Why I Won’t Teach My Friend Tim, part II

This is a continuation of this post, written yesterday. It might be a little wordy, I wrote it after getting home about 1 a.m., and when I’m sleepy I am both cranky and loquacious.

So, back to Tim. No my brother, I won’t teach you. We have been friends for over 25 years, I would loan you money, I’d let you camp out on my couch if you found yourself homeless. But my art? That’s like asking to marry my daughter. We’re close friends, but not close enough. We have more memories and know more of each other than a student walking through my door. You have more money and willing to pay more than a guy walking through my door. Yet, despite all of that, you will betray me as a student (if you would be willing to call yourself such) and for the sake our friendship and my love for my arts–I won’t teach you any more than what you will find on this blog.

Trust me. I tried to bring you over. When you first flirted with the idea of studying the FMAs, you chose to pay seminar clowns for lessons rather than be a training partner to me and possibly learn directly from my grandfather. When we were in our 20s, you wanted to attend a Greek picnic in Philadelphia to chase girls than wait for me to complete my practice on a Saturday morning. When I showed you that you could make an income by fighting, you called my tournaments “pussy” even when my friends could give you major problems at Raymond Wong’s school on Florida Avenue (and Kim’s in Landover, and my cousin’s birthday party… lol)  When I opened my school you wanted to talk me into hosting your teacher for a seminar and got mad when I didn’t. When I took you to the Arbutus Boxing club, you chickened out of sparring with country boys but slammed them in the car on the way to dinner. When I was in DC three years ago, at the Inns of America in Springfield/Alexandria, you watched me spar without participating and even when I showed you why the techniques you demoed were impractical–you still teach them today. 5 months ago, I met a man in Tennessee who says he learned Kuntaw from you.

That’s why.

Yes we are friends. I love you like a brother. But you are not true to the art by MY standard, and as one who considers myself a Master of the art–money and friendship doesn’t mean shit. The art and my integrity as a martial artist comes first and we chase two different goals in this art. You cannot guarantee that my system won’t end up on youtube (which is why I won’t record), that the seminar pussies won’t get my system and techniques, and you cannot commit realistically to the type of training I require to qualify as a recipient of my system. You’re past experience, in a way, disqualified you as a student only because you won’t let go of the bullshit Industry. We are friends as men, but as martial artists we are rivals. I recognize that, you don’t. The fact that it took almost 30 years to take me up on my offer to learn my system is no longer hurtful; the offer expired decades ago. Continue to hold fast to the art you are hoping will one day rival mine. But this art is for my people only, and I do rarely allow my martial arts to intersect with my personal life.

This is for my martial arts friends as well. I can like you, support your efforts (and you know, I don’t participate in shit if I don’t like it)–but asking me to show you or teach you is out of order for a man like me. My desire is for this art to remain unique, superior, dominant, private, and under the same banner that it is under today. It is my version of the knowledge that was bequeathed to me. I travelled thousands and thousands of miles, slept on floors, walked around hungry, broke bones, took stitches, lost marriages, caught the bus for to earn and develop–just as the teachers did who gave it to me. I will not disrespect their selectiveness by putting it out for the martial arts voyeurs to jerk off to in the privacy of their phones and laptops, in seminars and backyard sparring groups in the name of “sharing”. And unlike what most of you love to say:  I do have something to prove. I want to prove that my way is the best and there is only one way, and can only be done personally and truthfully, one opponent at a time. My Eskrima is the Strongest Eskrima. My Kuntaw is the Strongest Kuntaw. My Kung Fu is the Strongest Kung Fu. I will not lend it to a guy who puts his shit out on youtube or for oohs and ahs in circles of other guys looking for another martial arts shortcut at some seminar somewhere. I will put my guys up against anyone’s students of similar rank and experience. You know damned well that you will not–nor will any of those teachers you mentioned to me last time. Don’t believe me? Ask to fight one next time you attend a seminar. I am of that caliber from the community, and I am only interested in men who wish the same.

As always, I say all of this in love and honesty. I put it in an article because you are not my only friend who asks for the same thing. And as always, I am refusing for the same reason. If I were convinced that you were both feet in on my philosophy, maybe. But too many martial artists like you are vested too deeply in the BS to totally let go.

Finally, let me say this. I grew up with my Grandfather, watched him teach students, but he did not allow me to study for years until I agreed to a verbal contract with him at a movie theater (we had just watched a Chuck Norris film), where I could not quit and promised to practice on Saturdays and then as an adult, teach for a living. When I met my teacher Dean Chin, I was 11 years old. It took three visits before he accepted me. When I was a paying student, it took him nearly a year to begin teaching me himself. When I met Bogs Lao, it took a week for him to accept me as well. He made me come to the gym and fight 5 guys before he accepted me (if you’re on my Facebook page, add him, it’s a true story). When I met Ernesto Presas, I had to make three visits to Manila, 3 days at a time before he accepted me personally. The real masters don’t beg for students. They don’t haggle over money or terms and conditions. And they certainly don’t take anyone just because they ask. This is a business, but it is an art first. If you could truly understand where my art came from, you would understand that our friendship was irrelevant in this discussion. Don’t take it personal.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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Know Your Place (Why I Won’t Teach My Friend Tim)

Yesterday I visited a friend of mine who is a unspoken pioneer and martial arts hero in the American martial arts community. Most of you have never heard his name, and will probably never hear his name outside of this blog. Not because of his lack of accomplishments–so you might think if you rely on Google, Facebook and Youtube (next to all those crappy magazines we use to read, if they’re still in business)–but because most martial artists are in the industry of martial arts rather than the community where men like him and me exist.

