Reputation-Building in the FMA

I have mentioned a “Mastery” book that I’ve been working on over the last two years. I haven’t settled on a title yet because the focus changes (as does my desires for the reader), but when it’s done–trust me–it will be a masterpiece. This book has occupied my brainspace lately, which is why the articles have slowed down on this blog. I realize that I am giving away gems on this blog to people who loathe me and my opinion, and these are not men who would ever give me the pleasure of proving my art to them the old fashioned way.

So if I’m going to be “giving” out any more gems, dammit I need to be paid for it.

Anyway, I one of the major topics in the book is the art of building a reputation; something that is lost on today’s FMA man.

There is a saying I hold dear to me, that an Arnis man’s reputation is best built by his opponents, not his friends. This is a common belief among old school Arnisador and Eskrimadors, but for some reason their students do the opposite. Due to the ease of learning Eskrima and new styles, skills and arts, it is not surprising that the modern-day Eskrimador has far more friends than opponents that litter his past. Think of the best fighters in the FMA:  The masters of Balintawak, Angel Cabales, Cacoy Canete, Anciong Bacon, Leo Giron, Antonio Illustrisimo, the fighters of Yaw Yan–ME–what do you know of them besides their students? Have you heard more about their friends, or their opponents?

There is a reason for this. Eskrimadors who surround themselves with friends are thinking more of exchanging and comraderie, while those who stay to themselves and come out mainly for matches are focused on testing their arts. It’s not just in the Filipino Martial world. The best Karateka, the greatest swordsmen, the most fierce Kung Fu fighters–were all self-absorbed men who fine-tuned their craft and went seeking opponents to prove their skill was the best. Most of these men did not feel worthy of teaching for many years, and spent their youth training and getting stronger and experiencing the life of combat. On the other hand, you have men who consider themselves “always a student”, who attend seminar after seminar, gaining nothing more than certificates and neat tricks to show off. They “exchange” with friends to get new drills and disarms, without having to earn that information. When someone says to them, “I don’t think that will work in a fight/against me”, they get offended and butt-hurt. Sissies.

Names are spread today by websites, discussion forums, and media advertising a martial artists’ offerings. A martial artist’s reputation today is completely unreliable in telling you about how skilled he is, unless someone actually says “I saw him fight” or “I fought him”. A few years ago I was visiting a friend of mine who had a supply store and school, when another Black Belter walked in to offer him equipment and seminar opportunities. I ignored them mostly, until the guy says to my friend that his Master and school was “the best in Sacramento”. I smiled and my friend laughed, and informed him that not everyone would agree with that. I jumped in, because I consider myself the best in Sacramento. He attempted to shift our conversation to one of rank, but I offered to prove to him that I was the best. After all, we were in a supply store. Protective gear, at least 5 instructors as witnesses–and as his master’s Black Belt student, he must be one of his best. Of course, he declined. And about a year later, I brought up this incident to his Master, who dismissed him as young and foolish with his words. He told me that he corrected him when he came back and told him of our incident, saying you have to be careful where you make that claim.

But there’s more.

Years later, when I had my own supply store, a man came into my place looking for uniforms. He is an Aikido teacher, and our conversation had just moved to fighting when he asked me my opinion of Aikido. I bit my tongue, and when he insisted, I told him that I did not have a good opinion of Aikido for fighting. One thing led to another, and we had a match. A few bruised ribs, sprained wrist and bopped nose later–I no longer have a low opinion of Aikido, and my new friend and I taught each other our respective styles for a year. In case you were wondering who won, I need you to know that the outcome is irrelevant. Two teachers decided to test our arts on each other, and we respect the other’s art enough to investigate it to discover the vulnerabilities of our own systems. I am still an FMA man, he is still an Aikido man. But one year later, we learned more about our arts from that 5 minute match than many of our counterparts will learn in 10 seminars. If you ask me about a man named Adam Badley, I will tell you that he knows his stuff, the man can fight, and if you encounter him on the street–he will ruin your day. I am positive, if you asked him about me, he will tell you the same. Not because we are friends, but because we know first hand of each other’s ability and knowledge.

This ^^^ my friends, is how a martial artist’s reputation is built. It doesn’t need to result in a dislike for each other, broken bones, or anything silly like that. Respect in the martial arts is the outcome of two opponents coming together and proving to the other, that he has earned the reputation he will enjoy at the end of the exchange. Remember that.

And, guys, stop being so darned emotional. Two martial artists who disagree do not have to go through life hating each other because of differing philosophies and ideologies. Get together like men and test yourselves out. You can do it as hardcore or as safe as you’d like. But find out where you stand in relation to other skilled fighters, and develop real respect in the art. Regardless of who “wins” or “loses” the exchange, you will respect the opponent because he helped you learn a bunch about yourself and other arts in a 5 minute match… and he will help you get the word out about who you are, and what you are capable of.

This is why websites are self-written:  So that martial artists can paint a self portrait to the world. Yet nothing is more believable, more reliable, than that described by someone who has actually encountered your martial arts. The old Filipino masters may not always have liked each other, but they certainly respect each other, by keeping who their opponents are in the stories, lessons and modified techniques they impart to students long after the names are forgotten and the bruises have vanished.

If you would like to hear more about my philosophy in the Filipino martial arts, please go to Amazon and check out my book, Philosophy of the Martial Arts. 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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