Secrets in the Martial Arts

Slightly edited posts from several forums. These notes were collected without references to where they are located. I apologize in advance to those who would like to backtrack and see the original threads.

secrets in the martial arts

There have always been secrets in the martial arts. Secret techniques are not like those you see in the movies; where you learn techniques that enable to you defeat anyone. That is not a secrets, that is what I define as “super” techniques. Super techniques do exist, but not in many arts. My styles contain them, and they are much more simplistic than one would think. Not many masters have such techniques, because they are rarely passed down and rarely searched for. My definition of a martial “secret” is very different–and are closer to what some might consider a “trade secret”.

Some styles have something special about them that makes them unique. If you study one art, you will have skills in a certain way of fighting, than another style, who may have their own way of doing things. At the basic level, everything looks the same. But what teachers keep to themselves — and only their most valuable students–are the things that are unique to their system. The idea that you can just train, train, train and one day beat the advance fighter who also trains, trains, trains, is the thinking of young, immature men. Now, if a system is not thought out very well, or is built on too much theory but not enough testing, then yes, the advance level is no different than everything else. (This was to answer someone who stated that the advanced level of most FMA styles contain the same thing.) But…

Not every teacher and his art is for sale. This is an unfortunate fact that the Filipino has created for himself, where people in the rest of the world thinks we are nothing special, and you can just learn what you have by paying for it. We cheapened our arts, just like we did with our women near every U.S. military base, just like we do with our products when foreign money comes along. Now we have entire systems on video, which are sold for $200! Then i agree with you, there is no secret in the art–but THAT art. Believe me my friends, that there is so much more in the FMA than you are seeing on Youtube and in seminars. There are many teachers that have good information to show that you will never learn until you understand the phrase “dedication to teacher and style”. Why do you think you never see instruction videos for Yaw Yan? Or authentic Kuntaw? If somebone sold videos on this style, he would be rich because most of you would buy it. However, the techniques in these styles are very valuable and even the youngest student won’t teach it in a one day seminar or 2 hours video. This is why folks in the FMA world have to make up their own Kuntaw and Silat, or go to online forums to ask for Youtube postings of Yaw Yan, so they can try to make sense of what they think those arts contain, and one day re-create their own “Kuntaw/Kuntaw-Silat/authentic Moro Kali/blah, blah blah.

Author note: Master Gatdula informed me that in the 80s and 90s, some well-known FMA teachers today had called him and some even video taped him to find out what Kuntaw and “FMA hands” looked like. Some of these men were told that those levels of the art were yet to come in their own training, but had not seen them. One teacher from New York City recorded Guro at 17 years old at a tournament in NYC demonstrating his techniques, and Guro has seen similar techniques performed on video tape by the same man in recent times.

Like I said, there are secrets in the arts. They are not always carried to the grave, but are waiting for the right student to come along to learn it. The people who make fun of this statement will never learn them, and will end up studying in the same places and learn the same things as 90% of the FMA community…. in other words, nothing special (youtube, video, seminar, and FMA for sale….): Commercial, (dare I say it) McDojo FMA. The reason you are telling me 90% of FMA looks the same is because it is. You are learning watered-down FMA, that some FMA Guro/Tuhon/Grandmaster ripped off from another FMA guy–his bad Tagalog terms, drills and impractical techniques and all–and regurgitated that crap in his own video and his own way and taught it to you. The real deals that are out there are hidden to many of you, because you are limiting yourself to mainstream FMA-for-sale. Laugh all you want, me and my boys eat guys like you for breakfast.

The whole problem about videos and seminars, is that there is no looking a student up and down before you take him on as a student. There are not enough teachers of FMA who will screen students, and not take them just because he has money and wants to learn. This is not just some business relationship, and you will have to understand that about the arts. This is a tradition, and you are not the customer. Even if you travel to learn! If you are visiting a teacher and cannot commit to more than a few weeks or few months, the teacher might either

1. teach you as much as he can in that short time, or

2. show you only the basics, but keep other things because he knows you are just passing through, or

3. not accept you at all.

