7-11 Martial Arts (Fat-Cream Martial Arts, Part II)

AKA, “Burger King Grandmasters”.

AKA, “The Whopper”.

AKA, “Slurpee de Mano”.

Martial Arts Brothers and Sisters, we have to get out of this mentality. The real martial arts was never intended to be convenient. It wasn’t designed so that just anyone can have access to it. It isn’t easy to find, and when you find it, no one will hold your hand so you can learn, excel and achieve rank in it. If finding a good school was as easy as opening the Yellow Pages to the “K” or “M” section and looking between “Jewelers” and “Kennels”, or between “Marital Counselors” and “Masonry”… and then picking the one closest to you–or picking the one who has the biggest “FREE” wording on their ad–wouldn’t we all be Black Belters under great masters?

REAL martial arts is not designed for just anyone. It isn’t for the lazy. It isn’t for the broke. It isn’t for the impatient, the hot-headed, the arrogant, and unfocused. It is for the people who want it. Not just those who want to learn, but those who want it so bad they would rearrange their lives to learn from the right teacher after looking for a needle in a haystack. They would do without some things in order to afford it. They would quit jobs, not accept the 10% differential in order to stay on a shift that allows them to train. They would travel for hours week after week and even sleep on a classmate’s couch, in order to get two days of training. They would train when they’re injured–just work around their injury. They often will choose the life of a martial artist, than to stay married to the woman who just doesn’t understand how important this role is to you.

The martial arts defines who we are; our occupations are jobs we take just to pay bills–including tuition. Hell, if we could, we wouldn’t work. If training could pay the bills, how many of us would do nothing else but train? Even if it meant we couldn’t afford any luxuries, and not much more than the basic necessities? My die-hard martial artists are the worst-dressed, old car drivingest people I know. We don’t give a damn about retirement:  When you make a living doing what you dreamed of doing all your life, you will never retire. Make a living with your passion, and you will never have to work for the rest of your life.

Which of us wouldn’t sacrifice for this? The ability to train daily, and spread the art and make our living doing it?

There are many martial artists out here who like to call themselves “martial artists”, but they would give up nothing in order to do it. For them, martial arts training is not much more than a yoga class, or a softball team. Sure, you love it. Sure, you’ve been doing it all your life. But it does not define who you are. People don’t look at you and say, “There goes, Mustafa, the pool player!” or “There goes Mike, the administrative assistant!”  No more than some people would refer to you as “the Baptist” or “the Catholic”… unless that lifestyle truly defines who you are, people do not know you by that characteristic.

There are many who love the art, and some even make their living with it–but it does not define them. They make no sacrifices for it. If the school was constantly riding the red/black line–they’d close it. They will not miss any meals in order to do it. On a free day off, the first thing in their mind is not “goody, that means I can train all day!” Martial arts for these people is an extracurricular activity, and for others it is an occupation. It is not a way of life, as there is little more than just do what you do, and then move on to other things. School owners, especially. Many of us do not research our art to the point that it consumes us. Yeah, we may purchase books and DVDs and attend seminars–but are we truly researching the art? I have observed that the most knowledgeable martial artists I have met have been poor martial artists. They have made the sacrifice, and often that sacrifice is at the expense of marriages and a good income. However, they did the dirty work, of experimenting and testing and training and practicing… day in and day out, until mastering the art. A good many martial artists have not done much more than move from the couch to the DVD to the cushions. Probably looking for the remote to press “rewind” in order to get a second look at that neat technique…

I would say that about a third of the inquiries into my school have been students who live out of the area. And I hate to admit it, but most of the out of town inquiries are more likely to come and train with me, than the guys who are inquiring who live within 90 miles of my school. Why is that?

I have a theory. Most of the out of town FMA people I have trained live in a town where there IS no FMA. So, they value it more and will travel to find a teacher when they see a school they like. And forget what you’ve heard about Asian martial artists, do you know who the most diligent and loyal students I have met come from?

Australia.

