Kapatiran Suntukan Martial Arts


Sunday, December 13, 2009

speaking of knives...

I was asked to provide my thoughts on the Boker Plus Chad Los Banos (CLB) Karambit by my good friend, Terry.

Like other blades in the Boker Plus line, it is reasonably priced and well made. It has a nice heft that helps it feel like a lot of knife. The frame lock is thick and holds the blade well. The clip can be set into four positions and I settled on tip up carry to have the option to deploy the blade upon removal from my pocket and have it in a tip-down, edge-out position with my index finger in the retention ring.

The blade has a tanto style tip with a recurve toward the handle starting halfway along the edge. It is Chinese 440 stainless steel with a titanium black matte coating. The edge is what I would call “factory” and could use a sharpening. The handle is G-10. It also has a carabiner in the retention ring yet am not keen on the precise use for that as most users would most likely want different access to the tool.

Holding and using the blade does feel like an extension of my body and I never felt as if I had to lay it down to continue what I was doing.

As for calling it a karambit, I am a bit confused. Traditional design of a karambit has a more obtuse angle of blade to handle ranging from something like 45 degrees to up to 90 – think a mini sickle. This blade comes off feeling and looking more as a straight blade with a retention ring. The overall deployed shape has a pleasant curve to it. However, I am not saying the design is bad by any means. I have a blade that Chuck Pippin and I made which was inspired by the design of the karambit and has a retention ring, but I wouldn’t called it a karambit because of the retention ring.

The CLB Karambit has it’s pros and cons like all blades and I recommend at least holding it to see if it is one you could use as an Every Day Carry blade.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Journey of the Blade by Chuck Pippin

I asked Chuck to write something about knife making since I had a good time doing it myself as recounted here Put Hammer to Steel.

*sharing what you know*

Here is his story:

I am sitting on my old office chair (turned shop stool) in front of my forge. The garage is dark, outside the limit of light generated by the flame. The weather has turned cold, but I don’t mind. The heat generated by the forge is more than enough to keep me comfortable. Its deep, droning, rumble is soothing to me.

*the forge*

Presently I’m prepping a blade for heat treating; a process called “normalizing”. After I’ve pounded, ground, filed and polished the blade into the shape I want, it leaves the steel pretty “stressed out.” Normalizing is a way to help it relax prior to heat treating and tempering.

The nice thing about this process is that it serves to “normalize” me as well. I find myself somewhat mesmerized watching the steel slowly heat to a deep red-orange color. I can almost see the molecules stretching and relaxing as I bring the blade up to a non-magnetic state, to then let it slowly cool.

*Keet - a custom design for Tina*

As I am doing this it occurs to me that this particular blade is part of a commissioned set. I think to myself “I have customers! How did I come to have customers?” My thoughts drift to how this began, and what an interesting and rewarding journey it has been so far.

I listen to the forge. I watch the steel. I remember the beginning…

In January of 2005, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. That weekend of discovery began with what we believed to be a strained back muscle. Alas, it was not the back. After a trip to the ER we thought perhaps it was a kidney stone. Two more visits to ER, with multiple CAT Scans, led to them finding not only a kidney stone, but also “something else” that they wanted to run tests on. What they found, was a tumor, 19cm x 8cm, wrapped around my heart. Further testing showed more tumors on my liver and a lymph node in my neck which was slowly choking off the carotid artery on the right side. I asked one of the doctors what Stage 5 was…he said there wasn’t one.

*Zemlyi - a commission for Jay*

A week later, I “woke up” in a drugged-induced stupor as a new resident of the Oncology ward at Blodgett Hospital.

Thus began a year of chemotherapy, multiple surgeries, and radiation, as well as, strangely enough, my knife making journey.

I’ve always loved blades: knives, swords, pretty much anything with a point or edge. As long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by them. My studies in martial arts have only deepened my interest. It amazes me how different cultural influences have created such a wide variety of shapes and sizes for this most basic tool.


The chemo really kicked my ass. Essentially, the treatment uses poison to try to kill what is already trying to kill me. Since Hodgkin’s is systemic, carried thru the blood, they were trying to kill the bone marrow. It was MISERABLE. I was tired and weak all the time, couldn’t eat, couldn’t drink enough to stay hydrated, couldn’t sleep, and was nauseous all the time.

