April 21

Make It Your Own: Martial Arts Tips from Geoff Meede and Eddy Parker

Make it your own.

That was the overarching concept behind two of my favorite sessions at the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame this year.

Martial arts instructors tend to do teach in a relatively similar fashion. The moves may be different, but generally, they begin with a certain set of movements, then gradually increase the difficulty by adding in body movement or more techniques.

The attendees, for the most part, tend to lose the individual techniques as soon as they move on to the next combination. I would guess that most people lose the techniques they were taught within a few days, maybe a week.

Maybe I’m just forgetful, but I can’t tell you the exact techniques I’ve learned at almost any seminar because we didn’t practice them repeatedly during the session, and I probably didn’t work it enough at home.

However, martial artists should look for what Eddy Parker and Geoff Meed were showing in Indianapolis. The techniques themselves don’t matter.

Find what works for you, and use it. 

Mr. Eddy Parker teaches kung fu in Peoria. Starting his training under his uncle when he was 5, the 40-year-old has more than three decades of experience. Because he’s based in Peoria, I’ve been able to get to know him fairly well over the past several years. A stand-up comedian/shoe salesman/security guard, he has a broad range of experience in life.

One statement he made that resonated with me was to make what he was showing my own.

It’s true.

I’m not going to be an expert in hung gar kung fu any time soon.

However, I know enough about karate to recognize similar movement patterns.

For instance, one of his self-defense techniques looked an awful lot like a kihon. Instead of doing Mr. Parker’s prescribed set of techniques, I switched it up and added some karate flair to it.

“Everybody look over here,” he shouted.

And he asked me to show my technique. He loved it.

Geoff Meed, an actor-turned-school owner, expressed the same philosophy.

Borrowing techniques from his kempo experience, such as “vengeful dragon” – which he said he thought was a bizarre name – he first told us to “follow the script,” so to speak, when it came to performing the movements.

After each person in the group had a go at it, he encouraged us to make it our own and try to be more realistic.

These were both excellent sessions with fantastic martial artists.

Next time you go to a seminar, pick out what you like and what you don’t like. Use your art as a basis to see if those techniques would work in your style. If not, drop it. If so, then figure out how to optimize it for you and your art.

April 13

Karate Black Belt of the Year: 2014 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame

Martial arts seminars are like family reunions. At least, that was the atmosphere at the 2014 Martial Arts Hall of Fame in Indianapolis, Ind., this past weekend.

Sensei Bockler with the signatures of all 2014 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductees

Sensei Bockler with the signatures of all 2014 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame inductees

I myself felt like that significant other being introduced for the first time to the family. You feel like an outsider at first, because they have years of history with everybody and you’re getting to know them for the first time.

But I know at the end of the day, I’ll have walked away with stronger relationships. And that’s what keeps me going to things like this.

After a list of thank yous, I’ll give you a sneak peak at just one of my weekend’s highlights.

Coming soon, I’ll post more pictures and video in new blog posts specific to the seminars I attended. You’re going to love it!

Thank Yous

Since we didn’t get much mic time because of the scores of people receiving awards, I wanted to thank some people for this significant award.

Thank you to Steve Aldus for nominating me as the Karate Black Belt of the Year. His support and guidance is invaluable. Receiving an award is nice. But to me, the bigger rewards for what I do as a martial artist, and now as the proprietor of my own school, are twofold.

One, being recognized by an esteemed martial artist like Mr. Aldus is incredible. With all of his knowledge of martial arts and the things he’s done throughout his life, it’s a real honor for me that he thinks highly enough of me to bring me into this group.

Sifu Steve Aldus, Mrs. Aldus, Sensei Bockler

Sifu Steve Aldus, Mrs. Aldus, Sensei Bockler

The second – and most important – reward is that my students come to class every week to learn from me. As somebody mentioned in their Hall of Fame speech last night, we can’t be instructors without students. I go to things like the Hall of Fame seminars, like the a Chinese martial arts seminar, like Iain Abernethy’s seminars and more because I learn so much about my own art and style from visiting others. As a result, the students get a well-rounded martial arts education.

