Sunny Graff


Rene R. Tongson

Sunny Graff
5th Dan Modern Arnis
7th Dan Taekwon Do
4th Dan Lapunti Arnis de Abanico
3rd Dan Shin Son Hapkido

Why do I train Modern Arnis in the DAV by Sunny Graff

My introduction to Arnis was back in the 70’s at a small gathering of women martial arts instructors in Michigan, a precursor of the USA National Women’s Martial Arts Federation where Sifu Barbara Bones taught single and double Sinawali. I was hooked immediately. The movements reminded me of the lummy sick drills I’d done as a child at girl scout camp. I was intrigued by Arnis, but had no opportunity to pursue further training. I was a member of the US National Taekwondo Team at the time and all my energy went into preparing for competition.
In 1983 I retired from competition, graduated from Columbia University Law School with an LlM in Comparative Law and got a scholarship to study in Germany for a year. I was surprised to find there were very little women’s martial arts or self-defense in Germany. In Frankfurt I started a Taekwondo school for women and girls and a nationwide self-defense teacher’s training program. For my own training I began Shin Son Hapkido with Sonsanim Ko Myong and made contact with the German Arnis Association, which directed me to a local teacher. At my first promotion test in Essen to yellow belt, I saw the German national trainer Datu Dieter Knuettel in action and immediately decided he had to be my teacher. It was worth the 2 ½ hours of travel each way to Essen to learn from the best.

Professor Remy Presas advertised Arnis as “the art within your art”. For me, Arnis was the art that was missing in my arts. I love the physicalness of Taekwondo and Hapkido: the kicking, the fighting, the falling but stick fighting opened up entire new dimensions in the martial arts and self-defense. The diversity, creativity and effectiveness of stick fighting have captured my heart. I feel alive with a stick in my hands. From the flowing and weaving of Sinawali to the intricacies of locking, disarming and the counter to counter to counter of Tapi Tapi, the range of technique in Modern Arnis is vast. We work with double sticks, single stick, knife, stick and knife, long staff, machete, sword and empty handed at long, middle and close ranges. The variety of weapons and combination of weapons, as well as empty hand techniques are endless. Weapons are great for self-defense and can equalize whatever physical advantage an attacker may have in a physical confrontation. Stick training is efficient and practical and not only increases timing, reaction, accuracy, speed and correct body mechanics, but it is great fun to train.

The nicest aspect of stick fighting is playing and training with others Arnisadores. At the beginning of my arnis career I had a number of partners for short periods of time. In 1995 at the DAV Summer camp in Kassel I met my longtime invaluable training partner, Bernd Vieth, head of “TG Bornheim Modern Arnis Gruppe” in Frankfurt and my training took an immediate leap forward. We train regularly and have taken our second, third and fourth dan tests together. Most notable was the third dan test in 1999 which was held at my school “Frauen in Bewegung e.V.” and presided over by Professor Remy Presas. I was fortunate to spend a lot of time in the USA and attended a number of the Professor’s camps and trainings. I was delighted with the German Arnis Association (DAV) officially affiliated with the Professor.

In addition to Modern Arnis, I have trained extensively in Lapunti Arnis de Abanico and traveled 5 times to the Philippines to train with Grandmaster Ondo Caburnay. I love to cross train in other styles and attend as many workshops as I can, especially in Warrior’s Escrima and the IKAEF System. I continue to be fascinated at the endless variety of ways to use a stick.

As a member of DAV for more than 20 years, I have witnessed the rapid growth of Modern Arnis in Germany from a handful of devotees to a large thriving organization. There are now Modern Arnis Schools in most large cities. This is due in large part to the excellent leadership provided by Datu Dieter Knuettel. His knowledge of the arts is vast and he has a great eye for movement. Datu is an excellent teacher. He can break down the most complex of techniques so it is easily understandable to beginners while offering a thousand variations for the advanced students. Most importantly Datu continues to seek out the best martial artists in the world to form alliances and share skills, which insures that our training program continues to grow. Unfortunately the number of female participants in Arnis has not increased as rapidly as the overall growth of the organization. There are regrettably few female members and even fewer high ranking female black belts.

Datu Knuettel and the Masters Hans Karrer, Jørgen Gydesen and Peter Rutkowski offer high quality training weekends throughout the year in Germany and Europe. The semi-annual summer camps offer high caliber trainers at affordable rates. The summer training is a real highlight and attracts more participants every year. This year a number of Masters from the Philippines and the United States will be teaching.

The largest benefit to being in DAV is the openness and friendship of the members. There is a great sense of comradeship in the organization. Many of the black belts have been members since the early years. Attending a training camp means being surrounded by old friends and meeting new friends.