If I Had 1 Month to Teach a Self-Defense Course…

My school is more of a fighting school. When I say “fighting”, I am talking about mutual combat–where you and another person are agreeing to fight–which is actually streetfighting. This is very different from “self-defense”, where you have NOT agreed to fight, but instead are forced to fight because someone is not giving you any other option. Martial arts teachers should differentiate the two; they are not the same.

I do have courses where I teach self-defense, and I conduct those classes much differently than my regular classes, where I have time to develop skills and physical ability. The mentality of the students are much different in each class as well. In the traditional FMA class, my students are a little tougher, and they are willing to endure a more grueling workout in the effort to become a dangerous person. In the self defense class, the students are thinking like victims, and I must change the way they think, as well as change how I impart knowledge and teach skill. For example, if I taught a muscle-head young man, I would teach fight strategy and how to read an opponent. But if I taught a woman rape defense, I would teach her how to momentarily stop her attacker in order to get to the knife in her purse or bra–and then sever her attacker’s jugular vein. There is a major difference. The more vulnerable the victim, the more lethal her options should be. The more equal the victim is to his attacker, the more neutralizing his weapons should be. Two 20 year olds fighting over a parking spot (which shouldn’t really be happening) could never justify killing his opponent, where a woman defending herself in her home at 2 a.m. would be more understandable.

So, I have been asked to develop a self-defense program for a company here in Sacramento. They were thinking an 8-course program, and the gentleman who contacted me wants my best advice for a realistic self-defense course for his clients that is unique. Smart man. He doesn’t want just another commando-Israeli-yuppie course. He wants something he would trust his own wife’s safety to, if money were no object.

I am not allowed to tell you who he is or who his clients are, but I’d like to share my ideas, which I will expound on later when I have already put the program together.

  1. Empty Hands–students must learn to use their hands and strike. It would be a disservice to just teach palm strikes and elbows because most people have soft hands. If you are really serious about fighting and doing damage, while generating and mulitplying one’s power–you must learn the importance of developing a fist. It does not take long to develop your fist and the fist is absolutely necessary to fighting. We always hear that you teach palm and chops first–which I agree–but no self defense program is complete if it simply dismisses the fist as something too advanced for novices. This would have to be covered, discussed, and trained through the entire program. Along with the hand techniques, we must cover use of the elbow, the knee, the stomp, and how to strike from your back, while in a hug, and how to strike while being struck.
  2. Impact weapons–how to strike with a shoe, a short stick or baton, a hammer (which can be stashed away in your car, your bedroom, in the living room, etc. And to hell with drills:  this is how to strike a temple or a clavicle. If he tries to block or grab your weapon, smash his hands or drop and smash his knee. Very basic strikes, and save the tap-tap drills for youtube clips and seminars.
  3. Bladed weapons–folders, spring-loaded knives, push knives (which I absolutely love!), kitchen knives, even machetes. Teach as much about them as possible, and know when to slash, when to stab, and when to use a reverse grip (when the opponent starts trying to grab the arm or knife, or when he is in really close quarters). This should also include learning where to cut/slash/stab
  4. Use of the Big Stick–the shovel, the broom handle, the baseball bat, the chair, the walking cane, the two-by-four… anything that will make even your toughest MMA fighter cry. No self-defense program can afford to ignore it. And if you’re a die-hard Arnis/Eskrima guy, Big Stick fighting will enhance your single stick eskrima like you wouldn’t believe. And for you doubters, I’m sure there isn’t an Eskrimador out there willing to try his hand against my baseball bat style technique, I hope.
  5. Concealed weapons–the brass knuckle, the pen knife, the push dagger, the ballpoint pen, pepper spray, the taser. You have to cover all of them.
  6. Handgun use–self explanatory. It’s more than just click, point and shoot. You have to learn how to use your hand gun without wasting bullets, or worse–getting it taken from you. I call this skill “Gun Fu”. 😉
  7. Vital areas on the body–more on this later
  8. Physical Fitness for self-defense
  9. How to deal with and talk to attackers… for Self defense

You know, I was thinking… maybe I should write a book on self defense. Real self defense. I have to go to Toys “R” Us; there will certainly be a “part II”. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Humility and Arrogance in the Martial Arts, part II

This is a continuation of an article I wrote almost a year ago, simply entitled “Humility and Arrogance in the Martial Art”. Take a look when you get done with this article, you might find it interesting.

There is something you find in the martial arts that really irks me–arrogance AS humility. Need a definition?

