From the perspective of one who was there:
Last weekend I attended the 2018 Gathering of Kuntao Silat with Pendekar Steve Gartin, Sigungs Joe Judt and Aric Fowler. All this last week I have been sitting with this experience of the weekend and the training and camaraderie i experienced. This last week I have been decompressing, digesting and just letting it all sink in. So much on so many levels happened on both for me personally and with the group.
First with me… I had been training mostly on my own through Pendekar Steve’s distant learning program video training program the last couple of years. Combined with that I was privileged to have 2 weekends over the past 2 years with Pendular Steve personally which was also EXTREMELY helpful. The last 6 months I had been very inactive with my physical training. That with the fact that I had been mostly physically inactive in all ways during that period made me a little nervous about going to New Mexico and at 7000 feet above sea level and being able to keep up physically, let alone at a skill level that was good enough with many high level practitioners.
So what happened?
In a nutshell I discovered at a deeper level than before that Pendekar Steve’s training methods are surisingly simple in a truly diabolical way. 😉
What does that mean?
It means that on the surface the basic exercises and stance work are ok to do but not that exciting. Pendekar Steve’s basic training protocol is standing in a few positions, walking with some simple turns and some other not so sexy looking stuff. It means starting to build into your daily life these simple movements plus a few seemingly simple applications, but on the surface, as my Croatian friends might say, they appear to be “nothing special” Nothing special my ass! This stuff is as special as it gets.
I understood intellectually the whole time as I trained quietly by myself that these were important building blocks of the art … But…. Meh… Not so exciting. I did them the best I could with varying levels of disciple.
Fast forward to this last weekend.
This weekend there were a lot of chances of partner practice on many applications and some other exercises. Partner practice is something that I have not had outside of the 2 weekends I spent in New Mexico in the 2 years previous to this. To my surprise this weekend i was shocked how easily I was throwing people around and, as Pendekar Steve would say, helping people fall down. 😂😂. It’s like I had drunk some magic potion and this Kuntao Silat had started to magically work. How was that possible?
It was and IS possible because those non sexy basic stances and apparently overly simple weird little movements ARE the magic.
Stunningly simple in a diabolical way! 😉😂😇😈
What Pendekar Steve had told me would happen was actually happening. Who would have imagined? Heh heh heh!
I had achieved a level of ability in this art that surprised me.
Let me be clear. I am not even close to being functional in a live fight using this art BUT, something happened to my mind and body thanks to that simple approach to this practice that I would not have fully believed was possible before experiencing it myself. Please keep in mind that this happened to me with my fairly low level of personal discipline the last year.
I had started doing things this weekend at a level that I did not think I had achieved but apparently, according to my performance I actually had reached a surprisingly high level of competency that I did not think I had reached.
Again I mischieviously repeat myself. Stunningly simple in a diabolical way. 😉😂😂👍😇😈
All weekend long I experienced this over and over again. It made me feel good about myself and open even more it made me realize at a deeper level how cool this art and Pendekar Steve’s training methods are.
They say shit runs downhill. So do good intentions, honour, respect and generosity run down hill.
My experience of this weekend was exactly this from every single participant. Every single one of my practice partners treated me and each other with kindness, generosity, honour and respect during our time together. We all have egos. Everyone of us have egos. We may even sometimes have issues with someone in the group. That’s just being human. But even if that is and it was true with this group, I had the privilege of watching person after person choose consciously to treat each other with kindness, respect. honour and huge generosity!
Why did this happen in a gathering of warriors and Martial Artists of all levels of abilities from the world class level of Pendekar Steve down to the level of an enthusiastic beginner like myself?
It happened first and foremost because of Pendekar Steve Gartin’s lead.
In my experience so far of Pendekar Steve the last 2 and a half years I have never witnessed anything but a desire and choice to treat people with extreme kindness and respect and generosity both inside the martial arts world and outside the martial arts world no matter what may have been going on in his personal life at any moment. That is very rare in the world I have found. I am grateful I have had the opportunity to witness this combined with real humility in such a high level martial artist.
My opinion is that because of this way of being which is clearly present in Pendekar Steve, it has empowered everyone else in the system and certainly with the group of people who attended this weekend to be able to choose again and again the same way of being.
Sigungs Joe Judt and Aric Fowler were a shining example of this during the weekend. These men are the top students of Pendekar Steve and the top instructors of the arts of Malabar Kuntao Silat and American Kuntao Silat.
Both of these gentlemen, with us and even more importantly with each other, unerringly were completely honourable and extremely generous and kind to each other and to the group. Together without any destructive or competitive ego they guided the rest of us through the weekend.
I cannot tell you how good that made me feel and how much it allowed me to be my best and to open much more fully to the training. I felt completely safe to do my best all weekend. Never once did I feel belittled or disrespected just because I would sometimes struggle to understand and apply their lessons and instructions.
Not only did these men provide world class instruction in an art that is profoundly effect, but they did it in a way that helped every single one of us blossom and learn and grow. We blossomed and grew not just as practitioners of Kuntao Silat but also as human beings because of their lead and them choosing to be these generous honourable men.
I am so grateful to them and especially Pendekar Steve for that and the gifts that they gave us all because of the choices they made.
On a less abstract and practical level I was stunned at the level of knowledge and abitilties these men humbly revealed to us. Over and over again as they shared their knowledge and wisdom with us I found myself quietly under my breath repeating “Holy Shit….. This is so freakin’ cool”. I was constantly feeling profoundly impressed and grateful that I had found my way to where I was and to whom I was with. I was constantly amazed at what I was being shown and given. I am not even close to being an expert in the martial arts but I’m telling you I know enough and have seen enough to know when I see something remarkable and absolutely brilliant.
So, I wanted to share this experience I had and how it impacted me.
Thank you Pendekar Steve. I am aware that you are not comfortable with this designation and being called Pendekar. You did not ask for it or even want it but in my humble and uneducated opinion I agree with Sigung Joe that it is appropriate. My intention in using it is not to make you uncomfortable but to acknowledge you and your decades of work and your special gifts that I’m grateful for beginning to be able to see and appreciate.
Thank you Sigungs Joe Judt and Aric Fowler for your huge generosity and all the gifts you gave us this weekend on multiple levels. Those gifts absolutely helped me immeasurably on this path and will also help me in my life in ways I may never be able to tell you. I look forward to our continued journey together.
Thank you also to ALL of my wonderful practice partners. Without you I would not have had the chance to see and accept how far I had actually travelled in my personal journey of Kuntao Silat. Every one of you WITHOUT exception was equally kind and generous in ways you might not always realize. I’m very grateful for this.
There is more that i could ramble on about but for now that’s all.
As Pendekar Steve would probably say, Have a blessed day.