1. Picture one: GM Burke showing the importance of a proper stance
2. Picture two: GM performing the arm switch to the right.
3 Picture three: GM Burke performing the left arm switch.
4.Picture four: GM Burke and Hemil Garcia, Black Belt review writer.
By Hemil García
I have to be honest. Back in 2002 when I saw the advertisement I was a bit skeptical: learn the American Nunchaku Style on video!
I was unsure if Martial Arts Distance Learning was possible, but still I wanted to give it a try. The ad was posted in a very reputable martial arts magazine. Therefore, I decided to purchase the video despite some unconvinced comments made by my loving wife who always supported my passion for martial arts, “I know you want to learn how to use the chuckys, but how do you know if that guy Burke knows his stuff? Even if he knows about nunchakus, how can you tell it will be easy to learn just by watching a tape?”
I knew my wife had a point (she always does), but my honest replied was, “I want to learn Nunchakus, but there aren’t schools around. Sometimes a school may teach you martial arts weapons, but it’s not guaranteed.”
Back in 2002 I was training Brazilian jujitsu which (as your probably know) does not involve the use of any martial arts weapons whatsoever. Jujitsu like judo is a sort of “gentle art”. Jujitsu is the art of throwing, locking, and choking adversaries (which by the way is not very gentle as far as I know.)
To make the long story short: I bought the tape Nunchakus I and I also I got me a pair of nunchakus (I recommend the ones that are plastic made inside, covered with foam on the outside, and have a metal chain. They are harmless, but heavy enough to practice without hitting your elbows or even worst your head.)
When I saw the tape the first thing I noticed is that the instructor GM Burke was not trying to overpraise his art by doing flashy maneuvers like the ones we see on YouTube today. Many of the flashy moves such as flips and butterflies may be very good to the eye, but not effective in a real scenario.
GM Burke’s video lessons are provided with easiness and even a martial arts beginner can follow them. How many times does watching instructional videos that have unfeasible drills lose us? To make matters worst, some instructors speak as if they are not teaching martial arts, but giving an exaggerated speech intending to sound sophisticated.
Nunchakus I cuts the cheese and goes straight to business! The movements are basic and introductory, but effective. I have to confess. Initially I thought, “Hmmm, this is not what I want. I want Bruce Lee’s types of moves!”
Yes, I wanted to used the Nunchakus as seen on “The Return of the Dragon”. Yes, especially in that part where Lee beats a dozen people just with one pair of black nunchakus.
Nunchakus I has a structure that requires a bit of patience. Yet the drills are very dynamic and fun and that is what kept me interested and focused: first, it shows you how to hold and grasp the nunchakus. Then, your learn how to throw one end of the Nunchakus back at you without hurting your self and allowing you to catch them under your armpit. It’s important to have a good stance (see picture1.)
At the beginning when you practice with two pairs you do not catch the nunchakus at all times or sometimes you catch the one of your left arm, but not the other on your right. However, after a while you are able to.
Another key point and feature from Nunchakus I if that you will not get lost and confused because the instructional video shows the same movement multiple times. GM Burkes makes sure that you see the same movement from different angles.
Now, right after you learn how to grasp the nunchakus the fun part begins.
You are taught how to throw the nunchaku (a single pair) with your right hand above your shoulder so that you can catch it with the left hand, by putting the nunchaku underneath your right armpit (see picture2.) This is called the arm switch. Then, you will throw the nunchaku with your left hand above your shoulder and you will catch it with the right hand by putting the nunchaku underneath your left armpit (see picture 3.)
All this is learned in combination with basic stances applicable to other arts like karate: ready, front, back, and horse stances.
Once you pass that, you will be able to learn some other drills using one single pair of nunchakus such as simple up, the awesome figure eight (blocking and striking), and a very stylish move called around the neck.
How effective is the American Nunchaku Style, say in a real scenario or a Karate competition?
I have been training in Martial Arts since 1999 and since 2002 I practice with Nunchakus; luckily I never had to hit anyone and I hope I will never have to. I always practice hitting a dummy and also a MMA Heavy Bag. The Nunchakus (I use hardwood ones now) are very responsive and fast. Are they powerful? Ok, let put this way: a nunchaku is extremely fast if used properly and it’s like a small baseball bat since you can swing it in a similar fashion (for instance, when doing a front strike.)
I always had the desire to test the Nunchakus at a competition, but I never convinced myself that I wanted to do it. Since 2012 I started training more consistently in martial arts despite some injuries. After working out with the nunchakus for a while I noticed that I am more coordinated with my hands. In addition, my arms and shoulders did benefit with the exercise, which by the way is very amusing.