You ever meet a martial artist who thinks he’s “all that and a bag o’ chips” but tries to act like he’s a humble guy? Sort of a chump acting like a tough guy acting like a lamb? Ooo… somebody get my stick. And quite often, the guy acting humble is in no way as good as he think he is, although he tries to act like he thinks he’s just “okay” skilled? Whew!

I’ll give another example. I was with a group of martial arts teachers in 99 at the end of a tournament. We were discussing technique and tournaments when a man approached who had a background in Kenpo and Aikido. I remember that his last name was Bader, because some of the guys joked that “Master Bader was coming”. This guy was the most obnoxious because not only did he look to discredit every point made by anyone in the group, he also attempted to act as if he knew more than the rest of us while maintaining that he only knew “a little”. Basically, he was an arrogant man who wanted to act like he was a Master pretending to be a novice. Very annoying. So finally, when discussing the backfist–which he stated was not a powerful weapon–I offered to prove to him that powerful backfist strikes worked, and that he would not be able to stop it if I used it.

“Show me.”

Sorry, but you’ll need to put on this headgear. You know the rest of the story.

(He declined)

See, martial artists have been watching these old Kung Fu movies and they think that they have to act humbly, and acting humbly will somehow make them look more knowledgeable. Well I have news for you. This only works if you really don’t want anyone to know that you are a good martial artist. But in the case of the fake humble martial artist, his humility is an act. He really wants people to think he’s good, and he really wants people to know that he’s a good martial artist. So in the case of Master Bader, the Kenpo and Aikido technician who doesn’t like hurting tournament fighters, although he thinks we can’t fight… his nickname is quite fitting.

But why do people do this? Is it really arrogance? I don’t think so. I believe that most of the martial artists who do this are really unsure of themselves, and pretending to not know anything protects them from challenges from the “show me” people. It may also be an excuse for martial artists who lack skill, in case they are questioned about what they know or don’t know. All I know is, this is not the way of the martial artist. Sorry. “Always a student”? That’s a technique collector. Either that, or it’s a guy who is too quasi-humble to say, “I know what I’m doing.” Martial artists, for some reason, have a hard time saying that, and they really don’t like hearing anyone else say it.

And I just love when somebody says, “You don’t know all of us, how can you make such generalizations/sweeping statements?”  Why not? I’ve done this for 30 years. I’ve faced hundreds of opponents. I think I’ve seen enough for my “generalizations” to be pretty solid facts. If your doctor told you without seeing you, that he thinks your illness is “just a cold”, you’re not going to question him and insist on running lab reports, right? Why is the martial artist any different?

Oh, because we’re not supposed to act like we know what we’re talking about. NO, we’re supposed to act like we’re acting like we don’t know what we’re talking about, but really we DO know what we’re talking about, but we’re just acting like we don’t really know.

Oh em gee. That’s too much. Is the life of a warrior that damned complex?

Oh, excuse me, I’m not a warrior. I’m just an uneducated guy who’s been doing this art all my life, but in reality I chose this profession because I’m not bright or hard-working or ambitious enough to get a real job, and all I know is…. um, three little styles containing only a few self defense moves. But I’m still learning, so all I can do is teach a few techniques I was lucky enough to pick up by hanging around the real masters, but I’m always a student so if I can learn by teaching you I willl, although the goal is to help people grow which is all I really want out of the martial arts–to mind my own business and you do your thing and I do mine…

Would you like a lemon-grass, liver-and-brussel sprout smoothie to go with your khaki shorts and sandals and rainbow sticker and Volkswagon Beetle?

No, the martial artist is not supposed to be humble. We are not supposed to be troublemakers, but if you are teaching and you don’t think you’re the best in the business, you shouldn’t be IN the business. I mean, you’re teaching people to save their own lives and protect loved ones! Really, would you trust the safety of your wife and children to a man who can’t even frikking admit that he can teach you to kick someone’s ass? Ooo! Don’t use profanity, Mustafa! That’s so rude! You’re kidding right? The bad guys are fully confident that they can take on most people–or they wouldn’t be in this business–but you don’t want a teacher who can assure you that he’s better than Ronald McGuro up the street because he might “offend” somebody?


I’m sorry, but if I was looking for a teacher, and he told me that the Guro up the street is a better fighter…. I’m joining the dojo up the street. If I couldn’t fight, and my son is getting picked on at school, I’m taking him to study with the toughest teacher in town. And I don’t have time to decipher if this guy really doesn’t know his stuff or he’s just pretending. That, my friends is called “playing games”, and no one in this business should be engaging in that kind of thing.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

RANK: And the Masters Who Take It Away

I was reluctant to publish this article, which I wrote in 2008 but had been pondering for a good 15 years. Out of my many friends who branched off of their teachers to start their own schools, styles and ideologies, a few of them have ended up at odds with their teachers. This is something you don’t find in any field but the martial arts, for some reason. Can you imagine a college professor being discredited by a former teacher? Or worse… having his DEGREE stripped? What is it with this madness?

