“Inhale deep like the words of my breath. I never sleep, ’cause sleep is the cousin of death. I lay puzzle as I backtrack to earlier times, nothing’s equivalent to the New York state of mind.” – Nas, “N.Y. State of Mind”
This weekend I had the amazing opportunity to attend Progressive Martial Art’s seminar with Guro Dan Inosanto. When I moved back to the East Coast after living in Southern California for nine years and attending the Inosanto Academy ever week, I very much missed seeing and training with Guro Dan. Although I have my body of knowledge and experience as a student, there is nothing like the personal contact and interaction with your teachers and mentors. Guro Nick Sacoulas told me that he would be hosting Guro Dan at his school in Queens, NY and I leaped at the chance. It hadn’t been even three months since moving and saying my goodbye at the Academy, so the first thing that Guro said when he saw me that morning was “Jesus, Joe! What are you doing here?!” Those words had never been more comforting. And since 2013, last year and now I have attended this seminar that PMA hosts every year for the past 18 years (!). So this event already holds a particular weight to me. In addition, I had met and made some great friends last year and was looking forward to connecting again.
As always, the vibe was relaxed and welcoming. Kathy Sacoulas and her staff ran a smooth check-in, and I am always impressed that they provide a list of local places to eat and conveniences for so many of the participants that come from out of town. Soon, Guro walked in and the crowd gathered. I texted my wife later, to tell her that I had felt like Elf waiting to see Santa at Gimbals.
We started the morning with Jeet Kune Do, as Guro provided fine points on striking, body symmetry and even holding mitts for your partner. As Guro George would later point out also, some of the gems to come out of training with Guro are the little details he adds or maybe even does without explaining. In true JKD fashion we also transitioned into many of the Southeast Asian boxing forms, blending elements of Thai Boxing, Cambodian Boxing and Filipino Boxing, emphasizing both the commonalities as well as the unique characteristics.
“Observe it, feel it, do it.” – Guro Dan, on the learning process
In true Guro Dan form, he also stressed our own individual monitoring and development, emphasizing the process of learning and teaching, recognizing changes in physicality and paralleling his lessons through sports like baseball and football, shooting and military anecdotes, and his own experiences. After lunch we went into the double stick Kali methods and Guro gave some essential history on the Philippines, including his hometown of Stockton, CA and his own stories regarding his exposure to the art. We then covered some of the Lacoste training methods into the single stick, stick and dagger, double dagger and single knife.
Afterwards I had the great privilege to spend some time with Guro Nick, Guro Dan, Guro Joel and a few of my seniors, teachers and mentors in both the Inosanto family as well as the Sayoc tribe that left an indelible imprint that kept me up late into the night. To top it off, on my drive back to the hotel I turned on Hot97 to hear Funkmaster Flex spinning live. As a former DJ that used to go up to NY, and even Queens sometimes several times a year just to be close to the culture of Hip Hop, with my head and heart full of stories, wisdom and fire from these passions in my life, I truly felt recharged.
The next day Guro Dan went into the Maphilindo Silat material, again giving us some background on Filipino Boxers, his teachers and the concepts and mentalities that drive this techniques.
During lunch, Sifu Kevin Seaman gave an excellent lecture on mindset, internal communication, the quality of questions and at the end of the day demonstrated on me personally how our own actions can make an astounding mental and physiological difference. We ended the day with the Large Mano single stick methods, follow-up combinations and Sumbrada variations, coming together with using various platforms such as sword and shield, spear and shield and two handed sword.
I was lucky to have had a great training partner for the weekend, and reconnect with good people that share in the same passions that drive so much of my life. I am tremendously blessed. A huge thank you first and foremost to Guro Dan Inosanto and Simo Paula for making all of this possible in the first place, as well as Guro Nick Sacoulas, Kathy Sacoulas and the PMA staff that always runs such a smooth event. My partner for the weekend Ben, my brothers in the arts Guro George Chaber and Guro Carlos Castro, my AK brothers and everyone else that I share this journey with. I am grateful for the privilege to grow, learn and treasure these times with you all.
“Everybody you meet is your teacher.” – Guro Dan quoting his teacher Juanito Lacoste