How a School Can Go From Good to GREAT, part II

#1:  The Level 5 Leader

An organization cannot grow without a strong and committed leader. Notice that I did not say manager, but “leader”. Look at your school/style as an organization and not a business. In order for your school to make the leap from a money-making school to an organization people will talk about for generations, you must inspire your students and instructors to build the organization. Your school, then, will outlive you as it’s owner and teacher. Therefore, as Jim Collins’ “Level 5 Leader”, you must have a combination of competency and knowledge, humility (to make the focus the school and its people, rather than yourself), and disciplined enough to stay true to the mission of the organization.

In other words, you must want the school and students to do well, with or without you.

Many schools rely too much on the charisma of its Master. Whether of any fault of the teacher himself, or just the nature of the school, this will limit the growth of the organization. The Master must be willing to develop teachers under him who are just as competent–just as respected–as he is, who will be capable of carrying the torch when he is gone. He must know the direction the school is headed, and ensure that every member knows this mission. Everything the school does must be in the same direction. If the Master allows distractions and confusion to enter the plan, the school’s progress will slow. He must be willing to share information and develop his people, and teach them to become leaders themselves. He must also be strong enough to have clear boundaries for who does what and when. The school must be able to function without him if he is ever going to have a strong school.

If that confuses you, I would advise getting the book… Told you I’m no scholar!

Back to the business of the martial arts, the main things you should focus on for being a good leader for your school are:

  1. do not look at your business as just a “business”. think of it as a movement, an organization that produces leaders
  2. you are the face of the school, but do not be the only face of the school. allow others to assume leadership positions so that each part of the school does well; not just the part you operate
  3. be fiercely committed towards the school’s mission and hedgehog. keep everyone focused on this goal
  4. be an inspiration to your students and teachers, as well as the local martial arts community. this will go a much longer way than money you’d make throwing karate birthday parties…

I would also like to suggest studying leadership, if you haven’t done much reading on this subject already. A good place to start would be John Maxwell’s 21 Laws of Leadership. There are many rules to live by in this book that “translate” perfectly to the business of the martial arts, and the philosophy of the martial arts.

Thank you for reading my blog, and please leave comments and feedback!

How a School Can Go From Good to GREAT, part I

I am not a well-educated man. Most of what I know came from reading and then trial and error. When I read a book, called Good To Great, by Jim Collins, I understood something I only partially understood through my upbringing as a young man and as a young martial artist. This idea is the idea of focus on what you do best. There are several books and seminars that influenced me and Good To Great brought it all home. I will try my best to explain it here, and make it relevant to your experience as a martial arts teacher.

First, let me say that the Good to Great concept can be applied in either the philosophy of the martial arts for martial philosophy or in business as a businessman. In this article, we will deal with this subject as businessmens.

There are 7 principles to the Good to Great concept:

  1. The level 5 leader
  2. First the who, then the what
  3. Confronting the brutal facts
  4. The Hedgehog concept
  5. A culture of discipline
  6. Using technology
  7. The flywheel concept

I am going to only talk about one concept and skip directly to #4, the Hedgehog concept, because it is the one that is most important to me. In future articles, we will look at the others in order.

The hedgehog is an animal that can only do one thing to defend itself, which is roll up into a ball. No other animal does it as well, and when this animal does this, he is well-protected from his enemies. He does not try to do what the other animals do, like fly, fight with his teeth or claws, roar, stuff like that. When danger comes he does the same thing every time, and almost everytime, his ability does not fail him.

As a business owner, we must find what we do best–in fact, what we do better than anyone else in our local industry, and it must fit into all of three areas:

  • What we can excel in
  • What makes us money
  • What we enjoy doing

What is very important is that what we choose to specialize in as a school must fit in all three areas. First, what we do must be something we do exceptionally well, and no one in our industry must be better than we are. If there are experts far better than we are in a field, it is almost pointless to pursue this industry or specialty because we will be fighting the rest of our competition for scraps left behind by the ones who are good. Basically, we are the bottom of the food chain. Secondly, what we do well must also be profitable. I am not talking about something that brings in a little money, that we have to supplement our incomes with jobs and other things, like After School Karate and Karate for 5 years old kids. I am also not saying we have to make a million dollars at it. But it should pay the bills, pay us, and allow us to live the kind of lives we want. Lastly, we must enjoy doing what we do. In the late 1990s, my partner and I began a Tae Bo class at our schools, and even opened a location that only had Tae Bo. We made good money, and we were even pretty good at it. But we certainly weren’t the best–my partner and I are fighters–and we both hated doing it. If the only purpose for going in business was to make money, that was certainly it. But our goal was to produce great fighters, and we actually lost students because we could not accomodate their schedules due to Tae Bo being offered 4 days a week. I was miserable. I did teach Tae Bo when I first moved to Sacramento for about 6 months in order to generate income for my school, then when I was open for business in a commercial location, I dropped it.

