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:
- Martial Arts Community: Guided and led by the knowledgeable AND skilled in the art of fighting.
- Martial Arts Industry: Guided and led by money, business, ego, rank, fame, popularity, alliances and estrangements, clout, aimiability and showmanship.
- 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.