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Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

Peaceful Withdrawal with Honor (Part 1)

In Uncategorized on May 30, 2011 at 7:56 am

Brooklyn Monk’s Last Days in Saigon

By Antonio Graceffo

For some reason, living in Vietnam always made me think of the TV show MASH. I found a video on youtube, with song and lyrics to the theme song, “Suicide is Painless” Man! Is that song depressing. You wouldn’t think a song about taking your own life would be cheerier.

I was teaching and studying in Saigon through the Tet Holiday in February. It was strange for me to learn to put the word “holiday” after Tet, because all of my life the word “offensive” followed the word Tet, as in “The Tet Offensive,” the turning point of the Vietnam War, when it became clear that the Americans would have to plan to “peacefully withdraw with honor.”

Tet was the beginning of my own defeat in Vietnam.

Tet is the Vietnamese New Year. In America, New Year is one day. Some small companies close between Christmas and New Year, but most businesses are open. During Tet, however, everything closed, for two weeks: my job, the gym, even restaurants. My tutor went back to the hills, and I had nothing at all to do. The hotel staff went back to their home towns, and there was no one there to do my laundry, clean my room or replace the toilet paper. At least I finally found an appropriate use for the communist newspaper.

Although there was no service in the hotel and I had to hand out keys to new guests, I still had to pay full price for my stay. The Vietnamese resisted capitalism for years. But once they embraced it, they picked it and ran with it, taking it to places we could only dream of.

As bad as the Tet-related boredom was, the worst part was that I couldn’t get food. All of the restaurants were closed. Family Mart, the Japanese convenience store, remained open, most days, but they didn’t receive any deliveries during the nearly two weeks of the festival. I was so desperate for food, I would go out scavenging. The streets of the normally vibrant city were devoid of people, and I walked those empty streets for miles, searching for food, like in some 1970’s movie about a post-apocalyptic dystopia, ala Mad Max or Planet of the Apes. “You bastards! They finally really did it. They blew it all up.”

For days, I lived on bao ze and vending machine sandwiches. Finally, my desire for meat became so desperate I was prepared to act out the plot of “Soylent Green” and start eating people.

Vietnamese men get really drunk during Tet. So, I followed a homeless guy around until he finally collapsed from drink.  Just as I was dragging him into the kitchen, I heard a rumor that there was a restaurant selling chicken seventy-eight blocks away. I dropped the unconscious man… I mean, I’m pretty sure he was just unconscious…I didn’t hit him on the head hard enough to kill him… That will be my defense if it ever goes to court. Like Ted Kennedy, I will swear, I opened the door and watched him swim free.

Anyway, I gently returned the peacefully sleeping man to the concrete where I had found him. Then, like Frodo, I set out on the longest, most important walk of my life. When I finally got there, it turned out the rumors were grossly exaggerated. The restaurant was selling eggs, not chickens. It was still a break from my usual fair of day-old gas station sandwiches. So, I bought as many as my ration coupons would allow.

Two weeks of doing nothing can destroy a man. By the time I went back to work I was ready to explode. That was also the same night that I confronted a Brit who looked me right ion the face and said, “I applauded when the planes hit the World Trade Center. I said yeah Arabs. And I was happy all of those Americans died.” I chopped him in the throat. He collapsed in his chair, and I hit him with right hooks until he was lying on the ground bleeding.

I was in Manhattan on 9/11. That day was a very traumatic turning point in my life. 9/11 was the catalyst for me moving to Asia. This person knew that. He also knew I was bigger, stronger, and better trained than him. To this day, I am still confused about why this happened. And I wish I could contact him and ask him.

I lay in my bed for a few days, with Martin Sheen voice narration running through my mind. “Saigon! Shit, I’m still in Saigon. Every time I‘m here, I wish I were back in the jungle. When I’m in the jungle, I wish I were back here….I prayed for a mission. And for my sins, they gave me one.” (paraphrase)

I had been in the city, teaching and studying for too long. I needed to get back in the field.

The next day, I received an email from a representative of the Hmong soldiers, still hiding in the jungle in Lao. Along with their families, these poor retches have been hunted by the Lao and Vietnamese army since the end of the American War, in 1975. They desperately needed help and I flew out to the Thai/Burma border to meet with the representative and see what could be done to save these people.

The mission lasted a month. During that time I also met with my friend Hsai Tai Yai, a former Shan soldier and monk, now living in a refugee camp in Thailand. Together, we did some stories on the Shan migrant workers in Thailand.

I got back to Saigon and Tet was over. I had no job to go to, so I put all of my energy into studying Vietnamese language. My Vietnamese teacher took me to a boxing gym, in Cholon, and I began training again. Slowly, I was coming back to life. A week or so later, I received a call from Guru Mazlan, my Silat Kalam teacher, in Kuala Lumpur. He wanted me to return to Malaysia, continue studying the completion of the Silat Kalam syllabus, working toward black belt, and to help him teach Silat Kalam at the Royal Police headquarters.

My assistant, Sheung Di, and I shot videos and I wrote articles, sharing the story of Silat Kalam and other Malaysian arts with the world. During the ten days I was in Malaysia, I was given the award of Silat Kalam Warrior, in a large public event, full of dignitaries. I was the first non-Muslim to be given this honor.

I stole some time from my martial arts studies to go do stories on the Shan refugees in Malaysia. They had paid big money to be trafficked all of the way, from Burma to malaysia, in the often vein hope of being recognized by the UN and the resettled in a safe country. We also did a story on the Cham people, from Cambodia, who sought refuge in Malaysia during and after the Pol Pot Regime. They had formed their own villages, just outside of KL, and were living decidedly better than 90% of Khmer who remained in Cambodia.

After Malaysia, I felt like I had had a taste of the excitement of training, traveling, writing, and basically doing my thing. But now, I was back in my room in Saigon, watching TV. My tutor was away, so I couldn’t take Vietnamese lessons. I was too depressed to go to classes at the university. I just lay on my bed, breaking only to go to the gym one hour per day and to eat, which I did too much of.

They say the best thing about depression is that you catch up on your sleep. That is true, but I also got a lot of TV watching done. I watched the entire original Star Trek TV series, The Shield, The Wire, and about half of Simpsons Seasons 1-20.

Who says I don’t use my time wisely?

To get myself interested in life again, I began planning a trip to Indonesia, to study Bahasa Indonesia language. I also wanted to do stories on Indonesian Silat and on the recent anti-Christian riots that had erupted into violence. But the school charged $150 a week for accommodation, which is preposterous, in a country where the average person only earns about $330 a month.

My money was running out, and I was really worried about hitting zero in Indonesia, a country where I knew no one and had no idea how to survive. The cheapest thing to do was to remain on my bed, watching DVDs and trying to think of a productive and economically viable plan for my life. Going back to teaching English was the obvious choice, but with so much knowledge of southeast Asia, foreign languages, and being a published author, wasn’t there any other job I could do. Ten years of teaching basic English was driving me insane.

