No Big Fish In THIS Pond

I get called to the carpet often by Filipino Martial Artists and other “reality-based” martial artists because of my support of martial sports fighting.

Their main point is that tournament fighting is not “real” fighting, and because rules are involved, winners/losers declared, there is the element of safety equipment, designated “kill” zones, time limits, etc., that fighters are therefore playing a “game” and are not prepared for actual combat because there is too much simulated combat. I completely disagree.

All fighting must be simulated. Even when soldiers and police are practicing their techniques for combat, they must have the same standards in place to ensure safety. Live rounds in target shooting is no different than training with live blades for the Eskrimador. And I guarantee you that in combat exercises, our soldiers are not shooting at each other with live ammunition. So is that too unrealistic as well?

I have various reasons for saying that the martial artist needs some level of competition in his or her life–or they are not practicing the “martial” arts. Because in order for your activity to be “martial”, it must involve a winner and a loser, it must involve aggression, it must involve one party dominating the other. It is not “fun”. It is not casual. It is not a cooperative activity. The martial arts must be challenging and makes you nervous. It must make you risk being defeated, and as long as defeat doesn’t make you stop, you’re still doing it.

Pause.

I hear from martial artists all the time who tell me, “I tried competition fighting. Didn’t succeed, but… blah blah blah.” What was the “blah blah blah” part? Wasn’t realistic enough? Led to bad habits? Too much politics? Blah blah blah, my friends is total B.S. Whatever your reason, you stopped fighting because you weren’t successful. If you won, you’d probably stay in it long enough to gain some benefit from it, and you would understand the point of this article. But you lost, and the #1 thing martial-like artists do when they don’t do well is to come up with an excuse why the whole thing is stupid and real martial artists don’t engage in those activities. It is a cop-out, and as a fighter the only thing you can do to make your argument convincing is to engage in an activity that has fewer rules, hits harder, and runs more risk of injury. And sorry, but drills and “realistic” techniques (lol) are not what I’m talking about. The truth is, most martial artists who don’t do well in tournament fighting stop fighting. So they spend the rest of their lives preventing their students from engaging and trying to convince other martial artists that tournaments will keep you from developing fighting skills.

I’ve written quite a bit on what tournament fighting can do for the one looking for real fighting skill, so we won’t waste time here discussing them for the umpteenth time. I do, however, have one more thing I want to say. Being in the company of aggressively training, competitive fighters can only sharpen your skills more. Regardless whether or not you are the best fighter in the group, simply being in their company will help you improve. You will be humbled, forced to work harder, get faster and stronger, develop better timing, and come up with more realistic, better-researched strategies and techniques. Those who do not wish to be challenged avoid this group, because it is far more comfortable being a big fish in a small pond of inferior (or less confident and knowledgeable) martial artists and students. They want to be among friendly martial artists who are eager to “show” you what they learned in the latest seminars and DVDs. The kind of guys who will compliment whatever you come up with and never say “I don’t see how that will work”, nor will they ever challenge you like the guy from the tournament will. Only the hardest stones sharpen blades, and some of these guys prefer to avoid the stones and rub their wooden blades with other wooden blades. And before you know it, you end up with martial arts “fighters” who never fight, only put on drills and demonstrations of martial-like arts, and their skin is so thin, everything that resembles doubt offends them. In other words, they like hanging out in fish bowls where three or four guys make each other feel like we can all be big fish… and none of them are carnivorous.

While the martial artists who do not participate in the feel-good Master-promoting events, but instead will hang in circles with other fighters try month after month to prove that he–and not you–deserve to be the big fish. If any of them could get into that tiny little safe jar, they will eat all of you for a snack.

And this is why the idea of a challenge frightens the hell out of most martial arts “masters”, while those who call themselves fighters, peruse flyers and announcements… looking for someone else to beat to prove their worthiness.

There is a saying that the decline of Black Belters with a high degree starts at a far younger age than those who have longevity with a lower degree. The guys who chase degrees and titles actually stop demanding more from themselves and testing themselves in order to do all the political stuff to get recognition. On the other hand, the guys who forego promotions in order to become the biggest fish spend more time training, fighting, revising and fighting again for years. And by the time they get old enough for someone to really call them master, a ceremony is no longer necessary, and their accomplishments and reputations will be attested by their opponents, not their friends.

This is the path of the real martial artists.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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Stealing Information–and Respect

I would like to share my view of something with you, but first, some background.

You may or may not like my views presented on this blog. Your blood may boil when I ridicule something you do, or your system, your Supreme Burrito Datu Grandmaster’s title, your Youtube clips, your favorite drills or seminars, or the certificates you list on your site. But there is something that brings readers back to this blog day after day, even if I go a month without posting. There is a reason why people will translate my articles to foreign languages–everything from German to Hindi to Thai to Korean–and then argue on some Facebook wall pro or con. And there is a reason why people will challenge me by email, Facebook inbox, comment, or through a mutual friend–and never show up. This blog gets between 50 daily views (when I haven’t written anything) and 250 (when I do). It’s because if I don’t say it, chances are pretty good that you won’t hear it or learn it. Many things I say may get dismissed by your Guro, and then somewhere down the line you will hear it presented by someone else and you both will embrace it. I’m not some seminar jockey regurgiating stuff I’ve overheard on a Karate dojo floor or in some Facebook chatroom. I am not a Johnny-come-lately to the FMAs either. Matter of fact I literally grew up in the martial arts school, and I knew some of your Grandmasters when they were still Tae Kwon Do teachers taking one day Arnis seminars.

I have a unique approach to the FMAs. I don’t believe in drills. I don’t do sinawali. I don’t practice disarms. I practice a stick-in-the back hand style of Eskrima because I practice how to use the stick against a barehanded fighter. I actually teach my guys to fight with the barehands, not just how to put the stick down and swing them the same way as if I was armed. I am not a supporter of many theories generally accepted as fact in the Filipino arts, such as “translating” the stick/knife/empty hand. I don’t share my art in public or on Youtube or in seminars, nor do I learn from those places, nor does my art include anything from the mainstream FMA world. So when you come to this blog you really are getting a very unique version of the Filipino arts, and my opinion of what is in the FMAs is just as rare.

So when someone “borrows” an idea or point of view, it’s pretty darned obvious. They don’t always give credit to where it came from. Just like 99% of the B.S. in the FMAs, everyone picks up from each other and then they pass that stuff off as their own. You know it, you probably do it yourself. It’s one reason why many novice FMA or former mainstream-FMA people will swear to me, “Guro, they are all teaching the same thing!” You’re damn right they are, I’ve been saying that for about 15 years. Anyway, occasionally, someone will send me something–a clip or an article on someone else’s blog, blah blah blah–to point out that my words/ideas have been used. They almost always want to do it anonymously because those who know me personally know that I am the type to show up in person, and they don’t want to be a part of it.

Well here’s my take on that:  I don’t care. I am very selfish with information. I won’t demonstrate. I won’t explain. I won’t guest-teach or do seminars, unless there is something I really want to share, and even that’s rare. One thing you will almost never see is my technique showing up at someone else’s dojo–although I’ve had a few students leave me and go elsewhere and share something that they’ve learned.  But my articles? Really? Doesn’t bother me a bit.

In fact, it’s flattering. Flattering that even people who supposedly don’t like me or my philosophy think highly enough of me to adopt some of my views and pass it off as their own. Where I come from, we call that “respect”. Yes, a skewed version of respect, but respect it is. See, in the martial arts, people don’t have to like you. They may hate your guts, say that you can’t fight, question your character, but when a martial artist is superior to most of his peers in any way, he is respected. GMs Giron and Cabales weren’t in love with each other at all, but they respected each other. Iron Mike Tyson may still want to eat Lennox Lewis’ kids, but he respects him. Martial artists may say out loud that the other guys are sissies and their teacher’s Arnis is no good, but if they don’t disrespect each other in the presece of the other–they actually have respect for one another.

And this is why measurable fighting skill and the challenge have such an important place in the FMAs with real fighters, and why amiability and popularity have no place at all. You cannot have the presence of fighting skill and disrespect coexisting together in the same vicinity, and why all the hands-holding and mutual (certificate) masturbating we like to do in our functions and true martial respect also do not hang out in the same places. Respect and friendliness are two parallel lines that do not necessarily intersect among fighters in the martial arts; people will pretend to respect you or pretend to be friendly with one another when a true fighter is around. But more often than not, FMA people do not want to find out who the superior fighter really is, so the best way is to completely avoid that conversation and act like old drinking buddies. Because real Eskrima–the true, grown-up stuff that we like to read and write about–cannot be stomached by most FMA people. And as the saying goes, two suppoedly equal warriors cannot have true respect for one another until they have fought one another. There is no other way. If they do not agree to spar at the least, they may smile at each other, pat each other on the back, even edify one another–but true respect in the martial sense cannot exist between them.

Finally, perceived martial ability is a very disarming thing. It can take a man who thinks he is a warrior, and turn him into a friendly pussy cat in the presence of one who he believes is the better fighter. When a man has no known enemies, it can be a good thing or a bad thing. 1. He could have enemies in hiding, waiting for the right moment to strike, and he must watch his back. Or, most likely, he is the top of the food chain and 2. Everyone around him doesn’t want to find out if they can whip him or not, because they believe he is indeed superior. This explains my statement that Bruce Lee single-handedly castrated the martial arts scene of his day. While there were a few people who wanted to try him, most people were not at his level and they knew it–HE knew it–which enabled him to say what he said about “classical Karate” and go unchecked. And here we are, 40 year later, and people still swear he was the greatest thing since kalamasi/sinigang came in a packet. He had America by the balls.

I don’t worry that people don’t like what I write about, or they adopt my views as their own, or that they think my bio on my website is made up, or say that my martial arts is no good behind my back (because they never say it in person). Why? Because I am respected, even if the masses of my readers don’t like me. For the martial arts, respect is nothing, and it’s everything.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

For Entertainment Purposes Only, pt III

We need for FMA teachers to return to basics.

Filipino Martial Arts have gotten too complicated and are moving further and further away from being practical forms of self-defense and streetfighting. This is why Eskrima, Arnis and Kali have become less “combat sports” and are now “spectator sports”. I mean, I’ve even seen flyers advertising FMAs give three prices: Advanced Registration, Participant’s Fee, and Spectator’s Fee.

(Spits out in surprise)

SPECTATOR’S FEE???!!

Who the hell does that? You mean there are martial artists so lazy, that not only will they bypass full-time study with a Master, but when they go for a ONE-DAY seminar, they won’t even get off their tushies to swing sticks…. they will watch???

Oh, God, nurse…. it’s worse than I thought. And our Guros and Grandmasters are making it an institution.

I often hear of people talking about FMA masters being “entertaining”, and among the many reasons to study with them are the words funny, humorous, excellent showman, dazzling to watch. Good gosh, nurse, it IS worse than I thought.

Don’t blame this one on the white guys, my brothers, the Filipinos started this crap.

And I think I know why. When the FMAs started to become popular, outside of Northern California and Hawaii, teachers found difficulty in recruiting new students. There were either people who wanted Karate and Tae Kwon do, Kung Fu, or one of the other Japanese arts like Judo, Aikido or Kendo. FMA teachers didn’t have movies to point to that excited people about the Filipino arts, so the best way to spread was to encounter school owners. We would show them in person, one at a time, that we were superior in some way to most other arts. Then in the effort to learn the art, they would have to promote a seminar to afford to bring the master in for a day or two and learn in person.

No need to argue, I know a few of the masters who did this and I’ve done it myself. It’s a fact.

So the teaching became like Sailor love lives–in town for a few days, slam bam thank you maam–and on to the next town. Along the way, we leave students behind who are longing for more, and until next time, my loves….

And this became the #1 way to teach the Filipino arts. With well-documented curriculums, we could teach on the move and within a few visits impart an entire system to dedicated, hungry students. How many visits did it take to get to the center of the curriculum? I say 6 to 8. I’ve met a bunch of Arnis and Kali certified teachers and that’s what they say. Give or take a few workouts with the local (or not so local) training group, and a 3 day (read: weekend) camp or two.

Hey, and don’t get me started on sparring and certification. We all have seen certificates get printed before attendees arrive. It’s disgusting.

