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To Uniform or Not to Uniform….

Of those who visited my school, over the last 18 (actually this month is my 18th year in business) years, there have been several characteristics drawing interest to me and what we do. I would say that the main thing is that we are different from most schools, and it intrigues people. “Karate” is a dime a dozen in America, and I’m sorry to say it, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen em all.


See, one thing about martial artists here in America is that we tend to follow the pack, and buy into trends–even when the “trend” is to do something different. The problem is when that “something different” is the same thing everyone else is doing. Need an example? How about the recent shift to adult-oriented, self-defense-so-called-non-traditional-realistic-streetfighting-survival schools? Kinda like how FMA schools are usually alongside JKD, BJJ, Muay Thai, Krap Maga, and “street survival” classes? You know, the guy who was a Tae Kwon Do or Kenpo black belter back in the day, but he’s now got about 10 certifications in various “realistic” arts, like MMA, Brazilian Jujitsu, or CQC?

Then there’s the uniform thing. Some guys want to shed any resemblance to Mickey Mouse dojangs, so they reject anything close to a gi. They’ll don camo pants, (black belt with 8 stripes) tight-fitting T shirts, “martial arts shoes”, and MMA/BJJ logos. Yeah, you’re not wearing a uniform, so this makes you more “realistic” than traditional guys. But your costume is the same one that 20 other schools in town are wearing. Sounds like a uniforms to me!

And we all know that these McDojos–yes, even the “realistic non-martial arts/self defense” guys can be McDojos too–like to make money. That’s why those 3 or 4 seminars they attended to get certified are not exactly tuition… as much as it is a “business investment”. Gotta pay your dues if you wanna get out there and turn that dollar over to make your “investment” back.

Oh, correction. It was only ONE seminar. And yes, I think he did break a sweat or two during the drills portion of the seminar. One time, he even got a splinter on a rattan stick while doing sinawalis. Who said this shit isn’t dangerous? These guys are the real deal!

So, in the effort to look UNLIKE the shopping center dojangs who make you take classes for 2 whole years in order to get a Black Belt (you know you can learn in ONE day… the whole TWO YEAR thing is just a ploy to get more tuition money out of you… those bastards), he actually shuns things he actually likes so that he can look the part. Oh, things like:

  • certificates. You know the McDojo guys LOVE certificates. That’s why they make you take a test and pay another 50 bucks to get it. But not me! No sir, I am only into certification. That’s what us real fighters go for. Certificates is for kids!
  • bragging rights. The shopping center Take-Yer-Do master likes to brag about tournament wins and how many degrees he has. Hell, the only degree you need is the degree of pain you can put an attacker in! No, I am not into sissified tournaments, I fight for REAL! There was this time in the 8th grade the school bully pushed my head into the toilet, but don’t worry, I got him. I beat him up with my empty handed Eskrima when no one was watching. That’s what the art’s really about…. streetfights with your life on the line. It’s the only thing that matters. Go home alive, I always say. Bragging rights is for the sissies in the pajamas.
  • and speaking of pajamas, PAJAMAS. Those guys love pajamas. And patches. And tape on their belts. I don’t wear pajamas. I mean, if you get attacked on the street or in a bar, what if you can’t get to your gym bag to put on your pajamas in time? How will you fight? That’s why I practice in muscle pants, muscle shirts, desert camos, and martial arts shoes (for safety)… things normal people wear every day. And me? I only wear my belt to hold my pants up. Plus, the American Black Belt Master Streetfighters Association awarded me a 7th degree Black Belt. Look here, brother, I earned this rank…
  • unrealistic weapons. Wait! Are you on Star Trek or something? Why are you training with those outdated ASIAN weapons when you live in America???  Who in the world is going to attack you with a double steel whip these days? Man, you got to keep it REAL! That’s why I only train with live blades, gurkhas, kerambits and whips. You know, stuff you see every day on the streets. And what serious streetfighter is complete without a 24-blade training rig? What if, you were fighting, like, 22 guys and you get disarmed 22 times? What would you do? Most of you guys with your backwards mentality would end up having to fight unarmed against 22 men with razor sharp edged weapons. Not me, I’ve got 2 more blades on me, thanks to my multi-purpose knife rig. Learned these deadly skills for a good reason. I had unpaid tickets and got arrested, and while I was in the joint, had to use my disarming skills to keep the inmates off the booty. Luckily, I picked up some 52 Hands/Jailhouse Rock while I was there. I’ll send you to the website so you can pick up a copy of the DVD to learn some of those best-kept, never before seen secrets…

The so-called non-martial artist of today is now more ridiculous than the traditional guys he likes to mock. But the difference is that most traditional guys are willing to get on the mat and show you what they’re made of–regardless of how tough they look–while the so-called “realistic” guys will tell you how UN-realistic sparring is… all the while, avoiding a very real fight. But a major part of their image is to shun the uniform by saying they don’t wear them. I agree. They’re not wearing uniforms, they’re wearing costumes.

