How to Get Lousy FMA Instructors

I tried to think of a clever title for this article, and I decided to just get to the point and tell you what I’m going to talk about… and not sugar coat it.

The FMAs have too many lousy teachers.

Now, I’m sure none of us plan our curriculums to produce lousy teachers. But regardless, we have too many–way too many–FMA teachers that are neither impressive to watch nor effective. At a bare minimum, our teachers should have combat effectiveness. But you will rarely get a chance to see if a teacher is truly effective in combat, so we have to look at other things–like power, speed and fluency–to make that judgment. And guess what? Most of the folks out here teaching the FMAs have none of the above.

C ome, now. Don’t act surprised or offended. You know damned well that most of these FMA guys can’t fight their way out of a paper bag! That’s why you are looking to other martial arts styles for your real combative stuff! If your “Eskrima empty hand” really was reliable, you wouldn’t have those Muay Thai/Silat/MMA/BJJ/Wing Chun seminars under your belt. You know that shit doesn’t work, and you know many of your Guros couldn’t hold his own against most other Black Belts, but you respect them for some reason and still teach the same old patty-cake, sissy stuff.

Deep down inside, if I showed up at one of your seminars, you know for a fact that I’d break your Guro’s jaw, and probably yours too.

Does that piss you off? Good. It should. Because strong fighters don’t get affected by trash talking the same way weak fighters do. Strong fighters laugh it off, and then show up at your gym to see how good you are. Weak fighters get mad, call names, and then go back to their knitting clubs and circles of ladies and talk about what an ass you are. The first indication of poor fighting skill is thin skin. This is why all the FILIPINO masters have feuds, rivals and rivalries. They talked trash, and look for an opportunity to back it up. They declare themselves the best in the business and wait to see who will come along to be the example. We don’t have this anymore in the Filipino Martial Arts, and it’s producing several generations of weak teachers who dilute the arts with each coming generation.

A few of you know it’s true, so you are looking to improve or strengthen the next wave of fighters. Most of you bury your heads in the sand. And then others know it’s true, but you don’t want to be seen (or heard/read) publicly agreeing, so you join the crowds in supporting the status quo while secretly trying to arm yourself and your system.

So how did this happen, you ask? Well, I have several observations:

  1. students are not being given enough time with the material they learn to develop any true effectiveness with their skills. you are promoting too soon, and not demanding excellence and progress from students. the sad thing is that the seminar industry has set the standard extremely low, and it’s just accepted to promote as soon as someone can demonstrate the material. so we are turning over new teachers in fewer than 10 seminars. so basically, we’re promoting beginners to teachers.
  2. classes are set to “entertaining”, rather than “development”. we are too busy trying to keep students interested and entertained, rather than striving to make them stronger, faster and more impervious to pain. drills take up most of the class time, so their bodies are not being challenged and forged into weapons. this IS a fighting class, right? not a dance class? well, you’re not acting like it!
  3. material taught is too complicated to be functional in a fight. I don’t know what it is, but FMA people seem to enjoy demonstrating exotic-looking, intricate techniques that would only work with a fully cooperative opponent. (maybe i should call it “partner”, rather than “opponent”?)  take a guy and teach him that patty-cake crap for 12 months, while I teach a guy to throw straight punches for 8 weeks, and have him throw hundreds of strikes a night… and my guy will murder your guy. I guarantee this.
  4. too much theory in your arts. “if he did this, i could do that. and if he does this, i can do this…”  words spoken like a real dweeb. i’ve seen so much of that stuff in my years as a teacher, I’ve just stopped being nice and biting my tongue. please don’t demo this crap in my presence, i’ve have to wake you up. there is too much drawing board in the FMAs, and not enough mat time. fighting is a complex art, but you have to integrate application–real application–with all that theory. the problem with us is that we’ve spent so much time teaching on the move and teaching part time, there is no time to test what we are doing. the students are not even testing. and as each successive group acquires and twists the theories, they become more and more complex, and equally impractical.
  5. we do not allow others to test our students. when I was in DC, i used to invite over my friends from the tournament circuit and other schools to spar at my place. then when they arrive, i throw my own students into the mix. one day, an old friend stopped by and watched us spar. when we were done, he was surprised to find out that only a few of us were teachers and the rest students; he thought everyone was a black belter! this is not to say that my students were as good as teachers, but they had done enough sparring that they could hold their own and not look like novices. if i kept my guys in a small circle of hand-picked people, my students would never progress. i have a beginning kung fu student named Michael, who asked to fight at a Muay Thai event with some of my Kuntaw instructors. I’d rather he waited, but what the hell, I let him do it. he lost his fight, but he held his own, and the guy he fought was a teacher. four months later, Michael is one tough son of a gun, and i’d put my money on him against most visitors to my school. if you don’t let your students take a butt-whipping once in a while, they won’t have any motivator to improve.
  6. we baby our students because we are insecure. one of the problems i had as a young teacher was arrogance. but the upside to that arrogance was that i strived to be superior, and my students worked to that level as well. but i was different. i didn’t hang around FMA guys, i hung with boxers and karate guys, and many of them were cocky. the difference was that we had this testosterone thing going where we’d get together frequently and try to outdo each other, and the competition among us kept each other on our toes. FMA people usually don’t have that; they believe that they are only here to learn, and are discouraged from training too hard or being too aggressive. the result is that when in the face of aggression, they don’t know how to deal with it and their fear makes them shy away from it. so years later, they find strength and comfort in numbers and gravitate towards smiles and happy people, rather than stand alone and face their fear and insecurity. we cannot do this to our students. if they spend all their time around training partners they won’t know how to handle opponents. and if the opponent is an enemy–in combat–you can forget it. look at how dissention is treated on the internet forums.  FMA people are quick to get their panties all bunched up and pool together to condemn the guy who is a little different or thinks an art or person is not a great martial artist. it’s worse than a damned bridge club. let your guys get a little rough around the edges, and that abrasiveness will help keep their courage and skills sharp.
  7. we think sparring with rules is bad. it’s not that we think sparring without rules is good (Lord knows, that none of you reading this blog fights without rules). it’s just that you don’t spar at all, and so you need a handy excuse to why you can’t fight. so you tell your students you only fight for real on the street. but i have a question:  who was the last guy you maimed on the street?                                                                             i didn’t think so. so just admit it. you don’t fight. the most you do is really controlled sparring with your own guys and you really watch to make sure no one gets hurt. and when one of your guys suggests that he’d like to try his hand at competition sparring, you’ll tell him how guys in tournaments are all pansies and all they can do it play tag, blah, blah, blah. the result is that our guys get almost no combat experience at all. yet, you will brag to everyone about how many matches your grandmaster fought. do you think he really fought all those fights without rules? Boy! some of you must think that the Philippines is some crazy place with no law and order!
  8. you don’t do any kind of strength training, power training or hard physical conditioning. i don’t need to go into detail about this one;  you don’t. and failing to build your student’s bodies will doom them to geek-with-sticks hell. get with the program, you need to have destructive power. period. FMAs are not all about coordination and patty cake and fancy schmancy footwork around a triangle. but let the McSkrima McGuros (and McTuhons) tell it, you don’t need physical fitness to kill a man with this stuff. hey, hey, hey, fat albert… yes you do.

Okay, the gangsta wannabes are shooting outside my back door again, so I realize it’s bedtime. There will probably be a “part II” to this article. Thanks for visiting my blog. Please spread the word if you like reading my articles!