I once met a teacher from the MKA gym in Angeles City. He told me to bring him the best fighter of any school in town, and he had two guys who can beat them. I didn’t want to bring Lakeim Allah or Bernard Savage (who would have destroyed his boys) from Boggs Lao’s gym, so I offered myself and while they didn’t beat me–they were some tough sonofaguns. And a few months later, one of the guys, a Tanod (security cop) whose name I forget, beat me in a tournament. Hell, you can’t win them all, and he redeemed himself and his club at my expense! But the lesson in this is that here we have a guy who had promoted only two Black Belt students, and he had full confidence that they were the very best he could produce. In the effort to recruit me away from Boggs into his school, he put them both up to prove superiority of his system and school. You absolutely have to respect that.

Same year, I studied Espada y daga with a master who taught at home in Angeles City, (Plaridel subdivision). When I was about 6 months in, he put his son to fight me, possibly because he didn’t like that I had been training with Ernesto and Roberto Presas in Manila. His son was the best he had, and despite that he was a kid–he was confident that his son could beat me into subjugating my training to him. Teachers who are passing on the best fight training they can will always have confidence in their students. I would go so far to say that a teacher must have tested this system with his own hands against opponents before taking what made him successful and imparting it to someone else. When he has done this, and ensured that the students learn and execute everything to specifications, he must find people to test their skills and his theories on.

This process, my brothers, is not for public viewing. It is top secrets, and you don’t want anyone seeing anything but the finished product. You don’t want people seeing the work-in-progress, the missteps and hiccups, the screw-ups and mistakes. You want them to see this amazing fighting system and dominant fighters emerge out of nowhere, and be so impressed the other fighters will declare you the best fighters in town.

But if you don’t believe you ARE the best fighter in town, you could just put out a bunch of press releases, choreograph a really cool demo, choose the coolest music, make a lot of friends, and get plaques and certificates to declare that you are one tough ugga mugga.

This way, you too can be a great fighter.

Or you could just put on the title and costume, and look like one.

Get those guys back to basics, make sure they really are the best fighters you can produce to represent you, before the martial arts community at-large categorizes us as another ninjitsu or Israeli-style add-on.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

For Entertainment Purposes Only, pt II

It seems these days, that the FMAs have gotten really caught up in a grand old Pyramid Scheme. You know:

  • It’ll cost you $Xx.xx dollars to get in on the ground floor
  • To get started you need our “kit” (sticks, T-shirt, association patch, blah blah blah)
  • All new members are also Team Leaders! Yay! Build your own team!
  • Within a year or 6 seminars, we’ll make you a Team President so you can build your own organization
  • “Support” our organization’s products and services (certificates, seminars, and media), and we’ll support yours
  • When you get enough Team Presidents under your belt, you too can be a Grandmaster and start your own Pyramid and make money off your downline

Whoa. Maybe I didn’t screw up by passing up a higher education. This stuff is phenomenal! How can I be down?

Aka, Mo Money, Mo Money, Mo Money…

The product isn’t martial arts anymore, it’s more like we’re selling Martial-like Arts. Here, put on this bandanna, do your sticks like this, pose for pics, learn the jargon. Boy, you sure look like that Lapu-Lapu pic on my T-shirt. Let’s have a tournament for the boys to smack the hell out of each other with these pool noodles and give everybody an award.

And for those who are a little apprehensive about using the pool noodles, just hold on for about 20 years, we’ll hold an awards banquet and “certify” them as A-1 Billy Bad Asses.

Okay, I know your blood is probably boiling, so I’ll stop. I know how sensitive FMA people can be.

To be honest I do acknowledge that Grandmasters exist. I believe that tournaments are necessary. I think awarding certificates can be honest business. But this stuff in the FMA has overtaken the one thing that FMA people seem to try and avoid, which is (let me give it it’s own line):

Proving that your skill is not only superior to the next guy, but has improved since the last time we saw you.

I should expound.

FMA people are awarding certificates to people who have not shown superiority over another FMA guy. They are awarding Masterships to men who have not shown superiority over enough FMA guys. In none of these cases are FMA guys proving superiority over non-FMA guys. And we have people who are awarding Grandmaster certificates to people: 1. that they cannot award because you’re equal, 2. grandmastery in someone else’s art, 3. to someone because you like them (it’s not like anyone who doesn’t like me will award ME a master certificate, although I can whip most guys reading this blog), and 4. when the term “grandmaster” is not a level one reaches–rather it is a familial term.

