“Secrets” of the Filipino Fighting Arts
Words from a Modern-Day Warrior

The Next Best Thing(s)

Again, I am on this blog talking about seminars and short courses…

One of the questions I am asked, and perhaps more than “How much are your classes?” is the real question they want to know:  “How can I study without really studying?”

Or how about “How can I study without committing fully?”

Or “How can I study without training with the intensity and life change you recommend?”

The real question you should be asking is, “Why do I expect to learn without being as serious as I can be, and why do I think I can arrive to the highest level of skill without putting in the work?”  See, when I hear anything besides how much my lessons are, and when classes are held–all I hear is a student who wants to learn the art but is unwilling to sacrifice for it.

If you know anything about the true masters of the arts, especially Filipino old-school Masters, nothing turns them off faster. I want to share a basic truth of the mastery of the Filipino arts. The masters who have the good stuff, missed meals, walked miles, slept on floors, swallowed pride, took beatings, labored against logic, and suffered at the hands of everyone from spouses to creditors to parents even children for this art. Do you really think a Master who spent his life energy journeying to the land of martial arts mastery is going to let a student half-ass his way into what he fought to learn?

I’d like to point out, that the word learn rhymes with earn. There’s a hidden meaning in there someplace.

I have met some pretty great masters in my time, and lost the opportunity to learn from them because I said the wrong thing or had the wrong attitude. As the saying goes, When the student is ready, the Master will appear… applies even when the Master and student are standing right in front of each other. Those of you who have access to a Master should recognize how rare that opportunity is, and not try to bargain with him or ask for a shortcut method to learning and earning the right to get his art. Don’t treat the true Master like you would some Mickey Mouse Dojang owner. Many of you–too many, in fact–do.

You also have to face the brutal reality that perhaps you aren’t cut out for real martial arts. I have a gentleman I met when he was in his early 20s, in good shape, who was attending a school when we encountered each other at a tournament. He was impressed with my fight, which was at the end of the day, and told me that no one in his dojo fought like me. Despite that I had lost to another fighter for first place, he wanted to learn from me. He competed earlier, did well, but realized that there would be a limit to his progress if he stayed in that school. I allowed him to attend my Sunday sparring sessions, even giving him tips. But a few months later when I was teaching in my own school I let him know I could no longer teach for free, but if he’d like he was welcome to join my school and do it every day instead of once a week. He did leave his school, but never really joined mine. Sure he paid a few times, came over and trained, but never gave it a serious effort. Rather, he wanted to just get tactics and strategy, and hated doing the numbers that I practiced. Over the years, each time I saw him, he got fatter and fatter, and his fighting skill grew worse and worse. But get this:  He now holds at least four Black belt/teaching certificates from various systems, and my advanced beginners can all whip him.

Back in 2010, he arrived in my school with his money in hand (not enough; by then my tuition was double what it was when he first came to me), but with bad knees, a large gut, no flexibility… telling me he was ready to train. Here and there, he had answered my ads not knowing the phone numbers he dialed were mine. He approached students of mine asking to “trade” information. Everything but the real journey. Well in 2010, I told him that he was a nice guy, but he was no warrior. Not only that, but we have the right to refuse service, and he was no longer welcome to train with us. Waste of my time, waste of his time and money, and waste of potential–all because he was lazy, inconsiderate, noncommittal, impatient, and totally NOT martial arts material. I wish I could tell you I never saw him again, but I still run into him on occasion at tournaments. See, this man who is barely 35 years old, is now a Master. And I doubt he would survive my beginner class.

I said all that to say this. Not everyone is cut out for real martial arts. I am one of those stubborn teachers who is only interested in training full-time students. If a guy is unsure if he will stay with the training for at least a year, I’m not interesting in teaching him. If he lives out of town, I will allow him to come through no fewer than 6 times per year, and he must train at least a total of 18 or so days per year–FULL days. So, I turn down plenty of students. I’ve had folks buy my books, read my blog, visit my website, or drive by my school and inquire–just to be discouraged because they were looking for a different kind of teacher, a different kind of school.

Sadly, there are many teachers who would accommodate those students. No, let’s rephrase that. Go ahead and make your money. Accommodate. That’s find. It’s the next best thing to full time training. So some guys will train with you 4 or 5 days a week and put in 10 or more hours of training. They will do thousands of repetitions of whatever your basics happen to be, fight anyone you put in front of them, endure whatever punishment you inflict on them to toughen them up. At the same time, you have guys who won’t come around that often, won’t train as hard, will only make a fraction of the progress your hard core guys will make. Hey, they are still your students, right?

Right. They paid their fees. They did put some time in. They made the commitment you asked of them, albeit reduced, but it’s still a commitment. But after putting in just a tiny portion of what your really serious guys put in, is it fair that they should receive the same amount of recognition? The same rank? The same amount of information? Where one day, they may compete against the students who truly carried the torch for you? Or worse–betray them and you? How much sense does that make?

My point, which I’d like bring home, is this. I only have three ways to join my school. You can be a full-time student. You can be a weekly student. Or you can be a private student. But please don’t fool yourself into believing that you can pay for a few private lessons and achieve what my full-time guys will achieve, or that I will give you the same due that those guys have earned. You Guros should do the same. Take your act on the road, teach guys in 20+ cities a few times a year, we all have to make our living. Whatever you do, please do not insult the guys who really had your back, really gave you a piece of their lives, by allowing some guy who dabbled in your art through seminars to have anything close to the same rank as you real bread-and-butter students. Don’t even share with them the same information. Because in the martial arts, lessons are earned, or they are bought. There is nothing in between. I will not elaborate. You figure out what I’m trying to say.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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5 Responses to “The Next Best Thing(s)”

  1. Simple, clear and correct. That is what martial arts teach a person. Mastery is founded on commitment and perseverance, which is also essential in any discipline to achieve mastery. Thank you for this “in your face” article 😀

    Please allow me to share on my page.

  2. Your words really drive the point sir. I definitely agree. I have a question and I hope you don’t find this stupid. Do you see that same commitment on someone who trains alone? Say, he lives far away, goes to the master maybe 10 times a year to train, and practices alone with the same commitment.

    • I don’t think that is a bad thing if its done right. its best to do something like this after he has a foundation already built. but if not, each visit with the teacher should be lengthy and focused on just learning, not scraping the surface like a lot of seminars are doing it.

      I will right an article about this question, I think its a good one!


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