MARTIALFORCE.COM PRESENTS AN INTERVIEW WITH
GRAND MASTER MIGUEL IBARRA JAN / 2011
"Having raised a wonderful son together with my wife, Astrid, has to be my greatest achievement."
My name is Eddie Morales and welcome to Martialforce.com Online Martial Arts Magazine. I want to introduce our readers to Grand Master Miguel Ibarra. Ibarra is an old school Martial arts practitioner based out of the east coast. I have heard many great things about this man from his peers. I recall first seeing him demonstrate on a video series he produced under panther productions. His movements were fluid as he went from one technique to the other with an obvious high level of technical ability. While living in New York City I heard his name mentioned many times but I never had the chance to meet him. I decided I wanted to interview grandmaster Ibarra and called him on the phone. When I explained who I was and that I wanted to interview him, he kindly accepted. While talking to him I realized how this interview would be great because he has lived an interesting life that was a result of the discipline of Martial Arts. I am honored to present this interview and I hope you gain insight into Grand Master Ibarraâ€™s Life and art. Martialforce.com Online Magazine
Martialforce.com: Where were you born and raised?
MIGUEL IBARRA: I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico 6o years ago. I was raised in The Bronx, New York.
Martialforce.com: When and where did you begin your Martial Arts training and what was your motivation?
MIGUEL IBARA: Although boxing is not a martial art, it was what my father, first taught me self defense, beginning at the age of 10. I also bought a karate book (kyokushin kai style) from which I would study and practice with my friends. In 1966 my parents were finally able to afford to send me to the Tremont School of Judo and Jujutsu under Shinan Antonio Pereira and so my formal martial arts training began. My Father was a street fighter in Puerto Rico and didnâ€™t want me to be a street fighter like him but he did want me to experience and understand the science of fighting.
Martialforce.com: Do you remember some of the original black belts under Shihan Pereira when you were training with him? MIGUEL IBARRA: I was fortunate to have trained under and with: Shihan Martinez BB1, Shihan Klett BB2, Shihan Forstrum BB8, Shihan Gil BB18, Shihan Palzer BB24, Shihan Gloria Alvarez BB28, Shihan Michael Alvarez BB39, Shihan Sierra BB40Shihans Ben and Ray Estrella BB 49 and 48, Shinan Negron BB62. The BB refers to their black belt number. There are many others but these actually gave me instruction at the dojo. As you can see from their numbers these were the original MiYama Ryu Jujutsu Black Belts promoted by Shinan Pereira.
Martialforce.com: Who has been your greatest influence throughout your life in regards to Martial Arts and life in general? MIGUEL IBARRA: My greatest influence in the martial arts would have to have been my father. He taught me that I should never look for fights but rather avoid them. He taught me what the consequences could be, even if you felt you were the one who was picked on. He instilled in me a defensive attitude, which I follow to this day. But he also taught me not to accept being bullied or be physically victimized. Within the martial arts community it would have to have been my instructor, Shinan Antonio Pereira and his number one assistant Shinan Hector Negron. They taught me the physical art, which I continue to practice and teach today.
Martialforce.com: Our research shows that you are prior law enforcement; can you tell our readers about your involvement? MIGUEL IBARRA: I worked as a New York City Probation Officer. For the about 16 months I served as an Investigation PO and as a Supervision PO. I then volunteered for the Fugitive Squad and worked my way up the ranks from PO to Supervisor to Chief and finally to assistant Commissioner. In these capacities I investigated ongoing criminal activities by probationers and searched for probation violators. I was also tasked by the Commissioner to set up and oversee the Intelligence Unit, Gang Suppression Unit, Sex Offender Monitoring Unit and the coordination of ALL joint law enforcement activities with other law enforcement agencies and departments. I retired in 2005 after 25 years of street law enforcement [this was a unique assignment for a Probation Officer since in most jurisdictions they serve only as social workers and not as law enforcement officers.
Martialforce.com: In your opinion, what defines a good Martial Arts practitioner? MIGUEL IBARRA: A good martial arts practitioner understands that there is no BEST martial art. All of the systems have something to offer someone. It is the individual who puts the art to use and it is the individualâ€™s heart that determines what he/she will be able to do with it. He/she will also practice the basics forever, for therein lies the path to perfection in the art.