Of course, if you are just looking to add to an already-long resume, then sure. Put another notch on your belt, and take the certificate, and dedicate 15 minutes of your classes and seminars to the crumbs of knowledge you got off his kitchen floor. Certify people in the little you know, and sit back, thinking that there isn’t much to these arts. Join the masses.

There are just too many people who refuse to study full time, and would rather learn in seminars and video. Unless you are in Europe where the people are more serious about martial arts than here. But what is normal for this FMA community is to learn by seminar, even when there are full time teachers in your city.

Again, the definition of the word “Secret” (Are they not reading my posts?)

I think you’re not understanding what I considerl a “secret”. I consider a “secret” anything in your system you keep treasured, even what you withold from your own students, and save it for special or advance students. Like Kentucky Fried Chicken’s 11 herbs, that is a secret. My advance technique is my trade secret for my system and my business. It is what we have that no one knows about. It is what makes us unique, and what you may encounter if you fight with me or my advanced students. Other styles are like this as well. For example, Yaw Yan is not put on video, because the Yaw Yan fighters don’t want just anybone with 50 bucks to buy their techniques. That is a secret. To get it, you just have to prove you have loyalty as a student, not just fly to the Philippines and wave money in their faces. I respect that. Many other styles don’t care who learns it, which is why everybody knows what they do, and you find it all over the magazines and in other people styles, and why you think all FMA are martial whores. It explains why some of you get so upset when I say I have a technique I will never show you unless you joined my school. I have had guys say in my face, that they don’t want to learn it, and the only way I can explain it is to tell you a joke.

What is the difference between a whore and a bitch?

A whore is a woman who sleeps with everyone.

A bitch is a woman who sleeps with everyone but you.

Don’t take it personal, but most of you do not have what it takes to learn in a hard-core FMA school. The fact that you cannot commit to training long enough to get valuable martial arts tells me everything. If the information comes too easy, I would suggest that what you’re getting is a dime a dozen.

It seems that everyone in the FMA believe that they are masters. I recently saw an ad by a classmate of mine (who I outranked when I was 18 years old, and today couldn’t defeat any of my advanced students) listing himself as a GRANDMASTER. And he is a Filipino! Without hurting his feelings, I tried to check him on this, but he wouldn’t even discuss it with me, so I guess we’ll just add him to the list. The way to beat this, is to go back to arnis roots and how it was treated many years ago, go back to the tournament and matches as a way to determine who was the best, and get rid of the mass marketing of the FMA, where even a 10 year old girl can hold a black belt in arnis. If the arnis and eskrima schools can become more competitive, you will start to find teachers keeping what they discover to themself more, and fighting skill will get better.

Again, when I say secrets, I am not talking about super-techniques like in the movies. What I am talking about, are the things in your style that are unique to your style, that maybe other people may not have or may not do as good as you. I’m sorry to say this, but many of these so-called “masters” do not have such techniques or skills in their styles, and yes, they are willing to put the ENTIRE system on video or taught to un committing students in a seminar. Not every old Filipino in good shape you meet is a real Masters. Many of these men are just old men with mediocre skills who lived long enought to be the FMA “Miyagi-san”. Many of them were average martial artists and have nothing valuable to teach you, so they are lucky enough to certify Joe Blow from America… who’s got connections, and Bam! Next thing he’s in the mags and on the Lumpia circuit telling stories about killing Japanese Samurai and surviving death matches. But the truth is, there are many REAL masters who have techniques you have not seen, and will not see unless you train under them full time. It is foolish to think that Doce Pares/JKD/Stockton Eskrima/Modern Arnis/PTK/Balintawak has it all. It is also foolish to think that just because they won’t put it on Youtube, or sell it on dvd, that it has no use.

