Five Simple Rules for Hand to Hand Superiority

This is to fully explain my point of argument with a childhood friend I will call KH. He is a martial arts instructor and is a little sensitive about how this article will reflect on him, so I am using initials. >-P

KH is an old, dear friend of mine. I still remember when we met:  Fighting in the Boys Green Belt and Under ages 13-15 at Tomkins Tournament in 1982, I believe. I won the first place trophy wearing a Kung Fu uniform and his Sensei came over with KH, M. Speaks, and a third boy whose name I don’t remember. They had expected me to be weak and lose, and being that they were studying Shotokan–a very strong version of it, too–were looking past me in this tournament. We had been friends ever since. When I trained at Rock Creek Park with some Egyptian boys I met at the Malaysian embassy (around 1986), KH used to come with me. We were both amazed at how good their Karate was, having studied in Africa. Their father would not allow them to fight in tournaments, but I remember believing they would dominate the circuit if they did. KH was as serious as an inner city Karateka could be. We use to laugh at him because he walked the streets with his Gi bottoms and wooden shoes. Throughout our entire childhood, he was always comparing notes with another martial artist, and he was always good for a fierce sparring match. When I returned from the Philippines in 1990, he and I had a match at Everhart’s tournament at the hotel in Fort Washington, MD. I was competing, but he wasn’t. He had just returned home from the Navy, but still claiming he could kick my ass. We won’t talk about the results of that match.

In the mid 90s, I took him to Alice Lanada’s Kuntaw school in Virginia Beach (he was stationed in Norfolk) because he was dismissing FMAs, after meeting some seminar guys in the area who were afraid to fight. But the day we went, there were only kids, so he and I worked out with GM Lito. Even at his age GM Lito had impressed KH enough that it restored his respect for the Filipino arts. Not long after that, we lost touch and I often wondered what happened to him. Then, a month ago I see a very familiar name come across my email from a form on my school’s website. We’ve talked almost nightly since!

And now, my point. My good friend and warrior, KH, is “dabbling” in Wing Chun because somehow he is convinced that his Shotokan hands are not strong enough. Of course, after sparring with some MMA wannabes (I call them wannabes because these guys have yet to have a match), my friend is clocked a little too much for his taste and he chalked that up to having weak hand skills. Never mind that he admitted that he did not use his kicks out of fear of being taken down (please go back and read my “Clint Eastwood” article). He has good strong hands as well as kicks. But his method of fighting is a combination of both hands and feet–and although he is not a grappler, his stand up from what I recall is excellent. I said it last night my brother… you have to use what your specialty is.

I went through my normal spiel, but since we are 2,500 miles away from each other I can’t prove my point like I normally do. Plus this blog allows me to be able to “say” things a lot better than I am able to do in person, thanks to an editor.

First, let me say that the fighter, regardless of style, must have the same qualities in order to have full effectiveness when using the hands. If you have very strong hand (striking) technique–strength in terms of skill, not power–anything you add to them will be multiplied. But if you have weak hand skill, you can add BJJ, Aikido, the kitchen sink–you just have a whole lot of mediocrity. And the difference between a mediocre Karate man, a mediocre boxer, a mediocre grappler and a mediocre MMA guy is that the MMA guy sucks at more things.

Here are my five rules, which are repeated several different places on this blog. But you can’t read them enough. Keep reading them until they have found a way into your arsenal:

