The Enemy of Great

“Good” really is the enemy of “great”.

The martial artist is supposed to be a perfectionist, but for some reason we convince ourselves that perfection is impossible and being ambitious is unbecoming of the martial artist. How foolish.

The Ultimate in combat is taking another man’s life, and it’s inverse is stopping a man determined to take your life. We cannot be complacent when in pursuit of the ultimate, unless your training does not have this goal in mind. It appears to me that most martial artists are in fact searching for mediocrity while ignoring–no:  shunning–the Ultimate. We speak of preferring to focus on “real” combat, whatever that is, over sport/practice/simulated combat, yet we never engage in “real” combat in practice. After all, if we claim to be training for fighting to the finish yet never actually “fight to the finish”–isn’t what you do simulated anyway? We talk of testing our skill, yet we never allow ourselves to be tested by doubters. In fact, we claim to dislike our doubters and avoid them like a rabid dog; who is “testing” your skill? You? Classmates? Friends? Could an 11th grader honestly test his own Algebra skills? Can a football team ever prove their superiority as a team without a rival or opposing team? Why do we insist on isolating ourselves to friends and friendly martial artists, when the first part of what we call ourselves refer to enemies? Why look down on those who seek to achieve greatness and think it’s okay to just be “good” in the arts?

When a martial artist does not engage in “martial” activities, he is guilty of being just an “artist”. An artist, my friends, is not a warrior but a guy who simulates reality. Fighting, war, killing–these things are about as real as it gets. Artists? I think of painters, sculptors, musicians, dancers. Artists are people who imitate life and reality, while the warrior either preserves or destroys reality.

And in life, what can be more “real” than living or dying? Living and dying, my friends are the first and last things a man does. Everything in between are less important than those two things. The martial artist engages in an activity that will determine when and if those two things will happen. We control nothing in our lives more important than whether we live or die. The only factor more in control of our life and death is the Creator of the Heavens and Earth. So if we are to be a deciding factor in life and death, should we treat our skill that depends greatly on whether we can defend our lives as a hobby? Should we treat it lightly and just believe that we actually can defend ourselves without actually checking? Are you the kind of guy who checks your car’s fluids regularly, or do you just hop in and drive all the time?

If we are martial artists who are serious about keeping ourselves alive should a conflict occur, doesn’t it make sense to keep our blade sharp, keep ourselves armed and ready at all time? One would think so, but too many martial artists approach this subject too lightly. They train casually, they treat martial arts training as social events, and they almost never allow a doubter to test them. They leave dojos if the learning stage is too slow, the training is too hard, or the fees too high. Rather than search for the best school to learn to fight, they look for gyms that are comfortable and welcoming. They look for big names and smiling faces. They cruise Facebook and looking for new friends and neat video clips and seminars to go to and hold hands some more. And when they think of their martial arts skill, they think of themselves as “good” (or even refuse to admit that they think they are good) and then put down the guys who “think they are better than everyone else”.

Um, you’re a warrior. If you don’t think you’re the best in the business, you must be in the wrong business. Men who fight for their lives don’t cloak themselves in modesty. They aren’t afraid to be seen as “arrogant” or a braggart. They aren’t bothered by some guy saying he’s better than you or some dude walking around with his chest swelled up. Warriors have prepared themselves for the Ultimate and aren’t afraid to show you how well-prepared they are. This isn’t to say that warriors go around fighting to the finish at the drop of a dime. What I am saying is that warrior will show you, simulated or real, that he thinks he’s better and will welcome the chance to check his skill every now and again.

And when he has proven himself to be “pretty good”, he doesn’t rush out and start posting his shingle all over the internet hoping to hawk some videos and seminar attendance fees. He wants to prove it again and again, until he finds a weakness in his armor so that he can strenthen it again. He is not satisfied with being pretty strong, pretty quick, learning new and complicated tricks. His life is a constant battle to improve and testing himself and his skill. He does not fear defeat, as the only defeat that matters is the one when he dies–if he is ever fatefully destined to be tested in the Ultimate test. Until that day, he will test and train and modify, test and train and modify, and so forth, until he truly feels like he can lick any man in the room.

