Saturday, June 16, 2012

Seminar frenzy

The first half of June was my vacation time, and man, was it rock ‘n ‘roll! So much training and so many seminars in only two weeks give the true meaning to the phrase “active vacation”. Let’s go in a chronological manner…

Lameco Astig Combatives in Holland

On June 1 I flew to Amsterdam for a seminar with guro Roger Agbulos, with whom you should be familiar by now. The seminar was set for Saturday, but I met with guro Roger and his wife Rosie, as well as a new friend Jojo Balinado, the day before. After having the dinner together, we all moved to kuya Roger’s hotel room to talk martial arts, and even have a training session.

Bothering guro Roger with questions :-)
On Saturday we headed off for the seminar, held in Leiderdorp and hosted by William Paardekooper in his Kapap Center. With participants from Germany and Holland, along with yours truly, everything was ready to go.

Guro Roger opened up with his take on empty-handed defense against knife, with special emphasis on sound physics of the techniques shown and on the functionality over aesthetics. The control of the opponent’s knife hand and ways to deal with it was a novelty to me, and it made so much sense that included it immediately in my own training, including the modifications to the methods I had been already practicing and found reliable.

Next, we moved to knife vs. knife work. Again, adamant about functional skills, drills and their applications. Guro Roger covered both forward and reverse/ice-pick grips, and without going into too much details (hard to convey in writing anyway), I will just say that his mode of working the hubud drills has reinstalled my belief in that sort of training, and made me go back to doing it regularly.

Finally, the focus was shifted to working with the stick and its essential qualities – power mechanics, non-telegraphing hitting, distance control and merging the defense with offense. This segment of work, just like the knife, was complemented with sparring sessions, in order to appreciate the functionality of the material demonstrated. Being on the receiving end of guro Roger’s attacks leaves one with mixed feelings – being overwhelmed and inspired at the same time.

Besides being an awesome instructor, guro Roger also has incredibly pleasant personality and a great sense of humor, so I am most definitely looking forward to the next opportunity to train in Lameco Astig methods with the founder himself.

Physical preparation for fighters in Belgrade, Serbia

Among the people who are seriously involved with functional fitness and training for fighting, the name of Steven Maxwell is a household name. On June 7, I had the opportunity to partake in his seminar in Serbia.

The event was somewhat of the surprise and organized as a last-minute kind of thing, but still great. Mr. Maxwell covered a lot of ground and touched upon many topics, ranging from joint mobility, through proper mechanics and variations on common bodyweight exercises, to fight preparation, overtraining and some kettlebell training guidelines.

Working it out
Maybe not everybody got everything they hoped for during this seminar, but if you are something of a training nerd that I am, and did you homework previously, it was a splendid chance to have some dilemmas solved and find a lot of pieces falling into place, regarding the bigger picture.

Being the interpreter for this seminar, I was very glad to interact with the man and enjoy his warm and approachable personality and tireless dedication to teaching. This only reinforced my eagerness to further communicate with Mr. Maxwell for a few more days, as he joined us at our annual training camp that followed (and is briefly reported on next). For me, it meant learning more – proper lifting technique, ways to break through plateaus – and experiencing his world-class BJJ…as well as being privileged to be called “man among men” by such a formidable guy, even if jokingly :-)

The man (on the left) and the wannabe (on the right)
During those few days, I was further impressed with Steve’s openness and willingness to share, both teaching and learning. A man of 60 years of age, in the physical conditions that puts most 20-year olds to shame, with half a century of training experience and yet, so eager to learn more and new things – even if you learn nothing (highly unlikely), you will be inspired and highly motivated to engage in vigorous physical training.

In conclusion, if you ever have the opportunity to take part in a seminar conducted by Steven Maxwell, do yourself a favor and do it.

Training above the clouds, Mt. Kopaonik, Serbia

This was my 10th time attending this event, and while each and every one was great, this one was special for several reasons. Certainly one of that stood out was the presence and instructional contribution of the guest instructor from Russia, Dmitriy Khakimov. Not too fond of formalities and ego-boosting titles, he insisted on being called Dima, and he came to fill in for his own teacher Andrey Gruntovski, who unfortunately had to undergo a surgery so was unable to come himself.

However, the master certainly knew whom he was sending, as Dima was the absolute hit of this year’s training camp! The school/style he represents is known as Skobar, and it is hard to imagine a better presentation than the one we witnessed for two days. It was very easy to see the direct and true lineage to traditional Russian folk approach to fighting. There many schools of RMA today, claiming lineage that dates back hundreds of years, but with suspiciously modern way of moving and methods of training.

Not so with Skobar. Those in the attendance were able to see and try for themselves the warmups and preparatory moves from folk dances, whipping strikes, pendulum-like body movement, unique footwork designed to work on ice, waved mode of power generation etc. Dima is a phenomenal instructor with excellent sense of measure – he was able to sensibly monitor the mood of the class and switch skillfully from one mode of work to another, thus keeping the trainees motivated, alert and attentive. The material to be taught was chosen adequately, demonstrated and analyzed with care and good pointers, while highlighting the bigger picture and historical context it fits into. 

Dima - small in stature, but a great guy
Like all the other instructors mentioned, Khakimov is an absolute charmer. Always ready to help, join or start the fun, be it singing, dancing, extracurricular stick sparring or having a drink…too bad he was only able to stay for two days. Still, the impression he made was so strong that everybody was left wanting more. That said – stay tuned, we may just as well provide ;-)

Alex Kostic has been the host and the guiding force of this event for years, providing innovative training, brilliant insights and highly motivational environment to train in. This time, it was no different. His take on the mechanics of kicking efficiency and punching effectiveness is ever evolving and improving, so the students always get away with a lot to work and ponder upon after the class. The teaching methodology of Homo Ludens has once again proved successful by seeing almost immediate results even with the people who came to train with close to zero previous training experience.

Alex, the ever evolving martial artist
One of the guys who for sure represent the future of functional martial arts in Serbia, and with bright future before himself, is Stefan Bozic. As talented as they come, hard working and meticulous in his training, Stefan is a true MMA prodigy both as a fighter and instructor. We had the pleasure of learning his approach to the fundamentals of ground grappling, with strong accent on proper body mechanics of moving on the ground, positional control and escapes. Training in the great outdoors can be at the same time humbling and rewarding experience, and it was the case with this session. For the last 15 minutes or so, yours truly provides some insights on the applications of the covered material when having to deal with potentially knife wielding opponent in a ground grappling situation, or being the one trying to deploy the knife when being caught in an inferior position. At the end, everybody was tired but satisfied for testing and feeling on their own the strength of the instruction they had received.

True ground fighting with Stefan
On the last day of the camp, I had the privilege of being asked by Alex to share some of my insights and teach the progression of empty handed defenses against an attacker armed with a knife. Everything I showed was basically a distillation, and sometimes direct application of the things I had learned from my teachers, so there is really no big deal about it. Possibly my “biggest” contribution is the ability to explain the techniques and methods in various ways (most probably the dividends of working as a school teacher for a few years), hence presenting the material to suit the individual learning modes of different trainees. After all, my approach is such that the participants are offered certain guidelines, following basic principles, and then made to play with and discover on their own the strengths and weaknesses of various technical and tactical possibilities. It allows for the dynamic training and quick assessment of the subject matter that was tackled.

In conclusion, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who made this experience possible and as great as it was, including Milan Jerinic for being a great friend and roommate – but special appreciation, beyond words, goes to my beloved wife Mira, without whose understanding and willingness to keep up with my maddening obsession training my life simply would not be even close to being good as it is. 

No comments: