----- Original Message -----
From: "Benjamin Ford" <benjamin_ford@yahoo.com>
To: <chasclements@comcast.net>
Sent: Tuesday, March 02, 2004 2:36 PM
Subject: Greetings


> G'dy Chas, long time no hear.
>
> I'm the Australian guy that's bought a few tapes from
> you over the last few years; studies Chinese medicine.
>
> I'm nearly finished study and I'm ready to get back on with things.
>
> A training buddy of mine asked me some questions about
> the material on the tapes I have. As I was ordering
> the material in my head, I realised that for the
> effort I was going to I might as well write it down.
> This dovetailed nicely with something else I've been
> wanting to do for a while: write some good reviews and
> post it to rma.
>
> I'm a bit over the trolls who impugn you and Steve
> (and the system) with regularity but who never
> investigate it. I just want to balance out the public
> opinion thing a bit. If it helps even one person to
> learn something, it's been worthwhile.
>
> So here's the review. It's long, it's a first draft,
> and I'd appreciate it if you could correct any errors
> I might have made, and make any pertinent suggestions
> - 'cause you've got a ripper writing style.
>
> Cheers,
>
> Benjamin
>
> =======================================================
> As I've been enjoying the benefits of these fine
> gentlemen's tapes for a few years now, I thought I'd
> demonstrate a little civil gratitude and step up and
> put in my two cents in support of their fine work. I
> admit to being a whole hearted supporter of their
> endeavours, but it's because I spent time, money and
> effort in the search.
>
> I understand that not a lot has changed and that
> they're still attracting their fair share of critics
> and detractors. I find it unusual to say the least
> that people can be so critical without doing anything
> to research their criticism. Buying one of their
> videotapes would be a very simple and cheap way of
> doing so. I would not be surprised if the gentlemen in
> question would send you a tape at cost if you were
> genuine in reviewing their activities. I say this as
> someone who lives very far from these men. Individuals
> who live in the same country, let alone the same
> state, rapidly lose credibility if they don't make a
> genuine effort. Certainly their lives and even their
> homes are open to the genuine student.
>
> If some of the boobs who flame them here actually went
> to the trouble of having a look at them, they'd
> probably end up eating their own words. Then again,
> maybe not. Worms don't have the eyes to see a real
> man. Because that's what you're dealing with here.
> They're the real deal. I've been to seminars with
> individuals considered to be world class martial
> artists, top of the range. These guys are this good,
> and are often better than far more famous individuals
> with better developed skills at self promotion than
> bone breaking.
>
> I've found Chas Clements and Steve Gartin to be
> paragons of moral virtue. I would ask you to read that
> sentence again and really pay attention to my words. I
> mean every one of them with no substitution or
> deletion. They have unfailingly demonstrated the
> highest standards of conduct, matched only by their
> wisdom and experience, neither of which was arrived at
> without personal loss. They have been equally generous
> with this wealth of knowledge. Nothing will be held
> from you except where it could impair your learning.
> Knowing too much can be a bad thing. The conscious
> mind is often not the target of teaching in real
> combat arts.
>
> Chas in particular has been generous with his time and
> advice. I've found him to be prompt and unusually
> honest in business dealings. The only time he delayed
> mailing an item was when he was quite seriously
> unwell. On one occasion he sent me the wrong tape.
> When I informed him and offered to return the tape
> before he sent out the proper one he insisted I keep
> the extra tape while he mailed out the original order
> entirely at his own expense.
>
> You don't meet too many people like this in a life.
> Take notice and treasure it while you have the
> opportunity to do so.
>
> General thoughts
>
> As good as these tapes are, they are not for
> everybody. If you compete to win trophies, participate
> in one step, light or no contact sparring, or practice
> for maximum aesthetic appeal....these tapes are not
> for you.
>
> If on the other hand you train in classic or reality
> oriented martial arts, or if your interest is
> restricted solely to health, then you'll find a mine
> of riches. Like a mine, the rewards are proportional
> to how hard you look, and how hard you're prepared to
> work.
>
> You'll probably get the most out of these tapes if you
> have a background in a solid Shaolin or neijia school,
> more common SE Asian arts and the odd koryu. It also
> helps if you're body isn't too beat up, although these
> tapes show action from all sorts of folk, ranging from
> super conditioned athletic types to mobility-impaired
> older people. Reasonable physical condition enables
> you to undertake a wider variety of the choreography
> and tactics presented but is not required for getting
> your money's worth.
>
> Note that these are not tapes produced by one of the
> big outfits like Paladin or Panther. As they say,
> though, they are produced by and for serious martial
> artists. So don't expect multiple angles (except when
> the cameraman gets up and moves it), voice overs and
> the like.
