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 WWW.threeharmonies.com
Coming up: The best of the Mike Martello videos