New Monthly Class in Merced, CA

Typhoon Philippine School of Martial Arts is pleased to announce a series of new monthly classes to be taught in Merced, California!

We will be offering classes in Jow Ga Kung Fu and Gatdula Fighting Eskrima the first Sunday of the month! You must be at least 12 to enter the Kung Fu class, and at least 16 to enter the Eskrima class. Eskrima students who stay three consecutive months will receive free sticks with their tuition. We will not post the location on this blog entry; please contact us for more information through our website, www.typhoonma.com. Kung Fu is from 12 – 2 p.m., and Eskrima will be from 2 – 4 p.m. Tuition for either class is $70, and if you choose to enroll in both, you can do so for $120.  No experience is necessary to enroll!

This is a great opportunity to learn rare martial arts style in a very traditional style and enhance your martial arts ability. Serious students only.

Thank you for visiting our blog!

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Weightlifter Self-Defense

Earlier this afternoon, I was speaking to a gentleman who had taken the equivalent of 18 months worth of martial arts. It was not a McDojo by any means (his teacher was a gentleman named Steve Habib, of Marysville, CA who is quite a good fighter), but to many who are not really in “the know” when it comes to real martial arts–would dismiss this gentleman’s martial arts experience. He had taken Tae Kwon Do lessons, learned a few Hapkido moves here and there, and worked out regularly with a Kenpo Karate student. This man had once been soft and overweight, but under Sabumnim Habib’s tutelage, had become very fit and had learned to spar.

The dojang was located next door to a gym, run by a Nigerian body builder named Chaka (forgot the last name), who was a chiropractor prior to pursuing a career in body building, and the gentleman I met supplemented his workouts by lifting weights. Under Habib, the man, Scott, learned to punch and kick and to fight. Under Chaka, he learned proper techniques for weight-lifting and became very strong and developed a physique he still has today. Scott proudly holds a Yellow Belt in Tae Kwon Do, and has not had a martial arts lesson in over 15 years, since achieving this Yellow Belt. But listen to his experience…

He was in the Air Force and worked overnights with 12 hour shifts. He could not attend regular classes, so he attended the morning class and ended up sparring with his teacher two days a week for about 10 – 15 minutes each time. In his classes, he only performed about 25-30 reps of his punches and kicks, but occasionally did 50 to 100. He did all the things TKD students did:  kata practice, stance training, one-step sparring, basic self-defense. About two or three days a week, he lifted weights with Chaka and two coworkers from his military unit. And at least one day a week, he got together to spar with other young men from his unit.

Doesn’t seem very profound, does it?

Well, some things significant did happen. Scott became confident. He bulked up a little. He felt his strength develop. He learned, in essence, to fight. His meetings with other karateka were infrequent and casual, and they were not Black Belters. But they were fun. After a little over a year of this (his version) fanatical training experience, he had learned to handle himself, and ridded himself of the fear of fighting. 18 months after meeting Habib, Scott got out of the military, and got a few jobs, eventually becoming a police officer. One of those jobs was a security guard in a restaurant/club, and this is what inspired me to write this article.

Scott was a bouncer and he said something really, really profound:  I was in no way an ass-kicker. But I wasn’t afraid of anybody after facing Mr. Habib twice a week, and I felt like I was strong enough to give any man a run for his money. Even when I faced guys who looked scary, and I was a little nervous, and could command the situation to keep myself out of a fight. Wow. No stories about kicking the bad guy in behind. No stories about hurting people. He simply avoided trouble by not being afraid to do what he was trained to do, and knowing that he had the physical ability to carry it out if needed.

Let me restate that for emphasis:

He avoided trouble by

  1. Not being afraid to use his art
  2. Knowing he had the physical ability to do what he was trained to do

In a nutshell, Scott had learned basically how to fight. He didn’t learn any MMA moves, or how to fight from the guard, or how to knock a man out, or how to disarm a knife-wielding opponent, etc. He simply learned how to throw a punch or kick, and what to do if he was attacked. Then, he developed a little physical ability by lifting weights–and I’m sure that was accompanied by the appearance of a man you shouldn’t screw with. The result is what we in the martial arts would call a self-defense success:  a man who doesn’t have to fight.  But if he had to fight, he would be able to perform.

As teachers, this is a good teaching strategy to have. We give them skills they can use, and then make sure we have trained them well-enough that they’ve developed some strength to ensure that weapons are powerful enough to get the job done. When those two goals are accomplished, you end up with a guy who can avoid trouble just by not being a sitting duck. See, most bad guys know who to avoid–and sometimes, often, they can see what’s in your T-shirt and know that messing with you is a mistake.

You could do what I do, and teach body weight exercises. But that is the long way. Weightlifting is something that does it much faster, and you don’t need a whole lot of learning to train yourself. I call this “weightlifting self-defense”. Simply put, you could take what Scott told me and eliminate the martial arts lessons (but keep the weightlifting) and accomplish the same goal. Because the bottom line of Scott’s philosophy is that he didn’t necessarily know a lot about fighting, but he looked the part and felt the part. And for most trouble makers, that’s all you need.

He proudly holds a Yellow Belt in Tae Kwon Do, and as a police officer he had used a few of those techniques a few times, I’m sure. But I believe his martial arts knowledge is legitimate and useful and serves the purpose that the martial arts is supposed to serve. McDojos across America promise this in nearly every ad I’ve ever seen:  Self-confidence. But in at least Steve Habib’s Han Mi Tae Kwon Do Studio’s case, he delivered.

Thanks for visiting my blog. If you happen to live in the Twin Cities area and are looking for good martial arts, I highly recommend that school. (And no, I am not paid to say that! LOL!)

Hey, while you’re here, go over to the “Offerings” page and order my book! Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months

On Quitting the Martial Arts

When it comes to children and the martial arts, I have a philosophy.

As a businessman, I do quote the common adage, that we do not want to encourage children to begin quitting things. Mr. Prospective Karate Mom/Dad–if you just sign the contract–don’t look at it as obligating little Johnnie; we are merely teaching him to accomplish goals and finish what he started! YOU are the parent! Allow him to begin quitting, today it’s Karate, and tomorrow it’ll be high school, colleges and marriages… blah blah blah.

There’s some truth to that. However, before parents and Guros allow a kid to quit, we have to look at why little Johnnie wants to quit. Is it because it’s really difficult to get those two left feet to function as right and left? Or is it that Big Johnnie put Little Johnnie in an activity that Big Johnnie himself quit as a child? Or that one kid who is really good and makes the other kids feel like they’ll never be that good? Is it that little Johnnie finds the sparring unpleasant? Is he small and weak? Or is he aggressive, but so aggressive he’s in trouble all the time?

Here’s the thing. Children are not robots. They have opinions. They have preferences. Sometimes, a kid really doesn’t like the martial arts. But very often, a kid loves the martial arts, but quits because he is either having a difficult time learning or excelling in the art. As a teacher or parent, you commit a disservice if you do not foster or encourage his interest by letting him quit… or make him continue doing it when he genuinely doesn’t like it. You also have a duty to get him the help he needs to continue with his martial education. I have seen good martial arts students with dedication, hard work ethic and a genuine love for the art quit after being unable to keep up with more athletic-inclined classmates. It’s a shame when that happens; yet it is commonplace.

By the way, this applies to adults as well.

This is why I believe in the institution of private lessons. A teacher may not have the time or energy to schedule private lessons for students who need more attention than what is normally given in a regular group class. In that case, it is simply a case of student-teacher-school incompatibility. I have had this happen to me as well, and in those cases I have formed a relationship with other teachers who either had the expertise I lacked or the time to do the private lesson. Some issues are small ones and can be fixed with a good, thorough explanation and a few demonstrations. Others need several short lessons taught one-on-one over a few weeks or months.

I’ll give you an example. When I was a young man, I worked for a chain school called “Kim’s Karate”. We had a young lady who was diligent and did everything right, except she had a difficult time sparring. She was timid and small, but limber and strong. As she moved up in rank, my grading became stricter and more demanding. Now, Kim’s policy did not allow me to fail her (because of the lack of progress in sparring), but it was becoming more evident as she moved up that she was falling behind in fighting ability. Our location was known as the ass-kicking location of a school not known to put out good fighters, and she wanted to live up to that rep. Frustrated, she attempted to quit on us.

I was only 21 at the time, but I recognized the need, and scheduled private lessons. They were at first free, but eventually she paid for them–and guess what happened? She slowly became one of our top female fighters–even defeating her husband in sparring matches. Now, the $100 question:  what did we do?

I gave her about 4 or 5 combinations, each combo had an offensive version and a counter-offensive version, and we just worked that, sparring for 20 – 30 minutes each lesson. I closed off every session with push-ups and chair dips. That’s it.

It took about 4 lessons for her to realize her progress in sparring. They were free, and by the time our sales staff began charging her, she not only remained in her contract, she gladly paid for those private lessons.

I’ve done the same with children. You can use this with anything–fitness level, flexibility, aggression, “mousiness” (lol)… When a kid wants to quit something he used to bug Mommy to do, something’s wrong. If you don’t question why he or she wants to quit and just allow him to do it without confronting the intimidating reasons forcing him or her to quit, then yes, you are encouraging him or her to be a quitter. Think about how this pertains to other things that kids (or you) quit:  sports, hobbies, friends, relationships, JOBS, college, you name it.

Hope I’ve given you something to think about.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Moe Lama, Karate Master

I would like to share a clip with you, and introduce you to a gentleman that I admire. His name is Master Moe Lama, and he is a Kenpo Karate teacher from the Bay area.

If you watch the clip, you will see a very cagey fighter. He is slick, difficult to hit, difficul to get away from, and does many difficult things like hit you while he’s falling, or hitting you while YOU’RE falling. He is very mobile despite being a little rotund. He gets tired in a 3 minute match, cannot kick as high but can land when he wants and is not very quick as the other fighters, but what is so unique about him is that he is an older man. How many of us will still be able to get up and fight men 20 years younger and beat them, when we are past age 50, even past age 60? Master Lama has many fans, not because he wins all the time, because he doesn’t–but because he still gets out there and fights when most people can no longer do it.

But I tell you this–even when Master Lama loses, it is to a man younger than me, he most likely gave that fighter pure hell, and he looks damned good doing it.

I hope he will inspire many of you to keep your skills going until you get to this age. Enjoy!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Lesson Martial Arts Mastery, from Ama Guro Billy Bryant

I have spent a lot of time in Stockton, California, lately and in the last month I’ve encountered quite a few martial artists–a few who practiced Arnis/Eskrima. There was an Eskrima group that was training at the University, a young man who worked at a Starbuck’s, an attorney, and two security guards.

To my surprise, all of them–including the gentlemen who seemed to practice regularly–were very casual in their approach to the arts. I don’t know if it’s a “Left Coast” thing, or a modern-day thing, or just coincidence. But the martial artists I came up with were pretty fanatical about their art. If you take a look around my students, you will notice that even the ones who train “casually”–a few days a week–are Hogs on the training floor. It shows in their confidence level, their toughness mentally as well as physically, and ultimately their skill in performing or applying the art. I would like to share a lesson from my old friend, Master Billy Bryant.

I used to visit Billy at his school in Pasadena, MD in the mid 90s to train and spar. He had hired a young man whom he taught his Cha-3 Kempo to teach the bulk of his classes. This enabled Billy to focus on his FMA full-time; although he only taught Arnis once or twice a week, Billy’s FMAs were 7 days a week. He was well-versed in other arts:  he was a certfied Jow Ga Kung Fu Sifu, yet taught only one Jow Ga student privately. He held a Tae Kwon Do Black Belt, along with belts in Kenpo, Jeet Kune Do and Jujitsu–yet he did not teach these arts at all. Tournament fighting, which I went to Billy for, was something he did very hands on. In other words, he would spar with me until he got tired of it and then he’d change the subject to Arnis. I was not interested in the same type of FMAs he liked, so I would change the subject back to sparring and try to lure him back into another match. Billy really was the man to beat in those days, and he didn’t have to actually teach a class for you to learn from him. Just put on the gloves and try to hit him and you got lesson enough.

But back to the FMAs, each time I came to see him, he was always trying something out. He was always handing me sticks and asking me to play the Sinawali with him (I was one of the only people who could do Sinawali for a long time with him, and the only one who could do it with the metal pipes), or engage in some drill or empty hands practice. After arriving around 2 each Saturday, there were many days he and I just slept in the school because we didn’t finish until 2 – 3 a.m. So that amounted to about 2 hours of sparring and then about 10 hours of FMA. And the only time it wasn’t that much FMA, he would entertain visitors from a host of other martial arts styles who would come to share, learn or trade. I learned Biu Jee from a man who had come from Baltimore to learn how to apply his Wing Chun to point sparring. I debated the importance of disarming with a man who came to Billy to discuss having him come out to teach a seminar in Western Maryland. I watched a gentleman teach him what appeared to be an entire curriculum of hand and knife techniques. After all of these men had come and left, Billy and I would often practice until the wee hours of the morning. If he had a student with him, that student would participate. I used to chuckle to myself about how a student would tell him several times that he had something to do, but he would coax the student into staying and practicing. He was amazing to watch, and equally amazing to exchange with. There was this feeling of, “if I just keep sparring with him, I may not beat him, but some of his skill will seep into my skill and I’ll get better.”

And I’d like to tell you this:  It does.

See, when you have a teacher who trains a lot, practices a lot, and you touch hands with him–just like a contagious disease–whatever he possesses you will soon possess through osmosis. Some of it is from imitation, in that we picture the martial arts we’d like to emulate, and then we mimic him. Some of it is from feeling the fighter’s energy and power; therefore, you learned what cannot be learned strictly through observation. But a lot of it is plain old osmosis. We are in the environment where excellence exists, and because we are there, we participate in its cycle. If you are around lazy people, you become lazy. If you are around fighter-tough guys, you become a fighter-tough guy. My son is an aggressive boy, and he likes to spar. When I first allowed him to join a Kuk Sul Won class outside my school (at the time I did not teach children and my boys’ class was for teenagers only), his behavior was seen as disruptive and too aggressive. But by the time I had started a class in my school for younger children and allowed my son to join, he had adopted the learning environment of the KSW class (Miss Kym/Ma’am, you are the bomb!) and their children began to enjoy at sparring where they once cried. Win-win!

Teachers must create the environment that demands the steps that lead to the outcome they want. Can you understand that? You see, Billy wanted to be famous. Anyone close to him knew that. So he employed people (like Police Officer Kenneth Willis) to write articles about how great Billy Bryant was and how much ass he could kick. But guess what? Billy knew that as a Black American, he would not be accepted as one of the best, unless he was clearly the best. I challenge any man reading this article to find anyone claiming that Billy Bryant was not at least one of the best.

At 50 years old, Billy could easily hand any man half his age his severed buttock and send him home with three shoes–two on his feet and one in his ass. He trained to make sure that he maintained that skill. And because of it–10 years after his last “sighting”–the primary internet search that brings people to my blog is “Ama Guro Billy Bryant”. The man was fully committed to excelling at the art, and was willing to do what it took to accomplish what he set out to do.

For those whose command of the English language is not as sharp as mine (you’d be surprised how bad I actually am!) let me reiterate, restate and reemphasize:

For Martial Arts Mastery you must have two very important things besides knowledge:

  1. The commitment to excel in the art
  2. The willingness to do whatever it takes to accomplish and fulfill that pledge

There are many out there who want to be martial arts “Masters”. So they take seminars. They saddle up next to the man, sitting next to the man, sitting next to the man… etc. They write articles, publish books and produce videos. They create mulitlevel marketing hierarchies and organizations and promotion venues. They pick up neat little tricks and drills and jargon and quasi-Tagalog terms to impress the sheep with. They marry Filipinas. They wear dresses and wrap their hair in bandanas and put patches on their uniforms. They take cool pictures with fancy Filipino weapons and famous masters. They join large organizations and build their reputations by having a lot of friends.

