by Julie A. Loeffler, IMB Apprentice Instructor
Reflecting on my experience at the 2013 IMB Instructor’s Conference, I am humbled by the generosity of those who were so willing to teach to our group and be part of this great experience. There was no time for jet lag—we hit the ground running from day one. We were put through the paces by some of the best: James Tanaka / BJJ, Alfred delaCruz / Kajukenbo, Professor Al Dacascos / Wun Hop Kune Do, GM Kramer and the GM Lago brothers GM Gary Largo and GM Leslie Largo / Derobio Eskrima system, Chris West / MMA and of course GM Bustillo / JKD and Kali. A tremendous “thank you” to all of them for sharing their knowledge.
GM Bustillo / JKD and Kali: The first day was with Sifu Richard, receiving some of the most important training of the week. Our focus was on practicing hand trapping, both don chi and chi sao, but we broke it up with some speed and power training as well. We also trained Kali with Sifu Richard on Wednesday afternoon on the beaches of Hanuauma Bay. Working the Siniwali (double stick) and panantukan (empty hand) drills with our partners both stationary and also moving up and down the hill (forward and backwards) encompassed the afternoon. The swimming and snorkeling with colorful fishes was an awesome experience. Training in this tropical paradise with a living legend of martial arts was an experience I will never forget.
James Tanaka / BJJ: Monday morning was training with James Tanaka, Black Belt under Relson Gracie and 23 years of teaching experience. His session reminded all of us of the importance of practicing groundwork and its place in the IMB structure. Groundwork is still hard work, even in paradise, but working with an instructor like James allowed each of us to improve our game.
Alfred delaCruz / Kajukenbo, Chuan Fa (boxing): Professor Al delaCruz is a 9th degree blackbelt under Sijo Adriano Emperado, but also notable is that he was the first blackbelt under Sijo Sid Asuncion (and formidable sparring partner with Sifu Richard in their early years). Training where this art originated, Oahu, we were certain to be schooled by the best. Kajukenbo, derived from five martial art styles: Karate, Judo, Jiu Jitsu, Kenpo and Chinese Boxing, was developed to be readily useful on the street. Professor Al worked with us Monday afternoon, and showed us not only the beauty but also the brutality of this art.
Dennis Apeles / Hung Gar: We had a special demonstration from Dennis Apeles on the benefits of Hang Gar, or energy training (iron hand, iron body). This ancient art was new to most in attendance, but in the true JKD spirit we approached it with an open mind. Mr. Apeles demonstrated the techniques and exercises necessary to create diversionary tactics on opponents much larger than oneself. While this enhanced everyone’s training, it would be particularly valuable for a female or somebody facing a larger opponent.
Professor Al Dacascos / Wun Hop Kune Do: WHKD is Sifu Al’s “eclectic Martial Arts expression” extending out from the Kajukenbo System. He talked about the importance of training different ranges of attack, and that while we were focusing on his specific ranges, he encouraged us to create our own individual ranges and methods. Working the drills created by Sifu Al was invaluable. The hand drills, reflex speed drills and the Buzzsaw drill reinforced his teachings and drained us for the afternoon.
GM Kramer and the GM Lago brothers Gary and Leslie / Derobio Eskrima system: We found ourselves in the heart of the Kalihi Valley Thursday night to experience traditional Derobio Eskrima system training. It was pretty amazing to hear the ‘ting’ ‘ting’ sound of the blades striking each other as we walked down the hill to the outdoor training area of the school. We were treated to a demonstration by students with ages ranging from 5 to 18 and then were taught the basic Siniwali Bolo drills and forms. We also had an opportunity to show their students our double stick (Siniwali) / empty hand (Panantukan) techniques. It was an incredible cross training with blades in the outdoors at night.
Chris West / MMA: Coach West has 15 years of coaching experience in many forms ranging from 2013 State Wrestling Championship to MMA and UFC training / coaching (with a 4-1 professional MMA record). Some of his notable students are Charuto Verissimo, BJ Penn, Chris “The Crippler” Leben, Brandon Wolff and Scott Junk. While we worked all levels of training, Coach West impressed upon us the importance of knowing the basics. Traditional wrestling / grappling moves were the focus of the morning, with the addition of advanced takedowns and finishes. The moves may have been simplistic in nature, but they were very effective.
There was also time for instructor collaboration after sessions and in the evening. Everyone was very open with their knowledge and information regarding school structure, techniques, and personal experiences from their past. Their willingness to share what did or didn’t work for them is a true testament to the underlying current of Ohana, clearly present in every facet of the conference.
And of course, there was downtime. Work hard / play hard? Yes, I think so. The beautiful island of Oahu might not ever be the same after experiencing Sifu Tirrell Kamara snorkeling (for the first time) in Hanauma Bay. Or the Outrigger Canoe Club may think twice about having a group of martial artists rip up the waves on their beautiful private beach. A sincere thank you to Sifu Kai Li for his willingness to give us that experience. Having Sifu Kai help us catch a wave in an outrigger canoe (with the assistance of my canoe partner, Sifu Tom Wiehe) was a trip highlight. And who could forget “Spam Jam” – a public celebration of the iconic canned ham! The last organized event, the Pearl Harbor / USS Arizona tour, was a sobering reflection of the lives lost during that initial strike and also the days to follow. Many thanks to GM Carlton Kramer for his generosity that day by setting up a special tour for our IMB Ohana.
Whether it was touring Nuuanu Pali, Eternity Beach, The North Shore, or the Dole pineapple plantation, the island beauty was everywhere. Waking up each morning to the waves of Waikiki Beach, seeing Diamond Head whenever I happened to glance to my left, walking amongst the Banyan trees while sipping Kona coffee, or appreciating all the beautiful foliage at every turn will be etched in my mind forever.
The conclusion of our conference culminated at the Paradise Cove Luau. I’m pretty sure I have never seen a sunset so beautiful or eaten Kalua pork so delicious. Some brave souls received Polynesian facial tattoos, and everyone enjoyed the evening of food and traditional Hawaiian music and dancing.
So Sifu Richard, from the bottom of our hearts and I speak for my IMB Ohana: mahalo (thank you) for being the conductor of this wonderful symphony called the IMB Instructor Conference. We are your instruments. You help us develop our special talents and encourage our individual Jeet Kune Do, introduce outside influences for additional insight, but also show us the necessity of working together. For that, I and my new IMB Ohana am truly grateful.
Aloha & Mahalo Nui Loa, Julie Loeffler