Friday, October 21, 2016

Once upon a time I was the Horseman

The form then was the Bando Horseman's form.
When I was much younger. In fact it was from 1979  to 1983 to be precise.
The Penna, competitions were  pretty fierce in kata and kobudo, Among them were Cindy Rothrock, Tris Sutrisno Joe Brague’s students Gary and George Michak, Vince Ward and John Hamilton’s students, Ron Martin’s students, Manny Agrella’s students, Al Smith’s students, Bruce amd Ann Heilman’s students, the entire crowd who showed up from New Jersey and many, many more including Jesus Christ a great Kung Fu Competitor. Those names probably mean little to you but then they did superior kata and Kobudo in the Pennsylvania region.
And I was thrown into that mixture. Into the Lion’s Den so to speak. Those competitors forced me to continually challenge myself, and in return I grew a little. The interesting thing was competing against individuals who were much better than you were, caused you to improve your own game.
But in time things change, Competitors for many reasons move on, and the same group I had been competing with were no longer there.
Tris had stopped. Garry and Cindy were going national. Vince’s old crowd had stopped, the same for many of the rest. Not having them competing made it a little less fun.
I was pretty locked to that area. I did not have the money to try other places.
Reese Rigby, one of my seniors, had success switching his Isshinryu kobudo forms to supplement them with some Bando ones, ones I also had been taught.
That spring I tried the Bando Horseman’s form at Hidy Ochai’s  in Binghampton NY and another tournament in SE Penna. Nothing special happened for me, However Bruce Heilman,who I only knew very casually, approached me and suggested that the strikes should be done with a corkscrewing motion. I did not pay much attention to that, as that was not the way the Bando people did the movement.
Now the funny thing was no one was giving me any training advice. I was on my own. My seniors were quite far away, and the places I trained no one paid what I did with my art much attention. But as I was training about 7 days a week, I kept at it.
But one Saturday at Ernie Rothrock's School where I normally worked on my Chinese studies, he watched me work on the Bando Staff form. Then it was unusual for he have me some advice. Noting that the Bando was similar to Chinese staff, he made some suggestions how I could perform several of the motions more cleanly. It was interesting advice and I paid it heed.
Then a few weeks later training with Tris Sutrisno and during a break from that class I worked on my Bando staff. He also decided to give me some suggestions about how the eye focus on the strikes should be done.
This was unusual for he never paid any attention to my own art, it was not what he shared.
But I gave both set of comments heed, My practice made those changes.
The week prior to Tris Sutrisno’s tournament in Tamaqua Pa. I did little practice on the floor, more in my mind, thinking about performing it the new way.
Then the day of the tournament I remember, all of the judges had their own students in that division. The center judge was Bruce Heilman.
This was me when I was much younger. Though this was me doing one of the Chinese forms I studied with Ernie Rothrock. There are unfortunately few records of those days.
On the spot I decided to change the way the strikes were done to what Bruce had suggested, using twisting strikes.
I was up to compete. I preformed the form with all those suggestions. My Bando staff, the Horseman’s Footsoldiers Form, cut cleanly though the air with its strikes. Before I knew it I was done.
And I won first place in Kobudo. Whatever it meant it was my time I guess.
I also felt guilty, as I had altered the form with Bruce’s suggestions, because Bruce was judging. The suggestions of Tris and Ernie did not change the shape of the form, just more effective execution.
Whatever my drive had been, it was the last time I seriously competed.
I had known success within my instructors shiais which did mean much more to me. But the drive to compete evaporated for me. At times for different reasons I would compete to push myself, but no longer to chase the bubble.
I never did the Bando staff with that corkscrewing movement ever again.
Dr. Muang Gi, the founder of American Bando, while I did not study with him. My forms came from my Isshinryu instructors.  I did work out at a training session on Bo that he ran at a Bando Summer Camp.
My student, Young Lee,  performing the Bando Horseman's Form.

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