In my school, we really don’t wear uniforms. Everyone’s got one, and it’s a Karate uniform, which they wear in tournaments. We wear street clothes mostly, and we don’t ridicule people who wear uniforms. Because the bottom line is, can you fight? So, forget the rhetoric. To hell with inviting people to our next seminar when they question if our stuff works. Save the excuses about how fighting isn’t really fighting, or how I’d have to kill you if I ever had to put hands on you. When it’s all over, the question of it all is whether or not you and your boys can fight. Being different is good, if you are different in a way that it really matters. But some people are just commited to being different for the sake of being different, but if you look underneath the surface, they are just trash-talking, padded-resume bearing, unskilled buffoons trying to act like they are fighters. They are not much different than the Mickey Mouse Dojang master who fools 12 year olds into thinking Jujitsu sucks. It’s just that their “12 year olds” are grown, freaking men. But all I want to know is, can you fight.

Can you?

Thanks for visiting my blog.

I Just Like This School

I’m not real big on Karate kata. But one thing I do know about kata is that it can give you a good indication of how well trained you are. Now, being good at kata does not mean that you can fight. But there is a way to tell if someone can fight, by looking at the way they perform their kata. I haven’t thought enough about it to be able to explain it, and I’m not sure I care to really dissect what it is. But I can.

Anyway, these young men are from SKIF – Philippines. I don’t know them. I am not even sure that I ever encountered any of their members when I was competing back home. But one thing I do know is that I like every performance I’ve seen them give.

So, there is no lesson in this post. I just wanted to share. Hope you enjoyed it!

Here are a few more:

Thanks for visiting my blog.

This Kind of Training Ain’t for Everybody

An edited email exchange between Guro and a former student. I held onto it for a while because I found it valuable and helpful, and hopefully you will too. This is a conversation that is too familiar for strong martial arts teachers, and those who endure the training will be glad they did. Enjoy!



It is with much regret that I must inform you that I will no longer be attending class at Typhoon.

Up until now, I think I have tried to ignore the fact that your program requires occasion serious injury. At Tuesday’s class, I participated in my first sparring session. Even though the instructions were to not hit to the face, I somehow got punched in the nose by three different class mates. After spending the past couple of days at work with my swollen and bruised nose, I have reevaluated my desire to learn how to fight. With this extremely minor injury as a sample of much more serious injury to come, I really don’t feel comfortable with continuing.

The reason why I decided to study martial arts is so that I might be better prepared to defend myself against serious physical harm if the chance might arise. After 29 years of living, I have actually never had to fight or defend an attack and I realize that someone with my size and demeanor has a small chance of that ever occurring. For me to virtually guarantee serious physical injury in training in order to prevent the small chance of serious physical injury on the street doesn’t seem very logical. Also, being a tenure-seeking faculty member at a University demands that I keep a very professional appearance. Frequently coming to school with a fucked up face like a bar brawler could definitely hinder my chances of keeping my job.

I know that some people might see my quitting as being a pussy or a wimp, but honestly the reward of knowing how to fight isn’t worth the costs to me.

This has been a difficult decision. I want you to know that it has been a great experience getting to know you and some of the other instructors. If anyone were to ask me where in Sacramento you can go to really learn how to fight, I would tell them that you are the man to see. I think your system and your school are perfectly designed for this task. I’m afraid it’s just not for me.

I really want to thank you for your time, instruction, and kindness. Please convey my sincere thanks to Sajaad also. You two have really made efforts to make me feel at home at Typhoon. 


Guro’s Response:

From: maurice gatdula []
Sent: Fri 10/20/2006 9:13 AM
To: Xxxxxx, Xxxxxx
Subject: Re: Bad news!

