What You Can Do to Make 25% More Income Next Year

Study and Master Student Retention
This is a subject I have been studying for years. I have not fully learned it, or learned it well, but I would like to share with you what I’ve discovered (rather than claim to “teach” you what I know… Man’s gotta know his limits!) in my few years of teaching.
See, as businessmen we are told to accept certain things that I don’t think we should have to accept:  that 90% of us will fail in a year or less, that most of our students will stink at the martial arts, that 95% of our students will not make it to the instructor level, that only the gifted will excel at this art, that Black Belt first degree is the beginning….
Blah, blah, blah.
We all search for the next new thing that will add to our bottom line so that we can have the school we really want, or teach the way that we really want to teach, or choose the students we want–you know the deal. So I figured that over the year, most of us will lose 75% of the students who sign up in our schools. So I also figure that we are spending a disproportionate (or not) amount of our time trying to replace the guys who quit. So I figured… what if?
What if we could slash that figure, and actually keep most of the students who join our schools?
Wouldn’t that be something? By my guess, if we could cut by 2/3 the number of students who who quit over the year (and I’m no mathmetician), next year this time–hypothetically–we’d have 25% more enrollment next year, and that number should grow year after year after year! Man, we’d all have McDojos without actually adding “After School Karate”. Imagine that!
So, the next question is, why do we lose people? Is all about contracts? Or students not being “serious enough”? I don’t think so. I think there is something in the way we run our schools that causes people to lose interest. It can’t be plain old fickleness. Many of these people have stuck with other activities they completed for years, like high school, marriages (okay, not that many!), beauty school… We just have to find out why students have lose interest.
I have a theory.
I believe that most of these people who quit do so for several reasons.
  1. they aren’t seeing results
  2. they’re bored
  3. it’s too expensive
  4. they’re bored (no, this isn’t a typo)
  5. classes are too hard
  6. classes are too easy (see #’s 2 and 4)
  7. they don’t see the end of their journey on the horizon
  8. maybe… they’re bored
When a student feels his body getting stronger, he feels more and more like he can take on 10 men, he is going to keep going. When he looks in the mirror and sees himself getting slimmer and more muscular, he will keep going. When he experiences an increase in sparring ability (what? you mean you DON’T spar???) he will keep going. When he doesn’t see his fighting ability (not drills ability, but fighting ability) improve, it will discourage him and he will quit. When he doesn’t see himself progressing–in skill and in rank–closer to that day that he will become an “expert” or whatever the pie is in the sky at your school, he will feel like he isn’t getting anywhere and quit. And if he’s (get this) bored, he will quit.
None of us want to admit this, but boredom is perhaps the number one reason people quit. Trust me it ain’t the money. How many men with a beautiful wife will say one day, “Baby, you’re getting too expensive for me to keep, I’m breaking up with you”? Only the guys on “Unsolved Mysteries”… And the mystery is, not that he killed her, but why this idiot didn’t work harder to keep this beautiful prize he has. A man will take on an extra job to keep his sports car or to support a gambling habit, or something else exciting. But he will cancel a gym membership if he’s still fat/skinny after 12 months.
Does that make sense?
We will work hard for what excites us and makes us happy, and will leave what bores us.  Money is never an issue. It is why people allow their lights to get cut off, but will still buy chrome wheels for their cars and eat out. It’s why they bring peanut butter sandwiches to work, but will still get their nails done every pay day. We finance what we want, and scrape for what we need. Even in this recession, the cigarette shops and liquor stores are flourishing.
Your job is to find out what you can do to make your school more exciting and encouraging so that your students absolutely can’t wait to get to class again. When you can figure that out, you will keep more students and ultimately grow your school every year.
Thanks for visiting my blog.

Visualize Your Enemy (For Mani Bean)

This advice is for all you Kung Fu/Karate/Tae Kwon Do/Kenpo stylists. Of course it was inspired by one my little protégés, Mani “Bean” (because she’s a minor, I am going to use her nickname), who is a very serious 12 year old. Mani has probably racked more fights—point style and with contact—than most grown men reading this blog. No exaggeration, Mani fights at least twice a month, from as far away as Buffalo , NY (my old stomping grounds) to Los Angeles , CA. But even with this vast amount of experience, she is still a work in progress and still attends classes religiously week after week. If you search Youtube for “Typhoon Martial Arts”, you can see some of her fights, and will be able to follow her progression from point fighter to technical brawler (lol).

