I’m going to let you know right now, this article, which will read like a manifesto, is going to lose me some fans.
I don’t care. This is my truth, my blog, and like it or not–it will be a truth for you if you are an FMA man as well as your systems’ founders, whether or not they will admit it to you.
Something about social media I realize that I dislike greatly… It isn’t polite conversation. It is a place where novices argue with Grandmasters, guys who couldn’t hold your jock strap will challenge a world-class fighter, and people who are cordial with you will talk shit behind your back–except it’s right there for the world to see. When you confront them about it, they will usually lie and deny, smile and shake your hand, and try to act like “it’s just social media”. I have martial artists I tolerate, and some I actually liked and respected, until they went into some racist diatribe about Black kids or Mexicans (newsflash!!! they aren’t all illegal!) or how they’d like to kick President Obama’s Muslim ass. Guys who wear Islamic gear while dancing around campfires and fairground stages and claim their beloved art was created by Muslim Filipinos will fantasize about how we should nuke the region where Islam was born–killing women, children, CHRISTIANS–anything dirty and Arab and undeserving of life. Guys will watch a fight on youtube with three Black kids beating up a White kid and all of a sudden, he is pissed off at all Black people… except, you know, your Black coworkers, Jim Kelly, and the few Black dojo brothers you came up with–but the rest of ’em? Fuck em, you’re tired of apologizing for slavery and if any thugs who cross your path will meet an unfortunate demise from one of those many blades you pack or that Kerambit you can’t wait to draw. Social media is the place where the one with loose thoughts and careless, reckless fingertips will open it’s ugly mouth and spew the disgusting filth we never knew about you when we were discussing Eskrima and Kali on MartialTalk.
Honestly, I am somewhat glad to find that out about you–but I also wish I never found out.
My grandfather was right. The older I get, the more I would become like him: withdrawn, private, isolated, and distrusting of even many new students. All this social media has taught me what evil lurks within the private thoughts of men I thought highly of. I saw a guy comment on a video clip of a teenager wearing a sports bra while performing a Kata how he can’t wait till she turned 18. Another guy talked about how Filipinos think they’re better and if it weren’t for the FMAs and the women, he wouldn’t bother with Filipino culture at all. I’ve read where guys I knew 20+ years ago who couldn’t fight are now bragging about kicking butt when they were young. I know a guy who claimed to win a tournament 25 years ago that I won myself. I saw another man tell a story about a fight, and the old friend who actually had that fight commented that “you weren’t there, why are you telling MY story?” Embarassing.
And now, I am starting to wish this Martial Arts business was not a business at all.
I once advertised my school in the Yellow Pages and local papers and radio ads. I handed out business cards and flyers, wore my school shirt and jacket every day. Today, when a guy asks to study with me, I look him up and down and wonder if he hates Muslims. I almost want to look at their Facebook pages first to see what’s on it before accepting them as a student. On several occasions, I have taught men who were students of another school for a few months, then the students leave and go back to those schools, carrying my basics with them and then become a rival. A story I tell frequently, a student left me, joined a teacher I disliked and taught one of my prized skills to his class mates and is now allowing his skills to rot on a 300+ lb body. He knows private information about me, and has tried to hurt his former younger classmates in a full contact competition years after leaving us. He is now some kind of inheritor of another teacher I know but isn’t doing shit with his skills–and get this: On his website he makes no mention of me. Another guy took a seminar with me in the 90s, called me regularly for years after, and today is selling rank and information on the internet, naming his art “Kuntao”. This mother fucker had ONE seminar with me, and when we had a round-robin sparring, didn’t participate. Anyone who has ever studied with me knows this: I don’t have an option not to spar in my school. Never had, never will. I fight all Black belt visitors before they touch hands with my guys on fight night, but there are teachers who never fight at all. But they will get on social media and talk about kicking my ass.
I could go on.
But this article is not about social media; it is about the ugliness I have come to know about FMA guys.
Too many of our Guros treat this art as nothing more than drills and fancy demos and side-arts to whatever you offer in your schools. When they speak of philosophy, it is a free-for-all because even the Filipino masters you first got your FMAs from didn’t teach you any. This is why I included a “Philosophy” section in this blog, and wrote a book on FMA philosophy–because I know most of you didn’t get any. If you learned the art without the philosophy, I am here to tell you… you are missing a lot of the art. A WHOLE lot. I recall years ago, seeing a roomful of FMA teachers say that the only thing they were interested in was the fighting skills of the FMA. They did not need to visit the Philippines, understand the culture, learn the history, none of that. At the same time, I was told by a Filipino FMA Guro that foreign students don’t want none of that stuff–that they don’t even want to spar or get trained. He suggested that I simply teach the fighting skills, don’t train or test them, sign the damn documents and take my money and go to the next city. I’m sorry, I wasn’t brought up that way. My art is a family heirloom, not a hustle.
So I blame the Filipino teacher. His ego and his greed created all this crap. He didn’t care if the students drank alcohol, slept with minors and bar girls in Manila, bad mouthed former teachers, sidestepped training and fighting. He just wanted to make his money, and move on to the next city. Too many Grandmasters have trained and certified and endorsed men they had to later disassociate themselves with later, because the guy made a pass at his granddaughter. (Yes, I’m telling the truth) I had a lightweight argument with a Grandmaster in my school about comments I made on the internet about his business practices and he called me jealous. He told me he had produced almost 200 Guros how many did I have (I only have 6). I told him to name 50 of his. Point made.
