Things to Reconsider in the Martial Arts

I wanted to name this article “Silly Things in the Martial Arts”, but I was advised not to, so that we can avoid all the pissing and whining you martial artists like to do when I hit a nerve–and build my fan base rather than the masses of people who’d like to kick my ass. Seems I’m disliked by martial artists only second to Floyd Mayweather. Please understand, I only give you my truth because I love you guys like family. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t say anything and just talk trash about the FMAs from a distance. Believe me when I say that I am not lonely without the company of FMA people although I am an “FMA guy” myself. I have long been a loner, and I have no problem remaining one. Even when I am only standing alone in my opinions and practices. Surely you can understand that. Most of the men we know as innovators and great thinkers in history have been alone when they were in their primes. Jesus was not widely welcomed during his days. Bruce Lee (before acting Bruce Lee) was villified by martial artists, Western as well as Chinese). As much as you liberal types love to admire Martin Luther King, Jr., in his day the only people who loved him were the African Americans who were in the trenches–even many other Black preachers were afraid to make a stand with him. Ben Franklin was thought to be a quack. The founder of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, Ellen G. White, was isolated from other Christian thinkers in her day. Politician Ron Paul was not fully embraced by the masses until 3 or 4 Presidential terms later… and my calculations tell me, he is the closest man to becoming the next President. The Washington Redskins only seem to have tons of fans when they are winning. Even many of you MMA/Gracie Jujitsu nuthuggers paid no attention to grappling when you were still wearing white TKD pajamas  until UFC came along.  See?  The masses like to wait until something gets popular, and then they jump on.

We seem to only like imitators and those who ride the waves of popularity. Martial artists, especially, don’t like to see or hear anything new or different from what they like or do, until it is whispered in the locker rooms of your dojos (or on Internet message boards and Facebook). Jedi Mind tricks. That’s how you reach a martial artist.

I have made a short list, and it may grow as I think about the subject more I’m sure, of things in the martial arts that we accept that just don’t make much sense. Or, at least, they should be restructured to make more sense.

Bear with me, I am writing this without an outline:

  1. Degrees of Black Belt.  Here’s a riddle:  What’s the difference between a 3rd Degree Black Belt and a 10th? The size of his belly, the level of pomp, and the number of pieces of tape on his belt. Real talk, I once heard the late Grandmaster Vince Tinga joke with a fellow Master, “Holy shit! You must have about $2,000 worth of tape on that belt sir! You must be rich!” Is the degree that big of a deal, for real? When was the last time you actually saw a guy take a test for 6th degree? I don’t actually think I’ve even heard of one to be honest. I have said it before, but the higher the degree goes, the lower the skill (okay blame it on age, bad knees or whatever–but skill decreases from my observation), the bigger the belly, the funnier the title, and more bullshit I see. No offense, but I have never in my life ever been impressed by a 10th degree black belt. Never. But I have seen some 2nd degrees that looked like they could give Chuck Norris a run for his money (just kidding). Have you ever seen this pompous shit in other fields? Can you imagine a 4th degree Doctor? Or a 10th Degree lawyer? A 5th degree plumber? Either you are licensed to practice law or you’re not. Either you can rebuild a transmission, or you can’t. Why don’t we just graduate our students, instead of having them bust their ass for the majority of their best years, and then demote them to “junior” ranks, when they are obviously in the best physical condition they’ll ever be in? Why can’t a deserving Black Belter just work his tail off and become “one of us”? Must he have to climb the ladder again? Or we could just have two or three Black Belts–like Novice Black Belt, Teacher,  and Master Teacher. And there should be clear, concise requirements and differences to distinguish them. But the 10 degree belt system (I’ve even seen a 15 degree system right here in California, no shit) just seems too arbitrary and unnecessary.
  2. Speaking of Titles… — Let’s give this one a break. I have also found that the best fighters I’ve met have simply been Sensei, Sifu, Guro, or Master. I have rarely been impressed by GGM or any of the other Mickey Mouse terms. Notice I said “rarely”. I have met some Grandmasters that I admired, and they were named so, mostly by their students and peers. I don’t think we need to discuss this one so much, and I believe most men reading these words agree with me.
  3. Testing Fees and No-Fail Exams–If high schools ran exams the way Martial Arts schools do, I would have a PhD by now. And valedictorian of my class. Pay your money, move on to the next belt. No talk of try hard for the exam, because you might fail. No one fails these tests. I have even seen candidates fail to fulfill the requirements of their school, like break a board, remember a Kata–and still pass. Take out the money, and make it a true test. If my kid knew he would pass his Algebra test, like he would in a Tae Kwon Do school–he’d never study. And that’s the truth. Take away the money (and find another, more justifiable way) from the exam structure, and make it a true test that makes your students sweat bullets and work their behinds off. It will then be beneficial to the student, and not just the bottom line. And be like that teacher who administers exams that seem impossible to fail. That’s an accomplishment they’ll remember for life.
  4. Recertification for Instructors–Okay, I get it. Many professionals have to recertify. But what’s this “attend a camp, keep paying dues, and learn the new developments in order to keep your Guro-ship” crap? In the old days, a Master taught a student and didn’t even give him a certificate–but gave him something more valuable, SKILLS. The student gave his Master props for the rest of his life (or not) and he grew unto his own. He didn’t have to keep going back to the province to “update” his knowledge. That’s so stupid. Sorry…
  5. Forms–If there is one thing I like about Kenpo and Kajukenbo, it’s their Katas. They actually have a purpose, and teach the students from one level to another. In every other art, the forms have little to do with the students’ actual fighting skill. Let’s either drop them and work off a “skill set”/curriculum, or modify them and reduce the number to forms that are actually relevant. If there is one thing I dislike about my own Jow Ga style, it’s the fact that there are just too many damned forms. One of these days, I tell you, I am going to reduce the 46 forms I know to about 5. I advise (if you want to do it) having a theme to each form. For example, in one of my forms, which is a Praying Mantis form–every technique is designed to break something on the opponent’s anatomy. Well that form also happens to be about 200 years old. But many of the new forms have very little meat and lots of repetition and fluff.
  6. Drills and Sinawali–We don’t need to discuss this one. I’m thekuntawman!
  7. Youtube–putting every damned thing we know on Youtube. I know a guy who has put his entire curriculum on youtube. Why? So he could get “likes” and comments? I think youtube clips are like putting on demonstrations (which is something I only do for family and friends)–they serve no purpose for one’s personal martial arts skill. We are warriors, not entertainers. Well, at least some of us. Denying yourself the urge to “perform” for others keeps your humility in check, and keeps you focused on your martial arts training. I didn’t write this to argue; just think about it, folks…
  8. Pretty Boys with muscles–Remember my “Clint Eastwood” post? Well, being tough and skilled have nothing to do with how you look.  I recently visited a dojo with about 50% of his floor covered in weight-lifting equipment. But he doesn’t have a body building or weight-lifting program, he’s a martial arts school. No offense, but it sounds like somebody’s fighting skill isn’t worth crap. It is commonplace in the boxing world that shitty trainers have their guys body build to disguise the fact that their fighting skill is lacking. I find this popular with many MMA guys. If you’re a Cung Le or Royce Gracie, you don’t give a damn how you look in a tee shirt–you’re in the business of ass-kicking. I find that many FMA guys who don’t fight, body build. Like the old Barbazon commercials:  Just look like one.
  9. Adding to your repertoire–Martial artists are collectors. That’s fine, but if you are teaching everything you have ever learned, you might want to ask yourself why. Do you really believe that you are passing on the most lethal, effective stuff you know? Or just teaching more shit because you know more shit? We will take one or two seminars in something and then turn around and teach it, when you know darn well that you are no expert in this. Some of you have only learned to crack a whip, and then you teach that. You learned how to shoot a bow and arrow, so you teach that. You learned a few rhythms with a drum, so you do that while students train (makes your training look more “authentic”). You are taught a few moves of BJJ, so you’re doing them everytime your opponent gets on the ground. Supposedly this is “cross-training”. Well it’s not. It’s “dabbling”. Cross-training is when you can box like a boxer, stickfight like a stickfighter, grapple with a grappler–and even in doing that, you aren’t necessarily doing it well enough to teach it. So you teach with your limited BJJ skills. Then your students take that and teach their already-watered-down-and-limited BJJ skills. Guess what happens several generations down the line? Uh-huh. Diluted. Stop it, Guro.