I watched Family Guy Season 8 on DVD.

On Good Friday, I was invited to a Passover Dinner with my church friends. It was a good experience, but during dinner I began feeling sick. As the night went on, it just got worse and worse. By the end of the evening I knew I was running a high fever. Like an idiot, I refused all offers of medicine.

I stopped drinking alcohol more than two years ago. And I don’t like to take medicine, especially pain medicine, or sleeping pills, because both of those could become habit forming, particularly if you are depressed. So, if I’m sick when I’m depressed, I say, “No, I can’t take pills when I’m depressed, because it would be setting a bad precedent.” Then, when I’m happy, I also don’t need pills, because I am happy. So, basically, I never have to take medicine.

By the time I got home, my fever was so high and I was shivering so badly, I almost collapsed going up the stairs to my room. I fell into my bed and hallucinated like mad for two days, drifting in and out of consciousness, disjointed dreaming in Vietnamese.

I don’t know why, but fever dreams are always nightmares, and these were made all the more impactfull because they were in Vietnamese. The dreams were endless spaghetti threads, bits and pieces of stories, which didn’t have beginnings or ends. They simply segued into the next bit of unrelated plot. I read somewhere that dreams are particles of memory and unfinished thoughts. This seemed to be the case with me. It felt like if my brain were a cutting board in a bakery where they had been slicing bread for 43 years and all of the little crumbs of story that fell off, had to be dealt with.

At times, I was standing apart, watching myself suffer through the fever. I remember telling myself that I could switch the language setting from Vietnamese to English. But I refused, saying this was excellent practice. Two days of fever was the closest I was going to get to total immersion in Vietnamese.

Actually, the strategy did pay off. When I came to, I was speaking Vietnamese way better than I had been before the illness. If I ever catch pneumonia, I’ll become fluent.

I’m still not sure if I would recommend this method to everyone, however. If I did, I would be subject to liability lawsuits.

What was strange about my illness was that I only had fever, body aches, and headaches. I didn’t have congestion, runny nose, sore throat… I had no cold symptoms whatsoever. When I was finally well enough to stand, I stumbled down the stairs and had my driver take me to the hospital.

Once, when I was living in Hanoi, I went into the foreigner hospital for a checkup. There was no blood work up, no testing of any kind, simply a visit with a Filipina doctor. And in spite of my medical insurance, that visit cost me $180 USD. Now that I could speak Vietnamese, I was able to go to a Vietnamese hospital and pay Vietnamese prices. My office visit, plus medicine cost me less than $3 USD.

While I was talking to the doctor he kept laughing at me. Finally, I asked, “is there something funny about my illness?” He looked a little embarrassed, then answered. “We never had a foreign patient in here before. And I never heard a foreigner speaking our language.”

“Do you understand me?” I asked, self-consciously.

“Yes, that’s why I’m laughing, because I understood every word. It just seems so strange.”

I was glad I was able to brighten his day.

I took fever reduction medicine and pain medicine for the body aches and ten days later, I was back in the gym. Being sick in bed had been a good reprieve. But now, I was on my feet again and needed to find something to do with my life.

I was offered a teaching job in the UAE which paid a six figure package. As much as I wanted the money, going there would end all of my writing and studying and adventuring in Southeast Asia. I turned it down. The friend who recommended me hasn’t talk to me since.

My Vietnamese teacher came back to Saigon and told me he found a Muay Thai gym for me. So, I began the slow, painful process of taking off the weight I had gained during months of inactivity. It was a step in the right direction. But what I really wanted was to get back out in the field. But I didn’t have money to get back out in the field. So, I needed a job, but what? And Where?

Every time I am down and out I wonder how it could be that I have published so many books and articles, done so many TV shows, and given countless interviews, and yet, I was still broke.

An old friend of mine from my Taiwan days, Pete, came to Vietnam looking for a summer job, to tide him over till he started teaching at a private school in the fall. Normally, I feel no need to go looking for work. My experience has been that even on the most-laid-back of Sundays, work will find you. Dave’s activity and optimism, looking for a job, motivated me to print out my resume, put on a tie and go for it.

We both landed jobs with some dodgy Turkish company that Pete thought was a front for money laundering or drug smuggling.

Peacefull Withdrawal with Honor (Part 2)

Monk’s Retreat

Coming soon

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

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Martial Arts Odyssey: Urban Warrior (Part 2)

In Uncategorized on May 28, 2011 at 2:06 am

Your mother told you not to run with scissors and yet, people insist on learning to fight with knives. Antonio Graceffo visits Muay Fit, in PJ, Selangor, Malyasia, where Yew Jin Wong teaches the Brooklyn Monk the deadly art of armed combat.

It is very difficult to beat a man who is armed, so you grab a stick, a chair, anything. The Monk also teaches you what to do if your opponent is in a full-nelson and you have a knife.

Watch it for free on youtube.

Martial Arts Odyssey: Urban Warrior (Part 2)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JmNxPihXPgI

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

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Secret Masters and TMA vs. Muay Thai

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2011 at 2:48 am

It’s no contest. Pro-fighting is real fighting.

By Antonio Graceffo

There is a mystique surrounding martial arts; rumors and legends about secret styles, hidden schools, and mystical masters. People ask me all the time about learning from old men, living alone in the swamp, like Yoda. And this is my answer:

If you want a traditional, cultural experience, go train with a master who lives in a cave at the top of a mountain. But if you want to fight in a ring, go find a modern gym.

Watching Robert Clyne’s video, “The Gods of Muay Thai,” about Sor Kingstar, Saenchai, and Orono: some of the greatest Muay Thai fighters who ever lived. Training with them, I don’t understand how any traditional martial artist; karate, Silat, Vo Vinam or other, believes they could stand up to these guys. Fighters come from all over the world to train at Thirteen Coins gym, because the trainers have had thousands of fights as both fighters and trainers. The gym is home to some great champions. Training with them brings your level up.

An old man in a cave can’t do that for you.

Like the Amazing Randi, head of the James Randi educational foundation, who offers a one million dollar bounty for any “evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.,” I am offering a cash prize of 100,000 Vietnam Dong, for anyone who can point out a champion boxer, Muay Thai, or MMA, who trained alone or on a mountain, with a master, over the age of 70, and never set foot in a real fighting gym.

On a youtube video, entitled, Martial Arts Odyssey: Boxing in Cholon, I stated that because there is no professional fighting Vietnam and Muay Thai is brand new, with the first school having opened about a year ago, I have never met a good fighter in the country.

A traditional martial arts (TMA) guy, a westerner, living in Hanoi, wrote to me, arguing that the reason I never met great fighters in Vietnam was because the best fighters train at home, with private teachers and then don’t go into competition. This makes no sense. Why wouldn’t they go fight pro and win money? Vietnamese are very nationalistic, so why don’t they go join the national team and help Vietnam win in the Asian Games, SEA Games, or Olympics? Maybe it’s because these super great fighters, who never set foot in a gym, simply don’t exist.