Lately, Mani and another student—Bry-Bry—had asked to focus on Kung Fu forms (which is really not my forte, but I’ve spent close to 30 years learning and practicing them). So, to accommodate this request, I started a forms-only program at my school, and opened my curriculum to those who wish to be a part of it. In this class, students don’t have to follow the forms list the way I prescribed it in my curriculum. I am teaching whatever comes to mind, but students must follow my directions, and take what I offer—I am not taking suggestions. It’s something very similar to what my teacher offered certain students; that he taught what came to mind, and much of it was not on the curriculum posted on the wall of the classroom. In the last 6 months, I have taught the following Jow Ga forms:

  • Faa Chune (Flower Fist)
  • Siu Hung Chune (Small Hero’s Fist)
  • Siu Fu Darn Do (Small Tiger Broadsword)
  • Mui Faa Cheung ( Plum Blossom Spear)
  • Sern Tao Gwun (Double Headed Staff)
  • Teet Sid Chune (Iron Wire Fist)
  • Fu Hok Sern Ying Chune (Tiger – Crane Combination Fist)
  • Gung Lik Chune (Building Power Fist)
  • Je Ma Dao (Horse Cutting Lance)
  • Ng Long Gwun (Fifth Son Staff)

Some of these forms are over 100 years old. Some are unique to Jow Ga ; some are self-contained systems-in-one.  But the lessons that I am imparting at this time is not the deep lessons contained within the forms because that would take more time than I have allotted for my students. We are studying the “ma pi” (hair and skin)… that is, the performance, of the forms. So, today, while working with Mani, I was giving her some easy-to-remember tips for the performance of forms (not that I’m an expert at it, but I have learned a thing or two over the years) that I would like to share with you, while documenting what she and I discussed. If you perform forms, I think you will find this article very helpful and informative.

Rule #1:  You are practicing a FIGHTING skill

And don’t you forget it! It is not dancing. It is fighting. Forget the guys who question the validity of Kung Fu (or Karate, blah blah blah) forms. Train as if it were. Too many people get so much into the performance of the form, it becomes a dance. But when these forms were created, they were to document the techniques of a system. So rather than hand down a book (as many teachers did) that listed the names of techniques (Twin Serpents Searching for Pearls>>Grabbing the Opponent’s Collar>>Breaking the Collar>>Tiger Recoils to Strike Again>>Lifting the Sky… names of the opening of our first form, Small Tiger) that read like a poem—they could pass down a routine (called a Chuan Tao) with coded sequences that contained all the techniques. You would still need a teacher to decipher the movements, but at least the system could be passed to the next generation pretty quickly.

Lately, forms under many teachers have become diluted with meaningless technique that looked good in performance or in theory, but had no deeper levels of wisdom buried in them. I have seen famous systems take on a mysterious aura, but the teachers truly had no wisdom or ability. And the main problem is that they have forgotten that these techniques are for fighting, not performance. Much of what is contained in my own Jow Ga system was not meant to be demonstrated in public. But recently, I have seen much of it on Youtube. Youtube! A FREE outlet! Anyway, another topic for discussion….

Just remember that what you are doing is for fighting, and your performance will have to reflect that fact. If you are performing for judges, they will recognize (if they know what they’re doing) the fighting spirit of a form, and will respect it as such. Forget trying to do it faster. Forget wanting to add tumbling and jump kicks. Forget points for difficulty—this ain’t gymnastics or performance aerobics, Fancy Boy—you are practicing an art which was created to enable you to cripple opponents, crush their windpipes, dislocate a hip, hyperextend an elbow. A fight. Visualize your enemy while performing, and then do the darn thing as if he were right in front of you.

Rule #2:  Practice until you no longer have to think about your next move

This holds true for any art or skill in the art. We must train until the strikes, hits, blocks and parries, kicks, and Chin Na attacks happen thoughtlessly. There is a saying, that mastery is the level where you have forgotten what you learned. It is in line with the saying that one knows a skill so well he can do it in his sleep or do it with his eyes closed. There is no way around this requirement. You must know the form like you know the back of your own hand. This can only be accomplished with an infinite number of practices. When you have achieved this level of ability, only then will your form be considered “good”. Other than that, you are merely dancing, and have an equal chance as the next competitor of winning. Back-flip means nothing if you can’t keep your chambered hand stuck to your rib cage. Practice alone won’t help you. We need perfection.

Now, this isn’t to say that simply practicing will make one perfect.

Come on, kids, say it with me:

Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.

You must learn and commit to habit all the small details and finer points of your form. Doing your form 500 times is ineffective practice if each of those times is performed with high stances and the back hand flopping around. It is the reason many of the so-called “champions” must add acrobatics to their routines:  they are not skilled enough to impress with solely the strength of their martial arts ability, so they must wow audiences with breath-taking jumps and displays of athleticism. Sorry, but only cheerleader wannabes and soccer moms believe that XMA performers can fight (along with 9 year olds). But display strong technical skill, with flawless footwork, stances, crisp and sharp strikes and blocks, and good speed and power—and you will win over the champions. That is, of course, unless you have judges who don’t know what good martial arts looks like. And that is what turned me off of open competition. We have former 12 year old black belts who are now 30 year old shopping center dojo owners trying to judge a form of a 100 year old system he’s never heard of, and awards “difficulty points”, as if this was some type of cheerleading competition. Ridiculous. But if you have solid Black Belt judges, even if he is unfamiliar with your system, he should recognize flawless technique. This is how you win with skill. It is the reason I prefer Chinese-only style tournaments over shopping center dojo competitions that actually think Polynesian is a martial arts genre, and all Chinese martial arts, like Wu Shu and Hung Gar belong in the same division.

But stick to your guns and master this skill and it will take you a long way, even if you have to leave the open circuit and do specialized ones. Even if the only thing you do with your skill is to share them with the few Masters you may meet later in life. But every martial artist who learns forms must have mastered the basics in their lifetime.

Rule #3:  Stance and footwork must always look like practice

When you first learned your stances, you strived to get them perfect. What happened to that? You have good stances when you were standing still, maybe even when practicing some movement. But chances are that eventually you would learn more complex (so you thought) and “advanced” skills, so those “basic” skills were relegated to things you only did when you showed another beginner how to do them. Wrong answer.

Stances should always be apparent, visible, and present. Every move while performing a form, must look like a different pose. If we took a picture of you at any point while you performed a form, you should look as if you posed for it. We should never catch you out of position, and you should transition smoothly from stance to stance. Smoothly and quickly. That camera should be exhausted trying to catch you between moves. If I can watch a picture at any point, and I don’t know what stance you are in, your form is not a good one. There should be a clear difference between horse and forward (or bow). A cross/hook stance, and a forward stance. A crouch and a horse stance. Every single movement has a corresponding stance. Make sure that happens, kiddo.

We achieve this by practicing most of the time, one movement at a time. For me and mine, I call cadence. For other teachers, they will choose 4 – 6 techniques in sequence, and have you do just those techniques for 20 minutes. Either way, however you do it, make sure that you have mastered the stance, as it is integrated into your form’s footwork.

Does any of this sound familiar, folks? FMA people? Heard me say this before?

Yes, it is because this is one of those universal truths of martial arts that transcends style. Learn it, commit it to memory. Tattoo it to your forehead…

Rule #4:  Every strike must be thrown hard enough to injure; every block executed with enough power to stop a real punch

Every punch, strike, hit, kick, grab, pull, push, block and parry MUST be executed in a way that it would injure a real person if they were hit by the one you just did in the form. Every block must be thrown with enough intent that it would stop a real attack.

If that sounded redundant, it was meant to. I won’t insult your intelligence by explaining it any further than that. If you need clarity, print this article and take it to a teacher, and ask him to elaborate. This rule is so self-explanatory; it is amazing that almost every forms competitor I’ve ever seen on the open circuit violates it. I would have to say that most of the teachers and sifu I have witness violate this rule as well. But it needs no clarification if you guys have half a brain.

So, there you have it. thekuntawman has just given his 2 cents worth on the subject of forms. Mark your calendars, people! This won’t happen for a long, long time. If you follow and implement these four rules, I guarantee your success on the circuit for forms competition.

And none of it involves screaming at the top of your lungs, wearing sequin, or landing in a split. And before I go, let me introduce her to you:



Thanks for visiting my blog.


A Man Trains His Entire Life

A man trains his entire life, just in case–and when that moment comes up, what happens?
I am going to get very personal with you.
I had a dream that my kids told me they had been to a man’s house near the park we live by, and that they had taken a nap there. After some questioning, I was unable to draw any real information from them other than the fact that they went to his house, had a snack, and fell asleep. Then, in the dream, I took a nap, and in that nap I was shown the man drugging my children and then molesting my daughter. I immediately woke up and went to the park, seeing the man from my dream (my kids were on the swing nearby waving to him), and–very vividly–I ran towards him, threw him to the ground and pounded him into unconsciousness, darn near death. People were screaming around me, my kids were crying and asking me why, and then the police arrested me. In his pockets, they found cookies laced with the “date rape drug”. As I woke from this nightmare, I heard the words I speak in my classes very frequently:  A man trains his entire life, and must ensure that he does not fail when he needs those skills.

It was a very painful dream. Seeing your child molested, even in a dream, is one of the worst experiences I wouldn’t wish even on my enemies. For minutes after awakening, I was angry enough that I actually wanted to kill or hurt someone. I couldn’t sleep the rest of the day. But not before going to the printer and designing a self-defense/streetfighting flyer with this incident in mind, wanting to arm potential students with a weapon that will not fail if the day arises that they will need to protect self and family, or carry out justice on someone who has hurt self or family.
I am not going to get into the conversation about whether it is ethical to commit an act of vigilantism after a child is hurt–even if your only “proof” is a dream or the words of a 9 year old. Excuse me, but if my 9 year old tells me that she is hurt by someone, that person will be punished terribly. And yes, my 9 year old has told lies before. And yes, I understand that I may hurt the wrong person. But I did not train my entire life to keep those skills on the shelf of doubt or hesitancy. I would hope that you would do the same if someone hurt your child. Look at a deer, defending its child from a bear. It would fight like a tiger, giving all–even its own life–to protect that baby. A deer. An animal not known for its fighting skills; an animal with no prey… It will kill a man, a bear, a dog, if you attack its child. Yet, we have people, many that are martial artists, that will not physically attack a person who has hurt their child in the name of abiding by laws or waiting on the police.
When I was living in River Terrace, a community in Washington, DC., a man raped an 11 year old in his apartment. Her father was blind and a disabled veteran. By the time the police arrived, the man was severely beaten and dying. I applaud them.
Same community, when the crack cocaine drug trade first started, the police were ineffective in stopping it. A group, called the Fruits of Islam, led by a gentleman named Michael 5X identified the drug dealers and one by one severely beat all of them, until our neighborhood was quiet at night. Not even the drug addicts would come down 34th Street NE. They repeated this feat in many neighborhoods, outclassing the police dept, even after several members had been shot. Regardless of what you may think of their politics or religious views (I am not a fan), these men get my utmost respect.
You may recall that when my house was broken into, I confronted the neighbors I suspected of doing it, angering my wife. When the smoke cleared, three of them went to jail, children were found to be abused, and the house was turned back over to the owner. Today, we have a new family next door and the house is cleaned up. ALL of the problems we’ve had on our street–fights, loud music, parties, teenagers hanging out late at night–have ceased. All because one person confronted them and refused to tolerate it. And they had been doing this for years on this street!
One night I was in a gas station talking to a friend of mine who is a school teacher at a nearby charter school. While we were talking, we were approached by a man asking for money (mind you, it was 10 p.m.). We told him we did not have money, and then he insisted that surely, we were lying–that we had just bought gas. I then told him, yes, I did have money, I was not going to give it to him, and if he kept pressuring us I would treat it as if he was going to take the money, so what did he want to do? He walked away. Some of you may think I was asking for trouble, but I did not train my entire life to sit and wait on being attacked. If he was bold enough to take an aggressive stance with us at 10 p.m., any weakness on our part would have invited him to elevate to the next level. The message I chose to send was, “I know what you’re doing, and if you want to try me out, I am going to hurt you.” We don’t spend our nights training for combat when we could be watching Seinfeld reruns, just to leave our safety up to chance when it counts.
When a man is a warrior, he fights less because he is provoked less. It is the guy in the “Save the Trees” T-shirts with the slender arms who faces danger more often because he fits the description of the kind of person you take from when the bad guys want trouble. When you wear the uniform of a warrior–not clothing, but your demeanor, your build, your language–people may underestimate you, but they will rarely choose to try and make you a victim. We train to become warriors by building our strength and character, by strengthening our bodies, by living healthier lives, by treating people well, by developing tools of combat, and ultimately, by mentally preparing ourselves to do damage when we need to.
That is one of the secrets of the masters:  to learn to take on the mind of a killer when the time calls for it; practice the art of hurting people and then develop the mindset that is capable of doing it. The martial arts are not as much a technical skill as one would think. Just look at the Youtube videos of FMA demonstrations. It’s basically a set of patty cake skills and neat demonstrations of how you can twist a guy up if he lets you. Some people like to show how quick they can swing their sticks, knives and hands. But the art is not about all of that! The art is how much damage can you inflict on a man when he deserves it, and how much you can take when he dishes it out. This can’t be learned in a four-hour seminar. And if won’t be learned in a comfortable, painless martial arts class format.
Hang around, and I’ll show you the way. Thanks for visiting my blog.