We’re hitting 1700 words, so I’m going to stop here. Just a few things to chew on and kick around. Thanks for visiting my blog.



The Lure of Living the Fighter’s Life

A gentleman who happens to be an MMA promoter stopped by my gym today and we had a pretty good conversation. He is an old-school martial artist who never actually fought in competition, but I am sure he is a capable 50-year old fighter nevertheless. I was wrapping up a session with one of my private lesson students, who is a loose-mouthed 20 year old–and MMA wannabe. The student kept injecting himself into our conversation, until I shut him up only after he suggested that the gentleman and I sparred a match.

Funny that he should do that, as I was hoping to try the man out–and we did exchange information to get together one day soon (without my silly student). But a student such as AS should know his place and keep his mouth shut before it gets him in trouble. Don’t worry readers, he got an earful when the visitor left.

In our short conversation, however, he shared with me his opinion of MMA and how MMA is missing a lot from traditional martial arts and how he had seen traditional martial artists he feels would defeat many of the fighters he employs. This was interesting to hear from a man who is involved in the MMA field for a living. In his words, “it is a hustle, just like any kind of ring fighting”.

How right he is.

But not so fast. The lure of living the fighter’s life IS a hustle for many fighter, but not for all of us. Some simply love the art so much, that he cannot focus on any traditional forms of work. Therefore, lacking the resources or knowledge or desire to open a school and teach–many of these martial artists turn to fighting. It is a way to make money, although many who do it for a living do not actually enjoy fighting, it pays the bills. And what other skills do many of these men have? If one has spent his whole life engrossed in the fighting arts–whether it was wrestling, boxing or martial arts–the only skills or desire he may have is in fighting. So fighting is the logical path. It’s honest work, although not respected by everyone (especially spouses and family members). It doesn’t pay much for 90% of those in the field. It’s dangerous and leads to many injuries. It doesn’t come with health insurance, vacation or retirement. And unfortunately for many fighters, it is not an esteemed position, except for in the daydreams of computer geeks and muscle-headed wannabes. The fighter, whether he is a pointfighter working the Karate tournament circuit for $500 prizes at a time, a Kickboxer or boxer selling tickets at barbershops for his take, a feederfish MMA fighter or boxer used to build up the win/loss records of the guys with the real potential for contendership, or the amateur fighter with a calculating trainer who is carefully building his career path… there is something about these men that many of you–even you martial artists–will never understand. It is what makes a fighter tick, to training daily for hours at a time, with no definite paydate planned.

Unlike many casual martial artists, there is a reason to stay in top shape all the time. They never know when they will get a chance to fight again, and one of the things my grandfather use to say–if you are alway in shape, you never have to train to *get* in shape. You never know when a challenge will walk through your door and you must always be ready to accept it. This is one of those traditions in the martial arts that is adopted by the prizefighter, yet lost of many of those today who consider themselves “traditional” or “modern-day/real world”. The casual martial artist is fooling himself with talk of “I’m training to fight for my life on the street, not for trophies on the mat”; the truth is, he is training casually with no sense of urgency, no stress of knowing that these skills will be used soon, and no way of truly testing whether his training is in vain or will be validated on some contesting opponent determined to test himself on you. Whether you call it “for trophies” or “for real”–the prizefighter has a frequent reality check several times a year, while the casual martial artist only has his skilled verified with friends and in his own imagination.

