04 May 2009

Dog Brother's Kali Tudo: A review

An experience in Jeet Kune Do (JKD), often comes by way of Dan Inosanto. Not universally of course, but enough that it isn't really worth mentioning in most situations. If you have come by your JKD by the lineage of Guro Inosanto you have often seen, at least, lots of thirty-six inch long rattan sticks. Often there will be more to see, knives and other edged weapons of various lengths, perhaps a staff or two. These are the weapons of the Philippines, and Guro Inosanto has been instructing people in their use for years. I come by my Jeet Kune Do in this way (my instructors were products of Larry Hartsell and later Paul Vunak) and so I have had more than a minor amount of time in the FMA (Filipino martial arts). Many people in the JKD concepts schools of thought, utilize the FMA as attribute training, and as a weapons base. Stick and knife work require, and develop hand eye coordination, foot work, simple motor coordination, and reaction time in excess of empty hand work. As such the training alone (whether you ever actually fight it) is inordinately helpful as a training aid. It can also be deeply functional and germane to one's over all self defense applications. Knives and sticks, as well as other impact type weapons are not in short supply. FMA training has, the argument goes, broad applicablity. And so it is. Knife and impact weapons do not enjoy infrequent rates of incidence in assaults, either here in the US or abroad. Having familiarity with them can only help your self defense be more robust and effective.

The Dog Brothers, a California based Kali group, have taken it upon themselves to form the first real Kali laboratory since, I am going to guess, the 1940s. That is to say, they don as little protective gear as possible and try to use their material in against opponents trying to use the same skills. The equipment varies with the skill level, and the most skilled use only a light fencing mask, and baseball gloves. What the Dog Brothers have done for Kali has been, I think, invaluable. Their methods have introduced not only a cornucopia of useful techniques, but they, and their methods have also allowed a large number of escrimidors to develop that critical fighter's eye. This in itself is a revolutionary accomplishment.

A promo clip of Kali Tudo (tm) I

The movements of the empty hand are the movements of the stick or the knife.
It is this maxim, found throughout FMA, that one of the founders of the Dog Brothers, Guro Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny, seeks to explore in this new series of instructionals. It is also a maxim of which many of us who practice the FMA find ourselves most skeptical. Well, I have certainly been skeptical. However, I have yet to have been disappointed with a Dog Brothers endeavor and if they were offering some new insight on FMA applications, I thought it might be prudent to at least give their new material an open minded examination. They did after all make me a vastly better Kali player than I was before exposure to their ideas and techniques. I can happily report that I am quite happy with my decision.

Kali Tudo(tm) is a two disc set, and the bulk of the instruction is found on the first disc. The second disc has some important material, but consists mostly of extras, an interview/conversation between Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny and Eric "Top Dog" Knauss, an interesting fight with a Filipino boxing champ, and some pretty funny clips of Dan Inosanto in a kung fu movie. There were some minor editing glitches, movement but no sound, or vice versa. Such problems are altogether infrequent and do not detract or otherwise interfere with the instruction.

For me, sans hyperbole, the material has been invaluable, and minorly revolutionary. There are no new punches or kicks, no magic bullets or anything. Its all jabs, and crosses, uppercuts, elbows, well you get the idea. There is something Denny refers to once or twice, but I don't think he explains, the downward 8 blitz. I think I know what it might be, but am not entirely sure. But there is something special about taking standard material and casting it in a new light. This is where Kali Tudo is its most successful and enlightening.

Work the angles -Saying among fighters and con men.
The brilliance of Kali Tudo isn't in the specific tools, it is in Denny's identification of a problem. Namely that few fighters work, or know how to work the angles. That is to say in the dueling situations found in boxing, thai boxing, and MMA fighters stand directly infront of one another in every exchange. They move, predictably back and forth, and occasionally circle. But in attack, they are quite linear in their approach.

Kali is about attacking on angles, and it has a system of foot work designed to achieve openings on angles. Some boxing gyms and other martial arts have similar footwork, but probably nothing that is so systematic. The whole of the Kali foot work is designed to take you out of range of, or off the line of, an opponents direct attack, while letting you crash in on an unprotected angle. Denny demonstrates, with the help of his assistants, how this footwork is used in empty hand applications (which are applicable in an MMA cage, or on the street). It is this material, and this understanding that really makes this series a cut above the average DVD on Kali empty hand fighting. The rest is icing on the cake (and it is very good icing).

For me this material exposed a stultifying linearity in my own approach to stand-up fighting that was a long time coming. I am small framed heavy weight, who trains striking with larger opponents. This has cultivated a certain counter-striker style in me. That is I tended to counter on the initiation, or during an opponents movement. I did't often lead because walking head on into the firing line didn't work well for me. I've never given much thought to the angles or how I might attack on them. So for me, Kali Tudo has been revolutionary. It has shown me how I might incorporate the footwork from my experience of Kali into to my empty hand fighting in deeply useful ways. It can probably do the same for you.

This first DVD in the series is easily a 10. Guro Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny is an articulate instructor, who has given a great deal of thought to the presentation of this material. The DVD is full of useful drills, and peppered with quality techniques you might not have seen before. Also its material on the unmatched lead (where you and your opponent are standing with opposite leads), and its angular attacks was worth the price of admission.
(clicking on the title of the blog will take interested parties to the Dog Brother's website)

A promo clip of Kali Tudo(tm) II

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