Shooting Martial Arts Odyssey, and writing my books and articles, I have trained with masters who lived in hovels, tiny little villages, on mountains, in the jungle…and it was a very interesting experience. I learned a lot about local culture and history. BUT, none of these guys had even a single student who could have fought with a student training in a fighting gym in the city.

Filming in those rural locations, I often brought my sparring gear, thinking we could get some action shots, but there was no one to spar with. People eating a low calorie, low protein diet, working in the rice fields, training under a tree with an old man who had never had a single professional fight simply aren’t prepared to get in the ring with a top athlete. (I am not calling myself a top athlete. Remember, I am over forty years old, over weight, and haven’t had a pro-fight in years, and YET, they couldn’t even spar with me.)

Forget about the Yoda-cave type masters for a moment. Let’s concentrate on city people who study traditional martial art (TMA) and then tell me they believe they can beat real fighters.

One of my many issues with TMA guys claiming they can fight and beat pro fighters, apart from the fact that they never actually do it, is that they don’t work bag rounds or pad rounds. In fact, they don’t even train in rounds. Watch a Muay Thai or boxing gym and you will see that everything, every evolution of training, apart from jogging, is timed by rounds. So many rounds of heavy bag, so many rounds of light bag, so many rounds of pad work…So many rounds of sparring.

All of that hitting serves to build up the muscles, condition the body, harden the shins and knuckles, and refine the technique. How could you fight if you aren’t doing all of these types of exercises?

If you watch a TMA class, and I don’t care if it is Tae Kwan Do or Kuk Sul Wan, 90% of them are the same. They don’t have “training”. They have “class”. The students stand in rows, with a senior student in front, leading them in exercises and stretches, as a warm up to their class. Next, they might do kicking drills in the air or do katas (forms). Frequently, the students get in a straight line and a senior student holds a kick target. The first student walks up, kicks, and goes to the back of the line. Then the next student kicks, and goes to the back of the line. Then repeat. If you have twenty students, each student kicks one of twenty times.

In a fight gym you work the bag anywhere from four to ten rounds per day. And every kick or punch is just you. You are not waiting in line to throw the next technique. Also, you don’t throw kicks in isolation. You do combinations, punches, kicks, multiple kicks, this is what working the bag is about.

Every single round in a pro gym is spent working on fighting, training, refining, and honing the skills and techniques one needs to fight and win. In a TMA class, you also do forms and drills and all sorts of things that have nothing at all to do with fighting. In fact, when I used to go around fighting in TMA gyms, I always found it strange that during practice they did the flying-monkey-tiger stance, but when they sparred they just kickboxed, badly. Pro-fighters practice their fighting techniques in training, and then those are the exact techniques they use when they get in the ring to fight.

Sparring: A lot of TMA schools have Friday night sparring. Some of them put on full body armor, others think they are hard core by not using the armor…It doesn’t matter. This isn’t how sparring is done in Thai gyms. In Thai and Khmer gyms you spar every day, but you go very easy. You don’t want to get hurt during sparring. You want the freedom to be able to practice your techniques, and take chances, without the fear of injury. Also, if you don’t get injured today, you can train again tomorrow. Getting hurt in training is not beneficial.

Each day, you decide what you are actually working on that day. If you are working combinations, do that. If you are working defense, work that. If you want to go at 70% power, because that is what you need to do that day, then you do it. And you make it a hard sparring day. But so many TMA schools seem to just full on hard, to show how tough they are. Or, like Tae Kwan Do, they cover their bodies head to toe with armor and they do point fighting.

Point fighting is not fighting.

Kyokushin is the one huge exception to the rules of TMA and pro fighting. Kyokushin seems to be somewhere between the two. Kyokushin classes look very much like TMA classes, except that they do tons of drills where you are hitting or kicking your partner at full power. Even pros don’t do that. They don’t actually work the bag and pads in class, but they are strongly recommended to do so outside of class. And all of the people who compete in and win international competitions spend a lot of time working pads and makiwara boards and kicking bamboo poles. But even for as much as I respect Kyokushin, they have had very mixed results in fighting professionally against Muay Thai.

The guy who was arguing with me on youtube claimed that his style of karate was as good as pro- fighting. He claimed that in their training they did 70% sparring. Now this is just silliness. If you train 4 rounds per day, that is 15 minutes (if you use 3 minute rounds). If 70% of your training is only 15 minutes, this means you are training about 20 minutes a day.

That’s not really enough to make a champion.

The new argument that some of the internet warrior are using to prove that TMA can stand up to pro-fighting is that Lyoto Machida, a champion MMA fighter from Brazil, is a former karate champion. While it is true that he has a background in karate, he also has extensive knowledge of Brazilian Jiu jitsu, the cornerstone of most MMA fighting systems. He also won Sumo competitions in Brazil (true story, look it up). To say that Machida is a karate fighter who beats MMA guys, wouldn’t be exactly honest. Even if it were true, it would still be just one, the only example ever of TMA beating real fighting in fight competition.

Finally, when the internet warriors, the false gurus or the TMA guys claim that they can do this or that, the question I always raise is, why don’t you go on TV, win the UFC or win the K-1, or win the King’s Cup, and prove it. If they would do that, the argument would be over, once and for all. But they always claim that they aren’t after fame or they aren’t after fortune or the rules of professional fighting are too restrictive, I guess because they want to eye-gauge or kick in the groin…

As for the rules hampering them from winning, a lot of TMA guys said that to me, but in pro fighting you are allowed to do pretty much anyting except groin strikes, eye gauging, kicking the spinal cord…But, when I visit TMA gyms, I don’t see people using these techniques either. In fact, I am willing to bet money that none of them have EVER intentionally kicked someone in the throat or popped an opponent’ s eye from its socket.

And why is it that only TMA people, with no fight record site the rules as being too restrictive? And why can’t they adjust to them? I covered a fightnight in Malaysia a few weeks ago where Kyokushin fought Muay Thai, where boxing fought Muay Thai, where MMA fought Muay Thai…All of those fighters were willing to modify their art to fit the rules of the tournament., but TMA claims they can’t.

The argument that upsets me most, though, is that there are secret masters, holding clandestine classes, training secret fighters, who don’t fight, but they are better than I could ever be. This one is really unfair, because it means that no matter how much I train, I will never be better than these secret warriors, no one has ever seen. I can watch Saenchai train and say, “Wow! He is better than me. I better get in the gym and work.” Now, I have a goal. He inspires me. I have seen the finish line and it is up to me to get there. But the secret martial arts, or the ones who won’t fight or demonstrate their techniques, are setting an unattainable goal for the rest of us.

Sometimes, I simply get angry that I have to train so hard, for real, but people who don’t exist are still better than me.

