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 once on one of those rare winter days when outside weather was so severe, we had no option but to go inside to watch some training videos on the Archibeque family TV.
No sooner was the TV warm when Archie turned to us and said Boys, my computer is 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?
We sat 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 ... one and the same!
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 physically addressed, resulted in a combination of
inner ear training, muscular development, and ancillary benefit to the ligaments.
In this 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.
Here Archie has the stool upside down and is using it as a base 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 and gravity dictated by the stool.
Hear 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 achieved.
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, Be careful ! The caution was justified. As the metal hammer
approached my head, it became extremely difficult to control, and 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.
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 outdoor photos , which had been incorporated into this presentation were mostly taken at the the camp . This was 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 asked, Archie would respond, I m sure, 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 sessions.
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 camp.
The final years of Archie s practice were in the structural Gun Fu Dojo. That school was built by hand on the generosity of Archibeque
s friends and students over the course of a year in the 1980s.
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 mind, 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 environment while actively training, and 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 that remains is the Looking Glass , my precious memories, and the skill.
I hope you enjoyed what once was , as you peeked over the fence of time, through the looking glass!
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