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1. Before coming to PAMA, what was your life-style like?
I have always been focused on activities that challenge myself and are particularly "self-testing" more than team oriented. I am a certified SCUBA diver and have dived around the world in wilderness ocean settings - Baja, Galapagos , Ireland , various places in the Carribbean. For many years I was a fairly serious bike rider and sailboat racer. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to pursue these types of activities as I got older, advanced in my career and started a family
2. What was your motivation for coming to PAMA?
Before PAMA I had studied Kenpo in high school and Shotokan karate in college. Martial arts was always a challenge - physically and mentally - and I was looking to reintroduce it into my life in my thirties. Growing up in the 1970's, Sijo Bruce Lee and Kung Fu were a big part of popular culture, and I was intrigued when I heard about a school that taught JKD. I also had been exposed to Kali Eskrima during my Kenpo days (when it was considered really exotic), and wanted to learn more about it.
3. What does your current training consist of at PAMA?
Currently I am training solely in Jun Fan Gung Fu, and occasionally taking some Kali classes. Over the 10 years I have been at PAMA, I have trained more intensively in kali in the past. I think like many of the older students, finding training time is a challenge. Now my sons have gotten old enough to train, and they have become enthusiastic students. This allows me to both pursue my love of the martial arts as well as spend time with them - a nice resolution of a perennial challenge. In the future (hopefully near future) I would like to be more efficient in my training, as well as explore silat, an art I have admired for a long time.
4. Overall, how do you relate martial arts to the rest of your life?
Awareness and focus should be part of any consciously lived life - being in the moment; martial arts training helps this. Professionally, I work as an advocate for environmental protection, which involves a lot of politics in New Jersey - and politics in New Jersey is undeniably combat between often unmatched opponents. The lessons of JKD are directly applicable - single direct attack, attack by feint, flow. The hardest skill - fighting through adversity and beyond what you think are your limits - is the most important.
5. How do you see martial arts in general and training at PAMA in particular in terms of your life goals?
I think that practicing an art of any type, whether fine arts or martial arts, is fundamental to a well lived life. The combination of vision and discipline integral to art is an important contributor to spiritual development. I also like the idea of developing my skills over a very long time period - my martial arts studies are something I can pursue for the rest of my life. The physical and mental side of the training helps me pursue my other interests of adventure travel and exploration. Lastly, promoting environmental change is a long hard road in this country, and especially in New Jersey . Strengthening my ability to weather adversity is an incredibly important skill to develop and maintain - and that is something training at PAMA has given me.
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Hiroaki Sato's The Sword and the Mind is a good translation of several of the most important texts of classical Japanese swordsmanship, the Heiho Kadensho , Fudochi Shimmyoroku , and the Taia-ki . These are works that have bearing on more than martial arts, serving as guides to Japanese political, business, and educational leaders for generations.
Sato begins with brief chronologies of Japanese history and Yagyu-related events and continues with an excellent introduction that gives both the socio-historical and philosophical context of Shinkage-ryu strategy and swordsmanship.
He continues with the Heiho kadensho ("Book of the Family Transmission of Swordsmanship") proper, broken into its three constituent sections, "The Shoe-Offering Bridge," "The Death-Dealing Blade," and the "Life-Giving Sword."
These are followed by Takuan's essay, Fudochi shimmyoroku ("Divine Record of Immovable Wisdom"), a long message by the famous Zen priest to Munenori that served as a lesson on the more abstruse elements of swordsmanship and an admonition to Yagyu not to let his position and authority cause him to falter from the True Path. It is a remarkable work for its incisive view of human psychology and the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.
The last section is the Taia-ki (On the Sword of T'ai-a), a further elucidation on the philosophical, and perhaps spiritual, dimensions of swordsmanship when it is used an entity for more than merely killing an enemy, but as a means for living.