My two theories on people who believe in secret martial arts are: First, emotionally, they are still eleven years old and need the magic. Or, by admitting that the top rungs of martial arts are impossible to reach, they relieve themselves of responsibility when they fail to reach that level.

If you have any questions about what it takes to be a real fighter, or you want to see how real fighters train, check out Robert Clyne’s video, The Gods of Muay Thai, for free on youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO0R_Z1lN_c&feature=share

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Vo Thai Lan in Saigon

In Uncategorized on May 25, 2011 at 5:54 am

By Antonio Graceffo

My first experience, training with a Vietnamese boxing and Muay Thai team didn’t workout very well. A bigger boy picked on me, and smashed my innards into jelly. After it didn’t hurt to pee or think anymore, I began looking for a new place to train. Luckily, my Vietnamese teacher found me a Muay Thai team right near my house in District 1.

All over Hanoi and Saigon I had noticed these multi-sport complexes, which I can only assume are sponsored by the government, offering a wide variety of activities, from ping pong to ball room dancing, and every type of sport or martial art imaginable, for ridiculously low prices. Whenever I drove past one, I would sort of glance at the sign with the list of martial arts on offer, but I never expected to find Muay Thai at one of these places.  My teacher took me to a sport centers, less than a mile from my house, and showed me the signboard which clearly read, “Vo Thai Lan,” Vietnamese for “Muay Thai.”

Training with this team was an incredible opportunity to practice my Vietnamese. In fact, even signing up was a linguistic workout. I asked about the fee, and the office lady explained. “The class meets three days a week and costs five dollar a month.”

That was well within my budget, so I was getting excited. But then she said something else, which I didn’t quite catch. What I heard was “something, something, problem, start next month.”

I asked her to repeat, and the story came out similarly. “Why would I want to start next month?” I asked. “I want to start tonight.”

After she explained the third time, I figured out that what she was saying was that they couldn’t pro-rate the study fee. It was already the fifteenth of the month. If I started tonight, I still had to pay the full five dollars.

“That’s OK.” I said, “I can pay the full fee.” In Thailand, I pay local price for my Muay Thai gym, and it costs six dollar per session.

Next, the office lady asked me if I had done Muay Thai before. I told her I had trained in Thailand and Cambodia for years. She said, “But this class is for beginners.”

“Do you have a class for advanced students?” I asked reasonably.

“No.”

“Ok, then this is the right class for me.” I said.

Honestly, I have never attended even a single Muay Thai “class” in my life. In Thailand and Cambodia, we train, we don’t study. When you come in the gym, it is assumed that you already know Muay Thai and the coaches and trainers are there to help you hold the pads and to give you some pointers. But there is no actual syllabus or curriculum. And, every person in the gym is doing his or her own training: parallel training, not group training.

All I really wanted from the class was to be permitted to train by myself. I had a whole speech prepared for the teacher, the crux of which was, “I’ll stay out of your way if you let me hit the bag.”

The Muay Thai class trained on the top floor of the stadium, on sort of a huge outdoor balcony. It was a cool place to train and the balcony even caught a breeze from time to time. On the first night, the students explained to me that the coach was away. I told them that it didn’t matter and that I was fine training by myself.

I shadow boxed for a while and then worked the bag, as I would in Thailand. Just like the gym in Cho Lon, the bags were much to light for me. But, at least these bags were actually kicking bags and not boxing bags. It was a step in the right direction. Also, because the students were such absolute beginners, they didn’t use the bags. So, I could do as many rounds as I wanted. Watching out of the corner of my eye, I saw that the class was a real class. There was an assistant instructor leading the group. The twenty or so students stood in rows and did everything the teacher did. He had them practicing basic left right combinations and later added kicks. Like the other Muay Thai guys I had trained with in Cho Lon, most of the kicks looked more like martial arts than like Muay Thai. During the breaks, various students came to speak to me, in Vietnamese. Several told me that they had done Vo Co Truyen or Vo Vinam before.

By the end of the first session, the students figured out that I could speak Vietnamese and they all wanted to come over and talk to me, asking me about training in Thailand and about fighting. It was a great experience. I left the gym with a great feeling in my heart. One of the main reasons I wanted to leave Vietnam was because I had no place to train. Now that I had that problem solved, maybe I could stick it out and finish my program at the university. The only dark cloud hanging over my head was that I hadn’t met the coach. For all I knew, he was going to be like the drunken coach who I almost came to blows with on the other team I was training with.

On my second night of training, I met the teacher. He was in his late forties or early fifties and seemed very nice. He definitely didn’t seem like someone who was going to tap dance on my belly while I did sit ups. And that is the standard I hold people to now. The teacher also didn’t seem like a former fighter. In fact, given his age, it was nearly impossible for him to have been a fighter in Thailand. In stead, it seems he was actually trained as a Muay Thai trainer. He ran the class with purpose, driving the students through technically correct exercise after exercise.

At first, he just left me alone, to train on the bag by myself. He had that sneaky look of good coaches, however. While it appeared he had left me alone to concentrate on his students, he was actually watching me at the same time. After about an hour, he came over and told me EVERYTHING I was doing wrong.

He had me doing a lot of fundamental drills. It is so important to return to fundamentals after you have been training for years. He had me reworking my elbows, my footwork… he taught me long range punches which are something I don’t normally throw.

The coach worked with me, showing me how they place their covering fist right on their forehead when throwing an elbow strike. He hit me, hard in the forehead, sending a shock wave all the way down my body, but clearly demonstrating the importance of this guard. He also showed me why they throw the elbow from top to bottom rather than from the side or in a slashing motion. Top to bottom has the highest probability of slipping through the gloves, even if someone blocks.

He had me stand really far away from the bag, leap in with a long hook, and follow through immediately with an elbow to the face. My hooks are actually boxer’s hooks, which only travel about six inches. They have a lot of power, but when I am in hook range, I am also inside the range of my opponent’s knees and elbows, which the primary problem for boxers who try to convert to Muay Thai. This leaping hook, followed by an elbow was a devastating combination. For me, as a close in fighter, this was great, because it helped me to cover the distance. You could even be outside of kicking range and throw this long range slide and punch. Of course, the follow up elbow might end the fight.

Next, he had me hold the bag, as I would hold an opponent on the sides of the neck and head, and hit it with knees. On the knee, he showed me why they always come in from outside, swinging the leg in an arch, so the knee comes in parallel to the ground. The reason is, this way, if the man drops his elbow to block, you will crash the side of his arm, or the side of his bicep, injuring him, but you will be unhurt. If you are coming straight up, you run the risk of hitting his elbow and ruining your own knee.

He had me do a lot of basics like this, getting me up on my toes and shuffling my feet, alternating left and right knees. When I was too tried to continue, we sat and he just talked, endlessly, in Vietnamese, showing me fundamentals, why we cover this way, why we raise the shoulder, how we rotate the body when doing a backward elbow, and so forth. It was incredible. Most of the students understand about a third of what I say in Vietnamese. The teacher understands nothing. But, I understand at least half of what he is saying and the rest I get from his body language.

