A Training Group?

Rick Vargas Kali Silat and Self Defense Training Group.

I lead and teach what I call a Kali Silat and Self Defense “Training Group.”  It’s not a martial arts organization, school, or even exclusive style.  I don’t promote, give belts, or certify anyone.  It’s my vehicle for sharing martial arts I have learned and still study, with interested men and women.

Admittedly, there is little interest in what I choose to do because so many people are about emblems, belts, certificates, patches, and the whatnot trappings of martial arts.  My training group doesn’t even have uniforms, wear what you’d like.

What’s a Training Group?  Why a training group?

Isn’t a “school” or “dojo” better?  Well, more profitable maybe, better; maybe not, and here’s why.  I am not a member of any martial arts organization that I provide kickbacks to.  I don’t pay annual dues, attend mandatory camps, re certify every year, or have to maintain a certain number of members under me to maintain my “qualifications.”

Those are often part of being a school or organization.  It’s good for the style or organization, but can be a burden on the local instructor who just wants to help others.

I can help others with my humble martial offerings.  I have past training, knowledge, and skills that cannot be taken away from me, memberships or not.  I study, train, and develop martial skills and concepts continually.

I have a core of materials I like to teach, from among my own past training and certifications, but it’s not a mandatory set for each student.  Sometimes I train one student in one set of skills and another in a different set.  Why?  Cause I focus on the students’ needs and capabilities.  Some want to learn basic no frills self defense.  Cool, we can do that.  Some want to learn to express themselves through the beauty of martial movement.  Some want to learn exotic fighting skills.

Then there’s the matter of abilities and capabilities.

My older students don’t train in high kicking taekwondo techniques, those take longer to develop skill in, so why require they work on that?  But, boy they can whack you with a stick!  Mature female students don’t often want to train full contact kickboxing, but benefit from learning how to defend themselves from being grabbed in an elevator from a molester.

Some of my students are not athletic, they can’t do 3 minutes worth of a drill all at once, in a self defense situation they won’t win a fight.  But I’m not preparing them for the Olympics, they have to train to make one move, their first move,  and it be an effective move.

School and organizations can’t provide this level of flexibility.

I haven’t really trained gun defense.  One of my students mentioned he had.  I asked him to show me and now I’m learning from him, and can share it to the group.  That’s something else a school or dojo won’t do; bring in influences outside of their “Style.” If I think it worthwhile we will fit it in to the training.

Another student is a high caliber wrestler.  Chatting with him I found he’s of the opinion that someone who is a quality striker doesn’t have to master wrestling like him, that he’d focus on teaching the striker about getting up from takedowns, cause he says, and I accept, a wrestler will get you down!  I can’t wait for him to add some of that to the mix.

In the training group environment I can customize things more for each member.  If someone doesn’t get the 26-31 of the 64 attacks but likes the sinawali’s,  we can work more on those.  Don’t want to kickbox but do want to learn to defend yourself against a grab punch, we do that on that basis.  You like Kali and Silat movement just for fun, I think it’s fun too.

The environment of my training group is friendlier and more casual than Karate training in my early days.  We could not budge from a stance, could not look around, could not speak or scratch an itch.  It’s effective but archaic training  I can teach you the same things without terrorizing you in the process, and you’ll learn just as well, if not way, way, better.

In my group if you need to go to the bathroom just don’t do it in the middle of defending against a punch, you don’t have to ask permission, need a drink of water, get it.  Feel tired, sit out for a bit shame free.

Yet, it’s not for everybody.  Mercenaries, Seal Team Six, Professional cage fighters, Bodyguards and Bouncers will find this training group underwhelming.

It’s honestly designed for the average person who would like to learn some self defense and martial skills, without the stress of the killer training you find in MMA gyms Marine Corps boot camp, or the goofy unrealistic training of the average karate school.  It is exciting and often fun.  That’s why I run it as a training group.  We train, in a variety of things.  We converse and laugh.  We train with a focus on the individual. We train seriously and for fun.   It’s a training group intended for responsible grownups.

Come Join us Saturday mornings 10am Black Lightning Martial Arts in Dbaru

Coach Rick

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A Dime A Dozen

Martial arts instructors are a dime a dozen.

