Teaser: Some Teaching Tips

I found this notebook in my school, belonging to one of my senior students. The date of this page I will quote from is August 2004, and the title of his notes is “Tips for Teaching”. I don’t remember this class, but I often give lectures to my boys, and I require all students to keep a notebook.

We are not going to discuss these things in detail, but I am glad to see that these guys are referencing old notes:


  1. Always start class on time
  2. Speak in a confident and authoritative voice
  3. Organize your classes in a logical order (exercises, limbs, categories of techniques)
  4. Combine technique practice in the air, on targets, on each other, against another technique, and in sparring
  5. Specify emphasis on speed, power, accuracy, or repetition
  6. Train the student on at least two techniques every class
  7. Explain, in detail, one technique each class
  8. Limit free practice to 10 minutes per item, per class
  9. Ask for questions before each drill
  10. Use the Private Lesson Plan
  11. Make sure each student performs corrctly
  12. Ask yourself, “Are these students really developing?”
  13. Ask yourself, “Do these students enjoy this class?”
  14. Sloppy students mean sloppy instruction
  15. Practice what you preach


Look for upcoming articles that will explain these rules in greater detail. Thank you for vising my blog!

The Case for Full-Time Martial Arts

As I write this, I am involved in a disagreement with several martial artists over on MartialTalk. I am going to spare you the juicy details of our disagreement (actually I laugh at things like this, because when a martial artist is easily offended, he/she is really telling on himself about how tough he is/or not). Basically, I was reading the Modern Arnis forum, when I noticed a sticky by the list owner, Bob Hubbard. He was lamenting the fact that he started MartialTalk as a place for martial artists to exchange ideas and talk about Filipino Martial Arts, mainly Remy Presas’ Modern Arnis. Instead, he says, the forum had turned into a place for seminar promoters to advertise their events and for people to divert readers to Youtube. I am sensitive about this, which is why I try my best not to lure their readers over to this blog.

But I digress. So there are two parts to this article–one part for the teachers of the art, and the other, for the student.

So let’s start with the teachers.

There is no secret that I was opposed to Remy Presas’ notion that Arnis is the perfect add-on art. Of course, anyone could benefit from these arts, but I believe he was trying to get students to notice the effectiveness of our country’s arts and needed to use existing martial arts students to find his first students. But once his family got on the ground, I believe that he should have taken his art in a different direction… which was into full-time schools with dedicated, full-time teachers. Instead, he continued with the seminar industry until his art, as well as the rest of the FMA community, became known as nothing more than an “add-on” art. Or worse, people referred to Arnis as just “the sticks”.

It hurt in several places:

  • teachers of the art kept FMAs “on the side”, and very few people did exclusively FMAs. (As a result, when I began teaching in 1991, I only taught the Filipino arts, although I hold 5 Black Belts in different styles)
  • curriculums only covered the hair and skin of the art, because teachers needed to teach a roomful of beginners as well as a handful of more advanced students. the training then, became drills-based and very little attention was given to skill and basics development. the result? guys who knew tons of disarms and counters, but hit like little girls
  • turnover from student to teacher was too simple and too quick. rarely will one find FMA people who have fought much, and you will find three or four generations of students in less than a decade
  • FMAs become a backyard/garage class style, rather than treated as a stand alone system, capable of 100% of a man’s attention. this is has been my message the entire time I’ve been a teacher
  • when the teachers spend only a portion of their time practicing and training, they end up with mediocre skill. this is prevalent in the Filipino arts. I have shaken hands with many FMA people, and most of them have the grip of a 10 year old boy.
  • the de-emphasis on physical skills and prowess results in a community of weak, soft-skinned martial artists who are prone to hurt feelings and offense. this leads to the unnecessary feuding we see among FMA people… take your pick!

