“I always thought martial arts was the most modern choreography we have right now. I always wanted to put it to music.” — Lou Reed, musician and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer
”Should you desire the great art, prepare to sweat.” — Hakuin Ekaku, 17th century Zen philosopher and martial arts enthusiast
Five years ago, when the gas station he worked at abruptly closed, Oxnard resident Corey “Coso” Franklin decided to get serious about his two lifetime loves. The first was music. A bassist who grew up in a family of musicians, he formed the R&B band Coso Live and began building a following throughout the Ventura County area. The second was martial arts, which he began practicing in earnest, studying with teachers from Los Angeles to Ventura.
As the gigging increased, so did his training, and a funny thing happened along the way. He began to realize that his two passions weren’t as polar opposite as he thought. In fact, in many ways, they were almost identical.
“In martial arts you practice different stances that don’t initially seem to relate at all to actual fighting, but once you learn them, you see how they apply,” explains Franklin. “It’s the same thing in music, the scales and exercises you do over and over suddenly make sense in a song or a solo. When I realized that, it was a real eureka moment for me; how you learn and apply martial arts is the same process as in music. After that, so many other things between the two started to relate.”
Among the other dots Franklin began to connect was that different styles of martial arts were like different genres of music. The true greats studied all forms and brought elements of each into their chosen genres or disciplines. He also saw similarities at the work/reward level. The martial artists and musicians who seemed the most at ease and natural — on stage or in a tournament — were the ones who practiced and dedicated themselves to their craft relentlessly, in the gym and in the jam room.
Franklin also became aware that he wasn’t alone in loving martial arts and music equally. It turns out that practitioners of each seemed to be just as passionate about the other. Training with martial artists during the day (whose favorite nighttime activity was going to see live music) and jamming with several musicians at night who were interested or already training in martial arts, Coso began brainstorming a way to bring the two different communities together.
Franklin’s creation was ultimately the Music and Martial Arts Festival which debuts at the Ventura Fairgrounds this weekend.
The event’s format is simple. Three musical artists, Rey Fresco whom Franklin currently plays bass for, longtime local reggae favorite Lion I’s, and world-renowned bassist Anthony Crawford will all perform full sets; and in between, professional martial arts demonstrations from the likes of Aikido master Larry Reynosa and others will occur. In addition, throughout the afternoon, the event will have side-stage demonstrations from local martial arts schools as well as DJs. It’s literally putting a concert (complete with beer and wine) and a family-friendly martial arts event on at the same time, in the same building, with the goal of bringing the two worlds together to bring exposure and support to each other.
While to an outsider it may seem like a strange marriage, Franklin believes the concept has a bright future. Putting all of his time and money into launching the event, and now getting little sleep in the days leading up to the event, the 34-year-old is already thinking of expansion. If the debut event does well, he wants to bring it back next year but also add a Los Angeles date. Then the goal is, with sponsorship interest from the martial arts community having already begun, to add an East Coast event; and from there the sky is the limit. It’s a lofty vision indeed, especially for an unproven concept, but Franklin’s passion is nothing short of inspiring.
“Martial arts are about peace of mind and mental health, more so than any of its physical aspects, and music is the same way. The ultimate goal of both is to bring people together. I think a lot of people want to get into martial arts or play an instrument but there’s an intimidation or misunderstanding that maybe it’s not for them. I want to show them music and martial arts, at the end of the day, are both just different styles of art, and the arts are for everyone.”
The first annual Music and Martial Arts Festival takes place Saturday, June 29, at the Ventura County Fairgrounds from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information and tickets, visit www.usmmafest.com.