Europe is close second. Here in America, we have more FMA grandmasters and more FMA schools than perhaps the Philippines itself. But for some reason, we still have the least dedicated FMA students who will never study the FMAs if DVDs and youtube were outlawed. FMA students would rather take a seminar a few times a year, than study week after week with a local master. If you are anything less than an FMA celebrity master, you might as well advertise as a “Karate/Kung Fu” teacher, like I do.

It seems the more access we have to it, the less we value it. And then when we find it, we will only study it if the tuition is $10 cheaper than the next guy–or the school is a little closer than the other guy. We will travel 1,000 miles to meet some woman we meet on Match.com, but we won’t travel 100 miles to study with a master. And instead, we’ll study with the weak Sensei with the add-on FMA certificate, because he’s closer or cheaper. Amazing.

Then you have the guys with the background in another art, but take seminars for our FMA certificate. And did you do as much training for the FMA certification as you did your Karate? Hell no. Maybe it took 3 years, but you only took the seminar 4 or 5 times a year–if THAT much. So, now the art that is so admired by much of the Martial Arts world is reduced to the level of a side hustle–sandwiched between Tae Kwon Do or Kenpo classes and Afterschool Karate.

I was invited to lunch with a certain well-known Grandmaster who taught FMA alonside a bunch of other styles. I came early, to see what was taught in his seminar. What I saw was a roomful of guys and gals, splitting their training time up between lousy Muay Thai, Silat, and FMA. Basically, we watched the GM demonstrate techniques, and then the groups broke out into smaller groups that practiced what they could remember of the demo, and just as people started to get it… it was time to put down the sticks and play patty cake (sorry, also Wing Chun). About 6 or 7 FMA teaching certificates were issued that seminar, and I felt like I needed to vomit. It sure looked like a roomful of beginning FMA guys to me. That includes the GM.

In case you were wondering, I gave my opinion of what I saw in the parking lot, then in the car, and then at the restaurant. Needless to say, I was not invited back, and the students I had that were also part of that group quit from my school. I no longer accept current students from that organization.

Seems to me that the FMA community is hurting for serious FMA people. I swear by God, I mean that. We have too many dabblers posing as Guros and serious students. Too many part time FMAers. Not enough people who want to learn so bad they would travel across town in order to study. And that level of respect for the art is reflected in the skill level I see when I look around at our FMA “masters” and “Guros”. The few hard core Guros I see are teaching out of parks and backyards because they have a difficult time keeping students who claim to want to learn. We are no more loyal and dedicated to learning good martial arts, than we are loyal to the neighborhood 7-11. Wherever we can find a better deal, closer location, or quicker in-and-out, we will change where we get our slurpees and newspapers from in a second.

Like I said, if I could ever figure out a way to invent a cream that you could rub on and instantly become proficient at Eskrima–these guys would never step into a dojo again.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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Lessons from the Moro: Self-Denial

Okay, since people love to talk about the Moro and the people and art of Mindanao. They love to claim “Moro Eskrima” (lol), wear the sari/sarong, the pisyawit, play the kulintang, cover themselves with chicken blood (which is haram/forbidden anyway)–even say that their art is from Mindanao, but they have no interest or knowledge of the culture of the tribes of Mindanao. So, I would like to introduce a little of our culture to you, and hopefully you can find some value in what lessons the modern-day warrior can learn from my culture and art.

First, understand that the native culture of the people of Mindanao is based on the Islamic religion. So, you cannot be an Islamophobe while claiming to be doing this culture’s arts properly. Taking a piece of a culture is not really upholding a culture; by limiting yourself to a piece of a culture you are only pretending to be doing that culture. Can someone claim to be an American, but hate the Constitution, not vote, fail to pay taxes, not support the government or the people or the military? Some liberals would say yes, but I would say no–you are just pretending to be American. You may live here, you might have a passport, but to be an American you have to do more than just claim it. That’s like a man who watches gay porno and puts a rainbow sticker in his window, but he claims he’s straight. Just doesn’t make sense.

Therefore, you cannot separate Moro culture and art from its religion. You don’t have to be a Muslim, but you must respect it tenets and at some point–honor them and be knowledgeable about them. Other than that, you are just a guy wearing a dress swinging sticks and knives.

Since we are about a month away from Ramadan, I would like to introduce you to the concept of self-denial and obedience: Sayum/bihilya/magpuasa/berpuasa, or fasting.

Fasting is one of the pillars of the Islamic faith, meaning that we deny ourselves food, drink, sex, or other pleasures during daylight hours. People have a number of reasons for fasting, and they will say things like having empathy for the poor, practicing one’s strength, blah blah blah–but the number one reason we fast is because God told us to. (After all, what other reason could be more important?) Fasting has many benefits, and for the warrior, fasting is a skill as well as a principle.

Fasting is, at its heart, self-imposed suffering. No one is denying you access to anything. No one will punish you if you fail to do it. If the suffering is too great, then just pick up a glass of water and drink it–or pick up a sandwich and eat it. But the weak cannot fast. And what is a warrior, but the strongest of men? As my grandfather once told me, a man who is too weak to deny himself a bowl of rice when he is hungry, is not man enough to resist women when he is married or resist an opponent when he is scared or tired or hurt. Therefore, for the one less concerned with God’s law, fasting is a practice of self-control and inner strength.

And a warrior who can maintain a self-imposed hunger strike  will be able to discipline himself for superiority in the path of the fighting arts. Try it for a week. Wake up before the sun rises (which means no cable TV late at night) and drink water and have a meal. When the sun rises, be all business–no fun, no wasteful TV/radio, no food and no drink–until the sun goes down. It isn’t easy. If you can do this, then you understand what self-control is all about. A little bit of hunger pain and thirst is nothing compared to the warrior of old who sometimes had to endure the heat of the jungle or the desert, the cold of the rain, the fatigue, the pain of unattended injuries for weeks at a time, the swallowing of fear and suspense… and keep fighting. For professional athletes today, I would say that this is one of the things that today’s athletes have lost. Perhaps they have advanced and scientific training methods. But at their core they have become weak, undisciplined failures. These are men who cannot deny themselves the lure of women who mean them no good when they have good wives at home, children who love and look up to them, fans who admire them, million dollar salaried jobs doing what they enjoy, and a team who needs their focus. There is a saying, that a man cannot and will not rise above the level of his character. So if you ever wonder why supposedly great men-Bill Clinton, Arnold Schwartzneger, Mike Tyson, and many others–suffered a great decline when they were at the top of their field, all you have to do is look at their personal lives. These three great men who were inconceivably rich, powerful and champions, were undone by a woman. We could go further to say they were undone by their poor characters and the inability to control their lower selves–their desires that other, less successful men would not have succumbed to.

Trainers of old used to require abstinence for their pupils during training and game time. It is the reason why athletes used to leave their wives at home while they played games or went into training for championship fights. They had to watch what they eat, refrain from alcohol use, get ample sleep and focus. Isn’t this what is required of soldiers in training? Even a guy trying to get a job at Walmart must be on his best behavior when he is trying to get hired.

Fasting is what prepares you for success. Sure you can eat a Big Mac while you are learning martial arts. But if you want to be successful in the martial arts, especially when preparing for competition season, it is the guy who disciplines himself even from a cheeseburger–who will see the most success.

Fasting on a regular basis will develop this kind of strength and discipline. And for those who believe that God directed us to fast, how can any man count on you for anything when you cannot even follow the simple rules that God himself tells you to follow? Every religion I can think of requires fasting, and to have some type of self control. And we are only talking about food and water and sex. If you want to maintain focus, you must learn to fast. Develop the ability to deny yourself these things for a short period of time, and you will be on your way to understanding pain tolerance and suffering, and how the warrior is able to endure it.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Long, Boring Summer Days…

Let’s talk about a different purpose of the role of the martial artist.

Yes, we train for fighting. We know how to prevent a knife-wielding attacker from killing us. Our skill is a trade–should we ever find ourselves out of work. We know how to teach people to lose weight, build muscle, face their insecurities and fears. We are making ourselves and our student healthier and live longer. But there is something that we don’t talk about in the martial arts, that is far more important than all of this.

We protect our families. I am not referring to beating up muggers who try to take our wallets or threaten our families. I mean that we must make our families safe. I think I’ve told you before about a young rape victim who joined my school a few years ago:  Her father is a Grandmaster.

Nuff said.

I’ve taught guys whose Dads were martial art teachers. Young women whose boyfriends, husbands, brothers, cousins, uncles–sons–were martial artists. Why? Shouldn’t this segment of the market already know how to defend themselves? It should. But sometimes we are so wrapped up with work, teaching, paying bills, that we neglect to teach and protect those closest to us.

I just opened a new school and store in South Sacramento, just one exit down from my old location of 8 years. So, I’m passing out flyers almost every day in the morning before it gets too hot, and guess who I’m meeting?

Your kids. Your sons and daughters–even teenagers–at your homes. Anyone see a problem with that?

My children are 4, 10 and 11 and I will never allow them to be home alone. At that age, some parents believe they are old enough to be home alone but I don’t even believe a teenager should be home alone. Okay–maybe for a few hours–but never all day long, for weeks at a time. I’m sorry, but I know damn well none of you will leave your jewelry unattended all day long for weeks at a time, or your cars unlocked all day. Am I correct? Then why, my friends, are our children–our precious pearls that could not be replaced in a thousand years–home by themselves?

I’m going to spare you the parent-to-parent-scolding.

Wait, no I’m not.

Don’t you realize that there are men out here:  Cable installers, maintenance men, landscapers, postal workers, even martial arts teachers–who go home at night and watch child pornography and other crazy stuff like that–and the only thing they need to go from voyeur to criminal is access to unsupervised children????

I have a question I ask my kids. I point to two men when we’re out, sometimes a homeless guy and then a guy who is nicely dressed… And I ask them, “which one looks like a child molester?” Do you know the correct answer?

They both do. Any man who is not their father is capable of being a molester. They can look like handsome models, they can look friendly grandfathers, they can look like ME–and no man is to be trusted. They are not to talk to any stranger when I or their mother is not around. Especially if they are at home. My children know this, do yours?

So, I’m passing out flyers, and these kids are so bored at home that when they hear my putting a flyer on their door they jump up to open the door and see what’s going on. Often, they will ask me about my classes. Very bad.

Just so you know, when a child approaches or calls you about martial art classes, don’t make conversation; tell them to have their parents call. Children should not be discussing business anyway.

I have had kids tell me they will tell their parents when they come home. That is bad too. Children should not be letting strangers know that there are no adults home. If they answer the phone and someone asks for mom or dad, they should say “mom/dad is busy”–never “not home”. Teach your kids that.

Which leads me to my next point. Why are these kids home alone? Young children are like cubs in the wild, vulnerable to prey. Did you think that the child predators will for some reason avoid your neighborhood? Even teenagers should not go without supervision. Maybe they are old enough to fight, but teenagers could still be seduced by smooth talkers, even other teenagers. With the music they listen to, the sex scenes in every movie that comes out, the way they are dressing and dancing these days… do you really think your teenagers don’t need supervision? All children have to have a responsible, trustworthy adult around them. Period.

The Solution: In every circle of families, there has to be a stay-home mom or other responsible adult. Let’s say there are five kids in your circle, various ages. Each family pitches in $50 per week, per kid, plus a donation of food, drink and a little entertainment money. If somebody has to, let that parent use your minivan Monday thru Friday for transportation (or trade cars). The kids won’t be bored, I guarantee it. They will have playmates. They will have transportation to the park, mall, library, etc. They will have adult supervision, and you don’t have to worry. And on top of that, the family that is on a one-parent income will have an extra $1,000 a month. Problem solved. The predators won’t have access to your kids, and summer won’t be as long and boring as it normally is.

Oh, the teenagers… Okay if there are a couple of teenagers in the group, then each family should throw in an extra $20 a week (five families = $100) to be split and paid to the teens for helping with cooking, supervising and cleaning. What teen is going to turn down $50 of easy money? And trust me, they will have their hands full and can’t play doctor while they are dealing with kids from 5 families…

My brothers, this has to be done. You must put priority on educating your children about strangers. No one is to be trusted. You won’t allow strange people to drive you car, why give them access to your children while you’re not home? If you can afford to, then see if your neighborhood has a day camp. This is the one thing I won’t criticize the McDojos for:  There is definitely a need for a safe place for kids to hang out, even if they are learning mediocre martial arts. 😉

Lecture is over, stepping down from my soapbox. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Gatdula’s 3-5-7 Tactic

AKA, “What if I had two weeks to teach someone self-defense”

AKA, “How to improve your fight performance 100% in 3 workout sessions”

AKA, “A Super-Technique”

I am going to teach you all a technique (yes, by blog…) and I guarantee that if you do exactly what I say, the way I say to do it, and you fight withsomeone who has not read my blog–I guarantee no one can fuck with you.

