Sunday, March 17, 2013

Luis Preto redux

I'm pretty sure some of my readers will readily remember the name of Luis Preto, as his book on Jogo do Pau was my first review on this blog. The book at issue, however, was unavailable in the meantime, but Luis has come up with the new edition of the "Jogo do Pau: The ancient art & modern science of Portuguese stick fighting", or version 2.0 if you like it more, that way. To see my review, go here:

OK, so, what's the big deal?

Well, the big deal is how he did it. In stead of just re-printing what had already proven to be a good thing, Preto actually added some new material, rearranged some of the previously existing, added some new photos etc, and all in the honest effort to improve the book and offer his readers the best possible service on his part. In other words, he did not simply set on cashing in on his old work, but actually strove to keep on improving. From that standpoint, I really think Luis raised the bar to an admirable level in setting the standard for other authors to reach in this regard. 

All that said, another thing that makes me love Preto's work so much is his never-ending drive to help the qualitative evolution of martial arts. It means liberally sharing some hard-won knowledge and wisdom related to the actual training methodology and pedagogical process in this field, instead of training a handful of great fighters and then selling seminars with just a grain or two of those things. In the process, Luis does not refrain form slaying a sacred cow or two and/or questioning some commonly taken for granted "knowledge"...or calling things their real names, even if that will mean "defensive action" from the people with their own established "realms" of reign. 

As if not enough, Preto came up with a whole line of books, meant to improve your training in martial arts, each very well done and to the point - good stuff in it, irrelevant discarded. The one I'd like to especially point to is his "Understanding physical conditioning: a movement based approach". If you are a person with a daily job/duty, but still passionate about taking your training to the highest possible level on your limited time, this one is a must! You can read the review at my friend Spyro's blog, but let me just tell you that it brings to end the dictum of training programs made by and for elite level professional athletes, especially those in cyclic  sports that may not transfer to your needs all that well. with this one, you will learn to identify you own training needs and then how to work on "satisfying" them.

In the end, I would like to extend my gratitude to Luis Preto for doing the good work and wish him the best of luck in future endeavors...particularly if he will continue allowing us to enjoy the labors of it as he has done so far :-)

To learn more about the man and his work, go to

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Modern blades and Irish sticks seminar

Last weekend I had the chance to host the seminar covering the topics of Trinity Combat methodology of self defense and knife defense (day 1), and the Irish stick fighting system (day 2). The training was conducted by head instructor Hendrik Röber and able assistance of Bernd Boss. In this blog post I would like to share my impressions with those who have interest in it.

Day 1 – Trinity Combat Concepts

As mentioned, this portion of the seminar was dedicated to fundamental self defense principles and especially their application in defending against knife attacks. The outlook of this approach is, naturally, heavily influenced by Mr. Röber’s professional background, which includes his extended army stint as a member of para-commando units of the German armed forces, as well as years of bouncing and security operations.

What I really appreciated about his method is the logical and coherent nature of both the contents of the system and the instruction. There are hordes of self defense instructors out there, but not all are created equal. Röber certainly belongs among those who are doing their trainees/clients/student a big favor by presenting a good and reliable set of skills they can count in the case of dire need. 
Essentially, the course teaches a finite number of techniques and concepts that cover a lot of ground in application, either armed or unarmed. In that sense, what we have at hand is a true self defense program, and not an incompetent attempt of streamlining whatever extensive martial art and then selling it as “ultimate, supreme, foolproof, super-human-ability-inducing” lesson plan. Yeah, we all know plenty of cases of the latter.

So, the Trinity Combat approach makes a basic distinction between the situations when you can tell that conflict is brewing and when the attack comes totally unexpected and by surprise. For each, they teach a fundamental stance/position from which to launch the response, while minimizing the number of possible openings for the attack. The nature of the response is to take over the initiative immediately, and trying to stop the attacker in his tracks. Another important aspect is to go for the position of spatial advantage over the attacker and work on breaking his structure, hence finishing the altercation as quickly as possible.

The nice thing is that the transfer of the skills from working against empty handed attacks or those with the knife, but also in situations where you yourself are armed or not, requires little to none adaptations, which maximizes the efficiency of training time. In that context, being an extraordinary physical specimen himself (standing at two meters, i.e. 6’8” tall), Mr. Röber shows his competence as the instructor, by being aware of and stressing the important mechanical points that will “make it or break it” for the smaller people.

Day 2 – Irish stick fighting

When it comes to the issue of Irish stick fighting styles, there is some debate going over that one, but without going into it, Hendrik Röber is the main representative of Glen Doyle’s family system for the “rest of the world” as I call it. And the kind of representative that any head of any system could wish for!

Röber pay dues where it is called for, his execution of the technical material is sharp and precise, while his teaching is passionate and with the good balance of strictness and humor. Believe me, with the highly physically demanding nature of the system, some humorous relief is very much welcome.

Interestingly enough, the session started with a characteristic warm-up fragment that seems to be devised specifically for this kind of activity. I found it very interesting and well suiting what followed afterwards. Assistant instructor for this seminar, Bernd Boss did a wonderful job of demonstrating the exercises and bringing across the attitude required to do them properly.
 The Doyle family system, Rince an Bhata Uisce Beatha (RBUB for short), does seem a bit strange at first, but once you develop some understanding for the circumstances it originates from and what it strives to achieve, it makes sense. What this seminar covered were the fundamental striking techniques, referred to as stick punches, and the defensive measures against typical attacks coming from seven angles. These are certainly not all that are contained within the system, but they form the foundation for the later work.

And some hard work at that. Yes, we all know that in order to excel at anything one must put in some serious effort, but training in RBUB means hard work on more than one layer. Fortunately, the instructors of the seminar were able to encourage and stimulate the participants, by leading by example, to endure through the rigors of some of the drills and exercises.

In the end, the experience from taking part in this two-day event was tiring and painful but very rewarding. The material provided plenty of food for thought and stuff to work on, while the instructors provided good atmosphere and example of how to do your job, should you be an instructor yourself.

Left to right: Hendrik Röber, myself, Bernd Boss
 Finally, if you would like to seek training with Hendrik Röber (which I recommend), you would do well starting by visiting the following website: