Through the Looking Glass - 4


The Stool


On rare occasion, the garbage heaps, thrift stores, garage and yard sales would fail to produce anything catching Master Archibeque’s fancy. When that occurred, it would not be unthinkable for Master Archibeque to turn to the ordinary for his inspiration. This happened one winter day when outside weather turned so severe, we had no option but to go inside to watch some training videos on the Archibeque family TV.


No sooner were we warmed when Archie turned to us and said, “Folks, my computer’s working.”

There was a small stool sitting in the corner. Archie picked it up, turned to the group, and asked,  “Who can tell me how to use this stool for training?”

Aghast, no one venturing anything. Having gone down this path before, we knew it was going to be a difficult morning. One of us asked if we could return to watching the video.

Ah yes! White belts, so predictable!

Archie faced the offender, “Sir, you can leave if you don’t want to hear my lesson!”

The student said nothing further, but stayed.

Archie then set the stool on the floor and explained how the stool could be used to augment various exercises by both increasing the intensity, and creating some uncertainty in the balance dynamic, which when reconciled, resulted in a combination of inner ear training, muscular development, and ancillary benefit to the ligaments.

In the above photograph, Fred Randles is sitting on the stool, while executing sit up toe touch combinations. This one photograph makes clear at a glance how Archibeque could turn the ordinary into the effective.

To the left, Archie has the stool upside down and is using it as a platform for an Arnis stick. Once the stick is placed, Archie takes a second stick, sets it perpendicular onto the first, then begins extended arm push-ups. The challenge here is maintaining balance and control of the sticks (both front to rear, and side to side), which are quite perfidious in their contact, while executing a very slow and controlled push-up without destabilizing, sliding forward, or dropping to either side.

This student is using the stool, turned onto its narrow side (legs facing away for stability). Once situated, the student executes an extended arm drop-down push-up, all the while having to manage the challenge to balance dictated by the stool and gravity.

Here Archibeque takes the same stool, turns it upside down, then grips the inverted legs with his hands, and once again , executes push-ups. The main difference here is the push-up takes on the form of the classic push-up . However, the narrow width of the stool creates its own dynamic and enhances tension on the bicep. Most challenging is the narrow hand grip on the legs of the stool. To execute the technique properly, nothing less than a viselike hand grip will suffice. That is the ultimate benefit of this drill.

Here, a young Calvin Devereaux is executing the push-up over an Arnis stick, resting on the bench legs. Surprisingly, the inverted bench legs provide a very solid support for the stick, allowing a confident downward push-up movement, with the forehead touching the stick, before ascending.

This unidentified student is again executing the rolling stick push-up. The degree of challenge is evident, you can see the struggle with balance, the tilting to the left, and the accommodating narrow grip on the stick in an effort to offset the instability. Compare this photo to the previous one of Archibeque. Note that Archie never cheats during his exercise. His hands are on the wide endposts of the stick, where the stress challenge is maximized.





It goes without saying, all exercises presented have a pronounced underlying theme of strength development. These several photographs are particularly on point, and give good insight into how creatively this objective can be undertaken.

In this photograph, I am maneuvering a 5 gallon bucket, filled to the brim with solidified concrete. The handle is connected to an eye loop which is permanently anchored in the concrete of the bucket (As I’m sure you understand, the normal bucket handle will not support this concentrated weigtht. The solution is installing an eye loop, then using a sturdy handle attached to, or inserted through the eye.)

The essence of this exercise is simply moving with the concrete filled bucket. The movement is improvised by the student. Here, I m swinging the bucket in random directions. After a few moments, I attempted to scribe figure 8's and loops in the air, and after about 60 seconds, I was ready to recover.

On this particular occasion, there was a sledge hammer nearby. Catching sight of it, Archie came over with the sledge hammer and said, Bill, see if you can hold the sledge hammer vertical, then slowly bring it back to where the metal can touch your head. He cautioned I should, e careful. The caution was justified. As the metal hammer approached my head, it became extremely difficult to control, and nearly impossible to slow as it descended. I’m still cringing from the bump to my head as I write this today.