Excuse the language. Sometimes, I use bad language. But I’m actually breathing heavy because this is one of those techniques that I believe in that damned strongly. This, my friends, is a “super-technique”. Just do a little search from the main page about my definition of a “super-technique” and you will understand what I am getting ready to share with you. Anyone who has trained with me to fight in the ring knows this technique, and I know that if I use on you, you’re going to get hurt. If anyone is in the Sacramento area and would like to call me on what I am saying. I will prove this technique’s worth to you. Trust me I rarely offer something this valuable to strangers–regardless of how simplistic this tactic may seem.

First, some background. This is one of the first techniques I coined when I was a young man itching to open a school. I had heard my grandfather talking about no one should open a school who has not been fighting long enough to have his own way, and long enough to be able to prove that this “own way” is superior. I thought up this technique while working at the post office at Dulles Airport, and had to wait until the Christmas season ended to test it. When things slowed at the post office, I returned to my normal schedule of working out with friends and competing and used it on everyone. By the time I was working part time for a Kim’s Karate location owned by this man, Nathan Teodoro, this was one of the techniques I brought with me. The first student I trained this way was a young lady who had achieved the green or blue belt (forgot her name, maybe Nathan can help me out) but couldn’t fight. It took about three or four private lessons before she not only lost the fear of fighting, but became one of the dominant fighters in that dojang–male or female. I went on to teach it to a ton of people along my journey. When I encounter someone who wants a sparring tip, all I need is about two hours with you to teach it–and if you can spend two weeks training with me I can make it the most reliable skill in your toolbox.

By the way, Nathan is an old friend, and the last time he saw me I was about 22 and weighed around 125. He doesn’t know about this blog. Let’s see if he finds this article. Perhaps in the next few days I will post an article about him and our friendship and the influence he had on me as a young man.

Back to the technique, when I inherited a couple of students from a local dojo, one of them, Mani Bean (that’s a nickname, she’s a kid), had crazy legs but needed work on her hands. This was the technique that gave her balance. Today you would never know that this young national level fighter ever had a problem using her hands. (If her name sounds familiar it’s because I wrote an article about her. Just do a search on her nickname)

And now, the technique:

  • the 3-5-7 technique is a machine gun blast of three punches, five punches, or seven punches. they must be delivered in about the amount of time most guys can throw one or two.
  • you must deliver them with malicious intent. meaning, no Tae Bo punches folks. and no punching for patty cake drills. by the time your opponent has blocked one punch (assuming he is able to block one), you will hit him 2, 4 or 6 more times. trust me, and “gunting” won’t work on this, if you throw it right.
  • the punches are set up by any other technique–a side kick, a round kick, a hook punch, a jab, a fake… you name it. the secret here is that you must practice each set up and follow up as a separate technique. so, based on the example I just gave, you have 15 different techniques: side kick>3 punches, side kick>5 punches, and so on
  • you will even have the punches set up by blocks:  slap block>3 punches, slap block>5 punches, blah blah blah. DO NOT SKIP THIS PART.
  • now, when you practice it, you will move around with your partner. then when you’re ready, attack or have him attack you, then you time the 3/5/7 punches for the moment he rests after blocking or delivering the attack. if you attack with it, you will kick him, and the moment he blocks, follow up with the punches. if you are countering, have him try to hit you, and the moment you block successfully–attack him. don’t give him room to breathe or fart…
  • the whole attack should be over in about 2 to 3 seconds.
  • now, do each separate technique 500 times. if you identify 5 attacks and 3 counters, then you will execute the technique 4000 times. do not waste time getting your numbers, and do not skip this step!
  • don’t forget your evading and making the opponent miss! follow up failed attacks with the 3-5-7
  • by the way kiddos, this works in full contact fighting, point fighting and the street. take it from me: I’ve done all three with it.
  • when countering, it is important that your partner really tries to hit you. if he does a “youtube” attack, the technique will not work for you when you need it. the two different skills (use against a real attack, use for demonstration) are vastly different.
  • when throwing the attack, you must do it with conviction, with power, and with the intent to hit the opponent. you cannot do it any other way.
  • that’s it!

