What’s In Your Dojo?

Okey, smarty pants, I know it’s technically NOT a Dojo. But I am using the word generically.

So, what’s in your Dojo?

I have training equipment, and our set up is a little different than most martial arts schools. First of all, we’re located in “the hood”.  My schools in DC weren’t… they were in nice neighborhoods, but I grew up in low income areas, and I feel at home here. So even though we’re doing better, I’m not going anywhere. The rent is cheap, and folks who really want good training won’t mind it at all.

Here is the outside of my school: 

Front of the School
4120 Franklin Blvd

You may notice that the front glass is blocked. That’s because I believe that good martial arts is not a spectator sport. There is a bus stop out front, and we’ve had drug sold out front, prostitutes, gang members smoking weed (I just had to get rid of two today who hung around while my girls’ class was being conducted), fights, and some folks were just bored so they would stand and watch as if they were watching TV. Plus, the neighbors used to sell drugs, and my school had gotten shot up a few times (still have the bulletholes to prove it). We need complete concentration, so our school is private, we do not take walk-ins or visitors during class hours, and we have an “appointment only” policy. It’s written on the door.

We recently got a new building owner, who will reface the front of the strip, and she has already (yuck) laid asphalt in the back. Before paving, this is what our backyard (now a parking lot) used to look like:

Striking Post III
Ignore the appliances next door, that guy got deported and the business closed...

We had a dirt lot, and two neighbors paved small plots behind their stores. At night (when they were closed) we used to send some students out back to train when we needed space. By the way, let me explain this:

Striking_Post_II
I had a telephone post cut into smaller sections that we used for striking posts. We had 6 total.

Every school should have stuff to hit. My guys “grew up” on these telephone poles. When we needed to go hard, we threw tires over them, and practiced our stick technique, kicking, and knife techniques. I ruined several of my razors-sharp blades on these tires by allowing students to use them. I didn’t realize that car tires have wires in the rubber, which will destroy a razor-sharp blade.

Our new landlord had them pulled up (I did not help them. Hmmph!) and so now I have to build striking posts for the guys to train on.

Inside, we have red-painted concrete floors (it was supposed to be temporary, but I like them), two pull-up bars, two punching bag stands, four “WaveMasters”….

10-31-09_1435
We've got a few guys who weigh over 250 lbs, so we needed a heavy duty pull up station

Btw, some of these pics were taken from a cell phone, so I apologize for the poor quality…

pics 0105
One of two punching bag stands. We go through bags like water around here!
pics 0107
This tire is used to train our leg attacks. Behind it is the other bag stand, with a 100 lb bag
pics 0104
The other pull-up bar (got it at a yard sale). Behind it is my long weapons rack. We use staff, spears, and clubs for Tapado practice.
pics 0002
The flag on the right is... oh, you should already know. On the left is the Katipunan flag.
pics 0090
Pads, small sticks, and sparring gear. We are always prepared!
pics 0106
Nice complements to any martial arts training program!

To your left are three important items for any martial arts program. Far left is the Brass Ring. If you do forms practice, these rings will do wonders for your strength and speed.

Next to that is a bottle of Dit Da Jow, and ointment to treat battered hands and arms. If your training program is serious, your students will be busting up their hands and arms. Keep them going with this stuff!

Finally, my fav, the ab wheel. Don’t waste money on the machines. This will kill your midsection!

pics 0103
And what school isn't complete without trophies and medals? My guys are only asked to leave them with me for a week, but some have too many to take home!

 I took pictures of some of our other equipment, but for some reason, they didn’t make it to my email account from my phone, so I’ll just describe them:

  • dumbells. we’ve got a few, some adjustable, some are just the single weight ones (35, 45, 55, etc.)
  • sand bags, we use them for grip training
  • a bucket of sand (for striking practice)
  • a wrist curl bar (the kind with the rope that you attach to plates)
  • bricks (for various purposes, mostly to add weight to hand technique practice)
  • an old punching bag with two ratchet straps. we use this for throwing practice and for lifting dead weights. i used this this morning, and my upper back is still feeling it!
  • weapons, weapons and weapons!

