Dan Donzella Rocks….


I don’t do the math often, so I’m stunned every time.  I’ve been involved in martial arts for over 28 years….

After all that time, the most important lesson as far as I am concerned was from Dr. C. Jerome Barber, my main instructor.  He always encouraged us to explore other systems, styles, and schools.  As a TacArnis minded guy, this makes a lot of sense since it exposes a student to different movement styles ‘because you won’t be attacked by someone who moves like you’ as Jerome would say.  Jerome trains in defensive firearms as well as martial arts so his mentality has always been a practical one.

As a life lesson, though, training with other styles is a way to stay in that ‘newbie’ or white belt mentality.  After 28 years of training, I still get nervous about stepping onto someone else’s training floor, but that’s the point!  It’s humbling, frustrating, and exciting.  In the end, it makes you a better teacher, student, and person if you are willing to ‘put on your white belt’ every once in a while.  Submitting to someone else’s system – especially when you have your own way of doings – is not an easy thing to do, but shows respect to another view point.  And, as far as leadership goes, sometimes the best way to ‘lead by example’ is to be willing to follow.

On, August 25th I attended a seminar with Dan Donzella at Ken Swan’s school .

I’ve known Dan since the early 90’s and I want a blood transfusion or the secret to his diet – he has not change one iota!  Fit, fast, lean, and skilled as ever.

Dan’s no-nonsense approach to training has always impressed me.  His style of movement is intricate at times, but he has a knack for breaking it into bite size elements that make it easy to learn quickly.

Dan intended the seminar to cover his Beginner and Level One curriculum, but he took the time to give me some one-on-one work on higher level material.  The material blew me away, but also Dan’s generosity because he had so many other students to teach as well.  Ken and his students were gracious hosts and training partners.  From the time I registered/paid to the end of the session, I think just about all Ken’s student’s took a moment to say hello.  As training partners they committed to mastering Dan’s curriculum and worked hard.

Training with Dan, Ken and his students was a great time.  Ken’s school is minutes from me and I could have just dropped in to say hi and hang out with him instead of getting on the floor, but it’s about the training.  That’s what bonds us.  Taking Dan’s class was more than training, it was a sign of respect, cooperation, and camaraderie.  I could have walked in with the mentality that I had already ‘been there done that’ since I’d trained with Dan before, trained in Arnis for over 23 years . . . but I walked away with a head full of new discoveries from “old” material, and reconnected with a long time associate.  Besides, if I expect students to follow my instruction, I should be willing to follow someone else’s on occasion too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Congratulations to Dan for his partnership with the Syracuse PD.  During our conversations, I was glad to hear that the Syracuse PD is taking advantage of his knowledge too.  He teaches a defensive tactics program specifically designed for Law Enforcement Officers (LEO).  As a martial artist, Dan is great but as a TacArnis minded kind of guy, the topper for me, is that he’s a shooter too – just like my instructor.  His mentality about training has always been a practical one as well.