Teaching full-time gives the FMA Guro ample time to develop his skills and his own unique ideas and systems. It gives him more teaching experience, which is–in essence–a learning experience. It shows the community that these arts deserve respect and attention, rather than being an additional certificate to fluff one’s resume. It also allows beginners to have the Filipino arts as a choice of what art to study, rather than to have to choose a mainstream art as a base style and then take a few courses in “sticks” to supplement one’s training. This is my biggest belief–that the art really needs students who will take this art to a higher level rather than simply a side course. (It is also the reason I do not allow my own students to study Kung Fu and Eskrima with me simultaneously. Instead, I require them to study one for 2 years before studying the other. I do not allow anyone to study my Kuntaw until they have been with me for 2 years.) 

With a full-time FMA school, you will see things in the art you never thought about, because you are now thinking about Arnis every day and teaching it every day. I guarantee that you will develop new ideas about the art, and will be able to let them manifest through your students skill. In one generation–yours–you will take your art in a completely new direction.

I am will close here, and in Part II, we will discuss why the student should study FMAs full time. Thank you for visiting my blog!



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Don’t Be a Wannabe

There is a problem in the Filipino Martial Arts, that I have noticed seems to be a very dangerous one.

The arts we practice are very deadly. Not many martial arts styles address actually maiming the opponent or killing him. This style regularly introduces techniques that will result in the opponent’s death, and are designed for nothing more than killing the opponent. For street combat effectiveness, this seems to be just what the doctor ordered–our arts can truly arm the average citizen with a skill that will stop an attacker dead in his tracks. While many teachers claim to give their students self-confidence, what other skill can one have–besides shooting a gun–that would give you the range of simple self-defense to lethal potentials? Arming someone with the Filipino fighting arts can be similar to giving them a firearm, however, we must treat it with the same level of responsiblity. And this is one place that the industry of FMA instruction has failed.

I am not going to bore you with the number of FMA student who have killed in America alone. There is a conversation we must have openly in the art among teachers and masters:

Who do we teach, who do we refuse, when do we teach certain techniques, and how do we teach the arts?

Rhetoric and cowardness in the FMA have led to the philosophy, “I teach people to defend themselves, even to the point of deadliness, because they may need it.” If you are teaching people how to fight, is it necessary to teach them mainly how to kill? I know of men who only speak of fighting as a life-or-death fight, and consider everything other than a life-or-death fight a separate skill from what they do. Any idea why they have this fantasy of fighting?

Yes, they are cowards in the biggest way.

These are men who are really afraid to mix it up, they are afraid of an ass-whipping. So afraid, that any threat they perceive must be met with death. Not much different from the 10 year old kid who is bullied at school and brings a knife to confront his bullies. See, he sees no way out of this situation–no way to handle it appropriately, so he falls back on the common dream the race of the weak often fantacize about: killing the people they fear. What situation is so bad that a 5th grader must carry a knife and kill another 5th grader? What taunts or names could you call him to justify that? Of course, none! But in his mind, his parents can’t end this bullying, his teachers can’t do it, and he certainly can’t do it, and the only thing he feels safe doing is to bring a knife and shove it in the boy’s stomach.

We have men, who call themselves “self-defense experts”, who are so afraid of gambling the appropriate level of force to thwart an attacker (and the butt-stomping that would accompany that failure), that they hide behind knives and tough talk. These are men whose teachers never taught them true self-confidence and lessened their fear of another man by teaching them to deal with attackers with nothing more than bare hands. So the only thing they know will stop an attacker is the knife.

And let me tell you something about the knife.

 The knife is the perfect excuse for not having to prove you know what you’re doing. It’s the modern-day “my art is too deadly for sparring” excuse. It is something that many other men fear, and wielding one will scare other men into not challenging you on your knowledge. It is something that is so wrapped up in theory and fantasy, there is no testing or winning or losing to face–only the belief that “if I fight for real, I’ll kill you”…. It is the excuse for not being physically fit (“you don’t need abs or stamina to stab your attacker”) or really having to train hard. It is the perfect thing to hide behind–along with rank, organizations, friends, reputations, and tough talk. Frankly speaking, it is the weapon of choice for cowards.

