New guy seeking advice/opinions on a potential kali school.
(it's the "kali" page, information on the instructor is towards the bottom of the page)
Has anyone heard anything (good or bad) about this John Helton? I recognize Mr. Inosanto's name (from my casual fanboy knowledge of the martial arts) -- is that certification worth as much as I'd hope, in terms of credibility for this instructor?
Ignoring for the moment the school's main page/sensei, does it seem like these kali classes in particular would be worth attending?
I don't know anything about John Helton specifically, but I am an instructor under Guro Inosanto and am familiar with the organization.
Mr. Helton is not listed as an active instructor on the website:
That doesn't mean he's not knowledgeable or that he wasn't promoted when he says he was. It just means that he has not continued the training up to the present time. He says on the website that he was promoted to apprentice instructor in 1984, but doesn't list anything after that.
The way Guro Inosanto's Association works currently you are accepted as an apprentice instructor (you stay there for 5 or 6 years), then associate (5 or 6), then senior associate (3/4?), then full instructor (5?), then senior full instructor. If Mr. Helton was promoted to apprentice and discontinued his training shortly thereafter he is not going to know all of the components of the system, especially since Guro Inosanto adds things to it and changes it.
At this point, the best way for you to get a sense of Mr. Helton as an instructor is to watch him teach a class or take a trial class. You may want to ask him about his training history with Guro Inosanto, like the last time he trained with Guro Inosanto or if he's been out to LA to train with him. With an association as large as Guro Inosanto's and people at different levels of instructorship, you need to check the individuals more closely to see how long and how intensely they've been training.
You can't just rely on the instructorship itself as a guarantee of high quality training, you need to see the person perform the art. I hope that helps.
Thanks for the suggestion, I think that's what I'm going to end up doing (giving them a phone call to arrange a visit). Unfortunately I really don't know what to look for (having very very little previous martial arts experience). I've read over a few of the FAQs/pointers here on Bullshido, but as far as me trying to know how skilled this guy is from watching him, I'm just gonna be out of luck.
Oh well. I'll give 'em a ring and swing by next week, I guess. Wish me luck! ;)
Originally Posted by Critias
During warm-up, are they swinging from the arm, or with their whole body(at the very least from the hips)?
Do they maintain their feet during two-man drills, or fluctuate range and angle around one another?
Is the footwork linear or angular?
Do all the drills done in a single class stress a commonality of motion? Or are you doing a set of unrelated movments?
Well, I had a phone call with the owner/head teacher yesterday, and got a few of my questions answered and that sort of thing. I'm going to try and swing by tonight to check out their Kali class. From what I heard, I'm feeling pretty positive. I like that it's all done in street clothes, I like that the instructor integrates things he's learned from other styles into it (Jeet Kun Do, a little Krav Maga), I like that the classes are only 5-6 students strong. I very much like that a membership is only $40 a month if all you're doing is Kali classes ($80 for their Okinawan whatever-stuff, $100 for both).
I'm a little leery that they ask for three months up front, but from what I've seen here on Bullshido that's not very out of the ordinary, and it doesn't seem like a very long contract from what I've heard (it's not a year or two years or some "black belt down payment" or whatever). Should any sort of prepayment be a warning sign?
If I can make it up there this evening, I'll try to keep an eye out for all the things you mentioned, selfcritical.
Cool. Let me know what you see. If there's a mission statement of "this is the skillset we teach through kali" let us hear what that is too.
Well, I forgot all about some stuff I had to do (like go to my wife's nursing school graduation, which has been on the calendar for months) last week, so I wasn't able to swing by last Friday to watch their Kali class. I made it up there tonight, though, and liked what I saw.
I had a little trouble finding the place (and, working third shift, I'd completely forgotten to factor in traffic for 7 pm on a Friday night), so I missed out on the beginning of class (the instructor told me they just did a few stretches to limber up, then went through the motions of a couple small 2-3 hit routines for a few minutes). When I showed up they were paired off, and practicing...a three-hit routine that I already forgot the name of. Swinging from right to left, it was right high, left low, then right backswing. Then left high, right low, left backswing. Repeat, repeat, repeat, still just sort of limbering up, back and forth.