See, I’m a simple kind of guy. I don’t believe it lengthy, complicated drills. I don’t like a whole buncha variations. When it’s learned, trained and utilized this way, trust me: you will destroy your opponent. The tactic is really a collection of techniques that develops the skill of using the 3-5-7. Not exactly the kind of Kuntaw technique you’d find on your favorite “Deadly Art of Moroland” DVD, but at least you won’t need to wear a dress or bathe in chicken blood to make this shit work.

If you have two weeks to train someone, Habib Ahmad (my student who asked about it), that is just the perfect amount of time to develop a working level of knowledge with this technique. Remember, 500 with every version of this tactic you come up with.

No time? Then only have 2 or 3 variations.

Don’t forget squats, burpees and pushups. Vital to making any martial arts technique work. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Fat-Cream FMA

Martial artists sure are lazy these days.

I was talking to a potential student yesterday who, after brown-nosing me to death about how much he admired my school and my philosophy and the Filipino fighting arts, he insults me by asking, “Do you have anything on the north side? The south area is pretty far…”

You must be frigging kidding. You are looking for this kind of martial arts to be right around the corner from you? You’re not willing to drive 20-30 minutes for a real martial arts class? Instead, what do you suppose would be the alternative:  perhaps join another McDojo and raise your McDojo count to five? Obviously, you don’t want to study the real art.

Oh, I let him have it. In fact, I let many potential students “have it”. After all, I gotta be me, and these guys really need to get it raw, with no vaseline. I don’t sugar-coat anything–just ask my students. See, the martial artist of today is such a softee, he really doesn’t deserve to be called a “martial” anything these days. They are cut from the same cloth of lazy bastards who collect Tae Bo videos, Insane/P90X DVDs, dusty-but-brand-new exercise equipment, and fat-burning creams. The kind of guy who might purchase a gym membership and never use it. The kind of guy who eat super-sized meals at the fast food joint, but also take fat-burning-while-you-sleep pills and drink natural fat-zapping drinks. And never lose any damned weight.

Martial artists only stick with a program if they get quick rank and don’t have to train too hard and never spar. They like to wear “I’m a fighter” tee shirts and put up pics on Facebook and talk about how pussified today’s martial artist is, yet never duke it out with another fighter. The martial artist of today attends seminars rather than schools, finds tournaments too safe yet does not engage in “unsafe” sparring events, studies youtube clips and instructional DVDs and books and is always good for a demo, but won’t spar for shit.

If they sold a cream that you could just squeeze a tube and rub on some stuff that gives fighting skill, they would never step foot in a dojo again.

I use to travel by bus (non-airconditioned bus, I might add) for hours every week to study with one of my masters. I had to stay in Manila at least two or three days at a time, and slept on the floor of the school, or with a class mate when space was available. There are many people who have traveled 1 – 3 hours one way to study with me every month for years. Out of my Kung Fu students in the Intermediate class, none live near my school. Two travel 30 miles to class and make this trip 3 times a week, and have been doing this for several years.

If you want the art, you do what is necessary to learn it. I have had students come to class monthly from Canada and Texas. I have a student who use to save his money, and travel to California every few months just to train for a few days at a time. I have a student who lives in Washington, DC, and trains with me whenever I get to the East Coast. We talk by phone at least twice a month and I guide his training by phone and email. He has flown out here a few times as well.

Like I said, many of today’s martial artist knows nothing about stuff like this.

And I will not try and convince a lazy student such as this guy to join my school. He will be lazy, impatient, unfocused and undisciplined, and will be a waste of my time. To make matters worse–he might not even be the kind of guy who will pay his tuition on time.

