three sayings

slightly edited from an original post in 2008 to Eskrima Digest:

i want to share three sayings with you, what do you think: “when the student is ready, the teacher will begin”


“the ignorant says, ‘its hard to find a good teacher.’ experience says, ‘it’s hard to find a good student’.”


“a master is lucky to find a good student in his lifetime”

as a teacher, who does this for a living, i spend most of my time looking for the right student. many of my own students know that, i reject students all the time, when i know they are going to waste my time or their time. but i have to balance that with, “hey i gotta make money”. so i struggle with teaching the way i feel best for the fighters, and teaching in a way that students will stay. there are many times, that, a guy comes to our school from a seminar background telling me he wants the real thing, but then he leaves because training is too hard, or he doesn’t like to spar, or learning is too slow, or because i don’t give rank fast enough.

some teachers never think of these things. i consider them teachers who just teach the art, and they don’t care if these guys are not the best fighters around. which means, anyone can get a teaching certificate from him. other teachers are different. you will only become an expert under him if you are one of the best, and this teacher is struggling to make his fighters the best.

students of the ignorant kind, thinks he can judge if a teacher is good or not. how does he do this? by fighting him? of course not, so he looks at other things, like if this teacher is popular–does he write books? do seminars? does he have an association that pumps him up? does he hold certificates? does he show “impressive” demonstrations of skill? it is easy for a teacher who knows “tricks” (fancy and difficult drills, disarmings, and prearranged defense). many students want to know this tricks, so he can show other people. and i call them the ignorant ones, just like the teachers. see, combat, does not depend on those tricks. it depends on things like reflexes, mental and physical toughness, and striking and destructive power. if a students wants a demo, give him a demo of your power, or spar with him. but you see, the ignorant student doesn’t want that; its too painful.

impatient students will never learn in my school. the more you bug me to “see” the rest of the system, the less i will show you. for some students, they been here 6 months, and the teacher never appeared for them. sometimes a student can be in my school for 3 years, and because he has changed his attitude, i disappear. how many teachers really understand that? not many, because by 3 years, your student has already graduated. he probably has his own club too.

here is a test, i gave to a gentleman i met a few weeks ago who is a teacher. he asked me, is his certificates equal with mine. (actually i don’t give certificates). i told him, NO. he was offended because who am i? he studied with the most well known teachers around, he never heard of any of my teachers. so i asked him if he is willing to prove his worth to me by crossing sticks, or playing hands–of course not. then i asked him, is he willing to bring his boys down to my school to prove there worth against mine. he said, depends of the level of my guys.

this proved my point. he has to ask. if he has to ask, why do they have black belts, right? i don’t ask, because i don’t care. does this mean my guys never got beat? no. but i am not afraid to see them lost a fight. shit once, one of my student even broke my hand.

i met teachers who became very old men, and they are still holding parts of their system because they have no one to show it to. its not that there folks out there who don’t want to learn it–the teacher doesn’t have any student he wants to teach it to. in my kung fu style, i teach, i know more than 40 forms, but in 15 years of business i have never taught more than 10 of them. when masters take secrets (yes, there are many secrets in the martial arts. those who say there are none, just don’t know them) to the grave, there is a good reason why.

teachers teach, a master develops. there is a big difference. if a master told me, he has a hundred black belter students, i can show you at least 90 that cant hold a stick. even the best well known masters around will be lucky to have 10 true dedicated students, and maybe 5 of the dedicated ones will excel enough to be good representatives. teaching, is easy. you can teach anyone, but the hard part is developing that students to the point, you will put your money on him against ANYBODY. when you give somebody a certificate saying, he’s a master, you have just put your money, your reputation on the line, saying, he is one of the best. be careful when picking students, and be extra careful when you give them your endorsement. they cant carry your reputation with them into the ring.

go ahead, send your fireworks! > )

There were quite a few responses. Some challenging, some in agreement. Here are a few:

i want to forward a private email that came to me about this subject

competition is still fighting. take a streetfight. are you going to *kill* your opponent? how about if you got into a fight with a neighbor? are you going to try to break his neck? probably not. this is no different than fighting with rules. the whole idea of “tournaments are not the street” is created by men who are afraid of tournaments, or they didn’t do good in them. this “well, its not the street” is there way of making excuse for losing. every fight, even streetfights, have rules and limits. the truth is, competition fighting gives you skills that even a real fight cannot give you

* practice overcoming fear
* development of timing
* ability to think
* development of timing and reflex
* different kinds of opponents to learn

any man who builds his reputation by talking about a bunch of streetfights (or fights in prison), i’ll show you a liar, or a man who is not mature enough to be a martial arts teacher, so he must be lying too. want to test his truthfulness? challenge him to a match right on the spot. he will never accept.

really, competition is needed to develop fighting skills to a high level. yes, its not the street, but all those drills and punching bags and sparring with classmates is farther away. there is no way to prepare for a kill or die streetfight using the exact same situation. you need as much sparring, and as much different kinds of sparring, you can get. i have never met a good point fighter who can’t fight. the people who say billy blanks cant fight are the same couch potatos who say floyd mayweather cant fight either give me a break. people even say KIMBO can’t fight!

ask a cop, how many people have he shot, he will probably tell you none. ask a soldier how many people did he shot, he will probably tell you none too. so how does he know that he can fight with a gun?

training prepares them for the real thing. the better trained they are, and the more training they get, the more successful he is going to be at “the show”. but hide him from the training and simulated combat, he will freeze like a kata champion in the octagon.