TV and movies were a distraction for a while. However, you can only watch the same reruns so many times. Books worked sometimes as well, but weren’t interactive enough. I really needed something to distract myself with…

*Revenant - a commissioned blade, 09/09*

My good friend, George, is a “jack-of-all-trades” fellow. It turns out, he’s into knives too…as is his dad. They just happened to know several prominent Blacksmiths around the Michigan area. (Surprisingly, there is quite a presence in Michigan when it comes to blacksmiths…go figure.)

*Talon - a blade for Dan’s Black belt graduation*

One of their friends is a Master Smith who lives about 45 minutes away from Grand Rapids. A group of them hold “forging parties” a couple weekends a month, which George invited me to attend with him. Their forging party consists of a bunch of blacksmiths (of all levels) getting together and basically pounding on steel for the afternoon. They might be making Damascus, forging knife billets, or actually forging blades.

*Walang - made for MG Buzz Smith*

When we got there, I was introduced around then we settled back to watch. With its constant low frequency hum and steady glow, the gas forge was hypnotic. The smiths used power hammers, hydraulic presses, and hammer & anvil, all depending on their task. It was amazing to watch a piece of round stock tool steel flatten and move into a 15 inch bowie knife. I was also introduced to the process by which Damascus steel is made. I’d seen finished Damascus blades, but watching the multiple steel plates being forge welded and pounded into one piece was nothing short of incredible.

I was so enthralled with the process that I didn’t even realize how much time had passed. Six hours, and about a thousand questions, later it was time to go home. What was an amazing first day! (And I hadn’t even felt nauseous the entire day.)

*Dad-Pick - a father/son collaboration*

I went to a couple more forging parties with George. The group was so open with sharing knowledge. I decided that I wanted to try this. I asked how to get started and was told the best place for me to start would be with stock removal. The Master Smith (and I forget his name now) said “Chuck, everything comes back to stock removal at some point, no matter how well you forge it.” He gave me my first billet of high carbon steel...O-1.

In a nutshell, stock removal is essentially taking a billet of steel (a piece of flat stock, in this case) and removing steel thru the use of cutting, grinding, filing, and polishing to shape your blade. It’s very comparable to sculpting in this respect.

*my first blade - ever*

One of the most used tools in any knife shop is the belt grinder. This marvelous piece of equipment comes in numerous sizes, shapes, and configurations ranging in price from under $20 all the way up to a couple thousand dollars. George helped me find my first grinder, a little 1x30 model, for $18 at Harbor Freight. He also recommended that I get a book by Wayne Goddard entitled “The $50 Knife Shop”. I did, and it’s an excellent book! I highly recommend it if you’re thinking about trying your hand at knife making.

I also picked up some files, sandpaper, and soft firebricks. You can make a forge for small knives in about 10-15 minutes, and use a MAPP Gas cylinder and burner for a heat source. This set up works very well. (see “The $50 Knife Shop- One Brick Forge” - great stuff!)

I drew up some designs, chatted with George about how to start the process, and was off to start knife making. It was great!

*designing with Ian*

The look on my Oncologist’s face was priceless…Although he was less than thrilled with my new hobby. A side effect of chemo is a reduction in the body’s ability to clot and fight infection. Any little cut or scrape has the potential to bleed uncontrollably and get infected. Even bruises can be dangerous! (Shaving, fortunately, wasn’t an issue for me, as the hair loss is a very real side effect of chemo). His was a valid concern. I have yet to speak with a knife maker who hasn’t been “bitten” by his work at some point.

There’s something very “Zen” for me when it comes to knife making. I was able to forget, for a time, my nauseous-ness from the chemo, the general discomfort, etcetera and “lose” myself in the process of bringing a blade into being. It is incredibly rewarding for me to watch the change from stock material to functional art.


I made numerous mistakes early on, and learned from them. I created a lot of extra work for myself as well…but that actually worked to my favor at the time. (more distractions…) I learned that if you polish the blade to a beautiful 1200 grit shiny finish before you heat treat, you do all that work over again after heat treat…so only take the finish to about 300 grit before. (Just as George said…twice)

I learned that pin holes need to be drilled pre heat treating if you don’t want to burn out drill bits. If you don’t, you’re going to be annealing (softening) the piece, and then heat treating again.

I also learned that the reflex to catch something falling is NOT your friend when it comes to working in a knife shop. Let it fall, especially if it’s hot steel, or something falling close to work piece that’s clamped in a vise. Do not, under any circumstance, reach past the vise to catch that damn screwdriver that rolled off the edge! Ummmm, yeah, where was I?