We all know guys like this. Guros everywhere do what they can to obtain and keep such students because we have bills to pay. There is nothing wrong with that; we all take undeserving students. Sometimes we even take them hoping that we just might be able to turn this lousy student into a good one; I was one of those. But in my “old” age of 42 (actually I turn 42 next week on the 12th), I have been there, done that and can forsee such wastes of floor space. So I make it difficult for such students to join by suggesting that they are not suitable matches for our school and in these cases I will recommend the shopping center McGuro.

Hey, as Harry Callahan would say, a man’s gotta know his limitations (nod to Patrick)–and as an experienced teacher, I know when a student is wasting his time as well as mine. You know the grumpy old fart who has all the secrets to the art but won’t share them? Well, I’ve become that guy. This is why I do not accept new students into my Kuntaw class, and why I don’t advertise as much. People watch too much damned TV and Youtube, and if I have one more asshole coming in my school asking about buffalo wrestling and chicken blood and secret arts–I’m kicking his ass.

In the meantime, I’m working on this Fat-cream FMA formula. We are gonna get rich off this stuff!

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Tae Kwon Do: A *Killing* Art?

Striking Thoughts has this post, “A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do”–and TDA Training has this post, “Should You Care About Your Style’s Politics?”  Both articles stem from this book, A Killing Art:  The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do, by Alex Gillis. When you get a chance read both articles (ST’s and TDA’s), because they are presenting different takes on Gillis’ book. Striking Thoughts simply gives a brief synopsis of the book, while TDA (short for Teodoro Defensive Arts) is posing the question of whether or not the politics matter. I am going to give a third view of this subject. But first, the gist of Gillis’ book:

Alex Gillis is presenting the complete history of the Korean fighting art from a biographical point of view, as opposed to the seductive story that TKD was passed down from generation to generation through lines of Hwarang warriors since ancient times. Actually, TKD was General Choi’s creation after studying Shotokan Karate in Japan, and then modifying it because of tournaments and the desire to distinguish it from its Japanese mother art. There is more to the story, such as the political stories and the business side of the art and the unification of the various factions. However, I have not read the book, but I recently saw a copy at the library and I think I will indulge the next time I go back.

Almost all martial arts were made for combat. They are not all true to that original purpose, because time change and people change. Sometimes, as with kung fu and san shou–the change is for the better. Other times, as with kung fu and the sport of wu shu–the change makes it worse. But that also depends on who is judging:  Has anyone ever seen old footage of kung fu practicioners of old performing forms? Well, they are much better today than they were even 50 years ago. Even some of the fighting styles have improved. However, many have lost that part of their arts because of modern times. Tae Kwon Do is no different. The Olympic style of fighting has vastly improved Tae Kwon Do kicking skills, but at the same time many TKD schools (I might even dare to say “most”) have lost all their fighting spirit altogether.

What happened?

Money. In the days of old, TKD masters were more concerned with bragging rights than anything else. Perhaps there was money to be made off of being the best school in town, but the driving force behind a lot of the instruction in the old days was wanting to out do the competition. When Tae Kwon Do arrived to America, one man single handedly helped TKD explode into the limelight and gain thousands of students:  Jhoon Rhee. I don’t know if this is in the book, but GM Rhee teamed up with Nicolas Cokinos of Art Linkletter Dance Studios and developed the format used today by martial arts schools everywhere. So, singlehandedly, Grandmaster Rhee changed the style makeup of styles on the American martial arts scene, as well as how we did business.

And we arrive at the death of Tae Kwon Do.

When Tae Kwon Do became mass marketed as a commodity, it became easily accesible to everyone. It was affordable, available on every corner, easy to learn, and easy to achieve rank. Classes could not sustain a profitable level of enrollment if classes were too difficult. Students would not stay in the art very long if they trained too long without some tangible benefit (like a new belt). They needed to have new “stuff” to learn frequently, or students would get bored, so instructors had to introduce new forms, new techniques, and new things like “martial ballet/musical forms” and weapons. Teachers also had to keep up with the times by getting a case of oh-we-have-that-too:  Numbchucks, Chinese swords, ground fighting, boxing/kickboxing, Israeli-like self defense, Samurai swords, sweating to the oldies, day care, clowns and birthday parties…. oh, we have that too!