  1. You must have a probe. And everything comes off the probe. Do you ever play hot hands? Do you vary the speed? Or do you sometimes move full speed and sometimes move slow? That is what a probe is for; to vary the tempo of the action so that the opponent cannot adjust himself to the varied power levels, speed and timing. You have to sometimes use power, sometimes use speed, sometimes commit and sometimes probe at your opponent. Even the man with fast hands can be timed and beaten to the punch.
  2. You must fight by combination. If you are only fighting with counterattacks (this is one of your weaknesses, if you still fight the same way), you are a sitting duck waiting for the opponent to dictate when the action is going to happen or not. And when you attack, you have to be capable of throwing a barrage of attacks that keeps your opponent from being able to hit back. Using the combination also robs your opponent of confidence. When he is the aggressor, he feels like he is winning the fight and will win the fight. There is a way to counterattack effectively, but it still involves using the combination. If you make your opponent pay dearly for every attack he launches at you, it accomplishes what you want to accomplish:  defeating the opponent. Keep him busy so he won’t have time to kick your behind. Give him too much time to think and attack, and you might have your butt handed to you.
  3. Study and make good use of power mechanics. You already have this down, my friend. But when you spar, I suspect that you are not making use of this skill to your advantage. Take it from me, in sparring with strangers you can be too “polite”. It sounds to me like you were being polite, while those guys were not, and now you are looking at another style. You are a good fighter, but you have to use what you’re good at. Train with power, and be skilled enough to pull that weapon out of your hat whenever you need it. If you must adjust a technique so much that using power is awkward, slow or throws you off-balance, you need to spend more time training with power. It has to be at your fingertips whenever you need it.
  4. Develop footwork that can run down an evading opponent while escaping an attacking opponent. That’s it. Be hard to catch, while also being difficult to get away from. This should be rule #1, now that I think of it…
  5. Study strategy and the art of landing and stopping a punch. This is what I believe you are looking for in Wing Chun. It’s a good style. But (and that’s a BIG “but”) adding WC to Shotokan is like a football player cross training into lap swimming to improve his football. There are many strategies that utilize what you are best at. If you undertake an art that is completely unrelated to what you already do, are you really improving your Shotokan? Or are you just adding an art that you will never be as good at as your Shotokan? Like the MMA guy who is mediocre at 4 styles, you will never improve your Shotokan. Find ways to use what you have to improve the ability to land your strikes and stop your opponent’s strikes. Use what you have to do it. Not what the WC school across town has.

Folks, I’m not anti-cross-training. I am just pro-mastery of what you have. If you take these rules and apply them to what you already do–and you never deviate from them–you will improve what you are able to do already without having to take precious time away from your specialty.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Clint Eastwood, Last of the True “Tough Guys”

I know what you’re thinking. “What? Thekuntawman is now a movie critic?

😉

Not exactly. Still in the business of martial arts, but I do like watching a good movie. And movies where people die are my kind of movies. Whether they die because of a fight scene, a ghost, or Dirty Harry’s 44 Magnum, I do not have the ability to watch movies where the audience cries. Nor do I enjoy silly movies with men dressing up like women. Just not my thing.

On the other hand, I think a lot of lessons for martial artists can be learned through some of these good action films. Although there aren’t many really good films today… the same way I can’t stand martial arts in a dress, I hate to see mediocre film-making dressed up in CGI and flash. I like a good movie with well thought-out scripts, an interesting plot that makes sense, and complete characters that have consistency. When I say “complete”, I am referring to a character in a film who does everything that is consistent with who he is supposed to be–and the film completely shows who and what he is. When a character in a film is complete–and everything he says is consistent with who he is in the film–you will be able to learn all about this character and what makes him tick, blah blah blah.

So, in modern film, the Tough Guy is dead.

And don’t hand me no crap about The Rock, Vin Diesel, Brad Pitt, etc. What they have today are pretty boys with muscles, and that ain’t no tough guy. The closest we have today to a tough guy would be a Chuck Norris (but he can’t act! and ass-kicking isn’t the point) or Hugh Jackman (takes too many non-tough guy roles). But Clint Eastwood? True tough guy. What makes him so great is that Eastwood created a character and this character shows up in all of his films. From Dirty Harry to Private Kelley to whatever that guy’s name was in “Gran Torino”. Man. Even at 80s years old, he looked like he could kick someone’s ass.

Wait, didn’t thekuntawman just say “ass kicking” had nothing to do with it?

Yes, I did. See, ass kicking is a by product of the tough guy. He doesn’t have to know how to kick someone’s ass; he just needs to be able to do it. It’s not technique. It’s ability. The tough guy? He keeps fighting until the bad guy says “uncle” and forks over his milk money. The pretty boy with muscles (or martial arts skills) won’t get the milk money because he’s tough–he gets it because he knows how to apply an arm bar or spin hook kick or something. The tough guy may not win all the fights. He just looks like he will. The pretty boy with muscles? Well, even beer-drinking, weed-smoking, mall-lingering, saggy pants wearing thugs look at him and think, “I can take him.”