So your Hedgehog is that which is something you are good at, makes you money, AND something you are passionate about. If you are anything like me, as a martial arts teacher, I’m willing to bet, that you are wasting time and resources by offering things you don’t like, or advertising services that don’t make you much money, or doing something you hire an assistant to do because you don’t like doing. I would recommend that you look at your school, and figure out what you can drop that is slowing your school’s success down. The great thing about the martial arts business, that a great TKD master once told me (Clint Robinson), that there is enough money in the field that we don’t have to do or chase everything that has a dollar sign on it. His schools are a testament to that. His school, Robinson’s Tae Kwon Do, offers just one thing:  traditional Tae Kwon Do. They don’t have all the Krav Maga, BJJ, and other things that martial arts schools add to improve their bottom line. And although his school is the largest chain in the area, he controls the quality of his Black Belters, and his students are pretty good.  Unlike other TKD schools, his guys are on the tournament circuit, as is his brother–one of the co-owners–and believe me, they hold their own. But when you focus on one thing for so long, you have to excel at it. Spread that focus onto 6 – 7 different things, you will never see any of those efforts reach their full potential.

I would like to add one more thing. However this is not in the book. If you have competition, or you want to eliminate competition, or prevent competition, start a trend. That’s right, create a hedgehog. Look around and see if there is a segment of the market that no one is pursuing, or a skill that you have that no one out there has, and make that your hedgehog. After all, you can’t have competition if no one else is in the same industry. Back to Mr. Robinson’s, I have been located near his schools for 10 years, along with (over the years) at least 5 other schools. To this day, Robinson’s and I are the only schools still here since 1999, and we talk business as acquaintances without suspicion because there is no threat. Besides the personality match, we are also not pursuing the same students. I am after the FMA market, he is after Tae Kwon Do. For years I did not teach children; he takes them as young as 5. When I first moved here, I was told that locating near a Robinson’s location was business suicide. By focusing on a separate industry, I eliminated all competition for my Hedgehog.


Take this lesson, and see how you can apply it to your own school. If you’d like, post a question, and I’ll try to answer it as well as I can. The Good to Great concept is a great concept, and if you can harness it and use it to your advantage, you’ll see a lot of success!

Thanks for reading my blog!

Liberate Yourself From Classical FMA, pt II

This one is a quickie. Hope you like it!


The main reason most people say they come to the Filipino Martial Arts is for practical fighting skills. But are you really getting that through your FMA? I don’t think so. On the surface, the way FMAs are practiced today are somewhat more practical than the more traditional, mainstream martial arts. But FMAs today have evolved to the point there are mainstream FMAs too! Let’s look at the characteristics of a mainstream martial art, and you tell me if the arts have become this way:

  • nothing unique, styles all seem to look the same. teachers do not stand out from one another
  • a high number of poorly skilled teachers and certified “experts”
  • “found on every corner”, a style so popular almost every city has a certified teacher
  • easy to get certification
  • teacher cannot name every black belter he promoted from memory
  • you can find the same style being taught in its entirety on video
  • the commercial version of these styles become the majority

Now let’s look at some mainstream martial arts!

  1. Tae Kwon Do
  2. Wing Chun
  3. Jeet Kune Do
  4. Kenpo
  5. BJJ
  6. MMA
  7. Krav Maga/the rest of the Israeli arts
  8. Ninjitsu
  9. CQC and the like
  10. Modern Arnis
  11. Doce Pares

Now this isn’t to say that there aren’t good fighters representing these styles. Of course, every style has members at the top of the food chain. But they certainly fit into the above defintion. When you are not nearly guaranteed a well-skilled fighter each time you walk in a dojo, I’d have to say that style has become mainstream. The cause of this phenomenon is that a good style and its Master can become so popular and demand so high, that everyone flocks to it and the teacher and his organization is not disciplined enough to keep up with the influx, or to turn unworthy students away.

