Lessons from the Tim Waid Experience

This is sure to be a controversial article, although it does not intend to be one.

I have written a few articles about severing familial relationships within the martial arts–the Filipino Martial Arts, in particular. And let’s put this out up front. I strongly disagree with teachers awarding rank and then taking it away–even the passive-aggressive, labeling of one’s rank invalid or “outdated”. Matter of fact, I dislike this practice and consider it spineless, dishonest and cowardly. I’ll say this to any Master’s face, any Grandmaster’s face, or any of their lackeys.

And, yes, any student who sticks by a Master who does this is a lackey.

Now don’t get me wrong. I myself have disowned a student for bad behavior. I do it frequently. I expel, I suspend privileges, I set them free, I sever the relationship. But as one who takes immense pride in what I teach and the skill my students achieve under me–I would be a FOOL to say “this man studied from me for 5/10/20 years and doesn’t know what he’s doing.”  If I trained a man that long and then say he sucks, what does that say about the quality of my teaching? Sure, relationships sour. Even relationships among siblings or classmates, or worse, teachers and parents–can go wrong. But can you imagine a man saying to the child he once held in the palm of his hand, “You are not mine, you’re not a REAL member of this family–in fact, change your name.”  It’s crazy, and only the Creator of the Universe can take away someone’s knowledge and lineage. Who do you think you are?

Someone needs a reality check. I’m waiting for a former student to say to his rank-revoking Master, “Fuck you, and if you think I suck, come and TAKE my certificate from me…”  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If you would like to get a glimpse of what I’ve said about this subject, please see this article. I devoted it to one GM in particular, but I was making a statement about all who engage in this very hurtful practice.

This student gave you his LIFE for years at a time, placed all his trust and faith in self preservation in the art you are teaching, placed his family’s safety in your words and your imagination (cause all of our arts are rooted somewhat in our imagination)–and you invalidate all of that by telling him his learning was a waste of time? WTF. If the student and you fell out, expel him. But your art is now his, leave him be. No need to slander him, ruin his reputation, render him unable to feed himself and his family. Asshole.

I have long admired the Pekiti Tirsia system, going all the way back to the PT Arnis days, when GM Leo Gaje and his uncle Nene Tortal were still together. I admired them. I admired Master Gaje all the way back in the NYC days. You may not know this, but 1/3 of my Eskrima knowledge is in a style my Grandfather called “pikiti”. Is it related to the Tortal family’s style? Probably, but what I do only closely resembles their style. I have been friends with an early endorsed PT Master, Greg Alland, going back some 30 years. I’ve sought his advice, his input and even sparred with him. I like the system, but not the mystique they keep, and damn sure not the politics and business model.

Back to Master Waid. I don’t know him, but I have seen him around for 20+ years. He’s very good. He has a great reputation among not just his students but other Masters, both friends and rivals. From here, it looks like he lent PTK the foundation to their semi-military look. You have to give a man credit. Not everything good in a system filters from the top down, and you must give credit its due. PTK has undergone several facelifts and Tim Waid was there for the “Commando” phase, and he was damn good at it. So what happened?

I’ll tell you what happened.

The funny thing about FMA guys, they are so quick to show off what the hell they know and what they can do, you can research anyone and their ability online now. I judge people 99% on fighting ability, not demonstration skill. But people rarely put fighting skill into video clips, so we must rely on what we know of fighting, and see from someone’s movement if they can throw down or not. Most of you reading this blog don’t have as good an eye for that shit, so you probably think Tony Jaa is a great fighter, and think Steven Segal is all fluff. So this next statement may not hold true for you… But as a fighter, in my opinion, I have yet to see any PTK guy in recent times (besides some of the guys from the 70s/80s–but that’s not recent) who look like they can throw down the way Mr. Waid can. If you are offended by this statement, go find Mr. Waid and record yourself kicking his ass–or come to California and kick mine–and we can address your hurt feelings over lunch. In my opinion, Tim Waid was one of the best instructors around and it probably made him some enemies. He did what he does, and few others–possibly even GM Gaje himself–could do it better. He’s not the chicken-blood kind of guy. He doesn’t wear skirts and dance around to Kulintang music. He isn’t fast talking. He probably doesn’t have a model’s portfolio. He isn’t going to win any “Poging Pinoy” contests. He doesn’t talk about 8 generations back, secret techniques, or original anything. But if you want to learn to put a man in the grave–or stop a man trying to put YOU in the grave–my guess is, he’s the one you wanna go see.  I would think that many attendees would arrive for training and only want to learn from him. Having someone like that won’t hurt the money. It doesn’t take away from the system, as long as this person is loyal. But it may hurt the ego. So they probably come to learn from Waid.  Recording a fantastied reality show about the arts and you need ratings to go up? See someone else. See, he had the military credentials, the actual experience doing this stuff, and the background and skill at teaching it. If he wanted to, he could take his education, go off on his own and start his own stuff and rename the art, disown his teachers and classmates, declare himself the best and make a living doing his shit on his own.