And what happens when pretty boys with muscles encounter a bigger, stronger opponent? He takes BJJ. Or gets the script writer to bring in a Muay Thai teacher (like Jean Claudia Van Dame did in “Kickboxer”) so he can learn the secret technique to win the fight. And tough guys? They don’t give a darn what you know or how big you are; they fight you anyway, and find a way to bring home the turkey bacon.

Okay, maybe the script writers had something to do with it.

But the tough guy had something that pretty-boy-with-muscles doesn’t have, and that’s courage. He sees that the odds are against him, and he does it anyway. While pretty-boys-with-muscles reach into their bag o’tricks to pull out the secret weapon, or they luck up with the bad guy losing out because of his bad character, or something like that. The Tough Guy brings only what he has to the table–himself and his toughness–and finds a way to force a win.

The pretty boy finds a reason to take off his shirt at least 4 times in a movie. The tough guy just looks tough in his T-shirt–the one with the gravy stain on it. Pretty boy attends Pilates classes and body sculpts and has a six-pack. Tough guy doesn’t give a darn that he doesn’t have a whole lotta definition, but he’s gonna rock what the creator gave him anyway. Pretty boy gets 3 or 4 girls over the course of the movie. Tough guy pushes pretty women out of the way to find the bad guy. Then he returns at the end of the movie to get the girl. Pretty boys have to come up with corny one-liners to sound tough when in front of the bad buys. Tough guy also has one-liners, but they are memorable:  “I know what you’re thinking, punk. Did he fire 6 shots? Or was it only 5? Well to be totally honest with you, punk, in all this excitement I kinda lost count myself. But this is a 44 Magnum. It’ll blow your head clean off. You gotta ask yourself a question. Do I feel lucky today? Well, do you, punk?”

Yeah, 98-pound weakling comedians will repeat “I’ll be back” and “I want to learn Muay Thai!” But no one–NO ONE–can use Dirty Harry’s line but him.

My point of all this is that the tough guys of yesterday–Clint Eastwood, Rocky, Charles Bronson, John Wayne–were not perfect men. They were beatable. They had a little stomach fat. They had receding hairlines. And they didn’t know a buncha martial arts styles. But they were strong physically and psychologically. Their feelings didn’t get hurt because someone thought they could whip you. They didn’t jump on the karate bandwagon when it got popular so they could wave with the wind. They didn’t spend hours in the gym trying to come up with bodies to qualify them for a spead in Playgirl magazine. They didn’t even damage their souls by playing characters that fornicated with a ton of women to prove their “manhood”. They were just themselves:  tough men who had morals, who did the right thing, who weren’t afraid to step forward even when they were the underdog. Well, a true tough guy never really IS the underdog, is he? Even when he is outgunned, out muscled, out karate styled… we always have faith that his toughness will pull him through. He has faith in himself, so he isn’t chasing new skills and weapons to keep up with the times. I mean, can you imagine Dirty Harry doing Krav Maga because LEOs around the world do it? Hell, no. He’s Dirty Harry, dammit. Even in his advanced age, like in “Gran Torino”, Dirty Harry prevails. Thanks to his courage and toughness.

You martial artists are mostly pretty boys with muscles. Wait, lot’s of you aren’t all that damned cute. But you try too hard to keep up with the times and do what the guy next door is doing, instead of just exceling at what you already do, and doing that better than what the enemy is at his craft. Be indomitable because YOU are indomitable–not because you learned a little of this and a little of that. Don’t worry that you’re tummy is getting a little rounder and you’re starting to look 50… my friend, you ARE 50. Be tough anyway. Hell, Clint Eastwood kept his toughness at 80. Why can’t you?

Thanks for visiting my blog. And for your entertainment, here’s a clip for you… I swear, they just don’t make movies like they use to!

 

Takes More Than Just Being Filipino

When I was a snotty young man, I hung with some older, wiser–but Americaner–martial artists. They had not traveled as I had, they only spoke one language, and many only knew one martial arts style. But for some reason, my 20-something year old ignorance thought I was somehow superior to these men. Even though some could have easily beaten me in sparring (doing so many times; that’s why I hung with them–I was hoping to improve by training with them), I often spoke with authority. I spoke with arrogance and ignorance, because of the faulty notion that I knew what I was talking about because I’m Filipino.

