Dog Brothers are a legendary group of martial artists who put an emphasis on full contact matches with a minimum of rules. They really put it on the line.
Below is an excerpt from an interview with one of the Dog Brothers that appeared at Dogbrothers.gr. The full interview may be read here. Please pay a visit and enjoy.
the Dog Brothers tribe, one may
find individuals who have accomplished quite a few
different things - more so than most. Thomas Holtmann is
certainly such a person. His martial arts interests range from
the traditional to the eclectic. Not only is he a
closed-door student of a Chinese Master, he is also a BJJ competitor
and instructor, an MMA fighter and coach, and a full Dog
Brother. Thomas is also the only
Dog Brother who fights regularly both in the U.S. and Europe.
In this article, we take a closer look at one of the more "remarkable" fighters of the Dog Brothers tribe.
How did you first come into contact with the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) and Dog Brothers Martial Arts (DBMA) ?
Allow me to clarify, that I
do not specifically train in FMA or DBMA. When I
fight at the Gatherings, I basically use those other arts that I have
been fortunate to learn. Most of the Dog Brothers
do have a FMA background but this is not
a pre-requisite. You simply have to fight at the
Gatherings, and if you are "lucky", in time you may become one of the
few full Dog Brothers. That's the reason why I chose "Gong Fu Dog" - 'cause
I fight with my traditional Chinese martial arts weapons.
I have known about the Dog Brothers
for several years now, and it was always something
I wanted to try. So after I fought Judo, JiuJutsu,
Sanda, BJJ, Submission Wrestling and MMA it just seemed to be the next
logical step. I simply wanted to know if I can fight
and survive under such circumstances, using my Gong Fu weapons.
I proceeded to contact Lonely Dog and he told me
that the Gathering is open to everybody and that he would welcome me
coming to fight. And this is what I did.
Tell us about your Gong-Fu background and activities.
Praying Mantis stanceAfter training for years in other Martial Arts, one day a friend from school told me that he would now train Gong Fu. And not just any Gong Fu, but Praying Mantis style. Since I was watching every eastern movie that came out, I wanted to learn Gong Fu. So I went to the school to check it out. After the first class I knew that this was the Martial Art I would like to train in for the rest of my life! This was in 1989. When my teacher went back to Italy I started to teach. I also taught in the first German Jing Wu Academy. Since I always liked to fight, I also competed in the International German Sanda Championships and got 1st place in my category. With Grandmaster Zhong Lianbao and studentsWhen I lived in China for my studies, I learned the so called “Internal Martial Arts”. I trained every day a special style of Ba Gua Zhang, Ba Gua Sword and also Xing Yi Quan. So till the year 2000 I trained Seven Star Praying Mantis Gong Fu in the so-called Hong Kong lineage.
It was that same year (2000) that my Shixiong introduced me to Grandmaster Zhong Lianbao from Yantai, China. From that day on, I just trained in his style of Qi Xing Tang Lang Quan (Seven Star Praying Mantis Gong Fu). In 2011, together with two of my Gong Fu brothers, I finally became a closed door student of his - which is a great honor! Altogether, he has only ever accepted six Europeans as closed door students. I´am also Vice President of the Zhong Lianbao International Seven Star Mantis Federation and Vice President of the German Branch of the Zhong Lianbao International Seven Star Mantis Federation
What attracted you to the Chinese Arts, as opposed to say the Japanese ones ?
Actually, I did train in Judo for ten years before I started with the Chinese martial arts. I am a brown belt in Judo and when I switched to Gong Fu I was actually preparing to grade for my black. During those 10 yrs I also trained a bit in Aikido and Japanese Jiujutsu. But I was always interested in the Chinese martial arts. So (as noted earlier) when a friend from school told me that he started with Kung Fu, I had to check it out. After the first class I knew that this was the martial art I had been searching for. The techniques, the weapons, the teacher ...everything was amazing! So I stopped Judo and never looked back.
In your opinion, what do the internal arts offer, that one doesn't find elsewhere?
As compared to other styles/systems, they (obviously) offer different techniques, and another perspective towards fighting, but at the end of the day, they too boil down to another way of "getting the job done".
I was fortunate that my teacher was not from the "esoteric qi talking healthy" group of the so-called internal arts. As an example of this, consider what Tai Ji Quan has turned into: Literally thousands of people in parks all over the world, wearing beautiful silk uniforms and moving in slow motion. If one asks them "What are you doing?" Basically they all have very little idea. Tai Ji Quan was a brutal martial art. Those guys were real fighters! But most so-called "Masters" have next-to-no idea how to apply the techniques in combat. Which is a pity! But then why train in a martial art in the first place? So I was really lucky that my teacher showed me the applications of those styles. Not just the Taolu (forms). Practicing formI still remember that we were using broomsticks for sword fighting. So for my development as a Martial Artist it was important to see, train and to feel that external and internal are just two different ways to defeat your opponent. But it takes a good teacher, to get that across!
Apart from the fighting aspects, when I decided to study the internal arts, it was the first time that I had to show a teacher that I really wanted to learn his style. Chinese teachers are a bit different. They say that westerners can not ?? (chi ku/eating bitter). So I had to be there every day at 6 am, and than he just showed me a single move which I would repeat and repeat and repeat till University started. My teacher was not even looking at me, at least this is what I thought... That continued for weeks. After he was sure that I really wanted to learn he "really" started to teach me. Which meant training with him in the morning, repeating for myself in the afternoon and than training with him again in the evening. It was quite funny to see the "long-nosed European " (me) running across the campus with a Ba Gua sword in my hand, while the local Chinese students were playing basketball and soccer.
Besides the three-section staff and the spear, which other weapons are you comfortable with?
Training with a spear
I have taught Seven-Star Praying Mantis for several years, and as an instructor I am required to know all of the basic weapons so that I can show my students how to use them. My Shifu has a progression in the teaching of weapons. As is true of many styles, there are those which you learn in the beginning of your journey, and others which you start to learn once you become an advanced student. Within those weapons is another hierarchy. You have beginner forms and advanced forms. Some forms are so special that just a handful of people will ever learn them. For example, there is a spear form that my Shifu taught to me and a German Gong Fu brother, which he has shown to just eleven people in all!
Fighting with a long staff
But as far as I can tell, most people can not be good with all of those weapons. Maybe when performing beautiful forms, one can demonstrate some of the applications, but real fighting is far different. For sure there are exceptions out there, like for example my Shifu. He can fight with all of the weapons! But my Shifu is on a different level - he plays with me, as if I were a beginner.
Now then, ever since my Shifu started to teach me the spear and the staff, I have focused mostly on these two weapons. When I fight at a Gathering using a long staff (note that the chinese staff is longer than the ones used in the Filipino Martial Arts), I can use both spear and staff techniques. I am, nonetheless, open to trying out new things. For example, at the 2012 U.S. Tribal Gathering, I had a nice fight using a nine-section staff. At next year's Euro Gathering, I'm planning to use the Nunchaku and the Mae Sowks. But basically the spear/staff and the three-section staff are my favorite weapons.