"12 Basics..." Guro Adam Greenspan

sonder
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
— Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Who are you? How do you define yourself? What's your story?

I’m a husband to my wonderful wife, the love of my life and best friend, Melissa.  I’m a step father to an awesome young boy, age 6, who is sharp as a tack and has already started his martial arts journey, including Balintawak!  And, I am thrilled to say that I have a baby daughter on the way, due this summer!  I would say, I am more or less your typical Florida beach bum. I'm an engineer for my day job. I was a competitive gymnast from age 7 until I went to college at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. At college I was on the Crew team as a coxswain, and got my start in martial arts at the school's Jiu-Jitsu club. Now-a-days, other than the daily grind at work and training martial arts, I also coach recreational and competitive gymnastics. And of course, I always make time for the beach to go paddle boarding, surfing and chilling with my family.

Guro Greenspan out on the water

Guro Greenspan out on the water

How were you exposed to Balintawak?

One day, back in 2004 while I was working out at the local fitness center, I saw my soon to be instructor, Guro Jeffri Love, in the back room practicing the art. Since I was in a new area after graduating college, I was looking for something that completed the athletic side of me.  Guro Jeff made the art look powerful but also effortless.  So, I approached him and asked what he was doing. He told me it was Balintawak and he asked if I wanted to learn. I said, "Of course" To which he replied, "Meet me here Saturday at 8 AM and I'll teach you." The rest, as they say, is history.

How long have you studied? Who was your primary instructor?

I started training in 2004. Guro Jeffri Love is my primary instructor and I am very grateful that introduced me to the art and demanded a high level of quality and dedication. If not for him, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  As he always said, “You get out of the art what you put in.”  He moved north shortly after I received my Completion of the art in 2008.  Since then, I have also been lucky enough to receive instruction from many of my elders and peers from Guro Jeff's home town, Cincinnati and the lineage of the late Grand Master Jorge Penafiel.  I owe special thanks to Guro Michael-Vincent Malanyon for helping me along as I progressed through my Level 7 test and on to today.  I also learn a great deal from my current training partner, Rene Calara.  I appreciate all of his knowledge that he shares with me as well as his friendship.  And, of course I appreciate and respect everything that Grand Master Taboada has done to teach and guide me during my time training Balintawak and look forward to his continued tutelage in the future.

You get out of the art what you put in.
— Guro Jeffri Love
(From Left to Right) Guro Ernie Lake (FCS), Guro Michael Malanyon, GM Taboada, Guro Adam Greenspan

(From Left to Right) Guro Ernie Lake (FCS), Guro Michael Malanyon, GM Taboada, Guro Adam Greenspan

What was the hardest part of learning Balintawak?

For me, it was learning how to relax in order to generate power. In gymnastics, relaxation is not really part of the sport. I had to retrain myself.

Favorite part of Balintawak?

I guess I have two favorite parts:  First is the camaraderie and friendship that forms when training and sharing the art. Watch any training session or test...in my experience, 99.9% of the time when two practitioners finish counter to counter they are smiling. There's something special there.


Second, is the openness of ideas.  Promotion of creativity and different perspectives and backgrounds fosters a living and evolving art.  I love to see how folks are able to add to the baseline that GM has provided us.  And I appreciate the respect, friendship and open-mindedness when different geographical groups gather together.

Guro Jeff Soriano, Guro Adam Greenspan, and all around awesome guy Frank Zhong.

Guro Jeff Soriano, Guro Adam Greenspan, and all around awesome guy Frank Zhong.

Have you/do you study other arts? How have they influenced each other?

In addition to Balintawak, I train Hakkoryu, with Shihan Ian Turoff, and I am very grateful for his instruction, guidance and friendship.  Hakkoryu is a traditional Japanese art focused on self-defense. Balintawak and Hakkoryu are very complimentary because they both focus on efficient and effective direct concepts, but it is up to the practitioner to interpret the application. The body mechanics from Balintawak apply directly to generating power and effectiveness within Hakkoryu and vice-versa.

Jesse Speedy (L), GM Taboada (C), and Guro Greenspan (R) at world camp 2013 after Guro Greenspan completed his FQI Test.

Jesse Speedy (L), GM Taboada (C), and Guro Greenspan (R) at world camp 2013 after Guro Greenspan completed his FQI Test.

What's your day job? Have there been any concepts from that profession that have informed your Balintawak or vice versa?

I'm a mechanical engineering manager. The physics and mechanics you learn as an engineer directly apply to understanding the mechanics of generating power and speed. Also, the concept that every move has a counter applies to living life in corporate America and to engineering. When solving a problem, there is always a next move...always a solution. Sometimes you don't see it straight away, but it is always there. Just as in counter to counter you can't stop, in engineering (and business), when you face a problem you have to keep looking for the solution. Counter to counter just happens to be significantly faster…and is usually a whole lot more fun!

When solving a problem, there is always a next move...always a solution. Sometimes you don’t see it straight away, but it is always there.

What is the main lesson you want your students to take from your instruction in Balintawak?

The most important lesson I feel I can offer is to take what you learn and use your own creativity, knowledge and perspective to make it yours. Search for that eureka moment, when the light-bulb goes off and you “get it.”  Then the concept is yours.  Explore, be creative, have fun and train hard.

Balintawak on a boat.

Balintawak on a boat.

What do you emphasizes with beginners and what do you emphasizes with your more advanced students?

Basics, basics, basics…It all originates from basic fundamental movements. This philosophy was ingrained in me while I was in gymnastics. I believe it applies to Balintawak and martial arts as a whole. As you advance and gain experience, creativity will make the basics more effective for different situations.  Learn and drill the basics and use your creativity to expand your knowledge as you progress.

Florida Balintawak

Florida Balintawak

Learn and drill the basics and use your creativity to expand your knowledge as you progress.

What does a typical class look like when you teach?

There really isn't a typical class, except that we always touch on some of Grand Master Taboada's curriculum. I try to vary the format and the information. Sometimes we focus on drills, sometimes the curriculum and sometimes we take the Balintawak foundation and blend concepts that folks have from their other arts. I always try to leave time to see where the ideas take the class and to see what other people come up with.

Guro Greenspan playing with Rene Calara. (Yeah, I don't feel bad for them either.)

Guro Greenspan playing with Rene Calara. (Yeah, I don't feel bad for them either.)

What kind of things were you thinking about when you were developing your 24 techniques?

 My 24 techniques were developed to reflect concepts that I had learned leading up to my test. I included some kicks that I had learned from Guro Jeffri Love, some concepts from Hakkoryu, and disarms and striking concepts from Balintawak. 

Why did you want to become a Fully Qualified Instructor?

I love training Balintawak and when I get hooked on something, I like to see how far I can progress. I also want to respect the art, my teachers and Grand Master Taboada by doing my part to be a good example and spreading Balintawak and all its positive aspects to others.

1 Extra. What are you known for in the Balintawak community?

I am known for two things...

Grand Master Taboada almost always tells a story about how he thought I was delivering pizza. I'm not gonna steel Grand Master's thunder, so if you haven't heard the story, go to his the east coast world camp later this year. If history repeats itself, he will tell the story again. It's always good for a laugh! I'm also known for being made to do a back-flip...although, with my advancing age, those days may be numbered!


I also want to say, that it is a great honor to be published in this article.  I am well aware of the quality people and martial artists that have been published before me, and will be published after me.  It is humbling for me to be a part of this and I would like to thank everyone in the Balintawak community for the acceptance and friendship.