Let’s define:  Grandmaster:  grand·mas·ter (gr nd m s t r). 1. n. the one who taught your master. 2. A founder of an art.

Hmm. Does my Dad need a certificate to let the world know that he is my kids’ grandfather? Could someone who is not in my family, say my next door neighbor, award my Dad that title? If he did award my Dad the title (or not) does it matter? Why would my Dad want such a certificate?

I have a theory. Ready?

People covet these things when they want validation. Your skill doesn’t speak for itself, so you need for other people to say it for you. You believe that people around you won’t respect you or follow you, so you need websites, friends, associations, aka validations. People find safety when they hide behind things that cannot be attacked, and so they seek protection in numbers and reputations. Tell you what. I have a 6 gentlemen in my school I would put my money on any of you reading this article, with or without weapons. That’s right. My six students would beat dog shit out of any Grandmaster or Master who would show up at my school and step on the floor….

Why did I say that? Two reasons. One, because I have full confidence in the guys I’ve trained. I have taught them for the better part of the last decade, and I know what they can do, I’ve trained with them myself, I believe they have surpassed me in skill, and I think pretty damned highly of my own skills. Two, I know that while you may run to MyFMA.net or Facebook and run your mouths about me, no FMA man within 100 miles will accept. Proven fact. I received about 20 challenges after the fuss over the “Fallacy” series, and none showed up. I’ve said it before, only two people have shown up at my door step after a FFSL article to fight me, and one is studying from me now. Neither is an FMA guy.

I am alone. I don’t have many FMA friends. My younger brother lives in town but no longer trains. My sister lives 3 hours away and does MMA. If someone was serious about showing up to kick my ass, I would have to do this one alone. If I called out an FMA guy on this blog today, at least 20 of you would speak up for him, and I doubt he and I would ever fight. If I seem disrespectful of the FMAs it’s because the Filipino martial artist doesn’t demand respect. He wants to be accepted as a martial art rather than a martial-like art. He puts on demos and posts videos. He pats his girlfriends on the back and never says “I don’t think that is combat-worthy.” He does the same shit everyone else does, and when someone brings an element of martial to their arts, he gets panties all in a bunch. He hides behind profiles and calls his buddies to talk crap instead of making a road trip. He makes excuses for why he doesn’t fight. He’d rather show demos of empty hand skill on youtube and facebook clips, rather than cross hands with karate and kung fu guys to prove that they work. We have become martial-like entertainers instead of fighters. The most we will do is let the little guys in our schools do padded stick fighting, and when someone questions us, we will point to other guys on the internet (and real world) doing the real stickfighting. But the truth is, the more we promote, the bigger our force, the less we feel we should be questioned.

Try telling Prince that his music is crap. He’ll point to the hundreds of sell-out crowds and his multimillion dollar bank account to say that he isn’t–but the bottom line is that you’d rather reach for the Eagles Greatest Hits CD than any garbage Prince has put out in the last 15 years. FMAs are no longer martial arts–they are martial-like arts that are for entertainment purposes only. No more danger to a 7 year old than his soccer team.

Well, he’d probably get more injuries playing soccer.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

For Entertainment Purposes Only

Also known as “FMAs Are Not Spectator Sports”.

Also known as “Too Many Chiefs (or Grandmasters)”.

Also known as “Scratch My Back, I’ll Scratch Yours”.

I met the most interesting sleeping Tiger last week; you may not have heard of him. If you’re a somebody in the FMAs, I guarantee that you have heard of him–though you may not like him, respect or honor him. I tell you what:  If you knew his story, and you’re a REAL martial artist, you would honor and respect him regardless of whether or not you liked him.

Break.