Martialforce.com: When did you begin your training in Daito Ryu? MIGUEL IBARRA: I began my Daito Ryu training in 1982 under Soshi Shihan Katsumi Yonezawa who was, at the time, the Director of overseas instruction for the Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu Kodo Kai. I continued to train under him until a year before his death 1998.
Martialforce.com: What are the characteristics of a good instructor? MIGUEL IBARRA: A good instructor teaches to the best of his/her ability, does not disparage other instructors or systems. He/she also is not afraid to admit that he/she does not have all of the answers to every situation and is willing to be â€˜beginnerâ€™ for life.
Martialforce.com: What other jiu jitsu have impressed you on the mat? MIGUEL IBARRA: Other Jujutsu Ryus that have impressed me are: Hakko Ryu Jujutsu, Takeda Ryu Aikijujutsu, AikiGoshin Do, Sosuishi Ryu Jujutsu and Aikido.
Martialforce.com: Do you have any long or short-term goals in regards to Martial Arts or life in general?
MIGUEL IBARRA: My goal in the martial arts is to continue teaching Yamabushi Jujutsu to my students with as much individual attention as possible. I have taught my son, Shihan Rene’, since the age of 6 and have been able to watch him carry on the same teaching approach. My life goal is to avoid all conflict and enjoy my retirement years with my family. Over time I have had many goals and I have been blessed in that: I obtained my B.A., obtained my M.S., had an accomplished career in law enforcement, have operated my dojo for the last 28 years and I’m currently teaching my 9 year old grandson to assist his father and I am a Professor of Criminal Justice at a local college. These are a lot of accomplished goals. I would be remiss if I did not admit that without my wife Astrid’s support many of these goals could not have been attained.
Martialforce.com: In your opinion what is the state of teaching in the law enforcement academies in regards to what is being taught?
MIGUEL IBARRA: Law Enforcement Training suffers from too much litigation. What we teach in the academies has to conform to guidelines, which will minimize the chances of the department getting sued as opposed to maximizing the officerâ€™s survival rate in a confrontation. Academies are afraid of lawsuits from recruits who may get injured during training and so the training lacks realistic scenarios and actions. Shooting at a bad guy on film is great but fact is, most officers will never use their firearms on the job but they will have many physical confrontations but since they lack proper skills to handle the situation, intimidation and weapons becomes their ally. When I teach civilians I can teach the entire array of techniques in the system and let the individual decide what level of force he/she needs for an appropriate response to an attack. I do warn them of NYS Article 35 which governs the use of force in NEW York State but being civilians they are not guided by policy but rather their individual moral and philosophical beliefs and what they are willing to face from the legal system when they survive the attack. There are many cases where the victim is actually prosecuted for their defensive actions or sued in civil court by the attacker, so the level of force is up to them.
Martialforce.com: What do you feel is your greatest personal achievement in life? MIGUEL IBARRA: Iâ€™ve lived a simple life and have attained many goals and achievements. Having raised a wonderful son together with my wife, Astrid, has to be my greatest achievement.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on the practice of Kata (Pre-arranged Movements)? MIGUEL IBARRA: Kata is the backbone of all traditional karate systems and should continue to be emphasized throughout oneâ€™s training and should not be changed for entertainment value.
Martialforce.com: In regards to your teaching method and system. Is it based in sport or street survival and is it a personal choice? MIGUEL IBARRA: Yamabushi Jujutsu/Aikijutsu Ryu is a self-defense system. There is no sportive aspect to it, although it has obvious applications in BJJ and Judo since both are derived from Jujutsu. All emphasis is on personal protection against common street attacks with or without weapons.
Martialforce.com: I realize this is a difficult question because there are many variables to any given scenario but I will ask. If you had to teach someone just one technique or concept that could save there life in a violent altercation, what would that be? MIGUEL IBARRA: Awareness, Recognition and Avoidance are essential for an individual to survive a violent confrontation. If you are aware, you will not be caught by surprise, if you recognize the attack you will be able to counter it and therefore avoid getting hurt and leave the scene as quickly as possible. But one has to be realistic, the streets are not movies. The individual has to understand that in a real street confrontation there are no winners and the one who walks away may not walk away free of all injury.
