22
Jan
09

Way of the Blade- IKF August 2007

Inside Kung-Fu

Way of the Blade

ikf-august-20071By Addy Hernandez

August 2007

Pg. 24

My martial arts training began in the early summer of my 17th year. I was a bright-eyed, impressionable, high school senior ready to conquer the world. I wanted to leave my past behind and strive full throttle into the future. Paradoxically, fate had already intervened as my past and future were on a collision course in which my reality would be forever forged.

From the beginning, training with sifu Joseph Simonet was physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. Intuitively, he seemed to know my limitation – real or imagined. Sifu Simonet introduced me to several training methods. We boxed, grappled, weight-trained, ran, hiked and worked endless rounds of focus pad combinations. I learned aspects of wing chun, silat, kenpo, doce pares and Yang-style tai chi. Each art offered a unique and challenging expression of fighting dynamics. My passion for the martial arts was insatiable as several years of training ensued.

One day during a private lesson, sifu Simonet handed me a training blade and asked me to show him my knife fighting skills. I assured him , I didn’t know any knife fighting techniques or methods. “Actually, it’s everything you know,” he replied. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” I said. Unbeknown to me, sifu had specifically taught me techniques and methods of movements, which were translatable to knife application. My jurus from silat, my kenpo techniques, the stick drills, everything became knife. My astonishment soon turned into delight, as I realized edged weapons had already been an integral part of my life.

I was born in Mexico in 1976. I was just four years old when my mother died while giving birth to my baby sister. With five very young children, my father packed up and headed north to America in search of work in the orchards of Washington State.

My father is a hard-working man, proud of his craft and Mexican heritage. He grew his own vegetables and butchered livestock to feed his family. Of all the children, I was the one who did not shy from the process of butchering our animals. Very early on, I would learn the skills by watching my father kill, skin, gut and clean animals. For me using an ax, knife and machete became a natural and necessary part of growing up. I would cut off the head of chickens using an ax and then clean and bone them with the sharpest knife my father owned. I have cut up rabbits, pigs, turkeys, deer and even a bear. It was not unusual to see my father and me side by side cutting down alfalfa and corn stocks with a machete. The use of edged tools has always been a part of my Mexican culture.

Growing up, I wanted to be like all the “American kids.” Being young and immature, I was sometimes embarrassed that we slaughtered our animals for food. Now, as a woman and martial artist, I have come to appreciate my heritage with pride and renewed respect.

It was when I was six or seven that I first witnessed an underground Mexican pastime –cockfighting. During harvest every fall my father would hire dozens of workers to pick apples. This was a time of excitement as well as long, hard hours in the orchard. At night the men would gather to drink, play music and gamble on cockfights. The scene of men gathered around a circle of rope yelling and cheering during these cockfights is both surreal and vivid. These vicious rituals would often end with dead or several injured roosters.

Unfortunately, there were some mean who would cheat to win at any cost. In cockfighting, the cheaters would secretly attach thin razors to the cock’s feet, which of course would destroy its opponent by slashing it into a bloody mess. On one particular night, the crowd was loud and frenzied. Apparently, two cheaters had been caught. In punishment, they were forced to arm each rooster with razors and fight. Here I was, a young girl, witnessing a vicious reality of contesting with blades. My recollection of the night ended in chaos, spurting blood and yelling men.

The next day, I asked my father about the cheaters and the fighting, “Papa, I don’t understand. Who was the winner of the fight?” In a somber voice my father replied, “Hija, in a real cockfight with blades – the winner is the second one who dies.”

Through my father and our culture’s necessity to survive, killing and cutting up animals taught me respect in the blade and a strong value for life. Through sifu Simonet and my passion in the martial arts, I understand the lethality of bladework through osmosis and practical self-defense application. The philosophy of these two men has merged and allowed me to forge my own way of the blade.

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