But none of those so-called masters can truly be a master until at least one guy who knows him proclaims “I wouldn’t want to encounter that guy in a dark alley” and mean it. In other words, MASTERY is a by-product of excellence. You’re not a master unless you excel. You don’t excel because you’ve been bestowed with a Master title or oversized name tag. The first step to becoming a master is, in fact, information. But the second step, which cannot be skipped or dismissed, is the importance of possessing far above average skill and command of the material you know. It must be as important a goal as acquiring the knowledge. You must acknowledge that simply learning is not enough, you must be able to do. What Guro Bryant knew of the FMA, he knew well and could do well. And as a teacher, he ensured that those around him were on that path themselves. We cannot fail to instill this sense of duty as martial arts teachers; if we do that we commit an injustice to our students.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

The Masters Who Die Alone

I have been fortunate in my lifetime to have had the acquaintance of many Masters of the fighting arts. Not all of these men owned successful martial arts schools, and not all of them were FMA teachers. But what they had in common was a lifetime of commitment to practice and propogation of the martial arts. In almost every case, these Masters lived out their last days being taken for granted–poor, lonely, and eager for an ear to talk about their experiences. Sadly, in  few of these times, I was taught techniques from their art and asked to carry the torch of their systems. And equally sad, I have had to decline such a gift.

It would be easy to blame the students of these Masters for the death of the secrets of the arts and systems. However, lazy and uncommitted students is far too common to place blame on the students. Instead, the gamble of the life of a lifelong martial arts is that we will delve headfirst into the art, learn, master and develop our arts, and then fail to find a suitable student to pass the art to. There are four careers to the life of a martial artist:

1. The martial arts student – This is the stage that is taken for granted much to often. The student should spend a proper amount of time learning the art, so that he is not wasting his time in years to come learning new things when he should be developing and fine tuning what he has learned. “Always a student” is the fallacy created by teachers who have inferior knowledge and therefore take seminars, buy DVDs and correspondence courses while they have students who look to them for deep knowledge. When the student has fully explored the art and learned a decent amount of information, he will need to spend a good portion of his life developing this knowledge. If not, he will pass on shallow knowledge to his students of material he really has no expertise in. I always say that the path to “Instructor” status is not a race! But that’s not how martial artists today treat this very important stage.

2. The Martial Arts Fighter – In this stage, one is still learning. But the focus here is testing the knowledge you have acquired and forging one’s own preferences, fighting philosophy, and reputation… on the skill of other fighters. This is not so much a “stage” as it is a career. I would say that one’s fighting career should equal the span of years he was a student. So if it took 5 years to get your Black Belt, your fighting career should last 5 years. Call it sport, call it tag, whatever. But if you are to be an effective fighter–and TEACH effective fighting–you must have had your own experiences and enough time standing across from another fighter whose goal is to prove that he is superior to you. However you get it, you must get this experience and it must have been against enough strange fighters that you can truly call yourself “experienced”. Without it, you will be a teacher of nothing but theory. During this career, your training is mostly solo, and fighting is your mission. This is the most important stage you will draw on for the majority of your martial arts journey, most of what you say and do all the way to death will reference what you accomplished here. Trust me, when you are a 65 year-old Master no one will care what you did as a 21 year-old Green Belter.

3. The Martial Arts Teacher – This is the next progression from your fighting career. It can overlap your fighting career, but it cannot overlap your learning career. Your students, however, will benefit more from your knowledge if you begin teaching after you have let your fighting career run its course. During this time, you teach from experience and try to develop your teaching philosophy. You must determine in what way is your art best taught. You will have to develop a curriculum, decide what is learned when, and what method you will use to impart this knowledge. I would have to say that you should have promoted a minimum of two generations of students during this time to be considered a good teacher. This stage consists of three things:  development of the curriculum, development of the teaching style, and student selection. The third of these items, student selection, is one that is often downplayed–yet vital to the last stage of one’s martial arts career. It is the reason I have met these lonely old masters who lament the fact that they have no champion; they began with inferior martial arts students, and therefore did not have a good candidate to pass the torch to in their twilight years. Teaching involves more than just handing out business cards and issuing certificates. It further involves more than simply learning communication skills and learning how to explain concepts. Some of my best teachers did not speak the same language as I do. For example, I one learned an entire form, which included details such as rupturing arteries and veins, seizing nerves and dislocating joints from Chan Man Cheung–who only speaks Cantonese. Rather, a true teacher can impart these things without the use of skills like language.