The Forgotten Side of the Filipino Fighting Arts, pt V (Train On Uneven Ground)

This lesson is more than just a lesson about where to train, but an attitude—an approach—to your training. My grandfather was one of the most able of the older masters I’ve met in my lifetime. He was old and falling apart, but still strong and agile. Where he lacked in finesse he made up for it in power and the remaining ability to spar. Many of the older masters I have had the pleasure of meeting and seeing move had very little of their old selves left, so we respected who they were and what they’d accomplished. But my lolo was one of the men who left you scratching your head at how a man of his age could still do what he did.

He attributed much of this to his lack of pickiness in his youth.

I often laugh with my students at these know-it-all arnisadors who sometimes come by my school to buy sticks (I sell them for $5 a stick, btw. A good weight and quality) and they try to show their “experience” by rolling the stick across the floor (to see how balanced the stick is) or holding the stick at an angle (to see how straight the stick is). They will twirl the sticks, run through a few sinawali and then ultimately “reject” a few and choose a few. I can imagine the McGuro going back to his guys to brag about how he chose the best quality sticks for them, as an “experienced” Arnisador.

Have you ever seen the old Masters choose a stick? I have. And they take their machetes, hack off a branch—any width—trim the extra limbs, throw a few strikes to “learn” the stick, and get right to work. This is how I was taught to choose my sticks…you just go and get one.

I learned how to pretend to be stick-saavy at Arjuken, by watching my older brothers at the market choosing sticks. They would lecture me on how to get a “good” one, how to tell if the stick had a good balance, the correct measurement (tip of the pinger to the armpit por close range, tip of the pinger to the solar por long range), and the right weight for me and my level of strength. Fortunately, I outgrew this right away when I visited my Uncle Vincente and he laughed at me for trying to find a straight one in the back of his house. Boy! Don’t you know God doesn’t make his sticks straight???  Just heard a good echo of a laugh.

My grandpa use to say that a good fighter doesn’t need conditions to fight effectively. He can fight in any circumstance, in any situation, against any opponent, whether in his Sunday shoes or barefoot, regardless of whether there were rules or not (because we all know, EVERY fight has rules, even streetfights). A fighter who limits himself and his surroundings will have limited options when it counts. If you can’t pick up a stick, regardless of what kind of stick, how crooked, how light or how heavy, even however awkward, you can’t call yourself an “expert” stickfighter. The expert is the guy who can fix a car with a roll of duct tape, a screw driver and a pair of pliers. We want to be like that; the kinda guy who wins gun fights with a knife.

So, in training my students, I will take them out the school to train. We will end up on a hill, on uneven ground, with obstacles—sometimes potholed parking lots, sometimes groundhog hills or tall grass. And baby, you’d better be able to move without missing a beat! I don’t want them so spoiled that they need completely flat ground to train on. After all, the only thing God mad flat was bad beer and butts.