Xxxxxx, that is disappointing.. but dont give up! I know in the beginning, guys have to learn control, which is why we start with the “touch” sparring, and chest-only sparring. This builds your confidence up and gives your eyes and reflexes a chance to catch up to the speed of your opponents. You know, you could always wear the face cage, there is no shame in that.  In fact when the advance guys spar with contact, they wear it.

I know how intimidating sparring can be, but it is a necessary evil until you develop proficiency at it. Even Sajat, as strong as he is, the first time he fought contact (and this was 3 years into his training) he wanted to quit, and I didn’t let him. Then when he had his first full contact stick match with his older classmates, he tried to quit then too. But that is why full contact sparring is optional in the school for the students, its not for everybody. I think i have to blame Sajat for not watching the class closely enough during sparring, usually you can see when someone is not being careful, and if you alert them enough times they become more conscious of their contact level and targets. That is more a training issue for instructors than anything else. In fact, pretty much the only time we’ve had injuries was when the intermediate students were participating in full contact practice. Your injury really was a fluke; they usually dont happen in the regular class. Give it another chance,
I’ll make sure everyone is wearing the headgear during the sparring.

But one thing I wanted to tell you, you ARE tough enough for the training. You know, martial arts training, real martial arts training, isn’t “for” anyone new. No one comes in liking it. I think back to Darrell, Habib, Izhaar, Dullah,  Sajat, Leo, none of these guys liked it in the beginning. I had to coax them back into the school to keep them (my grandparents, by contrast, simply wouldn’t allow me to quit). We’ve had periods that we didn’t spar much because of retention issues (we’ve gone more than a year), and you just happen to be here right when we were beginning to add it back into the class every night. That is why i have everyone ordering safety gear, because I realize that the “old school” won’t work when you’re trying to make a living. But the truth is, I see you hanging in there when other guys have given up. The advantage that you have over everyone else is that you are smarter than the rest of them, and there is certainly a connections between being able to process
information, and using strategy against an opponent. Some guys are all brawn, but its the guy with brains who develops the brawn who will always beat him. You have discipline, you have heart, and you definitely have the drive to get the goals you wanted when you first came. We just have to tweak the training so that we’re not sending students to work with injuries. If you stick with it long enough, you will have those goals.

One thing, also, no one goes through life fighting all the time, especially martial artists. those people don’t wait until they have an altercation to start training, they train in case something happens. Some fighters (even ring fighters) have never been in a street fight. We train so that we will never be victims, we can walk around as if we had a gun in our pocket, and so that we can look good in a T shirt….

Again, we can modify the regimen to make it safer, I was in the process of doing that anyway. But you don’t want to just give up pursuing the art because of an injury, they dont usually happen (most of the ones we’ve had were during times that we were participating in the contact sparring, and like i said, its optional). In fact the person with the most bones broken in the school is me, and that’s more out of stupidity than anything else.

Anyway, the tuition has been deposited, but I can mail you a refund. just tell me where, and I can put it in the mail this weekend.



And so I hear that this young man did come back, became very tough, and trained until he discontinued training because of his work.

Thanks for visiting.

Coming Soon: Filipino Fighting Secrets Live on Hardcopy!

This blog was never intended to be a business venture. My students and I only wanted to generate interest in my school, and obviously I lacked the education and the computer skills to use the internet properly. So we started with pages from notebooks I wrote in (I’ve been trying to write books for nearly 20 years, but writing is not something I am particularly good at), posts from the martial arts forums, and emails I had stored in my email accounts, and we ended up with this blog.

I thought I only had two books in the works, but I am being convinced that my scribblings can produce as many as 6 books on the martial arts, and three books on martial arts business. We’ve got them all lined up, but everyone has full time jobs and can only work on this stuff during spare time. The way we do it is that I write the article, and someone else goes behind me and changes it to make me sound intelligent. Sometimes I am happy with the final product, sometimes I am not. It’s sort of like how my wife came in my school two days ago and got rid of 90% of my stuff, moved some furniture around, threw out the couch I took out of a dumpster (hey! it was a perfectly good couch!) in 2002, and extended my classroom by about 300 – 400 square feet! I was hurt, but everyone says it looks good and it’s better for business. Sort of how my landlord took down my boarded-up windows and my mural, and installed class to make me look like a commercial business. We’ve had a ton of visitors, so I’m making a little more money now, although it’s not how I intended for it to be.