I think I heard a chuckle.

Yes, you know I’m right. And like some AA member starting with the man in the mirror, I say this with authority because I was guilty of it myself. You’re probably laughing because you’re either Filipino and do it yourself, or you’re a white guy who has “lost” arguments with FMA teachers pulling the “I’m Filipino” card. It’s okay; everyone does it. Sometimes people do it because they have degrees. Or they have stripes on their belts. Or they have muscles. Or they are affiliated with Bruce Lee/Dan Inosanto/Remy Presas/Antonio Ilustrisimo/the Gracie family. Or they were once cops/military/security guards/stabbed with a knife.

And we all sound like 50-Cent:  Buy my bullshit because I was shot.

Or rapper Just Ice:  Buy my bullshit because I was in prison.

Or Snoop Dogg: Buy my bullshit because I act like a ganster.

How about this:  Buy my bullshit because I know what I’m talking about, and if you don’t believe me… I’ll prove it to you.

(crickets)

For some reason, the ones who speak with the real authority–proven skill and willing to prove it again–are listened to the least. In the martial arts community, we like resumes and certifications. We like association too:  “Guro ______ certified him, so he’s the real deal.”  Notice how Bruce Lee almost never spoke of Yip Man, but 40 years after his death, JKD experts quote “Bruce” (they like to talk about him like they knew him) more than they quote the Bible.

And what was that stuff about idol worshiping?

So, we Americans like to worship race too. It’s the reason why Jesus statues in your churches have a White guy in a robe when Jesus was actually Middle Easterner. And why a Black guy with a Mexican restaurant will never make any money, even if his Siete Mares is the best in town. Or why people snicker at Panda Express locations that have a White cook instead of a Chinese guy. Or how you would buy shrimp fried rice from a Korean restaurant, but not from a Greek one. And the more “authentic” a master is–broken English, old, ASIAN–the more knowledgeable white guys you will step over to pay your money to watch the old Asian guy twirl his sticks for two hours and then sign your certificates. We have this thing, that we believe foreign is better–but it has to be the *right* foreign, and this is why the busiest Muay Thai gyms in my town are run by Asian guys rather than the Mexican guys who are actively fighting and proving themselves in the ring. It’s the reason my high school sweetheart, who is a world-champion boxer usually ends up teaching fitness classes when she’s the only Champ with a gym in town.

Please don’t take offense by anything I’m saying here. I am just pointing out the interesting observation that we tend to put more on things that matter least and sometimes in the process we slight good, experienced, un-Asian teachers. I’ve done it myself, and chances are that some of you do it too.

I was once exchanging with Guro Billy Bryant when I had first opened my school. At this time, I was just beginning to teach the curriculum I created years earlier and was trading with him for some techniques from his Cha-3 Kempo style. He and I would play hands so that I could show him my Kuntaw, and then he would show me his techniques. For some reason, and I know many martial artists have this experience, most of the techniques he showed me were familiar to me. Except he had his own way of doing them. Rather than shut my yap and learn what he was teaching me, I kept saying, “I know that, it’s in Kuntaw/Eskrima/Jow Ga… because I’m Filipino.”

Ouch! It’s painful for me even to repeat this story. Told you I was young and dumb…

I could tell it was irritating him, and finally, he said, “Moe, you need to stop that. You know because you are a learned martial artist. Not because you’re Filipino. You’re going to need more than just being Filipino to get by.” Actually, this is something he had said many times. And it’s the reason why he insisted that I spar matches almost everytime I came down with whomever was there. See, Billy was sort of my “manager”–he was my mouthpiece, and he wanted to make sure I was better than anyone who came our way. My good friend Terry Robinson (www.jowhopkuen.com) was the same way–always having me spar matches so that my school could grow (Terry was my business partner and my other mentor in the business of the martial arts). Neither of them highlighted the fact that I’m a foreigner. They both insisted that I get myself known because of my skill.

