It’s sad that the martial arts business can be so cut-throat, because we are in business of helping people feel better about themselves, feel safer, and give them the skills they need to be empowered to live healthy, protected lives. So, anything that meets those goals really should be something we embrace and encourage.
I’ve been lucky to have the examples of my mentors; Sifu Harinder Singh and Kuya Doug Marcaida. Both of them have created organizations that bring in some of the best instructors in the world and encourage their students to study not just with them, but with the best instructors they can find. In following their examples, I have forged relationships with other local Maryland instructors to help hone my own skills and build the martial arts classes we offer here at the Maryland Jeet Kune Do Academy in Odenton, Maryland. Some of these instructors are so close you would think they could be seen as competitors. They aren’t. Together, we make this community stronger.
John Fitzpatrick has been one of my longest training partners and students. He has nearly two decades of study in Japanese Jiujitsu, as well as years of experience in Brazilian Jiujitsu, Jeet Kune Do, and Kali. In addition to being an Apprentice Instructor at the Maryland Jeet Kune Do Academy, he is also the head instructor at Charm City Combatives in Ellicott City, Maryland. John is one of the most intelligent and analytic men I know, and his students benefit from his ability to explain a given concept or technique from all angles.
Alan and Anthony Sanidad are the Wonder Twins of the Filipino martial arts community here in Maryland. Their school, TryUmph Academy of Martial Arts is located in Gambrills, Maryland. Alan and Anthony are students of Kuya Doug Marcaida and are the flagship school of Marcaida Kali here in Maryland. They also offer great childrens Taekwondo classes, fitness kickboxing, and Brazilian Jiujitsu.
Monroe Hall is one of the top names in Brazilian Jiujitsu here in Maryland and teaches at Baltimore BJJ. He is a consummate coach and just training with him has taught me a great deal about how to interact with students and encourage them. In addition to training champions, he himself is a two-time Pan-American champion and one time runner up. Coach Monroe isn’t just a great example of a Brazilian Jiujitsu competitor and coach, he is a great example of a martial artist. Not content with competitive Brazilian Jiujitsu, he has begun looking at how the integration of edged weapons can affect BJJ for self-defense, working with me to learn the fundamentals of Kali.
Joe Lynch of Annapolis Defense & Security rounds out the list. Joe is the top tactical firearms instructor in the state of Maryland. He is a combat veteran of the US Army, a decorated infantryman. His knowledge of firearms, from military-grade semi-automatic rifles to handguns, is absolutely unparalleled. He provides a level of knowledge that many martial arts instructors neglect, that of modern firearms training. Unwilling to rest in what he already knows, Joe has also trained alongside me with men like Fred Mastro, and continues to advance his knowledge of personal protection.
They say that if you surround yourself with good people, good things will happen. These men and their schools are in my opinion some of the best instructors I have ever had the privilege to work with. I would recommend them without reservation. Their influence is seen in every class and program we offer here at the Maryland Jeet Kune Do Academy.
Following Jeet Kune Do, using no way as way, having no limitation as limitation can be liberating, but it can also be frustrating at times. I was having a conversation with a student last night and after discussing her progress in her studies, she asked me about my own. She was surprised when I spoke in terms of several years, of reaching goals far into the future. There is just so much to do and so much to learn.
My Brazilian Jiujitsu studies have progressed, but have much farther to go. I am looking forward to starting Savate in the coming months as well as spending more time with Kuya Doug Marcaida and his senior students in developing my Kali. All of this is centered around the unified whole of the curriculum of the Jeet Kune Do Athletic Association, as designed by my Sifu, Harinder Singh. More than just progressing into these individual “departments” for my own development, as Sijo would call them, I then have to come back to the martial arts classes at the Maryland Jeet Kune Do Academy here in Odenton, Maryland and having an understanding of them in order to pass them on to the students here. This isn’t something that can be rushed. Kuya Doug compares it to a stew. It has to be simmered for a long time in order for the flavors to merge and blend. Like tea, the water must be brought to the right temperature, it cannot be rushed. The leaves must be steeped for the right amount of time.
At the outset, it is easy to forget that we’re talking about boundless expansion. Each of these given arts has so much to offer. I could study Brazilian Jiujitsu by itself for the rest of my life and follow just that way. There is no doubt it would be a fulfilling journey, and if I put aside Kali, if I put aside Chinese boxing, and shooting, and just devoted myself to Jiujitsu, my progress along that path would certainly be quicker. Even in that case though, boundless expansion along a lifelong path of martial arts means no matter how good I get at jiujitsu, there will always be more on just that path.
So, I practice Jiujitsu. I practice Chinese boxing. I practice shooting. I practice jwaseon, sitting meditation. I practice the tea ceremony. Each of these could be a nice and neat little intellectual box. The departments would never need to meet each other. Some would even seem to have absolutely nothing to do with the other. What does pouring tea have to do with shooting or choking someone?
That is a good question.
When I was studying Korean Zen, we had a different term for this sort of intellectual honesty, Choshim. Choshim can be translated as the original intent, or more frequently, beginners’ mind. No matter how much we learn there is always more. No matter how good we are, there is always someone better at what they do. Why claim to be more than what we are, when we can keep learning, growing, and sharing?
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