Funny thing about martial artists. We love to throw around all these lofty titles and pretending to be respectful men of morals. We spend a lot of time aligning ourselves with big names, popular styles and trends, and self-promoting–yet we try to portray ourselves as humble public servant-warriors. When it comes down to it, most of us are selfish, cowardly pricks who can’t fight our way out of a paper bag. We ass kiss when it will benefit us, and we will avoid helping others when it won’t. We will accept fast-food martial arts titles, and feign offense when someone tells us that they have a differing or opposing view to ours (or they doubt the validity of our view). If there was a real master among us, but he is holding out for the best student rather than offer it on DVD or in a one-day seminar… we’ll look past him and opt for the big name guy who will make us look good the next time we decide to name-drop who we’ve taken pictures–excuse me, trained–with.

I just love when an old school, true warrior comes out of the woodwork and I am fortunate enough to meet him. Just when I start to think everyone in the FMA community are seminar pansies who like to hold hands on Facebook and in seminars and other knitting circles online for “sinawali” experts–I meet another true martial artist.

You know the type. The guy whose paid his dues on the floor of the dojo AND the ring. The guy who has had more fights than he could remember, forgotten more martial arts than most guys can learn with a camcorder in a whole week of seminars. The guy who is high on skill, but low on resume notches and certificates and degrees. A true martial artist who could give a rat’s ass about which young buck gets a grandmaster certificate (NEWSFLASH: Real Grandmasterships cannot be awarded by anyone. A grandmaster “certificate” is like certifying somebody as a “nice” guy. Matter of fact, only “nice” guys get those things), shuns receiving one, signing one, or sucking up because you have one. The 60 year old guy wth a 3rd degree who can kick your 10th degree grandmaster’s ass on his worst day.

That kind of guy, lol.

So, I’m at the school when a very fit couple walk into my gym the other day while I was finishing a Jow Ga class. They look old enough to be my parents (no offense!) but then they don’t look a day over “old enough to be my parents”. He isn’t interested in Kung Fu or MMA or kickboxing, he wants to know about my FMA. This guy is an FMA guy, I think, so I kick my students out and prepare myself for the conversation about no-i-dont-want-to-teach-a-seminar-for-you-and-it’s-going-to-take-you-hecka-years-to-learn-my-art-and-i-dont-give-certificates-or-belts speech. Whew!

To my surprise, he tells me that he is very familiar with mainstream FMA (which I am NOT a part of) and has no interest in politics, ranks and seminars, commercialism, or any of that other bullshit. Boy! I like this guy already!

We hit it off like two old friends. Well, I to leave, so we made a promise to catch up with each other the next day, exchanged numbers and parted ways.

Before I go further, his name is Frank Landers (wife, Cathy) and he is a very important man in the martial arts community. If you don’t know who he is, Google him–you may already know who he is without realizing it. I love that he is such an accomplished gentleman and not only is he real and humble, he has just enough cockiness you understand that this is a guy who can kick someone’s ass half his age, and he doesn’t need to tell you. We will do a separate article on Mr. Landers another day. If you are too lazy to hit the link, don’t feel bad I will tell you all you need to know. Just make sure you subscribe to the blog so you don’t miss a thing!

One thing Frank and I certainly agree on is that the martial arts–the REAL thing–is not for entertainment purposes. If you are spending a lot of time putting on demos, choosing your teachers based on personality and showmanship, asking people who don’t know you to use titles with you, have so more certifications than you have Black Belts… You’re doing this crap for entertainment purposes only, and you are not doing the real thing.

Maybe that’s why you haven’t heard of Frank Landers. See, while your Grandmasters and Supreme Burrito Masters (or whatever you call them) were butt-licking martial celebrities and promoting articles, websites and signing and collecting certificates–Frank Landers was training. So he doesn’t have a lot of degree, certificates, titles or PR skills. But he can see his belly button without looking in the mirror (unlike a lot of Grandmasters), he can still move like a young guy, and he is satisfied with having people who dislike him resort to name calling because one thing they can’t say is that his martial arts skill is no good.

Which leads me to my next point. Has anyone seen him put on a demo? Can we get a youtube clip of him showing what he knows? How can I get certified in his personal fighting system?

Frank is old school and in order to learn from him, well, you have to learn from him. Not attend a martial arts “concert” or pop in a DVD like you were about to watch a Spongebob video. This is the real martial arts world, and it ain’t for spectators. They don’t make many Masters like him anymore that’s for damned sure.

In part II, I’m going to let you be a fly on the wall into part of our conversation.

Thanks for visiting my blog.