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.



Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

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