The coward is a guy who is afraid of everything and will not face his fears, even if they confront him. He will do everything in his power to avoid confrontation. It has nothing to do with fearlessness and courage, as courageous men are not fearless, they are just men who are strong enough to do and face what they are afraid of. Cowards are quite often cloaked in wolves clothing; they are dressed like the tough guys, they talk their talk and act like them as well… but inside–deep inside–they are cowards. As the saying goes, they wear their toughness only on the outside. The knife is something they brandish because secretly, they are hoping that this image will give the appearance of toughness. And they keep just enough skills, that secretly, they can’t wait for the day they get to use it (justifiably) and redeem themselves of being… well, a coward.

Martial arts wannabees. No man wants to accept that he is afraid. We want our women to feel safe around us, and we want to know that we are capable of defending them and our children. But to hide this fear behind the false bravado of being a cold-blooded killer–when we know darn well that most of us would never face another man, mano a mano. This, my brothers, is cowardice. True self-confidence and bravery is the knowledge and belief that no man poses a true threat, unless he is the coward with the weapon. But instead, most FMA guys is that guy.

Don’t be a wannabe.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Can a White Guy Teach the FMAs?

As I’ve mentioned before, martial artists are some of the biggest assholes.

Many of us got involved in the arts because we lack self-esteem or confidence that we can defend ourselves, and the martial arts allow us to feel like we’ve got back up. But something about arming a coward…. He usually ends up going overboard with the confidence thing, and is likely to become a bully or just major league jerk-off. Why is this? Because the martial artist was not really changed by his training, and is still a coward–and still insecure. But the arts at least gave him the wisdom to fake being tough;  it gave him the dress, the jargon, the mannerisms, and even the physique of a guy that can fight. But although he is dressed like a tough guy, he still has “puss” written all over him.

Bottom line is that the expectations of a newbie in the art are still there, if the training hasn’t done what it’s supposed to do for him. Whether we are talking about toughness in the art, fighting ability, or even our prejudices.

So one guy joins because he feels unsafe, and another guy joins because he watched “Black Belt Theater” on Saturdays in his pajamas and now he wants to be the next Grasshopper. He will bring with him all the silly, childish expectations of a beginner in the art about who he will become, what to expect, and what is authentic in the arts. If the teacher and the training are incomplete or not deep enough, as a Black Belter, he will still harbor those fantasies well into the mature stages of his martial arts career.

On the other hand, we also have those with plain old racism, xenocentrism, and prejudice in the art.

I have met more than my share of Asian teachers (not just Filipinos, but I am thinking of a particular Filipino teacher as I type this article) who believe that any White teacher of the art is inferior to Asian teachers. They have a difficult time referring to an American FMA “master” with all the qualifications–like time in the art, SKILL, and level of knowledge–while accepting a 28 year-old FOB (fresh off the boat) referring to himself as a Master. You see it in some of the Korean magazines (I didn’t subscribe, but I’ve been getting them for nearly 10 years);  Koreans of any age being referred to as “Master/Grandmaster/Kwangjangnim”, while all the White guys are being titled “Mr.” or “Teacher/Sabumnim”. I have quite a few friends and acquaintances that are Korean teachers, and many of them are very guilty of this. (Betcha didn’t know, but I grew up with a Korean stepmom, speak some Korean, and have the inside scoop in this community). Some of the Filipino teachers I know have suggested that I recruit in the Filipino community a little heavier, because my students are mostly White and Black, with a few others here and there. There is an underlying belief that more Filipino students would legitimize my school (to whom, I wonder?) and that perhaps I am giving up too much to the wrong people.

Not long ago, my school was like that. I have always had an “inner circle” in my school, as my teachers had one. Matter of fact, Gatdula’s Fighting Cobras (my old business name) once had ONE White guy, ONE Black guy, ONE Mexican, and ONE Cambodian, and all the rest of my school was Filipino. I don’t know, maybe it was because the older folks in my community encouraged their kids to do martial arts. But my school was also the only FMA school in Sacramento at the time (all the others were in community centers or operating out of subleased space in Karate schools), so that could be a reason too. When I moved to a bigger location downtown, I ended up with mostly Caucasian students, and I didn’t blink for a second. Hey, as long as these guys worked hard and made me look good, right? Yet there were still a few idiots who felt like my school was suffering something because although I was making much more money, I had too many “others” in the school.