In that moment, that first drink of water after nearly ten months in the desert, I remembered why I had come to Asia in the first place. I remembered nights at the temple, having my monk teachers talking to me like that or Kru Ba in Thailand and later Kru Lek or Kru Bu in Cambodia, Wang Jiao Lien and Chun Ging Hway in Taiwan… just rattling on comfortably, intelligently in a foreign language which I now understand. Talking about the subject they love best of all, fighting.

I count myself doubly blessed, not only would very few foreigners ever get this far in the study of the language or the martial art, but these older teachers often recognize that I am at a very different level than their young, local students. And so, I am hearing and learning things the kids may never know.

It was magic. It was the magic I had been looking for and I have finally found in Vietnam.

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Martial Arts Odyssey: Kirsty’s Muay Thai fight Club

In Uncategorized on May 20, 2011 at 1:41 am

Antonio Graceffo trains at Kirsty’s Muay Thai fight club in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Kirsty was the first woman to own a Muay Thai club in Malaysia. She is also the first woman to organize her own tournaments and one of the few women managing two champion fighters. Kirsty’s club is in Ampang, Kuala Lumpur, but it feels like a little slice of Thailand.

Watch it for free on youtube.

Martial Arts Odyssey: Kirsty’s Muay Thai fight Club

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ublPrqyPWO0

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

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Brooklyn Monk in Asia: Fight Night Malaysia (Part 2)

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Antonio Graceffo covers two nights of professional fighting, including in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This video features Shuibah Idris, daughter of the sultan of Perak. The katoey fighter is called Beautiful Boxer of Malaysia. She lost her ring battle, but she sent a positive message to the world, encouraging people to be themselves, be what they want to be and to follow their dreams. In her own words, “Courage is more than fighting.” And, “It’s better to be hated for what you are than loved for what your not.”

Watch it for free on youtube.

Brooklyn Monk in Asia: Fight Night Malaysia (Part 2)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jgn9878O_0g

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

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Shan Refugees in Malaysia (Part 3)

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2011 at 12:21 am

By Antonio Graceffo

“In the history books in Burma they change everything. If they can change history it’s not HISTORY. It is THEIR story.” Burmese refugee in Malaysia.

“The first time I came to Malaysia I see the Malaysia is very freedom. You want to go somewhere you can go, no one block your way.” Said a Shan refugee who was a fan of Martial Arts Odyssey, my web TV show. “My country is not like that. After 9 pm, you cannot go out of the house. If the military saw you on the road they would beat you up, they would beat you.”

“When I was young, staying with my family in my home town I didn’t know about the information that military is beating the people and killing them, burning our farms. I didn’t know. The information is blocked.”

“When I came outside I have freedom of information. We get to know everything they are doing to us.”

“Before I came to Malaysia I didn’t know about internet. We didn’t know anything in Burma. I came here, and I saw even a small baby can use internet. They are professional already. They are higher than me, higher than us.”

“It is better here than Burma. Even though we are refugees here, we have more rights than in our home town. But we also don’t want to move our home town.”

This was an important point, which I had only recently come to understand. Shan people are fleeing Burma in droves. They go to Thailand, or in this case, Malaysia. But this is not what they want. What most of them want is for the fighting in Burma to stop. While they may openly dream of resettlement in the US or Australia, what they all told me, when they revealed their hearts, was that they just want to go back to a free and democratic Burma.

That is what this man meant, when he said, “But we also don’t want to move our home town.” He still wished he could live in his home town, but life there is simply untenable.

“Our Shan culture is that we don’t want to go to a foreign country. If we had a choice we would go back to Burma. So many only stay here four or five years, and then they go back.”

“In our country is the military law. The blocked skype, facebook, and information. They have bad policy no human rights. Everything under control,”

I asked if they had SPDC government spies here in Malaysia?

“Yes, we do. But we don’t know who. It could be anyone. It could be our best friend. We don’t know about their secrets… intelligence. They know everything we are doing. But they also cannot do anything. They can only get information and send back to Burma. But if they plan to do something we also don’t know.”

He told me that he had studied at university in Burma. “But we didn’t learn Shan history. I didn’t get to know our history till now. They don’t have it in the student book in Burma. In the history books in Burma they change everything. If they can change history it is not history. It is their story. So we don’t know our history we only know Burmese history.”

“I couldn’t write in Shan. I learned here in Malaysia. In Burma they didn’t allow us to teach Shan writing. But we could sometimes learn the reading from Shan karaoke.”

“They replaced all of our history with Burmese culture. In Malaysia we have a big celebration for Shan New Year, in central KL. We started in 2006 and we have every year. In Burma Shan New Year was outlawed.”

“One group of Shan in Burma have forgotten their language. The government prevented them from learning holidays, language, and culture. They have become Burmese already. They can speak properly Burmese, so they are like Burmese already. But they know their parents and grandparents were Shan. They know they are Shan, but they don’t know anything about Shan.”

“Can you imagine you cannot do your Shan New Year. It is celebrated according to Shan calendar, usually in November. And then the religious New Year is the same as Thailand (Song Kran) usually in April. We also call that New Year.”

Historically, the Shan and the Thai have been closely related. They share some culture and their festivals. But, it is important to remember that the Shan and the Thai are two unique peoples. And, the Shan should be recognized as an ethnic group, by the UN and other international organizations.

One of the other refugees told me that he had married a Shan refugee locally. They had a baby, but the baby’s birth was registered by the immigration department. He has a birth certificate, but the baby can’t be considered a Malaysian citizen.

I told him it was sad that his baby can’t be a Malay citizen. Refugee babies born in America are considered US citizens.

“We have no choice. We have a lot of struggle.”

When I asked what the biggest problem faced by refugees in Malaysia was, he answered, “The most challenging is security.” By security, he meant that the refugees get arrested by the Malaysian police on a regular basis.

As much as the refugees are struggling to survive, they continue to do what they can to further the cause of human rights inside of Burma, and to let the world know what the Shan people are suffering.

“In 1990s we submitted photos and documents of genocide.” (to the UN) “Last year again, in central Burma, the government attacked and destroyed all of the villages. And the innocent people suffer. They have farmland.” (The villagers) “It belonged to their ancestors, their forefathers, but Burmese government took it away easily. They say will build a railway or a road so they confiscated the Shan land.”

Large scale infrastructure projects in Burma generally lead, not only to land seizure, but to forced labor. Villages are threatened with death if they do not provide a certain number of workers. Many of those workers are never seen again. In numerous interviews I have done with refugees subjected to forced labor, they all reported having been beaten, tortured, starved, and often raped or they witnessed killings. Often, the forced laborers are used as human mine detectors, being pushed into the mine fields, ahead of the construction project.

I asked my new friend if he had a final message he wanted to send out to the world.

