Training “Por Vida”
Finding the martial art of Eskrima was an accident of good fortune. I say this because the timing was right for a marriage between my needs and that of learning an incredible martial art style that is by far one of the most well rounded arts I had ever seen. Many years ago while working as a maintenance electrician at Rare Parts Incorporated in Stockton I had the great fortune of meeting and befriending Senior Master Jorge Magana, at the time he didn’t hold this title but was nearly a year into his Eskrima training with GM Art Gonzalez. This was the same time that I was mentally pondering the idea of studying martial arts purely for self-protection; for a time I would ask myself the question, could I defend myself or my family or friends in a physical confrontation? The real, and disappointing answer at the time was no. Although I had some limited Kung Fu experience under my belt I did not train in it whole heartedly and spent more time playing pool on the table that was at the dojo than actually training.
I was fortunate enough that Jorge needed someone to practice on so I became the lucky Guinea Pig. We would sneak away into one of the dimly lit warehouse isles and he would teach me some fundamental strikes and body mechanics just to get me to a point that I would make a for a useful punching dummy. As I progressed under his tutelage he kept insisting that I come and train with GM himself, he continued to invite me to attend one of the classes at scribbly park, Jorgie has a gift for getting you to do what he wants, which looking back was a good thing for me. Eventually I made my way to GM Art and began training under him; I met him once at recreation center but didn’t start training with him until he was teaching out of Guro Terry Joven’s old dojo behind the Long John Silvers on North Pacific Avenue in Stockton. Slowly be surely I became hooked and addicted to the art of DeCuerdas, never had I experienced such combative effectiveness and even though I was a beginner I felt that I was getting useful tools that I could immediately use to defend myself on the street. Jorgie and I continued to train at work and eventually in the backyard of my house in Stockton, on early weekend mornings underneath my walnut tree. Jorgie would tell me before starting our training session that we would be training “por vida” meaning that we will be training for life or to stay alive, of course this was said with a boyish grin. I remember one time we were practicing a last resort drill called the wave, it is a drill in which the stick is held in an upright position and you are blocking an incoming #1, and #2 strike, then the stick gets transitioned downward to block against and incoming #3 and #4 strike. I say last resort because as DeCuerdas boys we prefer evade or to strike rather than block an incoming strike as one of our maxims is “striking is our least desirable option”.
Anyhow, back to the drill, Jorgie started out slow to get me used to the movement but before long he was bringing strikes so Fu#ki%g hard and fast I could feel my body vibrate with each block, sweat starting pouring down my head as I thought for sure I would be severely injured if I missed one of my blocks. He would say don’t back up, as I attempted to find refuge by slowly retreating backyards, and while hearing the cracks of walnuts being crushed by my feet and our sticks clashing. Once I re-engaged I had to readjust me body in its defensive angle and positioning of my support hand on the stick in order to be able to effectively survive the situation. Jorge would stop his strikes take a sip from his water bottle and say calmate, relax Mikie. Then he would ask me why I repositioned myself and oscillated my torso, little did I know at the time but this was Jorgie’s way of teaching me by allowing me to discover things on my own. He then said that’s how a mutha fuka is gonna try and hit you Mikie, if you can’t block that strike then forget about it. In my mind Senior Master Jorge is the real deal, he is truly a gifted martial artist and teacher able to see things that others don’t and adept and looking at techniques and improving them for combat efficiency and effectiveness. I was so lucky to have him as a martial art mentor when I started down this journey, in reality I had to instructors starting out GM Art and Senior Master Jorge. It is his lessons that instilled in my mind that eventually we must always train “por vida” or else we are just kidding ourselves. Por Vida my Eskrima brothers and sisters.