I want my students to have access to everything they need for success. They shouldn’t need to join a gym or buy equipment to work out at home, unless they just want to (we are open 7 days a week)–whether their thing is body building or just training for skill and strength–a good school should be self-contained.

Collectively, my school over the years have lost over a ton–literally. We have had several students lose over 100 pounds, and I have had students gain 50 pounds of muscle. We have seen guys come in our school with no strength at all, no confidence, no muscular build, and leave as very strong men and women. I had a young boy, who joined extremely overweight, who is now in his first year of college on a football scholarship. We have a few students now fighting MMA and full contact kickboxing. I have had students join the military, become police officers and correction officers, become martial art teachers and fighters. I have students all over the world that came out of my tiny little school:  in Thailand, in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Canada… and they are excellent fighters. Not bad, for a kid who went from third world country to the hood without an education!

I know this is different from my usual posts, but I thought I’d give you the grand tour.

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please visit again!

Producing Good FMA Instructors, pt V

This will be a short entry, because I have one small tip that really means a lot and I want it to have its own article.

I’ve discovered after 18 years of teaching the arts in my own school, and after over 1,000 students, that the best way to teach martial arts skills is in small, manageable bites of knowledge. When I was learning, I had traditional, patient teachers who demanded diligent, focused practice and perfection. While this may not be for everyone, for the teacher who wishes the best for his students it is the only path to this level of skill.

For my own students, I began them as advanced beginners by assigning them one technique to teach, demonstrate and explain during class. This got them to recall all of the details of a technique, and often opened their eyes to mistakes that they may not have been aware that they were making themselves. Another technique I used was to take the more advanced students, and give him a lower level classmate to tutor for a small number of skills. We have done this over the years with older students teaching younger students, having the better fighters lead a sparring class, and having students with better skill in one set of techniques (like kicking, or stick sparring) teach his method to his brothers. This leads to two things: 

  1. humility and respect–everyone realizes that someone may be better than someone else at one thing, but no one has it all. it also keeps the hierarchy of skills within my student body in check
  2. camaraderie–the students become closer brothers when they share information, and this is healthy for the growth of my school and my style

Teaching skill and fighting skill are by-products of this method.

When teaching students there are several philosophies about what method is best for developing skill in the shortest amount of time.  Here are my thoughts:

  • when explaining a skill, technique or strategy to the students, give them just the basic movements, and not too much detail. as they progress, add more details and variations, but only when they are beginning to develop proficiency at what they’ve already learned
  • it is not necessary to make every correction and micro-adjustments in the beginning. again, I advocate giving a few details at a time. this allows the students to retain more of what you say
  • always prove your point with actions, not words. students will understand better when they see it, than when they are asked to envision it. especially when a student asks, “will it work if… ?”  what better way to prove it than to show it in application
  • spar with a technique to demonstrate its effectiveness, and to test and rehearse their understanding of it
  • a good idea would be to spend an entire class session on one skill, one technique, or one strategy. it really gives the students a complete understanding of the material you are teaching by focusing attention on just that item, and giving them ample time to practice it
  • always utilize enough repetitions to drill the information into their memories, and then perform more. 10 reps is not ample.
  • i like to take one week, or several consecutive class sessions to spend time on many variations or parts of a technique. often one class alone, or a few minutes of a class, will not be enough time to properly convey what you want them to learn. we have actually spent 3 months developing one technique in my school.

These lessons should be built into your instructor candidates’ training, as they will be accepting students before you know it, and they should already be very familiar with these teaching techniques.

Of course, I have more on this subject, but I will expound on them in future articles. I hope you found this entry useful!

Thank you for reading my blog!

Secret #4 for Fighting Superiority

Make Use of “Perfect Timing”

In fighting, there is too much reliance on being faster or stronger than the opponent. In the FMA, there is too much emphasis on ideas less practical than that:  untested theories and skills, and prearranged sequences. If you can harness the ability to use timing–and not just timing, but PERFECT timing, then you will be able to land on a faster man, and destroy a stronger fighter.

“Perfect timing” is not the same as “timing”. When you time an opponent, you look for the right moment to land your shot (if you are attacking) or the right time to move (when the opponent is attacking). Other factors are involved as well, like distance, positioning, and angles, but today we will just talk about timing. Timing is perfect when there is no better time to do it; therefore, you have the best opportunity to counter or attack and your opponent really can’t do anything about it.