Like I said, I hesitated because in a few of these cases I am friends with both teacher and student. And in case you wondering, yes–I did voice my opinion.

So my father has a saying, that martial artists are assholes. Although he himself is a practitioner, he never considered himself a martial artist. I use to laugh at this remark although I disagreed until one day I realized that he was right. My Dad’s thing was, he pursued the martial arts to learn how to fight. He worked out, he kept fit, and when he needed it–look out. His contention is that he never bought into the “garbage” that comes with martial arts. And that garbage is due to one universal evil in 99% of the problems in the martial arts, and I’m not talking about money.

I’m talking about ego.

It takes a somewhat insecure man to pursue the martial arts, and that vulnerability led to dreams of being a grade-A butt-kicker, humiliating the bad guys and beating down the badder guys. The martial arts don’t actually provide an opportunity for the student to know that he can beat the bad guys–at least, not the way most of us practice–so most of the martial artists out here just think they can kick some butt. Or do they?

I think not. Martial artists like to say they can fight. But few martial artists will actually prove that fact. Want proof? The next time you’re with a martial artist you don’t know, tell him you don’t think his skill is superior to yours. And when he objects, ask him politely for a “friendly” match to prove your point. I am willing, 99.999% of the time, he will decline. Why is that?

I’m asking a lot of questions here, aren’t I? That’s because, yes, I’m talking to you. No one wants to admit it, but most martial artists don’t do enough sparring with strangers to unequivocally state, “I can defend myself against anyone.” Not with a straight face, at least. But they will give you excuses all day long why they cannot:

  • sparring isn’t “real” fighting
  • “real” fighting results in one guy dying or going to the hospital
  • I only fight for keeps
  • I’ve got a trick knee
  • nothing to prove
  • define “fight”
  • only when my life is on the line 
  • blah blah blah….

Now that we’ve established that point. Here’s the point.

Most of the Masters you are getting your “rank” from probably can’t fight anyway. If you’re a fighting man, he probably can’t whip you either. In my experience, the Masters who fight the best don’t throw rank around. And the only ones who do have students who try to “help” them make more money by modernizing and going commercial. The best fighters don’t give themselves elaborate grading titles and ways to get more. They didn’t pursue all that stuff themselves either. Show me an Asian Master awarding rank, and I can almost guarantee you that he himself was never awarded any rank. Especially in the Filipino arts. That is a new development. But something occurs in a man’s martial career, when he decides to do all that crap. I have a theory about that too.

It’s hard teaching real martial arts. There just aren’t enough hard core students willing to undergo this training. Yeah, 99% of you call yourselves hardcore, but I have been around the block enough to guarantee you that most of you would not last 6 months in my school. You invest in martial arts DVDs and learn from those. You spend hours on youtube trying to copy crap some guy over in the Philippines posted. Or attend seminars. Or buy books. Or tack on style after style after style to what you know. But there are two things I can add that you won’t do:  Drive an hour to train with a real master, and fight in a tournament. Why is that?

Because it’s a special student who will dedicate himself to grueling training two or three times a week for nothing more than acquired skill. You won’t endure it unless there is a certificate at the end of the session, a rank to put on your profiles at myfma.net, pictures to post on Facebook, friends to hide behind when there’s stress, names to drop in conversation about the martial arts, and neat defenses and wristlocks to show the guys at work. And your master knows this, so the ones who have the good stuff will hold it back because he doesn’t want to lose students and not be able to pay his bills. Or the ones who don’t have it will pretend that real skill and martial arts doesn’t exist or doesn’t matter.

And here we arrive at the issue of rank. People want rank because it boosts their ego. It doesn’t make you safer. It doesn’t make you live longer. It doesn’t even put more food on the table. What rank does is make you feel good and feel big around other martial artists in the absence of superior skill. Those of you who know my fighters (any of them–ANY) will notice that even the 12 year old girls are muscular and are very tough. And I have not issued a certificate since 2003. And the only students who have received a belt from me are the kids. But they enjoy a position among martial arts teachers where few Masters reside:  The place of the predator. Teachers who cannot produce this kind of skill in his students play the rank game, and for some reason, the students go along with it. My question is, are you a better fighter now–as a 6th degree Black Belter–than you were as a  3rd? Can your teacher teach you anything tomorrow that will make you a better fighter? If the answer of either question is “no”–either–then forget the rank, and move forward. Because your Master has taken you as far as he can, and right now anything further will be strictly political and has nothing to do with the path of a warrior.

