fifth family gathering held in Northglenn, Colorado was truly a deThouars
family affair. It remains one of the premier martial events in the world,
bringing experienced teachers and 'players' from throughout the world.
This time, another of the deThouars amazing blood family.
who is Willem's younger brother taught also. Victor at 58 has
the playfulness of a teenager, but one who can break baseball
bats on his shins.
was never a doubt this was a family affair with Joyce and Vicki
deThouars taking care of the organization and all the necessary
nitty-gritty to make this kind of event happen. Joyce had even
made her basement into a bunkhouse. The backyard and dog run from
early in the week was the venue for early arrivals to check each
other out and exchange developments in training.
was never a doubt this was a family affair with Joyce and Vicki deThouars
taking care of the organization and all the necessary nitty-gritty to
make this kind of event happen. Joyce had even made her basement into
a bunkhouse. The backyard and dog run from early in the week was the
venue for early arrivals to check each other out and exchange developments
this event was held in suburban Denver but it could just as well been
a training hall in an earlier century in China, Indonesia, or Japan.
Friday night of the first weekend in October the insanity at the
deThouars house had reached the usual peak of frenzy. The common
language for 'nieces' and nephews from Europe, Scandinavia, South
and Central America, Mexico and Asia was martial good-fellowship.
(Perhaps next year Africa will be represented). As usual people
drove and flew from all over the lower 48 states.
Gathering took over the Northglenn Rec Center. It's one and one-half
stories being at this bit of suburbia's epicenter sourrounded
by a lake and plenty of parkland.
the only risky part of the gathering was when negotiating six laned
streets and one freeway that were totally lacking in sidewalks but rendered
navigable with six second pedestrian lights!
six 'stations' this year that we rotated through in groups.
Victor deThouars (Maurice who teaches in Holland couldn't at the last
moment, attend) aided by powerful and energetic Joe Simonet, offered
his personal take on the Indonesian arts with his very direct and explosive
Serak. It seemed to me to have Hsing I's energy and direct line. For
the first time I got a little understanding of Silat related arts' slight
incline of the body. Joe proved to all interested that this body structure
with entrances at a straight line, but inclined, work every time. I
think the only question might be about the wear and tear through the
years on the practitioner.
station-working clockwise-was of David Champ's Tai Chi. It is amazing
that this formidable family, famous for it's combative arts, included
two Tai Chi 'stations' and one of Pa Kua! In fact that was one of the
understandings I brought home, that at the present stage of Willem's
cultivation of his 'backyard' he is encouraging the cross pollination
of the Chinese internal arts with his Kun Tao Silat, not to mention
his unique grasp of primordial energy and primary movement. David Champ's
Tai Chi, with a bit of Philippine sticks thrown in, reminded me of the
beneficial manipulation of the skeletal structure that cooperative 'joint
hands' can accomplish. This practice also is conducive to the natural
evocation of 'root' and the 'energy body'. Root is best sought out when
competition is reduced to the bare minimum.
Kurt Baker who started Tai Chi at age 14 on the Mendicino coast with
that group known to some as 'Uncle Bill's Irregulars' and who traveled
to Taiwan with them in 1996 now continues to improve under the tutelage
Welsh provided the Pa Kua input, constantly reminding us of the similarities
and derivations from Willem's Kun Tao. This was most recognizable in
his small circle Pa Kua, with it's orbiting almost in place, recognizable
in Uncle's entrances where he spirals this way and then that way from
the point of interception, torturing all the way into the body.
Tai Chi station was next and Don in every way has brought Tai Chi to
show its practical face in Willem's energy expressions. His modification
of short Yang Tai Chi postures has monkey energy and Willem's electrical
explosiveness. He manifests 'sticking' energy with two-person knife
work. Don reminded us that Tai Chi is an energy system (chi kung) that
has withstood the test of time. He had us repeat postures with the understanding
that multiple, multiple repetitions created energy and martial understanding
of that posture and its historical variation. Just like Tai Chi swordplay,
Don's 'sticking' drills, taught the quick shuffle run of lion pacing
with it's rooting qualities even at tempo (the weighted foot being directly
under the center line). This work is also aerobic but most importantly
it teaches soft, conscious stepping-like a cat.
we were at Uncle's place of business. While whatever he did varied from
group to group I came away with the overwhelming feeling of the reality
of 'transmission'. He invites the players he works with to make discoveries
and innovations within the parameters of their individual training and
in each person finding his or her own way creates an energy and gratitude
that must be the feeling of that historically ambiguous word; "transmission".
It is amazing
the escalation of personal ability when working around Willem (rather
than self-consciousness). I even myself did, at his request, part of
a form with total absorption for the first time in my life. I think
Bear Roberts' development proves the point-because of his distance he
is unable to train regularly with Uncle. Of course Willem's 'bangers'
(Chuck, Keith, Phillip, et al) tend to hang out at his work place so
that 'players' can riff of the prescribed moves-Luiz, Matt and more.
station was that of Andre Knustgraichen. I think the lasting memory
of his teaching was that of the effectiveness of passing the knife from
hand to hand taught with rhythm aided by his senior, Paul. When this
has been drilled into the subconscious-it works.
much of the meaning of Willem's gatherings was in forming and renewing
friendships. And I think a lot of us felt that especially much this
was also the off-court study of martial principle (and sometimes
simply energy principles). I remember particularly working late
at night with Steven Taraggo and Frank Broadhead exchanging insights
on the principles of rooting and of vibrating palm. Steven uses
Willem's vibrating palm for every single strike, even including
it on oneself as Chi Kung or preceding an outward-bound strike for
how important it was to hit like the hand was a wet towel-not too much
intention and not too hard. That is what makes the neurological effect
of this strike so surprising. Steve Buck says that if you practice on
your own thigh by just letting the forearm fall and it produces a serious
sting "you've probably got it." Both Steve Buck and Steven Tarrago practice
on trees or logs.