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This past February, Dan Vigil hosted a three day combatives seminar with UK instructor Lee Morrison. Originally scheduled for last year, the seminar had to be rescheduled due to a training injury Lee received. Seeing in person how hard the man trains, this isn’t too surprising!
I missed the first day of training, but Lee did his best to catch us up. The seminar began with going over the proper mindset needed for successful self defense, or what Lee calls combative psychology. A lot of self-defense instructors teach their students to not become victims; Lee pushes that much further, and instead teaches how to become a worse predator than the one you will potentially face on the street. A lot of emphasis was put on proper mindset in three distinct stages: pre-conflict, during the actual fight, and perhaps most importantly, post conflict. Lee makes it his mission to help develop your inner predator, with an understanding that it doesn’t have to hang on your shoulders like a burden. Instead, it is something you tap into when you need it, and leave it locked away when you don’t.
The structure of the seminar was interesting. There was a lot of downtime between actual physical training sessions, because Lee’s emphasis was on mindset, which required a lot of prepping us for the next training session, and some after action review post training. Lee’s approach was very module based; we would focus on a specific set of skills, recap, and then move on to more training. While there was a lot of classroom learning, when we were on the floor, it was all out, high intensity, and high impact training.
Instead of waiting for trouble to come to you, Lee is all about preempting. As he put it: you hit f@#$ing hard, and even more importantly, hit first. We worked a lot of pad drills, both against a single target, and multiple opponents. The holder would give the trainee feedback. If your hit was judged hard enough to do significant damage, the holder would fade back and allow you to engage the next target. If your strike was full of weak sauce, then the holder would keep the target in play, and you would have to blitz in with multiple strikes before turning your attention to the next target.
Other modules includemultiple opponent tactics, counter grappling/mma, and improvised weapons. Not much in the way of actual technique was covered. Instead, you used your preexisting skill set, and Lee focused his energy on getting the proper attitude and mindset, and working on developing power to all of your strikes. Lee talked a lot about how the guy on the street is going to be hitting you with hurt and anger, and you have to do the same to him. Emotional content, as Lee (both Morrison and Bruce) says.
A few of the drills we did felt as close to a real fight as I’ve felt in a long time. This is where the training got really interesting, as one of the best takeaways from the Lee Morrison seminar was just how hard you can train, and still be ok. Having shorter training segments allowed us to really amp up the intensity, and and then be able to recover as we transitioned to the next topic..
The last thing that really stood out about Lee was how athletic and explosive he was, and how necessary such attributes were if you are going to train in his blend of combatives. In the UK, all weapons have been outlawed, which of course criminals could care less about. When you don’t have guns or knives to rely on for protection, your empty hand skills need to be at the highest level. Lee trains as hard as a professional fighter; spending hours every week hitting pads, and dedicating himself to a rigorous strength and conditioning routine. The athlete in me really appreciated this, and because of my day job, I am able to dedicate a lot of time to training. However, for those with far less free time to train, I honestly don’t think it would be possible to emulate Lee directly.However, between his combat psychology, and the intensity of his training, any student of self protection will get a lot out of training with Lee. Even if you don’t have the physical attributes to fight like him, you’ll still get a lot out of it. Plus, it might inspire you to make a bit more time to train.
I would suggest that if you ever get to train with Lee, you bring your own training partner. That way, you can train as hard or as light as you want. Also, Lee really was one hell of a nice guy. I was able to go out to dinner with him and some of the group on Saturday night, and he was super cool, which makes training and hanging out with him that much more enjoyable.
In this two-day seminar, Michael Janich will present intermediate and advanced instruction in the skills of his MBC system, focusing on the latest refinements of MBC’s standard-grip methods. It will also include rarely-seen instruction in the MBC approach to traditional weapon skills, including single stick, double stick, sword/machete, and espada ydaga (sword and dagger) tactics.
Day One: MBC Practical Knife Defense
Day 1 of this course will provide step-by-step instruction the “state of the art” of the MBC system. It will review the critical skills of using a knife as a practical defensive weapon and maximize the efficiency of those skills by focusing on the details of structure, timing, body position, angles, footwork, and leverage. Day 1 will also fine tune the students’ execution of MBC’s reflex training drills and show how drills can be combined into strategic training sets to isolate, refine, and challenge specific reflex patterns.
Day Two: Practical Use of Traditional Weapons
In day 2 of the seminar, Janich will share his perspective on traditional Filipino weapon skills, applying MBC’s proven analytical process to classical Filipino martial arts technique to extract practical, combat-worthy skills and tactics. This session will address the use of sticks, swords/machetes, and sword-and-dagger tactics, as well as other aspects of Janich’s Sobadiwan Eskrima system.
ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR
Michael Janich has been studying and teaching self-defense and the martial arts for more than 35 years. He has earned instructor’s credentials in American Self-Protection (ASP – an eclectic art that includes elements of judo, aikido, boxing, fencing and French Savate), the Filipino art of Serrada Eskrima, and Joseph Simonet’s Silat Concepts and is a member of the elite International Close-Combat Instructors’ Association. He has also trained extensively in wing chun gung fu, tae kwon do, wu ying tao, Thai boxing, arnis de mano and military combatives. Janich is also one of the foremost modern authorities on handgun point shooting and is one of the few contemporary instructors to have been personally trained by the late close-combat legend Colonel Rex Applegate.
Janich served nine years in the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, including a three-year tour at the National Security Agency. fter completing his military service, Janich was recruited by the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and served as an Intelligence Officer for that agency’s Stony Beach Program in Hong Kong and the Philippines. He also served as an Investigation Team Leader for the Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) and Joint Task Force-Full Accounting (JTF-FA) and has led numerous investigations into remote areas of Vietnam and Laos in search of information regarding American prisoners of war and missing in action (POW/MIA).
Author of six books, co-author of seven more, he has also been featured in more than 20 instructional videos on defensive edged-weapon use, use of the Filipino balisong knife, the use of throwing weapons and exotic weapons, stick fighting, and combat shooting. Currently, he serves as the Special Projects Coordinator for the Spyderco knife company of Golden, Colorado. With Spyderco’s support, he continues to offer state-of-the-art tactical training as co-host of The Best Defense on Outdoor Channel.
Early Bird Registration (before April 1st) $150
Pre-Registration (after April 1st, before May 3rd) $175
Day of Registration $200
For more information or to register, please contact:
Forteza Fitness and Martial Arts
4437 N. Ravenswood Ave
Chicago, IL 60640
email@example.comRead More »
This past January, I participated in a Kettlebell instructor certification seminar with the International Kettlebell and Fitness Federation (IKFF). This was the third kettlebell certification course I’ve attended, and it was both the most comprehensive in terms of technique, and yet also the most sparse in terms of catalog of techniques. Since my reason for taking this course was to focus on the primary kettlebell lifts used in sport competition, this suited me just fine. The IKFF website describes their approach as such:
Johnny Tsai founder/director of the renowned C.U.M.A. Survival School will be teaching a one day course at Forteza on urban survival.
What is “urban survival”? Ask yourself this short list of questions:
- What would you do if the power grid in your state went out for several weeks?
- Are you prepared to deal with the aftermath of a hurricane or earth quake situation?
- Do you have enough supplies and equipment to be able to survive for several weeks?
- How would you deal with a home invasion?
- Do you know how to evacuate your area in the case of civil unrest?
These are just some basic questions you need to have an answer for!
On our 1-day Urban Survival Training Courses, we will give you the knowledge needed to make the best of things in a disaster situation. We will teach you how to plan and prepare to deal with the problems you will face.
This class is designed to prepare you and your family to survive an urban disaster, either natural or man made. Hands-on instruction focuses on both short-term situations ranging from 24 to 72 hours as well as long-term survival resulting from a grid-down situation or pandemic. This class location contain both indoor and outdoor activities and involves lecture, small-group activities, and individual planning exercises. It is designed to take you from drafting a family or personal emergency plan to what implementation should look like and the critical survival gear needed along the way
- Survival psychology and the mindset of successful survivors
- When to stay put in your home and when to bail out
- Home food and water storage recommendations and the 5 key areas of home preparation
- Pre-disaster planning and establishing rendezvous points with family members
- Local, regional, and statewide evacuation strategies
- How to construct a personal Bail-Out Bag (BOB) for the home, office, and vehicle
- Water purification methods~ Off-grid medical issues
- Urban survivor’s first-aid kit
- Sanitation & hygiene issues
- Traps and tools for feeding yourself when the grocery shelves empty
- Communication methods and tips for getting in touch with separated family members
- Equipping your vehicle for roadside survival
Subjects covered on our Urban Survival Training Courses in ILLINOIS include:
- Disaster planning
- Emergency equipment
- Emergency food and water
- Fire lighting
- First aid
- Security and CUMA COMBATIVES
- Basic escape and evasion
If you have a survival gear bag/bug out bag, please bring it with you. Instructor Johnny Tsai will go over your gear and give you feed back.
Date: April 6th, 11 am
Cost: The fee for our 1 Day course is $150 per person at door / $120 with paid advanced registration.
