Friday, January 25, 2008

Hey, is There a Kid Stuck in a Tree?

For a few months now I've been meeting a fellow named Alex and his twelve year old son Keola for long martial arts practice sessions every Sunday. We meet at Tracy's house in La Chorrera since it's sort of a halfway point, and we practice in his carport, on the jigsaw mats that I brought from home.

Alex studied Silat for several years, so we generally do a four hour session where he teaches me Silat and I teach him Hapkido. Alex and Keola are both excellent students, very fast learners, perhaps because of their previous Silat experience.

I've found that Silat and Hapkido mesh quite well. They differ in philosophy, in that Hapkido is a modern self-defense art that offers graduated responses depending on the seriousness of the attack, while Silat is a battlefield art focused on destroying the attacker utterly. There's no restraint or mercy. It is a close-range fighting art that employs rapid blows in succession, both to the upper and lower body, and doesn't stop until the attacker is crumpled on the ground at odd angles.

So it might seem that the two are not compatible. But the interesting thing is that many of the techniques are quite similar. A classical Silat punch defense looks very similar to a Hapkido defense, but where a Hapkidoist might move inside for an elbow strike or a break and then walk away, the Silat practioner would move inside with the identical elbow strike then follow up with other strikes, then whip the attacker's head around one way then the other to cause whiplash or fracture the neck, then throw him while trapping his leg so that he falls badly.

When you add Hapkido joint locks/breaks to Silat techniques (or vice versa), it starts to look scary!

Anyway, I digress. What about the kid in the tree?

Right, so we were practicing last Sunday, and I suddenly realized that I could hear a child crying out, and it had been going on for some time. It didn't sound like a happy or playful cry. It carried a note of fear or distress. It sounded like, "Mama! Mama! Mama!"

I stopped and looked across the fence to the neighbor's property. The neighbor has a sweeping expanse of grass, then the house and a shed, and behind that the land drops down to a stream gully, with tall pine trees all around. The cry seemed to be coming from behind the shed, or perhaps from the stream bed.

Alex and Keola came to the fence to listen as well. "What does that sound like?" I asked.

"Sounds like a kid in trouble," Alex said. We looked all around, but we could not locate the source of the cries. There was no one in sight.

Alex vaulted the fence and began crossing the neighbor's property. As he neared the shed, a woman came out of the house. She and Alex had a conversation and she pointed up into one of the tall pine trees near the stream.

Alex turned to us and shouted, "The kid is stuck in a tree!" The woman touched his arm and pointed up to the tree and they talked some more. Then Alex came jogging back, shaking his head.

"It's a parrot!" he said. "A parrot in a tree."

The neighbors have a few young children and I'm guessing that the parrot has heard them calling for their mother, and has learned to imitate them.

We continued our practice and the parrot continued calling, "Mama! Mama!"

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