Let’s begin by stating that I actually don’t require competition of all my students; only the ones who wish to one day teach. I will not grant a student permission to teach if he or she has never fought in competition. However, if a student was only interested in fitness, self defense or anything else–competitive fighting is optional.
Now, let’s get to the meat.
I have only heard of teachers downplaying competition fighting here in the West. No one in the Chinese circles do it. No one from Korea. Definitely, no one from the Philippines. Here in the West, we pride ourselves on innovation and making our own paths, we worship the words of Bruce Lee and his “style of no style” philosophy. Yet I challenge the idea that anything in Western innovation is really “innovative” and original. After all, where do we get our ideas from?
And these new styles? That are combinations of other styles? Even if you believe that you combined the best of the systems, you are actually doing something that is very Asian, and very traditional. Think of the so-called “pure” arts you used to combine into the new art. Did they not come from other arts? Was Shotokan not a blend of other master’s techniques? Was Jujutsu always a single homogenous art, or were there many schools and different masters and systems that made up what we call “pure” Jujutsu? Bruce Lee helped the Western martial artist break away from the classical mess many of the masters brought to America, but he actually taught the western martial artist something that has always been in the Asian martial arts… You learn and develop what your master taught you, you tested it, you tasted other flavors and twists on the arts, then you absorbed what you found useful and you create your own path.
Creating your own path, my friends, does not mean you start creating your own system as a beginner. That’s just plain stupid. Get your foundation, then when it has been established–you create your own path.
But this article is not about creating your own path, not really. It is about why I make my guys fight competitively and why many of you do not. I had to tell you about “Create Your Own Path” first, to tell you the flaw with it (which explains why many of you shun tournaments). The flaw is this: Once you have created a system or training method, you must test it against other systems and training methods. “Test” is a word we must explain too. How do you test a technique or skill? You spar, right? At least, I hope you do. When you have decided that you’ve discovered a better way to do what you teachers taught you to do it, how do you know that your way is indeed a better way? Some guys will say it works better for them to fight or train in this new way. “Works”? In what way does it “work”? When you have taken stick from Modern Arnis, trapping from Wing Chun, punching from boxing, grappling from BJJ, knife from the Sayocs, situational self defense from Krav… you must train this new method against hostile opponents who intend to defeat you for two very important reasons:
- To discover the inner workings of the technique. Techniques work differently in practice and while rehearsing than they do when you are faced with someone whose only goal is to make you fail. Someone who does not care if you get hurt, if you are offended by what they do, if you do not learn from the outcome of the match. Training partners, then, are not qualified to help you discover this. By using your new method against a new fighter each time you step on the floor, you have a split second to adjust to the new fighter’s rhythm, strength, strategies, and speed. On top of that, you must think fast, because you only have the duration of that match to discover, adjust and apply–and you may never get a second chance to try it again against that same combination of attributes. One match, can teach you what 10 years of practice cannot. You can discover a whole lot of worms from one can delivered by ONE opponent in ONE match. Look at how Bruce Lee changed his entire method after one 15 minute fight with Wong Jak Man. This is not a matter of “testing” what you know. It is strictly for “learning” how your new system feels on the road, in the rain, going uphill, turning corners, going 0-60, downshifting, braking… all the things you would discover if you bought this car. Too many of you are teaching systems that you’ve never taken off the lot. Using this method will help you understand your new system better.
- To prove to yourself, your students, and your community that your new method is effective. After years of test driving your new skills, you must then set out to PROVE its worth. This again, is what too many new Masters and Grandmasters are doing with their systems. Sure, it looks good on paper. It looks amazing at the last gathering, on youtube, in the demos. But can I bet my life on what you’ve just put together? Anytime you open your doors and hang your shingle, you are saying to the potential student that yes, you can trust your family’s life on what I put together. How dishonest for a teacher to tell his student that he can put away his gun and trust his wife and children to get behind him and these skills… on a fighting system that the teacher himself has never fought with? I have noticed many teachers downplay the effectiveness of their art. They will tell you that their new art is valid because it came from blah blah blah and master quack quack quack. Few teachers will look you in the eye and say “My system will defeat anyone who tries it out, even YOU”, without blinking. Why? Because he’s done it before, and he has full confidence that he can do it again. Teachers must have full confidence from experience in what they are doing. Not to make blind promises as part of some ego-serving sales pitch.
So, master so n so tells you he tested his art and his advanced students test their art out weekly in training. Really? How? Most likely, sparring. Now, in these sparring sessions, can classmates whip out a knife and stab their opponents? Can another student jump out of the shadows and help another student beat down his opponent? Can he smash a brick over his head? Can he kick him in the nads? Can he poke his eyes out? Can he bite him? No? Why not?
Because they are fighting for simulated combat and with rules of the dojo. RULES OF THE DOJO.
Quick, somebody remind me why most of these masters don’t believe that tournament fighting helps with fighting ability?
If your teacher has told you that sparring in tournaments develops bad habits and is unrealistic and is nothing like a streetfight, tell him Mustafa Gatdula wants to know what the fuck are they doing in their dojos? Are your drills allowing kicks to the balls? Do you guys have time limits? No-hit zones? Please, save that for someone else. Everyone has rules, even those No-Rules NHB contests.
Tournaments are the safest place to find aggressive, like-minded opponents who will do their damnest to make your technique fail against theirs. Sure, there are fouls and bad calls. But if that scares you into never competing again, I think you’d better take up panty-sewing, because there isn’t one of us who hasn’t lost a fight because of a stupid rule or bad referee call. Suck it up, and get em next time.
Back to the main point of this article–I make my guys fight competitively before teaching because I need for them to know and not fear the taste of defeat, they need to know what it feels like to actually HIT another man, to develop the speed and timing that comes with trying to beat another fighter to the punch, to test his power against another man who is testing his power, to learn to think quick, and finally–to put his own ideas to the test to see how they work, and prove to himself that they work before they teach their new ideas to my future Grandstudents. Too many teachers are out there teaching stuff they never took beyond the drawing board and youtube channels. Anyone in my lineage will know where they stand in comparison to other fighters, and they will be able to look any student in the eye and say–in my experience, this is the best way to do it. Even if they believe their way is better than their own beloved teacher, Mustafa Gatdula.
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