I had a similar experience when I was in my mid-20s. I was just starting to get out on to the Lumpia Circuit, the FMA circuit, and had invitations to teach seminars. My first seminar was in Sterling, VA, at a Tae Kwon Do school run by a Vietnamese friend (whose name I’ve forgotten). In exchange for me teaching him to spar (he was an Arnis teacher already, but didn’t know how to fight), he set up these seminars and let me keep 100% of the fees collected. After only a few, he started bugging me about issuing certificates, and one day just made some and asked me to sign them. I never returned to that school again until years later, for a scrimmage, but I never taught for him again. I had a similar experience with almost every “seminar” I’ve ever taught.

So, what can you do when you are in a mainstream art? You are in a commercial FMA, and you want to break the mold? I have been asked this privately by many forum members who never speak up out of face, and I can understand. Here is my advice how:

  1. learn how to attack. most FMA styles only focus on defense and countering, and this is not learning how to beat people up. if you want to learn to impress people, stick with the defense, but it isnt much good for fighting. you will need to change your method of training to something more combative, not just to do what the heck everyone else is doing
  2. develop a practical striking system and think about what damage you are actually capable of inflicting on an opponent. for example, a modern arnis strike #5 to the top of the head? you must be kidding! this is the hardest part of the body to injure and you want to strike it with a stick! LOL! change the target to the collarbone, everytime you practice, and you’re doing practical Arnis for fighting.
  3. don’t teach beginners disarms. these guys are learning to try and take a stick and their forearms are too slender to generate any striking power! beginners should be focusing on building a foundation, not learning neat stuff to show the guys at work. one thing at a time, teach them to move their feet, build their strength and power, teach them to hit, and how to evade. once they have the skills to spar and the physical ability to inflict damage, then we can start learning to do all that fancy shmancy stuff!
  4. work bodyweight conditioning into your training. i am not talking about weight lifting, i am talking about developing strength. see arnisadors and eskrimadors are some of the weakest, poor fighters I know. they like to talk tough, get tatoos and body build, and look the part, but most of the people doing all the fighting are the young, little skinny guys. yeah there are a select few who really get out there and bang, but most are really afraid. if you develop your destructive power and your body, this will help build your courage to really do something. your workouts are too soft; too much stick tapping, too much dancing around a triangle, too much concept (well if you strike me here, i can… do this… or i can do that…)
  5. spar. yes the tournaments have a lot of flailing going on, but that’s what you’re seeing on the surface. once you get involved you’ll see that there is a science to what they are doing, and its much more difficult than it looks, and its much more combative than you realize
  6. and speaking of tournaments, STOP MAKING EXCUSES ABOUT WHY TOURNAMENTS ARE BAD!!! all you do when you blurt those excuses… yes, excuses, is showing how scared you are of fighting. of course it’s similated, Herman, all fighting is simulated. if you’re agreeing to fight, neither of you is trying to kill the other, there are rules, and people will stop you if one gets a bad injury, you’re in a simulated fight. MMA is simulated. full contact stickfighting is simulated. your argument is weak, and shows your cowardly side. if you want fighting skill, you need to (simulate) fight.  i supposed sparring is bad, so the better thing to do is drills? you’re kidding
  7. the next time you are tempted to do a seminar in another style you think is cool, fight with some folks from that style. if you don’t do well, find a weakness and a way to beat them with the knowledge you have. if you really believe there aren’t superior styles out there, just superior fighters, prove it. make yourself superior. adding more techniques to your arsenal won’t help you beat them, increasing your skill will. the worst fighters i know, have resume’s long as a convict rap sheet. too much adding salt, sugar, betchin, bay leaf, not enough simmering…

Well, there you have it. There is more to it, but I need to send this off and get to bed. Ramadan is coming in tomorrow! All praises to God!

Thank you for reading my blog, and please! Leave comments!

The Fallacy of Empty Handed FMA

Get ready to read something that will blow your mind! When I first heard Guro’s view on this, I thought: he’s wrong here. But after “testing” my theories, as he often advocates, and some serious reflection, I realize how right he is! Please read this article with an open mind, and if you still aren’t sure… test it out. Happy reading!


