Path to Mastery: Everything Is Effortless

I want to share a secret of the Masters with you, and I hope you do not misconstrue it. This is not slight-of-hand…

The Masters train like mad. Even the old men will practice when you’re not looking. My grandfather use to tell me that a good teacher does not sweat in front of his boys, and this is something that I disagreed with for a long time. After reaching my late 30s, I began to understand what he meant in many ways. I would like to break it down in very simple terms, so try and keep up with me.

  1. The path to mastery involves a long, slow, uphill drive to skill. It is not something that you can develop as a “second” art. For example, I do not have a “second” art. Each art I studied has had its turn being my “primary” art. Each time I studied an art, I did it full-time with a master, and trained like a fanatic day in and day out. I almost neglected my other arts while pursuing the other arts I knew at the time. Those who remember me as a boxer, they only saw me as a boxer. They remember me talking of the martial arts, but do not recall seeing me train or study. When I was around my Jow Ga brothers, I was only seen doing Jow Ga. When I on the tournament karate circuit, I was seen as just a point fighter. When I kickboxed, people only saw me kickbox. This allowed me to fully understand and develop as a Kung Fu man, as a Kuntaw man, as an Eskrimador. And each of these arts, I can do equally as well. When you undertake a second art–as most of our FMA men in the West do–seminars and superficial won’t make you a master. A good litmus test for whether your training is superficial? Look around you while training. Is the teacher/assistant still teaching someone his basic strokes? Are you learning/practicing stuff that the beginners are learning at the same time? Then yes, you are scratching the surface. The beginners have their time, the intermediate guys have their time, and the advance people should have their time. Seminars–regardless of how deep you think the training is going–only scrapes the surface of the art you are learning. Most of the things you need at the higher levels of the art cannot be taught in groups. Training the right way takes humility, patience, and focus on what you are doing and mastering it, not to be taken on the fast track to “apprentice instructor”. The path to mastery does not have an “apprentice instructor” level. That is reserved for the seminar/crash course guys.
  2. You must make what you do seem effortless. Masters practice to maintain what they gained as students and young experts. But they also understand the need to continuously develop and improve. Even the older, fatter, balder master needs to have a few tricks up his sleeve that amazes the young guys. This is not something you just learn and have. It takes a lot of work, and you have to be able to perform this skill on demand as a master. When my grandfather was in his 70s I still saw him practice early in the morning, and he never ceased to amaze me. He would do literally hundreds of strokes with his cane, a kitchen knife, even hitting the fence post out back. And every once in a while he would demonstrate something–a skill, a technique, that I had both never seen him do before as well as was unable to duplicate. Some of those things I do now:  rattan breaking in 1-3 strokes, brick/board breaking, piercing fruit with the fingertips, accuracy strikes (machete vs. 1″ space under the bottom of your grip on a stick), power strikes, sparring skill. There are many things I can do that my students have not seen me do, and I practice them frequently. What do they have to do with fighting? Nothing. But as a Master of the art, you must have these tricks that demonstrate your proficiency. A man who can do what 90% of his peers can’t do can call himself a “master”. But if he possess nothing (screw knowledge, martial arts is all about what can you do) that his peers can’t do, he’s just one of the crowd. Master, kiddies, is not something you automatically get just for hanging around long enough or gaining enough certificates. There are lots of people who do call themselves “master” with rank and no skills, but they are quickly forgotten. But no one forgets witnessed skill. And you must work on these things a whole lot more often than people realize.
  3. If people see you sweat, and make tons of mistakes, it takes away from your sense of “mastery”. Yes, it is perception. But do not make the mistake of betraying your position in your community trying to be human. Masters are not human, they are experts among the experts. That’s why you have “experts” and then you have “masters”. Arrogance, money and pride is what causes every Joe Blow with a little money and influence to want to call himself a Master. And this cheapens the idea of what a Master is. So then, you get some fat ass certificate collector on the internet saying stupid crap like “there are no Masters/there are no secrets” in the martial arts. Yeah, in your 20 or so seminars that you’ve attended you know better than the guys who have been doing this as a livelihood and passion for their entire lives–feast or famine. Well, put on this headgear and let me show you something… I will admit, there may be a little “slight of hand”, or gimmick to the whole master thing. But every master must be a true master of the art, and can show anyone up, any time. If you cannot do that, stop calling yourself a master. But if you want to have this skill, it takes a lot–a WHOLE LOT–of work. Those little tricks I mentioned earlier? Well they cannot be easily duplicated by the masses, and that alone qualifies you as a master.
  4. The Master cannot be shy. I was a young man meeting masters in Makati, Manila, after meeting a group of Kung Fu students in 1989. There were a few, who had the “humble” thing going. But that was because those men (one Hung Gar teacher, and a Hung Fut teacher) had a student who was their life, and they simply were not interested in more students. I respect that. But the other men? When I confessed to being a kung fu teacher at 19 years old, they couldn’t wait to have me step on the mat with their students. And most of the guys I fought were actually not that good! But they were hard-core, confident, and determined not to let me leave until I had been whipped. (I learned about respect and true confidence, as I had learned to lose purposely to allow a master to save face. It is a lesson very difficult to accept at 19 years old) In each of these cases–the humble guys as well as the aggressive ones–the masters were not shy:  what do you want, why are you here, would you like to have a match, how do I know you are a teacher, let me see your skill. When I was around these men, I knew they were masters. You could feel it in the air.
  5. The true master of the art must know his craft in and out, and you must know it far better than the average guy calling himself an expert. So, what I’m saying is that you must have superior knowledge in addition to the skill. In order to get that, you must have had a longer period of time as a student before calling yourself a teacher. Using my kung fu as an example, I have forgotten more forms than many teachers have even learned in their lifetime. This is because I was a student longer than most people before teaching–9 years–and my teacher was himself a young master. And guess what? My training had me in the gym at least 5 days a week for a majority of that time. So some guy does the long-distance “shaolin by mail” course comparing himself to me? Fool, please. (Like I said… you earned this knowledge and this position, no need to pretend that you don’t deserve the respect and authority that came with it)

