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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Martial Arts at the 2012 Asian Festival

I was going to show you some video clips.  Facebook apparently ate 'em.  Pitiful.

Most years, I go down to the "Asian Festival" that gets thrown at Martin East Regional Library in Tulsa.  There's always lots to see and do, of course--and I paid a visit to the Tulsa Go Club, with whom I hope to start playing occasionally--but for the most part, I go for the martial arts demonstrations--martial arts demonstrations that are, perhaps ironically, mostly done by Anglos, but, hey what can you do?

I was gratified to see that this year, a man whom I consider--well, I'm not fool enough to name names and run the risk of getting myself sued over my opinion on this.  But let me put it this way: this man appears to be representing himself as teaching, for lack of better words, a "real" martial art, that is, everything I've seen from the guy online would give you the impression that he's teaching something that didn't originate with him, but an older system that he learned and is qualified to teach.

Never have seen the guy refer to any of his teachers. Those of you who practice the martial arts will immediately recognize that as weird. Every martial artist I have ever met will enthusiastically tell you who his teacher was/is, who his teacher's teacher was, and so forth.  For example, my teacher's name is (not mentioned here for the sake of his privacy).  He first learned Japanese Goju Ryu under Gary Boyd, who learned from Lou Angel, who learned from Peter Urban and Yamaguchi Gogen.  He then joined the RyuTe Renmei and has been studying under Taika Seiyu Oyata for a long time now.

See how easy that was?

Next: every reference I saw to this guy's system of martial arts lead directly back to him.  Again, I cannot tell you how weird that is.  Anything with a history will have at least a little of it online, at least these days.  You can find out, almost without exception, where the system originated, who the founder was, and so forth.  With this system, you can't find that stuff out.  Everything leads directly back to this guy, and he ain't tellin' squat.

I saw him in action one year.  I didn't think he was bad.  My assessment at the time was that he would make a decent  brown belt somewhere, and that he may very well have had some legitimate classtime, or, alternatively, he may have learned everything he knows off video disks--with which I have no serious quarrel.  Shoot, I've learned some stuff off video!

What I do think is less than cool is the possibility that this gent may be passing himself off to paying students as the inheritor, or a legitimate instructor, of an old system, when it sure looks to me like he might very well have cobbled it together out of material from books and video.

Well, he didn't demonstrate today, though I did see him on the premises.  All I can tell you is this: if you're considering martial arts for you or your children, go to the trouble of checking out any instructor thoroughly.

I didn't arrive in time to see Ten Tigers Kung Fu, who apparently did a Lion Dance, and, I'm sure, demonstrated.  I've seen them in the past, and they appear to be very good at what they do.

When I got there, "J.A.D.Y. Martial Arts" was in the middle of their demonstration.  I was very curious about this group, having seen a flier or two announcing demonstrations at places (once at the Owasso library branch), but never having seen anything substantial online.  All I found was that it was "Japanese martial arts," which, truthfully, can mean almost anything.

Well, it turns out that J.A.D.Y. Martial Arts is apparently a branch of The Wild Bunch, which has a very long track record in Oklahoma.  It's basically the result of a prominent Japanese Goju Ryu practitioner (Billy Briscoe, once said to have the "fastest hands in the West") and a Taekwon-do practitioner (Bob Kinney) combining their efforts.  Over the years, other material has been brought in.  On several of the J.A.D.Y.  practitioners' uniforms, I saw a patch that indicated some familiarilty with Filipino martial arts, but I didn't actually see any evidence of it.

What I did see was mostly little kids doing sport-karate sparring, some board and brick breaking, and one "jo kata."

My word.  I have to say something about that "jo kata."  I felt so bad for the kid doing it. He was wearing a brown belt, and even though he'd apparently done well in competition with this kata, in my opinion, there was no way in the nether regions that he could have used it in a fight.  The "jo" was wrapped up in reflective material and my judgment was that that wasn't a jo kata, it was a baton-twirling routine.  Unfortunately, this is one of the effects that tournament competition often has: the once-useful becomes gussied-up, flashified--and functionless.  It is intended to be eye-catching, not combat effective.

Pretty much the same thing with sport-karate sparring.  Oh, I grant you, it is fun.  But it is nothing, nothing like a real self-defense situation and tends to create bad habits.

However, be that as it may, although it took me a few minutes to pick up on it, there was something I liked, liked very much, about J.A.D.Y.: Almost without exception, the students were Hispanic, and furthermore, about a third, maybe more, of those Hispanic karate students were girls.  This organization is at least catering to a segment of the population that I would love to see learn martial arts, and furthermore, they're not so hung up on "macho" that girls don't feel unwelcome!  To me, this is a big deal.

I didn't get to see them do kata, except for the alleged jo kata.  But they all seemed enthusiastic and glad to be there, and who knows?  Maybe some of them will go on to something a little more self-defense oriented.

Next up was Luohan Wushu Kung Fu Center.  They had a lot of people, and some of them were very good at what they did.  I was very impressed with the tai ji quan group's balance.  If you haven't tried it, executing martial maneuvers slow-motion on the grass is quite a challenge.  You tend to "bobble" a bit when you do it if your balance is less than excellent.  Well, with these folks, I saw only one or two bobbles.

They did a lot of forms--"kata," in Japanese, the Chinese escapes me, might be "quan"--from what looked like Shaolin Long Fist and Wing Chun.  Some of them were very good.  All of them were very athletic.

I saw nothing in terms of application, or how to use the material in self-defense.

Next up was a local Taekwon-do group, about which I will say no more, at least not directly.  You can find what I've said about Taekwon-do elsewhere on this blog by conducting a search for the term.  Suffice to say that this was--well, it was Taekwon-do.

Last up was Tulsa Arnis, led by Kendal Coats.  Arnis, if you didn't know, is a Filipino martial art. I have no hesitation in saying that this was the best group that I saw.  For one thing, it was the only group from which I saw self-defense applications!  I mentioned this to Mr. Coats afterward, and he said, "That's all I do."

The handful of people who read this blog know that I think that, in terms of martial arts, the sun rises and sets on RyuTe, but for Tulsans, the reality is that there's only one RyuTe teacher in town, he's in poor health, and isn't at all likely to take any more students.  So, the situation being what it is, my assessment so far is that if you want to learn some self-defense in Tulsa, your second-best bet is the Tulsa Aikido Club (who didn't demonstrate this year--more's the pity) and your best bet is Tulsa Arnis.  There may be other good places to learn self-defense.  I have not, for example, seen anyone from the local Hapkido school in action, but if I had to go on the basis of what I've actually seen, this is my assessment.

Just my opinion, worth what you paid for it.

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