Which leads me to this new book we’re working on… we are compiling the articles on the blog into three new books, each bearing the name of a Category on this blog:

  1. Filipino Fighting Secrets Live:  Martial Arts Philosophy
  2. Filipino Fighting Secrets Live:  Teaching Philosophy
  3. Filipino Fighting Secrets Live:  Fighting Techniques and Strategy

I am not going to compile “Observations and Insights” yet. My plan is to wait until it gets up to about 100 articles and then release it.  We will release these books each year, containing the articles from the previous year. Of course, the articles are the same thing you see here on the blog. You may just want to save the money and read them here on FFSL, or you could support the blog by purchasing the books on hardcopy or email. But I have a bonus for each book! Each book will contain a bonus section of work that I am writing just for those who purchase the books. Familiar themes will be repeated, as always. But there is always something new in everything I write. Stay tuned for follow-up postings on the progress we are making with the books, I am tempted to add a special gift for the first 50 books sold!  No promises right now, but I am working on purchasing about 50 hard-to-find weapons to be included in the first few orders….

By the way, in case you wonder why I am doing this. As you know, I am a traditional teacher. That means that I don’t have hundreds of students, I have no Tiny Tigers class, no Afterschool Karate, no Tae Bo. So rather than go the commercial way, I teach my traditional classes much in the same way I have for the last 20 years. When this is the case, we teachers must find alternative ways to make our living. Sometimes, I throw a tournament. Sometimes I will travel to a new city and guest teach someone else’s students. Sometimes I will buy stuff from the Philippines and sell them for more money here in the U.S.  I have discovered now that there are many FMAers who have not learned many of the things I teach my students, and I am willing to share them. So–as all teachers should–I charge a tuition. This blog is free, and rather than ask for donations (as they do on some other blogs I have been shown) I am offering a product I think people will find value in.

The books will be offered cheaper here on this blog than in the advertisements I am planning to place. Be one of the first 50 to buy them here and you will get them even cheaper!

Here’s the damage:

One book:  $25/copy

All three books:  $60

Unfortunately, I must charge shipping and handling, so add $2 for one book and $5 for all three. I will send a confirmation email when payment is received. The books will be ready by May 1, but you can get a jump on the first 50 by ordering now from the “Offerings” page. Remember, the mystery gift is not yet confirmed, but there will definitely be one!

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Teaching Tips: Incorporate Strength Training

Tonight, I received a call from a good friend of mine who lives in Florida, as I was leaving my school. He and I caught up on old news, and as always, Doug asked me what we did in class. Anyone who knows me, knows that my memory is horrible, so the best time for me to recall what we did in class is to ask me right after class… because I’ll forget!

And as always, he got excited about what my class did. For my students, it’s nothing unusual, as they are used to it. But Doug’s reaction made me realize that we actually do things that different, so I thought I would share this small, but helpful tip with you.

In my school we have dumbells and two pull-up/dip stations. When I studied with my Grandfather, we often practiced while holding bricks, practiced Eskrima with ax handles, and did push-ups and climbed a rope in my backyard (no feet, of course). With my Kung Fu teacher, Sifu Dean Chin and Sifu Raymond Wong–my closest Si Hing–we used the brass rings. With Boggs Lao, we used rubber inner tubes and did pull-ups and dips. Because of those who taught me, strength was always something I emphasized with my students, and the result was a much stronger fighter, compared to his counterparts from other schools.

Tonight, we really only practiced one thing–the round kick to the mid section (between the thigh and the rib cage… the soft area to the pelvis), but in three different combinations–for 50 minutes, and then we spent the last ten minutes of class alternating between push-ups, dips, pull-ups, and one-arm dumbell snatches. The students had their choice of a 25 lb weight or a 40 lb weight. Before you go snickering, keep in mind that in this class I had two middle aged students and two 20 year old guys (one Filipino and one Chinese) who weigh less than 130 lbs–plus, we did it at the end of class for 10 minutes.

That’s it. No, seriously… that’s it! One technique for 50 minutes and 10 minutes of strength training. It doesn’t sound like much, but they got plenty of practice attacking basically one target with one weapon and we closed it out getting “swolled up”, as my teenagers would say. Not exactly what many would expect out of an FMA class, but if you wanted to develop the ability to crush your opponent, workouts like this will give you that skill. Of course, my home boy Doug, who trained in Korean style dojos most of his life, doesn’t get to see workouts like this very much so he was in awe. There’s not a lot to this philosophy:  spend enough time developing your weapons, and then train to make sure you have physical ability over your opponent. It’s simple, but for some reason, simple is not complex enough for most FMA teachers.  This method will get your students on the quick path to power, speed and ferocity. Plus, their progess is, in this way, measurable.  These guys pay me to teach them how to fight and to train them so that their ability intersects with their knowledge; a place many martial artists have never visited. Try it yourself, I guarantee that you will realize the benefits in one workout.