This article may have sounded boastful. But it was supposed to be. The man calling himself a “master” of the craft should be insulted if he is referred to anything short of it. What would you call him? “Somewhat knowledgeable”? “Pretty good”? No. He is the best of the best, so if you shut up and listen to him, you might learn something. And he didn’t get there overnight. He is not self-made. He did not take the path that most people can complete. And he has earned the right to call himself as such, and how dare you question his knowledge. He does not have to be likeable. But he is undisputably good at what he does. Not what he knows, but what he can do.

So, put your egos aside when you’re in the presence of a man who knows more than you. Shut up long enough and know your place, you just might learn something. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Size Is Everything

My father use to say that martial artists were the biggest assholes he ever met.

My grandfather used to call martial artists the biggest cowards.

One of my teachers, Boggs Lao, once told me that martial artists had the smallest (manhood).

I have found that all these men were right. There is a certain level of confidence, cockiness, ego, and “big balls” that is supposed to come with the territory of being a fighter, but it isn’t always true. I’ve been called to task because I am a trash-talker. And as one who is supposed to be a senior teacher in the martial arts, I’m not supposed to trash-talk. I don’t think so. I believe that a martial artist who has trained with all his heart, paid his dues, and earned his scars has earned the right not to be humble. Now, please don’t confuse confidence and cockiness with arrogance. I believe that a martial artist should not be arrogant, but he should certainly not eat crow because he doesn’t have to.

When you carry a sharper sword and possess stronger skills than the next guy, there is no need to act as if you were a lamb. On the contrary, you should be letting folks know for their own good that they are making a mistake by messing with you. I am not a big man, nor do I look intimidating. However, I am fully confident that some guy without enough training should look elsewhere if he wants to cross paths with me. If he is a so-called teacher, I’ll oblige him. But some fool walking in my school, will just get an invitation to join in on fight night. It’s like the big guy who accepts a challenge from a 4’9″ 120 lb challenger… what’s the purpose of fighting and beating this guy? So, when you are the bigger man (size, skill, weapons, whatever) it would be an injustice to pretend to be a lamb and allow some unsuspecting idiot to talk his way into an ass-whipping.