And guess what? Those American guys made really good students. They are taller, they are humble and learn just as quickly–sometimes even more humble than my Asian students–and stronger. How could I complain about that? Where the average height in my school was once around 5’6″, it is now about 6′. I have four strongest fighters that are African American, and I would bet my money on them against any fighter in Sacramento. How many teachers can say that? One of my students is 55, and had been taken private lessons for about 3 years before I opened a group class (in Jow Ga, my kung fu style), and he is perhaps the best Kung Fu student I’ve had in the 18-year history of my school. My most accomplished tournament fighters (of the adults) are a guy now living in Fiji (Indian descent) and one of my African American students… both over age 30.

But cowardly is the word of the day, and none of the Guro I know that hold these feelings would come right out and say it (except the guy I’m writing this about, and I gave him an earful about it too). They express it in their attitude towards non-Filipinos/non-Asians teaching the art. I know that I’ve had people think that I was that way, but my attitude towards the FMA in the West has nothing to do with race (if you knew me personally, you would know that this is true). It was all about the approach to teaching the practice of the art. Sometimes, people don’t look deep enough into the things I say, and they believe that I am representing their view to the art and it will allow them to say stupid things around me. But if a practitioner of the art studied full-time, trained hard, tested himself regularly, and reflected on the philosophy of the art… and then repeated this process when he became a teacher, he is a qualified teacher. But if he learned by seminar, promoted by seminar, and skipped over everything else important (testing and full-time study), I have harsh things to say about you, Westerner or Filipino.

Sometimes, I can change my view of a person just by listening to the things they say, or to see what they are doing. Not long ago, I resented guys like Hock Hockheim–students of Remy Presas who now teach “non-Filipino” labeled martial arts through the seminar circuit. But recently, I came across his website/forum and really read what he says:

  • I no longer “do” FMAs because, as a non-Filipino, there is a ceiling to my success
  • I still teach FMAs, but have to label it as simply “stick/knife/empty hand” because of the implication that I am not qualified since I am not Filipino
  • I still honor my teachers for what they gave me, but I must carve my own niche in this path
  • FMAs, as it is being taught, does not involve skill development and is too random for anyone to really learn the art

Who can argue with that? As one who is very close to prejudice and injustice (remember I am from Washington, DC and Pampanga; I’ve seen more than my share of the ugly head of racism) it saddens me that this martial arts community cannot allow a guy who has paid his dues in the FMAs to simply be “one of us”. Something else you may not know:  Hock is my Kuya under Ernesto Presas’ Arjuken, so I know a little more about his training than what you can find on the internet. I remember reading that he now calls his art “PAC”/Pacific Archipelago Combatives, and for a short time (sorry can’t remember exactly what it was) some European stuff, and yeah, it pissed me off. But it wasn’t steal-FMA-from-the-Filipinos-and-call-it-something-else, it was find-a-way-to-market-to-people-who-won’t-respect-me-for-my-knowledge-because-of-my-race. And that’s a damned shame.

The solution, in my opinion, is natural. The seminar industry simply does not allow for students to develop, it is a dog-and-pony show for martial artists to sell videos and increase attendance to more seminars. I know what goes on. A bunch of seminar junkies and magazine/video tape/youtube nut-huggers gather around to watch the Master dazzle them with a tap-dance of techniques and drills. They take pictures, collect a certificate, and then add another notch to their resumes, while practicing what little they were able to take away from the seminar in their Karate schools and garages. Most of the complaints many people have of the FMAs (which caused them to come out with a new-and-improved version in the first place) come from this industry, and taking the traditional road will give you a different experience. And then, you have to fight. If American guys like Hock needed respect, they would get it by fighting and letting the world see their credibility; it’s an easy sell. You can’t convince a guy in a seminar. A common expression you’ll hear the Sayoc/Atienza guys say is “come to a seminar and you’ll see”. But that won’t do it for some of us, we have to see it in action. And the old, sad excuse “sparring ain’t real fighting” isn’t good enough either; if you don’t spar, you’ll have to streetfight and I’m sure there aren’t too many of you doing that. But respect comes from skill, and regardless of your race or ethnicity, you will have that respect if people see you fight–whether you are a dominant fighter or not. This is one reason why the Dog Brothers and their members get instant respect just by being a member. Ever heard the Filipino expression “Skill is rank”?

