In the previous post, I discussed my childhood through High School martial arts experiences. This post continues on to my college martial arts history and the journey to Counterpoint Tactical Systems.
That idea that someone could be a philosopher and a martial artist never left me though. But it did stay hidden only to be revealed by the unlikeliest of sources: a girlfriend. (Now, I don’t say this because women are bad or can’t do martial arts. I say this because I’ve seen lots of people give up activities in pursuit of romantic interests.) At college, I really hadn’t been looking for any martial arts when the young lady I was dating asked me to go with her to a self defense class. The instructor was a Mixed Martial Arts fighter, which, at that time, meant nothing to me. He taught an eight week course – four weeks of learning how to attack the eyes, four weeks of applying techniques to the attack dummy. It was fantastic, and as I struck up a friendship with the instructor, I wanted to start training with him. He wasn’t so keen on the idea and recommended taking training with a local guy first. He also said to come back to the next self defense session. So, I did, and I did. The local guy did what he claimed was a Korean form of Kenpo, which again had really nothing to do with what I think of as Kenpo today. At the second session of self defense classes that I attended, I started working with the instructor’s advanced students. In the end, I got the invite to the MMA classes. He taught no-gi Brazillian jiujitsu with a focus on freestyle wrestling and Sambo leg locks. I fell in love with ground fighting. We had once a week and for three hours on Saturdays. I was in shape and, once again, in love with the martial arts. This was my first experience of martial arts as the foundation for a social group. All of this over the course of my Freshmen year. Then summer came, and I didn’t know what I would do.
I had a summer job and searched the area for some place to train. I came across a school that taught Wing Chun and Inosanto Kali. If I couldn’t train Jeet Kune Do, then Wing Chun was the obvious choice. I had it in my head that Bruce’s philosophy must have rubbed off on his student Dan Inosanto, and that I could vicariously pick up the JKD principles from Kali and apply them to Wing Chun to get a poor man’s JKD. (Yes, I did think highly of myself.) As I learned the arts, Kali captured my interest, and I dropped the Wing Chun class. This was my first exposure to the Filipino Martial Arts, and I’ve never looked back. Often during my summer day job, I would be seen walking down the halls making the Siniwali motions. I might still get caught doing this even today. I went back to college and continued with the martial arts there, focusing on jiujitsu training after classes were done, but I also worked on the little FMA that I had. With a college friend and roommate, I attended a seminar with Dan Inosanto, where, finally, I experienced Jeet Kune Do training.
I transferred from my first college to the University of Missouri – Rolla, where I met up with the Majapahit Martial Arts group. We were a group that was dedicated to practicing Southeast Asian Martial Arts. Tim Rivera led the group in Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), and I taught grappling and the little Inosanto Kali that I knew. This group liked to spar, and I really appreciated that about my training partners. The FMAs that I taught were just drills, and those drills didn’t translate into sparring. The patterns that we’d master dropped away when we put on the fencing helmet and gloves. It was frustrating, and I began to question why I was doing all of those drills if I couldn’t make them work. That frustration was an internal thing because I had fun training with the Majapahit group. The members were bright and interesting people. We trained hard and had some good training experiences. During that time, I had the pleasure of attending seminars with Pak Herman Suwanda of Mande Muda Silat and Gat Puno Abon of Garimot Arnis. Watching those two artists was amazing and a great opportunity.
The group drifted apart as we all graduated and moved on to our futures. I moved to the suburbs of Detroit, got a full time job, and gave up the study of martial arts as I made the transition from college days to adult life. Even though I would occasionally think about finding a jiu jitsu place or a FMA school, none drew my interest. I devoted more time to my writing, and it was through writing that I returned to the martial arts.