Now, if you warn him and the guy thinks you’re bluffing and fights you anyway? Well, that blame lies on him for not listening.

Scenario. I am at a Denny’s and the manager tells some young guys to quiet down or leave. The guys get belligerent and start to threaten the manager. I am a gun-carrying man who then speaks up to the group, asking them to respect the establishment… and the group turns on me. I respond by pretending to be scared, which encourages them to gain confidence and ultimately, attack me. I whip out my gun, and then….


I ask the group to respect the establishment, and they turn on me. I respond by warning them, that unlike the manager I won’t lose my job if I fight. And by the way, if you want to get into some ganster stuff, I hope you kids got more fire power than I have in my waist band right now. Why don’t you quiet down? Problem resolved (most likely)….

Which of these is more ethical?

I had a guy come into my school one time and insult a friend of mine who owned a school nearby. We were having a Kuntaw class with my then intermediate group. Now, let me say that “Intermediates” in my school have a minimum of 4 years training and by this time can easily perform 100 pushups, 1,000 strikes and spar very well. Well, I informed the boy that one of that teacher’s expert students was present and he was welcome to test his skills on him or anyone else in my school. He politely declined. My response? Get your ass over there and apologize (or spar and prove his point) before I get a chance to call him, and never repeat what you just said to me again. That, my friends, was an ethical way of dealing with that type of situation. The wrong way would have been to notify my student and try to trick him into having a match. Or to call my friend and get him ready for the next time he saw the gentleman. It is always better to at least attempt to let someone know they are walking into a bad situation.

But what of the teachers? Do we give them the same respect? NO. I say this because as a teacher, he should know better, and I believe that experts should learn things the hard way. It is the best way for them to learn. Because if they haven’t learned by the time they were so-called experts, writing checks that your ass can’t cash can be very costly and dangerous. I have found that the smaller the teacher’s ability, the larger his ego-boosting. And as I stated earlier, there is a difference between being arrogant and being confident–excuse me, cocky. See, if you are good, you say you’re good and you can prove you’re good, that’s not arrogance, that’s being cocky. But if you’re not that good and you want to act as if you were better than you were, or you’re somewhat good but you try to act better by putting people down, well I call that arrogance. And arrogance is a very dangerous thing, because the higher you perch without belonging there, the more hurtful the fall. You follow me?

When you are the big Guro, then act like it. It is a matter of preference if you decide to act like just some shop owner with a “little bit of training”. But if that’s the case, you shouldn’t be soliciting matches. Because in my opinion that’s the cowardly way of fighting matches. My grandfather use to say that the best fighter puts out the word that he is the best fighter, since he needs doubters and opponents–capable, confident opponents–to prove that he is the best. And it keeps the empty barrels from making noise because as they say in America, put up or shut up. But if your goal is not to prove that you are the best, or not to even be the best, then maybe you shouldn’t act like a big guy. Because acting like a big guy should only be reserved for the actual “big guys”.

Thank you for reading my blog.

Teaching the Squeamish

My grandfather was a picky teacher… so I’m told. I can certainly understand his refusal to teach people if he thought he was the wrong type of student; I have this reservation myself. But I also have mixed feelings on whether or not to refuse students based on judging books by their covers as well as whether I actually believe my Lolo was as picky in his youth.

Here’s why I say that.

Years ago, I went to work for a commercial Karate chain and would come home complaining about the weak students I had inherited when I was hired. Originally, I did not work at any one location for this school–instead, I went from location to location teaching sparring classes. After about 4 months or so of this bouncing around, one of the managers who had a TKD Black Belt liked my teaching style (mind you, I was 20) and requested me to work at his location full-time. The owner offered me a substantial raise, and the manager would assign an assistant to teach the forms, so that I could focus on the rest of the curriculum. In those days, I insisted on sparring with each member of the class while teaching and was a little heavy-handed with the students. Surprisingly, the children and teenagers liked it, but the adults did not. I was frustrated, because for the first time in my life, I witnessed entire classes of martial arts students who were both afraid to hit and be hit. I was starting to feel as if nothing I could do would make these students tough. My grandfather begged to differ.

