Dog Brothers Gathering – a newbies experience
This forum certainly doesn’t need another pro-Dog Brother fanboy post, but you are going to get it anyway.
A little background:
My first exposure to FMA was in 2000 finding a $3 VHS tape called “Stick vs. Other Weapons” in the martial arts section at the local used book store, as it turned out it was the last video of the original “Real Contact Stick Fighting” series. After seeing that vid, one of my Kenpo training partners and I split the cost of the rest of the series from Panther. Money well spent and it undoubtedly colored my perception of FMA from that time on. We trained fairly regularly off of those tapes with “Power” and “Footwork” being the ones we focused the most on. After that I spent several years trying to find FMA instruction, complicated by the fact that I was spending most of my year living in Wyoming, not exactly a FMA mecca. I spent about 6 months with a Serrada instructor, and while I really tried to empty my cup, my thoughts kept coming back to “how would this work with in a Dog Brothers fight?” Eventually we hooked up with a PTK instructor out of SLC, and it just felt right, probably because our basics were based on Eric Knaus’ movement. Through PTK circles I kept running into people who had been to Gatherings, guys who went once, guys who were candidates, guys were full Dogs, and a guy who was an original Dog Brother. And for the last several years I had this nagging “you have to go do this” thought crossing my mind every September. This year the money and timing finally worked out, and I so spent last weekend in LA at the 2013 Open Gathering, some 13 years after finding that first video tape.
The couple of weeks running up the Gathering were a bit odd, getting on the DB Facebook page and forum and basically saying “hey I’m a first timer, anyone wanna fight?” Having no idea about how experienced your opponent(s) are or if they are in a completely different weight class than you makes any preparation a bit problematic, and provides a little of that fear of the unknown as you move toward the event.
Once at the Gathering it was clear that lots of people knew each other, but it wasn’t clannish, as Ben (my training partner and fellow first timer) said, “everybody is really friendly.” I spent the hour before the fight chatting with other guys, trying to figure who I had scheduled fights against, and just watching the other guys who I recognized from various highlight reels. Somewhere in that hour I thought to myself “Am I hungry?” Ah, no that would be the nerves kicking in….
Something that, quite frankly, hasn’t happened in the last several years of running my Kali training group. I don’t fear my students, some of them are very good fighters, but I know them too well, I don’t know these other fighters here, I don’t know their games. And that is exactly why I am here.
The knife fights held the usual approaches, fighters who traded too much to highly technical duelists. What stood out to me was the use of kicks by some fighters, something I don’t usually work. My first fight was a group knife fight which was exactly the chaotic bloodbath that I expected. A good warmup, and a fun beginning for the day. My memories of the remaining four stick and stick y daga fights are a group of almost static images or at most little vignettes. I would love to see video of what I actually did, as I was too adrenalized to be a good witness, but the various standout moments were something like:
“Stack him and don’t let him get the armbar and…. Hey look there is knife on the ground right next to his head, that could be useful.”
“Crap this guy is tall, his range is ridiculous.”
Wham! *staggers to right about 4 feet* “Move head, head movement, move!”
“OK, I just hit him really hard, why doesn’t it doesn’t look like it bothered him?”
“How did he grab my stick? He is supposed to have a knife in that hand, where did his knife go? Ow, ow, ow, close, close, close!”
“And now he does have a knife in that hand…”
Wham! *after a getting thrown by a great seio nage* “Sounds like the crowd liked that.”
Wham! “What the hell was that? A spinning backhand pakal knife attack? Well, too ridiculous to work twice.” Wham! “Dammit!”
Anyway, what impressed me the most was the attitude of the fighters. Everything I had heard about the camaraderie and the approach of the fighters was what I had hoped for and what I saw. So often with fighters the ego comes into play, be it a roll on the mat or a frickin’ point sparring match, I didn’t see a bit of it on Sunday. Impressive. Thank you to Jun, Gibby, Rich, and Tim for the fights. I went home with a list of things to work on and some inspiration for next year. Thanks to Crafty and all the others who arranged the event, it was certainly one of the highlights of my martial arts experience. I’ll be back next year for a new experience, and I will do my best to bring some friends.