Competition is a necessary thing for the martial arts, and the reason we have people teaching all they know is because they are not competing enough or they don’t value the competition (or winning), or the stuff they sell is useless in competitions. You cannot go to Freddie Roach and ask him what is the secret to Manny Pacquiao’s fight strategy; he will tell you to screw yourelf. Why? Because his success in fights depend on his opponent not being ready against whatever plan you have. Now, you can watch his fight on video (which martial artists do better than they do training in the gym) to guess what his style consist of, but you’re not going to know fully unless it is explained. People might figure out the hair and skin of what you’re doing, but the real meat of it can only be learned in person… From a teacher willing to share it with you.

Some responded that special techniques are worthless, and that hard work and serious training beats all.

I believe in hard work and good concepts too, but I also believe in the student earning the knowledge I had to earn myself, instead of selling to everyone with a credit card. I’ve been noticing that the new thing in the FMA is to say, “oh, we have that too”. Sure, thanks to video it became easier. A perfect example is the misconception that there are not blocks in the FMA, only limb destructions. Inosanto’s style utilizes and emphasizes it, but you may notice that every FMA guy out there seems to think this is important in every style. Not true. Basically, a bunch of people learned it, and said, “Oh, we have that too.” There are still many things you cant get on video or in seminars, and thank God for that.

Response to this comment:

My second point of confusion with your post (sorry) is that I fail to see how more healthy competition between good schools will make FMA practitioners more secretive. In an open society, I would expect just the opposite result. People would see what worked, even if they didn’t fully understand why, and they would flock to that school. Eventually, the more effective approach, techniques, “secrets”, or whatever, would become appreciated and dominate the field. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

Sorry, I forgot another point I’d like to make.

I hope that students don’t just leave their schools to go to the next one they see that’s a little more impressive. When I was younger, I use to be flattered when a guy left a school to train with me just because of my fights in a tournament. Now that I am older, I see that it is very disloyal, and I don’t welcome every student who does it. We are now fighting on 5 circuits, and this happens all the time. I still keep my system for my students, but now we have tournament training times when visiting students can come. Sometimes I’ll keep them, many times I do not. I mean, still have to feed the family, but stealing money out of another teachers household is not a good way to do it.

Everytime we compete, we will get guys who want to train with us. So they come to fight night (we do this once a month) and everyone gets better, even my own students can learn. But my message to both my boys and the visiting fighters is this–learn how to fight against the other style, not learn the other style. This is a more effective way to grow in your art, instead of adding this and adding that, just learn how to counter those other unfamiliar techniques.

The “jump ship” approach to training is not good for anyone in the martial arts, and is not much different from a man who jumps from one woman’s bed to another, a whore.

Originally Posted by Timmy Boy I might be a n00b to FMA but this seems to be a moral statement, not a training-related one. A student is paying you for the service of providing him with martial arts instruction. You work for him, not the other way round. What duty of loyalty does he owe to you that he wouldn’t owe to his electrician or plumber?

In some martial arts communities, this is true. But in the traditional world of martial arts, it is not. Martial arts is not just some business, even though some people treat it that way–both teachers and students. There is a relationship that you created through teaching someone martial arts, and its too much to describe here, I will explain it better in another post. The making of martial arts into “just a business” is the heart of many of the problems in the martial arts. “Just a business”, makes teachers promote 7 year old black belters, lower the standards for the students (to make it easy for anyone to do it), make crazy claims about the art (this technique will help you whip anyone on the street), created titles (great grand poo-bah, 12th degreee master). It will make students hop from school to school and never learn anything except everybody’s basics, or demand rank from their Masters. I’ve seen students who left a school because next belt comes too slow, or another school promised them black belts very quickly. I’ve lost many students before because our training is too hard. A teacher has to balance tradition and everything with it, and being able to feed his family. In my school our tradition is that only the best move up, but then I have to work with students who cannot train except one day a week, or they are overweight, or knee problems, afriad to fight, etc. But this is what we do, as Masters in the art, we take them all and despite their weaknesses, develop them into warriors. I can’t do this if the students think I work for them.