Martialforce.com: Reflecting on your life, do you feel that Martial Arts has given you a positive outlook and if yes or no, why? MIGUEL IBARRA: The martial arts have given me a very positive outlook on life. Iâ€™ve also received a large set of coping skills encompassing the physical and the mental. I have attained self-confidence and security, which I donâ€™t think I could have attained in any other endeavor. It has also enabled me to interact with many individuals and to form a closer bond with my son and grandson.
Martialforce.com: Do you have any words to say to someone that wants to learn Martial Arts but for whatever reason is not sure? MIGUEL IBARRA: Anyone looking at martial arts should look for one that fits their lifestyle and specific needs of the moment. Some people are looking for a fitness system and some are looking for a defensive system and yet others just want to have a physical release of energy. What I like to say is all of the arts have something to offer everyone, investigate the dojo and the instructor. Make sure his/her style fits your philosophy and lifestyle. Remember in Martial Arts the individual changes for the ryu, the ryu does not change for the individual unlike modern McDojos.
Martialforce.com: In regards to ranking systems, what are your thoughts on its use as far as people that go beyond the 10th degree status? MIGUEL IBARRA: These are touchy and I mean absolutely no offense to anyone. In the old days there were no ranking systems. A student was given a recommendation or a poem or was just told he was now able to go out and teach. Individuals were also awarded rank, licenses and titles merely for supporting the Ryu. The support could have been financial or providing space for training etc. Today we would accuse these individuals of ‘Buying’ their ranks but that’s the way it was done and accepted. As we approach the modern era, rankings became more important to impress the public and the potential students, not to mention setting up a hierarchy within the Ryu and we went from an informal system to licenses to titles to the number system. Especially in our age of documentation and certification the Dan grading system has become almost a joke. 10th degree is not enough, I have heard of individuals claiming to be 11th and 12th Dans! Then we have Grandmasters but that’s not enough we have to have Great Grandmasters and Supreme Great Grandmasters. People also forget that an individual’s rank is within the particular Ryu or organization that granted it and is not automatically cross credentialed in other arts or Ryus. Which brings us to the recognition, certification system. That is, one group granting an individual certification or ranking in their Ryu / organization based on the individual’s general knowledge of the area, be it karate, jujutsu, kung fu etc. There was a time when I used only the License system as was / is used in MiYama Ryu but eventually gave in to using the Dan System as well. Nothing wrong with any of them as long as we accept them for what they are and nothing more. Another area, which is interesting, is the use of Academic titles in the martial arts. I worked/studied hard to earn my high school diploma, Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree from accredited schools and now we have individuals claiming Phd.’s and Doctorates which have been awarded by martial arts organizations with no academic standing.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on teenagers having 5th, 6th and 7th degrees in ranking? MIGUEL IBARRA: Children and youth who train hard should be rewarded. However, a martial arts takes a bit of understanding of the philosophical basis of the ryu as well as the physical techniques. I do not believe in awarding Black belts to anyone under 14-16 years old. Time on the mat, training, will determine how high their ranks should be and at what age. Again, letâ€™s remember how long it took some of our older masters to obtain their ranks. Many of them established ryus and systems in there twenties because they allegedly had mastered several other ryus already. And no, they did not spend all of their time training, they had to work long hourâ€™s everyday without our modern conveniences, just to put food on the table or help the family out. So this nonsense that an individual has to train 5 to 10 years just to obtain the Black Belt is a modern thing. Look up the background of some of our martial arts heroes and check to see how long it took them to get their Black Belt. Unfortunately, I read a lot and I save my books and articles back to the 60â€™s.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe women should get more involved in the Martial Arts in regards to self-protection?
MIGUEL IBARRA: If it was up to me, basic self-defense would be taught to women at all levels of our school system and in all private companies as a benefit. In this age of high crime and a lack of good criminal deterrence everyone but especially women should train in some form of self-defense on a regular basis.
Martialforce.com: There have been many definitions of Aiki-Jiu Jitsu. How do you define it?
MIGUEL IBARRA: To me Aikijujutsu is a combination of Sokaku Takeda’s definition (Aiki is the art of defeating your enemy with a single glance) and Tokimune Takeda’s definition (To use one’s energy in the most efficient way without weapons; using the mind and body together).
Martialforce.com: Thank you for accepting our invitation to interview and we wish you much success in all your future endeavors.