XXXX XXXX wrote:

Nice write-up Sifu! Something that has always kind of daunted me a bit is my “fighting” ability. I’ve NEVER been in a fight in my life. I’ve been close a few times, but have defused the situation and walked away. Because I have never been in a fight, how will I know I can “fight”? Competition fighting is not the same! You don’t have the fear of a real fight, the same adrenaline rush of “oh my god, I can’t make a mistake or I could seriously pay for it”. Competition can make you better in certain aspects, but it’s not quite the same. I’ve competed in sports, and know that kind of rush of trying your best and pushing yourself. I’ve competed in one-on-one and three-on-three basketball tournaments, against, bigger/taller/faster/better guys than me. It will be the same as competing in a MA tournament

I think for someone like myself, who has never been in a fight, will always be questioned as to their fighting ability, their REAL fighting ability, no pads, no rules, no judges, no referee’s, and will always be criticized as can fight in a tournament with rules and pads, but what about “for reals”?! Guess that’s something I’ll have to overcome at some point in time!

“For Ray Terry:”
1. my point about the type of streetfight is not, would you kill an opponent, but to say that theres different kinds of streetfights. if a 15 year old jumps on you, you will not fight him like you will fight a grown man. if your SON wants to fight you, you will not fight him like you are going to fight a person who is home invasion robbery. if you are fighting your brother in law, this fight is not like fighting the punk who wants your wallet. in every fight you have rules. not every fight is a fight to the death. just like not every fight is a full-contact fight (doesn’t matter if its a streetfight or competition). if you have a knife, you are not even going to fight every opponent the same way. these, like tournaments are rules. either you can fight or you can’t. so, the more experience you get, the better for you.

you know, martial artists like to say “i am only training for streetfighting”. oh yeah? how? by fighting in the street? or by hitting targets? or maybe by doing drills? any kind of fighting you do, no matter if its in the street, in the school, or in a tournament, improves some part of your ability. even a point fight will develop your speed and distancing.

2. many people train with no fear at all. mostly because, they take too much control over his own training with this “make your own path” garbage. so, when a martial arts student has training with avoiding the things he is afraid of, he ends up doing things like, self-promoting, changing organizations like underwear, passing the schools to study by seminar, and making excuses so he doesn’t have to go to competition. shit theres even some people who will not ever spar because “its not realistic enough”! a martial artist must face his fears, conquer them, and become convince that no one can hurt him, if he ever wants to be able to be fearless on the street.

3. there is a BIG truth to this BJJ saying. many of us are unbeaten, because we never fought in a fight. some of us “train for” fighting two or three men, but they will never attempt it in a strong match. guarantee the guy who is afraid to fight ONE guy LIGHT CONTACT, has no chance of becoming successful in a fight vs 3.

4. tournament fighters know the difference between real fighting and competition. but excuse my rudeness for saying, that, they have a better idea how to fight, than the seminar junkie who spends his time hitting focus mitts and slapping hands. tournaments is nothing more than a simulated fight. no way around it, you have to have it.sparring with classmates is good, but sparring with strangers is better. people think that competition fighters will try the blitz backfist on the street. but the thing is, he will have a faster right cross than what most of us on this list have ever saw. i tell my students, beat the point fighter at his game before you put him down, cause remember just like you can hit the groin and punch full power, so can he. but the difference is, you been hitting bags and mitts, he been chasing opponents and landing on them.

tournament fighters have an advantage over non-competitors, because they have the skill of motion and timing. there is only one way to get it, and you wont get it in a seminar, i don’t care if bruce lee taught it himself. we know the weakness of tournament fighting. now, to my eskrima brothers, what are you doing that is BETTER than fighting matches, that prepares you for fighting?

From: (Ray)

1. Yes, that could unfortunately occur. (about killing an opponent)

2. Am I in fear for my life? Or the life of a loved one? (question about how much damage are you willing to do)

3. Reminds me a bit of the standard GJJ/BJJ claim; “if you can’t beat one person then how can you ever expect to beat two or three”. There is limited, yet a wee bit of truth in these statements.

4. Tournaments have their place. There are things to learn. But one may also very easily develop a false sense of superiority thinking that just because they ‘kill’ people in tournaments will mean they will do likewise in a street encounter.

Ray Terry

I found the following exchange pretty funny. A poster on the board responded with somewhat an offensive tone, and appeared to think he was anonymous. Master Gatdula guessed who the poster was, knowing both the poster and the poster’s master. The tone of the exchange (which went on far beyond this one) turned into a friendly and apologetic one on the gentleman’s part.

For Robert:

is this robert klampfer? my comments are below.

