• Jackie Bradbury

The German Modern Arnis Experience


Today we welcome guest blogger, Skip Todd. Skip is one of my Texas Arnis friends, and he also makes some cool wooden training swords that I own (and people drool over when they get to see them). Skip, Veronika Todd, and Alexander Shavkunov train with Ed Kwan at Clear Lake Modern Arnis in Houston, TX (and they're all super-awesome people to boot).


Skip tells us about his experience flying from Houston, TX to Germany to participate in the DAV Modern Arnis camp. This is actually a bucket list item of mine, and Skip's gone twice.


This post has a lot of Modern Arnis-specific terms, so if you're not sure what something is, drop a note in the comments and let me know (I'll define it for you).

You might think that a 180-person, six-day, 22 hour-and-a-half sessions Modern Arnis camp taught by four Grandmasters (GM), three Senior Masters (SM), and eight other high-ranking instructors is not worth two 10-hour flights and $2000 (the camp only cost $630, which includes room and three meals a day), BUT…if you spend two extra weeks driving 3000 km all over west-central Europe, the camp becomes an absolutely indispensable justification for vacationing in Europe every other year.




Actually I loved every minute of the week at the camp. This was their 16th summer camp and the German Arnis Association (DAV) has perfected the science of running a large martial arts camp. Since 2009, they have held the camp at Sportschule Schöneck, a premier league, professional soccer team training center, in Durlach near Karlsruhe, Germany.


The daily schedule was breakfast, followed by two training sessions, then an hour for lunch and an hour to relax, then two sessions, then dinner, and then an evening session on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by socializing with the other arnisadors and a beer on the terrace. All the meals were served in a large cafeteria. The camp made an effort to accommodate the vegetarians/vegans amongst us.


All of the DAV instructors are top-notch teachers and great people – very welcoming and eager to share their art with others. Almost all of the instructors were fluent in English and helped us non-German speakers by repeating all the instructions for us (the Hungarians, French and Russians also appreciated the English translations).


In addition to the DAV instructors, they have guest instructors who teach with a different viewpoint. This year they had GM Thorbjørn Hartelius (Kombatan 9th Dan) and SM Tye Botting (7th Dan). This summer I took classes taught by 10 instructors and partnered with at least three others. Two years ago I took classes taught by nine instructors; of which six were different from this year.

From L to R: Skip Todd, Thorbjørn Hartelius, Dieter Knüttel, Alexander Shavkunov, Tye Botting, and Veronika Todd.

The camp is open to all levels. About half the participants were black belts, but there were white, yellow, green, blue, and brown belts too. I don’t know if ALL the DAV students are this good, or if only the best from each level chose to go to the camp, but I was very impressed by the skill and intensity of the lower ranks at the camp.


It certainly forced me to stay focused to not let down my school/master/country. I think I did ok, except for one session where the footwork being taught for a sinawali was totally alien to how we do it at my school. I just couldn’t get my feet to “break training”. Oh well.


By far, the most difficult part of the week was choosing which class to attend each session. With six to eight classes being taught simultaneously, there were always hard choices to make. Classes ranged from about five to maybe fifty participants. Some of the classes had rank restrictions, but most were open to all levels (twice I couldn’t take my first choice as I am only a brown belt). This year my dance card was mostly knife, empty hand, and reactive training, but I did take one of GM Dieter Knüttel’s special, everyday situations classes, Self-defense with a Mobile/Cellular Phone, which I really liked.


Both of the guest instructors had an easy-going, fun style that fit in well with the DAV way of teaching. SM Botting taught an empty-hand tapi-tapi with an emphasis on inserts and GM Hartelius showed us a 10-count stick pattern that I liked (I collect stick patterns).


A consistent take-away from all the knife defense instructors was that if you don’t die, it was a successful knife defense. If all you suffered were some superficial cuts to your fingers while disarming your assailant, then that’s great. If you can talk your way out of the fight, better yet. It is good to be reminded that for all our training, knife defense is REALLY hard and the goal should be to get home to our families alive.


GM Hartelius taught a fun, stick drill where one person calls out various sinawali with single sinawali “being the glue” between each of the others. So at the end of each single sinawali, the driver calls out a random sinawali (besides single), after one cycle of which, there is another cycle of single sinawali. Something like: [single], “redonda”, [single], “double”, [single], “peral-peral”, [single], “heaven-6”, [single], “reverse”, [single], “double”, [single], “reverse”…. This is harder than it sounds while trying to maintain the rhythm.


I learned that heaven-6 is called double-high in the DAV. [Other terminology differences include our “1-2 Drill” being called the “Modern Drill” and “dagger” doesn’t refer to a large, double-edged knife, but to a knife held in reverse (icepick) grip.]


Almost all of the stuff I saw was the same as what my master teaches, but it is good to see it again from another viewpoint with a nuance here or there emphasized slightly differently. I think we all learned a few neat things to practice later; earned lots of bruises; and met new Arnisadors that we can look forward to seeing again at a seminar somewhere. I encourage every FMA practitioner to try out the DAV summer camp.



Datu GM Dieter Knüttel will be in the U.S. giving a seminar in Dallas-Fort Worth area 19-20 October 2019. This is a good opportunity to see how they teach Modern Arnis in Germany [Datu Dieter is a fantastic teacher, so GO if you can! - the Stick Chick]


Classes that Skip took:

Monday (afternoon only): JG: 25 Stick Locks and Squeezes - Basics IH: Sinawali-Essense


Tuesday: SW: Dirty Boxing VV: Jab-Cross Defense HK: Double Sinawali vs. Single Stick DK: Knife and Dagger Disarms 2 x 1-12 [flow drill]


Wednesday: DK: Knife Disarms: How to Apply HK: Stick-Empty Hands; empty hand wins JG: Stick-Stick Reaction Training Exercises AD: Tactile Drills and Training


Thursday: DK: Tapi-Tapi Basics and Intermediate Level DK: Self-defense Against Knife Attack SB: Combinations of Knife Drills


Friday: HK: Reactive Knife DK: Double Stick Tapi 1 TH: Bolo TH: 10-count Flow Drill [pattern]


Saturday: JG: Kicks & Fist – Attack & Defense DK: Self-defense With Mobile/Cellular Phone TB: GM Remy’s Empty-hand Tapi-Tapi and Inserts TH: Knife


List of Instructors at 2019 DAV Summer Camp Datu GM Dieter Knüttel, 10th GM Hans Karrer, 8th GM Jørgen Gydesen, 8th GM Thorbjørn Hartelius, Kombatan 9th SM Tye Botting, 7th Master Sven Barchfeld, 6th Master Ingo Hutschenreuter, 6th Sr. Guro Benedikt Eska, 5th Sr. Guro Andre Dawson, 5th Sr. Guro Philipp Wolf, 5th Sr. Guro Carola Maucher, 5th Sr. Guro Peter Rutkowski, 5th Sr. Guro Simona Koch, 4th and other certified DAV instructors including: Alexander Friedrichs Vladimir Vedoc

Thanks for the report, Skip! Someday I'll join you at this camp. In the meantime, I'll just be SO JEALOUS.


Have you ever traveled internationally to attend martial arts training? What was it like? Have you been to DAV Summer Camp? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments!

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