He gave me some very simple advice, which is now a pillar in my martial arts philosophy:  just work on making them stronger and more skilled in performing the techniques, the courage will build on its own. Against my judgment, I stopped sparring with most of the adults and had them spar each other. We switched our focus to building their basics skills and developing their flexibility and power. We still closed off every session with sparring in short rounds (I used 5, 10 and 20 second rounds to eliminated wasted time) and strength training. And guess what happened? As the students began “smelling themselves”–that is, began realizing their improved strength and skill–they became agressive and less fearful. I saw this transformation before my own eyes, and the lesson I learned was a powerful one.

Back to my grandfather, he used to say that any teacher can impart fighting skills to a worthy student. But the Master-teacher–that is, the master of teaching the martial arts–is capable of turning a coward into a killer. Let this be your lesson today. Your job as a teacher is to find a way to take even the weakest, scariest students, and somehow develop his skills until not only can he handle himself, but do so and dominate his opponents. I am of the opinion that anyone with the desire and the discipline to learn properly can learn. Your job as teacher of the art is to bring that out in a student.

I would like to offer some basic advice in achieving this:

  • development of power is the quickest way for a martial arts student to have confidence in his or her own skills. a powerful punch, kick or strike is similar to having a sharp blade or a firearm; they know that once they unleash it, someone will get hurt. simple knowledge alone won’t do it. the student must know and realize that he has the physical ability to inflict damage. spend ample time developing this in your students, and you will do them a great service.
  • hand condition should be introduced as soon as the student has learned power mechanics. it would be irresponsible to teach power without equipping students with the ability to withstand inflicting a powerful blow. hand conditioning protects the student and takes away his fear from using his fist, and it prevents false confidence in what he can do with that fist.
  • sparring should be introduced slowly for cowardly students. if you throw them into it, they will quit or may be so afraid of the experience they won’t benefit from it. my suggestion is to disguise sparring in the form of “timing drills”. for example, their goal is to touch my chest in sparring and my goal is to touch their chest. we are learning how to time a block and time a chest touch. after a few sessions of this training, they will have the ability to land a hit and to stop one. now, let’s put on the chest protector and go from touching to “touching” with the fist. in other words… boxing. get it?
  • give students a good variety of opponents/training partners to “try” new techniques on. one guy is to try the technique, the other one is to prevent. this is a fast track to developing confidence.

I would like to save some info for the book, so I will stop here. Hopefully you have enough to think about when teaching your classes. Thank you for visiting my blog.

Make sure to check out my book on the “Offerings” page… Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months!


I would like to share a fighting technique I learned from a Si Hing (Kung Fu older brother) of mine, named Stanley Dea.

Stanley, who is now deceased, is the father of a very close Kung Fu sister of mine named Stephanie Dea. Stephanie and I were the youngest of the advanced students under my teacher, Dean Chin–although she spent the majority of her training time with another older brother named Deric Mims, and I learned the bulk of my Jow Ga from Sifu and then my older brother Raymond Wong. Without going much into detail about the politics of the two major factions, she and I were on opposite ends of the school and were both the youngest and most advanced of our generation, yet we were still about as close as kung fu family could get.

Her father, Stanley was an engineer and intellect. If you google him, you will see that he was also an Asian American civil rights fighter. Depending on your politics, he was either a hero or the antagonist. But he was my older brother, one of my early Kung Fu teachers, and I learned a lot from him about Kung Fu as well as life alone. I pray that God has mercy on his soul.