Amazingly, not wanting to be outdone, Archie took the sledge hammer, and challenged me to “Try this !”   He then took the hammer, and with one hand, held it up to allow the metal head to descend , where it touched gently upon his forehead, in a fully controlled movement.



Striking targets were everywhere at the camp. Archie, being of the old school, emphasized that every strike should have the potential to end the fight.

This particular target uses an old car tire, and has a solid center (I believe plywood) for striking. It is suspended using a combination of chain, and elastic media. The target moved very much like a person when struck, and was able to absorb tremendous impact. Here, student Jerry Kramer is working on projecting sidekick energy directly through the target. This particular target was used for both hand and foot strikes. The lateral sides of the suspended tire were also considered targets for angular strikes.

This photo shows just how useful a visit to the state surplus store can be. In a prior lifetime, these kicking targets were highway markers.

Here, Master Archibeque is working with a center control striking target. This is somewhat inspired by the Wing Chun dummy, at least to the extent multiple striking surfaces would exist on the target, and the student would circle about the target, impacting each striking surface, while maintaining control of the center line.

These final photographs present some of the other targets at the camp, along with some of Archie going about his typical daily training.

















Wood Blocks

The only limit to effective exercise is your own creativity. Demonstrating this, student Fred Randles spots a few wooden blocks , and a section of 2 x 4 laying on the ground, and to Archie’s delight, improvises a unique, and effect exercise.

What would you have done, had you been Fred?




The Camp

The outdoor photos , which had been incorporated into this presentation were mostly taken at the  the camp . This was actually the second home of Gun Fu.


The original home was affectionately called the ninja camp and was housed on a tract of land and forest in Lacey Washington. That camp is where my training began. It is no exaggeration to say I would exit my car, take 20 steps, and step into nothing less than a Chinese martial arts movie. Archie was not teaching publicly at the time, and everything was taken to its ultimate limit.

I have recalled that on several occasions, I felt the hand of death about to tap my shoulder.

If I pressed him on this, Archie would respond that I was exaggerating. He would add that actually, everything was under his control, that I simply could not see the total picture. In any event, I survived the camp, achieved the benefits, and paid the costs (most of which began to accrue in my later years).

It is truly regrettable. There is no accurate photographic record completely documenting those days, and the intensity of those sessions. Do I regret any of it? Well ... actually, it was quite a bit of fun.

It came to pass that Archie was forced to disassemble the ninja camp. He and his landlord had a falling out, and he was forced to vacate the premises. It was only through the good graces of an Archibeque family friend that we were provided the several acres of land in Tumwater, Washington, which ultimately became the permanent camp.

The final years of Archie’s practice were in the structural Gun Fu Dojo. That school was built by hand from the ground up. It came about from the generosity of Archibeque’s friends and students over the course of a year in the 1980s. Mentoring the project was Gary Foremen, one of the Black Belts, and a master at finding abandoned resources.

Those of us sharing an extended history working with Master Archibeque often reminisce about the old days, and the many years we trained to the limit, before the school became public, and subject to the many concerns regarding liability in a litigious world.

We joke about working out on the icy ground, the gravel driveway, drenched in the pouring rain, covered in mud, dodging Rosie the cow, and nearly dropping from heat exhaustion during the 12 hour midsummer workouts. In those days, seasoning meant direct exposure to the elements while actively training. It was integral to the quality of our lessons.

While we all loved the physical dojo, and recognized its importance to Archie in honoring his lifetime achievement and contribution to the martial arts, those of us who tasted the old ways, never left the true road.

Now, as I move forward into my later years, all which remains is the Looking Glass , my precious memories, and the skills, which unfortunately, are beginning the slow fade with age.

I hope you enjoyed what once was , as you peek over the fence of time, through the looking glass!

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