Speaking as a student of the Yagyu Shinkage-ryu, there are a couple of places where I think the Sato translation of Heiho kadensho doesn't quite hit the mark. It is not from any lack of skill as a translator, but because he himself doesn't study the art of swordsmanship, and certainly has no firsthand knowledge of Shinkage-ryu theory or methodology. Frankly, I don't think anybody who is not a member of the school can really speak directly to some of the concepts, though Sato certainly comes pretty close.
This is just quibbling on my part, though. If one wishes to read the "real deal," as far as that is possible in a non-Japanese language, this is a good place to start.
On December 9, 2005, Sam Levine, Gregg Suskin, Tom Everist, Gregg Smith, and Wayne Brown began the first part of their Jun Fan Level Two test. The test was administered by instructors Mike Lee, Mary Jo Colli, and Neil Acevedo with Sifu Rick Tucci as an observer.
As many of you know, the Jun Fan Phase Two test is conducted in two parts. The first part of the test consists of demonstrating proficiency in the physical skills and techniques and also a general knowledge of the art. The second part of the test consists of a conditioning requirement that is picked by the candidate that is testing from a list of exercises. The conditioning portion of the test is normally held during the next available Jun Fan Level Two class that is held on Tuesday evenings.
Overall, the test is quite grueling and takes quite a bit of preparation. But with the right attitude, enough practice time, desire, effort, private lessons, and cardio conditioning, it can be done with ease for those who are motivated.
Congratulations to Sam Levine and Gregg Suskin for meeting all the requirements of he test so far. They will be great additions to the Jun Fan Phase Two class. Gregg, Tom, and Wayne still have to finish up the rest of their requirements but will be great additions to the class as well once they are done testing.
Kudos go out to Sam, Gregg, Wayne, Tom, and Gregg for putting in the time and effort in preparation for the test. Keep up the good work and stay motivated.
Our congratulations and best wishes go out to our students as they finish this chapter of their growth in the martial arts and move on to the next chapter: the 9-13 year old age group where many new adventures await them.
| Mike Wolhfert:
Mike Wolfert has been training at PAMA for almost 7 years, and has been one of PAMA's dedicated assistant instructors for the past few years. On December 20th, Sifu bestowed upon him an apprentice instructorship. To be considered for a certification under Sifu one must show a high level of proficiency, and understanding of the martial arts and the highest standards of training. Mike now joins the elite group of certified instructors under Sifu.
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Every year the PAMA instructors gather together to wish each other Happy Holidays. This year we gathered together for a post-training meal and wished each other good tidings. A lot of laughter, a lot of cheer, and a lot of antics were had as we toasted and reminisced over the events of this past year.
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Congratulations go out to Chul (Chuck) Choe for competing in the USKBA World Amateur Muay Thai Championships that were held at the Rahway Recreation Center on December 10, 2005. The tournament utilized K-1 style rules and consisted of an 8-man tournament per weight class. Chuck competed in the 175-pound weight division.
Chuck displayed an incredible amount of heart and desire in his bout with a seasoned and physically bigger opponent, who eventually went on to win the tournament. This was Chuck's first time in the ring but he carried himself like a veteran. Chuck did not walk away with the victory but learned an incredible amount from the experience. Chuck has nothing to be ashamed of in his effort and he will only get better. Good job Chuck!!
Some of you may have noticed a new face with an accent hanging around one week in December. Our friend from "across the pond", Laurence Sandum, came to visit us from England to get in his face-to-face, one-on-one training time with Sifu. Laurence has over 20 years of martial arts experience including an apprentice instructorship under Guro Dan Inosanto. After meeting Sifu in one of our past seminars, he continues his training (in true martial arts fashion) by visiting PAMA to sharpen and enhance his skills, as well as having Sifu go out to his Academy in Essex, England for seminars.
Sifu Rick and assistant instructor Mike Lee demonstrate Silat technique.
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Video/Pictures by: Mike Lee & Amy Tucci
Stories by: Amy Tucci, Max Wang & Neil Acevedo
Newletter by: Galvanek & Wahl LLC