It is not, however, all about the money. There is a big section of the fighting world, regardless of their level of success, that is doing this for a more lofty reason. It is the sincere desire to be the best, and he wants to prove it to himself over and over that he is. Each loss is met with a period of self-reflection and calculus at the drawing board. He trains another level higher, with more intensity, and with more focus. He beats himself up about not remembering to stick to the fight plan, or dropping his hands, or not taking the shot to the jaw when he saw it open. He is constantly improving, and each year he gets stronger and stronger, faster and faster, wiser and wiser. While the casual martial artists may know the techniques and tactics, the fighter seeking to be the best knows the perfect counter to them, and he knows the nooks and crannies of each technique–every variation, every use, what it feels like to be hit with that technique, and what it feels like to hit a man with that technique. He knows his art so much more intimately than the one who bypasses a career of fighting. A thousand repetitions is a workout experience that few martial artists have experienced, but to the prizefighter it is a daily part of his routine. When we look at these men and women on the floor, it is so easy to discount what they do or fail to do–and most of us could never fathom what it would be like to duplicate it. We do are not in their minds when child support notices arrive threatening to cancel their drivers licenses are pushed aside in the effort to focus on getting faster in order to win the competition so that he can pay that outstanding bill. We are not in their sore muscles that would keep most people in the bed–this pain is ignored when that fighter gets up to do his morning run or calisthenics before the sun comes up. We do not hear the chastizing these men take from parents, spouses, siblings and friends–urging them to give up their dream and get a “real job”.

These warriors were born to fight, and they will endure until their bodies tell them it’s too late, it’s time to quit. They are not satisfied with training a few times a week and then going fishing or boating or wine-tasting on the weekends. They want to be the best in the business, to know, believe and prove to themselves and others that I am the best, and no man in the room can lick me. They may not meet your standard of being a “martial artist”, but they are every bit of a martial artist; they are today’s version of the warrior.

I even have respect for the “wannabe” MMA fighter. I am speaking of the guy who walks into a gym with almost no skills, but ends up under an unscrupulous coach who lacks the knowledge to train a champion or contender, but still encourages his fighters to climb in the ring prematurely and risk their lives for a few hundred dollars a fight. These men have the desire, but lack the training as well as lack a good advisor. They take the easy path to the ring, by skipping the path of paying one’s dues and learning the ins and outs of the fight game. They turn pro after a short amateur career–which is supposed to tell them whether they are ready to turn pro or not, and do so anyway. They lack the experience and technical skill to defeat the best fighters. They lack the experience and technical skill to BE the best fighter. But they are not under the tutelage of any master; they are customers of a business. A business whose product is to exploit the foolish desires of men and women who watched a little too much Pay Per View and thought, “I could take some lessons, and do that too!”  They take the misconceptions and charge them a fee, dress them up in a MMA fighter’s costume, sell him bumper stickers and T-shirts, teach him a few moves, camoflauge his lack of skill and knowledge with muscles gained from weight-lifting, and set up fighters, taking 10-33% of all the purses his fighters make in Indian Casinos and other events. Promoters don’t care if these fighters know what they are doing; people will buy tickets anyway just because it’s MMA.  Sponsors and advertisers don’t care either, as long as their product is sold. The real contenders really don’t care either; these tomato cans will pad their records so they can get their puncher’s chance to win a title.

Sure sounds like the path of the professional boxer to me. Sounds like how Samurai were manipulated by their lords in feudal Japan. Sounds like any army’s warriors, using their skills to serve the selfish purpose of his country’s politicians. The strong will always rule the weak, and the strong will always be ruled and manipulated by the rich. But you have to respect the ones who dedicate themselves to the life of being a fighter–regardless of why they chose that path, or whether they become rich, or champions, or loved and revered, or fall and ridiculed, or injured and forgotten, or killed. This is a path that few of us can understand, and even fewer can endure ourselves. It is something that many people dream about, but a dream that so few of us actually allow to manifest into a lifestyle.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

The Agony and Ecstasy

I love Rumi’s work. Can’t say I always understand it, but I love his poetry. That’s the thing about poets–that their minds don’t always operate the same way the rest of us do. Sometimes, they can dumb it down so that the least intelligent of us can “get it”. Other times, they just do what they do; those who who know poetry will appreciate it, while those who don’t either fake it or reject it. It ain’t rocket science, and you don’t need an education to interpret it. You just need to have a knack for the stuff.

Martial artists are also a curious bunch. We range from the die hard purists, to the competitive jock, to the serious murderer-in-waiting, to the philosophers, to the businessman, to the guys wanting to save the world, to the historians, to the showmen, to the hermits, to the old sages… I could go on. Not everyone understands us, and more often than not, we are all lumped into the same category as the guy at the day care center offering “After School Karate” and guaranteed 24-month Black Belts, whether little Johnnie gets it or not. But we are as varied as dog breeds.