Sometimes, your skill in movement is convincing enough. But few people will really ever witness your skill before they meet you, and as a teacher you need to be able to put your stuff in print and paint a picture that way. A bio that reads, “Guro X fought in tournaments from 1988 – 2000” carries a lot more weight in the minds of potential students than, “Guro X is certified by GM Y, GM Z…”  That stuff is for other seminar junkies. Substance will almost always transcend misconception, never forget that. And if you have good skill and they are still judging you by your race, then I say you wouldn’t want those guys as students anyway. The ones who hold the prejudices will eventually die away, they are really insignificant, insecure children who never grew up. Whether they are here or not, they won’t affect your bottom line, the life of your business, or the reputation of your skill and character.

Thanks for reading my blog, have a good Thanksgiving!

Grandmaster Jailed for Domestic Violence

I don’t know why I find this article so funny. But it’s really sad. We seem to forget that many of the Masters are just regular people with regular (and not-so-regular) struggles.

I didn’t know that GM Ting had worked on Five Venoms and The Chinatown Kid:



‘Five Venoms’ action director jailed

News | by Mark Pollard

Leung Ting

Kung fu grandmaster and former fight choreographer Leung Ting has been sentenced to two months in jail in Hong Kong for attacking his girlfriend.

Leung is best known to genre film fans as an action director on several classic kung fu movies including THE CHINATOWN KID and THE FIVE VENOMS. He is also the founder of the International Wing Tsun Association.

Leung, 62, was released on HK$50,000 bail pending appeal. He was accused by his former girlfriend, Rita Lip Sik-ying, of banging her head against the floor, kicking her in the stomach and boxing her ears during a dispute over one of Leung’s former wives.

In testimony, Leung refuted the claims, stating that Lip had become angry after he refused to give her HK$50,000 for an abortion. He claimed she became hysterical and tried to jump out of a window so he grabbed her arm and neck to save her. He also claimed Lip hit her own head against the floor, banged on the neighbors’ doors and shouted, “Leung Ting is hitting a woman.”

In speaking to Hong Kong newspaper Sing Tao Daily, Lip, 45, described Leung as a womanizer who had many girlfriends.

This isn’t the first time Leung has been at the center of controversy. In 2005, he took a former pupil of 25 years to court over claims of copyright infringement related to the use of school logos.

Leung has also created controversy in the martial arts world by claiming to be the last closed-door student of Wing Chun master Yip Man and the head of the Wing Chun School. These claims have not been recognized by Yip Man’s family or students.

Source: The Standard


Liberate Yourself from Classical FMA, pt VI

This is the final installment of this popular series. We hope you’ve found it valuable!

Get Off the Nipple!

I love this country, and I love the people, but I don’t love how they treat the Filipino martial arts. Martial arts in general are not taken seriously, but at least in other arts there are still a lot of admirable qualities found. The FMAs have really degraded to just a long-running fad. But something about how the West changes people really hurts the growth of the Filipino arts, and it’s that most of you (us) are still breast-fed as Martial Artists.

This is what I mean.