Going back to my original point, when a teacher says he has secrets in his art, he is not talking about “magic”, he is talking about proprietary techniques, unique skills and training methods that he is not willing to let out the bag for a price. If you remember when Iron Mike Tyson was up coming, they did not allow the public into his training camp like other fighters, this is because his training method was “secret”.

Here is a real SECRET in the Martial Arts:

At the beginner levels of the martial arts, the “secret” to skill is hard work. But at the advance levels of fighting, the “secret” is, superior technique as well as hard work. This is where true Masters, non-commercial Masters, become stingy with their knowledge.

I believe the lower levels of learning in the martial arts is commercial. You are selling yourself to the student in a way, and you want to convince him that your school is the best place to train. The student then, has the choice to join or not join and can quit at any time. In my school we do not use contracts. BUT… a student can only quit on me two times. After the second time I do not let them back. There is no obligation to stay, but after he reaches a certain level of skill, we do have an understanding that whats in it for me (and not even money because i dont charge tuition for my advanced students) is that i am training them to become teachers and fighters to represent me and my school. Every student is told this, I am not doing this for them money. My goal is to grow my style and make my school a strong reputation. This might sound wierd to some teachers, we do not give belts or titles etc., i teach skill. But in exchange for my teaching, I want my students to represent our school and my styles. This is the basic difference of many Filipino (and other asian) teachers, and western teachers. In the Philippines, a guy will learn skills and rush to the competition to try his skills out. Here in the US, a guy will learn (sometimes after one visit to the Philippines) and rush out to teach a seminar, or post what he knows on youtube.

I believe ego, not money, is why many American teachers McDojo their FMA. I believe that money AND ego is why Filipinos McDojo our FMA. We have as much responsiblity for this… probably more, because we started it, with the slogan “FMA as an add-on art”. This is selling out in the worst way, not much different than renting out one’s own daughters.

Back to your point, Tim, at the lower levels of learning, you are right. Find a school you “like” and pay them money to learn. But in a traditional school, learning is only up to a certain level unless you commit. This is why in my school I stop charging tuition after the advance level, because its not business after that point.

And to your second point, do you stay loyal even if the teacher is a bad teacher. Of course not, but many students can’t tell if a teacher is good or bad. I have to admit that when I was younger, I opened my school at 22 years old, I was a bad teacher. But people trained with me because I was a good fighter and I offered styles you cant get on video (in 1992 you couldn’t). Many student quit, but some stayed too, and as I got older and wiser the training was better. Today, I have students who fight and teach all over the place, even in other countries, because they stuck with a “bad teacher”. On the other hand, I had trained with a guy who had a drug problem, but learned a lot from him. I had one who had a terrible temper andIi learned a lot from him. One of my teachers was a gangster, and I learned from him. In the philippines i had one who did not teach anyone who was notFilipino (he told me, dont teach Americans, but today he is over here hocking videos) but I learned a lot from him. In a way you can say, that it was all business with those guys, but I learned what I wanted.


“If a student handed me a fistfull of money then said this is what I want. I would watch him train for an hour then say THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED and it will cost you in sweat and effort it cannot be bought.(I am not a plumber) Then if I thought that HE didn’t have what it takes I would tell him to leave rather than waste his time and mine. I would also tell him the secret of martial arts on the first day by pointing at the student who was putting 100% effort and attitude into his OWN training.”

This happens a lot to FMA teachers. Since many of us teach by seminar, they believe that we are martial arts whores who give it up when we see dollars. I always explain the difference, then sometimes I might give a demonstration of power hitting (we specialize in that) or something that most guys cant do, and if they insist that he doesn’t want to train, then I show them the door. Funny, in the nine (10 years at the date of this post) years I’ve been in california, I seen a few guys who left my place that way, that are now FMA “guro”.

There is more to come, but I am in the process of editing a wealth of information on this topic.

Author: thekuntawman

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

One thought on “Secrets in the Martial Arts”

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