And when he feels that way… wash, rinse, repeat. Greatness is objective. It is only abstract in the minds of men who do not pursue it. If you are not endeavoring for greatness–for the ultimate level of skill and ability in the art–you are not a martial artist, but a hobbyist, who is at most striving to be “good”. Thus, you will never achieve the Ultimate in the warrior arts.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

DO Something!

In my new location, I meet potential students all the time. I am next door to a very popular Chinese restaurant in South Sacramento, and since I am there all day most days, passers-by peek in to see what is going on. I’m sure that as a business owner, this happens to you as well.

I want you to listen well; what I am going to share with you will help you increase your enrollment–if you’re a martial arts teacher. I originally wanted to post this under “Martial Arts Philosophy”. But after thinking about who is to benefit from the article itself (and not who the article is about–it’s your job to pass the message on to the right people)–I decided to put it under “Business” instead. My sincere desire for this blog is more than just attracting business to my school. I want to see more FMA schools and traditional martial arts schools to be able to say that they stayed in business for two decades, just like a crummy old cranky Guro like me.

So, listen good.

Every man who enters your school, whether he expresses a true desire to study or not, is a potential student. If he says he wants to study or not, he could potentially use your services. If there was enough of an interest or curiosity that a man walks into a dojo, he has enough interest to need or want the martial arts. Perhaps he once studied the martial arts. Maybe he wanted to study the martial arts and procrastinated until he thought he was too old. He may have once been mugged or robbed. Every man has once experienced the burn of fear when he thought he might be attacked, or the threat of having to defend himself or his family. Most adult males would like to get into shape. All men want to feel that his family will look to him for protection–and very few men really, really feel like they can.

Let’s chew on that for a minute.




Yes, most men don’t feel adequate. So they avoid the bad neighborhoods and shady-looking characters. They move to the suburbs where they feel like their kids won’t get bullied, their wives won’t be accosted or gawked at blatantly. They pick up their children from school because they aren’t sure their children know how to defend themselves. They will pretend that they feel safe. But the truth is, they don’t. And denying that fact makes them ignore the reality that they don’t know how to defend themselves and they are too cowardly to learn how and arm themselves.

Yes, I said it. They are too cowardly to go and study. So they work out, thinking this will help. Much safer to build muscle on your own than go and do any serious training. They watch MMA hoping to pick up a few moves instead of going to a gym and really learn those moves. They walk into martial arts schools looking for lessons for their 4 year old boys, when their real desire is to ask if you accept fat ass middle aged yuppie men.

And here we arrive at my point. When that yuppie male is broken down on the side of the street waiting on AAA, and some trouble maker thugs approach. EVERY man’s wife will turn to him and say the words he fears hearing, because he knows he has no answer for it:

DO something.

That’s right, John–DO something. What’s so sad about this, is that John is just as scared as his wife. He is just as helpless as his wife. And he is just as dependent as his wife is for someone to “DO something”. Except for John, that someone is the police, a pedestrian or good Samaritan, or maybe fate or luck by hoping that this will never happen. John, unlike his wife, has an abstract helper–besides God Himself–he is relying on the right person to be there to protect him and his family because he hasn’t done anything to prepare for that day when his wife will call on him to protect him. If she goes hungry, he is blamed for not bringing home the (turkey) bacon. If she is cold, it’s his fault for not heating the home. When she is unloved, he is to blame for not showing his wife affection. Yet for some reason, most men bury their heads in the sand when it comes to protection. You can’t buy protection with money, and real protection is something that takes blood, sweat and tears to have.