I did end up with a few trips to the med center for stitches. (Any of my friends who are reading this…feel free to keep quiet. Yes, I hear you laughing.) My incredibly tolerant wife, Jeanne, now just rolls her eyes when she sees me exit the shop holding a towel or cloth to an extremity. There is usually a deep, resigned, sigh followed with “I’ll get the keys…”

George was great as my first mentor. We went back out to more forging parties, where I continued to ask questions and learn. We also had a roommate who had some experience with blacksmithing. He was very helpful with my growth as a knife maker. I had many mentors. Basically, everyone who would show up to these blacksmith gatherings taught me something; they were all willing and ready to share their experience.

*Husk - A field blade I made for Sterling*

I learned a lot that year and survived cancer. I had also found a new hobby and skill that has become very dear to me.

A couple of years ago I reacquainted myself with a former student and friend I hadn’t seen in several years. Ian had gotten into knife making about the same time I had, but from a hammering standpoint. After catching up over coffee, we decided to try collaborating on some blades. It has proved to be a very good thing.

*my forging buddy, Ian, and myself*

Ian and I slowly built up a better workshop over the last couple years. I have learned much more about the forging/hammering side of knife making, and I like to think that I’ve shared some of my knowledge and experiences with him. Together, we have turned out some beautiful and practical blades.

*Escrimadora - for Mariah Moore*

Through Ian, I met Tim Carr, another Master Blacksmith, who has his shop in Muskegon; a very easy drive for me. Tim has also helped me continue my education in the blacksmithing arts. I also joined the Michigan Artistic Blacksmiths Association (MABA) and have met many other people who love this art as much as I have grown to. They have all been so giving of their knowledge and skill; it has been an amazing experience.

*Hybrid - a work in process*

I look back at the first blades I made in the beginning, and see how far I’ve come; each knife a little better than the last, each a piece of functional art. I think about some of the knives I’ve seen since meeting some of my mentors and realize that I am still just beginning to tap my potential.

*Hybrid - the work in process, completed*

…The blade I am working on has now completed its third normalizing cycle and I have heated it back up to a non-magnetic state. I let it soak for about a minute longer. It’s a beautiful orange color throughout the entire blade. I keep it moving to keep even heating.

*another commissioned blade- 09/09*

I withdraw the blade from the forge and plunge it into the preheated quench oil, edge first, trapping the carbon molecules and cooling the steel. As I wipe the oil off, I heat the oven to 400F for the tempering. Three cycles of heat soak/cold soak usually does the trick.

*TUF-a design collaboration with the Weasel, T2*

It’s late now. The blade is ready for the finish stonework. The forge is cooling and the shop temperature is dropping. It has been a good productive evening in the shop. I give it a quick sweeping, wipe down the workbench, turn out the lights, and go inside to my wife.

Life is good, and I am still here to enjoy the rest of my journey.

*Bowrung- a design for MBG*

*The Weasel - for my good friend, Terry.*

Monday, November 16, 2009

Biography Time!

I decided from time to time I would put up something about one of the members of the group so you (the 20 or so readers) could see who is in KSMA and what makes us tick.
This time it is KSMA noob, Craig Gray.

Craig combines over 30 years of martial arts experience as instructor, competitor, and student with many real life situations to bring you a program that has a strong foundation, benefiting the beginning and advanced student alike. He treats people with respect and as individuals and is able to help each student bring out the best in themselves and their training.

Craig is a certified Krav Maga instructor with Israli Krav International (IKI) and one of only three instructors in the U.S. who can award rank in the system. Craig has the distinction of being the Official Personal Defense Subject Matter Expert for Frontlines of Freedom Military - Veteran Talk Radio Show and is an adjunct instructor teaching defensive tactics and warrior ethics at the Homeland Security and Protective Services academy within the Gerald R. Ford Job Corps in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Craig is also the head instructor for Her Survival Guide, which is an organization that teaches empowerment skills, risk management and conflict resolution skills to women across the United States.

Craig holds black belt status in various other styles and has been certified to instruct in numerous systems. He has practiced many different traditional and contemporary styles including Praying Mantis Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Tae-kwon-do, Karate, Jeet Kune Do, Kickboxing, Boxing, Submission Wrestling, Silat, Budo Tai Jitsu, Kali, numerious military and law enforcement tactical systems, Krav Maga and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.