There are people who will teach you kicking, punching, throwing, and choking all over the place. They’re looking to train fighters, warriors, champions, masters, and build dynasties around their name or style.  Some will develop a chain of schools to further their name.  They design logos and patches that look fearsome.  They are often 6 feet plus tall and 350lbs of badass, and propose to teach 5 foot 1, 90lb ladies, to defend themselves, just like he would, never mind the disparity in size and strength.

Hmmm, maybe I’m not a martial arts instructor?

For me the  old days are the 60’s and 70’s.  That’s when I was a child and young man in the martial arts.  The first thing you were taught then was restraint, what not to do.  Don’t wear your uniform in public, in fact, roll it up and hide it.  Don’t play around doing techniques with non students, and not in public.  Don’t brag.  Don’t make a move in class that the teacher didn’t say to.  Don’t speak unnecessarily.  Don’t have a conceited, angry, jealous, or self pitying attitude.

These days it’s not uncommon to see someone wearing their white, black trim, TKD uniform with “Master Lee Fighting Tigers” name and phone number logo in bright colors shopping in the mall.  I’ve seen a whole family like that: mom, dad, and 2 toddlers!  Obviously they weren’t told about restraint.  Teenagers horse around in the park doing unrefined beginner round kicks and trying to body slam each other to show who’s kung fu is better.

I notice there is seldom any real conversation between Instructors and students.  They come to the dojo, bow in, start doing the 1-2-3’s of whatever movements, 45 minutes later teacher and students go home.  I can remember classes where there was discussion, during class, sitting on the dojo floor.  Discussions about human nature, fear, and survival, not just abut the next tournament or belt testing.

Don’t bother asking these sorts of people about their martial art.  They know the location of their school, but no background of the art.  They don’t know anything about their particular lineage, or even the authenticity of their instructor.  They don’t even know the distinguishing characteristics of their art.  “Uh, its Chinese.”  “Master Joe is a master.”  “I’m 15 years old, got my 4th degree black belt in 2 years.”

This of course relates to the quality of most of the  martial arts students out there.  They’re throwing punches and kicks and each other around, terribly!  The lack of restraint they start with leads to lack of control.  They have no balance, in the  most basic sense of the word, like being able to stand on one foot without wobbling.  Unless you have a serious handicap, a black belt should be able to balance on one leg.  Higher skill?  Execute that round kick broken up into 4 parts holding each for 5 seconds with poise and balance.  What about precision?  Movements should be executed with optimally defined mechanics.   But if you start with an out of balance wobble, that wobble only get bigger each step of the way.

You look sloppy.

That is the instructor’s fault.  For letting you get away with it for the recurring income sake.  For not teaching restraint, humility, and perseverance. Qualities which transcend mere martial arts training.  They especially leave out love and compassion.

But those are the qualities I look for  in a student.  Those are the qualities I want to impart in a student.  The kick throw punch stuff should build on that.  As a martial artist I’m looking to help make the world a better place, not fill it with super power assholes.

A few years ago one of my instructors; a long time quality practitioner and well regarded master instructor, decided we would eschew the titles of Master, Sensei, Shihan, etc. and just be called “Coach.”  I like that.  The Asian titles lack the same significance in our culture versus theirs.  We can be respectful without being reverential.  “Coach” implies that we are working together for an improvement, potentially in each other, whereas the other titles imply a distance, a separation; “I have achieved and need do no more, you must try to be like me.”  A coach personalizes for you. A coach  cares about you as a full package; body, mind and spirit.

Me, I am a “Coach!”  I’m still working for improvement  on a lot of the same stuff.  Also, and this is not too fine a point; A coach is looking to make you better at something, even better than he  might be himself!

Want an example, look at the boxing world, the fighters who make tens and hundreds of millions of dollars per fight, who are their coaches?  Older guys with Parkinsons, arthritis, slow and stiff, overweight.  Most of them CAN’T fight well.  What makes them the guys who “coach” the young, agile, prime of their life athletes?  That they are capable and skilled at improving their prospects to excellence.

So.  I wont be one of the “dime a dozen” martial art instructors.  I’m a Martial Arts Coach.