Wednesday, 19 March 2008

My teacher Mike Martello (by Jochen Wolfgramm)

Since I am often asked how I met Mike Martello Sifu and how he became my teacher, I will now tell the whole story, and give a view of the backgrounds. 

It all started in May 2005. At this point, I have invited Jake Burroughs to my former school to give a seminar on Liu He Tang Lang (mantis) techniques. Participants were next to some of my own students, Arne Grandt (Tang Lang teacher from Cologne) and his student Puja and 5 students from Mike Martello. They all came the way from Belgium, because Mike Martello encouraged his students to see and learn from other teachers also. 

During the seminar, I took the opportunity to talk with Mike Martello, whom I never met in person, but already know something from forums. e-mails and even some video clips. I heard about him as a very good teacher and martial artists. During the talk Mike was able to speak out what I felt was the exact point but wasn´t able to think about it in that exact way. He was talking about my inner thoughts without knowing me. I was more than surprised.

By this time I was on a deadpoint with my martial arts development. My Taiji was lousy, as only rudimentary and reduced alone on the empty movements of the form, my Mantis also had not really been developed for some time. It was at this time that I learned only more and more variations of the typical 7 Star Mantis sets without learning  something fundamental new. 

Everyone certainly knows the feeling when he buys the new Album of his favorite band and at home with great disappointment determines that it is only another variation of the preceding. No innovation, no further development. Well, I just felt my stagnation in the martial arts like this. 

On this day in early May 2005, however, stood in front of me a person who told of similar experiences, and also how it works for him to go forward. Mike showed that day as good as none of his ability. He exchanged only with me his  thoughts. He helped me in conversation to see what my problem (and that of many others as well) was. Only his idea of rooting he demonstrated with Arne Grandt. He asked Arne to push on him in a Kua Hu Bu (Tiger riding or cat stance) over the outstretched arm. Arne managed not to move Mike an inch. I was naturally impressed, I knew those skills stories, but had not met someone, who could really show! 

It was a very exciting and, in retrospect, an important day. I agreed with Mike,  to visit him soon in his school in Antwerp. 2 weeks later, I was over. To reinforce objective I visited him together with my girlfriend Nadine, who also had a few years Tang Lang and Taiji experience. 

During a 4-day visit to Antwerp, we could get to know Mike Martello personally as well as  experience him in private training and also in some regular class situations. Everything he showed and explained was very grounded. In addition, his skills were incredible. Not good studied tricks, but real skills and depth of knowledge impressed us in the long term. There was someone who showed things that we only knew from stories and best seen in films. Everything he did goes back on some very basic things: the base (rooting, the use of hip, alignment, etc.) and how to use this basis, then all techniques had incredible power. 

It's hard to describe what Mike Martello makes so unique. Certainly, it is his way of personal experience, long decades of martial arts training and enormous dedication to his training and his students. Above all, it´s a solid basis in everything he does. 

At that time I realized to my luck that I could learn incredible lot from  by Mike Martello. And I did not step back to ask him to accept me as a student. Something that, in my experience, many others simply denied: learning again, leaving the teacher status and be just a student. 

Since then, a few years past now and I have in this time much recognized and learned. The relationship with Mike Martello Sifu goes far beyond a mere "apprenticeship". He enables me to learn a lot, to meet and to learn from people who promote good Kung Fu. Therefore, I am very grateful. 

I hope I could give a little insight into my reasons and motivations to become a disciple of Mike Martello Sifu and hope that the readers remain objective when they try to understand this!

Jochen Wolfgramm


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