Over the years, Craig has trained all over the world with many different instructors including: his father Tom Gray, Master Yen Hoa Lee, Caique, Royce Gracie, Rorion Gracie, Rickson Gracie, Carlson Gracie Jr., Rob Masko, Bob Barss, Mark Good, Tae Park, Hae Man Park, Mushtaq Ali, Jack Hoban, Moshe Katz, Buzz Smith, Dan Inosanto, Larry Hartsell and Evan Pantazi to name a few. Some of these people he has studied with for years others only a few times but all have made an impact on him.

Some organizations that Craig has worked with: The Amway Corp., Hope Network, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Comstock Park Public Schools, Crestion Christian Schools, Spart Community Education, Walker Seniors Association, Alligan County Sheriffs Dept., YMCA, YWCA, Riverfront Fitness Center, Cascade Engineering, Girl Scouts of America and WestSide Fitness where Craig is now holding civilian classes. Craig is also currently teaching defensive tactics and warrior ethics at the Homeland Security and Protective Services academy within the Gerald R. Ford Job Corps in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Craig recently learned received the word that the 8 hour Krav Maga Self Defense for Law Enforcement program that he developed has been officially accepted, approved and certified by MCOLES (Michigan Commission of Law Enforcement Standards) for the State of Michigan Law Enforcement and Correctional Officers. Courses with this certification count toward the officers mandatory yearly MCOLES training in the State of Michigan.

Contact Craig via his webpage if you are interested in what he has to offer. Ronin Martial Arts

Saturday, September 12, 2009

How's this Steve?

Since I have been studying the martial arts (which is not long really), I have discovered a way of learning that suits me.
I am sure there is some psychologist that could explain why I like it, but that would seem much like Whitman getting disgusted at astronomers.
For me, I learn and retain best when I let go and let it be. I try not to let previous experience influence what I am being shown, but we all run things through the filters of experience. I do respect the person sharing that knowledge and do not blurt out, “Oh, that’s from X-Brand.”
I would have to say this comes from my initial way of learning in an art that was a bit of this and a bit of that. I have a strong foundation and am able to adjust on the fly to the variety and I believe I can do this because I am not trying to fit the square peg in the round hole, so to speak.
I am also influenced heavily by those I have trained with and still do. We are an eclectic bunch. The annual Gathering of the Tribes in Grand Rapids, MI, is a tossed salad of arts and yet there is an underlying theme through them all. We recognize the commonalities and explore the differences to better ourselves and those we train with when back at home.
Lately, a few people have posted a lot more of what they are doing back home and I am enjoying seeing the common threads in approach and mentality behind the moves.
Amo Guro Michael D. Blackgrave has posted a few videos and I really appreciate his intent and hope he can make it to the next gathering.
The Emperor of Mars has posted a lot of information over the years and I defy you not to learn something from them.
Guru Sean Stark has recently started to post a lot more online as well. If you study PSP, then you should gain some insights into the way the system comes together.
Even Steve Perry has opened a few eyes regarding proper ways to hold edged weapons.
I also feel that one’s personality helps to determine the best way for them to learn. This goes back to the way I learn insomuch as I prefer an organic, open, and fluid approach with a dash of humor thrown in for taste. I am sure there are those who would say this approach may lack the minutiae of an art and that certainly may be true. However, if someone showing me their art says my hand is a centimeter off from their ideal, they are seeking something other than my understanding of their knowledge and I tend to get turned off. Call it an authority complex or rampant individualism if you wish.
In the end, I want to feel good about myself. As my friend Terry says, “I don’t give a FUCK what I have to do, I am going home tonight.”

Monday, June 08, 2009

Terry Trahan Interview

Hey Gang -

Go here Terry wax philosphic in an interview he gave to Sterling at the last Gathering.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Gathering of the Tribes, May, 2009

by Chuck Pippin, Innovative Martial Arts

Well, it’s happened again. The annual Gathering of the Tribes has come and gone…leaving many smiles and fond memories in its wake.

I would like to take a moment to extend a heartfelt thank you to everyone who attended and made this remarkable event a success…the behind the scenes as well as on the mats.

Thank you!

The Gathering was started in 2001 with the intention of bringing like minded people together for the purpose of building community and sharing knowledge in an atmosphere free from ego and politics. It’s just completed its ninth year and I’m already looking forward to the big “One-Oh”.