But rank does more than just provide an ego boost for the student. It is also a form of income for the teacher, as well as an ego boost for him AND a controlling tool to grow his organization. Teachers handing out 1st degree black belts don’t have the same clout as a teacher “bestowing” an 8th degree. Can you understand the dynamics of that? So there is a benefit to awarding “advanced degrees” without having to teach a class. And if my empire needs to expand into the Pacific Northwest, I’ll need a certified Regional Vice President–excuse me, “Master”–to run it. If he starts to get big drawers, I will revoke his rank and tell his students that I had my fingers crossed every time I taught him a class, and when I gave him that 8th Degree certificate, it was written in invisible ink and contained in small print:  “Just kidding.”

Personally, I think there is a serious integrity flaw in a man who attempts to discredit another man simply because of a fallout over money or business. Especially when I know fully well that the man I taught is qualified to teach the martial arts I taught him. Otherwise, what does that say about me?

It says, “Hi, my name is Master So-n-So, and I’m an asshole.”

Well I have personally had this experience, when a man who gave me a certificate (that I never advertised because I even knew then that it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on) sent a KID to tell me I was no longer ranked in his style. My answer? If you think I don’t deserve this 3rd degree certificate, come and take it from me.

For some reason, I am not discredited on any website or public conversation about his style. I simply won’t allow it, because I don’t give a damn about rank or titles. I know what I know, I can do what I can do, and no one can take that from me. FMA brothers, this is one of the secrets of the Filipino fighting arts. None of your Grandmasters have certificates, except for the ones with phony histories.

And you cannot revoke a man’s knowledge anymore than you can revoke a man’s life. Only God can do that, and only Masters who think they’re God will even try.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

No Cornerman in the Ring

Those who know me, know me as a betting man. I take risks with business, in sparring, even with the path I choose to walk. And especially when it comes to sports, I will bet someone in a minute. Not that I always win when betting, but I am a strategist, and I appreciate the act of carrying out a fight. Whether that fight is on the football field or the boxing ring, I study what is being done and what could be done to win. I’ve done this so much that my friends often ask me to analyze upcoming fights and fights that we’ve just seen.

So occasionally someone will ask me, “What would you tell him if you were in his corner?” And my answer is always the same…

If you are a true fighter and a trainer of fighters, your answer will be like mine. Want a test?  Take Mike Tyson versus Lennox Lewis. How would you answer the question? (scroll down after you answer, I’ll wait!)










See, if you has prepared him correctly, the guesswork and training for the correct strategy would have been done weeks before the fight. If Iron Mike had been trained correctly, his corner would have been a lot like Bernard Hopkins’ or Floyd Mayweather’s corner. Have you ever listened to Bouie Fisher, Roger Mayweather or Freddie Roach during a fight? They are very calm, have little to say other than, “How you feeling, Champ?” (Fisher) or “Okay, whip his ass.” (Mayweather) or “Now it’s time for plan B… turn the lights out on this guy.” (Roach). Really profound lessons, these guys are imparting huh?

Not really. See, these trainers understand that the only reason they need to be there is for moral support and because the Boxing Commission says that they should be. A responsible teacher teaches his fighter to analyze and think for himself. And just in case he needs a little help, the trainer chooses the best two or three tactics to use against the fighter he is to soon face. And for the weeks leading up to the fight, they focus on those things needed to defeat the opponent. And they hone it to such a high degree that none of us–with all our skill and knowledge in the martial arts–could step in the ring with that same opponent and duplicate what we see every month on Pay Per View. The result over a career of fighting different opponents and fighting styles, that by the time you have put in a good 8-10 years of fighting, you’ve seen it all and no longer need the famous “drawing board”.

This is why I advocate learning from former fighters, if you want to excel in the art of pugilism. It’s not one of those things easily dismissed by the “anybody-can-teach-art-you-don’t-have-to-be-a-fighter-to-teach” crowd. Yes, you can learn to box by anyone. It’s true that not every great boxing trainer was a great fighter. I didn’t say you had to be a great fighter, just be experienced. Now, how many of you “I’m-not-a-fighter-but-I’m-a-good-teacher” pukes are experienced stickfighter the way Emmanuel Steward was an experienced boxer before becoming a trainer?

You know, the not-a-fighter-but-a-teacher people love to throw Emmanuel Steward’s name out there, because he was never a professional fighter. But what they don’t realize is that as an amateur he fought 97 bouts, winning all but three of them.

How many fights did you have?