“For the Shan people what I want to say now, the situation is very bad. We are under the control of the Burmese military. When the Burmese army comes, they (the Shan people) are very afraid. They cannot do anything. They cannot depend on the Shan army to protect them. Example, when the Burmese army comes, the Shan army has to run away. So they cannot do anything. So many girls were raped or taken away. Hard times for Shan people. Even though we have the Shan army, we don’t know when we will get freedom.”

“The world must know about this and the world should put pressure on the Burmese government.”

“If we are still under the Burmese military, our rights …we have no human rights.”

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

website

www.speakingadventure.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

What Makes a Polyglot? (Part 5)

In Uncategorized on May 15, 2011 at 10:20 am

And What do Polyglots think

By Antonio Graceffo

“Lingo” Steve Kaufman is probably one of the most famous youtube polyglots. I was happy to be able to include him in my series on polyglots.

Steve says, I speak 6 languages very fluently: English, French, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish and Swedish; and 5 languages quite comfortably: German, Italian, Cantonese, Russian and Portuguese. I also speak one language at a pre-Intermediate level: Korean.

These are the only languages that I have studied.

1. Are most polyglots made or born?

Made

2. Did most polyglots learn their languages as adults?

Yes

3. Do children actually learn languages faster? And if so, where are these child-polyglots?

Initially children learn faster, but adults can reach an advanced level faster, in all areas except pronunciation

1. Were you born into a multilingual family? Were you raised bi-lingual? Yes my family was multilingual, no I was raised speaking English only

2. When did you start studying languages seriously? 17

3. Did you do any of your language study in a formal setting? If so, where and which languages?

French and Mandarin only but still most successful learning was outside the classroom

4. How much of your knowledge is the result of self-study? Most.

5. How many hours do you study per week? 5-10 mostly listening and reading, therefore it is not really studying.

6. How many hours do you believe one needs to master a language? You never master, you keep improving. Depending on the language, 600-3,000 hours to be really good.

7. Do you have any goal in learning languages? Are you training to be a professor, teacher, translator…or do you just study for love? For the love of it.

8. What is your occupation? Businessman

9. Do you learn more than one language at a time? Sometimes, one major and one minor, and occasionally switch.

10. Have you studied overseas? Where? How long?

Lived in Hong Kong, Japan, France.

11. Do you believe children learn languages faster than adults? Initially yes but not in the long run

13. Did you do well in school? Yes

15. Do you feel that polyglots are qualified to work as translators and interpreters or must one do formal studies first?

irrelevant. test them both.

16. Why do the vast majority of people who begin a language fail to learn it?

Attitude. poor expectations, unwilling to let go of their own language, attempt to learn in traditional way with emphasis on grammar and deliberate learning.

17. Any comments on language learning or polyglot life you would like to share with the world would be great. If you can enjoy the language through listening and reading, and eventually speaking, you can learn.

Steve Kaufmann

steve@lingq.com http://www.lingq.com

You can send the responses to my email Antonio@speakingadventure.com

Thanks so much for your time. Below, you will find more information about me

and the articles I write.

<http://www.lingq.com/?referral=steve>

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Brooklyn Monk in Asia Podcast (anti-travel humor)

http://brooklynmonk.podomatic.com

Twitter

http://twitter.com/Brooklynmonk

website

www.speakingadventure.com

facebook

Brooklyn Monk fan page

Brooklyn Monk on YOUTUBE

http://www.youtube.com/user/brooklynmonk1

Brooklyn Monk in 3D

Order the download at http://3dguy.tv/brooklyn-monk-in-3d/

Shan Refugees in Malaysia (Part 2)

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2011 at 12:08 pm

By Antonio Graceffo

“Human rights are very nice.” Quote from a Shan refugee who is a big fan of Martial Arts Odyssey.

‘I was taken in a truck, by a driver with a gun. The man was chewing Kratom leaves (a stimulant). There were twelve of us in the back of the van. Not all were Shan. Some were Arakan or Mon (two ethnic minorities in Brma). The driver was Thai. It took two days three nights to get here (Malaysia). At that time it cost 1,800 Ringit. ($592 USD).” Hsai Khun, (not his real name), was telling me the story of how he came to be a Shan refugee in Malaysia.

“When we go, the agent he will ask, which way do you want to go? The more we pay, the more comfortable the ride.” He continued.

Five hundred dollars could be several year’s wages for a poor Shan farmer, living in Burma. Unfortunately the price freedom has increased.

“Now we pay 37,000 Baht.(more than $1,000 USD).”

For many of the Shan, suffering inside of Burma, escaping to Malaysia would be an unobtainable dream. But it is only the first, in a long sequence of steps toward resettlement in a free country. After arriving in Malaysia, the Shan should obtain a community ID card, then register with UNHCR. Sadly, very few of the Shan refugees in Malaysia get this far, however.

“We cannot get UNHCR for everyone.” The Shan community leader explained. “We have about 5,000-6000 Shan refugees in Malaysia. Only 1,500 are registered with the UNHCR. Four thousand have our community ID card.” He went on to say that he hasn’t been able to help as many Shan as he would like. “Many people don’t know that we have an office.”

“UNHCR only does registration once per year. Last year about 400 registered, but less than 200 were recognized and issued cards by UNHCR.”

At that rate, to register all of the 6,000 Shan in Malaysia would take 30 years. Of course, as the war and the genocide in Burma continue, the refugees will keep coming.

“They come in day by day. Everyday, more people come and don’t know to register with us.”

“Some people come to Malaysia, but they are afraid to come here and register because they are afraid of getting arrested.”

Switching gears I asked about Shan families and children. As far as I knew, most of the refugees were men.

“There are some children here. Some people come with their families. There is a school for them in the refugee center, but not many. We only have about six or seven students. The parents send them here to learn, then, later, when they can read and write, they go out and new people come. They are coming and going. Many come and learn for a few months and then go away.” Explained the leader.

“The new arrivals sometimes leave their children at the school. They study and sleep there, and the teacher takes care of them.” Upstairs from the school is a Thai prayer room with a Thai monk. “The Monk also helps teach classes.”

“We only accept very young children. They must be under 18. If they are 19 and want to learn, maybe we can accept them. Most who come are men. Even the children are fifteen or sixteen which means they can work and make money already.”

Many of the refugees, even at age sixteen have never attended school.

“One of our kids is 12 and one 16. And they don’t even know how to read and write. So, they stay in our school hostel. We educate them in English. UNHCR gives some support, and they also provide teacher training. So some of our refugees who have some education already, go for teacher’s training. We have two Shan who have been through teacher training, and they help us to be self-sufficient. We have one volunteer foreign teacher, from England, who teaches English. And the Monk also helps us a lot with teaching.”

“The government doesn’t allow the refugees to go to school. Since 2010, the government has given us an opportunity. There is one private school which will accept refugee children, but we must have the UNHCR card, and we need to pay the school fees.” It costs 60 Ringit a month school fees and 60 Ringits bus fees. “Most refugees can’t pay it though.”

