Sitting here under the blazing Arizona Sun in an area totally surrounded by desert, my mind often turns to memories of my past. This is one of my more interesting ones to me.
During the period from 1979 through 1984 I was moving at a frantic pace. I had the time, the resources and the interest. I was training and teaching Isshinryu, where my heart would always be, but I was able to train at the same time with a great many people from many styles. Everybody loves the paradigm that their teachers taught them. But I learned that there were many paradigm’s, even ones diametrically opposed on the surface, that could also be devastatingly effective.
So I trained with Shorin instructors, Goju instructors and instructors from many other systems, and did my best to retain what they generously shared.
But a large part of my time I trained in two arts that were in my mind at that time, very different. From Ernest Rothrock in Yang Tai Chi and Northern Chinese forms from Northern Shaolin, Northern Eagle Claw, Northern Mantis, and Pai Lum. Only forms not applications of those forms, I saw him prepare for demos and working with his students, seeing many interesting applications but that was not my study. From Tristan Sutrisno he was sharing his family version of Shotokan, his family practice of Aikido. His practice went very deep into what he called ‘bunkai’, a very different use of the term from others I have observed around the world, and very effective use on aikido. Hundreds of neat applications.
Now I have trained with a number of very efficient, interesting instructors, each with different paradigms. They were too deep into their own arts, and never trained with each other.
In 1981 Tristan began a summer camp inviting a number of different local styles to train together. I enjoyed it.
That next summer I convinced Ernest Rothrock to invite his students to attend that weekend of training.
Both Ernest and Tristan knew I was training with each other. But they never trained with each other.
At that summer camp at one of opening clinics Tristan began showing the location of pressure points on the hands, the fingers and the lower arm. Showing the points and techniques to work them. While everything he did used pressure points, I had never seen him present them in this way. When he finished the lower arm he invited Ernest to continue. Perhaps this was a challenge, I can’t say, but Ernest began working up the upper arm, onto the shoulder, the neck and the head. Doing the same at Tristan did showing pointe and then ways to work them. Remember when I trained with Ernest it was not for application study. This was a new way to see his art.
As I observed them coming from entirely different traditions, there was absolutely no difference in their understanding and using those points. It was as if they were the same tradition, and they were not.
Now Tristan had nailed me many times, I clearly understood he knew what he was doing. I had never experienced Ernest though I knew the range he represented. That was to change.
A little later Ernest had the floor (actually the campground field) and elected to show some Kung- Fu applications. He chose me to attack him with a roundhouse punch and stressed I should do so with vigor for that was how his instructors trained him.
So I stepped in with a strong strike.
He just stepped forward, on the interior line of defense, and lifted his hands up. He did not strike me, what happened is my arm struck into his immobile hands. And incredible pain followed.
Then Ernest made a comment “I thought you karate guys could hit harder that that.”
So once again with greater focus I again struck in his direction.
Once again, he just stepped forward, on the interior line of defense, and lifted his hands up. Again, he did not strike me, and again what happened is my arm struck into his immobile hands. Again incredible pain followed.
Taking mercy on my arm, he then explained all he did was raise his knife hands, them the force of my strike did the rest. My roundhouse punch drove my forearm and my biceps into his knife hands. I was striking him, and the harder I hit the greater the pain would be.
That really works, but listen to me it is very, very painful.
Over the years that would be Ernest pattern, every time he did a clinic for my students, I was to be his partner. And every time I experienced a new level of pain.
In subsequent years I learned some of the Sutrisno family tradition of Tjimande. Then I saw the relationship of his arts to the Chinese arts, but that is another story.
I’ve seen Fire and I’ve seen Rain,
And I’ve experienced Pain I thought would never End,
But I always thought I would see you once before the End.
You know you could make a song about that.