The Triple Effort

Here’s a quickie for today…

Last night I was talking to a young man named Rahsaan, who is an aspiring martial arts teacher. He probably has a few years before I would recommend he round up his family members to invest in a commercial space, but I like his approach to his martial arts education.

To keep it short, he has completed his Black belt in the arts and had spent several years with the FMAs in a program that does not involve exams or rank. At 19 years old, he decided to forego his formal academic education (with the blessings of his parents, surprisingly) in order to train and compete to the championship level. Not everyone will agree with this approach. My father did not support me in this decision, but my mother did. I would like to submit to you, that the martial arts is as valid a vocation as any other skill. It is a specialized skill and one can make a living doing it–even those whose knowledge and ability are mediocre. I only got to talk to him and haven’t seen him do anything, but I believe that his ability could very possibly be above average. If he keeps it up for another three years–the amount of time it takes to complete an apprenticeship in a trade, or a college degree in academics–he will become very good.

His chances of becoming a successful teacher–one who will be remembered for years to come–depend on it.

I will come back to our conversation in another article, but I would like to focus on one thing. He asked me about what I believed to be the best method of teaching advanced students. In his FMA training, he had received basically a hodgepodge of styles and skills and did not have a curriculum to follow when he decided to teach. There is no way, unless he became a student of mine, I could really impart my philosophy about teaching advanced students. There are a few approaches:

  • curriculum based.  teach “advanced” techniques at the advanced level. “advanced” is one’s own interpretation of the term. it could be dangerous techniques, difficult to pull off, favorite techniques, etc.
  • lethal based. only teach skills that could end a life or cripple to advanced students you trust. I happen to like this approach myself
  • exploratory. allow students to experiment and come up with their own interpretation of your art. they should develop the theory first, then develop the theory into provable skill before graduating them
  • skill based. teach all techniques required in the system by the advanced level, then use the advance level to develop performance to an extremely high degree
  • teaching based. use the advance level to transition students from students to instructors

Each of these methods, or a combination of them, has its merits and challenges. Which should one choose? It’s a matter of preference. Contrary to my saying that fighting is an exact science–philosophy is not. What works for one man may not work for the next, and the proof is in the performance of the students. So to answer young brother Rahsaan’s question, there is no answer. He will have to figure that one on his own, even if he started with one and years later, change to another. We talked about the different approaches, and I challenged him to undertake one that I put on my advanced students. This is a training period I have written on several times on this blog, and I would like to go a little deeper and share with you where I got it.

If you follow the comments on this blog, or discussion mediums about this blog, you will find that my detractors love to nitpick at me. Rather than challenge my skill or the effectiveness of my style, they’d rather argue semantics. I have little interest in that, and I have no shame in saying that I will import things from other styles into my FMA if it makes my systems better. And bottom line of all martial arts is the answer to the question “Can you beat me?”  All I do is aimed at making sure that the answer is a loud “NO.”

There is a Japanese ideal called San Bai No Do Ryoku (Triple Effort). Many swordsmen have adopted this before going into combat, and some have even made this a requirement before releasing a student from his own tutelage. I am a heavy subscriber to this philosophy and use it in everything I do. It is a simple notion to put on paper; yet, a seemingly impossible one to live.

Put plainly, Triple Effort is the practice of knowing what the average opponent can do, and train with triple that degree. For example, most schools in my area will award instructorship to students in 2 years. So I make my students train for 6 years before I consider them advanced. The average expert Eskrimador can throw roughly 100-150 strikes before expiring. So I work with 500. Most Eskrimadors who train for power work with a 3/4″ rattan, so I train with 1″ hardwood or a baseball bat. Most schools offer training twice a week, so I offer it six.

Masahiko Kimura
Masahiko Kimura

In somewhat modern times, the late, great Masutatsu Oyama described his training under his Judo (or Goju, I can’t remember) teacher, named Mas Kimura. Not much is available about him on the internet, but as a boy I had a magazine purchased in Taiwan with an interview with Oyama. I had read that issue many times because I only had a handful and have since lost it. I remember the stories about Mas Oyama well, because my grandfather who disliked things Japanese admitted that he admired Mas Oyama–whom he considered the last of the great warriors. Kimura was a short man, but extremely powerful and muscular. Under him, Oyama developed the physique he was known for throughout his prime. It was under Kimura that Oyama learned the ideal of San Bai No Do Ryoku. Their daily regimen was based on the Sumo training regimen (if you are unfamiliar with it, I highly recommend checking out what those guys do daily. It might give you a new respect for them). Here are a few of the things they did (I don’t really remember if all of this was in the article, but I cut and pasted it from another article some years back and emailed it to myself):

  • 1,000 pushups
  • 500 sumo squats
  • 500 punches on a makiwara
  • 100 live Judo throws
  • Bunny Hop 1 kilometer
  • 100 Judo entries
  • 100 Judo submissions
  • 100 jumps over a potted plant
  • 100 pull ups

None of this involved weight lifting, but one can imagine the kind of strength and power you would develop from such a training program. Oyama spent a very short amount of time with Kimura. However, he credited him with showing him the potential he could develop, as a human being, to possess superhuman ability. Any man would love to be invincible; this is often what drew us to the art. The question is, what would you be willing to endure to attain it?

A popular photo of Kyukushinkai founder Masutatsu Oyama, prior to taking his mountain reatreat...
A popular photo of Kyukushinkai founder Masutatsu Oyama, prior to taking his mountain reatreat…

My advice to the young teacher is to break free of the cookie cutter mold of teaching that 99% of the martial arts community is following. If he wanted to follow his own path, then start with ensuring that his own skill rests several layers higher than those of his peers. Then, as a teacher, point to none other than himself as the goal and show them the way. Yes, it may lead to small enrollments or a bottom heavy with beginners school–but he will know that he has truly followed and completed the path of the masters.

Or, on the other hand, he can chase rank and do it like everyone else and not stand out. <—- This is one of the secrets of the Masters.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

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