But he didn’t. That’s all you need to know.

And now he doesn’t have a valid, “approved” PTK credentials. Ho hum. It’s not like anyone who learns from him ever asked to see his creds.

When it was over, people flocked to the internet to slam his name or defend it, or just sit by and jerk off to the melee that ensued concerning his relationship with Pekiti Tirsia. I can tell you this:  I have yet to see ONE WORD of critique or anger from Master Waid or his crew.

And that’s all you need to know.

My friends, conflict can be good for business. But it’s bad for you, your respect, and the confidence people have in you and your character. Take the high road, no matter what is thrown at you, and always, always–let your skill speak for itself.

Knowledge and skill are not an objects you can demand back when you are having menstrual moments. If it comes down to it, regardless of what happened between you, end the relationship, but keep your dignity. This is what separates the martial artists from the side showmen.

One last thing:  Sometimes, when you’re the best of your generation, others around you who aren’t so good will want to dim your light (or throw shade over it) because they are concerned that no one will notice them–or see how bright their light is. This is why many of your teachers never tell you about who the best fighters in their youth were, nor do they introduce you to them. If you look at 99% of martial arts resumes out there, you will rarely see classmates discussed in those histories. As if the lineage only contained themselves and their teachers. Because to them, that’s all that mattered. And sometimes, sadly, your worst competition will be your own teacher. Of course, this is only my opinion.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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Lessons from Middle School Wrestling

A little personal information on me. I’ve been married 7 times, and have three kids with two of those wives. My oldest son, Abdul Khaliq (we call him Kali), lives with me full time.

Recently, he and my daughter (she isn’t competing because she broke her ankle) have been on a wrestling kick and my son is his team’s most prolific winner.  I would like to tell you a little about my observations about middle school wrestling, and what lessons the martial artist can learn from it. 

If you don’t know anything about the sport of wrestling–real wrestling, not the pro-kind (my grandfather use to refer to WWF as “American Hand to Hand Combat”) that is–you should know that the training is extremely arduous, perhaps more than anything most martial artists would ever experience. It is a sport where the fat kid can reign supreme, if he learns to use his natural strength to his advantage. It is rarely given the credit it deserves by parents who know little about it; often, nonathletic children are often pushed towards this activity because parents don’t realize how much physicality is required to “play” it. Put your kid in one season of wrestling, you’re almost guaranteed to end the school year with a kid who cannot be bullied. It takes discipline, pain tolerance, and great courage to participate in. And one of the things I absolutely love about school wrestling:  No kid rides the bench. That’s right, every kid participates, regardless of how talented he is and how popular he is. The more he wins, the more fights he has. And the kid who doesn’t win that often starts off the day with the same number of fights as the kids who win. Kids get in top shape when they wrestle. They develop their little-man physiques in a short amount of time. Finally, the thing I love most:  They know, regardless of your size or fitness level, if you don’t know how to do it–they will cream you on the mat.

I remember a time when the martial arts used to be like that.