And if you liked this tiny little bit of advice, you’ll love my book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months. You can order it from the “Offerings” page. Get your copy now!

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Do Martial Arts Styles Die?

I was over at MartialTalk and came across this discussion. The topic is whether or not the Filipino Martial Arts would become obsolete or insignificant because of the popularity of MMAs and other martial arts styles. According to the author, each style has its day and eventually end up being practiced by a small handful of people in backyard dojos scattered throughout the martial arts community. Think of how Karate and Kung Fu had their day in the 70s, ninjitsu had its day in the 80s and JKD/SEA had their time during the 90s. Right now, the thing to do is MMA and “reality-based” martial arts. Seems that traditional martial arts are “on their way out”…

But I don’t think so. Think about an obscure art, such as Kyudo–Japanese Archery. Most people don’t even know there is such a thing, let alone the idea that this is a martial arts style. But the International Kyudo Association has nearly 150,000 members, and it is estimated that there are 500,000 Kyudo students around the world. Obscure? Probably. But dead? I don’t think so, epecially for a fighting art that has been around since 500 BC. They aren’t going anywhere, despite the fact that you can’t learn this art by video or at your local McDojo.

So, why do people worry that martial arts die away? It had long been thought, since the 70s, that the Filipino arts in the Philippines had long been dead. Just because we don’t see styles taught to the masses, don’t believe for a second that there is something wrong. An individual style can die out, especially if the Master of that style had not designated teacher to propogate the system, but I don’t believe that an entire genre of the martial arts will become extinct. It is my opinion that many martial artists here in the West look at the martial arts from a Western point of view. That if there are no buildings that house groups, that if no one is making money from the style, that if the art is nonexistent in the media, that no DVDs are being sold teaching the art–that this style will die.

My grandfather left behind only family members who are trying to further his art, with the exception of a few students I do not know. But through me and my siblings, a few people will carry forward the teachings. My Kung Fu teacher had only a handful of students teaching at the time of this death. But Jow Ga is more widespread now than it was, 25 years ago when he died. Only in the last decade did you ever find Jow Ga schools that had more than 50 students. Most people had not heard of any of these styles 20 years ago, but today, there are thousands who not only know of these arts, but have actually studied them.

Whether they are being taught in backyard, garages, community centers, or commercial spaces, an art will live on as long as people teach them. The late Grandmaster Vince Tinga, who taught Shorinji Kempo and Jidokwan (later renamed “Minahune Karatedo“), hadn’t owned a school for nearly 20 years when I met him in 1999. He only had fewer than 10 students, and he taught them from his home and in friends’ schools. But when he died in 2007, he had possibly hundreds of students, through a network of groups spread throughout Northern California.

Not to mention that the arts being taught in these small groups will change lives in so many more ways than some fly-by-night seminar program; I would advise strongly against discounting the significance of a martial arts style by the number of practioners that know it. Most people who take on a mass-produced martial arts system will not only quit within a year, but they will neither excel at that art nor will they even remember the art 10 years later. This is rarely the case with systems taught in small groups.

Speaking of Grandmaster Vince Tinga, I was with him years ago at a tournament when he re-introduced me to a very rude and arrogant teacher I had actually met months earlier (by the way, that meeting didn’t go well either), and I was competing that day. When we got onto the subject of Filipino arts, this gentleman asked me who my teachers were, and I named Yun Gatdula, Ernesto Presas, Dean Chin, and Boggs Lao. He smirked and said that he had never heard of them, and Uncle Vince snapped back that they had never heard of him. It was a great comeback (I’d actually used it many times after that myself, it’s now part of my lingo), but I was still hot. So I asked him if he would be fighting that day–I knew he wasn’t, but he and I were about the same size–and he said he wasn’t. I told him that if he went one round with me, I guarantee him that he will never forget me.

So much for the significance of styles and teachers; he kisses my behind every time I see him, but for some strange reason I keep forgetting his name…

Never forget that regardless of how popular an art is, the proof is in the pummeling. Thanks for visiting my blog.