3. Dan Modern Arnis
About the DAV and Datu Dieter Knüttel from Edessa Ramos
Datu Dieter Knuettel leads an organization of hundreds of Modern Arnis pracitioners, students who are both loyal, respectful, and energetic in a way that would put a stick-swinging Speedy Gonzales to shame. A lot of his students have been with him for over 20 years now. There must be a secret to the success of such a lasting relationship.This secret to a long organizational life, according to Datu Dieter, comprises of:
– a very good program and a good progression
– a good structure that gives rise to an easy learning process
– clubs and instructors that are geographically spread out in Germany
– definitely serious testing for all levels
– and ranks that are recognized in the Philippines.
Under the leadership of Datu Dieter, assisted by an impressive pyramid of black belts from 6. Dan down to 1. Dan, not to mention over 150 black belts, DAV is indeed the Modern Arnis force to contend with in Germany, perhaps in all of Europe.
Last year, during the visit and seminar by Filipino Grandmaster Rene Tongson, DAV received a special citation from the International Modern Arnis Federation Philippines (IMAFP). GM Tongson presented Datu Dieter with his formal membership in advisory capacity to the Modern Arnis Council in the Philippines, the first honour ever accorded to a non-Filipino master. During the same occasion, Datu Dieter’s staunchest colleagues of 20 plus years, Hans Karrer and Jørgen Gydesen, were promoted by IMAFP to the rank of 6. Dan, Master of Modern Arnis.
The years of the DAV under Ernesto Presas dealt heavily in reaction and reflex training, sticktrapping (grabbing of the stick), making the disarms functional in reaction training, learning as many Sinawalis as possible, and the use of everyday objects as self-defense tools. The changeover to Professor Remy Presas in 1994 opened the door to fingerlocks, lockflow, and various stick-takedowns. Datu Dieter and his students learned a different way of connecting the techniques. This also started the road to DAV’s mastery of the Tapi-Tapi system.
DAV’s relationship with the late Grandmaster Remy Presas was a special one. The first time that Professor Presas witnessed DAV’s black belt gradings, he remarked on how very serious they were about their Modern Arnis training. Perhaps, according to Datu Dieter, the professor also respected the fact that DAV did not approach Modern Arnis from the concept of “the art within your art” but as a stand alone martial art. It was a concept he never demanded or pushed, but it must have surprised him to see this in Germany, and it could be that he truly liked it.
I have been training with DAV for the past 4 years now. Because I live in Switzerland, I never had the opportunity to train regularly with any of their clubs. But having attended as many seminars as I could, particularly when being taught by Datur Dieter, I came to know more intimately the art of real self-defense. DAV trainings taught me to use the stick and impact weapons with intent, not just with beauty through artful movements. My teachers back home in the Philippines emphasized a lot on form and grace in the execution of techniques. This perspective was, of course, very precious to me. But trainings with DAV showed me the pure practicality of fighting. Datu Dieter showed me the real applications that develop awareness and ability on the streets. Not only that, because I trained with DAV members, and usually being the smallest among the black belts, I learned to be strong. It revealed to me that I can truly be as powerful as the big guys, if not in brute strength, then at least in technique and effective use of martial knowledge.
Training with DAV taught me also that strength and endurance training is important, and that this is my own responsibility. Therefore it pushed me to seek condition training through boxing and other sports. On the DAV floor, I learned to take blows. I learned to get up every time the wind was knocked from me, and sometimes I’ve had some nasty falls! I learned to deal with a swinging stick meeting my face, and to manage the consequences whenever I wasn’t quick enough. I learned to go on even when the bruises start numbing my arms.
I remember after one particularly rough training, as I sat on the train from Frankfurt going back to Zurich, nursing my injuries, feeling like a lone survivor of war making her way home, I had to make a decision whether to stop or to continue. The weight of the decision made me shed a tear. Perhaps it happens at least once to every woman in the martial arts. It was a moment of self-confrontation, or true honesty in facing inner fears and doubts. And the decision I came up with was: go on, learn more, learn to take it, learn to fight back. That particularly training had pushed me up to a higher plane in my martial arts training … that of being truly tough inside. In my opinion, this is something important for all women self-defense artists to go through. Because bad encounters on the streets are truly nasty, we must learn to deal with pain and injury and hard training in a controlled environment, with tough but respectful partners, and under the watchful eye of a well-trained instructor. In my opinion as a woman, this is the most valuable contribution that DAV has given to me.
DAV has contributed immensely to the history as well as the future of Modern Arnis. This it has done, always remaining true to the dreams and visions of Professor Remy Presas. DAV’s mission and accomplishments can be summed up in what Datu Dieter once said in an interview: “Modern Arnis today is an accepted Martial Art in the world. There are many versions of it. No one is right, no one is wrong. Nobody has the “truer” Modern Arnis compared to another. There is no better or worse, there is only ‘different’.” And it is because of this perspective that Modern Arnis continues to grow worldwide and to propagate the dream of Professor Remy to make the Filipino Martial Arts a world heritage.