To preregister, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Space is limited so act now!Read More »
New Forteza Combatives Six Week Course: Reverse Grip Knife/Improvised Weapons/Core Empty Hand Striking
We will explore the differences in body mechanics and tactics compared to forward grip, as well as how reverse grip knife directly relates to non-lethal impact self defense tools.
Improvised Weapons- a straightforward approach to using flashlights, pens, and various improvised impact weapons as defensive tools.
Probably the most common inquiry we have gotten since opening our doors has been “do you teach children”? That isn’t a surprise. After all, martial arts have become an extremely popular way to teach children poise, athleticism, discipline and focus. And in a world where pop-culture is dominated by Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, action video-games, World of Warcraft and so on, what kid at some point hasn’t wanted to swing a sword? (How do I know that? Well, all of us at Forteza were those kids – just a few decades ago.) And so…(drum roll, pu-lease):
Welcome to FORTEZA CAVALIERS, our new youth swordplay program, specifically tailored to meet the needs of children ages 8 – 15 in a unique athletic program designed to engage your child’s mind and body, instill self-confidence, and promote teamwork.
We are very excited to offer this program — so excited that we want to tell you all about both what it is, and what is not! Let’s get the is not part over first, so we can focus on the fun.
THE CHALLENGE OF YOUTH MARTIAL ARTS
Martial arts really are a fantastic way for children to develop both athletic and personal skills. But it is also a tricky challenge. Young bodies are constantly changing and evolving, and although martial skills will help hone their potential, the emphasis must always be on safety. How do you do that and make sure that you are teaching the kids “the real deal”?
Sadly, some schools don’t. Besides having grown up excited by knights in armour, brave jedi and all of that good stuff, several of our staff also been youth martial arts instructors in mainstream, Asian arts, and we’ve seen the dark underbelly of “kiddie karate”, “Little Ninjas” and “youth blackbelt” programs. Often, they are a glorified, after-school recess program — a way to keep the kids busy and running around until their parents are ready to bring them home. Others teach good skills but with unrealistic expectations: it doesn’t matter if your child is an athletic prodigy, a 12-year old “blackbelt” simply cannot generate the power, speed and precision of his adult counterpart. What often happens is that these young “blackbelts” make the switch to adult classes and find out that their rank doesn’t mean much at all, and they quickly drift away to other sports or hobbies, disappointed. They’ve been set-up to fail.
So much for “building confidence”, eh?
BUILDING A BETTER YOUTH PROGRAM
So, knowing what we didn’t want, we had to design a program that was based on what we did want. Such a program had to include the following elements:
- A detailed, and complete martial curriculum that would take into account the differing needs of young children, adolescents and teens;
- Progressive skills development that could be scaled to children entering the program at different ages, without making anyone feel either bored or “in over their heads”;
- A degree of real fitness training capable of combating childhood obesity, developing natural athleticism and strength, taught in a way that would be encouraging and fun;
- Complementary, educational lessons that emphasized the historical aspects of what we teach;
- Integration of the knightly code of chivalry as a way of bringing in the best elements of “merit-badge” systems, such as Scouting;
- A rank system that would let children (and parents) measure their progress, while providing a means to enter the adult program with realistic rank and expectations;
- An emphasis on safety, control, fellowship and fun!
We call this the Forteza Cavaliers, and here’s how it works.
SKILL PROGRESSION AND RANKS
The Cavalier Program includes a detailed ranking system to measure progress and help students set achievable goals for themselves. The structure is organized in a parallel system to our adult ranking system, and is meant to integrate with it, should a child decide to continue with our adult classes. By keeping the systems similar in methodology but distinct, teens don’t move from our youth program to adult classes with a “kiddie blackbelt” that doesn’t measure up with the grown-ups. Instead, they will graduate from the Cavaliers program with skills and knowledge that places them several years ahead of new adult students!
The curriculum has a seven-step system:
Apprentice (8 – 10)
An introductory rank for the very young, or children who may have motor-learning special needs. Focus is on building coordination, cooperation, safe falling and tumbling skills and basic swordplay and safety skills.
For safety, classes employ ‘boffers’, swords made of PVC rods wrapped in high-density foam and duct tape.
Page (10 – 11)
This level of the program begins by familiarizing students with the basic body movements of renaissance swordplay and to accustom them to the weight of the sword. Training at this level focuses on medieval wrestling and the use of the two-handed sword. Using a combination of physical conditioning, drills, games and supervised sparring, students will strengthen their bodies and sharpen their instincts while having fun!
Students at this level use properly weighted and balanced resin swords that give the authentic feel of the real thing while being safe and manageable.
