Mitchell: Martial arts sharpens self-defense skills |

Mitchell: Martial arts sharpens self-defense skills

Jon Mitchell
Todd Burkholder, left, and Dave Malehorn practice fighting with knifes during a Paamano Eskrima seminar taught by Grand Master Roland Ferrer at the Pro TKD Martial Arts Center in Carbondale on Friday night.
Christopher Mullen / Post Independent |

CARBONDALE — Who would have thought that making advances at people with a sharp weapon would be so much fun?

Well, check that, actually. The weapon was a knife, but it wasn’t very sharp. It was more of the flimsy, floppy rubber kind of knife — the kind someone would give their kid to carry around to accompany a costume on Halloween.

Yet on Friday at the Pro TKD Martial Arts Center, a lot of people were carrying around those knives. They were slicing, slashing and stabbing while the person across from them was blocking, backing up and defending themselves.

All of this, mind you, happened with smiles on their faces to accompany the laughter, and there was a lot of it. There were even “costumes” there — nearly four-fifths of the people participating in this seminar were wearing martial arts uniforms. The other stragglers — like me — were dressed in street garb. With no shoes in the training area, of course.

And everyone in attendance was there to take part in the seminar on knife fighting that was taught by Grand Master Roland Ferrer, a friend of Master Doug Fuschel of Pro TKD for more than a generation who flew into Carbondale from Los Angeles to teach the seminar. He’s been involved with martial arts for much longer than that — 43 years, to be exact — and obviously has forgotten more about multiple disciplines than most people will ever know.

That knowledge allowed him to have fun with everyone on hand, regardless of skill level. They ranged from black belts, blue belts and yellow belts, to other people, like myself, who has a hard time slicing an onion, much less a human being.

Ferrer, 52, obviously realizes this, which is why his self-defense teaching techniques drew smiles and laughs for almost the entire 2-hour session.

“OK,” he told the group, demonstrating a way to steal a knife from someone during an attack. “Now take the knife and slash that person back and fourth like this. And have fun with it!”

Um … OK then.

To be sure, there was a lot of repetition during the short segment of time Ferrer had to work with the group of close to four-dozen people who attended. And his loud and boisterous voice played a big part in helping people have a great time while faking bloodshed with the rubber knives everyone had.

“It’s very light-hearted when we say, ‘Cut ’em pretty,” Fuschel said, laughing.

Trust me. There’s no way I’ll retain the entire 13 points of attack that was taught. One hour later, after going through all of the attack motions, I remember seven of them. And if we had been doing this with real knives, my partner, Carolyn Oswald, would have killed me — like, five times.

Needless to say, I wasn’t too sharp.

In all seriousness, though, the stuff Ferrer teaches is pretty practical, regardless of if you live in Garfield County, Colo., or Los Angeles.

Ferrer primarily teaches Filipino martial arts and a discipline called PaaMano Eskrima, which translates to “Foot Hand Skirmish.” It’s a system he created that combines 10 different martial arts he’s trained in over the past four decades, including Karate and Taekwondo. After about an hour of going through these motions, it’s pretty clear how passionate he is.

He admits that many of the people who come to him to train do it for self-defense purposes. And even outside of a big city, those situations can pop up anywhere.

“I was at a bar with my wife, and there was a guy at a bar who was drunk and dropped a large kitchen knife on the floor,” Fuschel said. “I told her, ‘watch this. I’m gonna disarm this guy.’ I just kicked the knife underneath the bar and he never knew it was gone. But it was a large kitchen knife that he was just carrying around.”

There obviously are some aspects of athleticism that go along with the techniques that were taught, which goes with the territory for any sort of martial art. Ferrer opened the door for new kinds of martial arts to quite a few people Friday night, bringing a light approach to prepare for a situation that most people never really want to be in.

Why not smile and have fun with it?

Jon Mitchell is the sports editor os the Post Independent and Rifle Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-384-9123, or at

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