I asked if he had a family.

“I was already married in Burma. Then I sent for my wife and two children. I already had the experience of hiding in the car, so I knew to pay more to bring my family here so they could come comfortably and safely.”

“Will you get resettled?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I have refugee status now.”

I asked about the election in Burma.

“They selected a military man to be the ruler of Burma.” Explained one refugee, a college graduate, now working part time in a restaurant. “This is not an election this is a selection. They chose their own people and changed the name, and called it an election.”

Burmese exiles in other countries told me that they were surprised to find out that their votes had been cast, on their behalf, either at the embassy or back in their home village, without their knowledge. And of course, those votes went in support of the SPDC. “Maybe you voted for the junta and don’t know it.” I suggested.

With little or no hope on the political front, talk drifted to the war.

“I think they are going to attack all of the rebels.” Explained a man who had recently been notified that he would be resettled. He still kept his eyes on Burma, although, hopefully, he would soon be going to a land of freedom. “Now there is a lot of fighting in Shan State, and people are running away. The army has taken all of the property of the Shan. I think hard times are coming to Shan State.”

“The junta have big weapons. The rebels have small weapons. What can they do?” asked another man. He had recently married a Shan refugee woman, and now the two eked out an uncertain living with their part time work.

All of the refugees were in agreement that they didn’t want to go back to Burma. But the subject of Thailand came up a lot. There are thought to be between one and two million Shan in Thailand.

“Kuala Lumpur is better than Thailand. At least we can get recognized by UNHCR here.” Explained the newlywed. “Even though only a few of us get recognized, it is still better than Thailand. In Thailand UNHCR doesn’t recognize Shan. They say Shan and Thai are the same ethnic. But security here is worse.”

All of the men agreed that security, meaning getting arrested, was their biggest concern.

Earlier, one of the refugees, a youtube fan, had recognized me from my Burma videos. Now, several men commented on the fact that they had watched me in Martial Arts Odyssey. Now, they were ready to talk. The Youtube fan asked me, “Do you know about a school for human rights?”

In my experience, somehow, the minute a young Shan person learns English, they go online and learn about Human Rights. I have worked with and reported on tribes and ethnic minorities across Asia, but I have honestly never met a people like the Shan. My opinion is probably biased by the fact that I am mostly meeting very intelligent people, rather than a fair cross section of the population. But, the fact still remains that I have never encountered this phenomena in other ethnic groups. The Shan seem incredibly adept at learning English and then actually putting it to use, informing themselves about world events, world history, and subjects relevant to their struggle.

Nearly every English speaking Shan I have ever worked with or interviewed could intelligently about Nelson Mandela, Ghandi, the Dali Lama, and even Martin Luther King and Ho Chi Minh.

Maybe the Burmese government is right for blocking the internet and stopping education in Shanland. I couldn’t imagine what an entire generation of educated Shan could do to the junta.

“In Burma I didn’t know about Human Rights. I heard that first in Malaysia.” The youtube man told me. “Back in Burma, we live like blind. They close the door on information. They block our way, and don’t let us know about human rights.”

Talking to refugees is often a somber experience, but in this case, I was smiling inside, almost crying as his youthful enthusiasm and the simple correctness of what he was saying infected me. He was like many of the Shan I had known when was embedded with the Shan Army. They were bright, intelligent young people, who, had always suspected something had been stolen from them. The minute the learned English and gained access to a computer, they confirmed their suspicions and then educated themselves on what it was exactly they had been robbed of.

“My friend worked for an NGO. He told me about human rights. I think human rights are very high intelligence. I feel so proud about that.”

His next statement was so perfect, it was like Muhammad Ali saying, “No Viet Cong ever called me Niger.”

“Human rights are very nice.”

Yes, I agreed, human rights are nice.

Coming soon: Shan Refugees in Malaysia (Part 3)

Antonio Graceffo is self-funded and needs donation to continue his writing and video work. To support the project you can donate through the paypal link on his website, www.speakingadventure.com

Brooklyn Monk, Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the author of the books, “Warrior Odyssey’ and “The Monk from Brooklyn.” He is also the host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

Warrior Odyssey, the book chronicling Antonio Graceffo’s first six years in Asia is available at amazon.com. The book contains stories about the war in Burma and the Shan State Army.

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Silat Kalam on Wikipedia

In Uncategorized on May 9, 2011 at 3:39 am

I need someone who speaks Bahasa to help me translate the wikpedia page about Silat Kalam and establish and English language page about Silat Kalam.

http://ms.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silat_Kalam

If you want to help, please email me the translation and please post it on wikipedia. The text is below. antonio@speakingadventure.com

Antonio

Silat Kalam

Daripada Wikipedia, ensiklopedia bebas.

Lompat ke: pandu arah, gelintar

Silat Kalam merupakan salah satu cabang silat yang terdapat di Malaysia.

LoeschFrage.PNG

Kandungan rencana ini tidak memetik sumber rujukan dan memerlukan pengesahan.

Pembaca dinasihatkan membuat pertimbangan sendiri.

Bantulah Wikipedia memperbaiki rencana ini dengan menambahkan sumber rujukan. Fakta yang tidak disahkan boleh dipertikai dan dipadam.

[sunting] Mitos asal usul Silat Kalam

Seni Silat Kalam adalah wadah warisan seni mempertahankan diri yang salahsilahnya telah menjangkau beberapa abad lamanya hingga kini. Berasal dari Timur Tengah yang telah dibawa oleh Syeikh Abdullah atau pun lebih dikenali sebagai Syeikh Tajrid ke negara kita Malaysia dan mengajarkan ilmu tersebut kepada murid pertamanya iaitu Sultan Mudzafar Syah yang juga di kenali sebagai Merong Mahawangsa 111. Melalui pelajaran Seni Silat Kalam baginda telah tertarik lalu memeluk islam diikuti oleh sekalian Pembesar dan rakyat baginda. Dengan itu Islam telah menjadi agama rasmi dibawah panji-panji pemerintahan baginda Sultan. [perlu rujukan]

Perkembangan selanjutnya Sultan Mudzafar Syah telah menurunkan ilmu Seni Silat Kalam kepada anak cucunya. Sehinggalah pada zaman Sultan Ahmad Tajuddin berlaku satu peristiwa bersejarah dimana kesultanan Kedah telah diserang oleh Raja Batak yang bernama Tuah (bukan legenda Hang Tuah pada kesultanan Melaka). Baginda telah mengajar dan menurunkan Ijazah kepada Panglima Tok Ismail iaitu Ketua Panglima Kesultanan bagi melengkapkan beliau untuk maju ke medan perang menentang Raja Tuah. Bagi memperkuatkan pertahanan Negara sekaligus berjaga-jaga dalam apa kemungkinan dan serangan musuh maka Panglima Tok Ismail menurunkan ilmu tersebut kepada Panglima Tok Ali. Panglima Tok Ali menurunkannya kepada Panglima Tok Hadi, Penglima Tok Hadi menurunkannya kepada Panglima Tok Rasyid [perlu rujukan] dan Panglima Tok Rasyid menurunkannya kepada Pak Guru Yahya Said dan seterusnya Pak Guru Yahya Said menurunkannya kepada Cikgu zahalan bin Man (Pengasas PIKUM).