From: “Balintawak Arnis”
Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2007 15:31:37 -0400
Subject: [Eskrima] FW: three sayings response

I’m usually content to lurk and just observe the discussions so, I’ll
apologize in advance for any ranting but, the hubris of some people never ceases to amaze me. And I really have difficulty with people who
continuously speak in absolutes.

Fine, let their “secrets”, their art, and their legacy die with them. The world got along just fine before they came along with their “secrets” and I’m sure the world will continue to get along just fine after they and their “secrets” are dead and gone. Good riddance.

ME: robert, you have to understand, not everyone is willing to share martial arts knowledge with just anyone, just because you paid for the seminar. dont be so angry.

That’s a pompous generalization. Are you implying that someone must be world-class in order to be considered dedicated or a good representative? Or that someone who trains a lot of people is by default producing substandard quality? Or are you confusing being a good representative with being a prodigy? Many excellent trainers have trained dozens of good, professional fighters over their careers without producing a world champion. And some trainers who have produced world champions haven’t been world champions themselves. Since you made a reference to Floyd Mayweather, Jr., I’ll reference Teddy Atlas, Freddie Roach, and Emanuel Steward as contemporary trainers of champions who weren’t themselves champions. And there are great fighters/sportsmen/competitors who are lousy teachers. Ted Williams was one of the greatest hitters in baseball but, he made for a lousy batting coach.

ME: your idea then, of what makes someone an expert is much lower than mine. so, in your classes, go ahead and “certify” average fighters. thats your business. BTW, floyd mayweather’s uncle and father were VERY good fighters. yes, atlas, roach and steward are not known as boxers, but you are arguing another excuse people use to explain there own weaknesses. they don’t need to be champions, but they were good fighters, who understands how to fight. freddie roach boxing record was 39 wins, 13 losses and that is still not too bad. teddy atlas record was 85 wins, 9 losses. emanual steward was 94 wins, 3 losses. so what’s your point? do you believe that a man who doesn’t know how to fight can teach others to fight? you been looking at the internet too long. some people think because they heard some great trainers couldn’t fight, they can do it too. maybe its true, but its not a good idea.

but i do agree with you that many good fighters made bad teachers. but all teachers have to know how to fight, and be good at it. would you give a college degree to a man with F’s all his days in school? me, i don’t like to reward average students. either they earn it or they don’t. and i believe a student with the right attitude will learn how to fight. i never seen it any other way. why does my philosophy get you so pist off?

btw, in my opinion, a good representative is only the best students i can develop. average is not good enough.

Like Ray said – it depends on what’s being fought for: fun, money, or blood?

ME: it doesn’t matter when we are talking about training. you have to be able to do all of them. my questions is, you fight each fight differently, depends to the situation and your opponent. these are like the different kinds of competition fights.

> every fight, even streetfights, have rules and limits. <

Maybe where you come from, they do. Some of us travel in places where practically everyone is armed, any fight can be a deadly affray, and the only dirty fight is the one you lose. The only “rule” in those places is that the first one to die, loses.

ME: come on, your not talking to a girl in a bar. we know this, so lets talk like experts please!

Another gross generalization mixed with uninformed speculation. Over my career, I’ve known many police, soldiers/sailors/Marines, and private citizens who’ve been in life or death fights. Most survived, most weren’t involved in competitions prior to being involved in a fight, and most credit their training and luck with getting them through it. What soldiers have you been talking to? The cooks and bottlle washers? You know any Marine infantrymen who were in Fallujah, Iraq in November 2004? How about anyone from Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan in March 2002?

ME: i know plenty, i use to be a soldier. whats your point? you know many people who been in life or death fights? sailors? come on! please look at my last comment….how did you get to meet so many people who fought to the death?

and, yes, i do know people who been to iraq AND afghanistan. my point is, they did not have to shoot people in training, just like you don’t STREETFIGHT in training. simulated combat is part of training–for all those “not realistic enough” people out there.

You advise people to proffer challenges so, whom have you challenged? Anyone recognizable or noteworthy? The fact that you would make such statements says to me that you must be very good and have never lost. I know a few people in certain circles who’ve earned reputations as street fighters. Some of them read the ED. I’m very curious to know if any of them are counted on your list of lying, immature, cowards.


ME: first, answer this question. are you robert klampfer? in north carolina? im asking because i will be in raleigh this summer to teach.

thank you for the compliment. if you know anything about challenges and filipino culture, it is something you do one to one, not on the internet, and you talk about it face to face. maybe we will get to meet this summer when i come to NC, i’ll tell you about my “challenges”.

sometimes, people been living behind teachers, reputations and computers too long. this is bad for the martial artists, because it makes the martial artist closet cowards, mouthy only in public, never face to face. so you have FMA people bad mouth each other in forums, magazine articles, and with their friends. you forget there is real people out there. sometimes you talk trash so much, you forget there’s people out there who will back his trash up. this is one of the problems with “selling” martial arts. people learn to swing sticks, but not much more than that. and, too many people have rank that do not deserve it. if you don’t agree with that, FMA is in bad shape.


Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

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