Leader of the Pack
By Robert Anasi ’89
Photos by David Zaitz
In a crowded warehouse, two men circle each other, holding knives. As they move they slash out at each other with vicious blows. A crowd presses in a circle around them, cheering as the fighters grapple and hack. One knife flies across the room. The fighters fall to a padded mat and wrestle there until a supervisor runs forward and shouts, “Time!” The fighters are greeted by applause as they stand and embrace, and two more fighters step forward to take their places.
Welcome to the world of Dog Brothers Martial Arts, the brainchild of Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny ’74. For the last two decades, Denny and his partners have disseminated their brand of full-contact martial arts through videos, training sessions, and the biannual “Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack,” in which fighters meet for no-holds-barred brawls with fists, feet, knees, sticks, and knives. The knives may be blunted and the fighters wearing headgear, but the bruises are painfully real. The Dog Brothers’ goal is to bring pack members as close as possible to violent encounters—a mugging, a bar brawl, a shoot out—so they’ll know how to handle themselves when faced with deadly pressure.
Denny’s journey from Sarah Lawrence to the Dogs began in the mid-1970s. He used the frequent lay offs from a construction job in Philadelphia as an opportunity to head down to Mexico. One trip brought Denny and a friend to the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas, the capital of the tropical state of Chiapas (site of the Zapatista uprising). After meeting two American women there, they spent an afternoon riding horses and then went out for dinner. The women had long blond hair and, in the 70s style, wore hot pants. Denny recalls: “It’s a conservative area. Spanish is the second language for most people and there are a lot of traditional Indian customs. We suggested that the girls change before we went out and they said, ‘Oh, they’re just going to have to get used to modern women.’”
Denny shakes his head at the memory. After more than 30 years in Southern California, he still has a lot of the native New Yorker in his voice. Medium-tall with a lean, muscled frame, the only place Denny’s age shows is in his graying but still-thick hair.
After dinner, Denny and his friends were accosted by a group of drunken locals. They thought the women were prostitutes and starting dragging one of them away. Denny and his friend were able to fend the group off and reclaim the girl. As the local men shouted that they were going to get a gun, the Americans ran to a nearby police station.
“It’s a sleepy little town,” Denny says, “And there was one guy at the police station. Then the drunk guys came roaring up in their Volkswagen Bug. They didn’t have a gun but they had car antennas and bottles and a screwdriver, which can be a pretty deadly weapon. The cop didn’t have a gun, so he ran away.”