Stanley was an older man, who was fit and not very aggressive. He was our business manager, and was always striving to find more ways for Sifu to make a better living with his Kung Fu. I believe that all martial arts schools that are more traditional than commercial have such a student… and this is a very important role within the walls of the martial arts school. Stanley was also a well-read man. He was forever reading texts on the martial arts, and–true to the Dean Chin philosophy–did not care where the knowledge originated. Like I said, he was an intellect, and while many within the school did not think him to be much of a martial arts resource, was a great resource. I say this because he did not fight much, his performance of kung fu forms at best was mediocre, and he was not competitive. But what I respected about him was that he was earnest in his quest for martial arts knowledge, and what he learned he not only absorbed–Stanley endeavored to put to use or test the knowledge he picked up. I had been in classes with Stanley when Sifu would walk in while he taught and then give us one technique and leave. After class, Stanley would work on that technique over and over, even asking me at times to attack him aggressively so that he could test it out. Being a cocky and somewhat aggressive boy myself–I obliged, attempting to knock his block, but guess what? Most of the time, I was unsuccessful. I respected him, not just because he was my senior, but because Stanley was a serious practitioner of the art and despite what the ignorant young people in my school thought of him, Stanley Dea was a knowledgeable man with fighting skill, and he was no punk. And did I mention that he was a PhD?

So, I recall him asking another senior student about a technique he had read about called “orbiting”. The strategy involved staying in motion in a circle around the opponent, and attempting to throw off the rhythm of the opponent. When the opponent stumbled while trying to keep up with you (in your circular movement), you then stop the orbiting and then make a bee line for the opponent in the center of the circle and take advantage of his vulnerability. Well, after attempting to demonstrate the technique to my other Si Hing, he fumbled with his demonstration while explaining it. My Si Hing laughed and dismissed the technique as one that would never work on him. Not one to just accept defeat, Stanley then grabbed me and we worked on it for a long time. I can still picture the pie-shaped diagram he drew on a sheet of paper to illustrate the technique with the “X” in the center, representing the opponent. I must admit that I even thought the technique was inferior, although I could see the logic in it. Over the next few weeks, I worked on that technique on my own, as I assume that he did as well.

One day, on a Saturday morning (Stanley taught on Saturdays), Stanley taught the class. He had a student put on the gear, and spar with him and to my surprise, the technique worked like poetry. He circled left and right, and seemed to attack and land at will. When the class resumed, we all sparred, and it worked for me as well. Today, this technique is a part of my fight strategy, as it is with many boxers also. Among those who employ this technique with a lot of success is Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao. Try it for yourself. It is a simple strategy, but one that is difficult to follow and counter.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Warriors Caught Weaponless

Never get caught with your pants down.

Or, perhaps I should say:  Never get caught weaponless. That is, if you are a true warrior.

I have been called to the carpet about giving the Sayoc Kali people a hard time about anything I can find to talk about, yet I seem to agree with a lot of the things they say. There is something about challenging people on their views that I believe strongly in (actually a topic for another article, so we won’t get into that much today), and I enjoy debating… even debating against topics I agree with. I believe that a martial artist becomes a better martial artist when he must defend his view without emotion or action, because it forces him to deal with the “what ifs” that you never encounter when you surround yourself with people who just agree with everything you say. Sort of why I prefer a fighter with a few losses on his record than an unbeaten one. See, when you avoid discomfort, you show how weak you really are. When you get angry during a debate, it shows how weak your argument is because you are no longer dealing with the validity of your argument–you want the opposing side to go away, shut up, or just never show its face. The fighter–the true fighter–not only doesn’t mind opposition, he LOOKS for it. For the martial artist who allows his emotions to enter a discussion about the martial arts, nothing could be truer than the fact that all debates can be resolved in about 60 seconds. And this fact should lead to the lack of a need to get upset about it. Instead, you should smile, pick up your stick or gloves… and “explain” your case a little better. When I debate a subject in the martial arts, I do not get upset (unless cowards get to name-calling and ridiculing, because this is not about how intelligent I am or how well I can spell, but the validity of one’s technique) because I can prove everything I say. Few martial artists can “prove” what they say, so they’d rather keep it at words and stuff like “buy my video/pay for a seminar and then see for yourself”. But enough about that.