Thank you to Joe Chianakas for starting Metamora Martial Arts for hooking me into the martial arts back in 2003, and thank you to Dave Hawkey for continuing me to push me to get better all the time.

And thanks to my family for their support of my endeavors, and especially my parents for coming to Indianapolis for the ceremony.

The Peoria Martial Arts Scene Rocks

Sensei Bockler and Sifu Parker

Sensei Bockler and Sifu Parker

There’s no question about this. The level of martial arts talent that is in Peoria is unrivaled.

There were no less than three tables full of Peoria-based martial arts instructors and students at the Hall of Fame banquet.

One, Mr. Eddy Parker, even represented Peoria by presenting the most fun seminar of the day. I say that despite not attending about half of the events since they took place in different rooms.

However, Mr. Parker’s session kept growing and growing. It was fun, and I think people really learned something, too. I always enjoy seeing Mr. Parker’s demonstrations and seminars, and I can’t wait to share videos and some of my thoughts from his session this weekend.


March 29

Chanbara Night in Morton: Great Success

Many students of all ages last night were exposed to chanbara for the first time. And if I were to describe it in one word, it would be fun.

On its surface, chanbara looks like people hitting each other with foam swords. And you’re right.

“So, what’s the point?” you might be asking.

Chanbara Is Fun

As mentioned already, chanbara is fun. I saw so many smiles last night on the faces of all the participants.

For me, I got to unleash techniques full power. That’s something I don’t get to do against another person very often for a few reasons, but mainly because they would hurt and I wouldn’t have a partner to practice with anymore.

Maybe blasting other people with foam swords was just what I needed on a Friday night to cap off a week of work.

Sensei Adam Bockler competes in chanbara against Mr. Mark Fabry.

Sensei Adam Bockler competes in chanbara against Mr. Mark Fabry. Select this image to see more images on Facebook.

Chanbara Can Be Competitive

Last night was my first time doing chanbara, but I can easily see how competitive it can be and the rush you get when you’re about to (pretend to) slice somebody. The event is offered at some competitions, but I haven’t come across it too often in the tournaments I’ve been to.

Chanbara is a Throwback

Chanbara is modeled after samurai sword fights from feudal Japan. Swap out foam swords for full-blown katanas, and things change pretty quickly.

The rules are such that you must hit your opponent with some kind of devastating blow that could cut or impale. The first person to get to 5 points wins.

How You Can Do Chanbara

Sensei Matthew Schell, whose Tora Hakutsuru Kan Martial Arts Academy hosted the event, said last night he’d like to hold one or two events per month.

I can say we are definitely interested in our students trying out chanbara.

If you would like to order chanbara equipment for your student, please contact me by email, call or text.

Thanks to Sensei Frank Fink and Miss Tarin Switzer of Kosho Kai Karate for teaching eager students the art of chanbara in a fun atmosphere. And thanks to Sensei Schell for bringing these martial artists together last night for a great event.

January 24

Kung Fu Seminar Offers Similar Ideas As Shuri-Ryu Karate

The more seminars I attend, the more it rings true that each martial art is just a different path up the same mountain.

In 2013, it was my goal to attend a a seminar as my schedule and finances would allow, which wound up being about every two months, on average. By picking up different pieces from different styles of karate and different martial arts all together, I feel that I’m able to do a number of things.

One, I can take the similar ideas and techniques in order to gain a better understanding of my style of karate. Two, I get to meet awesome new people that I’ve never met so I can have friends in different areas. Last year, for example, I made friends from all over Illinois, Kansas, Florida, Minnesota and more. It was great. And three, I can toss out of the stuff that doesn’t appeal to me.

Sifu Chris Childs presented a seminar in the Chinese martial art of choy lay fut at Five Animals Kung Fu in Springfield this past Saturday, Jan. 18. I was able to translate most of the moves to Shuri, but I also kind of wanted to “empty the cup,” so to speak, and try to shed my predispositions and understandings to understand a different perspective.

Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

Where it worked well was with generating power from the hip and putting a person in a disadvantaged position. I know how powerful techniques can be when the come from the hip due to a rooted stance. Shuri-ryu does that – just look at Wansu or Bassai Dai for clear examples of that. Blocks (strikes) are designed to disorient the attacker in order to give you the opportunity to finish the confrontation before the attacker has time to react.

Where my prejudices came were with the positioning of my own body. Choy lay fut (and other Chinese arts, such as tai chi chuan) stresses different body positioning than karate.

For instance, in karate, many punches involve the body being pretty straight on to the attacker – your shoulders are at 9 and 3 on a clock, if you think about it that way. With choy lay fut, I had difficulty executing (if I’m punching with my right hand) putting my right shoulder at 12 and my left shoulder at 6. The theory makes sense: your reach is increased while making your reverse hand spring-loaded with potential energy. For me, however, it felt slower and unnatural.

Obviously, it’s hard to break 10 years of habit in a four-hour seminar.

Overall, though, the seminar was a great experience with even better people. If you’re in the Springfield area, I would highly recommend trying out a few classes with Josiah Mott.

September 20

Iain Abernethy: 6 Principles of Kata

For the second time this year, I trained with one of the best applied karate proponents in the world.

Dave Hawkey, Iain Abernethy and Adam Bockler pose for a picture

Mr. Hawkey, Mr. Abernethy, Mr. Bockler

Mr. Iain Abernethy made one of his few U.S. visits to suburban Kansas City last weekend to teach applications/analysis – bunkai, if you will – for several karate katas, including the Pinan/Heian series, Naihanchi and Bassai. Our students may recognize Naihanchi and Bassai, but the Pinan/Heian katas are not included in Shuri-ryu.

This time was different for several reasons.

First of all, Mr. Hawkey made the journey with me. He and I have worked privately over the last year or so, often employing and referencing Mr. Abernethy’s books and ideas in attempting to decode our forms.

Secondly, I volunteered myself to be Mr. Abernethy’s uke. What does that mean, you ask?

It means for the duration of the seminar, I felt first-hand what his techniques felt like. When we split off to work with our partners, I felt like I was able to help mine better understand the technique because I was able to comment on my body positioning to let them know if they had the technique properly applied.

Finally, I was able to record around 8 hours of footage for my personal media library – in other words, you won’t see any videos on YouTube (for now, at least). Mr. Abernethy has asked for a copy of the footage, which he may upload at a later date.

Mr. Abernethy is not necessarily concerned with techniques. Instead, he teaches principles. If you’ve read his books, you’re likely familiar with these:

  1. Whenever you take a stance, that represents where the body weight should be.
  2. The non-striking hand is either telling you where he is or getting limbs out of the way.
  3. Your angle is wherever you’re in relation to your attacker.
  4. Kata was designed for civilian combat – actual self-defense – and not a consensual fight between people.
  5. Kata teaches things in order – as the form progresses, so do the movements ideas.
  6. The karate of old is holistic – in addition to striking, it also teaches throwing, choking, strangling and more.

This list of principles appears to be an evolution of the four principles he professed earlier this year in Chicago. Perhaps since this was a repeat visit to Kansas City, he expanded on the ideas from his first few times there (April was his first visit to Chicago).

Mr. Abernethy will return to the States in May 2014 to once again teach at Enso in Chicago. I would highly encourage any serious karateka to attend make plans for that weekend.

Thank you to Mr. Dan Kennedy for organizing the event, thank you to the partners that helped me try to work some of these principles and techniques, as well as the other martial artists I had the chance to connect with, and thank you to Mr. Abernethy for a jam-packed weekend of karate.

As a result of attending this seminar, my plan is to incorporate these principles into Metamora Martial Arts in order to teach even more effective martial arts and self-defense.

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