As a young man, I wrestled with a group of wrestlers who went to the local colleges. I developed my appreciation for this sport without being fortunate enough to be on a college team. But I did train with them, and learned the drills (cringe), exercises and techniques. Every session included actual scrimmages, and I always went home with a hands-on level of understanding of what I learned that day. I appreciated it, because I wasn’t “cross-training”… I was simply learning to wrestle. Years later when I studied Judo and BJJ, I did the same by training informally and sparring as part of that training. This is the same approach I took to learning to box–not just by picking up pieces and skills, but my just starting from the ground up and learning how to actually do it. In my opinion, this is the only way to learn an art. All else is just skimming the surface.

The first time I walked into the gym with my son (he won Silver, by the way), I immediately took in the atmosphere. I wasn’t in a packed gym full of soccer parents and squealing 12 year olds:  I was in stadium full of child warriors. Despite their lack of chin/chest hairs, these kids oozed testosterone and toughness. Little skinny nerds and tall overweight donut eaters alike, in their onesies, all vying for the medal in their respective weight classes. To us, they were skinny kids and fat kids. To themselves, these boys walked as if they had 20 lbs of new muscle packed onto their frames because of how they felt. Yes, every boy in this sport feels strong and muscular. It is a byproduct of the training, and due to the two hours of daily, grueling practice–they show up every Saturday at 5 a.m. to travel to a strange school feeling like this is the day I go home with the gold. They come with sore muscles, sprains, pulls, bruises and bent fingers–but they do it every weekend, swearing to beat that kid who pinned them last week. To some parents who chat on cell phones and sip Starbuck’s while their children get psyched up for today’s matches, this is just an intramural sport. To me, they are raising a future warrior who may one day be a mugger’s nightmare, if they stick with it. Sure, they’re middle schoolers. You still see iPads, tablets and kids playing tag. But when it’s show time the warriors show up, and win or lose–they go home with one or more notches on their belt, a few fights wiser, a little bit tougher than they were earlier that morning. I have seen kids who looked like bookworms tear into muscular kids who look like they could be bullies. I’ve seen overweight children let out a 300-style roar after pinning football players. One of my son’s team mates–a girl–told me about a Samoan boy she eventually beat that day, “I hate wrestling him because he’s so strong, but he’s in my weight class.” I asked why that was, and she told me “People think he’s going to win because he’s buff, but I’m a better wrestler.” This girl is about 5’8″ and is obese. In most schools, she might be bullied and teased about it. But in this sport, she is the Queen of Mean, and even the muscular kids get taken down.

The environment of the wrestling tournament is what I think the Martial Arts tournament should be. Former wrestling Dads giving advice to their 8th graders imparting wisdom from old master to pupil. Charged up Moms screaming at 7th graders to “GET HIM!!!”  Analytic 14 year olds discussing why that last kid lost, and what he would do if in their shoes. All around you, kids whose bodies have been molded by their coaches are not just daydreaming about one day becoming a great MMA fighter–but are actually gaining experience on the path to becoming one.  There are no pretenders in a singlet, unlike the many pretenders wearing a Gi and sporting tabs on a belt. In the wrestling tournament, there are no flashy kids. No fancy uniforms disguising mediocre skill. No one is intimidated by bulging biceps. No one is underestimating the kid with the scrawny chest or the pot belly. Hell in the wrestling tournament, there are boys who fight for their lives against GIRLS. Skill is the great equalizer, because here, skill truly is rank. Take note, 8th degree grandmasters-of-your-own-styles…

The martial arts Guro/Sensei/Sifu/Sabumnim could learn a lot from these lessons as well. In the wrestling “practice”, there are no celebrity coaches. Coaches do not give themselves or each other rank and titles like we do. They are simply “Coach _____”. Their worth as a coach is solely gauged by one thing–the success of their pupils, and they gear each practice towards making sure their boys and girls outdo the next guy’s wrestlers next week. And there is a sense of urgency; a “test” is given every week, and whatever caused the fail last week must be identified, drilled and corrected by the following week.

That last paragraph, by the way, was pure martial arts teaching GOLD. Cut and paste, share to your Facebook walls. Frame it, because if you don’t get anything out of today’s article–that last paragraph should redefine your approach to teaching the martial arts.

Matter of fact, it was so good, I’m going to end this article here. Read it, re-read it, and re-read it again. Thanks for visiting my blog.