I have been blessed so far in my few decades here on Earth. I had an amazing upbringing. I have never gone without the essentials of life. I have been surrounded all my life with amazing teachers. Some of my first memories of being taught anything is when my grandfather took me out into the fields of Ohio and taught me basic gun safety and marksmanship. My other grandfather was teaching me the finer points of chess at this same juncture in my life. Two harbingers of the warrior way I seek in life.
And though I did not always view it in such a manner, my parents have been the most influential teachers in my life. As I grow older I realize that most people are not as fortunate as I am to come from a home that has never been broken, with two adults that care for their family more than anything else. My parents have taught me how to live simply been living themselves and allowing me to learn.
For the past 10 years I have had to travel to train with my teachers. My first Chinese martial arts instructor Dug Corpolongo I trained with 4-6 times weekly. When I met my first Mantis and Baji teacher Keith Weiner I continued to train with both teachers as much as possible while living in Albuquerque, NM. After about a year of training with Keith he moved to NYC for work. This was the first time I was faced with the dilemma of whom to train with. No one in New Mexico did the styles I trained. So I chose to continue training with Keith and thus began my traveling to train visiting New York City and beyond!
Though I am closer to Hu Xi Lin now, I still travel to train with Tim Cartmell down in LA. Fortunately I have an amazing BJJ coach here in town with Brian who I see 3-5 times a week on the mat! But for the most part I have had to travel to see my teachers, coupled with hosting them for seminars these are the only ways I have been able to train. In short, intense spurts where I am left on my own accord to train diligently and work on the material taught each visit.
Though this relationship can be trying since one does not get as much mat time with his teacher, it is also rewarding in many other facets such as the quality of time spent together. Just a couple weeks ago Tim came up from sunny So Cal and spent about 10 days in the Pacific NW. The day to day interaction of living with your teacher, helping him teach classes by being a demo dummy, seeing how he himself sets an example is invaluable in and of itself! It is these times were I learn not just how to kick butt, and the next coolest kimura variation Tim worked out. But it is having a mentor to inspire and invoke that primal fire inside to push, to claw, to fight, to live!
I remember training sessions at 2am in the morning in the living room with Mike Martello. Of course we were drunk, watching some footage of Shuai Chiao... Mike would get an idea in his head and want to test it out. 2 hours later we would be getting yelled at by the wife because it was too late to be fucking around!!
Lessons come at the strangest of times, in the weirdest of places. Mantis Conference 2005, my student Alex and I come in from New Mexico to present and help out Hu Laoshi teach as well. Middle of April and Ohio gets DUMPED on with a snow storm coming out of Canada! A few beers later we are all in the hotel parking lot weaving in and out of rooms doing takedowns, sparring, showing applications from forms!
The point of this hazy ball of nebulous hyperbole is that I want to express my gratitude to all the teachers in my life past and present. And I hope I inspire you to look for those hidden teachers in your life, for without instruction could you imagine trying to navigate this maze of life!? I have been blessed, and it has always been my desire to share those blessings with anyone open to learning. For those few of you who had the opportunity to train with Mike you know exactly what I speak of. We miss you Mike. More than ever the Chinese martial arts need you! None the less I thank you Mike for the time I had.
Give Thanks, and Stay Warm!
Happy Dead Turkey Day,