Let me say it again: Most men are afraid to prepare themselves for self-protection and arming themselves to protect loved ones. ALL men really want to prepare themselves. When they walk into your gym, they are secretly hoping that there is an affordable, SAFE, easy, pain-free way to get this protection.

Now you and I both know that “affordable” is up to perception. But safe, easy and pain-free? Feel free to laugh out loud… But regardless of the risks, it is a man’s DUTY to protect his family, and anything that happens to that family if he fails to arm himself will be his fault. Not only will he feel guilty, but his wife and children will no longer look at him as a man–because he cannot provide one of the most basic things a man should be giving his family. The community won’t even accept him as a man. How can he be respected when his family must look elsewhere for protection? It’s a terrible place to be, but for some reason most men are there. So when trouble arrives, he will just be a victim and his family will be victimized.

Unless, of course, he understands how important this skill is and how it is relevant to his role as head of the household. And that’s where you come in.

So, Mr. Visitor–if you go home, and your family are bound and gagged, and there are 3 thugs in your home looking for cash–are you prepared to do something about it? (Don’t let that dude leave your dojo until you two have had that talk) I’ll leave the rest up to you.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Thoughts About Lineage in the Philippine Martial Arts

Earlier today I received a visit from a gentleman who was an FMA practitioner many years ago. He mistook me for a part time FMAer, as many do, because I run a full-time school. Most full-time martial artists are more businessmen than martial artists, and most of those who do the Filipino arts in a commercial dojo are doing the FMAs part time as a side hustle to some other art. It’s understandable and also an honest mistake.

I am actually thinking of a few other subjects I’d like to address as I write this (note to self:  address later! I digress), but something he did in our conversation sparked this article.

First I’d like to apologize for forgetting the man’s name. I asked him a few times, but he dropped so many names in our conversation I must have either forgotten while trying to remember exactly what his lineage was–or I was looking down on the floor trying to count how many he dropped. Apparently, in all of this research of who’s who in the FMAs, he obviously skipped over me and, in addition to thinking I was a part time guy, mistook me for someone who gave a damn.

Digressing some more…. when visiting a martial arts school you know nothing about folks, take some advice from me. Never go in trying to one-up the guy in front of you. Especially if you only plan on doing so verbally. If you are a martial arts expert, then introduce yourself as one and treat the conversation as if you were meeting a peer. If you are not looking for lessons, don’t act like you are. If you are curious about how they do business, then be forthright and ask the questions you want answers to. Like “how much do you guys charge a month?” and “where do you get most of your students from?” and “what are your classes like?”  And always, always–never try to impress or diminish the guy in front of you, especially if you know nothing about him.

Back to the conversation. So, he begins by telling me he was originally a Serrada student back in the 70s, then he met a Master in Vallejo who was so impressed with his Eskrima that he took him as a personal student, then this guy, then that guy…. zzzzzzz.

I realized the gentleman was not interested in lessons, he was not a teacher, and he was not planning to buy equipment from me. Not a problem. But sometimes I have interesting conversations with visiting martial artists, expert or not. So I listen–and that’s all I really get to do because the gentleman talked so much I doubt he even inhaled. Then he said something significant.

“In the Filipino arts, lineage means nothing.”

Um, no. See, in the Filipino arts, lineage does mean nothing–but it also means everything. Anyone in the Filipino arts as a fighting art form–not a business–knows this.

Lineage is more than just a reference point for braggarts and ego. It is knowing where your training, knowledge and skill originated. It is understanding the logic behind why your art is the way that it is. It is knowing why you have no forms, or knowing where the forms in your style came from. It explains why you do things the way that you do, and it gives legitimacy to everything you do. For a man with no lineage must work harder to validate his skill and respect (which have to do with more than just fighting skill), and a man with good lineage must work even harder than HIM to validate his art. Lineage tells those whom you encounter that you most likely know your stuff, and it can also tell those same people you probably don’t know crap. Lineage, depending on who’s in it, speaks loudly to the expectations of those around you.

