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 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.

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