I apologize, that one was mine.

When you train on uneven ground, you are making yourself stronger, don’t cha know. You are forcing your body and legs to adjust to the variations in the terrain in a split second, and to be able to move effectively. You are relying not on the stability of the ground upon which you are standing, but solely on the skill of your footwork and the sense of balance in your mind. In this, nothing is a surprise, and you are able to maneuver without having to look around at your surroundings; to let your feet do the walking and to let your feet determine what move you need to make next. Your feet sense where you are, determine how your weight should be distributed, and in what way you will move next. And you can’t develop this kind of footwork dancing around some darned triangle.

It’s the same way with the Eskrimador who preaches that if you “know” Eskrima, you can pick up anything and work with it—a belt, a bottle, a rolled-up newspaper… you know the spiel. But is this truly an “impromptu” weapon? After all, you learned these improvised weapons on the Inosanto/Presas/Sulite/you name it video, or in some seminar somewhere. You’ve rehearsed your Sinawali with that newspaper so much your Dog shivers every time you look to see who won the game last night. Yeah, but I’d like you to try that crap with a briefcase or a bag of White Castle burgers. Man, I told you… a stick is a stick, is a stick. So, you can use an umbrella like a stick on demand, but you won’t work with a stick if it’s a little curved? Thank God for those DeThouars! The rattan suppliers now have a way to get rid of all those L-shaped sticks they keep hauling in with the day’s catch. And now, the JKD/Kali guys can teach something that’s got the Indonesian masters wondering, “What tha???”

Ah, business is good. But how do they check them sticks for quality? Hold em up against their elbows? LOL

The idea behind this skill—the true skill of improvising and working with what you’ve got—is to work with what you’ve got, for reals (as my 10 year old would say). Train any and everywhere. And just be damned good at it. There’s no way to prepare for a fight while holding a can of tuna, unless you train with, well, cans of tuna. But what if it’s a can of tomatoes? Do we need drills and videos of drills with tomato cans?

They already have those. Half the damn Panther Video line-up has that covered. Not to mention Don “the Dragon” Wilson ’s opponents in his straight to 99-cent video movies!

My point is, just don’t be so picky. Train with a lot. Cover a lot of bases. And be really basic with how you practice—just learn to hit and to counter-hit, and how to move. Do that, and you will have a nice set of functional movements to work with. The more unfamiliar ground you cover, the less awkward everything will be. Remember, an expert fighter is functional regardless of the circumstances he finds himself in. If you refuse a point match because you don’t like rules, you’re limiting yourself. If you roll your sticks before training with them, you’re limiting yourself. If you have to have a clearing to practice outside, need to have the right shoes or uniform, only practice certain forms of the art, reject certain weapons because of preference, you are limiting your ability to do whatever arises when it’s time to do it.

So, if the Master is teaching in a bullet-riddled building with pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers walking around out front, you are missing the opportunity to train on uneven ground. And the unfamiliar is what we strive to get to know.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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Teaching the Meek and Timid

A few days ago, a gentleman answered an ad I placed, which was for my gym.

Wait. Let me jump in and let you guys know this. Last month, I abruptly closed my school, and then a week later opened a gym. I named it “Streetfighter Fitness”. I would like to post an article about my reasons for doing so, and include in it my philosophy about streetfighting and fitness—and commercialism and the traditional martial arts school.

So, anyway… he answered the ad, which was headlined:  Kung Fu Training at Streetfighter Fitness. When he came down, he realized that he had once considered my old school, which is just a mile away from where I’m located now. We got to talking about his martial arts experience (he has a Korean style background) and why he was looking to do something different. He said something significant, something I’d heard many times:

Guro, I wanted to join your school, but it seemed intimidating and a little too aggressive for me.

This is a product brand for me; a reputation or marketing position, if you will. What sets us apart from the other martial arts schools—at least, the traditional schools—is that we do train aggressively. Even the way our school looks appeals to those who want toughness and tradition. Many come because our school is vastly different from anything in town, the anti-commercial martial arts school. We train hard, my students all have muscular builds—even the women and children—and the setting is hard and cold. It is the place that everyone in town knows about, but few ever set foot inside to see what we do. I have witnessed many times, someone recommending (or warning them to stay away from) my school because of what they heard or deduced about what we do.

