Combative Seminars: Bringing Martial Artists Together

Combative Seminars: Bringing Martial Artists Together

“Oh, they’re just fighting,” I said with a sigh of relief.

It was day two of the Hand-Stick-Knife-Gun Close Quarter Combatives Seminar the Romeoville Isshin-Ryu Karate Club was hosting. You have to see the flyer to understand my trepidation. The words “combat” or “combative” appeared at least four times and it had the stencil font that makes you think of the military.

As the love child of a beatnik and a hippie, things that have overt military themes make me nervous. I had visions of black military fatigues and attendees who had bugout locations hidden somewhere. But, as it turns out, I was worried about nothing.

“There’s different ‘types’ of martial arts,” explained seminar attendee Steve Zorn, Warsaw, IN. “There’s sport, art, traditional. And then there’s defensive or ‘combative’ – stuff for survival.”

The seminar was led by W. Hock Hocheim, founder and creator of the Scientific Fighting Congress. One of the principles of his program is to “’bridge the gap between the military, the police, the martial artist and the aware citizen.’ Each group knows things about fighting that the other doesn’t.” That’s a quote from  his Web site. Someone seriously needs to tell Hock’s graphic designer about this part of the mission statement; it’s not adequately depicted in the marketing materials.

But, desktop publishing aside, there were a variety of styles represented at the seminar. The bulk of the students came the Romeoville school but there were also martial artists from Indiana and Michigan attending.

“It’s not just one martial art. For lack of a better phrase, it’s a brotherhood thing,” said Steve, who attends two or three of Hock’s seminars each year. “We have varied styles and come from different backgrounds.”

So, how does Hock bring together a group of people with varied styles and experiences? By looking for common ground.

“I’m interested in the essence of combat: What’s smart and universal,” said Hock. “It’s not any system in particular but the essence of many systems.”

Feel free to giggle at this point, if the existential, hippie-sounding phrases seem out of context. I didn’t have that luxury because I was looking Hock in the face and I didn’t want to piss him off.

He provided a better explanation of the whole “essence” thing. Let’s say you have a guy from the krav maga style and another guy who learned muay thai. Both of them perform a turning kick. You can’t tell the krav maga guy he’s doing the kick wrong, if it doesn’t look like the muay thai kick. You can’t tell the muay thai guy that he’s doing it wrong either, when his kick doesn’t look like the krav maga kick.

“But you can look at those kicks and ask yourself, if you strip away all the ‘style’ what’s left?” said Hock. What you should be left with is good solid technique that will work for the muay thai guy, the krav maga guy and even the karate girl.

“Ideally, I want our guys not to look like any one style,” he said. “They should be completely devoid of flavor.”

Hock brings his flavorless, style-less style of combat to thousands of people each year by providing 35 to 40 seminars in up to 11 different countries.

“It’s a modular system,” said Sensei Eddie Cavazos, “so you don’t have to attend events in a specific order.” Many of the movements and terminology is shared across the modules, whether you’re learning to disarm someone with a knife or using a baton/arnise.

Sensei Eddie has been attending Hock’s seminars since the late ’90s. In fact, Sensei Eddie is a black belt in many of the Congress’ Training Divisions and is a Master Instructor in Knife / Counter-Knife Combatives and Impact Weapon Combatives.

Finding something new and the time to train can be a bit of a challenge. Hock is home in Texas Monday through Friday, most weeks unless he’s out of the country. He tries to turn his seminars into workouts. And he’s always “on the prowl” for new stuff.

“I’m a retired cop, but I have access to free training,” he said. “Of course, I’ve been doing this since 1972, so there’s not a lot of ‘new’ stuff.”

But don’t think that means he’s not finding new stuff that works. That’s Hock’s style: a kind of self-deprecating humor that allows him to talk about his accomplishments without laying on the shit. On his own Web site, where he mentions being featured on the cover of Black Belt magazine, he says, “BB has been around for almost 40 years. That’s 40 years times 12 covers a year. Folks, that’s 480 covers. Sooner or later they will work through all of us.” But still, he admits, it’s kind of cool.

Sensei Eddie and others who work with and study under Hock can see the advantages: taking what’s universal — what works — and putting it to practical use. And, despite what Hock says about not finding a lot of new stuff any more, his students find new details, new ideas, at each seminar.

“His courses are fluid,” said Sensei Eddie. “So, if he finds something new that’s working, he puts it in. You’re always learning something new.”

I felt like a fish out of water at this seminar. Have you ever attended one of Hock’s seminars? What did you think? How do you feel about stencil fonts and ads at the back of Black Belt Magazine.