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!

Producing Good FMA Instructors, pt II

The premise behind my teaching philosophy is that we are first, trying to build strong fighters and secondly, trying to train new instructors. Underneath that philosophy is a second, more traditional philosophy that we “graduate” new instructors rather than create hierarchies of them. There are already hierarchies among martial artists based on skill, age, popularity of the style, ethnicity, lineage, fame, and many other things! In the Philippines–as in many other cultures–the influence of the media can often skew perception of what is most important:  skill/ability and knowledge. I believe in training the best possible fighters we can, and then teach them how to duplicate this feat so that they can produce quality students as well.

That said, once my boys have proven that they are the best fighters in their local community–even better than me–they deserve to be “one of us”. Why slap a “first degree” label on them and then allow some out of shape, less knowledgeable 7th degree (who probably holds a political or self-promoted rank) to look down on them?

I also believe in testing behind closed doors, and making these tests grueling tests of strength and courage–rather than some arbitrary “show-me-what you’ve-learned” dog and pony show so popular with the kids these days. Maybe I am just old school and my ideas are outdated; in my day we earned our stripes. I wouldn’t like the idea of doing it all over again, but I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute because it’s what made me who I am today. Your expert candidates should remember the end of their journey as fondly as one remembers completing a anguishing uphill battle, akin to braving dangerous waters or crossing burning sands. Not a party, but a survival.

The other side of me says, train them properly, and then introduce them to the community as your new instructors/experts, but ask members of the community to come and test your students themselves.

In my school, we do both. I train my guys as well as I can, I test them frequently, give them a huge undertaking (which they are in the middle of completing) and then introduce them to the public. Anyone who wants to doubt that they are the best fighters in the land are welcome to come to the ceremony and prove it.

And here, you have rule #2 to producing good instructors. After developing them as good fighters (rule #1), you have to prove to the instructor candidate as well as the public just how good they are. However you wish to do it–a test, a tournament, or simply to just declare them the best–your new instructors will be terribly ineffective if any of them doubt that they have reached the pinnacle of their ability. At this point, you are responsible for making sure that these instructors have their own experiences to teach from. Not the stories that you have lived, or in the stories of the ones who came before you, but their own. They must have walked the walk in order for them to ever talk about it.

Remember all those debates about whether one could be an effective teacher if he were not an effective fighter? Well, save it, because for these guys, such a discussion is immaterial. They will have an easier time selling memberships because skill sells. They will have plenty of good lessons to teach, because there is no better lesson than experience. They will be qualified to make innovations or alter their teaching and training methods, unlike many of their armchair counterparts. They will even be spared the task of fighting for respect because one thing about good fighters, as long as they are fair and just, everyone respects them. Not necessarily like them, but in their face they will be respected.

In part III we will talk about the technical side of teaching the martial arts…

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