But two things I’d like to say. First, almost no one comes into my school this way. Nearly everyone is somewhat timid and soft… that’s why they are there. Yet this is not to say that they were cowards. There is a certain level of toughness you must have to enter a place that makes you nervous, and to keep coming back until you are absorbed into its coldness, and become part of that hard environment. This is a major part of the tempering process that martial arts teachers must understand about their role as teachers. It is the art of turning a timid man into an aggressive one. With some, you must rebuild him much in the fashion that military basic training does it. With others, you simply unleash the tiger within him, as many men have a repressed animal inside them that is hidden by fear, upbringing or social expectations of his behavior. Even physically, they rarely come in with those muscular builds. My students’ physiques are a by-product of the type of training they endure. Their personalities and courage are likewise shaped by the way that I interact with them, and how I expect them to interact with each other.

The second point is that as a teacher, I am not trying to put on a show. Our image is not a gimmick. We simply do what we do, and it happens to be very different in my local martial arts community. Where I come from it is the norm, but around Sacramento , we stand out. Some of it is planned; I may be uneducated, but I’m no dummy. People like what is different, and one of the keys to commercial success is to eliminate competition by being in an industry by yourself. When I came to Sacramento , I was the only FMA-only school in town. Sure, there were Eskrima/Arnis/Kali classes on every corner, but we were the only place offering FMAs 7 days a week. In that, I was in a class of my own. If you wanted full contact, there were three schools that offered it here—Thomas Gibbs’ West Wind, Navaroni’s/Marinobles, and Gatdula’s. Also, I was the only teacher still in the ring at that time. Today, full-contact schools are everywhere, but again, we are in our own category:  The only FMA empty hand school, the only school with an all-female fighting team, the only school with a fighting Kung Fu program. At the last Muay Thai tournament, my student, Michael Hoops, was the only beginner fighting, and the only Kung Fu man competing. We are always the only FMA school fighting, and we represent at every MT event locally. Check out the tour of my last location, and you’ll see how my school was arranged. We have the necessary tools to develop the skills and techniques I require my students to learn; some things were purchased for that purpose, while some things were made/”jerry-rigged”. But all are functional—just like the pieces of my curriculum.

But enough about me. Let’s talk about the student.

Understand that many of your new students do not have the swagger of a seasoned fighter. If they drop out, I don’t agree that students truly leave because training is “too hard”(as I’ve heard many of my own students say). I believe that there are levels of intensity and intimidation that should be incorporated into martial arts training at specific points. We must learn what they are, and which measures are appropriate. These should not be blanket or standard things; each student is different, as is each teacher, teaching style and class format. For example, know when and how to reprimand a student. I believe in reprimanding students for poor effort, over-aggression, and character problems. It should never be done publicly, and while some beginners will accept it, I believe this is something for advanced students. You have built a rapport with them, and psychologically they are tough enough to take extreme criticism. Beginners may be reprimanded if they have been counseled several times for things such as failing to control one’s temper or being too heavy handed and they continue. The learning process is curved, and few students will learn at the same pace. The experienced teacher knows when to modify his teaching, and for whom. This is the key to teaching the timid, which represents possibly 75% of the beginning martial arts students in our schools. If we learn to harness the ability to turn them into tough-guys at their own rate and in a style that suits them best, you’ll have animals in no time.

I hope that you will be able to use some of this information when planning and teaching your classes. Thank you for visiting my blog.

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How “The Karate Kid” Single-handedly Effed-up the Martial Arts Industry

Hey, don’t get me wrong. I loved Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita’s “The Karate Kid”. If you recall, I’ve made plenty of references to the movie series on this blog. But there was a downside to it all. Some of us remember a time that martial arts study was a serious adult thing;  you only got involved if you were hard-core and regardless of who your teacher was, you did the damned thing. After “The Karate Kid”? Well, our classes swelled with 13-year old wannabes, until the Adult class became two time slots at 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, because Sensei needed Monday – Thursday early times for the little ones so they could get home, dinner, homework and bed at a decent hour.

