Master Archibeque Retires

Archie Retires

For martial artists in the Pacific Northwest, Summer 2002 will stand as a period of joy and celebration, tinged by sadness. After maintaining an active school for over 40 years, Grand Master Archibeque retired from teaching. To all who studied with him, Master Archibeque defined what it meant to be a martial artist. Over his lifetime, he worked diligently and shared generously with all who came to see, ask and learn.

 
Though elderly by some measures, Archibeque had continued his full regimen of teaching even after retiring from the road crew. Though his body aged, his skills never waned. Even at the closing moments of his final class, people stared, incredulous, questioning whether to believe what they had just witnessed. In recent years, his occasional hints at retirement would send shockwaves among those hoping to receive his direct instruction. Though mentioned more frequently during 2002, by then, everyone had become galvanized to the word "retirement" as playful banter.

Come Spring 2002, Master Archibeque ordered his four top students to prepare for Black Belt testing, and concurrently, designated three other students for testing at the brown belt level. Again, he intimated these would be his final tests. Finally, at approximately the time of his 69th birthday in May 2002, Grand Master Archibeque declared he would be shutting his school after the Black Belt promotion, certainly no later than Labor Day.

The hard slap of reality struck home! His announcement shocked the class. What had seemed permanent and non ending was now to be finite.

You've heard stories of other martial arts masters who passed styles to lightly regarded associates or who left no clear transmittal of authority. The resulting chaos, created an endless politic, ensuring no coherent long-term unity. Archibeque, known for insight equaling or surpassing his physical skills, would have none of that. As the final months loomed, he put out the word he would pass all remaining knowledge to those who attended his final classes. He also contacted Bill Mc Cabe, one of his several top students, and asked that Sifu Mc Cabe stand in his shoes as the second Grandmaster of Gun Fu.  Mc Cabe apprenticed to Master Archibeque during Archie's  non-public years in the 1980's, where they trained intensively, frequently one-to-one, and took their show on the road for numerous demonstrations throughout the Pacific Northwest.  Mc Cabe's history in the martial arts begins in the 1960's, and includes study of   the foremost systems of self defense, often under the tutelage of masters. When not climbing mountains or hiking into the unknown (where he has on occasion been bewildered for several days, but never "lost") Mc Cabe has continuously taught and worked to upgrade his skills and knowledge with a regimen of teaching and rigorous daily workouts extending over decades.  It was Mc Cabe and other associates of Master Archibeque who encouraged his return to public teaching, and to facilitate the transition, Mc Cabe created the Gun Fu Manual, which is the source guide for all concepts, and standards, and authored a number of articles presenting the concepts and philosophies of Gun Fu through the leading martial arts publications.  As Mc Cabe has explained, "During those 5-6 years, Master Archibeque deconstructed everything I had previously learned, and then worked closely with me to reassemble the earlier knowledge into a three dimensional system of immediate reaction based on instinct, and patterned on the movement and psychology of animals." 

Master Archibeque also promised his final classes would include all of his most closely held secrets, nothing would be held back and nothing lost for want of sharing. How many times had you hoped for such an opportunity, but were denied? Though many attended and received what had been promised, just as many found their schedules "too demanding" and allowed the singular opportunity to slip by.

As time has shown, Master Archibeque's decision was firm. He would not be tempted to change course. His ultimate objective was to ensure continuity and for his students to remain as "one" particularly when the task of guiding the system fell to his designated successor. He asked for his many students to now "take personal ownership", with his support and blessing. In addition to naming his successor, he systematically began to liquidate, gifting all his equipment and artifacts to friends and students.

"I'll keep only my pictures ... so I can always refresh my fond remembrances."

Over the course of May and June, the dojo transitioned from overflowing to empty. Makiwaras disappeared from the walls as did kicking targets, bags, mirrors, drawings -- everything not permanently attached was given away.

"It's my job to set the example ... Gun Fu is within each of you ... It is yours to keep ... that includes the equipment, everything!"

On July 6, Rebecca Aponte (already an accomplished Isshinryu Black Belt), Cathy Robinson and Frank Valenzuela tested for brown belt. Master Archibeque insisted the test be open to all who wished to attend so his teachings could be "witnessed." The dojo was full to standing, with observers and visitors from throughout the Northwest, and they were treated to a show that was nothing short of a Shaolin gauntlet (click to see photographs) .

 

The following Saturday, John Saling, Chad Saling, Thomas Kleinhoff and Rian Griffith tested for Black Belt (click to see photos:  Page 1; Page 2) . Prior to the test, Sifu Mc Cabe was promoted to 10th degree Black Belt, and designated as successor.  In many respects, the test which followed  was Grand Master Archibeque's crowning moment. These four students were pillars who, for years, pushed themselves and the entire Olympia class to beyond what anyone would have considered attainable levels of performance. It is rare to have more than a few exceptional Black Belts over the course of a teaching career, but to have four concurrently is nothing less than the final bow of a great master. The dojo and outside areas were packed to overflowing, and all who attended were presented with a display of martial arts technique, surpassed only by Hollywood tricks and fantasy.

Grand Master Archibeque spent the closing month explaining, demonstrating and sharing his "secret" techniques. Thanks to students such as Phil Dunbar and Sensei Luis Cruz-Vega, many of the final lessons have been recorded and preserved.

Thursday, August 29, was an evening of grim anticipation. The final moment had arrived, and it was hard to let go (click for photos:  Page 1 ; Page2).

"Remember, each of you has everything he or she needs. I have held nothing back. No matter what your rank, what you have seen and heard will grow within you and give clarity as to your objective and final goal. Each  of you is like a seed, and I am counting on you to take what we have shared and to keep it alive. Remember, each and every one of you is special ... You may be different, some may be big, some small, some fat, some skinny. There is a place for each and every one of you in God's creation, and he has made it so that each and every one of you is unique and special ... Don't ever let anyone take that away! No matter what happens from this day forward, always remember that I am there for you and I love you!"

In the final moments of the final class, Grand Master Archibeque was asked to perform his "monkey" kata, which he graciously did. On completion, as his eyes glossed over, he lifted his head and declared, "Class is over." All present closed on Grand Master Archibeque in a final loving "group hug".

Though Grand Master Archibeque was satisfied that all had been properly concluded, he was subjected to a singular final embarrassment in the form of a surprise retirement party on August 31 (click for photographs). How it is possible for his many current and former students to spring a party with a 500 pound pig cooking in the yard, but keep the Grand Master out of the loop, remains a secret closely held by his Black Belts. The event was a final affirmation by his many students.  They got the message, and would take full ownership of this special art into the future. Each spoke his or her piece as to how they were impacted by Master Archibeque, and in a final tribute, Master Mc Cabe added:

"The hardest thing for martial artists to understand is that a Sensei gives and never takes. People who 'take' are a drain on themselves, their families, society, mankind and the creation in general. The world is full of Black Belts and Senseis who have mastered taking but who know nothing about giving. A true Black Belt is like the sun, he/she enlivens everything and never stops. A master gives and gives and gives until it begins to register on all around him or her that maybe giving, not taking, is the way to be. Give until you feel you have no more, then dig deeper and give more. Before you know, your well will be infinite and immeasurable."

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