One of the types of martial artists very close to my heart is the die-hard practitioner. There are many levels and degrees of this type of martial artist, but there are some basic factors binding all of them together:

  • They will do this till they die
  • They love it
  • The art and their desire to do it often prevents them from having financial success
  • Sometimes, the art even leads to a series of failed marriages and relationships
  • They shadowbox in elevators and public bathrooms (sometimes when there is someone else present)
  • They would rather sleep on the street, work second jobs, and eat out of trashcans… oh, okay, DIVORCE.. than give up their martial arts schools.
  • There is a combination of agony and ecstasy in their pursuit of practicing the art

They are not always teacher-material. Some die hards are just happy training and learning. I have a student, LR, who works just to pay tuition and keep his family happy. If I would offer for him to live, rent-free, in the school in exchange for training–and his wife wasn’t a factor–he’d do it. Hell, if I didn’t have children I’d do it!

I often speak about this kind of martial artist, who, even when he is “out of shape” (his idea of it)–he can whip not just the average man, but the average Black Belter. He has a collection of weapons, books and sparring gear that could fill a store. He always talks shop, even with non-martial artists. He always practices and thinks he’s not that good. He can’t hold a job, because he was born to do the martial arts, and no one believes him.

When I was 12 years old, I had a teacher who asked us to give a presentation on what we wanted to do when we grew up. I did a presentation on teaching the martial arts, and under education–where we were supposed to note what “major” we needed in college to do it–I put “nothing”, because none of the martial artists I knew were educated men. She gave me a “C”. Well, I showed her! I recently saw her in Washington, DC., at a reunion and recalled that. We had a good laugh, but I made my point albeit 30 years later that I made it happen.

I have known fighters who would be classified as “bums” or “club fighters”, who make their money at a rate of $300-500 a fight, rather than millions, who will destroy your Olympic hopeful. Their women are either very supportive wives, or divorcees. They will never be “shit”, according to most non-boxers–even to boxing fans. But in their gyms they are old heads who know the ins and outs of the fight game, and can hang with the best of them. They die as penniless as your grandmasters, and as regret-free as any carefree beach bum.  Few men have mastered their craft as well as life, but their idea of success and happiness isn’t the same as most people. While many of you arrive to your dojos in your Mercedes Benz and Lexus, you probably admire and wish for the skill of the guy driving the old 67 Volkswagon who works at Jack-in-the-Box. I know near-millionaire Senseis and Sabumnims who cannot hold their heads up around the experience-hardened Guro making $2500 a month out of his hole-in-the-wall school. We all know our place, and the die-hard martial artist–despite worrying month after month about how he’s going to pay his electric bill–knows that his pursuit of being the best in the business is more important than any other business venture, more admirable than having an enrollment that pays for the nice house and luxury car, gives him more pride than seeing his name in the magazines every month.

Like the pencil-neck yuppie walking the 150 pound Rottweiler, the “Master” knows damned well who the real big dog is. The die hard martial artist, like the low-income prizefighter and near-enslaved Samurai before him, wouldn’t trade the world to do anything else with his life besides the art he was born to do. Even if it causes him heartache, poverty, grief, and strained relationships. If you ever find a woman who accepts this and will still stand by your side, you are a very, very lucky man. As my last three wives say, my martial arts is my “bitch”.

You’re damned right she is. And I’ll never leave her.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

The “Trick” to Improving Martial Arts Performance

This is a quick set of tips to help you improve your martial arts performance–also known as “sparring/fighting” skill.

I know some martial artists may consider sparring or fighting skill one part of martial arts skill, but I consider it to be the only display of martial arts skill. When we focus on what the practitioner is able to do against an unfamiliar, resisting and combative opponent (not training partner), we are then looking at what this person is able to “do”. Everything else–sinawali, punching focus mitts, doing the splits, demonstrating disarming methods and counters–is not an indication of how the subject will perform in a fight.

Now there are those who will say that “sparring” is simulated and therefore not representative of this person’s actual fighting ability.

