Argentina: Sensei On The Road

When the lion gets old, the monkeys try to pull his tail… Many times, I had to put younger students in their place – those who judge me, but couldn’t handle half of what I have survived. Teaching Martial Arts is a mission that doesn’t get easier with age and with time, I gradually close and cut my circle through understanding that the smaller the circle, the less you need to worry about snakes and rats. At the same time, I push my students and instructors to try, always try – don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to have tried in the first place. Martial Arts is a life time study and no one way is always right. You learn nothing from life if you think you’re right all the time. Over the years, I’ve seen how many times people say they can’t or they can and it all comes down to your will and spirit, as the saying goes “Whether you think you can or you can’t you’re right.”

My journey of Sensei on the Road started many years back as I never stopped traveling and studying while at times also teaching. It takes me back to the war in 1982 as I saw how many eyes were lost in the dark. To see this transformation is the most beautiful thing in the world, watching the light come on in someone’s eyes when they have been lost in the dark for so long. This is something you can’t put a price on, bringing this light back into lives again, whether they are human or animals. Even by saving a stray cat or dog, you will notice how the eyes light up once someone reaches down into the darkness to bring them into the light.

In my recent trip to Argentina, it was great to see so many students and teachers brought back into the light through training after so much time being locked down with Covid restrictions and regulations. This helped raise me up and bring some light back into my life, as we see things going back to normal and the distance that separated us being forgotten during the seminar. While the travel isn’t always easy, the reward of seeing so many eyes filled with light and joy was worth it.

When I landed in Buenos Aires, I met with two old friends, Sensei Maximo Sanchez and Fabian Garcia, who have been with me so long on this Martial Arts Journey, from Kapap Krav Maga to BJJ and Mobility Survival to Army skills training, a total of nearly 20 years. It’s as we say, “Blood makes us related, but Loyalty makes us family” and we shared so many travels to Chile, Brazil, Amazon, Patagonia. It was a wonderful experience to be able to see so many familiar faces from my teams from Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, even though we missed some members that could not make it due to ongoing Covid issues.

There is a saying “No man ever steps in the same river twice. For it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” and is same for the river of Martial Arts. When we started our journey almost 20 years ago, many things have changed… some students passed away, even during my visit we lost another great soul, but it’s part of the circle of life. Some students have changed and many old students who we continuously training, such as Marcelino who was like a step son for me since he was a child, and now he is Shihan Santi Garcia. It’s wonderful to see such talent flourish in a martial artist who was my Uke for so many years.  

To teach is to study and explore and during my time studying Argentinean and South American culture we learned so much. From the drink chimarrão or cimarrón, which is known as Mate as well as the Gaucho, the nomadic and colorful horsemen and cowhands of the Argentine and Uruguayan Pampas (grasslands), who flourished from the mid-18th to the mid-19th century and has remained a folk hero similar to the cowboy in western North America. We hosted a traditional Gaucho at our camp to teach and explain and demonstrate his art and culture and we let students spar in the traditional Gaucho ways.  

We started traveling at first light and set a big fire to bring light and spirit to the training, followed by “Kapap-oeira” where we take mobility and dance from Capoeira and fuse it with the rhythm and fighting movements that I picked up during my time teaching in Angola. We studied breaking the rhythm mid flow with half beat movements as tactics in a fight while letting all the students explore and study so many mobility and acrobatic moves and drills to improve their body control. All day we studied different training that ended at midnight with a paramedic class to share first aid, as many who carry a gun or a knife don’t know how to dress wounds that they may need to cause in combat, which is a critical component of being a responsible Martial Artist.

In the near future, we will share a few more articles from our travels to South America, as Kyoshi  Fabian Garcia  has also served as a Sensei on the Road for so many years and can share so many stories from his experience.