And there is a saying in the martial arts, “You don’t take those masters into the ring with you.”

Idiots. Shows how much they know about the martial arts; or perhaps I should rephrase that to “how little they know…”

Little do you realize, you do take those masters into the ring with you. When a man sees you fight, he is looking at the manifestation of your master and all of his lessons he imparted to you, his experiences, his theories, and his training regimen–and the master before him, and all those things–and the master before him. With your 3-minute match, you either validate everything they’ve worked for, or you shame it. You stand for them and all they hoped for with the art. Whether you win or lose, you represent not just yourself and your teachers, but you represent all others from your art. Anyone remotely close to what you do: Your teacher’s classmates and their students, their training partners and their students, even foreign styles who are not connected to you by lineage–but perhaps from the same country or only a similar ideology to yours. When you fight, they are proud of you and they share in your glory, even if you lose (just lose graciously and not like a coward). They are pulling for you, and if you look good, they look good. And finally, your own students. They and their pride originates from you and how well you represent them. Train hard, do your best, excel, and prove your superiority. What more is there to the martial arts?

Trust me, lineage is not for us to use when we want brownie points. It does nothing for our skill. Name-dropping is meaningless without the skills to back it up. But without knowing, respecting, representing and having a duty to serve our lineage–our martial arts and our accomplishments become very self-centered and isolated. In this case, lineage does mean nothing. It is not here for us to use as a calling card or a substitute for excelling in the art. It is not a weapon to use to try and make some random Guro you encounter to feel inferior. Especially when that Guro you encountered just finished performing a thousand strikes, 100 pushups, and thinks your ego needs a bone-snapping wake-up call. If I were to name-drop who I had conversations with just this morning, he’d think I was lying.

Yet that’s not important. Who you learned from means nothing if you don’t make him look good when you step out on the floor. For this, lineage is a very unselfish gift we receive from our martial ancestors. It is our martial arts, and we honor them by giving them credit and by being the best representative of them as possible.

Can you imagine Neil Armstrong saying something like, “I am the first man on the moon. My Air Force unit, my science teachers, my pilot instructors, my family, my President, my country, my fellow astronauts, NASA–have nothing to do with it!”??

Yeah, whether a martial artist plays down his lineage, or he exploits it, he sounds a little like that. When he gives full credit to those who taught him, and devotes himself to being an example to the ones to follow him–he is honoring his lineage and therefore honoring himself.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

The Chess Match, Revisited

I wrote an article a few years back entitled “Mastering the Art of the Chess Match“; when you get done with this article I’d like you to take a look at it.

We are revisiting this subject because of a visitor we had to our last Fight Night who called himself “AJ”. AJ is an MMA fighter who attempted to introduce himself and “warn” me that he was an MMA fighter before we began sparring. I stopped him from doing so, because his background was irrelevant, and I needed for the guys to see him as just another fighter because in reality–he is “just another fighter”. Any man who would be a real threat to our fighters would most likely be the kind of guy who doesn’t attend random martial arts schools to spar. I have long said that we tend to hang with others at our level, and you don’t see Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather gym-hopping, looking for sparring partners among the gym rats, do you? Food for thought.

So, my point. After seeing AJ move, and sparring him myself–I thought I had some good advice for him to learn to improve his fighting ability. We were practicing a drill (boy, do I hate that word!) where the fighters had two techniques they were using–the straight punch to the body and the round kick to the body–and two counters I allowed each of them to choose on their own. In this drill, we sparred using only the two attacks and the two counters. I had only two rules:  1. We were not trying to hurt each other, and 2. We needed to make sure that we did not get hit. In other words–we must strive to beat our opponents only with the techniques we chose rather than power, and we needed to execute EFFECTIVE counters. So, the weak, ignorant strategy of “take a shot to give a shot” is the inferior man’s way of dealing with his inability to stop his opponent. I understand that in the MMA field, “take a shot to give a shot” is an accepted and widespread strategy. Yet this strategy is nothing new. In the full-contact world, “take a shot” is the slow man’s excuse for not having the skills to either evade or stop the opponent. When the young man, AJ, came in, I expected and saw him resort back to “take a shot” when the techniques he chose to stop the attacks failed him.