Squire (11 – 14)
The core of the Cavalier program is the Squire rank, which has four sub-grades, each corresponding to a heraldic animal that embodies Forteza’s core virtues.
- Elephant (Strength)
- Tiger (Speed)
- Lynx (Knowledge)
- Lion (Courage)
While Squires will have the opportunity to handle the regular steel weapons used in adult classes during some training exercises, students at this level use properly weighted and balanced resin swords that give the authentic feel of the real thing while being safe and manageable.
In addition to training with the medieval weapons and wrestling, squires will learn to use the dagger, the spear and the rapier, the elegant dueling sword the Renaissance.
Cavalier (14 – 15)
Beginning with a symbolic graduation ceremony reminiscent of the medieval knighting ceremony, the Cavalier rank is the “coming of age” for young students. In this final rank, our young men and women begin training in adult classes, using the same training gear and uniforms as their adult counterparts.
Although generally corresponding to age, although older children entering the program will usually pass through the first two levels very quickly, before settling into Squire training.
PROGRESSIVE TRAINING – GROWING COMPLEXITY AS THE STUDENT GROWS
We took our time and set out to build a program that would grow in focus and intensity as the children themselves grew; not just in size, but in athleticism, focus and intellectual curiosity. Learning martial arts is a long process, with intricate skills that are developed over time through in-depth instruction and continued practice: there are no shortcuts to skill-building! The direct benefit of this structured approach is increased coordination, strength, ability to analyze new situations, self-control, and respect of self and of others. Our Cavaliers Program teaches children the use of the two-handed longsword, dagger, rapier and spear — precisely the same weapons that the adults learn. Exercises from our adult program are adapted to the needs of young martial artists, and are designed to emphasize development of balance, coordination and strength. Literally starting from the feet up, each child progresses at an individual pace through the seven levels of the curriculum by using solo drills and exercises, partnered drills and games, and as their experience and control develops, actual fencing.
Here’s an example of how this works in practice: wrestling is a key component in medieval martial arts, but so is control and safety. So the wrestling component in the Apprentice level (ages 8 – 9) is focused on learning tumbling, falling and balance exercises to develop a sense of ease and comfort “in their own skins”, then they begin to work with partnered exercises and games, some of which are hundreds of years old, which are designed to add a sense of competition, as they learn leverage and movement against a partner. By the time the seventh and final level of the curriculum is completed, they will have a foundation in the same throws, pins and joint locks as our adult students — only with several more years of practice.
A similar pattern works with weapons. At first, young students will train with light, scaled-down nylon training swords. When used with a fencing mask these lighter, flexible weapons are quite safe, but they are taught from day one that they are weapons, and taught to handle them the same way they would sharp, steel swords. As they grow in mind and body, so do the tools that they will use, and the variety of techniques and targets that they can use when sparring: literally letting them “grow” into adult classes, where we use blunt steel weapons. This is very similar to how pages and squires were trained centuries ago, using progressively larger and heavier wooden weapons until they began to train with adults, as adults.
So as the children grow, they not only learn more techniques and new weapons, but they adapt to progressively heavier tools, more diverse sparring methods and new forms of exercise and conditioning routines that fit the actual body they are living in at that time.
PUTTING THE “H” IN HISTORICAL MARTIAL ARTS
More than just another martial arts class, our youth program is designed to develop life skills and ethical, self-confident young men and women, based on the traditional, seven chivalric virtues of the medieval knight. At first, the traditional names of these virtues may seem archaic, but when you see them besides their modern counterparts, we realize that they are just as meaningful today as they were six-hundred years ago.
Each level of the curriculum is designed to focus on one of these virtues, and challenge the students to learn how to make that virtue a part of their daily lives. Classes interweave physical training with teamwork exercises, lessons on medieval and Renaissance military history, arms and armour, heraldry, and short reading assignments to hone their minds and surely as their bodies.
RITE OF PASSAGE – JOINING THE ADULTS
Remember what we said earlier about “kiddie blackbelts”? We take that seriously: there is nothing worse than seeing an adolescent or young teen switch into adult classes and suddenly feel like their hard-earned rank means nothing. Part of our educational mission at Forteza is to promote authentic, historical European martial arts and to foster students who will want to make those arts a part of their lives. Therefore, a key part in designing the youth program had to be “how does one graduate”?