One of the things I like about the Sayoc philosophy is their view of how a warrior conducts himself in his regular life. For the warrior–you must understand–you are never “off-duty”. Just as a man should never have a day he leaves home without his pants, a warrior is never caught without his weapons. Even if the only weapon on your person is a ballpoint pen, you must have something available that can kill, cripple or disfigure a potential opponent besides your hands. The only time a warrior should be without a weapon is when his hands are that good, those hands are weapons. (Trust me, there are far fewer people who can claim to be this good… and those who are will rarely admit to being so) The weapons to the warrior are the tools of the trade, and we are a rare lot in that we have a skill that can be utilized and employed even when we go to sleep. Bottom line, never be without a weapon.

When I moved into my last home, I chose places in the house where I kept weapons. This included two machetes, three knives, a spear, several cocobolo sticks, a push dagger, and a firearm. I pointed these places out to my children and warned them not to touch them unless a stranger was in the house. I also promised a near-death experience if they touched these weapons out of curiosity. Only the teenagers knew about the firearm, but even my 9 year old was taught about the locations of my blades and all were taught to attack the hands and throat of the stranger. All members of my family were taught Eskrima, and my wife and I sparred almost weekly. She is a law enforcement officer and I would be livid when she came home from work with injuries, so I insisted on her studying my arts. She trained for the “Battle of the Badges”, and within a few months of our wedding I was confident that she was safe with her hands alone. The home, in my opinion, is not safe unless every member is a soldier. My children trained weekly, and they sparred every wednesday. On top of that, they boxed and fenced with a fencing club. The warrior must arm his family as well as himself, or he is wasting his knowledge.

Understand that there is no safe haven from violence, and even when you are home, there is vulnerability. If you are attacked in your sleep, you should have a defensive tool available within an arm’s reach. If you are in your car, you should have a weapon available as easily as a feigned dropped set of keys or wallet. If you are fumbling in your back pocket for cash, some sharp object needs to be a quick grab away. Your family will never be completely safe 100% of the time, so if anyone needs access to a weapon, even your children needs to be able to find a blade. I have a 10 year old boy who is crafty enough to be able to plunge a blade into the neck or bladder of even skilled Eskrimador. My daughter’s specialty in fencing is the foil, and because of her fast footwork, has even managed to thrust me a few times in playful combat. Prepare your family for defense, because you are their protector and the best way for you to protect them is to teach them to protect themselves.

And never, ever, forget your role as warrior–because this role does not end at 5 p.m. every day. It does not occur only on weekends, or 5 or 6 days a week. When you leave your blade at home, or your firearm in the cabinet, or your plastic knife in the glove compartment of your car (HARD plastic, that is; it gets past metal detectors), you are basically convincing yourself that you know for a fact that no violence will occur today. And you really don’t know that, do you? I didn’t think so. If you ask me, I’d say that you were in denial, hoping that “today isn’t the day”… but we don’t carry weapons because most attacks occur on weekends, and certainly not at 6 in the afternoon when you’re going to the mall, right? Are you sure?

No. We carry weapons “just in case”. And just in case can and does happen when you never expect it right? Or are the bad guys sending out texts messages that “today is the day” before they attack now? So if the attack occurs when you don’t expect it, doesn’t that include the day that you decide to leave the weapon at home? Because you’re not expecting it to come today? Brothers, you have some thinking to do!

Arm yourself. Arm your family. And always have a weapon available, because you can “always” be attacked–at home, in the car, while you sleep, when you shop. This is the life of a warrior… We are the armed among a sea of the unarmed. Like the guard dog in my previous article, you are not one of the prey, unless you choose to be.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Who We Are and Why People Ignore Us

As a martial artist, you must understand your role in the community you live in.