You’re right. And that’s why I consider sparring to be an indication of what this person’s fighting ability is like. It is the closest, safest method of showcasing your potential in a man-to-man (or men), life or death fight. Anything less, such as a demo of block and counter, drills and give and take, is further from the truth than sparring. If you want to add a hundred drills, fine. But you must have sparring as the focus–or you aren’t preparing for anything but putting on demos.

If you are looking to improve your performance at “simulated” sparring, then read on!

Besides the obvious things like speed, stamina, strength and power (there is a difference between strength and power… but another article!)–there are three keys, three tricks, to increasing your ability to land hits as well as stop them. Not everyone is aware of them, although most fighters have a degree of the three but they won’t master them until they understand them better and how to manipulate them. A few master teachers understand this concept and when they incorporate them into their teaching and training methods, the result is a much more prepared and unstoppable fighter:

  1. Reflexes. Should be obvious, right? Well, not always. Many people think spending time learning counters and tricks, and then hitting the weights or focus mitts and bags is sufficient. But they are not. For the man with the faster reflexes can avoid his opponent’s attacks, and capitalize on open targets and mistakes. This is intertwined with the other two factors I will present, but each has its own level of importance and use. Simply put, we need to move when our eyes see the need to, and we must get our minds and limbs in sync with each other. It is a simple task, but quite difficult to make happen. Are there drills to improve reflexes? Yes there are. But my opinion is that one would build useful reflexes (sometimes the drills we do are not relevant to fighting skills) by sparring more. A good suggestion is to master the art of sparring lightly and sparring to the first strike, and everything you need for fighting reflexes will be exercised and eventually understood through that. I should also add that this is not to be confused with speed, as the speed that you move is very different with the “sudden-ness” with which you move. They are often confused, but are quite different.
  2. Strategy.  You must have the answers to the test memorized and waiting to bounce off the tip of your tongue (or stick) when the question is posed. “What are you talking about Mustafa?”  Sorry, that’s the poet in me. The fighter must have the correct response prepared, memorized and burned into muscle memory so that he is never fighting off of instinct. Each move you make in fighting must be premeditated like the lines of a play, and they should be well-thought out. They must consider all possible moves and counter-moves, and follow-up-counter-moves to your response. Obviously, this is a lot. But you should have them in your arsenal and trained to perfection, so that every time you strike a number 1 at your opponent’s temple he reacts a way you knew he would, and then you have the appropriate counter for his counter. Every time your opponent throws a high front-leg round kick at you from a closed position, you respond one way if his hand is up, and you respond another way if the hand is down. This is what I mean by having a solid, understood plan for fighting. And this step alone has so much to learn and develop and master, it is why I consider anything that is not directly related to the act of fighting a waste of time. If you react differently to the left jab every time one is thrown at you, or you react out of habit rather than plan–you have work to do. There is so much to learn and develop it takes a true full-time effort to properly prepare everything you need. Now, in order to make these strategies happen, don’t you need the reflexes to do the moves when it’s time? How do you bridge the gap between what you planned to do with actually doing it on cue? (look below)
  3. Focus.  Plain and simple, when it’s time to fight, you need to worry about nothing more than fighting. This is why fighters must keep their tempers in check. This is why you must not be nervous or scared when in combat. This is why you cannot afford to be winded, or stiff, or uncoordinated, or insecure about the outcome… and so much more. You must remain calm and relaxed while fighting. The fight itself is frenzied enough and chaotic–if you allow yourself to get caught up in that pace, you will not be able to think, plan and execute when the time calls for it. Learn to control your emotions, thinking and psychological state while fighting. It will allow you do get the job done, and if you’re good, you may even throw your opponent off his level of focus. The emotions are a good weapon, by the way. You can take the anger or rage you feel while in combat, bottle it, and either use it strategically and psychologically against your opponent, or reserve it and convert it into power for attacking, and strength when you are hurt and need a second wind. I could actually write a book on this subject alone–but before I do that, let me shut up now.