Question. When was the last time you saw a TKD school owner with a 3rd degree black belt? Isn’t it strange that we have so many 8th and 9th degree masters? Yes, because you don’t want to learn from an inexperienced Black Belter! You want to study with a real, true-blue, bonafide 8th degree grandmaster! Oh, we have that too…

Schools moved out of the hole-in-the-wall and into shopping centers and malls. They got bigger, plusher, and got full-time staff with vacation pay, insurance and benefits. With amenities, you couldn’t afford to turn away students–hell, Tae Kwon Do is for everyone! So, you say you have a four year old? A three year old? Yes ma’am, we have a class for him too! (AKA “oh we have that too!”) Little Johnnie has been doing this stuff since he was 5 years old, so at the ripe old age of 7, Kwang Jang Nim (Grandmaster) tests him for and awards him a Black Belt. That’s right, your local TKD school will slap a Black Belt on a frigging DOG if you are willing to pay the testing fee. We all know that one of the tenets of Tae Kwon Do is Self Esteem, so of course Kwang Jang Nim won’t fail a student and scar that poor pup for life…

And you wonder why the phrase “Tae Kwon Do, the KILLING art” sounds so strange.

I think I just heard a snicker. Okay Mc Guro, look in the mirror. After all, you are practicing Arnis, the ultimate add-on art, right? What has FMA become, other than the perfect add-on for the Tae Kwon Do guys? Hell, at least the Kwang Jang Nim will make you study for two years and take TEN belt exams and spar for your Black Belt… What is required for a Black Belt/Teaching certificate for Filipino Martial Arts? Attend 10 whole seminars? Buy all ten DVDs? Omg, you actually got smacked on the hand doing that sticky patty cake drill? And this art is so deadly you can’t actually spar with it! Yeah, we have that too. I think I will write a book, called “A Killing Art:  The Untold History of the Filipino Martial Arts”, because we aren’t much different than Tae Kwon Do in that sense. I live in Sacramento, where FMA is taught at almost every martial arts school in the phone book. We are 40 miles from the mecca of FMA–Stockton, California–where Grandmaster Dan Inosanto made his trips to learn directly from the grandmasters themselves. The home of Serrada Eskrima, De Cuerdas, Bahala Na. We are 100 miles drive from Cacoy Canete, the grandmaster of Doce Pares Eskrima. Ten years ago, we had the sons of both Remy Presas and Ernesto Presas living with a 45 minute trip of our town–plus the great, unmatched Sonny Umpaad. Then there were two full-time FMA schools–my own, plus Nito and Nilo’s Doce Pares–in addition to Fred Lazo in Vallejo and Max Pallen. All this authentic FMA and the main source of FMA learning my town has always been seminars and seminar-trained FMA teachers. Something’s wrong. At one time, I offered FMA 7 days a week, and visitors to my school still asked the question, “When will you put on another seminar?” They would rather learn by crash course, than actually study with a teacher full time.

But all this commercialization and watered-down art does not negate the power of FMA. We are still the most dangerous art out there. No other style teaches, at its core–how to kill the opponent. Nor does any art deal with the subject of how to stop a man from killing you. Not how to get out of a headlock. Not how to stop a spin hook kick. Not how to deal with the sucker punch. But how to stop a man hell-bent on cutting your throat. That characteristic is still present even in the most sissified FMA class (between the dancing around triangles and patty cake), and Ronald McGuro and his antics can’t take that away. I have long said, that before you dog out Tae Kwon Do as a style, let me introduce you to a few TKD fighters who will destroy you–and there are plenty. Tae Kwon Do, like the FMAs, Kung Fu, and many other styles, at its core is a killing art. Don’t forget that.

And to answer the question posed by Nathan Teodoro (over at TDA)–whether or not your style’s politics matter–is this simple:  It doesn’t matter when you are learning the basics of the art. But when you want to ascend to the higher levels of the art or become a more serious student of the art, martial arts politics could affect whether you are successful or not. In other words, yes it does.

Perhaps we will have a second installment of this subject. Thank you for visiting my blog.