Example:   Opponent swings a vertical strike at your head with a stick. In many style this is called a #1 strike. Good timing has you fade away to put distance between you and the opponent as you hit his hand. Once you have done that, the opponent is now vulnerable to a follow up strike to the head or a good combination that finishes him. PERFECT timing against the same opponent allows you to skip the fade away and hand hit, and just go straight for the finish. Meaning you do not defense at all, just counter hit the opponent with nothing but power strikes–and you don’t even need to angle away from him, because your timing was so good he had no chance of hitting you at all.

Good timing is based on a possibility of failure and requires you to take precautions (moving away and hitting the hand). Perfect timing is a technique that wouldn’t normally work in a million years, and this is your year. Like I said–there is no better time than this moment. Precautions are not necessary because the opponent, no matter how good he is, has no chance of success.

So what was the secret to the timing in the example?  You initiate your attack when the opponent chambers. If you can do this, it won’t matter what strike the opponent throws, how strong he is, whether or not you’ve moved away far enough, or whether the strike to the hand damaged him, etc. Learn to blast him when he thinks about moving and he won’t know what hit him.

Here’s another secret. Save it, write it down, teach it to your best fighters, commit it to memory and utilize it, because it’s heavy:

The opponent will attack you when two very significant things happen:

  1. When he is ready to attack
  2. When he notices that you are not ready to attack

Your goal is to make sure these things never occur at the same time… from his point of view. Let me clarify:

  • You are ready + he is ready = clash, may the best man win (don’t attack unless you know that you are the superior man with a better plan)
  • You are not ready + he is ready = this should never happen. Do all you can to make sure it never does
  • You are not ready + he is not ready = this is going to be a good fight. But only because you two are equally unprepared. If you find this occuring, either you have met your match or you have some training to do, Lucy!
  • You are ready + he is not ready = GET ‘IM!

Move to keep your opponent out of his fighting stance and needing to readjust. Train yourself to attack from any position (who said martial arts stance training was useless?). This includes when the opponent is in the process of throwing an attack and when he is moving. You also want to train for possible counters to your attack.

Example: You attack your opponent with a left back leg round kick while the opponent has his right in front. You have several things to think about:

  1. what counters can he do?
  2. which directions will he move?
  3. will he attack or will he defend?
  4. what does this opponent tend to do?

In training, you want to have these questions asked. Number 4 is really having a category that all opponents will fit in to. After the fight has started, you will place your opponent into the category, thus giving you your strategy for this fight.

Back to perfect timing, these factors will be useful in executing your plan. There is a moment, a trigger, that pushes your “start” button and gets the attack under way. It is usually a reaction to something the opponent has done, but also depends on where you are in relation to the opponent, how fast he is (compared to how fast you are), whether or not he hesitates or if he is aggressive, how tall he is and whether he headhunts or tends to attack low…

There is only so much I can relay on this blog, but I hope this was enough to get you thinking. So we’ll close here, and I’ve got to clean up this mess (my kids have been in the kitchen, “cooking” and fighting for the last hour… the 8 and 9 year olds) before the wife gets home.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Don’t forget to check out my Offerings page!

Padded Fighting In the FMA (For Master John Oliver)

Yesterday Sifu/Guro John Oliver asked me about my opinion about padded stick competition and my fighting philosophy. Although I have addressed this many times before, I thought it would be a good idea to give this topic its own article on this blog.

padded stickfighter
Padded stickfighting gives you a lot more than a sweaty shirt!

I have heard all of the talk about padded stickfighting not being “realistic enough” for combat, and how we should do more “realistic” training. I have dealt with martial artists who believe that point sparring is nothing more than a game of tag and will develop poor fighting habits–dangerous fighting habits. They say that tournaments give you a false sense of confidence and makes people think they can fight, when they really can’t fight.