One of the things I believe hurts the Philippine fighting arts is the commercial influence on who we are as a style. I am speaking about all of this “information sharing” that FMA people like to do. You know, let’s have a “gathering”, take some pictures, smile and show off to each other what we know, etc. Or attend each other’s seminars, then present the other guy’s stuff as if it was in our style too. Or “cross train” into someone else’s system–whether the art is valid or not–and then teach that art to our students. It discourages standing alone on what you do, refining what you do, and testing out if what you do is functional or not–and especially, testing out if the next guy’s techniques are valid. And don’t give me that “well, it works for me” b.s. neither; either you can fight, and your technique is sound, or it’s garbage. Martial artists, especially FMA artists, are such sissies now, that they are afraid to hurt another Guro’s feelings or even to say that some other Guro’s techniques are useless because they might have to prove it.

So allow me:  99% of what you guys are doing as empty handed Arnis or empty handed Eskrima is doo-doo. I mean that with all the love and respect I can, because our Creator knows I love my country and my country’s arts. But what you guys put on Youtube to demo to the world is making us look bad, and making the guys who are serious about fighting look past the FMA teacher, because they have seen what most of have to offer, and it’s garbage. So there are a few tough MF’s out there teaching the art, like Paul Vunak and Dog Brothers (not all, just the main guys who started it all), and they give us a little bit of credibility, but if you look closer, you’ll see that even they rely on something else to make their empty hand combat-effective, rather than the same patty-cake BS most of us do. For Paul Vunak, he is beating up on his students so he’s using plain old big balls for his fighting, but the stuff he teaches is whack. For the Dog Brothers, its BJJ, and they don’t even touch the patty cake FMA for a good reason. Out of respect for the FMA community, they don’t say it, but they don’t have to. For the rest of the FMA people supposedly teaching effective empty hand fighting, they are just going with the wind and teaching what everyone else is doing, so they don’t count. And please don’t get me started on Inosanto Kali and Pekiti Tirsia; I have friends who do those styles, and they’ve heard my opinions many, many times, and I’m tired of repeating myself on that, and pissing off my good friends.  😉

First let me say this, the hand and arms are not sticks. They cannot be used as sticks as long as you are supposedly trying to kick someone’s behind. It does not feel the same as a stick, and except for a few raw movements, cannot be wielded the same way. The striking surfaces are completely different, and different levels of power are needed to inflict damage. The targets you will hit with the hand, the fist, the arm, and the stick are very different. If you don’t understand that, you might need to go back to the (different) classroom.

Second, the hand is not a knife either. Yes, it can move in the same pattern as a knife, but if you slap some guy up against the forearm as if it was a knife, he is going to kick your ass, because it’s obvious you’ve been reading too many Inside Kung Fu magazines and you’re not serious about fighting. All those drills are good for is to impress women and out-of-shape suburbanites. Try going into a boxing gym and showing them that crap. And please videotape it so I can add it to my “humor” playlist, because somebody’s going to catch a very funny big momma beatdown!

The problem is, that people are creating a system as they go. Half the time teachers are demoing “what you might be able to do without a stick”, they are showing you something they have not practiced, and certainly something they have not USED in a fight. You can tell just by the way they show it to you. There are some that have developed a “system” of this baloney too, but it still lacks the fundamental thing needed to call it “fighting art”:  to fight with it. If  they at least did that, they would have to go back to the drawing board over and over, and either of two things will happen. One, they develop it until those “limb destructions” would become functional (btw, limb destructions do work, but not the way 99.9% of FMA people do them). Or two, they toss the techniques into the “nice to look at but not use” pile, along with empty handed sinawali (yes, empty handed sinawali too!). The seminar format of teaching is the culprit for a lot of it. It took reputatable Eskrima styles, and made them want to compete with mainstream FMA by being forced to say “oh, we have that too!” and have to devote training time to some bullcrap that ain’t your specialty.

Let’s define the “Seminar Format of Teaching”, shall we?

Seminar Format of Teaching

  1. Teach to a group of people who are not serious students in your style
  2. Stuff as much “stuff” into the class as you can to make it seem “worth the money”
  3. Oh, we have that too!
  4. Don’t make the class too hard or intimidating, or they won’t come back
  5. Make the class entertaining
  6. Make the class sound “scientific” and “innovative”, rather than just plain old, hard work
  7. Talk about who certified you so that you will have credibility
  8. Oh, we have that too!
  9. Take lots of pictures
  10. Grant certificates at the end of class, teaching creds by the 10th class (10 easy lessons?  It never went away folks)


So, what about that “testing”? You test students by doing what? How hard is that test? Did they really prove their skill’s combat effectiveness? Can you test everything you do in this test? Or is some of that stuff “too deadly”? Come on, FMA people, you know darned well, that you think some of this stuff is too deadly for testing!

