Monday, November 21, 2005

Excellent Experience This Weekend - Edmonds Martial Arts Academy

I've talked to Bobbe Edmonds on the phone a few times. He seemed like a really worthwhile guy, and we always said that he would have to drive down or we'd drive up to Seattle and meet in real life some time, maybe Thanksgiving weekend. Early this week we found out that work would take him out of the area for a few weeks. So Tiel and I said "Well, why not go and meet him this weekend?"

I'm really glad we did.

First off, Bobbe and his wife are really wonderful people, the kind who you feel like you've known your whole life. Their warmth and hospitality would do credit to the Middle East or an old-fashioned Southern household.

For those of you who aren't familiar with Bobbe, take a look at his website - He's been a training demon since his teens. Lots of really solid work under a variety of very good teachers, enough certificates to wallpaper an apartment and enough "been there, done that" to give what he teaches real world credibility.

His school, like many of the best, is crammed into in a tiny garage. It's not how he makes a living, so he can be selective about his students and teach the way he likes. It shows. I was very impressed with his students. They worked hard and picked up things quickly. Many of them surprised me. They moved better than people with a couple year's more experience. They had their basics and fundamentals burned in. It's a real testament to their teacher. It's obvious that Bobbe spends a lot of time figuring out what to teach and how to teach it. He's done an excellent job of taking a lot of material and organizing it in ways that make sense. And if one explanation or demonstration doesn't work for a student he will keep trying until he finds a way that clicks.

The atmosphere was informal. There was a lot of joking and friendly kidding, but when it was time to work, everyone worked. One of the things I've always liked about the good Southeast Asian MA teachers I've met is that they understand that mutual trust is necessary if the students are going to learn. To really trust people who are doing potentially lethal things with or to you in class it helps to be relaxed, not grim or on edge. We didn't see formal shows of respect. We saw an awful lot of the real thing. The students might joke about their teacher's baldness. They would jump in front of hungry lions for him. And they know he'd do the same for them.

We spent a good part of the night looking through his library. There were lots of martial arts books, of course. There was a huge amount of material on teaching in general and teaching martial arts in particular. It's rare for a martial artist to do that much outside work to improve his skills as an instructor.

We attended two classes, one eskrima, one silat.

The eskrima class taught us a lot we didn't know or had forgotten. The drills made sense. They had practical application. We've taken home some of his stuff on changing lines and passing the weapon that was a huge gap in our training. The work on changing ranges was very well thought out. The teaching progression was well integrated with other parts of the curriculum.

After lunch we went to the silat class. Bobbe has obviously learned an awful lot of silat from many gurus over the years. He's made an excellent stab at taking a lot of technique, drills and curriculum and reworking it as principle-based and systematic. A lot of it isn't exactly as we learned it, of course. We had different teachers. It all made sense and was efficient and effective.

If you are in the Seattle area and looking for top-flight instruction from a genuinely good person in Filipino and Indonesian martial arts you couldn't do much better than the Edmonds Martial Arts Academy.

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