I have a rule about reminders for my students. If I tell you more than three or four times to keep your hands up, to watch the opponent’s counter, or whatever reminder you need to keep from getting your ass knocked out–and you keep making the mistake… In other words, ignoring my instructions–I will stop giving you the reminder and I will allow your opponent to beat your ass. Some of us, you see, can only learn from a butt-whipping. And then some of us are so stubborn that even after an eye-opening butt-whipping, we will still insist that our opponents can’t hurt us and our “toughness” will help us prevail in a “real fight”.

Yeah, like my neighbor’s kid still insists to my 11 year old MUSLIM son that Santa Claus exists and is very real.

Fighting, my friends is not about who is tougher, who can deliver a better shot, or take the most abuse. Well, wait–it is. But if that’s the only way you can win a fight, you’re in for a few major-league ass-whippings. We need to be superior in timing, strategy, technique selection AND tough. Tough? That’s easy. Show me a guy whose strategy to winning fights is to hit harder and prove that his balls are bigger, and I’ll show you a guy who is prone to getting knocked out when he’s in the ring with a bigger, stronger, faster fighter. You can never guarantee that you will be bigger, stronger or faster. However, you can always guarantee that you have the best timing, the best strategy, and the superior selection of techniques to defeat your opponent. This is why I believe MMA gyms across the country are training inferior fighters to serve as cannon fodder for the really prepared potential champions. This is also why you can tell the gyms with the weakest skill and worst instruction and training:  They are full of punching bags and weight lifting equipment.

I probably threw you off with that one.

See, when a school has inferior fighting instruction, they look to build their fighters’ power. After all, any fool with half a brain can lift weights and get stronger. Learning to hit a bag harder gives the impression that you are becoming a more dangerous fighter. Those are easy to develop in a student. But to teach a man to enter a fight and never get hit flush on the chin, to teach him to beat the crap out of a man without ever being hit hard in that fight–that isn’t easy. Most guys running gyms out here can’t teach that. And since they can’t teach a fighter to stop a jab, they tell him to just “take it” and then knock the shit out of him. Trust me, folks, there are guys out here you don’t want to just “take” punches from… They will beat the snot out of you. Ditto that about Tae Kwon Do fighters. If your teachers told you that TKD guys are easy to beat because their legs and kicking are “impractical”, stop by my gym one day, I’ll introduce you to a McDojo owner that will slaughter you. “Take a shot” will be the perfect strategy for you. You’ll be “taking” his shot because you’ll have no choice.

Listen to this advice, friends, and don’t you forget it:

There are three objectives to stand-up fighting that are universal in all forms of sparring, from point fighting, to full contact, to a streetfight….

  1. Stop or avoid your opponent’s attacks
  2. Land your attacks when you want them to land, and
  3. Land more attacks than your opponent lands!

If you aren’t fighting with this in mind, you will never progress in fighting with your hands. Power is good, but it should not be the main factor you rely on. Power, my brothers is NOT A SKILL. There are opponents who have more power than you. And there are opponents against whom your power is ineffective. When you fight, you want your opponent to fail when he attacks you–evade him, block him, and counter him–and when you attack him, you want him to be unable to evade you, to block you, and counter you. Only when you have mastered this very difficult skill, will you be able to use your stand up to stop a grappler, to catch a faster opponent, to knock out a bigger man, and stop a stronger opponent. This is the chess match I am speaking of–where no man has “bigger pieces” on the board. You are winning with superior skill.

Thank you for visiting my blog. By the way, if you like this article and others, please share my articles with others! We are always looking for more readers! And don’t forget to check out our “Offerings” page–we have books for sale!