Since we are defining terms, let’s define what most people call a “test”:

FMA Testing

  1. Prepare certificates before the test
  2. Show them what you’ve learned
  3. I said “show”, not prove! Watch that contact sir, ‘we’re all here to learn’!
  4. Do some drills, some sinawali, some ad-lib techniques and “translations”… (yawn!)
  5. Smile, take pictures….
  6. Hand out premade certificates
  7. Shake hands, take more pictures, give a speech to the rest of the SEMINAR attendees that if they complete 5, 8 or 10 seminars, they’ll get one of these teaching credentials too
  8. Go on the website to add names, test takers go on the forums to announce the beginning of your new classes


Let’s do my version of a “test”:

Mustafa Gatdula’s “Test”

  1. Announce to the class that we are having a “test” today, or
  2. Have a student make an appointment for a private lesson and then ambush him, or
  3. Take student to a tournament and register him as a Black Belter
  4. Bring higher ranking students of another school to the “test”, or
  5. I suit up
  6. Push these guys to see what they can do, and how much they are capable of doing, then
  7. Ask them to do more
  8. Finish with a nice strength test (100 pushups, 30 minutes of hard sparring, 500 Abaniko strikes, etc), something I’m not sure if they can do at this point
  9. C ongratulate them and send them back to class

That’s it! Testing is something you should be doing all the time. You should not know if your fighters can pass, and in many cases, there is no pass/fail, just something for them to record the results in their heads for future reference. Don’t announce the test; ambush them. Streetfights are often not announced until just seconds before it happens, am I correct? Why should training be any different?

Well, now that you understand the TEST, then understand that you are teaching something that is not being “tested”. Those techniques and empty hand vs. stick have not been tested. And without it, you’re Karate’s Shit, Russo! LOL

Let’s visit some of the irritating FMA empty hand that will get you beat down in a fight:

  • Limb destructions–too much reliance on it. most of you have no idea how a punch actually feels coming at you to use it effectively. hands and feet often move too fast and are too unpredictable to spend valuable time searching for strikes when you can simply counter the opponent and cut out the middle man
  • all that pad-punching–how about developing those punches, waldo? learn how to hit, you hit like a stinking old woman. you have no power mechanics, no accuracy, no tactical use of those punches, but you want to make nice combos and patterns
  • backfist/finger jab–have you ever hit anyone with a backfist or finger jab? why are you doing so many of them? yes, its a modern arnis #2 strike, but how much power do you have in the stick #2? but you’re so eager to “translate” it into empty hand… sometimes, it is time to step away from “concepts” and enter the real world once in a while. that stuff looks neat, but it ain’t all that practical
  • hand as a knife–you’ve got to be kidding! I suppose you believe you can develop the “glow” too?
  • disarms–this is a whole ‘nother topic… I could write a book on it!
  • stick and dagger as empty hand–okay, the 70 year old man is impressive doing this, but not you. you’re almost as bad as those kenpo guys with all of that
  • trapping–yeah, maybe if the guy you’re fighting is drunk, in a wheel chair, and blind. plus, the wing chun guys are tired of you all ripping them off!
  • footwork–cute, let’s put it to music. maybe i can dress you up in a sarong and charge navy guys to come in and stuff dollar bills in your drawers. oh wait, you already wear sarongs…
  • fighting stance–will you please stop holding that Bruce Lee “Enter the Dragon” pose? you don’t look like Bruce, and speaking of which, STOP CALLING HIM BY HIS FIRST NAME AS IF YOU KNOW HIM… ESPECIALLY IF HE IS THE FOUNDER OF YOUR STYLE!!!

I’m getting tired of typing. I’d go on, and if I’ve missed anyone, it’s been a long day, I’m a little tired.