4. The Martial Arts Master – This is the final career of one’s martial arts journey. It is not quite the same as the teacher, in that you are preparing for retirement. You must have taught at least 2 – 3 true generations of students (by the way, I consider a block of 4 – 5 years of students as one generation) before you may consider yourself a Master of the art. I would say that as a Master, you would have at least 200-300 people who consider you their Guro (past and/or present), others in your community know you as a Master, and you have successfully made it through all the previous careers–full careers. It is in this stage, that you become extra picky in who you choose to teach. You will begin to hold back information while waiting for your students to decide that they are serious about the art, and you anxiously search for the one or two students who will take the rest of your knowledge–the stuff you hadn’t shown anyone before–and carry it on to future generations. Get started on this as soon as you are ready. I have been working on it for nearly a decade, and the pickings are slim.

You could skip these careers and treat your martial arts as, well, a career. You could casually teach the art to whomever, promote whoever whenever you want, and act as if you will always be here on God’s green Earth. But you will die alone, with unfulilled martial arts students. But prepare for your retirement like you would your finances, and avoid such an undignified closing to your martial arts journey.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Five Fatal Techniques for Dominance

I want to offer something really short, and perhaps I will expound on them–or perhaps I will not. But if you incorporate them, I guarantee that any fight you ever engage in will result in your opponent going to the hospital–or worse.

  1. Attack the Jaw–no amount of weight-lifting can protect the jaw. To hell with what the toughest fighter will tell you about neck bridges or the advertisers will tell you about their nifty new mouthpieces. Become an expert at landing a good shot on the jaw, at the correct angle, and your opponent will always walk away with a broken one. And trust me, you cannot focus with a broken jaw. It is the first indication that unless you do something drastic, you are on your way to a street-level ass-whipping.
  2. Attack the neck and throat–ditto trying to protect it. There is no way to protect it 100% of the time, especially when you are bent on trying to attack your opponent as well. Anytime you move to hit, kick, or grab your opponent, your neck and/or throat will be exposed. A good shot to the side of the neck hurts like nothing else, and although there is a delay, I have knocked people out with a hit to the side of the neck.
  3. Where possible, break the opponent’s fingers. I have used this technique myself in the last altercation I was in. He grabbed me and I took him down in a hold. Each time I tried to let him up he tried to fight again, so I broke his fingers. Not only did he scream like I shot him, but there was no fight left in him and even his friends who attacked me were spooked by it. I could have broken his fingers less than 5 seconds after he put his hands on me because this is a regular technique I practice for my own fighting style (more on this art later) and for me it is second nature.
  4. Gouge the eyes–sure, everyone’s got it. But not many people use this as a go-to technique for combat. When I practice, it is a regular knee-jerk reaction because it is a vital part of my fighting art. If I ever ended up in a fight where I felt like killing you, I would start with this and hopfully it will keep you alive. But there is a mental barrier to doing so, and you have to prepare yourself to do it well in advance. A man probably won’t die from it, but this type of injury is like death. If I use a pencil to do it, I guarantee I will kill you. It is a part of every self-defense course I teach, but it is not something I emphasize to casual students, as this is not much different to teaching use of a handgun in a child safety program. It is dangerous, but if you are faced with you or him, start with this one. Btw, your middle finger is long enough to reach his brain via the eye socket. So a pencil? Hmm…
  5. Finally, I am going to reserve this one for whomever comes to study with me in person and cites this article. Like I said, information must be earned, and sometimes, purchased. But this is one of those things that 99.9% of people won’t reach for, and if they don’t want it that bad, I simply won’t share. Hope you understand, I do this for a living, and I have three little ones to feed.

None of these techniques are new or profound, but they are not really emphasized in most arts. To employ the fatal characteristics of an art does not require a new video or a one-time-only seminar, just a focus to the right mentality for your martial arts. Hope I have shared something valuable with you.

Thanks for visiting my blog.