My Second Seminar with Master Steve Tappin

Escrima Concepts Seminar September 2011I was kind of surprised to notice that about 3 years have gone by since my first encounter with Master Steve Tappin, the founder of the Escrima Concepts style, a complete fighting system that teaches weapon based attack and defences to start with and the explores what happens when you have no weapon available.

One of  my main purpose of attending a martial arts seminar is to have the opportunity of learning, usually new things, from a master or instructor that is usually not available for local tuitions, and share with a few others his/her expertise in a session that is normally longer that the average class. However last Sunday I was particularly lucky; I attended, together with 3 other CARISMA members, a seminar organised by my friends at the Cambridge Kung Fu and I was pleased to find out that just 13 people, including us, were taking part to the event.  The real luck was having Master Tappin in person taking care directly of us for a generous amount of time and really ensuring we would get a great training.

Master Tappin’s teaching style is very clear and effective and he always manages to simply explain the essence of why one thing should be done in a certain way and shows it directly, helped by his expert son Wayne.  It’s shocking to see a man who had a broken back and an injured knee, somebody who struggles to stand and limps visibly but then, when demonstrating a technique, moves with the speed and the grace of the great martial artist he really is.

Weapons are tricky to handle and they open a complete new dimension about what should and should not be done while fighting.  While I don’t feel my skill level has grown substantially I can acknowledge I learnt a lot of useful concepts and by repeating and rehearsing the moves my skill will improve over time.

Whether you have experience in weapon based training or, like me, passionate and curious about exploring a new art I would definitely suggest to join one of Master Tappin’s seminar at your earliest convenience.

Meet Steve Tappin

I was recently invited by my friends at Cambridge Kung Fu to an “Escrima concepts” seminar run by master Steve Tappin. Escrima is a martial art originated in the Philippines and it’s predominantly a weapon based system that teaches fighting by using sticks, machetes, knifes and daggers in various combinations of one of two weapons handled at once. The same concepts, moves and drills are applied regardless of the weapon used by the practitioner or his opponent in order to develop automatic reflexes that would work in any situation, at least in theory. If you heard of Kali, Arnis, Doce Pares or Cadena de Mano they are all similar styles: in fact I was told by an instructors that in the Philippines there are literally hundreds of different flavours of this styles, some of which are kept secret and developed among single families.

I heard great things from different sources about master Tappin’s skills: he is one of the (if not the) biggest experts of weapon based martial arts in the UK, with a large number of followers around the world and his seminars are always fully booked. This was an opportunity not to be missed, in order to improve my limited experience of weapon handling that is mostly limited to nunchakus, katana and sai, weapons used by Okinawan styles. When I first saw him I could not believe to my eyes: master Tappin is a large stocky men in his fifties that looks more like a large door security person rather than a martial artist as I was used to think of one until that day. In any case, within a few minutes into the seminar it was obvious that appearance is some time misleading.

The first exercise we were asked to perform was to face, armed with one stick, an opponent with two: the concept was to attack first, one stick at the time, to create space and allow getting close to the opponent and eventually disarming him. We then carried on working in various possible scenarios of one person with two, one or no stick facing another that as well can be armed or bear handed. All concepts explained were amazingly interesting as they could always be transferred across without thinking in what situation our opponent was attacking us. Master Tappin, with his 36 years experience of weapon handling, pointed out and repeated many time that when you are facing a weapon the correct technique makes the difference between walking out of that situation and being killed. A stick or a bottle can break your skull while a knife or a machete can seriously injure you or kill you: the quality of the concepts and the techniques practiced is vital.

It is obvious that a four hours seminar cannot teach stick fighting or defence against weapons: in fact I believe that fighting against a weapon cannot be guaranteed safe in any situation even after years of training. At the same time I was impressed by how many important concepts can be learnt in such a short time and by how many things can be overlooked unless you are taught by a real expert.