Can we talk here? Eskrima is good stick fighting and good knife fighting. That’s it. Sure, there are some, who have developed some good Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and Judo on the side. Some have even done an excellent job combining it. But at least they are honest about where their techniques come from, and the thing I can say about groups like Comjuka and Lanyada Kuntaw (Shorin Ryu rip off), is that, whether they have a stick in their hand or a gloved fist, those cats can give you a beatdown like you wouldn’t believe. Not too many Doce Pares guys can do it with empty hands AND the stick. Not many Modern Arnis can do with empty hand AND stick. Not many Kombatan guys can do with empty hand AND stick (Arjuken is a different animal, trust me. Maybe I’ll write an article about it, maybe not… out of respect to my former Guro. We’ll see). The bottom line is that you cannot use the hand like a stick or a knife and expect to win fights. FMA people must learn to separate them as weapons and develop those skills individually. We need to stop being the Japanese copy cat of the martial arts and trying to imitate everything under the sun. And finally, once we have developed something, we need to return to the FILIPINO tradition of proving to the world, proving to our local martial arts community, and proving to ourselves, that these techniques can hold their own. There is a reason you don’t see DP/MA/CSE/PTK/JKD-Kali guys in the Karate tournaments doing their “empty hands” against the Tae Kwon Do people they like to laugh at; they know that stuff don’t work, and it’s much safer to say your art is too dangerous for the ring, or tournaments are too unrealistic (yeah, punching pads or doing drills is more realistic, right?), or “been there done that” (as a Karate student) and there’s nothing to prove.

Okay, streetfighter, go on the street and kick someone’s ass then.


Oh, wait, your Guro has already won, like, what… 300 undefeated streetfights already? Gotcha.


Thank you for reading my blog, and whether or not you agree with my statements, please leave comments!


My Book: Make a Living with Backyard Dojo

I’ve written a small book, which my editor calls a “mini-book” because it’s only 22 pages long. I wrote it for the Masters of small, independant martial arts schools who would like to feed their families with their schools. These are not men who want hundreds of students and million-dollar high-tech dojos. They are true to tradition, in both skill and business practice, and the most they want is to open a humble commercial location that pays the bills and puts food on the table and their kids through college.

I have invested thousands of dollars trying to learn the business side of the martial arts. I’ve been talked into offering a belt system, utilizing contracts, teaching in day care centers (seriously), teaching seminars on tour, even opening satellite classes across the country. I have taught in the middle east, in central america, as well as in sober living homes. All this, in pursuit of wanting nothing more than to afford teaching the real art to my most dedicated students while these other ventures paid my bills. My ultimate goal back then was to offer my training for free. I learned a lot about business, and learned a lot about how I can market and run my business without doing what everyone else does.

Anyway, the one thing I noticed was that I could not find business information that was directed at a guy like me–who teaches full contact; who uses profanity in my classes; who yells at students; who has ex-cons and gang bangers in my classes; a man whose students (including children) leave the school bruised, banged up, bloodied, and sometimes in need of stitches. Yes, I have insurance. Yes, I pay taxes. And yes, there is a market for my type of martial arts. I have a website, I’m in the Yellow Pages, occasionally I am on the radio and on cable TV, and I don’t promise good grades.

I have seen many good friends and good martial artists who have closed shop because they did not have the business tools to stay in business. One of the painful reminders of this, was last year, when I had refused several students of a friend’s dojo who attempted to join when they saw the writing on the wall. 6 months later, they were there after his school closed, and then he stopped teaching out of his garage. I’ll say this here, and some of those students read this blog, but I thought as traditional Karate teachers in Sacramento go, he was absolutely the best… even better than me.

So I wrote this book for you guys. The guy who surfs the net looking for ways to keep his school going while his wife urges him to “get a real job”. The guy (who, like I once was) working for minimum wage on a graveyard shift job in order to keep a school. The guy (like I was) who used money from tournament winnings to pay bills because his enrollment was too low to pay rent and eat.

I was asked to make it at least 40 pages, but I had a message to give, and it came out to 22 pages. Sorry Mike! I didn’t want to fluff it up or pad with filler just to make it seem “worth the money”… I know people who teach their martial arts that way. You’ll find that the other books I write will be the same way:  short, to the point, but full of good, useful information. And I am not some young, wet-behind-the-ears MBA who knows nothing about what the real business world is like.  Just like I am not some 50-something millionaire Karate clown trying to convince you that you’re not legit unless you’re selling belt exams and birthday parties. If you want to really put bread on the table with good, quality martial arts, this book is for you.

Look at our “Offerings” page off the main page, and you’ll see ordering information there. Please, leave comments or at least email me to give me feedback after you’ve read it!