Sebelum Pak Guru Yahya Said wafat, beliau sempat meninggalkan pesan (wasiat) kepada Cikgu Zahalan bin Man agar menyampaikan (menyebar luaskan) ajaran Seni Silat Kalam yang asal, iaitu yang bertunggakkan agama Islam, “Amalan hidup orang Islam, Pegangan hidup orang Islam, Tujuan hidup orang Islam)

[sunting] Pengasas PIKUM

Zahalan bin Mat merupakan anak jati Perlis yang dilahirkan pada 14 Januari 1947 di Kampung Stesen Arau,Perli. Beliau mendapat pendidikan awal di Sekolah Melayu Kampung Jawa Pulau Pinang sehingga darjah tiga.Seterusnya menyambung pelajarannya ke S.M.C HUTCHING SCHOOL dan berpindah ke St.Xaviers sehingga tingkatan tiga. Mendapat pendidikan agama dan seni mempertahankan diri dari Pak Guru Yahya Said, salah seorang guru dalam bidang seni silat pada tahun 70-an. Sebelumnya, beliau belajar Silat dengan Cikgu Azmi Long dan Cikgu Radzuan Long pada tahun 1969. Dalam masa yang singkat, beliau dilantik menjadi jurulatih kanan pada tahun 1971. Dua tahun seterusnya, Pak Guru Yahya Said berkenan mengijazahkan beliau sebagai Guru Silat Kalam. Cikgu Zahalan Man, begitulah panggilan akrabnya adalah pernah berkhidmat sebagai Tentera Diraja Malaysia dari tahun 1965-1976. Pada kesempatan itulah,beliau banyak menimba berbagai ilmu persilatan yang antara lain, Silat Kuntau Siam dari Cikgu Fahmi, Silat Sunting Dua Belas dari Cikgu Mohammad dan Silat Cimande dari Pak Karto. Tidak hairanlah,dengan adanya ilmu dan kecekapan serta ketangkasan beliau didalam persilatan ini,Dato’ Dr Sabri Salleh selaku Presiden IBF Tae Kwan Do telah menganugerah Anugerah Kehormat Tertinggi ke atas Cikgu Zahalan Man pada 5 Oktober 1990. Bagi menunaikan amanah Gurunya,yakni Pak Guru Yahya Said, maka beliau bersama-sama dengan sahabat seperjuangan telah mengasaskan Pertubuhan Seni Silat Ikatan Kalam Utama Malaysia (PIKUM) pada tahun 1997 sehinggalah sekarang.

Terdapat 6 Adap yang dimestikan oleh PIKUM keatas ahli-ahlinya untuk diamalkan,iaitu:-

1. Beradapan kepada Allah dan Rasul.

2. Beradapan kepada Ibu dan Bapa.

3. Beradapan kepada Abang dan Kakak.

4. Beradapan kepada Guru-guru yang mengajar kebaikan.

5. Beradapan kepada sesama ahli Seni Silat Kalam Utama.

6. Beradapan kepada semua Insan.

Maksud Adap disini ia diibaratkan Tunjang kepada sebatang pokok.Jika kuat Tunjang itu suburlah pokok tersebut dan menghasilkan buah-buahan yang baik.Kalau ia reput maka pokok tersebut akan tumbang bila-bila masa.

Disamping 6 Adap diatas,bagi membina jiwa yang berwibawa dan bermaruah terdapat 5 pantang-larang.Beberapa pantang-larang itu adalah berikut:-

1. Tidak boleh menderhaka kepada Ibu dan Bapa.

2. Tidak boleh menderhaka kepada Abang dan Kakak.

3. Tidak boleh menderhaka kepada segala Guru yang mengajar kebaikan.

4. Tidak boleh menderhaka kepada semua Ahli Kalam Utama.

5. Tidak boleh mencaci keatas segala rupa Silat yang lain.

Pelajaran dan Pendidikan Seni Silat Kalam adalah mempraktikkan latihan Jasmani dan amalan-amalan Rohani bagi memeperteguhkan kenyakinan diri agar memperolehi kekuatan Iman,Islam,Ikhsan dan Adap.

[sunting] Amalan Seni Silat Kalam

Salasilah,ia adalah umpama permata yang tersembunyi,yang memberi erti didalam solat ada senjata dan lengkap dengan perisainya.Pengertiannya iaitu;senjata Qauli,senjata Qalbi dan senjata Fi’li yang maknanya adalah seperti berikut:-

Qauli- Adalah pergerakan dan perbuatan lidah yang mengeluarkan doa dan zikir sehingga melahirkan kosentrasi menerusi fikiran yang mengandungi kekuatan yang berkaitan dengan hati sentiasa menyebut KERANA ALLAH. Qalbi- Ketulusan hati yang dilahirkan dari perbuatan Qauli sehingga meniupkan Roh didalam jiwa yang mewujudkan kekuatan Rohani yang sentiasa hatinya menyebut KERANA ALLAH.

Fi’li- Dari perbuatan Qauli dan Fi’li dikaitkan dengan hati yang sentiasa menyebut KERANA ALLAH dengan dipadukan gerak geri solat yang semuanya mengandungi unsur Defensif(mempertahankan diri)maka akan lahirlah kekuatan yang Komprehensif dan terpadu antara Doktrinasi,kenyakinan dan Praktikal.Dari sini maka wujudlah kekuatan yang Hakiki seperti mana Sabda Rasulullah sebagai berikut:

INNAMA A’MALU BINNIYAT yang bermaksud sesungguhnya sah sesuatu amal adalah beserta dengan niat semata KERANA ALLAH.

Seni Silat Kalam pada keseluruhannya mengandungi 30 pergerakkan/Tepisan yang telah menjadi asas seni gerak mempertahankan diri. Ia bermula dengan tepisan Doa,Qiam,Rukuk hinggalah kepada Tepisan Takbir. Pada keseluruhan pergerakkan keseniannya ia tidak melebihi daripada 3 langkah; dan penggunaan keseluruhan daripada Pancaindera yang lima disambungkan penggunaannya dengan sepenuhnya;

* Pernafasan

* Penglihatan

* Pendengaran

* Akal Fikiran

* berkata-kata.

Kesinambungan penyatuan dan kepaduannya dan pada keseluruhan kesempurnaannya dapat merasakan kefungsian pancaindera yang lima ini bermanfaat pada diri.

Pihak PIKUM kini sedang dalam usaha membangunkan Akademi Kalam Utama Malaysia yang akan bertapak di Dengkil,Selangor bagi meneruskan usaha menyampaikan Amanah para Guru-guru terdahulu.