For myself, I love the opportunity to get together with friends and family I only see a couple times throughout the year and catch up on events, forge new friendships, and build existing ones even stronger.

This year was no different…in fact; it was the best one yet. Many new faces were seen at this Gathering and welcomed to the family. I am in constant amazement at the high quality of persons that we interact with. Great training, good food, and excellent conversation were in abundance over the holiday weekend.

We had excellent weather, and in spite of the Michigan State Bird’s (the mosquito) attempts, we managed not to have anyone carried away this year. (There were a few close calls…but that’s for another day…)

One of our core members was missing this year due to a back injury. Bobbe, we missed you, but trust you realize that though you weren’t here…you were most definitely NOT forgotten. Indeed it felt like you were lurking around every corner…

Since some of our Core Peers at the Gathering always do such excellent reviews of the weekend, I wanted to share some of the thoughts, insights, and observations from some people we don’t normally hear from. Most of them are from the Michigan or Innovative Martial Arts arm of the Tribe Family…a few newcomers from other tribal families…

Amberly “Pixy” Fletcher (I.M.A.) :
Five things I learned at the Gathering:
1. Don has a great angry face.
2. Chuck can scream like a girl, given the proper motivation.
3. Most, if not all, instructors that attended/taught are more than slightly crazy.
4. Mosquitoes suck, and Chuck is farming them in his back yard.
5. I had a great time.

In addition to my list, it was a great experience. Everyone who attended was warm and welcoming, even when the beatings commenced. As I have a limited exposure to martial arts and this was my first time, the Gathering gave me the opportunity to meet, work with, and learn from a dynamic group of people with a wide variety of experience. The atmosphere was relaxed and fun, but also supportive and focused on giving each attendee the skills they needed to learn. The willingness of each person to help those with less experience was a significant point for me, as I am a beginner. Each of my training partners took the time needed to help me learn a new skill or move before we progressed into sparring, with no condescension, but positive and supportive critiques. Overall, I would recommend this, and any other seminar hosted at IMA, to any martial arts student from beginner to instructor, as each individual will learn and grow, and go home sore. :)

Tina “Keet” Gray (DM, Iowa, KSMA Branch)
When you walk into a gathering of people and feel only warmth, acceptance, passion, energy and love, you know you have discovered an amazing event. I met so many super cool people at The Gathering. I learned some very cool techniques. The openness and willingness of the instructors to share life experiences and knowledge with the group was endearing and greatly appreciated. I’m honored to have been accepted into this very special family.

The atmosphere was probably the biggest thing I took away... I haven't felt that carefree, light, happy, loved, cared for, worry-free all at the same time. The energy and positive atmosphere just floored me.

Mike “Swan Dive” Parrent (Northern Michigan Martial Arts, Alpena MI)
Memorial Day weekend is usually composed of working and more working for me, but this year was quite different. I was able to enjoy something that few people get a chance to; The Gathering of The Tribes.

This being my second time attending I had high expectations for the custom blend of martial arts seminars that I would be attending through out the weekend, and I must say that all of the high hopes I had for the weekend were blown far out of the water. The vast wealth of knowledge that was passed around in those 72 hours was unsurpassable by anything that I have ever experienced. Each seminar built off of the last, further grinding each lesson in to my mind and leaving me with a sense of really understanding everything I learned. I was even able to gather a small insight into the world of blade-smithing as I worked on my own hand made knife.

Many people who I hold in high regard attended this year, and many more that I have never met, and now consider family, made the whole experience unforgettable. If you are ever given the chance to attend the Gathering, do it. Whether you practice martial arts or not, it’s an opportunity to train side by side with masters of various martial arts presented there, learning new techniques and blending them in with your own abilities and ideas, being able to bounce ideas off of your peers in ways that you normally don’t at the dojo each week.

Most of all I walked away with some great memories and pictures (as in a leap of faith that ended in a face plant onto the crash pads in chucks dojo, or the balloon animal discussion), as well as some amazing friends.

Will “Buddha” Weatherby (all around)
The 2009 Gathering of the Tribes was the smoothest of The Gatherings
to date (at least of the 7 I've attended now). I was pleasantly
surprised at how well most of the new people were able to blend in
with the usual suspects. I really enjoyed getting together and playing
with many old friends and had a good time working out with some new
folks as well. I became aware of just much our little tribe has become
a knife culture when half of the instructors had to adjust on the fly
to offer something that wasn't another knife workshop...