See, fighting is not something you can just think up on your own and in order to properly prepare a fighter to be able to think for himself, you must have been in his shoes many, many times. We want our fighters to understand fighting so thoroughly and be trained so well, that we do not need to accompany them into the ring. Honestly, there is nothing you can tell a fighter to do that will save his butt if he is not properly prepared. The only thing you should be doing at that point is to ask your fighter how he’s doing, to “whip his ass”, and to say, “okay it’s time for plan B…”

In other words, your fighter really shouldn’t need a cornerman. If he does, he’s in trouble.

As my Si Hing (older brother) Terrance Robinson use to say, “You can’t take your corner with you into the streets”. Terry use to train his full contact fighters to think like streetfighters and he never had to carry a fighter out of a ring.

In part II, I will talk to you about the exceptions to the rule. This is for those of you who want to train fighters, yet you’ve never been a fighter yourself. (I’m not counting 8th grade streetfights, people…)

Thanks for visiting my blog. If you like this article, please check out my book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months, available on the “Offerings” page.

The Forgotten Side of the Filipino Fighting Arts, pt II (Finishing Off the Opponent)

Eskrimadors remind me of wrestlers who only train reversals and takedowns, or martial artists who only train for exchanges. We love our counterattack combinations, drills and disarms, but what about the lost art of finishing off the opponent?

Opponents just don’t drop dead because you’ve hit them. A strike to the knee does not result in a broken knee right away. A strike to the head usually doesn’t knock the opponent out on the first try. That strike to the hand won’t necessarily make him drop his weapon and beg for his life.

We must address the part after the exchange; the part where the opponent receives the (and realizes the effects of his) injury. Where his hand or forearm is now broken, or his clavicle has caved in, or he has been knocked down to the ground. Hopefully you aren’t looking to apply one of those neat wristlocks or choke him out. After all, you are holding a stick, my friend. What you gonna do with it?

No, seriously–what are you going to do with it?

You could use the famous “playing the drums” technique and just rap on his head until he passes out. Or you could do the famous Kenpo-style “finishing blow” and take two steps away and pose. Or you could get down on one knee and do one of those neat Gene LeBell/Wally Jay/Remy Presas/George Kirby stick locks.

Admit it, you don’t have a plan, do you? Don’t be ashamed. This is why I called the article series “Forgotten Side of Eskrima”; I had a good reason! Only the guy in the province has the answer, and your Super McGuro was too busy studying Dan Inosanto tapes for ways to keep up with the newest and popular ancient Filipino traditions, that he forgot about the real ancient traditions… Oh, am I being an asshole again? I’m sorry. Read on!

In the fighting art of Eskrima, you must think the fight through all the way to the end. I must admit that even I am guilty of focusing too much on the duel and the exhange and not giving the “forgotten side” enough attention. Without violating my promise to my students about teaching by blog, let me give you some of the general rules of finishing off the opponent. Here, we will address only the fallen opponent:

  • You will always use side-to-side strikings, not up and down. Up and down will get your stick stuck on the ground, your legs, and the opponent. Side-to-side will give you free range of motion, and ample room to generate finishing power.
  • Strike the parts of the opponent closest to you
  • Whether you are striking hands, ankles, knees, or head, use a strike that will break something
  • Use verbal commands on an injured opponent to get him to comply with you. This actually works in your favor: “Turn over on your back or I’ll kill you!” If he is injured enough, he’ll do what is in his power to comply. If not, he will resist and is not primed enough for following orders. When he is hurting enough to listen, then try those neat locks you got from the seminar or on youtube.
  • Don’t be too “traditional” that you are above grabbing the opposite end of the stick and jabbing one end into the opponent. Or smashing him with the butt of the stick. The idea here is not to remain within the confines of “traditional striking” (which these strikes are practiced by every “traditional” master I’ve met), but to use the most destructive strikes you can.
  • Ditto that last point for my favorite close quarters strike–grabbing the ends and then smashing the opponent with the middle portion of the stick
  • I prefer a feet side-to-side position, rather than one leg in front, for downed opponents. It keeps your feet out of the way in case the opponent tries to sweep you or grab your leg, and it allows you to get closer and lower to the opponent
  • Try rapid-fire, repetitive strikes. Trust me, it isn’t easy. In one of the only fights I have been in with a weapon as a young man, I flailed away on a guy using only one strike to the same place: his arm and shoulder. By the tenth or so strike, my shoulder and upper back had gotten tight. It’s nothing like practicing, try it. Execute 25 number one strikes (whatever #1 is in your system), full power, to the same target, as fast as you can. This is has been a staple in my own practice sessions now, for about 20 years.
  • Never forget that your Eskrima is for hurting people. Screw good grades, discipline, and whatever else the Karate schools say. Eskrima is made to permanently injure, disable or kill the opponent. When an opponent is down, you have not yet finished the job.