I say, phooey. Same to the “realistic street survival scenarios” or whatever you want to call it:  Realistic sparring drills, simulated street encounters, live combat templates… GOOD LORD DOES IT EVER STOP? Sorry, but all those fancy names really get under my skin! See, all of it translates into plain English as “simulated fighting”. Some of you like to hit modified catcher’s mitts and call it preparing for the street, some of you hit each other (yet well protected, but you’re hitting people), and some of you don’t hit anything, you just go through sequences (ahem, kenpo a’la krap maga). The bottom line is that all of it is simulated! Where one method simulates a part of a real encounter, another part of the same method will be unrealistic.

Focus mitts

Focus mitts do not feel like a real person, and the distance is always either too close, or too far. One does not get to sense what the distance should be between you and an opponent because the partner/mitt holder is always two feet further than the target. Hooks and upper cuts are almost always held at the wrong angle and distance, because the holder is trying to hold the mitt for you to hit it. Not the same as a moving, twisting, attacking opponent… Oh, and to quote Bruce Lee, mitts don’t hit back. Well, even if the hand inside the mitts hit back, they don’t hit back like an opponent would. You see, you can’t receive a feed and hit back with the same hand (like an opponent would).

Patty cake drills

Patty cake drills! Don’t get me started on those! If there was anything in the martial arts I’d like to kick in the behind, terminate and bury, then erase from our collective FMA memories, it’s the FMA patty cake drill! This is the most unrealistic, bad-habit forming, waste of time and energy (not to mention a new addition to the FMA, old timers never bothered with such girliness) ever thought of. Let’s shoot this skill in the ass and never bring it back.

Sparring with friends

Good, but not good enough. your friends will never come at you with the viciousness I would if you were my opponent and I was trying to prove to the world and you that I am the superior fighter. Plus after a while, sparring with the same guy does not give you the variety, experience dealing with the unfamiliar, and the adrenaline rush that fighting with strangers would. Sparring with friends and classmates become predictable after a while, and the more you do it, the less of a learning experience it becomes.

Padded stick sparring/Point fighting

Too many rules. You don’t get to use your more deadly techniques. Everytime someone lands an attack, the ref breaks it up and they call points, and on the street no one will call your points. Everything is too safe. What about protective gear? No one walks down the street with a face cage on.

BUT:  Point fighting gives you an edge if you use it properly by looking at it as a training tool to teach explosive movement and timing. You master the initial encounter and the initial attack (as well as the counter to the initial attack). As a point fighter, you are looking at one part of the altercation–the moment you engage your opponent–and you are perfecting it. The first two movements in any fight is like a point fight; what you do after that can be perfected by ring fighting. Padded stick fighting allows you to do the same thing by giving opponents a safe way of sparring consistently using the same techniques, and you can’t do that in unpadded, live stick fighting. You can’t talk about false confidence in this area because everyone knows what a stick feels like. What the padded stick does is allow you to perfect your timing and distance by giving the fighters a way to be near the stick more than anyone else while it is moving at full speed, full power. You learn more this way, rather than the altercation being a blur when you’re getting hit with painful blows. If you look at the average guy who does unpadded fighting, he may have 20, 30 fights under his belt? The guy doing padded stick fighting has probably lost count after 200 or so.

Bottom line is that point fighting and padded stick fighting allows a fighter to do more with more intensity, more often. Does it replace live stick, full contact and fighting by the round? No. But it brings something to the table that no other activity except actually fighting on the street does, and does it in a much better way than most other forms of training.

In my 20 years that I have been teaching the martial arts, I have seen more than my share of training techniques and heard a lifetime’s worth of philosophy. In almost every case, what had been presented as “realistic” fighting was not fighting at all; it was nothing more than self defense demonstrations. Some call it Kenpo. Some call it prearranged defense. Some call it give-and-take. Some call it practical applications. Some call it Kata. Do I believe it is better for fighting skill? No. Do I dislike it? Yes. Should it be dropped? No.