Thanks for reading my blog!

The Fist and the Philippine Martial Arts

One of the most neglected aspects of fighting that is the most ignored in the FMA is training the fist for power, and its use as a real destructive weapon. It seems that we tend to get so wrapped up in neat ways to block, trap and capture an opponent, that we forget that fighting effectiveness depends on our ability to inflict damage with basic strikes and kicks. How often have we seen some guy on Youtube slapping hands and arms around just to gloss over a quick punch here and there and finish with one of those nice, fancy takedowns? 😛

Makes you wonder if this guy really understands the concept of whipping some guy’s behind in a real street fight? I’m sorry, I am sitting in Starbux laughing as I write this, because I’ve seen too many of our FMA brothers that couldn’t beat a shopping center Ronald McDonald in a real fight. Earlier today, I looked up an old friend of mine, Omar Olumee (if you know him, tell him to call me!) who worked for a long time at a chain school called Kim’s Karate here in Alexandria. Omar, was trained as a kid at Kim’s, and when I was younger, was an intermediate student learning to point fight in a class I taught at a Kim’s location in Springfield. He went on to be a very *solid* Black Belter, nationally ranked point fighter, and member of the DKT Karate team… Omar is the real deal, and if he was half the fighter he used to be, would destroy many FMA fighters. And yes, he was trained at Kim’s Karate, and worked there as a teacher for years. (Don’t judge a book by it’s comakiwaraver!)  I am laughing because I wondered how many “realistic martial artists” must have encountered him with arrogance, just to find out that he was one of the top fighters in the country…

My message to you, my FMA brothers and sisters:  don’t get too wrapped up in the variations and innovations of the martial arts until you have mastered the basics these arts require to ensure combat effectiveness.

The fist. We take for granted that all we have to do is ball up our hands and swing them into some guy’s face and things will break. Not quite. It takes understanding, training and development as a weapon in order to turn our nose-pickers/sandwich-holders/page-turners into destructive tools of combat. You must fully understand that the hand is a weapon, but it must be developed and sharpened, just as any piece of flat metal (like a butter knife or spoon) can be turned into a razor-sharp shank capable of taking down the biggest, most heavily-armed men.

I would like to offer some very simple, basic steps to training your hands. I could write a book on how to train your hands (hmm….), but some things I need to keep sacred for my own students. At least, you would have to train with me in person to really learn what I have to teach. This information is even earned within my own student body, but is well worth the investment of one’s time and loyalty:

  • Hand conditioning requires two basic types of training:  strength building and impact training. Not all forms of hand conditioning are equal, and there is a hierarchy of skills and training methods… from beginner to advanced
  • For strength building, the simple act of training for hours with a stick in your hand–swinging full speed and full power for at least one hour–will do plenty to build strength. Why do we need to build strength? Well besides the obvious–seizing and grappling skills–we also need to build a strong fist to keep our fingers tightly clenched when we hit someone with it. The difference between a fist that hurts on impact (regardless of how hard we strike) and one that does not is how hard the fist is. Sort of the difference between hitting someone with a block of wood vs an iron block.
  • Another good way to build strength would be to (1) open and close the fist 250 times, (2) roll a 20 lb barbell inside the hands 50 times per direction, (3) perform fingertip pushups on the actual fingertips, not the pads, and (4) squeeze a tennis ball 200 times
  • A simple impact exercise is to fill a paint bucket with sand, and punch into the sand until your skin bleeds. It doesn’t need to be done full power in the beginning, but hard enough that it hurts to do it. There are techniques to doing this, but I believe this is the safest thing you can practice without a teacher
  • Perform knuckle pushups on hard surfaces. In my school, we have concrete floors, and even my little girl, who is 8, can do her pushups on them. If your students cannot, work their way up (slowly, of course) until they can
  • Always, ALWAYS hit things with your fist. The more you do this, the stronger your fist will become and the less they will hurt when you use them

Guess what?




That’s it! This is such a simple thing, one can basically teach himself to condition his hands! Do I recommend it? No, I don’t. But then, even many Masters who train this way, do not understand much about it besides the fact that they have dangerous fists. Hand conditioning is not rocket science! Now, there is much to learn about it, but with these simple steps I listed above, you are less than 6 months away from being able to break things with your fist. Yes, many Masters overexaggerate the process, but it can be done alone. If you want to learn and develop more, it would be a good idea to find a Master who knows what he is doing and pay your dues to learn.