Hope you found this article helpful. Thank you for visiting my blog.


thekuntawman Versus Popular Guros

Locally, I think I am a well-liked teacher. Globally, I’m pretty much disliked. I accept that. And I’m actually pretty proud of it myself.

See, the people who know me personally, have exchanged ideas in person with me, sparred with me, trained with me–even feuded with me–have the right to dislike and disagree with me. But these are not men to talk behind my back like women, they are more likely to say to my face:  Mustafa what you said/did was bullshit. It’s happened a few times. The people who know me only from Defend.net posts don’t like me because I don’t spell well, or my grammar is off, even because I’m a Muslim…

Let me inteject something. Have you noticed, that these people take a lot of pride in the fact that their art is supposedly from the Muslim-dominated part of the Philippines, and they are calling their art by a supposedly “Muslim” term (which it’s actually HINDU), but they usually don’t LIKE MUSLIMS? Ditto that to the whole Filipino pride thing too! They love the Philippine martial arts, just don’t be a Filipino who has too much Filipino pride. They have no interest in visiting the Philippines, eating Filipino food, or respecting Filipino culture, but they love to marry our women and practice our arts… even butcher our language! Shaking my head…

Anyway, too many people know only the surface stuff. They don’t like my bluntness, as if free speech only applies to natural-born Americans. They don’t want the popular way questioned. I remember, less than 10 years ago, American FMA people trying to tell me “Kali” was a Filipino word. When I assured them it wasn’t, they told me it was another dialect. Funny, no one could ever recall that dialect…

And there, we end up with the topic of this post. You see, while people read Inosanto’s book on the FMAs, and read about the art and secret techniques that were supposedly practiced in the Philippine jungles–we had Filipinos who tried their best to corroborate that story. Hell, some even dressed up in Moro clothing and tried to convince tourists that they held the secret arts Guro Inosanto wrote about! And when I attempted to bring that to light… thekuntawman got his bad reputation.

Remember the “learn karate in 10 easy lessons” that was going around in the 70s? Well, the FMAs certainly lived up to that stuff, didn’t they? And driving the bus was the “Professor”, Remy Presas. In the back selling tapes and Bruce Lee tee shirts was Dan Inosanto. And on the Rabbit Bus in the Philippines was Leo Gaje, promising to sacrifice chickens on your behalf if you’d bring some of that interest to the Philippines! And then there was the quasi military thing. Offer lessons to the Philippine ROTC and you too can claim to be a Rambo. Teach a for-credit course at a Philippine university and reach hundreds of practitioners. Presas taught us to become showmen, borrow a few tricks from the Aikido/Jujitsu/Kenpo folks and wow seminar audiences with your art. Sell videos. Running out of dans to award your people because you gave em out too fast? Let’s go from “Guro” to “Punong Guro”. To “Dakilang Guro”. To “Datu”. To “Tuhon”. I’m surprised no one has awarded “Malaking butok Guro”. Yeah, that’s the title I carry. My wife gave it to me… LOL

Well, in all of this new titles, new ways to sell the art, new ways to gain popularity and reinvent your wheel, the FMAs lost two very important things:

  1. Respect for fighting skill, and
  2. Dignity

The Filipino art became more bastardized than Tae Kwon Do. I mean, even the McDojos have a sparring element to their exams. And even the McSabumnim requires his people to train for two years before giving them a Black Belt, and wait two years for the second degree. The FMA Guro is turning tricks on DVD, conducting several seminars to award a teaching certificate. You don’t even have to demonstrate any kind of physical skill, because everyone knows that a guy with a knife doesn’t need to be able to run a flight of stairs to kill you. We will certify anyone, and we won’t tolerate anyone questioning if this stuff works. Why? Because if I spar you I will have to kill you. I fight for keeps…

Too deadly for tournament? Oh, yeah, we got that too.

If you can’t take a little criticism without getting your panties all bunched up, how are we to believe that you’re a combat-hardened warrior?

So I attack the ones who created this mess. The true McGuros who will certify a man they wouldn’t bet $20 on in a fight. I tell you what, take an old Eskrimador out of the province, he will bet his life savings on the advanced students under him. Your McGuros can’t even fucking NAME the advanced students under him.