We are not just practitioners of a form of self-defense or sport; we are our community’s warriors, whether you wish to be or not–whether you realize it or not. I was a new visitor to my mosque 8 years ago and had just met our community’s Imam (teacher/pastor), and introduced myself as a martial arts teacher. After some short, polite conversation, religious services began. Not long after prayer had ended, our Imam came outside after taking a phone call from an elderly, female member of our congregation who was being harassed by some racist neighbors of hers. Her husband was out of town and the man next door to her had threatened her with violence. She did not want to call the police again, because she had already done it once, and not only were the responding police officers dismissive of her complaints, the neighbor and his friends ridiculed her when the officers left. To this, the Imam asked me to speak to the neighbor. I asked for a few big guys and three volunteered to accompany me–among them, my now senior student and Guro, Sajat Hutcheson. We spoke to the sister, then proceeded next door, where I calmly told the neighborhood that he was to treat my sister with respect and kindness or we would return and do to him and his wife what he threatened to do to the sister. The man apologized, stating that he sometimes drank too much and said things he didn’t mean, then proceeded to tell us how he respects all people and religions, that we were actually alike, blah blah blah. Problem solved. Not only that, but I recruited two of the gentlemen who came with me as students, and made a lifelong friendship with the elderly woman and her husband (not to mention free Filipino food and daycare whenever I wished).

I joined this Mosque because it was a real community, and I found a place within that community as its resident security and martial arts guy. I have taught no less than 20 members of this community and two members are my assistant instructors. Whenever anyone wants martial arts, I’m it. Even if they are not looking for the kind of martial arts I teach, people at least come to me for guidance or recommendations. In every circle of people around a martial artist, he is looked at as the “martial arts guy” once they know you are one.

But they don’t always value you.

I have talked about the responsibility a man has to arm himself and to learn to protect his family. Because in every family, somebody has to be the protector, and how can a man protect his family when he cannot even protect himself? I have on a flyer I put out, that one “provides the family with clothing, food, shelter, and guidance, but what about protection?” Failure to protect your family leaves them vulnerable to the predators in your community–and trust me, every community has them. Every few months, I meet the victims of violence, but it is always, always after the fact. And I blame this phenomena on two very basic facts:

  1. In life, people are either predators or they are prey. Predators are not always the ones who harm the prey; they are merely the ones equipped to commit violence. But in many cases, the ones who are equipped actually protect the prey. In other words, they use their “powers” for good. This is our martial artists, our tough, “good” guys, our soldiers, our police. The prey includes anyone who has failed to arm themselves with the strappings of a predator.
  2. Most people fail to arm themselves, not because of confidence, but because of fear. They are so afraid to admit that there is a need to protect onesself, that ignoring that need becomes a form of denial, that foolish notion that it will never happen to me. Here’s the thing about this fear:  everyone has it. But your fear can paralyze you into doing nothing, or it can propel you into action to do something about it.

I don’t have much use for the masses who want to act as if they don’t need the martial arts. As a teacher, I am only interested in the ones who know there is a need and are willing to do something about it. Because here is the secret to the prey’s philosophy:  they know who the protectors are, and although they pretend to not care about what we do or what our skill is, when they need us they will run to us. It’s kind of like the livestock on a farm that are irritated by the presence of the guard dogs. Yeah, the dog barks, sometimes even messes with the livestock a little too rough, he slobbers, he stinks… But when the wolf comes, every sheep, every chicken, every lamb, every goat will cower behind that lone dog. And that dog will fight to the death to protect even the smallest chicken. He has no choice; it is ingrained into his DNA to not run and to exhaust his last breath into protecting his Master’s animals. As a boy I saw a dog fight a snake and die… protecting me. Did this dog know he was playing with death? Yes, but I was only 4 or 5, and did not realize the danger I was in. The dog (“Sham”) knew that his role was to keep me and my brother safe and he did what he was raised to do–to protect my grandparents’ interests. Isn’t this what the warrior is all about? To protect others?

The martial artist must understand that when he begins this journey, his role has started. He must take his study of the art seriously, and know that everyone in his family will look to him when the flames hit the house. His friends will cower behind him while they are out and trouble approaches. And people around him who want to turn from prey to fellow predator will look to him to show the way.