Maybe because of the consistency in training, my desire of performing with the nunchakus increased. In May of 2014 at age 43, I showed up at an important Karate competition in Virginia. I went by myself. There were schools with dozens of members and Sensei’s coaching them. I had to admit that I felt odd without someone in my corner.
I did my “No weapons Karate Kata” and ended on third place. “Not bad for a rookie, ”I told myself. Afterward, I did my “Nunchakus Kata” mixing it with what I learned by observing GM Burke’s tape, the Karate style I practice (Shori ken), and some moves I came up with.
How did I do?
It went well. Going back home to Northern Virginia was pleasurable. My lovely wife, my precious daughter, and I had a great day at the Karate competition. It was a rewarding experience and a joyful one too because it’s not everyday that I drive home with a big trophy (first place) in the trunk of my car!
I guess I already mentioned that I was skeptical about learning through videos, but now I am convinced that your can learn martial arts at home if you are a dedicated student and if guided by the right person, like I did. In the same way you study a career on line if the school you prefer is miles away, you can learn martial arts; and the best part is that the Sensei goes to your home.
Interview with GM Burke the founder of the American Nunchaku Style
On July of 2014 I went down to Richmond to meet GM Burke. I lived 100 miles away in Centreville (Northern Virginia) without knowing I was about to begin a student-Sensei relationship. Karma or coincidence, I just wanted to say thanks to GM Burke because I trained watching his videos. I needed to tell him face to face how some people would make comments such as: are you a black belt? Wow, I’ve never seen that move! Where did your learn to use the Nunchakus? You said you trained by yourself?
Initially, when I told GM Burke about how I trained “alone”, he corrected me, “you were never alone. You were watching a video, but you were always training with me.
Here is the interview with GM Burke, the founder of American Nunchaku Style.
Black Belt Review: Why and how did you create your style?
GM Burke: Well, you know I never tried to create a style. What I did is I made my own swinging techniques back in the 70’s so I could compete in tournaments competitions and I was very successful. I won in three state championships. When I retired from Karate by brother and I got together and we did our first video called Chakus Volume it and I was a huge seller at Asian World Martial Arts in Philadelphia.
What about the other videos that followed Chakus I?
Well, one thing led to the other. What happened is that when I did the Chakus Volume I in 1990 I was requested by some GM of Karate, Bryan Lee, out of New York, to do a DVD show some forms so students could do the techniques and foot work and start doing some katas. At that point I started doing form and putting them down on my tapes and did Chakus II and III at the same so I can get people three forms to do for single Nunchakus and one form to do for double nunchakus
BBR:Is your style recognized?
Over the years the Chakus Video Series emerged into a style and it just simply evolved and the US Martial Arts Association sanctioned it as a legitimate weapon style about 15 years ago.
BBR: How many videos have you produced?
There are now nine DVD’s available.
GM Burke: Can a beginner learn the style? Is it difficult to maneuver a pair of Nunchakus?
I say this because I see Black Belt working with Nunchakus so fast. We also see it in movies. The beginner may think it’s impossible to learn how to use the Nunchakus…
No. It’s not that hard to do. You start off with plastic or foam covered nunchakus and your work your way up. And the key is that if you master the first Chakus Volume I, a 47 minutes DVD, you are well on your way to do a wonderful job with the nunchakus and it’s not going that hard.
BBR: Students would like to see some improvement. Is there system of ranking like you see in Karate or any other martial arts?
GM Burke: Yes. We have our own ranking system. We have the American Style Nunchakus Federation and on the website we have a ranking system. You start up with yellow and then your go to purple and green and grow. The ASN is its own style. You don’t have to have previous karate experience to start in our style and gain rank. You can visit the ASNF at http://www.asnfederation.com
BBR: When was the ASNF created?
GM Burke: About 4 years ago.
BBR: What opportunities are available for Black Belt under the ASNF? Can they get certified or teach this art at their own schools?
Yes. We want to spread the style to the total martial arts community through out the world. Once you are a black belt in our style you are able to teach others and promote others in our style.
BBR: What advise can you provide to new beginners? How long does it take to master your style?
GM Burke: It takes quite a while. Just to master the first DVD will take several months. Two, three, or four months. You’ve got to get that mastered first. And then you will work on volume two and volume three. It will take time and effort and you must be persistent if you want to go through the ranks and get the belts. It’s not easy, but it’s not difficult, plus it can take a lot of hard work.
BBR: GM Burke, thank you very much for taking time to meet with me.
GM Burke: … Thank you very much for the interview