And that’s the problem. Late, great Master Masutatsu Oyama often said, that his style was the greatest fighting art on the planet. And he welcomed every chance–even putting on tournaments–to prove it. Can you imagine one of our well-known Guros putting himself out there? Leo Gaje was the only one I’ve seen actually brag that his boys can fight. He is now resorting to saying that he’s the only one with authentic “Kali”–even his uncle, according to him, is a phony. Remy used to have everyone scared to fight with their sticks. And Dan was busy touring the country certifying more people and adding to his repertoire to even be concerned with questioning the combat superiority of his art.

Basically, these men had Americanized the Philippine arts and I didn’t like it. I never did, and I don’t like it now. Have you been on Bullshido lately? They have us up there with Krav Maga and Shaolin Kung Fu as arts to piss on! Can you blame them?

Hell, I blame the ones who I see as responsible for selling our arts to people who are too lazy to go and pursue these arts with the same rigor that a boxer pursues his craft. And I have earned the right to criticize. I’ve made this art my chosen career. I’ve slept in my car, slept in my school, lived off rice and potted meat, paid my rent and living expenses with tournament winnings, passed up going to school, travelled from state to state teaching my art for $100 at a time… And never once have I “certified” anyone I wouldn’t bet the ranch on in a fight. Anyone who has ever met my students will always come away saying that my guys are top notch fighters. And you will find two groups of people who can testify: people who have fought my guys, and people who won’t fight my guys. This, my friends, is the Filipino way.

And anything less than producing the best fighters possible is worthy of reproach. Commercial Guros don’t have the interest in proving they have the best fighters around, because they’re busy making money.

And there will always be guys like me who shake our heads at the sadness of such a sight.

Thanks for visiting blog.


Sports-style Sparring Versus Combat in the FMA

This topic is probably a dead horse on this blog, but I believe it is a conversation we should have more often in the Philippine fighting arts.

Rhetoric has taken over the FMAs in the West, and because of the money-making potential for Filipino teachers in the West–and the influence we have over what is popular in the Philippines–rhetoric is now the new standard in the Filipino FMAs. A lot of attention is given to talk about these arts being a “warrior” art, while the average FMA practitioner (and even the average FMA teacher) is no warrior at all. The Philippine arts have really been reduced to a demonstration art; we are known more for our neat demos and tricks rather than real, provable fighting skill. The masters and grandmasters of old are the ones who gave these arts their reputation as fighting arts, yet the new “masters” and “grandmasters” can barely hold their jockstraps. The Cacoys and Manong Leos are slowly leaving us, and we now have to look up to the Dan Inosantos and “Grand Tuhons”…. did that piss you off? Well, it should. Most of you are wasting your money and energy pursuing goals other than fighting skill. Cacoy Canete and Leo Giron built their reputations with fighting matches, while Guro Dan is popular because of his association with Bruce Lee and in selling his products, while Grand Tuhon became famous by running his mouth and selling his products. That isn’t to say that Dan Inosanto and Leo Gaje aren’t good at the martial arts–anyone can see that they are. But they did not build their reputations the Filipino way:  By having matches. That’s all I’m saying. Manong Gaje does have a lot of good students under his belt, but the way he has politicked and marketed his art takes away from true respect for his knowledge… Guro Dan has basically sold so many certifications, when you meet a JKD/Kali “certified” instructor, you never expect to be shaking hands with a good fighter.

Now compare this to a Bahala Na student. Notice I said “student”, rather than “instructor”? Just carrying the name “Bahala Na” (assuming you’ve met a member of this group), you expect this person to be able to do some damage. I’m sure there are many good PTK and JKD/Kali people out there, but their teachers did not cement the reputation of the organizations the old fashioned way. Ditto that for Remy Presas’ Modern Arnis folks. When I think of these guys–all three–I think of high rank, drills, and name-dropping whose seminars they’ve attended. Yeah, you do FMAs, but you are not using FMA philosophy for how you approach your art. One group of martial artists are known for fighting skill, and the other is known for their associations and popularity. Huge damned difference.

Back to the topic.

There is something that accompanies commercialization of an art, and it stinks. I am speaking of poor fighting skill. Not just poor fighting skill, but people who don’t fight at all. You’d never hear anyone say that Muay Thai people can’t fight. And you’d never hear someone say Kyokushinkai people can’t fight. And you’d never hear people say that wrestlers can’t fight. And where do these fighters hone their skills?

In matches, in the ring, in a SPORT. But everyone agrees that these people can fight, correct? And you don’t have to be a grandmaster to have them skills, right?

So why are sissy-ass FMA PEOPLE knocking Doce Pares people cause they fight in tournaments? Why are they brushing off Billy Blanks because he was a point fighter and produced those homo (sorry) Tae Bo videos? Why are they ~whispering~ that even the MMA guys are not fighting in a realistic format because they are fighting with rules? Is there any fighter on this planet that’s fighting REALISTIC enough for you? Besides the gang bangers and prison population?