Thank you for visiting my blog, and please visit again!

Planning to Have that Baby, pt II

Right now, I am in Long Beach, California, on my way to take my 12 year old nephew, Yahya, who has just spent 4 weeks with me, back to Washington, DC. I wanted to put him on a plane alone, but 3 hours before his plane took off, he decided that he did not want to fly alone, and my ticket cost me almost 3 times what it would normally cost me to fly to DC. This is a trip I take once a month because I have started a school in Northern Virginia, and I have students there. But this month, 3 cannot make the class because two are on vacation and one is TDY (temporary duty) with the military. I have the flexibility to change my plans as I seem fit, because I work for myself and I am the boss. Isn’t that lovely? Well, as it turns out, I will be there this weekend to teach the students who still want to train, then returning in three weeks to train the others, along with whoever else would like to join us. So, in one hour I will be on a plane to DC, then tomorrow I teach my class, and a few hours after that, I will either go and visit friends or get back on a plane back to California.

When we checked in, the customer service rep told me that for $599, I can buy a ticket which will let me fly anywhere JetBlue goes (no, I am not getting paid to tell you this), any time I want, for as often as I want, for a month. So, my wife wants to go to Puerto Rico on her next day off. While I am down there I am going to visit some martial arts schools and look for opportunities to teach. No guarantee, but I think we are going to do it (I can still use the ticket to teach my class on the third weekend of Sept too).

I hope you didn’t think I am trying to rub it in anybody’s nose, but I wanted to make the point that when you work for yourself, you can globe-hop when you feel like it. Can’t do that with a job. You have to get permission first.

Back to the article.

So, many people would like to take the plunge and open a school, but they are afraid to let go of the comfort of their jobs. Yes, you can teach and work at the same time–like most people do–but you seem to get stuck there because the job pays the bills, the school enrollment does not get high enough to let you quit the job, and you can’t increase your enrollment because you can only work at your school part time. This is what is meant by “planning to have a baby” (which Yahya asked me what the title means)… that the same way young couples can never get the “time right” to plan their baby–money, time, purchase of the new home, etc.–the best thing is to just do it.

But in business, you have to plan a little better. Not just a savings account. You will need to educate yourself on business models for your school. Will you have students sign agreements? What is the difference between a “contract” and an “agreement”, anyway? How much will your tuition be? What will be your target market? What will be your specialty? Or will you cater to several segments of the martial arts market? To McDojo or not to McDojo? Will there be children? Contact sparring? What hours will you be open? What will be the name of your school?

These are important questions you should answer before you open a school. When I opened my school, I did not have a name because I was in the base gym at Bolling Air Force base. When I opened my first commercial location less than a year later, I needed a name. We had four names before I settled on the name Typhoon Philippine School of Martial Arts. That fact, the four names, was a bad thing, as each time I renamed my school, I looked like I closed and reopened, or I was trying to avoid creditors, etc.

If you have a school, you will need a plan of attack to leaving your job. It will be a combination of having a strong marketing plan that is already in the works, as well as a target enrollment (to pay the bills), and a back-up plan in case of road blocks. And as I keep saying, you will need to educate yourself. Make the time to read books on marketing, sales and operations. There are good motivational books that will help, too, because you will have a lot of people who will tell you (like Linda Lee Cadwell’s mom told Bruce Lee):  Mr. Lee, the world needs doctors, not Judo (whatever!)  and you will have to be self-sufficient with the belief that you can do it. Just like you don’t go into the ring not knowing if you will be the winner, you don’t go into business if you aren’t sure that you will be successful.

Let me recommend a book for all of you, if you are serious about being successful with your school. It is called “Good to Great”, by Jim Collins. This is the first step for your path to success. Please, get a copy, google it, begin reading it, and then check back with me. In my next article, I am going to break this down as wells as I can (with my limited education and intelligence) and guide you towards a strong business plan. Believe me, if someone like me can do it, I know you can.

Again, in order for you to be successful, you will have to be prepared. I strongly recommend that you take the path I took, and do all the steps I took, and do it as if I’ve offered you a money-back guarantee only if you followed every step (I sound like a businessman, don’t I?)  I will arrive in DC at 5 a.m. tomorrow, and teaching by 12, so I have to get to sleep. After everything is done, I will tell you all about Good to Great.