This is embodied in the seventh and final rank of our program: the Cavalier. Named for the knightly courtier, the Cavalier rank is the “coming of age” for young students. Beginning with a symbolic graduation reminiscent of the medieval knighting ceremony, in this final rank, our young men and women begin training in adult classes, using the same training gear and uniforms as their adult counterparts. The difference is that for the teen, they have already learned most of the skills that the adults are learning themselves, and are instead learning how to apply them with and against adults, and refining their knowledge for their “final exam”; in this case a skills test, written and sparring exam. Once passed, they are no longer part of the cavalier program, but are now Scholars in our adult swordplay program, and eligible to join the Chicago Swordplay Guild. Scholar is the first major adult rank, and one that students will achieve in either medieval or Renaissance swordplay after a year or two of training. Because the youth program teaches all of the skills of both programs, teens will be able to test for rank in both, meaning that although they join the Swordplay Guild with a mid-level rank, they are actually more well-rounded martial artists than most of the adults who share that rank, and are well-prepared to continue their training. We find that this is a much more realistic reflection of the advantages of youth training that creating artificially inflated ranks.
THE RIGHT INSTRUCTOR FOR THE RIGHT PROGRAM
We have ambitious objectives in our youth program, so it needed an instructor who was up to the task, as a martial artist, youth instructor and fitness expert. Jesse Kulla is a PTA Global certified personal trainer who has had a lifelong interest in physical fitness and martial arts. He began his training in 1995 in Korean martial arts, gaining black belt ranks in two arts, before exploring Wing Chun, Hapkido, and the Filipino Martial Arts. Jesse joined the Chicago Swordplay Guild, shortly after its founding in 1999, where his focus has been on their Armizare curriculum. In 2008, along with Keith Jennings, he became one of the first two people to earn the rank of Free Scholar of Armizare from the Guild. As a Guild instructor he has taught throughout the Chicagoland area, at events such as Chivalric Weekend and the Western Martial Arts Workshop, and in private seminars around the country.
A TRULY UNIQUE MARTIAL ARTS ADVENTURE
We’ve tried to create the youth martial arts program that we wanted to take, but did not exist, when we were kids, combined with the things that, as adults, we want from any school where we’ll send our children. You can download our Cavalier Program 3-Fold Brochure (1) which has additional details and FAQs, but the best way to learn more is to just come in! And don’t forget to watch this blog for more information on the Cavaliers in the weeks and months to come.
This exciting new program meets on Mondays and Wednesdays from 5:00 – 6:00 PMRead More »
Jessica Finley has been a student of the sword for over twelve years. Her interest began in stage combat, but quickly branched out to German Medieval Swordsmanship. She had been a student of Christian Tobler’s since 2002, and currently is the principal instructor of Great Plains Fechtschule, a chapter of Selohaar Fechtschule, within which she hold a rank of Free Scholar. She also has experience in Judo, and achieved the rank of Nikyu under the tutledge Arden Cowherd of Topeka Judo Club.
On October 27th we had Eric Mayes, owner of Rocky Mountain Self Defense, out for a one day seminar on joint locking. Eric is a black belt in Combat Hapkido, as well as a fully certified instructor of Martial Blade Concepts, so his approach was a good combination of martial arts fundamentals, as well as a more pragmatic, combative approach.
Cost is only $70 for non-members, $60 for members
Junkyard Aikido cuts through the myth and misinformation to make joint locking skills accessible to any martial artist or self-defense practitioner. In this 6 hour seminar, Instructor Eric Mayes will teach step-by-step how to successfully apply joint locks in a combative setting, as well as flow drill to help link each action.
Instead of throws and submissions, the applications of Junkyard Aikido focus on breaking joints and creating opportunities for disabling strikes that will decisively end a fight. It also teaches you locks as the basis for weapon strips and disarms, giving you a decisive advantage over an armed attacker.
Instructor Bio for Eric Mayes:
Grand County SWAT Defensive Tactics Instructor
Martial Blade Concepts:
- Certified Full Instructor in Martial Blade Concepts, Counter Blade Concepts, and the subsystems of Damithurt Silat , Sobadiwana Escrima
- Rocky Mountain Region Director of Training and Operations
- Rocky Mountain Region Director of Weapons and Ground Survival
- 5th Degree Black Belt in Combat Hapkido
Hoch Hochheim’s Scientific Fighting Congress:
- Certified Close Quarter Combatives Advanced Instructor
Forteza Co-Owner and Chicago Swordplay Guild founder, Gregory Mele has just posted an after-action review of the 2013 Western Martial Arts Workshop. Begun in 1999, WMAW is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, international event of its kind!
As a bonus, here is some footage of the CSG’s own Rob Rutherfoord in a rapier exhibition bout with the Virginia Academy of Fencing’s Bill Grandy:
And a high-intensity, Bowie Knife duel between Forteza’s Keith Jennings and Thayne Alexander:Read More »