One of the problems in the Filipino arts is that many of the Filipinos speak with authority of being Filipino. I have even had a few whisper in my ear that we have to keep FMA pure by certifying more Filipinos. Well I have news for you; none of my first generation of instructors under me are Filipino. It doesn’t matter. But the sad thing is, that as we get more and more weak Filipino FMA people out into the media it will cast a shadow on public opinion of our arts. Filipino FMA people lately have been coming up with bullshit stories about their arts’ origins and techniques and accomplishments that either don’t exist or matter. They make up neat drills and demos and try to garner interest by selling seminars, certifications and DVDs. Finally, to make matters worse–none of them are proving their superiority in combat. I can tell you this, my kababayan:  This new breed of FMA student is getting stronger, and the way the Brazilians took Jujitsu to another level, I believe the foreign FMA guy will do the same with the Filipino martial arts. And I believe that some folks, like Hoch Hocheim, Mark Denny, Greg Alland, and some others have really improved how the FMA they were taught. Do I believe that their method is superior to Filipino FMA? Not really, but they have taken the weak, watered down, commercial, drill-oriented FMA we Filipinos sold them and come up with a version far superior. The Dog Brothers alone have brought back the spirit of the FMA warrior we claim our teachers had, and although they did it under the tutelege of Filipino masters, this idea was all theirs. We watered down the art. We sold it. We embellished our stories. We bastardized it to make a buck and make ourselves famous. So what you going to do next?

You’re going to need to be more than just Filipino. You will have to be good at what you do, and be willing to prove how good you are. It’s the Filipino way.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Typhoon Philippine School of Martial Arts Presents: Jow Ga Kung Fu in Stockton, California!

I am pleased to announce that we will be holding a weekly class in Stockton, CA, for Jow Ga Kung Fu.

We meet Sundays at 8 a.m. for two hours, and the tuition is $30 each class. Ages 13 and older. Contact me for more information.

Advice for a New FMA Teacher (Guro Alvin)

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but I am opening my first kickboxing gym (already signed the lease last Saturday) and retail store in about a week.

Well, my sister and I had travelled to San Franciso and Oakland a few weeks back so that I could buy equipment and open wholesale accounts. While there, I was in a dim sum store next to a young man who was ordering in broken Mandarin, just like me. I recognized his appearance to know that he was not Chinese, but possibly Filipino or a Tsinoy (Filipino-Chinese mix). He recognized me as a martial artist by my forearms. I could tell he was either trying to figure who I was or he was gay (I mean, we are in SF…).

“Excuse me, I’m willing to bet you practice the martial arts.” Whew.

So, as we waited on our kao da cha shu bao (baked buns, gai cha shu bao for me… that’s chicken), he ran down his rather lengthy resume to be a man of only 24. He told me of his plans to open a martial arts school–the first commercial FMA-only school in the Bay–once he was able to borrow the money. He has a small group that he trains, and is right around the age I was when I opened mine. I referred him to this blog and told him to look out for his name (sorry I forgot your last name, Guro). The advice I had for him could fill a book, but I would like to give some basic advice. From a sorta-old Lion to a young Lion. I hope that many of you who aspire to open a school will benefit from it. And for giving me the bragging rights of signing an autograph in front a crowd of people, I accept your offer to guest-teach a class in your school when you open.;-)

