Skip to main content

Living the martial way: Guro Rich Draney

richarddraney_-1.jpg

Photo courtesy of Richard Draney

This is the first in a series about Chicago-area martial artists who have experienced positive changes in their lives through their training.  

A trim and youthful-looking 58 year-old, Guro Rich Draney has been practicing and teaching the Defensor Method of Filipino and Indonesian Martial Arts for over 28 years.  The Defensor Method combines the Inayan System, Pekiti-Tirsia, Inosanto Blend, Tobosa/Villabrille System, Pusaka Dwipantara Silat, Jalur Putih Pencak Silat, Doce Pares Eskrima, Derobio, Balintawak, Ilongo Style, Muay-Thai, and Kuntao into an integrated fighting system. 

One of Guro Nate Defensor's original students, Guro Draney trains at the Filipino Kali-Eskrima Academy of Chicago.  Guro, is a simple Filipino word meaning "teacher".  It is direct, unadorned, and to the point, very much like Rich himself.   

Twenty-eight years ago, Rich was living a life in search of a turning point.  When he reached his 30th birthday, Rich confesses that he was in "terrible shape", working 15 hours a day, and not exercising.   Rich had a difficult childhood, raised in a gang-infested Near North Side neighborhood, within sight of the Cabrini Green housing project.   Having experienced various traumatic events in his youth, Rich entered adulthood burdened with self-doubt, and fear was a constant companion in his life. 

Perhaps recognizing that Rich needed a new path to follow in his life, his nephew gave him a birthday gift of martial arts classes under Guro Defensor at the Discovery Center in Chicago.  Under Guro Defensor, he found the turning point he was looking for.  Of the 10 original students in that class, most have gone on to become martial arts instructors.  The choice of Kali was based on his nephew's intuition - that it was, in Rich's own words, "esoteric enough to appeal to me." 

Unlike many other martial artists who began training at an early age, Rich feels that starting at age 30 allowed him to bring a more mature, unhurried perspective in his approach to his chosen art.  Starting at this age allowed him to truly grasp the concept of  "do"  or Way.  Rich describes this simply, as not having any set goals, "just show up and keep up."  Rich did just that, and never looked back.

Reflecting on his 28 years in martial arts, Rich sees several important milestones in his career.  His early recognition of martial arts as a true lifestyle change enabled him to make the commitment needed to be successful in his chosen art.

The next major milestone was the day he realized that his fear, which had been an unwelcome companion in his life, had simply ceased to be.  The disappearance of his fear was gradual process  with the inexorability of a glacier, its movement barely noticeable, until one day, its significant effect is suddenly recognized.  Today, he has learned to fear only what is real, and the dread that shadowed him has faded.   "Men are afraid too," he explains, "but fear makes us overreact."

About a decade after his first training session with Guro Defensor, Rich began to perceive the relationship between the various martial arts.  While he does not compete, he does occasionally officiate in tournaments.  He has no qualms about others competing, but he has no interest in competition himself.  His personal view is that he has committed his life to a combat art, and does not want to adjust his instincts to a sport's rules and limitations.  He carries a quiet, but absolute confidence in his abilities.  Like a filmmaker with a movie "in the can", he knows his half-lifetime of training has given him skills that will be there when he to calls upon them.

 Guro Rich Draney in 2007, at a seminar in Mexico

As Rich has aged, he has also realized that there is no point in martial artist's career that he or she will simply coach and will no longer be active on the mat.  In fact, Rich points out that, in most martial arts schools, it is the "old guys" who are the most feared and held in awe by the younger martial artists. 

Perhaps this is the reason why Rich has not stopped improving himself.  Rich is an avid cyclist, and has recently taken up weight training.  Overall, including his martial arts classes, Rich logs a total of about 15 hour a week of intense workouts.  His hand speed has improved, and thanks to his cycling, his cardiovascular fitness allows him to perform better than many younger practitioners.

Outside of the training hall, Rich works for a printing company in Chicago, and lives in Evanston, Illinois with his wife.  With time, maturity, and experience, a martial artist learns to simplify the complex lessons he or she has learned.  Rich has boiled his learning down to two simple lessons:

First, quoting Bruce Lee, he learns and lives by this maxim:

Absorb what is useful; reject what is useless.

Finally, he has a personal piece of advice to all martial artists:

Fight with things you learned instead of things you do.

For more information:

www.defensormethod.com

Comments

  • Gregory Goldmakher 4 years ago

    Guro Rich is, and will always remain, the model of the martial artist I will always aspire towards. He executes techniques with not just precision but pizazz, he is a patient and lucid teacher, and his humble approach and sense of humor make training with him pure joy. He is a gift to the world of martial arts, and I am honored to have gotten the chance to learn from him.
    ~Greg Goldmakher
    Guro, Defensor Method

  • Jason Brigham 4 years ago

    Guro Rich is an excellent Martial Artist(emphasis on Artist) and a really educated, funny, down to earth, genuine human being. He is a pleasure to work with and learn from. Guro Rich is without a doubt one of "the old guys" that are held in fear and awe by the other members of class. I have been training and studying The Defensor Method at The Filipino Kali-Eskrima Academy of Chicago for 18 years now, and I am privileged and blessed to call Guro Rich one of my teachers and friends.
    -Jason W. Brigham
    Guro, Defensor Method

  • Anonymous 4 years ago

    Tuve gusto de El Gurú study un rico en México , y Su Calidad y conocimientos del Manejo del Sistema Marcial filipino, es Impresionante , ojala tengamos Nuevamente El gusto de el Con Trabajar.
    Humberto Nicolás
    Defensor metodo - Ciudad de México

  • Anonymous 1 year ago

    would have liked to study under him twelve years ago ... too late now, for many reasons . keep the good vibe going, Rich!