Then switched to hands only after that, repeating the same flowing back-and-forth (gah, I can't believe I forgot the name in just a few hours) but open hand, now. One or two students were trying to stay back at stick-distance and just tap fingertips, and the teacher was quick to tell them they'd need to be closer than that.
They switched to stick-and-hand after that. I sort of lucked out, there was a student there for whom this was just her second session, and the chair I'd picked was close to where they were going over stuff with her (so I was able to listen in and watch a few of the very basics). He went through number one and number two attacks (which looked to me like just a right to left, and a backswing), and then a few blocks (parrying with the stick, then using your open hand to trap the hand (or elbow, depending on the swing), and add to the block, to feed into a few counters or disarms.
They spent some time doing a number one swing, then bringing the stick around behind and using it as a sort of fulcrum/leverage point to strip the other guy's stick -- he showed them three or four combos you could do from there (inside the guy's guard and with both sticks now yours), and the students just kind of took their pick and did what worked for them from a few of those. I liked (from my newbie's standpoint) that he did just the swing, then the swing and the open hand block, then the disarm, and just kept adding one step at a time and having them practice it a few times.
One student just did an almost rapier-looking jab towards the face instead of any of the strikes they were shown, which the instructor said was fine if it was what worked for him. I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a good sign or not, but to ME I took it as something positive; the teacher followed the logic that if the tip of your stick was that close to someone's face anyhow, going the "shortest distance" and just skewering them with it instead of swinging it around was okay.
I'm not sure as to the practicality of that sort of "parry with the stick, block with the hand, bring your stick around, bring your hand up, strip the weapon from him, then strike" being taught -- I don't mean that as an insult or a doubter's comment, but to my wholly untrained self it seemed like an awful lot of steps to expect someone to stand still and wait for (from where I was sitting I didn't see the instructor or do it full speed to show if it could be done very quickly, I have to assume so)... but I guess I just liked that he was fine with that sort of improvisation.
Anyways, I couldn't stick around for real long -- I was only there about thirty minutes or so, then I got a phone call summoning me to work early. I liked what I saw, though. Only the very newest student ever stood still (and she was coached about it) -- everyone else was very active using their hips and stepping into their swings, turning around and trying to control the centerline, shifting their facing and distance.
I remember seeing the isntructor, five or six times, reminding them that some of these strikes would work differently with blades than with sticks (at one point he made a sawing motion to remind them that that disarm, in particular, would be different with something sharp), but that overall the basic motions would be the same. They switched from two sticks to open hand, to one stick (in just the time I was there), but he stressed that the motions of each were roughly the same, just that the ranges and strength needed would be different.
So, anyhow. There's my rambling, possibly incoherent review, coming from a newbie's eye-view. I wish I'd gotten there before class to talk to the guy a little more, or been able to stay later and chat with him afterwards. I liked what I saw, though, and I figure for $40 a month it'll be worth going back (and signing up).
Last edited by Critias; 7/21/2007 3:21am at .
So sounds like a pretty middle of the road school, pretty standard stuff, nothing that would set off any alarms with me. If you find out anymore about the body mechanics, footwork, or his methods of pressure testing, go ahead and post. Thanks
Originally Posted by Critias
If you are looking for a credible kali class, Premier Martial Arts Academy has it. There's no arguement there. If there's any credibility issues with John (the instructor), just give Dan Inosanto a call, or Steve Golden, or Kas Magda, or the pendekar Paul DeThours. They'll verify his abilities. John was training and teaching this stuff before it became a "business". As a matter of fact, he started the first kali academy in Cincinnati. He is a very knowlegeable instructor. The school is planning on sponsoring a seminar by Danny sometime next year, so if anyone's worried about not learning certain "new" stuff right now because of John's lapse in formal training, I would suggest attending that seminar. But I assure you, as of now, you'll find no better kali training in the area.