At lunch with Craig Gray yesterday we were discussing the Gathering
and other events and came to the conclusion that most of the crowd is
already pretty solid in their ability to fight and that what keeps
most of us coming back is the enjoyment of the continued pursuit and
more importantly the community and personal development. Chuck and I
decided that a martial arts seminar is a great excuse for an adult

The community around The Gathering continues to amaze me.
As far as I'm aware this is a very unique event and collective. We are
all to blame for this, but I want to especially thank Chuck and Jeanne
for continuing to host this circus. I also want to thank all of the
instructors and my training partners for sharing what they have and
for giving credit to the appropriate sources as we went along. Much
respect due to the long-range travelers (California, Oklahoma, Iowa,
Kentucky) without whom this would lose a lot.

See ya next year, much love.

Geoffrey “Lost Turtle” Bossman (Lexington, Kentucky)
This was my Gatheringwith this group. Indeed, I knew these folks only through their collective web presence. Any apprehension that would normally occur when heading into the home turf of a bunch of strangers was assuaged by my correspondence with the primary host, Chuck Pippin. I was confident that I was going to be training with like-minded brothers and sisters. The experience exceeded my wildest expectations.

I had signed up for the combat sessions as well as the blade-making class. All instruction was very well thought out and executed without feeling regimented. The atmosphere was so relaxed, in fact, that I never felt uncomfortable, pressed for time or out of place. This, believe it or not, is no small feat. The balance of top notch instruction with a welcoming, accepting and ego-free dynamic is one seldom realized. The Gathering of the Tribes accomplished this effortlessly and with a competence rarely seen.

The combat instruction included San Yun Do answers to bladed attacks from Chuck Pippin and Don Young, the Sword and Shield applications of Maharlika Kuntaw from the incomparable Brian "Buzz" Smith, Pencak Silat Pertempuran Ales material brought to us by Sterling Heibeck, Nick Gutschow Silat Sherif groundwork movement reminiscent of Harimau, Krav Maga from Craig Gray and Kapatiran Suntukan Martial Arts (KSMA) material (Nick Stick) from the man himself, Jay Carstensen, Terry Trahan brought WeaselCraft to the group with an impressive display of skill and no B.S. self defense. Mel Hebert brought some of his personal flavor of Rossi Kuntao to the group, energizing everyone and facilitating some light entertainment in the form of flying bodies. The instruction was of world class caliber and I was blown away by the dynamic fostered by all who participated.

The bladesmithing class was amazing! Although Mel and I started with forged blanks, there was plenty of work to do to turn them into blades. The instruction was thorough and incredibly enjoyable, taking some of the drudgery out of the process. I'm hooked! Chuck's instruction and guidance was impeccable and detailed. Ian Robbin's depth of knowledge and understanding with regards to the smithing process was a wonder to observe and a pleasure to learn from. The experience has crystallized my intent to start making knives.

The bladesmithing experience segues nicely into the most extraordinary aspect of the Gathering: The generosity and hospitality. Handle woods, tools, machine time, steel and even Chuck and Ian's time can be claimed to have been paid for by the nominal fee. But, the bladesmithing class and the time put in by the teachers was invaluable and more than exceeded what we paid.

The most amazing example of generosity was the lodging, food and acceptance that was offered to all. Chuck and his wife, Jeanne, took in a complete stranger and treated him as though he were royalty. I pulled into Chuck's driveway and was greeted like an old friend. Perhaps I've gone soft in my stable, comfortable old age, but I've never felt so welcome and accepted in my entire life. Jeanne was amazing! She was the rock upon which this whole shindig was built. She kept us well fed and happy and opened up her home to the rabble that are the warriors that descended upon it.

Overall, the Gathering of the Tribes 2009 was an experience of a lifetime. I feel like I left there with an entirely new set of brothers and sisters for life. Thank you to all who made that weekend one that I will always recall with fondness.
Geoff's Blog

Mel “Disneyland” Hebert (Rossi Kuntao, California)
Upon arriving on Thursday Chuck Pippin picked me up at the airport. He had a warm greeting of welcome. I immediately felt a sense of acceptance.

Being the newby at The Gathering I didn't know what to expect. Chuck had me jump in on his Thursday night class and show my view on techniques that he was showing to his students. I was already impressed what he and Don were showing, as he said - add your flavor to it. So I did. This started what The Gathering was all about.

