student faced the wall with me behind him. The drill began when I started stabbing him in the back. His goal was to defend and get off the wall. These are nasty – yet fun – drills, and the Pekiti knife tapping that I’ve learned emerged. We were not striking during this session of the training; it was just defend and get off the wall. My guess is that Garimot and Tim increase the difficulty and add more options to those drills as their students progress, which is their way of playing the drills. For my own training, I could easily see adding third hand striking – for both defender and attacker – along with increasing the number of attackers as ways to expand the drill.
As we rotated partners, I watched the different students reactions and tried to be mindful of mine as a defender. The Garimot students reacted with skills covered that night, but I reacted with the Pekiti knife tapping. This is understandable because of the hours that I’ve trained Pekiti knife; that is what is in my muscle memory. To be clear, I’m not saying that one reaction was correct and the other wrong, just that it was interesting to see how the basics that each martial artist ingrained into muscle memory come out under stress. Even though we were training in a controlled environment with no danger of real harm being done, it is still stressful to have to defend yourself against stabbing motions. As the drills progressed, I paid particular attention to when I got stabbed. Some times, it was because my opponent had better skill or my opponent got lucky or I made a mistake. Now, I can’t control those first two situations, but I can train more to work on limiting my mistakes. For example, my footwork needs to be better and, in particular, my side-stepping. To correct this, I plan to practice, practice and practice some more. Thank you to Garimot St. Louis for an energetic and fun class.
Then, on Saturday, Tim came out, and I ran him through some Pekiti knife drills. We started with side-stepping footwork since I need improvement in that area. Tim, being a good martial artist and experienced FMA player, caught on pretty quick; we progressed through the concepts to third hand striking and then finally to just playing the drill back and forth. It was a great experience, and again, I noticed that my footwork needs improvement.
While I liked the new training methods that I learned on Thursday night, the Pekiti tapping drills that I learned as part of my green belt material in Counterpoint Tactical Systems will remain the foundation for my knife work. The training methods that I learned through Garimot are and will be great additions to that foundation. Watching Tim teach, I had to think about my understanding of the Pekiti training methods and how I teach those concepts. Training with Tim and his students made me enthusiastic to go back to my art and look at it from different angles, to find different questions to ask of the concepts and principles and then to find those answers.