Make sure you keep these three ideas in mind when training and certainly when preparing your arsenal for fighting. Of them, none is more important than the other, and none of them can be over/de-emphasized. They are vital to what you actually do in the match. You can train until you are blue in the face, but if you lack the reflexes to move, the strategy to choose the right moves, or the focus to stay on plan–nothing you do in training will manifest when it counts.

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Eskrima Attacks

Not all attacks are created equal.

It’s true. They’re not. Especially in fighting with weapons, when a missed attack can have a fatal or near-fatal cost–you must understand the types of attacks and how to use them. I would like to give a short list of what those techniques are.

  1. The Initial Attack–This is not a “killing” blow or crippling blow. When you are preparing for an attack, the opponent is very likely to be out of range. Even if he is not, though, he is poised and ready to counter. It is a rule of thumb that the first part of an attack will be blocked or evaded, so you do not want to expend too much energy in launching your initial attack. Rather, you throw something that the opponent will react to. Before throwing that attack, however, you must know what the possible reactions will be and have your “counter to his counter” ready for deployment. The second purpose of the initial attack is to cover ground and get you within range to properly engage.
  2. The Tying Attack–As the name implies, the first series of attacks you use against the opponent should “tie” him up. In other words, keep him so busy he does not have time to use his own attacks as well as prepare himself for strong defense. In boxing, an example of such an attack is the “stick and move” strategy–in which you hit the opponent and then move before he gets a chance to fire back. By using the tying attack, the opponent is never really ready to make a strong attack himself. Also, by being unstable due to your constant attacks the opponent is likely to be hit more often.
  3. The Defanging Attack–Not quite the “defanging the snake” strategy you are familiar with. The defanging attack methodically destroys your opponent’s weapons–all the weapons, not just the limbs. You are striking anything your weapon can touch–the arms, the body, the face, the legs, the hands, even the opponent’s weapon. You will use a combination of “picking” attacks and power attacks to wear down the opponent and rob him of power, strength, stamina and spirit. In a fight such as a streetfight, two or three power kicks to the arms and thighs will suffice before using the fourth and final attack:
  4. The Finishing Attack–This is the coup de grace of Eskrima fighting. It is the strike/cut/slash/stab that end the altercation. Contrary to what the name implies, this need not be a fatal blow. In empty handed fighting, an example of this type of attack can be applying a wrist break, using the side kick to the opponent’s knee, or breaking his elbow. In Eskrima, you could put your opponent’s eye out with a stick thrust, break his clavicle or forearm, or break his thumb with an Abaniko strike. Anything that ends the fight is a finishing attack.

Categorize your attacks and strategies to fit into these types of attacks. If you have an insufficient number of techniques in any of them, fill in these “gaps” in your arsenal. Do not treat all techniques in your Eskrima the same way, as they all vary in destructibility, energy required for execution, ease of use, and appropriate timing.

This is what entails a major part of “mastery” of Eskrima, and what separates the drill masters from the technique collectors from those who are learning functional Eskrima. Thanks for visiting my blog. Also, if you haven’t gotten a copy of my books, you might want to throw down the few dollars instead of those greasy chicken wings and burgers, or seen-one-seen-all FMA instructional DVDs!

thekuntawman on the Commercial Dojo

That’s *commercial* dojo to you, mister. Not “McDojo”. There is a difference.

I have noticed, among traditional martial artists, that many construe commercial success as “selling out ” in the martial arts. Not only is this untrue, it is unfair to the sincere martial artist, as well as bordering jealousy and being unrealistic. Many of our counterparts have figured out the formula to success without comprimising the purity of the art, and we should give them credit for doing so. I don’t believe that charging money is bad in the martial arts, and I don’t believe that one should have to charge such a small fee for lessons you would need an army to put food on the table.

I have had several debates with my own close friends in the art, who prefer to teach out of community centers and backyards and hole-in-the-wall schools. These are passionate, pure martial arts enthusiasts who turn their nose up at any sensei, sifu or guro in the community center. Reading the little comments I make on this blog here and there, you would think that I’m the same way but that’s not true.

Many of our successful brothers and sisters have made a good living teaching quality martial arts. Just off the top of my head, Dennis Brown, Willie Bam Johnson (and student of Brown’s), Anthony Goh, Chuck Norris, Benny the Jet Urquidez, the entire Gracie family, Cung Le… Some of these men have made millions of dollars while maintaining a high standard of skill in their schools. I think it’s worth seeing what they do to be successful.