Just having the opportunity to meet most everyone on Friday kept a grin on my face that I couldn't wipe off. If everyone was ever wondering why I said that this was "Disneyland" - It's a simple explanation. There are so many rides at The "Disneyland" Gathering. No 2 rides are alike. But with combat being the main focus, all the rides ended the same way. YOU WALKED AWAY! I was hooked.

I was incredibly impressed with the quality of instruction at "The Gathering". Even after over 40 years of martial arts the approach to what each instructor was showing made me a kid in a candy store all over again.

There was King Buzz Treachery and Terry (the realist) Trahan. Just to name 2. As I get to know the rest of you, there will be other nicknames I will come up with. Nicknames that command my utmost respect.

Any egos were checked at the door. Everyone had confidence without attitude. Superior training and effectiveness rained supreme.

As long as you will have me - I will attend. Thank you for this opportunity.
Mel HeBert

Nick “Gumby” Gutschow (Innovative Martial Arts, Silat Sharif)
It was a great experience to participate in the Gathering as both a student and an instructor. The opportunity to train with so many creative, insightful, and dedicated warriors and martial artists in an environment free of egoism and focused on the mutual exchange of ideas was truly valuable and memorable. In the coming years I will do my best to make as many future Gatherings as possible.

Of particular note to me, the similarity in outlook and mindset of everyone teaching and in attendance proved to be a rare treat. So often in the martial arts, particularly in North America and other parts of the western world, it is difficult to find practitioners who are highly focused on real world defense scenarios where lives can be on the line. In this case however, much to the contrary, nearly everyone was either already in that mindset or seemed very pleased and willing to consider things from that angle. The result was 14 hours of training over 2 days full of practical approaches to common problems. If someone attended only this one Gathering and trained in only the principles here discussed, their chances of surviving a real world conflict would increase ten fold over an average Joe on the street. There are not too many seminars of which that can truly be said.

Craig Gray (Ronin Martial Arts, Grand Rapids, MI)
Another great year at the Gathering! I enjoyed reconnecting with friends and meeting new faces. The training was superb as usual! I love experiencing all of the different perspectives and styles of the people who came out. It is cool that the various instructors are so open to share what they know not only during their respective sessions, but also in impromptu' training where someone pulls them aside to ask questions. Everyone's willingness to teach and learn is second only to the openness and friendliness found here. I really appreciate Chuck taking the time and effort to put this all together for everyone to learn and enjoy! It is great training, food and friends minus the usual ego that seminars like this often have... and it is so economical!! A weekend like this would usually easily cost four times this anywhere else!

I have to mention that I did miss seeing Bobbe and Cody this year. Although the two dimensional Bobbe was very active and kept everyone laughing the whole weekend! It was almost like Bobbe was really there... and in a way he was! I hope the three dimensional versions of both of you two can make it out next year.

On another note, I would like to extend my gratitude for the honor of being asked to instruct one of the sessions this year. I have never experienced a group of people (many of whom were instructors) who have been so open to new material, enthusiastic and caught on so well. All of the questions and feed back were inspirational! Thank you!

Finally, I would like to thank Chuck and Jay for inducting me as a member of KSMA. I was getting ready to leave when they cornered me. As they first approached me they had that strange look in their eye, a look even stranger than their usual one, if you can believe that! A little on edge after reading The Gift of Fear I was ready to make a run for it figuring they were going to assault me and steal my wallet and gear or do other unmentionable things you only hear about in Turkish prisons, but instead they presented me with a KSMA membership certificate!

All joking aside it is an honor to be a part of such an organization.

All the best to all of you!

Keep going,
Craig Gray
Ronin Martial Arts

Jake “Rebo Poots” (DM, Iowa, KSMA Branch)
The weekend of the gathering was an AMAZING experience. Chalked full of great people with great attitudes sharing great knowledge with great responsibility! I didn't know what to expect going into this, but was overwhelmingly and pleasantly surprised at the amount of sheer awesomeness exuding from everyone.

No words or sign-language could express how I felt about the weekend, but I feel very lucky to have been able to share in the experiences with everyone. A vacation I won’t soon, if ever, forget. I really can’t wait for next year’s gathering. I want to thank everyone involved! ESPECIALLY Chuck & Jeanne for allowing us in their home and dojo!