Everything done in the martial arts develops a different part of one’s martial skill. Some things can be done away with, some things can be emphasized more than others. But at the same time, some of these things should not be done without:

  • skills practice (punches, kicks, strikes, attack and countering combinations)
  • power mechanics practice
  • conditioning
  • sparring while material is being learned
  • sparring with strangers after material is learned
  • conducting high repetitions of tools and techniques
  • study and execution of fighting strategy

Intensity does not have to be full contact, full speed all the time either. Rather, you should place intensity and speed/power in its proper place in your training. There are really four levels:

  1. slow speed, less power to medium speed, less power–when first learning a new technique. we do this until able to execute without thinking and when motion is fluid
  2. medium speed, medium power to fast speed, medium power–after developing some proficiency, you will increase the output to perfect your technique and develop your skill in application. use various levels of speed and power when sparring to learn how to use this technique effectively
  3. fast speed, medium power to full speed, full power–once you have reached the advanced level of skill, this level should be utilized almost all of the time to reach mastery. vary the levels when sparring to learn variations in application and to develop your own flavor in using the techniques
  4. full speed, full power–to be used in fighting

I would like to add that there is a misconception that one must fight full contact all the time in order to be combat ready. Every scenario, some believe, should be identical to the street. Have you ever been in a gang? Or ran with a crew? I have, and I can tell you, these guys are really seasoned fighters, and they don’t play fight FULL POWER. No, they slap box, they work out, and then they fight. They have effectiveness in a streetfight because their mentality is aimed at fighting, and they take real approaches to fighting, rather than conceptual ones. They do not concern themselves with style, attributes, triangles, guntings, b.s. like that. Some guy says, “Hey let me show you this way to knock a dude out”, he shows it to his boys and they do it a few times and then one day, he does it. In my younger years, I was around guys who really fought–on the street and in jail–and I believe that the martial artist is actually taking a better path to fighting effectiveness than many of these guys. The martial artist is disciplined, he trains regularly, he looks at fighitng critically, and studies combat. The only drawback is that he overcomplicates fighting by inserting too much theory into his art and spreads his attention out too thin among too many techniques. And finally, he does not spend enough time fighting–simulated or otherwise–to have any true effectiveness when he does fight.

Padded and point fighting gives you the opportunity to face more opponents and try out more techniques in a safer environment. Simply by giving the fighter more time with an opponent makes these two forms of training extremely valuable to the fighter’s preparation.

Thank you for reading my blog. Don’t forget to check out my Offerings page, and check out my book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months! Please come visit again soon!

Producing Good FMA Instructors, pt IV

When I was a young man, I knew only one method of living the martial arts, that of a young martial artist and fighter. Because of my exposure to older masters who still kept their skills up–including many who still fought (like Lemuel Talley, Billy Bryant, and James Wyatt)–I was critical of those who allowed physical skills to wane. As immature as this sounded, I was worse to martial artists who did not fight or couldn’t fight.

My outlook, of course, has changed as I am more mature and open-minded now. However, I still harbor many of these opinions, and I am almost as hard-headed and stubborn as I was when I was younger… with my opinions. But as a teacher, I respect many differing views to my own. I have to–I teach two families of students from all walks of life. They all have their own reasons for studying the martial arts. They have physical limitations as well as gifts. No two students are exactly alike, and my schools must appeal to several types of martial arts students if it is to have a life that supports mine. As one who considers myself an advanced teacher of the art, I must have the ability to teach nearly every type of student that comes my way. Before promoting any student of mine to the teacher level, I demand the same from them.

Not All Men Will Be Fighters

We all have our preferences. Some us enjoy the workout/body-building aspect of the martial arts. Others enjoy the combat. Then you have the ones who like to work with weapons. Still, you have the ones who just like learning the arts, and learning as much as they can. Not everyone wants to be a streetfighter.

Before I get into this section, let me first state that if you are teaching the martial arts, you have the duty to ensure that all students, regardless of what they choose to specialize in, must be capable of defending himself. If you cannot teach a student to defend himself, then either rename the class or program to “martial fitness” or something else, but not martial arts.

A teacher’s ability lies in more places than simply conveying a technique or principle. Don’t listen to the guys with the shallow knowledge who think that’s all there is. A teacher, at his most basic level, is also a fitness instructor and fight coach. He must know how to recognize his student’s weaknesses and fix them. He must be able to train students with physical limitations and erase them with the right combinations of exercises. At a deeper level, he is a martial psychologist who can alter a man’s courage or over confidence. He must build up his student’s fears until they become confidence, and must teach the overly aggressive man to become patient and calculating.

