Strength by Association

The independant martial artist is perhaps the strongest of martial artists because he does not rely on strength by association.

What do you mean, Mustafa?

When martial artists–or just people in general–cannot back up their philosophy and skill, they will seek comfort in those who are just like them. This gives those martial artists strength by association. See, when you are among like minds, no one will question you, and any attackers (or detractors) must deal with the group than you alone. I believe that this is why hand-holding and pat-you-on-the-back/feel-good martial arts forums and gatherings (like hall-of-fame dinners, seminars, and facebook) are so successful among martial artists. They get to safely learn new skills (without commitment to training or a teacher), and have other people validate them as “good” martial artists, although no one has seen this man fight.

Think of the scientist who forumlates a radical theory that goes against what 99% of the other scientists believe. He is shunned by the community, he is ridiculed and mocked, and his detractors are never alone. Yet, the courageous scientist sticks to his guns and never turns down an opportunity to prove or discuss his theory. In some societies at some time in history, he might even have been tried for something crazy like “heresy” or “witchcraft”, thrown in jail, flogged, etc… And one day, we read about him in history books as some genius who formulated the theory of gravitation or something we take as fact today. And those who ganged up against him? History forgets men like that.

When Bruce Lee first introduced his philosophy, was he accepted, or rejected? May I remind you, that Bruce Lee was never commercially successful as a martial arts teacher, as are a lot of very good, talented martial artists. But if he had a school today, the man would have to turn down students because they’d sleep on the sidewalk to learn from him! But if he had never made movies, Bruce Lee probably would have ended up working at the post office and teaching out of his garage–and no one from the martial arts community would like him.

The reason for this is that people are generally afraid to stand alone and represent what they truly believe. Many martial artists are the same way about their arts and their fighting skills, and this is why you rarely find fighting teachers. Its much easier to surround yourself with students and friendly faces than to have another expert who isn’t convinced that your way is better and wants to see if you can prove your theory to be true. An eskrimador who does not put his art to the test is nothing more than a baton-twirler who cloaks himself in a warrior’s garb, and talks like a fighter. You must have an opponent for you to be doing what is called “ESKRIMA”. Not a training partner (that is just two-man baton-twirling). Not smiling seminar attendees. Not an “uke”. An opponent.

It is the responsibility of the martial arts teacher to prevent his student from relying on strength by association, by helping him rid his fear of fighting another man. Even if it is only light contact fighting, he must do something. He does not need to attend matches in groups either, because this is a type of comforting that will stop him from dealing with his nervousness. Of course, your students will enjoy each other’s company and the comraderie of being among his dojo brothers. But we don’t want students who are afraid to go it alone, which is what we see very common in the Filipino Martial Arts.

So, here–the fear of standing alone–is the point of this article:  The FMA man doesn’t like to hear anyone say that your FMA won’t work in a fight. This is the easiest thing to dispute, but you see… FMA people are very big on demonstrating and discussing, but they really don’t like to prove a thing. I am an FMA man, and I frequently talk about how most FMA people have useless hand techniques. I don’t like their espada y daga. And I don’t like the Sinawali. So when you say, “YOUR FMA WON’T WORK”, people get all bent out of shape and say “to each their own” or “it works for me”, instead of “You say you’re in Sacramento? Can we get together?”  This isn’t saying that NO FMA people can fight, but I know that most cannot. And the big difference between you and me is that I am willing to prove to you that it doesn’t work. The rest of you would rather gather with your knitting club on and talk about what a punk I am. If you’re on the East Coast, I understand (although I have folks out there who are willing to put you to the test). But if you live with 50 miles of me–that’s pussy shit. Excuse the expression.

Wait, let me rephrase that. Many FMA people can fight… with their sticks. But their empty hand (panatukan/dumug/cadena da mano/whatever) is ass. Demonstrating how it would work in a fight isn’t what I’m looking for; I want FMA people to put our empty hand skills to the test against Karate people, Kenpo people, boxers, Tae Kwon Do men, etc. Don’t trash me on the forums; that’s what women do! Matter of fact, you don’t have to trash me, just make a presence in the general martial arts community and put your skills to the test and make a name for our arts. I’ve gotten to the point that I stopped posting on forums because I really don’t have an interest in wasteful arguing on the internet about what works and what doesn’t. I just want our FMA brothers to think about what I say and get people to respect the art. Right now, the only people who believe in FMA empty hand are Youtube viewers and FMA/JKD/IMA people. Even other FMA people are going to Muay Thai and BJJ for their empty hand! FMA empty hand technique can be made to work, but you have to test it and develop it beyond give-and-take, drills, prearraged defense, and demos. That’s all I’m saying.

Teachers, you owe it to your students to stop them from becoming an FMA cliche’. Put them in the open martial arts community, and help them develop some fighting skills. Not demonstrating skills, but fighting skills. Stop teaching them to use excuses why every format of fighting other than the one you do in your dojos is “unrealistic”. Put them out there to test and prove to themselves and others that this stuff does work. For every technique you claim can’t be done in a tournament (like an eye gouge or groin stomp), there are two more that you can do. So test with the legal techniques! What, are you trying to say that you can’t win fights without breaking arms or kicking people in the nuts? Come on!

Thank you for reading my blog. Please spread the word!


Author: thekuntawman

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

One thought on “Strength by Association”

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