>
> In general I've found the tapes by senior Western
> students to be a little easier to understand than
> those produced by their Eastern teachers. Pak Vic has
> been the exception. This is not to say that they are
> not worthwhile - just that you have to a dig a little
> deeper to get to the treasure. It's worth the effort.
>
> A little about me
>
> My father was a heavyweight boxer from a poor area
> near the docks in Liverpool, England. My formal
> martial training began at age 18 with a Japanese
> koryu. After seven years in this system, I left to
> pick up the study of the neijia. My main experience in
> this area has been old Yang style taiji with one of
> Erle Montaigue's senior students. I've also picked up
> some entry level pakua and hsingi, and some capoeira
> Angola, along the way. I'm currently a practitioner of
> traditional Chinese medicine although I used to be a
> professional in the IT industry. I have some
> familiarity with Astanga yoga, various schools of
> meditation and chi kung. I don't claim to be an expert
> or an authority, but following Musashi I hope I have
> some small skill in learning to discern value even in
> small things. I may not be the biggest ass kicker on
> the block, but I have kept my eyes open and paid
> attention over the years. I like to think it's given
> me some perspective.
>
> With a couple of exceptions I've managed to avoid
> serious assault. Companions and training partners with
> less luck, more testosterone, or more confrontational
> occupations, have furnished me with ample opportunity
> to compare notes on real world problems and
> ramifications. These have ranged from psych nurses,
> police officers (including undercover narcotics
> officers), soldiers with close quarter combat
> experience, corrections officers, security personnel
> and some gentlemen from the wrong side of the tracks
> who shall remain anonymous.
>
> Knife Seminar 1
>
> The first tape I bought from these fine gents. Not a
> bad choice, although for a first exposure Djuru Satu
> is probably better. This is a seminar delivered by
> Willem de Thouars to the students (I believe) of a TKD
> or hapkido school. Consequently, close quarters armed
> combat is probably not their forte although their
> dedication and willingness is absolutely commendable.
> Steve Gartin is presumably behind the camera.
>
> Most of the material is about defending empty handed
> against the knife. As Uncle Bill explains, knife on
> knife encounters in the real world are rare. Most
> knife assaults occur from ambush, or at least from a
> position of some surprise. You also have to have your
> own knife handy. If not, then it's hand or stick or
> chair or whatever to knife. You get the idea. A
> variety of common attacks culled from Bill's training
> and experience are shown and defended against.
>
> But sticking a knife into an unsuspecting target isn't
> what you came here for. You signed on to learn how to
> prevent yourself from getting stuck. So where's the
> good stuff?
>
> Happily, there's a lot of it. The responses range from
> the simple to the sophisticated (but still elegant).
> Variations and subtleties of the different approaches
> are shown. A little discernment will identify a number
> of possible drills. There is a lot to be picked up
> here, but the best rewards do not come through casual
> viewing. You are not being spoon-fed. A careful and
> discerning eye will reveal (and reward you with) much.
> Particularly worthwhile are the instances where Bill's
> careful positioning and bodily alignment results in a
> display of surprising power.
>
> Uncle Bill may take some getting used to if you're not
> familiar with older people from different cultures.
> His accent and mindset may take a while to get used
> to. If that's the case ignore the audio and watch his
> body. You'll learn more. Bill's physical movement
> ranges from 20 yr old athlete to rickety old fella.
> This can be disconcerting if you don't know what
> you're watching. You're seeing a man who's paid for
> his excellence with the integrity of his own body.
> You're also seeing the deep body awareness and mind
> control resulting from that excellence lifting him to
> heights of physical performance he should not be
> capable of given his physical limitations.
>
> Djuru Satu
>
> One of the tapes (along with HMK and the Warm Up Set)
> which the guys use as a comprehensive introduction to
> their arts. If you haven't seen any silat before, this
> is the place to start. I had already seen Stevan
> Plinck's Paladin tape (which you should also get,
> along with his two new privately published tapes) so I
> had some idea of what was going on.
>
> To my mind, one of the most important things about
> studying this tape is that you see so many different
> practices and styles of practice arising out of the
> one form. Why? Why is this important? If you want to
> have a think about it or are uninterested in my
> thoughts, then skip the next paragraph.
>
> The first and most important thing about seeing the
> same choreography being done in so many ways is that
> it should be obvious that the specific movements
> themselves are not the most important thing. The
> principles are. Even if you don't intellectually
> understand this, then by repetition your nasty little
> reptile brain will. Then your body will follow.
>
> So what do you get: you get Djuru Satu as chi kung;
> subtleties of the form; many different applications;
> you get to see it done by masters, senior teachers,
> both senior and junior students; see it done with a
> knife (if you're smarter than me, you might see the
> knife change hands); see it done different ways.
