In The Beginning
Well, here I am contemplating the idea of learning the Kombatan system of Arnis/Eskrima. Already I've been told by family members: "You aren't a Spring chicken anymore, you're 41. You've gotta be outta your mind. There isn't enough time left in your life to get anywhere near good at it. Grow up!" Well, in one breath they say I'm "too old" but then they sit there and tell me to "grow up." Which is it, I wonder, that they truly believe: Am I too old, or am I too young since they mention I still need to grow up? They seem to be bent on presenting me with what appears to be their own indecision. Since they don't seem to know whether I'm "too old" or "too young and need to grow up," I've chosen to make my own decision. After watching videos of 60 and 70 year old masters who are still swinging their Rattan sticks and blades in a vicious display of youthful energy, I'll just be satisfied in saying that age is just a number, and means nothing, ok? Are you listening, relatives?
I joined the U.S. Army and remained in service from 1990 to 1994. I took 'Basic Training' at Ft. Knox, Kentucky and then attended Ft. Rucker, Alabama where I was supposed to train as an Aeroscout Observer in the OH-58A helicopter. The training was to take an entire year, but then about halfway through, they decided they wanted to put warrant officers in the copilot seat rather than enlisted individuals. I was given the choice of leaving the Army since they didn't live up to their side of the enlistment contract, or that I could select a different M.O.S. (Military Occupational Specialty) I chose 29E which is 'Field Radio Repair Technician and attended U.S. Army Signal School in Ft. Gordon, Georgia for an additional six months.
My first assignment after training was at a base near Comayagua, Honduras from 1992 to 1993 and spent a full year there. It is there that I realized no matter what your specialty, you literally have to fight at times. We were shot at, and there were six fatalities on our side over the year I was there. The time in Honduras was spent by invitation of the Honduran government to help with their drug trafficking problem, along with the associated money laundering problem they were having. It was then, after nearly being killed with a sharp bayonet, that I realized the small amount of hand-to-hand combat they teach "regular soldiers" in Basic Training is absolutely insufficient and useless. I was able to fill the opponent with lead before running to safety. Had I not had a loaded firearm at that point, I probably wouldn't be typing on this blog today.
Return to Civilian Life
After leaving the Army, I began seeking out true self-defense methods, since I wanted to bolster my chances of survival of both self and family. I wasn't able to find many realistic hand-to-hand combat methods out here in the Midwest (Western Nebraska) where we reside. The choices have always been meager, to say the very least: Tae Kwondo, Tae Kwondo, or Tae Kwondo. "What kind of a choice is that?", I asked myself. I came to the resolution that it really wasnt much of a choice at all, for the few street fights I've witnessed here in our area were conducted with tire irons, knives, and baseball bats.
The Search Was On
I spent from 1995 all the way to 2009 studying up on real-life combat-oriented Martial Arts -- a whopping 14 years of my life. But no one was around our area teaching any of them. I had discovered two systems I admired around 2007: Arnis/Eskrima, and Israeli Krav Maga. I had realized by studying these systems that they can literally frighten away anyone who is an amateur, who has an amateur mindset that if they hold up a bladed weapon or a baseball bat, they should somehow think the victim will shake and lock up tight.After watching only some of the most simple drills, such as the "Heaven Six" and "Heaven and Earth", I realized that those drills could scare the living bejeezus out of someone who likes only to intimidate, which could literally prevent a battle in its own right. Even more, I realized the chances of surviving a violent encounter could be increased dramatically if only one had developed rapid response skills along with those two systems.
I had been contemplating the idea of actually re-locating for the sole purpose of learning either Arnis or Krav Maga, but my family has never been too keen on relocating to a larger city just for that purpose alone. I spent many days, weeks, months and years seeking out instructors who might be near our area, but struggled with this immensely. Until I found...
Inner Wave: Pencak-Silat in Ft. Collins, Colorado
Headed by Guru Daniel Prasetya, his school accepted an additional instructor in order to add Arnis to the curriculum -- GM Shelley Millspaugh.
My brothers and I took a trip down to Daniel's school on Saturday, Feb. 6th, 2010 and enjoyed the open-house presentation. Although the school is two and a half hours from my hometown (5 hour round trip) I realized that I finally found a "home" in the realm of Martial Arts. I also found that the Silat system is extremely admirable in addition to Shelley's Arnis demonstration. At the time of the visit, I didn't even realize what Daniel's long background was. There I was, standing on the mat watching him demonstrate Silat moves, thinking "Wow he is such a short, little guy. What can he hope to accomplish?" Once he began demonstrating on everyone who is far taller than he is, I found that I had to stop belittling Daniel. I learned that I would fear him greatly were I to rub him the wrong way.
I went back home to Scottsbluff and began looking up more information on Guru Daniel's background and I was literally stunned. I had absolutely no idea what an amazing history he had behind him! My thinking went from "just another Martial Arts guy" to "Holy crap, I just met TWO of the world's finest! Shelley and Daniel!" It was then that I realized just how privileged I was to have participated one-on-one with these two fellows, and what an idiot I was for not showing far more respect to them than they truly deserve! Luckily, as long as all goes well, I will be getting many opportunities to show that due respect, as I've chosen to train under them.
The Ball Begins to Roll
I accepted GM Shelley's invitation to train with him at Daniel's school. I decided I better start working on my budget, since I also found I'd absolutely love to train under Guru Daniel in the art of Silat as well. Though it may take a few months of working out the budgeting part of both Arnis and Silat, the deep desire should make the sacrifice of no consequence at all.
I've ordered a custom-made set of Rattan sticks, and have begun setting aside the funds, transportation, and fuel needs to shortly begin making my weekly trek to Guru Daniel's "Inner Wave" school.
I'm looking forward to the first lessons, and the many hours of practice in between. Two great Masters, one excellent dojo, and one extremely interested student. I must say, this is an excellent mix.