But another article. Today, I would like to offer some suggestions that you may find helpful for your school. These are “commercial” as well as “traditional” practices, and they will help you improve your school’s operation as well as keep the integrity of the art. Now, let me qualify this by saying that I am presenting my opinion–and in no way am I passing judgment on any of you. You know how some of you martial artists are so easily offended:

  • Drop the free class/trial. I consider this a flawed tool for recruitment, as it really doesn’t give the student an idea of what goes on in a martial arts class. When you do free trials, you end up trying to entertain students with neat tricks and exercises to make them feel like they are in a Shaolin movie. You wait until they sign them up to do the all-so-necessary-but-painful-and-boring footwork training and conditioning exercises. Or, because of retention and “buyer’s remorse”, you may skip doing so altogether. It’s just a bad idea. Can you attend one day of class at a university to “see if you like it”? Hell no. You either want to do it or you don’t. And if you like it you stay, if you don’t, you drop out at the end of the semester. If a student isn’t sure if they are going to like it, tell them that they aren’t supposed to like a class if it’s done right. But if they want to find out what training is like in your school, try it for a month and they will get the gist of it in 5-7 classes. You do something different each day, and one day won’t encompass everything.
  • Another reason I don’t like free classes, my classes are a monthly curriculum. They can only join at the beginning of the month, or I end up cheating my students while I accalamate a new guy to the training. If a student joins in the middle of the month, we will do a few private classes to get them caught up. You want your school to be taken seriously, and lookie-loos distract students, you and detract from the focus in the class.
  • Don’t allow visitors to the class. I need concentration during class time, and spectators are a distraction. Can you walk into Harvard University and watch a Law class in progress? Who put our martial arts schools on display anyway? This is a traditional program, and we do not entertain visitors the way the more commercial schools do. You may make an appointment to discuss our program, but as a rule–I give my students my full attention by not recruiting while they are paying me to teach them.
  • Rather than charge by the month, why not charge by the course? A course being 3-6 months?
  • How about charging by the class?
  • Separate your general martial arts students from your fighters. I have seen some schools offer a basics class, where they drill punches, kicks and other skills; a conditioning class; a sparring class; and a forms class. This way, students can pick and choose according to their tastes, and you aren’t scaring away the guys who just want to lose weight and not fight, nor are you turning off the guys who want to fight and not do forms.
  • Have a real age cut-off. I don’t accept students younger than 10 in my kids class, and my adult class is exactly that:  an adult class.
  • Are you in an area with a lot of immigrant Hispanics? How about a class offered in Spanish, where you mix English and Spanish terminology, to help newcomers and their children ease into the language?
  • “Homework Club” for kids. I have long thought about this myself. There are many latch-key kids in my neighborhood who come home to drug dealers and drunks and TV and gangsta wannabes. I don’t want a day care license, but if my place is a safe place, and I can have my student come to the school to hang out instead of the streets, why not? Make it $50 a week for the school to be open to kids to come in, train, get a snack, and do their homework. Just a suggestion.
  • Offer one-on-one fitness training during the day, while there are no classes going on. I charge $35 a session, and its better than getting a day job.
  • Drop the uniform, and make it optional. Some students in this economy can barely afford the tuition. We use our uniforms for tournaments. I have school shirts, and student can train in whatever’s comfortable. As my slogan says, this ain’t your little brother’s karate school.
  • While you’re at it, drop the corny creeds that no one really cares about too. This ain’t citizenship class, it’s martial arts. And your students aren’t 6 years old.
  • Encourage competition among your students. I allow trash-talking, because it lends to confidence. As the saying goes, don’t let your mouth write a check that your ass can’t cash. Allow a little aggression to enter the dojo, and your students will get that confidence they are paying you for. Plus, it will make them have to back it up, and learn to deal with antagonism. Makes the dojo more self-defense-oriented.

Just a few ideas. When I’ve had a chance to really get my thoughts together, I will write up a part II. Thanks for visiting my blog!