THANKS and MAN HUGS for everyone!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

2009 Gathering of the Tribes

Consistency. If there is one word that can describe the annual Gathering of the Tribes in Grand Rapids, Michigan, it is consistency. For a few years now, the coming together of old friends and new has consistently buoyed spirits, expanded and created new friendships, and broadened the base of knowledge of all the participants.
Throughout the weekend, everyone I talked with consistently stated their awe at the caliber of people that come to the 10-acre mosquito farm every year. It’s a bumper crop this year.

The anticipation was very high this year and started months prior to any one showing. It was a great mix of new and old.

Friday was the meet and greet and a terrific meal at Roisin Dubh. It is always a good time hanging with friends, eating and drinking and sharing stories from the last time we saw each other. This is truly a community.

Noobs Table

The Main Event

Part of any recurring event is an of expectation of regularity. One aspect of the Gathering is Jeanne’s pancakes on Saturday mornings. It is a good energy boost as well as another opportunity to share food with friends. Deb helped with the eggs and I hear they were tasty! Then we try and make breakfast retrace its route.

Our hosts Chuck and Don started things rolling with some San Yun Do tactics. First we were instructed to get our junk out of the way of an incoming attack. This progressed to evading and then entering to a takedown. It was a good warm up for the weekend's activities and there was plenty of sweat with a good amount of pushing and shoving.

I showed a drill and application I had been working on which is a modified sumbrada drill from kali which led into empty hand application.

Brian 'Buzz' Smith went over Bugtongan of Maharlika Kuntaw and applied that with a little treachery with empty hand application. Good fun! Buzz has such a great teaching style - it is always a pleasure.

As with many of the Gatherings past, there was some extracurricular activity happening.

After lunch, Terry Trahan showed us how to remove a contact lens from the opponent with a wallet. By bulldogging the opponent, one helps to prevent further strikes through overwhelming them. This is an essential aspect to Weasel Craft which Terry has honed over the years.

Sterling Heibeck went over the Ales of PSP with a various masukan beginning with power ales. These are yoga-esque and focus on the stretch while still maintaining the basics of the evasion. He was assisted by Dan Williams to go over the application of the movements. For a beginner to the movements, it can be a little odd but with practice, they do become more fluid.

Precious Declarations

Before we called it a day, we had some orders of business to take care of. The brotherhood expanded by three this year with the inclusion of Don Young, Carl Ross and Terry Trahan. All three represent the group's ideals in their unique ways. We decided to bring them up a little. Congratulations fellers!

The 2009 Crew

Those participating in the knife making were doing their thing on and off throughout the day. I really recommend that experience. Chuck and Ian enjoy sharing it and you walk away with a top-notch blade. Sign up now for a slot for next year.

Saturday Potluck

Hanging out is one of the things we really look forward to. This event is so similar to a family reunion without all the strife associated with relatives! We had a lot of good laughs and discussions. Many of us saw the wee hours. The traditional Chicken Satay with peanut sauce was whipped up (props to Steve Tobias for manning the grill and Jeanne for the sauce!) Other fare included beans, fruit salad and brownies that I recall. It was a long night of floating in and out of conversations around the house.

Chez Screened Porch

This is one shot, right?

Chatting with Bobbe

The Day After the Night Before

Sunday was dedicated to new instructors and started off with Craig Gray from Ronin Martial Arts going over some Krav Maga emphasizing Clear, Control and Conquer which was received very well because of the simple effective movements. I enjoyed this a lot.

The Canadian Prime Minister stops by

Nick Gutschow shared some of the silat formally known as Mubai and now as Pencak Silat Sharaf. This was a good harimau exercise for those whose knees could take it. Nick emphasized the ability to get up with out using one's hands and I have to concur that is a good thing to practice.

And all the way from the Golden State, Mel Hebert showed us some of his stuff. There was some cool blocks and takedowns and it was a good way to wrap up a full weekend. Mel's enthusiasm was great for going last on Sunday and I think we all picked up a little of that and took it home with us.

Ian takes the motto seriously

Carl reacts to Ian

Sunday evening was a supplemental feast of Ribs and burgers. It was another night filled with laughter and great company.

Grillmaster Tina

Standard Shenanigans

For those who stuck around on Monday we laid very low with the occasional burst of energy. It was great to just hang out with the stragglers and laze the day away. I was talked into making a few pizzas however and treated everyone to my style of pizza as well as a Turkish recipe I am working on. It's getting there. The old fashion pepperoni was tasty too. We also ate the sack yogurt on some sourdough and that is so darn good!

I had missed out in the past...

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