Come on, kids, let’s say it together:  YOU’RE SCARED TO FIGHT.

It’s not your fault. Your Guro is to blame cause he never made you do it. It was far easier to pair you up and slap hands together and tap sticks, than to make you pad up and duke it out. So you grew up being told the excuses your Guro made for not fighting, “I fight for real, not in those sissy tournaments… too many rules!”

Is that so?

So let me get this right, Homer… you’d rather fight to the death–with eye gouges, biting ears off, hidden blades and breaking bones, kicking ass and taking names–but you won’t engage in a safe, light-contact sparring match? You will do unrealistic drills and give-and-take-disarming/locking exchanges, but No Holds Barred has too many rules? You want us to believe that you’ve had more than your share of street encounters (therefore qualifying you to teach “street combat”), and you’ve never been to jail for these fights? You realize, I’m not 12 years old right?

Your Guro has sold his soul to the devil.

He’s lying to you. So he was a cop, or a security guard, or nightclub security or something. Maybe he was an aircraft loader in the military, or SP, or pencil pusher and had to do the two days of hand-to-hand combat course back in Basic Training. But I can assure you, that if he’d done all this fighting, he wouldn’t stop you from competing against another fighter in the squared circle. Hell, your GRANDMASTERS, if he did engage in sparring matches, even fought with rules. And it was a sport, too. Hopefully, you aren’t still believing that the FMAs came about from some death matches on the docks of Stockton. The only people who died on the docks of Stockton, were probably people dying to hear some more of that good jazz music they play on Friday afternoons. And I don’t see that many FMA players out there. Ohio Players, maybe…

Fighting to the death is not always the best way to train. You damned sure can’t do it in the classroom, so you’d have to simulate. Didn’t your Guro tell you that “guntings” are for breaking elbows? So how do you practice them?

Say it together… We simulate.

For those who are not all that educated (like me), that means “we pretend” to break each other’s bones. In those patty cake “hubad” drills, you aren’t really punching each other, you’re “pretending” to punch each other. When you do your sinawali drills, you’re not smashing sticks over each other’s heads, you’re “pretending” to hit each other.

You do not “combat” each other in practice. Sports style fighting is the bridge between practice and reality. It is not reality. We all know that, but apparently you don’t. I’m curious how many of you really try to break bones when you spar in your Tae Kwon Do/Kenpo/Kung Fu schools (cause we all know 99% of FMA classes are in the same schools you claim practice unrealistic martial arts). Too many FMA people are hiding behind rhetoric about only practicing life-or-death martial arts. They are hiding behind a disdain for simulated sparring, yet they practice simulated sparring with their Guros. They will claim to only fight for life and death and not for trophies, but they will never exchange real punches and kicks and sticks with you. Oh, and they will tap sticks and play patty cake all day long but only if you smile while you do it with them.

Sparring/Tournaments/Unrealistic Combat gives you the opportunity to try out your reflexes and exercise your scaredy-cat muscle. See, the more you face a fear, the less that fear will affect you. If you pretend that fear doesn’t exist, you will choke on it when the time comes. Sparring, then, helps you rid yourself of the fear and paralysis experienced when fighting. It gives you an idea of what it’s really like having an opponent trying to punch you, so that you have the reflexes to time a “gunting”. In my years in the martial arts, I have never met a man who could actually stop my punch with a gunting or a check-pass-strike drill. Never. And not because the technique itself doesn’t work, but because those who practice those techniques never practice them against a guy like me who is trying to knock your block off. And I mean this: any man reading this blog is welcome to contact me and I will prove it in person. If you meet any of my students, try it with them too, I guarantee you can’t stop their punch either.

Sports style fighting gives you the chance to find range and land techniques, even if only lightly. There is the element of competition, where you are pressured to beat your opponent to the strike, that doesn’t exist without the declaration of a winner and loser. The facing of a stranger also adds an element of unfamiliarity you won’t get with your classmates, or the sterility and friendly atmosphere of a seminar. Tournaments are adversarial, and that element of friendship just does not exist there. (Well, not enough of it) Martial artists need to experience it, harness it, and learn to manipulate nervousness into useful energy that can be turned against an opponent. In your FMA classes and seminars, you don’t have enough competition to put your skills to the test. And because of it, you are spinning wheels and not developing your martial arts skill into fighting skill.

In plain, simple terms:  You must engage in fighting matches with strangers if you ever hope to elevate your fighting skills to the expert level.

Thank you for visiting my blog.