  • Eliminate your competition by choosing a niche within the martial arts community that no one else does, or that no one else can do better. This niche must be blasted in front of everyone who sees your school’s name. Eventually, they will identify your school–and your school only–with that niche.
  • As we spoke about in the restaurant, you have to be a regular in competition. True FMAs are about fight matches. None of the old grandmasters were able to have a career without them. I’m sure you won’t engage in “death matches”… so you have to do something. The matches will round out your skill and transform your knowledge into actual fighting experience, which is something 90% of the martial arts teachers out there don’t have. Stand out by being able to be one of the men who speak with authority, and those who speak from experience.
  • Give yourself a well thought-out, patient curriculum. When I say it should be “well thought-out”, I mean that you have pondered over what goes where, why, and for how long. Know what goals you have for each student at specified benchmarks throughout their learning career. I would recommend having an older master like your own teacher review and give you feedback. Those older masters can tell you from experience what changes will yield the best results in your students. They can help you avoid mistakes and wasted instruction.
  • I always say this:  Keep a savings account. As a teacher, nothing is more damaging to your school than having to choose between teaching and doing what you love, and having to take a business-leeching job. Since you did not go to college, take it from me; you will never make enough money to quit and go back to teaching full-time if you neglect your school. Since you are on the way to running your school, make sure to plan for hiccups. There will be some and you want to be your own bank loan.
  • Have the discipline to teach exactly who you want to teach and reject anything that does not point in the direction that Guro Alvin wants to go. In the late 90s I ran an aerobic kickboxing class because it was popular. It was great money, but I hated every second of it. I’m warrior dammit, and I felt like Richard Simmons up there. I don’t even like soft rock.
  • Every school can be lucrative, as long as you never stop advertising and marketing. The best cheap form of advertising is to stand on the street in front of your school and hold a poster with your name on it. The next best is to pay someone else to do it. The next best after that is to pass out flyers.
  • The experts have always said that the best form of advertising is through referrals. I do agree to a point. In my school, my students are the only men in their circle of friends who like the kind of training I give. But for a school that is not as extreme, referral programs are great. When we had a children’s class, referrals were our top form of recruitment. There is a lot of material on the market for doing this, and you would do yourself a great favor by investigating.
  • Start your school with low tuition just to get income flowing. Then, as enrollment increases, increase your tuition. It’s much better than charging too much and having too many potential students “think about it” when the only thing stopping them from joining you is their budget.
  • Some people do contracts, some do month to month. My memberships are 6-month memberships. Any student who does not think he can hang for 6 months is not a student I want. However, as a new teacher, it would be a good idea not to give anyone a reason to walk out and “think about it”, and just allow month-to-month until enrollement and cash-in increases.
  • If you choose both methods, offer lower monthly rates if they select the 6 month memberships. That way they have an option that fits their budget.
  • For intensity, it depends on your teaching style. When my cousin taught, he made classes moderately difficult, and then offered an optional killer workout twice a week for those who want that type of training. One of my enemies in business is that my classes are too intense for many people. I may adjust this method, I’m thinking as I type.
  • Learn as much as you can about other styles. This will help your role as guide and teacher because there are many lessons to learn from other masters and styles. You will miss all of that wisdom if you close your ears. I am not saying to go and study other arts, but pay attention to them. Your journey is not complete as a teacher; you are pushing towards mastery. And to be a master of the art, you must be an expert. What kind of expert knows nothing about anything that is not his forte’?
  • Finally, study the business of the martial arts. There is a wealth of information on the subject  I am no marketing expert or master businessman. But in 19 years of running my own school, I have learned a lot throught mistakes. Had I learned what books would have taught me two decades ago, I would have not made those mistakes and perhaps I would be retired by now. Wait, retired? No, never… See, when you do what you love for a living, you will never have to work for the rest of your life.

Like I said, I could write a book on the subject.

Wait, I did write a book! Several, in fact. Just keep checking for updates; I am getting them edited as we speak. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Note to Self: Be On Time!

Had an experience that was so eye-opening, that I had to text myself a note. See, I was driving down the street a few weeks ago and decided to stop at a store for a soda. (Random thekuntawman fact:  I love 7-Up, not much of a cola fan)  So I made a U-turn and pull into the shopping center to go to the store, and when I get out–what do I see? A martial arts school. A big, nice one. You know, the kind with the padded floors, wall-to-wall mirrors… a franchise. Except this one had a group of students hanging outside (it was around lunchtime), waiting for the instructor. What a travesty.

What? You mean that didn’t seem awkward to you?

Well, this is a sin that I violate myself. Students should never arrive to a school, for a scheduled class, that is closed. Never. You know what time classes are. So let’s say class begins at 11:00. You get there at 10:55. You have to get dressed, pick up a little, talk to the new visitor, check the voicemail, make small talk with the students–and begin class around 11:25. Sound familiar? Yeah, well it sounds awfully familiar to me too, because I use to do this all the time. It is safe to say that an instructor should not plan anything personal or business within an hour of class time. This is your job, and what happens if you are late habitually on the job?