Honestly, outside of this blog, how many of you have ever heard the name “Maurice/Mustafa Gatdula”?  If you were internet saavy in the recent 15 years, you probably know of “thekuntawman”, but because I don’t align with anyone famous, produce books and videos (until recently, that is), or participate in the Adobo Circuit of seminars–if you knew me you called me a “troll” and doubted that I ever knew martial arts. Even with this blog, my books, and the few youtube clips I have out, I am still a nobody in the industry. But don’t be fooled, in the community of martial arts, I’m a big dog. Don’t believe me? Ask my opponents. Outside of my students, the only people who can attest to my martial arts skill are the people I have fought. Are there well known martial artists who can vouch for me? Actors? Champions? Well known masters and grandmasters? Yes. But for some reason, I am ignored in the FMA industry, just as I am in the American Jow Ga industry–in which I am a senior and legitimate Master. Yet that is another article. Anyway, in my presence, you simply cannot ignore me so the local community are well aware of me but act as if I do not matter nor exist in the industry. And there you have the Big Question:  If I was still the unlikeable blunt martial artist with no famous alliances, but then you met me and discovered I was a beast on the floor, would your opinion of my articles change?

I’ll let you sit on that one for a few. But first, a few definitions:

  1. Martial Arts Community:  Guided and led by the knowledgeable AND skilled in the art of fighting.
  2. Martial Arts Industry:  Guided and led by money, business, ego, rank, fame, popularity, alliances and estrangements, clout, aimiability and showmanship.
  3. Martial Arts-like Performance Industry:  Guided and led by the ability to impress in all arts besides actually fighting.

The problem in the arts, especially the Filipino arts, is that we do not understand where we belong and what motivates us. Many of us try to declare ourselves a member of one without realizing that we are totally entrenched in another. Or perhaps we want to belong to one while only being skilled in another. Some of us came up in one, think we still reside there, but raise our students in another. And then you have those of us who pretend to belong to one, visit, take pictures, but in the private dungeons of our minds and insecurities know for a FACT that we are part of the other.

A good example is to look at seminars and tournaments. You will find all three groups at work and the dynamic is very active if you recognize how this world turns… On one hand you have the Industry guy who puts on the tournament. Perhaps at one time he was a fighter, but for business purposes he had to turn his back on what he knows is right for the sake of making that tournament successful. He is different than the die-hard traditionalist who throws what he believes to be the best tournament around despite the fact that he may not break even at the bank. #communityman The Industry guy invites assholes he dislikes and calls it “diplomacy”, which is understandable. But if the assholes lack integrity and are just plain old repulsive, they shouldn’t be there regardless of how many competitiors they bring. Then on the floor, you have Industry competitors, Community competitors (fighters, even if they do forms), and performers–who don’t fight at all but tell their friend they are world champions/real deal/blah blah blah… Now up in the stands you have Community spectators who use to fight or are just sitting out vs Industry spectators who will leave with a stack of business cards and plenty of pictures acting tough for their MyFMA, FMAPulse and Facebook girlfriends.

Damn that was accurate. Kung Fu people don’t snicker; you guys are worse.

Back to the article. So my friend’s name is Frank Landers. In the interest of honoring his wishes to remain an Eskrima Hermit (he is a master of the FMA as well as), a Kenpo Karate Hermit, and a pioneer in the history of the Black American martial arts community. Which is actually pretty funny to say, because Frank is White. See, he is the first White Black Belt instructor of the Black Karate Federation (BKF). His tournament record speaks for itself. His filmography, his TV appearances, his memories, his friends, his students, his FAMOUS students, the remnants of his skill, even his ex-friends–speak to who he was and why I admire him. Those of you who know me personally know that I don’t edify many martial artists, especially those I have never fought. No space here to say why, but understand that I got a very important lesson by seeing in true life the results of everything my teachers taught me about being true to oneself and ones art. If you choose poverty over selling out yourself and your art, then you will gain the world when you are nearing the final chapter of your life (sounds almost religious, huh?). Frank has done exactly that, and while some have done it too and actually lived in poverty, Frank did pretty well for himself. Take care of your art and it will take care of you.

But the article is about a guy named Tim, isn’t it? Sort of. It’s for a guy named Tim, not really about him. Yet it applies to almost every man reading this article as well as most of the FMA men who haven’t read it. Make sure to share this and the second part, where I will get into the meat of the article. I’m about to drop a gem on you.

Frank and I had tea yesterday and chatted for 6 hours, I drank coffee, he drank tea, and his wife educated me on humility and how it pays off eventually (she is an accidental actress whose resume is longer than many aspiring actors) and pays off handsomely. Thought I wasn’t paying attention, huh? Of the topics we talked about were my friend Tim who wants to learn from me, and the reasons why I won’t teach him. More on that later…

Thanks for visiting my blog.