Sifu Art Hugues
Unless you personally know Sifu Art Hugues or are to ask him directly, you would not know that he holds a 4th degree black belt in Kajukenbo and in Eskrima (Filipino martial arts, stick-fighting). He isn’t an instructor who brags about his rank to seem important. Sifu truly cares about teaching Kajukenbo and his students, who he often refers to as “family”.
The Path to Strength
As a young boy he was abused. At the same time his step-father would frequently beat him. He remembers going to school with blurry vision on many occasions because he was regularly beaten on the head. In high school he had problems forming true relationships, despite having friends, being very athletic and playing football and doing boxing.
Following high school, he joined the army. “I remember going into the army because of my uncle Bobby, who was an idol and a role model to me, since I didn’t see my father much. As well as because of his brother Robert Hugues who was an Airborne Infantryman with the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne.” … “I wanted to parachute from airplanes and do something to challenge myself,” Sifu says. His uncle Bobby was a Ranger in Vietnam, assigned to a LRRP unit. (Long Range Recon Patrol).
The mission of any LRRP / Ranger is to perform reconnaissance deep within enemy held territory. A LRRP team would usually consisted of 6-10 elite soldiers. These teams would be inserted into enemy territory by helicopters occasionally supported by gun ships. These teams would then move by night, camouflage and other means of stealth to attempt to collect Vital information, the location, size, type and armament of enemy units.
Sifu was stationed at Fort Davis on the Atlantic side of Panama with the 3rd Battalion 7th Special Forces Group (A). The 7th special forces group was responsible for training Salvadoran soldiers who were fighting the FMLN (a left-wing political/guerrilla group in El Salvador), training Peruvian soldiers combating The Shining Path (guerillas fighting the Government) as well as hunting down major drug cartels in Colombia. The 7th group was involved in the effort to train Colombian soldiers/law-enforcement who ultimately tracked down and killed Pablo Escobar.
Soon after Sifu left the army. He often found himself at clubs, drinking and getting into trouble. After a serious scuffle with police, fortune intervened, and he was able to get himself on the right track. Sifu met Grand Master Harper, began Kajukenbo training and has been hooked ever since. “Because of Grand Master Harper, I was able to focus on something positive”, he says.
Kajukenbo, The Perfection of Self-Defense
“If I were to try to find a synonym for Kajukenbo, it would be perfection”, says Sifu. After apologizing that he didn’t want to sound cocky, Sifu goes on to explain that he has experienced many types of martial arts over the years but has found that each lacked something. “Kajukenbo has everything”, he exclaims. Kajukenbo prepares you to be a stand-up fighter, ground fighter, stick fighter, knife fighter and also incorporates many scenarios including one-to-one and many-to-one situations.
Sifu also had the opportunity to meet and train in Eskrima (stick-fighting) with Grandmaster Ramiro Estalilla jr. In time they became very close and there was even a time where Sifu Art moved into Grandmaster Estalilla’s home for awhile and began very intense training. Training sessions that were four to five hours long were regular, but looking back on it Sifu wouldn’t have had it any other way. “How often does one get to train with a Grandmaster one on one in such a private setting?” “In GM Harper’s own words, my Kajukenbo became better 10 fold,” Sifu remembers. In the art of Eskrima you tend to master body mechanics quicker because you do not want to get struck. After getting hit a few times you are forced to become more proficient. “I’ve always been the warrior type, I will train until I pass-out. I’ve always been that way,” he exclaims. And having the honor of learning from Grandmaster Greg Harper and Ramiro Estalilla jr. and having them in my life is a blessing that I am truly thankful for. And I will continue to teach, to honor them by exposing more and more people to these systems and doing my part in keeping these systems alive. I owe them that in the very least.
Teaching Others To Be Strong
“I teach because I found something positive in my life, and in the process I can help women and children defend themselves from the evil that is out there on the streets” … “I really want my students to learn and become better than me”, Sifu says.
For those who want to train, be prepared to challenge yourself, keep and open mind, and try the class for at least a month to see what the class has to offer. Its not easy, if it was then everybody would be doing it. So be prepared to suffer a bit. You will love me as well as hate me but if and when you have to get busy on the street, you will thank me afterwards… believe me!
This training is truly life changing but it isn’t for everyone. You will definitely challenge yourself and find out what you are made of and what you are lacking. In the end, you have it or you don’t. “I expect my students to be honest, helpful, respectful and every time you step on the mat, that you give me your best”.
I care about my students more than i do their money.