As I stated in part III, the instructor candidate should become a student of the teaching of the arts. This level of training is more academic than the lower levels, which are more physical. The instructor candidate should be close to perfecting his technique–not really learning new one, just refining–and should be studying martial philosophy and teaching ideology. At this time, he is also putting his theories to application under the Master’s observation… in the ring as well as in the classroom.

**In my school, we actually differentiate between two “Black Belt” levels (we don’t use belts, but the equivalent):  Expert, which is more technical and physical, and Instructor, which is philosophical.**

The teacher must understand that many students will not want to fight full contact, and most will never become instructors. He should be prepared to teach students who cannot do everything the younger, more fit students can. He should be able to develop these students at their own pace, even if that student is in the same class with the fighters. He must be willing to teach these students properly if he takes them on. He must respect those students and treat them fairly and justly. And he must be creative enough to set challenging goals and find ways for the student to meet them. Lastly, he must be knowledgeable enough to make the training worth that student’s time.

Turning Cowards Into Heroes

Not everyone who walks through your doors will be a tough guy. On the contrary, most of your students are going to be physically weak and probably afraid of everything. The teacher cannot be too macho or too hard core; he must be a charismatic, who can appeal to the desires of new students. Re-education is fine, but he must find a way to capture the beginning student’s attention and interest.

There is a saying that good teachers will see 99% of their students fail to get the one percent that will become good future Black Belts. I completely disagree with this saying. After all, are you a teacher? Or just a guy looking for self-motivated students? I would think that a teacher who experiences a 99% drop out rate is doing something wrong. The best teachers reach into the student’s minds and hearts and find a way to develop the warrior in them. As Guros, we are passing on more than just a few techniques and drills; we are teaching “average guys” in the modern world to walk the walk of warriors. You can’t do this by scaring off new students, or making training so hard no one completes a year of training. At the same time, most schools experience a high attrition rate because training is often hard, and most students simply aren’t cut out for a real program.

The solution to this is to make the class learnable (if there is such a word), and to build the student’s skills, confidence and courage little by little, step by step, goal by goal. This is the method of the Masters. Slow, goal-oriented, patient, challenging.

Help your instructor candidates understand this, and they will be successful students. I believe this is the main reason most martial arts schools close within the first year; the teachers have a weak knowledge of what it takes to have longevity in this business. I also believe this is the reason seminars are so popular for those looking to make a living off of their martial arts.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please leave comments!

Producing Good FMA Instructors, pt III

When I first began teaching, I was 15 years old and my Jow Ga Sifu, Master Dean Chin, had just died. Within our Kung Fu school, most of my older brothers were Sifu’s age or older and no one thought in a million years that we would be left with his legacy so quickly. A year earlier Sifu had told my Si Hing, Master Raymond Wong, that if anything would happen to him (Sifu) he would be responsible for my training. There was an agreement among us that I would be studying to become a teacher, and I was expected to be at the school every weekend, training for most of the day. The year Sifu died, Raymond had me teach the first half of his class and we would watch and talk to me about how I did. Soon, Raymond had me teaching entire classes and when he opened his school in 1987, I was one of his instructors (along with Sifu Craig Lee). The process of me learning to teach took about 4 years, longer than most people take to get a Black Belt.

Over the years I studied other Masters and Instructors, and their teaching methods. I noticed early on how teaching method directly affects student skill. Some teachers, like Raymond and Sifu Chin, seemed to abuse their students (this is an exaggeration–I am referring to the intensity of their clases), which resulted in highly skilled students. Others were too conceptual, and their students received no physical benefit from the training, only academic learning. One of my Si Hings, Master Rahim Muhammad, who taught the second class I attended at Jow Ga (along with countless more) treated children as if they were adults. He still gave information in bite sized pieces, but even today at 40 years old, I remember conversations he had with me when I was 12 about admiration, importance of practice, controlling one’s tongue–very profound lessons for an 8th grader. This is significant, because while others simply taught me technique because I was a child, Rahim actually spoke to me about philosophical ideas.

