“The federally dilemma”
By Guru Mike Cardenas
Excitement mixed with nervousness is how I would describe my mood as I packed my bag in preparation for a martial arts trip down to Mazatlan Mexico. My instructor, GM Art had requested I join him along with two other senior students in order to assist with the training we were scheduled to give to members of the Mazatlan Police Department and Mexican DEA Agents. We were just one group amongst a few instructors from the United States headed to Mazatlan Mexico for this weeklong event. For a few months prior we had been reviewing our arresting and securing tactics as well as gun retention techniques and GM Art had bought an arsenal of spring loaded Pellet Guns that were replicas of a Colt 45 that would be accompanying us on our travel. A couple months prior to the trip I was awarded instructor status which means I earned my black belt in DeCuerdas Diestro Fighting Systems, so I was eager to join the crew on this trip and show GM Art that I had a decent understanding of fundamental concepts and could be an asset to the workshop we would be giving.
Our travel plans were to make the drive down to LAX and then fly into Mazatlan Mexico, I believed at the time this was the most logical (pre 9-11) choice as it saved us a few bucks off air fare. I packed light, taking with me just the necessities, my martial arts gi and in typical Eskrimador fashion mostly black colored clothing. All seemed fine as we made our way through the LAX terminal until we were called over by TSA officials to explain the suitcase full of weapons (BB Guns and knife trainers) that were being checked in, I thought for sure they were going to get confiscated and our travels plans would be FUBARed. Remarkably, when they asked for an explanation GM Art calmly showed them documentation indicating the reason for our trip and explained he was a martial arts instructor, with his explanation sufficing they bid us a farewell and good luck and let us continue with our journey with our crap load of toys in tow. I remember thinking to myself man that was easy. Exhausted from our long drive I tried to get a little sleep on the plane prior to our arrival, however I was too excited so I started working on my martial art notebook reviewing material that we would be teaching, before I knew it we had touched down on Mexican soil. Master Jorge was equally excited about the training and partying he had in store for us, for those of you who know Master Jorge, besides having tremendous martial skill and ability, his partying skills is equally unmatched and he could put a dent in anyone’s liquor inventory. All seemed fine as we made our way to baggage claim, until we approached another inspection point prior to leaving the Mazatlan airport, we were quickly surrounded by a dozen or so airport security officials and police officers with their hands near there firearms, apparently they had opened our bag of toys and didn’t react the same as the LAX TSA folks. I scanned the room and could see at least half of these young law enforcement officers were more nervous then I was and a couple even had beads of sweat on their foreheads. I thought to myself, shit we are going to get killed at the airport by a trigger happy youth wearing a badge. Luckily, the guy in charge of the small army surrounding us, while looking a little nervous himself, had enough composure to at least start up the questioning process; I didn’t know at the time that our trip was already sanctioned by the head of the police department, the Mazatlan mayor, and even the Mexican Navy knew we were coming into town. Apparently these guys didn’t get the memo; then again I am sure we never mentioned that we were bringing a large suitcase filled with replica 45’s. GM Art was talking with the head cheese while the rest of his crew were staring the rest of us down, Master Jorge, myself and Jose a brown belt accompanying us just stood there quietly trying not to make any sudden movements. It seemed like an eternity that we were in this uncomfortable circumstance; and it felt as if there was no end in sight, additional cops ran over from the woodwork as we waited and were getting interrogated. Finally, GM Art convinced them to allow a call to our host who would explain the situation, with the initial call placed the mechanism that lead to our release was set and eventually someone from the top made the call that we had no ill intent and to give us our toys back. Next thing we knew we had quickly gone from being nearly dead to being celebrities in the eyes of the Mexican law enforcement officials, as we made our way outside we were even offered police escorts to our hotel. Teaching in Mexico is a little different then when teaching in the states, the participants there don’t give a shit about ranks and titles and respect for you as an instructor comes from experiencing firsthand what you are teaching and from actual application. This caveat posed a small problem since we were teaching mainly pain compliance techniques which typically start off slow and methodically to ensure the safety of the participants and their joints. A good portion of the audience didn’t care for slow and methodical and were eager to test the validity of what was being shown by choosing to be non-compliant. You can’t really blame them, if you relied on techniques to help save your life on a daily basis you would want to make sure they passed muster yourself. Needless to say, dislocations and injuries occurred at this first training session, and the following day until finally those challenging the lessons quickly realized the stuff works, and the lesson was learned painfully so. Besides the training I do remember having to buy clothes to attend a weeding; our host was getting married and we had a personal invitation to attend the beachside wedding with the caveat that we didn’t show up dressed in black like ninjas, he said this was a happy occasion and we should wear something other than dark clothing. Shopping for wedding clothing was also an adventure as we had befriended a participant who was the son of the Mexican Navy Admiral in Mazatlan, who offered to take us to a variety of shopping centers, he was a young and fiery kid, who had the belief he was invincible and who cursed with every 2nd and 3rd word; he also didn’t believe Mazatlan traffic rules and their laws applied to him. He had his own body guard a Navy staffer who I am sure his father had him appointed to babysit his son, however he seemed to enjoying ditching him regularly. The high end Mercedes that he took us around town in only had one speed, super fast. Of course Jose and I were the only ones terrified for our safety and that of the pedestrians; Jorge was simply sitting up front smiling the whole time. We eventually found proper clothes to attend the wedding and survived another adventure. Trips with your instructors are nice in that there is a ton of dialog that occurs about the art that doesn’t necessarily get shared while at the dojo due to limited time. On this trip GM Art gave me a lesson on disrupting the delivery system and how we can attack muscles, tendons and joints to disable an attacker, this conversation continued into meridians and functions of the human body, all of which were taught by drawings and word of mouth in an airport terminal.
I don’t remember much more from the trip between the all day training events and drinking that occurred but my last recollection from the trip was being awakened by a cleaning crew on the airplane at LAX, with my face stuck to the airplane window by my drool. Apparently none of the other passengers had the mind to tap me on the shoulder to tell me we had landed, the cleaning crew was also shocked to see me still on the plane; I missed my connecting flight but eventually made it home safely to train another day. I left the rest of the crew early due to work responsibilities but I heard that there adventures continued for another few days.