>
> I feel I need to expand on the subtleties and
> applications.
>
> Subtleties re the things that will save your life in a
> tight spot. If this doesn't mean much to you then read
> on ahead. To me a subtlety is what they call secrets
> in other arts. It's that little additional layer of
> detail that magnifies the effect or efficiency of a
> tactic or motion. It's what keeps you from being
> gutted by a 220 lbs biker hiding in a closet with a
> big Bowie knife when you're executing a search warrant
> (as happened to an old training buddy of mine). It's
> the art of getting out of the path of that blade, then
> putting enough hurt on the man behind it that he is no
> longer a threat to you, your friends, or your family.
>
> The applications are many and varied. They range from
> the obvious to the "You know, I don't think I ever
> would have thought of that" cases. They are all,
> universally, concise, efficient and effective. A
> number of them are so surprising I was left thinking
> "Yep, if they pulled that one on me, I'd be dead now".
> Sobering and salutary.
>
> All in all, this is the most exhaustive approach to a
> training method that I think I've ever seen (only Erle
> Montaigue to my knowledge does more, but he's got a
> family to feed. I also think they'd send me to sleep
> if I wasn't watching them with a training group). The
> only thing more surprising is that Guru Gartin has so
> much, I hear he's planning to release a second volume.
> Bring it on brother!
>
> Heartless Monkey Knife
>
> I thought I knew a bit about a knife. I did, but a lot
> of it wasn't one tenth as good as this. As being a
> very appropriate weapon for this time and my place (as
> compared to a sword, crossbow or musket) I'd put quite
> a bit of time and energy into knife training. Please,
> it wasn't the ninja command death dealer in the
> shadows sort of thing. Just good solid knife training.
>
> Then I watched this tape and I knew without a shadow
> of a doubt that this was the really real thing. These
> guys had a depth and range of knife lore that far
> surpassed anything in my prior experience. I wasn't a
> newbie or a moron. It's just that these guys and what
> they have is so good.
>
> What you get: some more defenses against the blade
> (FWIW, I liked these better than Knife 1); various
> principles or attitudes towards knife fighting; a
> range of grips and tactics; discussion of various
> knife types; discussion of anatomical targets and
> considerations when cutting; manipulation of the
> knife; defending against a knife attack empty handed,
> then deploying and using your own knife.
>
> A real stand out on this tape is the two knife
> kembangan performed by Steve Gartin. Startling as it
> is, it segues into an empty hand performance that
> spans Shaolin, hsingi, pakua, and a few silat styles.
> That's what I noticed. Maybe you'll pick up more.
>
> Unless you're Dan Inosanto, you'll probably find
> something new and interesting here.
>
> Warm-up Set
>
> Speaking of Dan Inosanto, this tape is basically a
> compilation put together by Bill De Thouars and his
> seniors as a demo for him.
>
> The tape starts off with Uncle Bill going through his
> background in somewhat exhaustive detail. This is
> important in the context: Bill is giving hormat and
> adat to his teachers.
>
> Bill gets the ball rolling by demonstrating one of the
> 200 or so forms he knows. This is one of the first he
> learnt, a quite karate looking kick/punch kuntao form.
> The really tasty spin to this basic looking set
> consists of the sophisticated applications Bill
> derives from it. He also demonstrates some Tjimande, a
> kuntao knife form, some bagua, as well as a number of
> applications derived from the forms displayed. The
> seniors in the form of Steve Gartin and Chas Clements
> also have their turn in the spotlight.
>
> For me, it's the performances of the students that
> particularly impress. It's been said that to judge the
> strength of a teacher, look at his senior students.
> These practitioners are very strong indeed. A
> groundfighting form, a kuntao tiger form, a longer
> combined kuntao/silat form, push hands, all with their
> accompanying applications are put on exhibition. A
> number of drills are shown, and a number more could be
> derived from scrutiny of the material presented.
>
> Legwork Seminar 1
>
> Another Bill de Thouars seminar, this time a big group
> at a karate school. As the name implies this tape
> focuses on lower body maneuvers. A lot is covered
> here. Silat and kuntao have lots of ways of putting
> you on your butt.
>
> There are numerous examples, applications, and drills.
> Sources range from the very Indonesian to pakua circle
> walking. There is a long chi kung set towards the end,
> and a senior student demos a couple of forms.
>
> Overall, there's a lot on this tape. It's a long one,
> about two hours. The only flaw is that while Bill is
> explaining things to the class the audio is a bit low,
> making it hard to make it out just what is being said.
> I guess it's time to just look where their feet are.
>
> I understand that Steve Gartin has done a new legwork
> tape so that's probably the way to go.