This is a follow up from a post from 2009, and is a subtopic in my book, “Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months“.
If you are a Guro and were to meet me in person, this subject would be one of the most likely things we will talk about. I just met a gentleman today who told me he expected me to be unfriendly and cold, but was surprised that I was the opposite. We did talk a little about my *favorite* subject concerning the FMAs–commercialization–but when we shifted the conversation to the solution, we discussed this: How to teach the FMAs.
So, Rob, this is for you.
In the process of developing students, you must identify your goal–your purpose–for teaching. Is it merely to keep a system alive? Or are you attempting to create superior fighters? What about self-defense? I have met many teachers who say they are only interested in “teaching people to defend themselves”, but what does that mean? Defend oneself? Wouldn’t that require that your student be superior in combat to the average man on the street? Or at least the average attacker?
Who do you believe is attacking law-abiding citizens on the street?
Yuppies? Businessmen? Overweight or out-of-shape thugs?
I would like to suggest you consider this. The average man knocking people over the head to rob them or prove their “manhood” (whatever that is) is most likely a career criminal. Chances are that your student is NOT the first guy he has attacked, and your attacker is stronger and more aggressive than the average man who spent the last 3-5 years working–rather than working out–on a job instead of a jail cell. I doubt highly that weak, passive men are out there starting fights. I also doubt that men unsure of their fighting ability are initiating attacks. Wouldn’t it make sense that your students be stronger, more experienced at putting hands up, and more confident, fit and aggressive than those punks?
So, I ask you again: Are you casually training your students to simply impart martial arts knowledge, or are you training superior fighters?
When I meet Arnisadors with smooth arms and a weak handshake, I want to go somewhere and cry. If this guy can’t squash a grape, how is he going to bash an attacker’s head in? What is the purpose of swinging those sticks and slashing knives when your grip isn’t strong enough to do some damage? Somebody get the “Pool Noodles” over here! Not meaning to compare apples to oranges, but have you ever seen the arms of a wu shu artist who’s specialty is the Dao (broadsword) or the Gwun (staff)? These guys, whom you would likely laugh at, are buff. They can swing their weapons (in between doing the splits, ballet moves and somersaults) with more power than your smooth-armed Guros. It’s not supposed to be that way.
I cannot emphasize enough the need to train your students in the same basic techniques and see to it that they are stronger, faster and can generate much more power than last month. And if they are not–we should see this as a failure on our part as martial arts trainers. Simply coming to class and breaking a little sweat is not good enough. I once heard a teacher say, “Well Mustafa, I’m not training these guys for a heavyweight championship fight. Just a fight on the street that should only last 60 seconds or less.” Oh no? Why not? Suppose the attacker on the street is not a flyweight amateur, but a big and powerful heavyweight? Another Eskrima teacher told me, “If this art is done properly, your fights shouldn’t last more than a few minutes, so why would we need a whole lot of stamina? You don’t need stamina to plunge a knife into a belly…” I dunno… maybe because opponents don’t stand still? Maybe you have to run from your attacker to get to the trunk where your weapons are? Or maybe you have to chase your opponent to get your wallet back? Or maybe the opponent was harder to fight than you thought, so the fight lasts TEN minutes instead of 2?
Please don’t use clichès to get out of training seriously, folks. “Boards don’t hit back.” It’s a MOVIE, y’all. Bruce Lee broke boards to demonstrate his power! If boards “don’t hit back”, well neither do people who get HIT by fists that break boards! How else are gauging your power? By asking the guy who’s holding the focus mitts for you? (“Hey, how’s that feel?”…. “Man, you have power!” You’re kidding, right?)
We train our students because casually learning only ensures that they “know” how to throw the techniques. But being able to execute those techniques, under stress, while tired, in pain, scared, injured, fatigued–is another thing. In order to prepare for the worst, you have to train your students to the point of exhaustion, under stress, when they are in pain, scared or fatigued. If not, you are robbing them of being properly prepared.
This is why when I see students leaving a martial arts school with smiles, it sends the wrong message. If you walk into a dojo and smell deodorant and cologne and perfume, something’s wrong. When a student asks to try a class to “see if he likes it”, you should explain to him that if he is properly trained–he won’t like it. When a teacher says in an interview, “Oh, the martial arts is for everyone! Whether you are 5 or 95, man woman child…. anybody can do this!” He should be lying. Because the real art is not for the weak-hearted or lazy. It is not for those who are too immature to embrace the philosophy of the art. This is an activity–if it’s done right, or if it’s done wrong–that can end up with someone’s death or survival. It is not something you do for entertainment, fun or “trying it out”. You are not just teaching students for knowledge’s sake; you are training them for the horrible event that could cause him to take or lose his life. Never forget that while teaching your classes. And make sure you students have this in the back of their mind while training.
Thanks for visiting my blog. By the way, folks… My new book “Philosophy“, will be live on Amazon in about two weeks. When that happens, I will not offer it on this blog for the discounted rate that it is now. If you want to get the cheap copy, now is the time! Don’t procrastinate!