Monday, October 15, 2007

The Mike Martello Seminar

Ah yes, the Dojo Rat has made it back from the mean streets of Seattle and a fantastic seminar on Internal Martial Arts with Mike Martello.
The best seminars are always packed full of information and action. This one filled my brain to the overflowing point. I honestly learned more in two days with Mike and the crew than in six months of regular training.
Generously hosted by Jake Burroughs of “Three Harmonies Chinese Martial Arts Center”, the two days I attended was the tail end of a week long intensive with Martello spanning both weekends. Attendance was strong with people traveling from as far away as Texas and Southern California.
Let me begin by saying that Mike Martello is the absolute BEST instructor in the mechanics of body movement I have ever been to. At somewhere around 5’2” tall, Mike has not been able to rely on out-muscling larger opponents. Therefore, through the gifted instruction of his teachers, he has learned the physics of how to get the most out of rooting, waist rotation and whole-body movement. Not only can he demonstrate this, he is able to transmit this knowledge directly to students through clear principles and plain language. In two days I did not hear the word “Chi” mentioned once.
Much of Mike’s movement is based on the power of relaxation, momentum and isolating body parts while maintaining proper structure. We have all heard this, read this, but it is difficult to experience it. Through simple drills, Mike was able to help us identify where we are holding tension in our bodies.
While the session I attended was billed as “Soft principles of Mantis Boxing”, many of the drills were common to Taiji and Bagua. We practiced a push-hands pattern that I have not seen in the Yang or Chen Taiji styles, and worked on a “Coiling Snake Bagua” stepping pattern that I have been dying to learn for over a year now. I couldn’t get the smile off my face!
There was quite a bit of Chin Na joint manipulation, which as was pointed out to me are much more subtle than the joint-lock-flows we have been practicing at our Dojo. Mike had valuable suggestions about how to round them out with more circular and spiral movement, and how to capture the opponent’s center in a relaxed, loose yet structured way. Both the Chin Na and throwing techniques were not employed from static grabs, but from capturing the opponent’s hand or arm in a punching sequence.
One of the most significant things I came away with was the intrinsic energy of expanding all of the joints of the body, not only in fighting application, but to “nourish” the joints and ensure health through flexibility in old age—something us older Dojo Rats have to continually work on. Mike Martello’s seminar left me with dozens of new exercises and drills that I intend to share with our Dojo, each one meshing perfectly with what I currently practice and can improve on.
As always, Jake Burroughs was a terrific host for the seminar, and I look forward to attending more training sessions with Jake and his crew in the future.

Jake Burroughs of “Three Harmonies Chinese Martial Arts Center” can be contacted in Seattle at (206) 941-3232, and his website is

Coming up: The best of the Mike Martello videos


Hand2Hand said...

I like how you said "I did not hear the word 'chi' once."

I've hooked up with a new internal teacher here in Florida. His attitude is that "chi" is a good way to visualize certain concepts, but what works isn't some supernatural power but sound science.

Personally, I get it from both ends when trying to discuss "chi" or "chi gong." All my New Age friends think it is something magickal and I shouldn't sell it short by treating it like good physics.

Meanwhile, all my Christian friends think I'm engaged in some kind of sorcery and have expressed concern about my own Christian walk.

Dave said...

Mike is great to work with, isn't he?

I had the pleasure of meeting him and his teacher when Mike was here in Taipei for a month over the summer.

His qinna is especially nice. It's smooth and soft, as you said. Very much to my liking.

I hope you were able to get some of his basic training. That stuff should be useful for any style.

Formosa Neijia

Bailung e.V. said...


congrats to a great seminar!

Yes Mike is great. He is probably the best teacher I ever met! I am glad and honored to be a stdent of him.

Every hour trainng with him is worth some months training normally! :)

Greets Jochen

Dojo Rat said...

I agree with you that the concept of Chi is a good framework for powerful visualization that guides a tension-free structure...

Yes, lots of rotation with "arm slapping" (If he did that type drill with you too)and loose movement that is really going to help my older body stay flexable, and I understand more now about the power inherent in that type of motion. What a great seminar!

Jochen: You are very fortunate to have his instruction, there is so much to learn from Mike!

Faik Bilalovic said...

Congratulations Dojo Rat! You finally mentioned something that I was trying to explain to everybody at my blog about relaxation,tension, mechanics and body structure.(Like all of us do ;)

Anyway, any kind of visualisations will never make your body relaxed. I have tried that with my own students. It would never work because it was not objective enough for the student to imprint that "sense" of relaxation into his body. For example: "relax as if you were lying down on the sofa" would be very subjective both to you and me.

While the "arm slapping rotational exercise" ( I hope that I do not assume to much) is relatively good for releasing the tension in your arms and upper body, you still have to find out if you are moving at any point of movement without "to much" muscle tension.

I am not saying that Mikes' exercises are not good, just that maybe someone did not ask that question.

Dojo Rat said...

Hello Faik;

I think I see what you are getting at, but could use further explaination. The "arm slapping" was complete relaxation, rotating the waist to each extreme (feet parallel) and letting go of tension with the arms following the waist rotation and slapping against the body, both high and low stance and arm-body contact points. This was also done with a Bow or front stance in a front to back motion, slapping lead leg and butt. Then the application of "Parting wild horse's mane" was practiced with this same motion. Much more...