As I grew up, I observed how each teacher passed down his lessons and I would then reflect on how those lessons would be absorbed. At a young age–considering that I planned to be a teacher–I became a student of how to teach the martial arts. I read books, I read magazines, I talked to my Si Hings about their ideas about it. Years later, I spent countless hours with Master Boggs Lao, talking about his teaching philosophy. Boggs was an amazing teacher, because every single student in his schools was a good fighter. That was no exaggeration… every student.

During the year that preceded me opening my own school, I spent entire days with my Grandfather revising my method, and how I planned to utilize it. I was teaching for a Karate school chain, Kim’s Karate, and putting my ideas to work. In a short period of time, the students went from mediocre to fired up and kicking butt within a year. Some of these students had not trained hard for years, and within months they were formidable. Together, we drew the entire curriculum and method of delivery in a series of 3-ringed notebooks I carried with me everywhere I went.

Over the years, I added and took away and modified my method. As always, I put my ideas on paper and then reflected on it before instituting in the gym. This is an important lesson about teaching:

You must think about teaching–your curriculum, how you will teach the material, how the students will receive, practice, and develop the material, and how the lessons will be tested and refined. This “thinking” must be on paper before being thought through, then it must be thought through before being put to use.

Many teachers do not think of the art of teaching, and the result is that their students do not learn the lessons well. Of course, we begin with a good curriculum, but you must also have a method of delivery. Once you have identified your instructor candidates, talk to them about the art of teaching and give them a basic format… they will take it from there. I don’t believe that a formal course in teaching is necessary; about half of one’s ideology is self-reflection. However, you should provide input, commentary, and supervision.  I recommend allowing your students to teach classes while you observe, and doing this for at least 6 months and giving your feedback. As you “teach” your students how to teach, he will be developing his own ideas and methods in his mind and putting those ideas to practice while he is teaching classes.

The art of teaching, is just as important as the art of fighting–it is just the next level of development for the martial artist.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please give me feedback!

Seminar Guys, Challenges, and Chismiss

I was reading the blog of another martial artist back East (Mushtaq Ali, in Michigan), and came across this topic about a tournament they had last month. It got me thinking about a few subjects.

The article actually opened my eyes up to a few things, that I’d like to share with you. Because it’s actually 1 a.m., I would like to just write these things down now and hopefully have them edited and posted sometime tomorrow.

  • apparently, I am right about the shift of trends. Seminar guys are starting to compete and fight more often, and I am happy to see this. It is one of the main things missing from seminar community. I believe that the more popular and accepted it becomes, we will begin to see better skilled martial artists coming out of that community. If they can combine this part of the martial arts subculture with better training methods, teaching philosophy and overall martial arts philosophy, the FMAs will resume its station as a great fighting style here in the West. However, we are several decades–and MANY generations behind the other more popular arts. It’s a lofty goal, but not impossible.
  • backbiting is still around as with any group of people, but it has no place among fighters. See, unlike other people, we have a “different” (for lack of a better term) way of expressing disagreement, and settling differences. In the article, we see that Guro Smith (Buzz, that is) and Guro Ali are having a bit of a squabble. It bothers me that this disagreement is more of a misunderstanding between friends, and it bothers me more that it is concerning a seemingly good will gesture gone awry, between two good men. On the other hand, Guro Ali is correct in that a little bit of conflict is good for business. In addition to business it is good for one’s art as well! What better way to exercise the old muscles and courage than to challenge someone to a fight? I love it… the Philippine martial arts are alive and well in Michigan! Seriously, I thought Guro Ali handled himself very well (if you didn’t go to the link you’re really missing out), just as Dr. Jerome Barber handled himself well with the conflicts he was involved with. I think these men did with class, and as gentlemen. I still like the good ole fashioned “kick em in the pants” method, but it is always refreshing to learn something new!
  • I see that the Jeet Kune Do guys in the midwest are fighting as well. That’s a good thing. I still don’t care much for “concepts” and their preferred method of training, but you have to give credit where credit is due. Those guys are (as my son would say) “representing”.
  • if you want to really settle a controversy old fashioned style, pick a venue (tournament) and invite your victim to enter. This way, there are witnesses, rules, and the opportunity to shut your victim up with words or his inaction. I love it.

Thanks for reading my blog, everyone… Have a good weekend!