I think back to a show I was watching with my family about a year ago, called “How I survived” (or something). A man was telling the story of being beaten and tied up while his family hid in the bathroom, trying to keep the robbers from finishing him off. His daughter was raped, his wife beaten, and his son taken away to retrieve items from around the home. I was amazed that at no time during the hourlong show did the man lament not preparing himself for the protection of his family. He seemed to think that his only role was to give his family love and sustenance. But due to his failure to arm himself, he had no choice but to accept the fate of his family’s sense of security. I cannot respect that.

You must at least attempt to drive this point home to all around you; that as men, we have a duty to provide protection for our families. My grandfather made sure that every member of our family was taught martial arts and carried weapons. My mother has had two abusive husbands, and they both went to the hospital on their first attempt to beat her, and neither made a second attempt. My grandmother even has kills and serious injuries in her belt, as she operated a roadside business for several years–and after the first few incidents she had a reputation as a last stop for robbers. As a teenager growing up in Washington, DC, I carried a weapon to school–even fashioning a version of brass knuckles made from cow skin that I could slip on like a glove. All of us–all, including my sister and baby brother–have fighting backgrounds. A few years ago, a young woman walked into my school after being raped. To my amazement, she informed me that her grandfather was a grandmaster of “Kali”, but she had never studied the art beyond a few drills and prearranged sequences. Well, she is armed now, but with Gatdula style Eskrima rather than the art of her grandfather. A shame. Damned shame.

Don’t allow your art to go to waste. Thank you for visiting my blog.

The Study of Foreign Arts for the Martial Arts Teacher

A quickie:


While I do not recommend spreading yourself too thin in the pursuit of martial arts knowledge, I do believe that a good martial arts teacher must have good knowledge of foreign arts. In using the term “foreign” arts, I am referring to martial arts styles that are very different from the one you are teaching.

That doesn’t mean a Doce Pares teacher learning a little Modern Arnis; I am talking about learning how to fight Aikido style, or learning how to box–if you are a Doce Pares teacher.

The reason I say this is that we tend to stay only within the comfort of what we know best. As teachers, this hurts our growth in the martial arts because many of our teachers will not allow himself to be in the company of those who believe your art is substandard. This comfort with discomfort is what allows you to forge your martial arts knowledge, ability, and confidence. Too much “yes” men will lead to unchallenged theories and easily accepted “facts”. It is the reason why you have grapplers who swear “all fights go to the ground”, and why seminar FMA people will tell you that practicing drills is the best way to learn how to fight.

Picture a Tae Kwon Do guy thinking that TKD is the best fighting art in the world, but the only place he has ever gone-besides his own shopping center and the occasional “other” shopping center… is a tournament. Yet he believes he has seen a lot and knows what he’s talking about.

FMA seminar people who only come around other FMA seminar people can only communicate with people who think like them. The result is that when asked to prove their theories, their emotions are too high for them to be effective in a real test. In America, it is all too easy to fall back on legal reasons why they can’t “use their arts”, cliches about “real” versus “sport” versus “theoretical” art. But they are quick to point out their Grandmaster’s many “matches”, when arguing that their art is real.

The foreign art gives you a taste of a completely different approach to martial arts and fighting. By learning a good deal of those other arts, you develop a healthy respect for the difficulty and strength of other arts that you cannot acquire through mere observation. You are not able to apply the “attributes” you develop in your base system towards the foreign art because they are that different. And finally, once you have acquired some functional skills in the foreign art, you have a little more of that “well-roundedness” martial artists like to throw around in conversation.

While we’re at it, allow me to define “well-rounded”:

the ability to apply skills other than those you specialize in, in combat.

Too many martial artists “know” things that they cannot use in a fight, without resorting back to what they originally learned. By studying a foreign art–not taking a few seminar in it, but actually learning it, you are truly adding more tools to your tool box.

Don’t be the guy who can only say “hello”, “please” and “thank you” in 7 languages. It does you no good.

Thank you for visiting my blog.