“Secrets” of the Filipino Fighting Arts
Words from a Modern-Day Warrior

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….

<versus>

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.

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