Yup, you get to experience the wonderful pleasures of looking for new work.

Back to my story, I greet the students, go into the store next door and when I come out they are still waiting. Curiously, I walk next door to peek inside. “Advanced class?” I ask. “Mixed”, they say. One guy is Advanced (Brown Belter), then a smattering of Yellow and White belt students. Because they are a semi-Chinese style, I suggest that the Brown Belter should get his younger brothers warmed up while they wait. After all, class is wherever you happen to be–even in the parking lot. Good advertising for Sifu, I suggest. Wait. Am I a martial artist, they ask? Boy am I. I introduce myself while they take shoes off to start practicing, and the Brown Belter shows me a piece of his form. Apparently, he’d heard of me and the fact that I had practiced Wing Chun in my youth (my favorite cousin is a Wing Chun Sifu). He had been a member of my friend’s WC school years earlier and wanted to show me the two versions of Chum Kiu he knew. After that, he requested to see my form. I give him my philosophy about doing demonstrations to strangers–a huge violation in the TCMAs–and direct him to this blog. I also inform him that there is some footage of me demoing kung fu forms on youtube when I was 14… Google me, I tell him. And then I big them a good day and get in my car and leave.

End of story? I thought so. But not quite. See, the students look up my school and are impressed with my background. They look up the youtube clip and liked what they saw. Conversations led to more conversations, which led to other conversations with classmates who have been to my school, and the next thing you know I get a phone call from a young man two steps away from the Black Belt telling me that I am “the real deal”.

Do you see where this is leading? I was merely making conversation with a few people like I normally do, shamelessly plugging my blog and giving my opinion. But the friendly encounter backfired and now I have students looking at my school in a more positive light than their own. All because some Sifu left his students out in the Sun because his Walmart/McDonald’s/Panda Express run was more important. Tell you what; I’m not a forms guy, but had I demoed a form for them, they would swear I was Jet Li. (not that I’m good at it, but I am certainly more convincing than a Kenpo guy pretending to be Chinese style)  Your school is a business. But it is also a home. And you wouldn’t leave your children outside the doors to your home, and your students are no different. If the Sifu had other commitments that would make him “normally” late, he should give a copy of the key to Brown Belter and have him warm up the students or teach basics till Sifu arrives. Sends a much more positive message. But don’t fret young people; we all do it. It’s just not a practice we should be partaking. Had I been a hostile Sifu, it would have been bad. Had I been a teacher who steals students, it would have been bad. If I were a back-biting Sifu, it would have been bad. Let this be a learning experience, because it was one for me. Like I said, all appearances of being hypocritical aside, *I* violate this rule. But no more.

I’d also like to share a few more related rules:

  • Teachers of a style should avoid lengthy conversations with another teacher’s students, if that teacher is not around. Especially–avoid disagreements.
  • When encountering advanced students of another style, it is okay to treat them as junior teachers. I teach my advanced students to treat other teachers as equals. They’ve put in the time, after all.
  • Never demonstrate for students of another style unless you are in the setting for such a thing. It can be misconstrued as showing off if you do.
  • It is not a good idea to criticize another teacher to his students. I have seen lifelong friends become enemies after violation of this rule. I sometimes compliment a student’s teacher (even when I don’t mean to) out of politeness. Yes, it is a violation of thekuntawman image, but sometimes I’m an old softie.
  • Don’t offer instruction to students. I would even go so far as to say don’t accept students under obligation (like a contract) to another teacher. I certainly do not violate this. If a student does not have any loyalty the other teacher can count on, would I want him? Not me.
  • Teachers, arrive early so you can unwind and get the school and yourself ready for the arrival of your students. They are–after all–customers. You want their experience with you to be positive, focused and not rushed at all.
  • Instruct your advanced students to take over as “Sifu” if you are not around. This will help prepare them for leadership.
  • Keep yourself skilled enough that they are not calling another teacher “the real deal”. They will always meet other teachers, but if they don’t believe their teacher can take almost anyone, something’s wrong. Check that.

Please take this article as just a suggestion, not a criticism. The purpose of this blog is to share information. Thanks for visiting my blog.