  1. FMA people are really afraid to stand on their own feet. And I’m not talking to just my American brothers, ang aking kumpadre… I’m speaking to the Filipino as well (especially the Filipino). You have been brainwashed to think that you cannot come up with your own techniques unless it was passed down from your Lolo or some master from the province. You think that you have to have company with the arts you teach, as if you wouldn’t be respected on your own. The truth is, you don’t need associations. You don’t need a ton of “certified representatives”. You don’t need to gain credibility from the presence of others who are like you… or even others who LIKE you. As long as you are skilled and are willing to demonstrate how skilled you are, you will be respected.
  2. Why do you think it’s necessary to put everything on Youtube? Do you really believe people will say, “Oh, I have to study with that guy!”???  Most of you look like you came from the same system and have about the same amount of training, and almost none of you look like you can fight.
  3. Skill and fighting ability is the goal; not certification and starting up your own classes. Turnover from student to teacher is so high, you’re putting out levels of generations faster than an Amway organization. And again, most of you suck. That’s the truth. If you want me to say it to your face, trust me, I will. And that’s sad, because I know that 99% of you will never step to me in person and challenge me on this statement:  Most FMA people suck, and they suck bad. Why? Because you’re really not training to learn how to fight. You’re just learning some neat moves to show to your students, so that they think you can fight. Like I said, the goal for most of you is to get certified and learn a few tricks to show to the boys and post up on Youtube…
  4. For God’s sake, please get out there and show the Karate guys how it’s done!!!  It’s lonely being the only FMA school on the circuit among mostly Karate and Kenpo fighters, and it is very difficult to convince them that FMA people can fight with their hands. They already think we just swing sticks around and slap hands, and will never step out on the floor and most of you are proving them right. Plus, if you do it more often, you will develop somewhat useful empty hand skills and will be able to do more than just demonstrate technique; you’ll be able to pull stuff off in real time!
  5. Take some lessons from the guys who really get out and fight. I’m talking about boxers and karate/Tae Kwon Do fighters and the like. Spend a little less time in seminars and more time in some gym somewhere. You’d be surprised how much your training will change, as well as improve, by doing it. Hey, excuse the shameless plug, but go to my Offerings page and get my book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months. Trust me, it’s cheaper than a FMA video and I guarantee you won’t find any other FMA book on the market quite like it. That crap they’re spoonfeeding you in the seminars will get your ass handed to you in a real fight. Try something different for a change.
  6. Do a little self-discovery. Train yourself, and then get with some guys you don’t know well for some “experimentation”. You don’t have to “learn” all the time… try some “do” sometime, you might like it! I honestly believe that if you did this, you’d drop most of that empty handed FMA stuff you do.
  7. Break away from the formula for your FMA empty hand. First, I can tell you, as a Filipino FMA person, most of that FMA empty hand is BS. It don’t all look like Kenpo/Wing Chun hybrid stuff, and it damned sure don’t like like the Sinawali. At least not the stuff you’d do while fighting with your empty hands. Maybe if you played a round of “patty cake” with your little girl, those skills might be of some use. 😉  Really look at fighting barehanded as a fighter, not as a FMA fighter. Seriously, too many of us are trying to force-fit our empty hand to make it look “authentically Filipino”, and it’s coming out as some sissified cheerleading stuff.
  8. Take a look at some of the things Filipino-based FMA people are saying. Not me, I’m here in the U.S. with you. I want you to go over to www.FMAForum.org and listen to what they say about the Filipino arts. I’m not alone and I’m not crazy. You’ve been suckered. You’ve been bamboozled. You’ve been had! Much of the FMA history and “facts” you’ve been told are so incorrect and inaccurate, I’m tempted to call them lies. I think if you started with that, and then come back to this blog and reassess what you’ve learned you might end up on thekuntawman bandwagon. And don’t listen to some of my adversaries on MartialTalk and Defend.net who call me a troublemaker. They just don’t like for anyone to speak with authority who hasn’t taught seminars or wrote magazine articles or sold videos… otherwise representing the status quo. I call crap where I see it, and we all don’t have to see things the same way and we all don’t have to get along, LOL.

What I’m trying to say is, FMA people, think for yourselves. Stop following the crowds. Stop doing what everyone else is doing. Learn to think outside the box. When it comes to art, mainstream is most often wrong. This isn’t like other industries where the few who differ are the weirdos. In the martial arts, doing what everyone else is in agreement with makes you cookie-cutter. And like I say in many of the articles I write, most of you sheep are unaware of how foolish you look.

Break away from the mold, stand on your own feet as independent, skilled fighters, and stop following the masses. Get out from under your “Tuhan’s” skirt, and be a man. Make your FMA strong, it won’t happen while you’re still breastfeeding on cereal and formula. It’s about time for you to start eating meat, tough guy!

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please come and visit again!