One of the things that you may remember about the movie:  How quickly Daniel-san was able to defeat serious martial arts students in a few months. Wasn’t that amazing? They didn’t even go through an entire winter before Daniel-san was whuppin’ em. He had the same haircut through the whole movie, the same muscular build (okay, so they didn’t have CGI back then, but at least have him do some body-building for the film! Cover it up with geek clothes until the later scenes, when he reveals his “new” body. I should have been a movie director!) and if you ask me, the message sent was “inside of two hours, you could go from nerd to Karate fighter-badass and smack around big boys who have been training for years. After all, Cobra-Kai Sensei didn’t seem the type to award a 2 year McDojo Black Belt. I could just hear kids all across the nation, pestering their Masters (real masters, I must add), “when do I get the next belt???”  And to talk of completely fucking up the martial arts (excuse the lingo, but I never promised that this was a family-oriented Blog), the true, hard-core martial arts teacher (a redundancy, if you ask me—“true” and “hard-core”, that is) became the bad guy. Guys teaching fighting are supposedly got it all wrong. After all, in the words of the late, great Mr. Miyagi:  “Karate for defense only.” Oh yeah, since when? You mean to tell me that the farmers of Okinawa who trained this art, weren’t endeavoring to crack a sternum with their reverse punch? Or that they waited until they could see through a black eye before using their “self-defense”? And I am sure, that it took a lot longer than a 2 hours movie to get them beating up Black Belts. Kids learned to be impatient, teachers learned to become neutered Boy Scout leaders who put down those who taught ass-whipping for a living. And those kids are now the Masters and school owners of today, several generations over. Today, you can have a Si Gung (grandteacher) who have been in the art fewer than 10 years. I know of a man, not to far from me (won’t say his name, but he reads this blog; we’ve talked about it a few times) who got his Black Sash (whatever that is, sorry!) in 3 years, then he gave them in 30 – 36 months, and some of his students are now giving it in two years. He’s not too happy about it, but to me, there is very little difference between a Black Belt given in 2 years and one given in 3 years, unless one is studying 5 days a week…

Was it me, or did Daniel-san spend a concerning amount of time with a drunk single guy, even speaking to him affectionately and putting him to bed at one point? Didn’t Michael Jackson get in trouble for some stuff like that?

Okay, I’m sorry for that one. I’m wrong… strike that.

The point is that the while the movie was good for business, there was a huge price we paid for the commercialization of the arts. No, we didn’t have to play with Daniel-san or Miyagi-san dolls. I don’t even think we had to endure “The Karate Kid” video games (actually, I don’t know how that would have worked with just dashes and circles… I think that’s all that video games did back then), but the interest generated by the movie brought money and corruption into the arts. It turned the game from a life-changing study into a kid’s after-school activity—or worse, into a hobby—or worse than that… a multilevel marketing alternative.

I love Jackie Chan. I love Will Smith, so I guess I’d probably love his kid. Considering that his mom is one of my favorite actresses, and how their marriage is a great example to us all, I should love everything about this movie. But I’m hoping that this version, which I have yet to see, so don’t tell me about it, will bring back some truths about the martial arts, where the first movie (God forgive me for this martial arts blasphemy!) failed:

  • Martial arts is very hard work. You won’t be able to study for a few months and outdo those who have done it for a lifetime. Even if your Sifu is the great Jackie Chan
  • Karate and Kung Fu are NOT the same. Period. (But The Kung Fu Kid has already been made, and it’s very violent)
  • You don’t get to strap on a Black Belt in a few years
  • Fighting teachers are just as much qualified as the “other” martial arts teachers who use fighting as a side dish to philosophical study
  • Sometimes, you can work your tushie off, and still lose. There is such a thing called being outclassed. And no matter how good of a person you are, no matter how much you desire to win, the better prepared man will beat you every time. Daniel-san certainly gave us that false impression. A man can’t win on desire and heart alone
  • Courage is not just getting in the game, but using the tools God gave you properly. And sometimes, you can defeat the superior fighter off of courage. But you still need the tools to get the job done

Either way, I am pushing for this movie. I loved the first movie, and I definitely love the actors in this one, so I’ll probably love this one too. I just know that the first movie overhauled the entire industry, and perhaps this version will bring it back.

 Don’t hold your breath.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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