The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, June 23, 2008

Great Weekend

My air conditioning is out, Tananarive is gone for a week, and Jason was a screaming fury this morning 'cause I wouldn't let him wear his wheelie shoes to preschool. I am also bone-deep tired. And...I'm REALLY happy. This was a great weekend.

Cliff Stewart conducted his annual "Camp of the Masters" event, where some of his extremely high-level friends: Dennis Newsome (Capoeira and Jailhouse Rock), Kalindi (African martial arts), Graciela Cassilas (Filipino knife and stick, kickboxing--Graciela is arguably the world's premier female martial artist), Ron Chapel (Kenpo...but like you've never seen it before), and grandmaster Steve Mohammad (my first real karate instructor. Almost seventy years old and absolutely magnificent) all came together for a three-day butt-kicking extravaganza. The heat in the valley was about 110 degrees, but we bucked up and handled it.

And one of the most fun things was that Wesley Snipes was there. Thank God for expensive lawyers, eh? He might be able to get extensions and continuances on his sentence for a decade, or until they can work out a deal.

Anyway, I not only had a chance to observe him, but on Sunday (finally!) I had a chance to work out with him. A lot. Some observations:

1) There were several very long-time martial artists in the workshop. Some with third-degree black belts and higher. Wesley moved with similar authority.

2) His balance and fluidity of movement were excellent. Energy management--excellent. Very self-contained. Gracious, but really just wanted to be treated like another guy working out.

3) He is creative in flow. Adapts well. His mat navigation skills were excellent---when thrown, he rolls and flows out of it like someone with a LOT of hard, precise training under his belt.

4) Fast and strong. This guy has obviously worked for many years with a variety of VERY high-level instructors. This is one very educated nervous system.

5) And ya'll are wondering--what was it actually like to work with him? We didn't spar, but we did improvise together. We worked knife, stick, and empty hands, and threw each other around the mat with great gusto. At the level we were playing, we could deal with each other's improvisations, and had great fun.

6) Overall? I'd say we're looking at a natural athlete with an extensive dancing background who has had the wealth, leisure time and motivation to hire the very best instructors in the country if not the world, as well as spend countless hours with professional stuntmen working on his films. I know he has spent lotsa time with Sijo Grandmaster Mohammad--"crossing hands with Pops" (I asked Wes about this years ago and he said that Sijo (which means "creator of his own legitimate system) had taken his game to a whole different level. The man is for real, a martial artist who can spontaneously pull from about a dozen different arts, under stress. He has VERY serious focus (in some ways he didn't loosen up until the last day) and it was just too damn much fun.


My only complaint: for reasons I'm not quite sure of, the instructors LOVED to demonstrate on me. God, I'm sore. And happy.


mjholt said...

Sounds like it was a great weekend. You are probably used in these demonstrations because they read your website.

Good on you for forbidding those wheelie shoes at school.

Anonymous said...

Training with high level masters AND with a Hollywood celebrity?

You must have had a blast Steve.

Steve Perry said...

What is it, uh, they call the guy they demonstrate on?

Isn't it the um, *dummy... ?*