The Pinoy FMA grandmaster made acquiring the art easy. He didn’t give a shit if you could fight, just be certified and keep coming back (excuse me–bringing the GM back for more seminars) for more “updated” training to keep the certification. Damn, most of you guys pimped Arnis as a crack whore who still has her beauty. Oh, excuse me–your Kali, or whatever you’re calling it these days… As a result, students are expecting the art quickly, and they really don’t respect the art or why it was created. They barely even pay homage to their teachers and lineages these days, and are quicker to call themselves a Master than you were!
Let’s interject a point right now. Why did the FMAs evolve in the first place? What made these arts come around about 150 years ago? Was it to give Karate schools more income? Was it to go and invade another neighboring country? Was it to defend the shores of the Philippines? Spread religion? To rape and pillage?
Eskrima and the Freedom movement in the Philippines went hand-in-hand. When the Filipino tired of seeing his women raped, his children wish to become less Filipino and more Spaniard–when he tired of being a second class citizen in the country of his birth–he wanted Spain and America OUT of the Philippines. The movement was led on one side by Christianized Filipinos with a Eurocentric education and money, and uneducated, poor Filipinos on the other. The two factions didn’t always see eye-to-eye with each other, sometimes they even despised one another, but they had the same basic goal, which was to see the Filipino a soveriegn nation without the weight of colonial oppression on his neck. He wanted respect. He wanted equality. He wanted to give his family all the same things the western colonizer gave his family. And he wanted to do it with self-determination, without permission, and without limits to his potential. The Spaniard, then the American, then the Japanese, then the American again–sought to prevent that. The Filipino had two things he used as weapons–his mind, which told him what to do–and his courage, which gave him the boldness to fight for what was right, even if he was outnumbered, outgunned, and undertrained.
This, my friends, is true courage, and Eskrima was often the vehicle used to make a slave into a man. Trust me, your internet/seminar Guro ain’t teaching you this. People love to throw around the word courage very loosely and assign it to anyone with a uniform, a badge or a gun. In the Philippines, that isn’t courage, and like I said, your Guro hasn’t taught you shit. Courage is when you are the underdog and you fight anyway, even if it kills you. No offense intended, but if you are armed with the most sophisticated weapons systems, world class hand to hand training, and the backing of the largest armed force on earth–that is NOTHING like the kind of courage it takes to be a poor farmer armed with a bolo going against that guy who has no one in his corner but his wife and children. Courage, my friends, is a 12 year old Palestinian boy armed with a rock standing his ground against four Israelis in a fucking tank. You internet Guros don’t know shit about this kind of courage. You probably have comments floating around the internet about that boy’s heritage being evil and so he deserved his death.
You sound like one of those Spaniards the FMAs was designed to defend against.
A true warrior of righteousness is capable of not lumping bad cops with good cops–something each of you I’m sure can do–but also not lumping that 12 year old Palestinian with Osama bin Laden just because they are both Arab and Muslim. At the same time, a warrior of righteousness can see a Black boy in the projects and not hate him because some other Black boys 20 years ago beat you up in high school. They are not the same, just like that White cop who came to my aid when I was in a car accident is nothing like Timothy McVeigh, just because they are both Caucasian and Christian. Most people of color can do that, but I tell you–looking at my Facebook timeline, many of my “friends” cannot.
I saw an article on Facebook that a friend posted, about a shooting range in Arkansas turning away a South Asian man and his son because his range was a “Muslim-free” range. The man was not Muslim, and he was actually an American… born and raised. Well, a Guro (I defriended so that I wouldn’t say the wrong thing to him) stated that America is a free country and they are a private business and can serve who they want. If you do Filipino arts, then your teacher didn’t teach you jack shit. First of all, if I am correct, America made it illegal to discriminate. Whites-only lunch counters and No-Mexican neighborhoods is supposed to be a thing of the past, correct? Then why is some guy who thinks he is upstanding and righteous supporting this? Is discrimination okay for one group of people but not another? Well don’t let me give you my opinion, I noticed that the new trend is to call people of color “racist”, especially when they point out a discriminatory behavior you are exhibiting…
This art was not created so that the large group could keep the small group in check. It was made to do it the other way around. But too many FMA guys are sitting in the comfort of their majority status, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to exact revenge on some young punk–possibly as pay back for another young punk’s crime years ago–and blaming the whole thing on “fear of his life” or “self-defense”, when the issue is not that you fear getting your wallet taken or you life snuffed out. It’s because deep down inside, you really hate a whole demographic of people–that diseased your forefathers carried that is no longer fashionable or acceptable to suffer from, was bequeathed to you like eye color and flat feet, and the FMA is arming you with the ability to put a hurting on someone less trained, less educated, and of a lower social status.
And no, I am no psychologist. But I know this art and what it was made for, and while you’re regurgitating your thoughts all over social media–you’re showing your hand. And I can tell, it’s a very bad hand.
Let me add this. I don’t expect you to go out and wear a “Black lives matter” tee shirts or do a die in at the Israeli embassy. You don’t have to wear flip flops and pink shirts and join the Pride Parade. But know that as a trained warrior, you should have empathy for those whose struggles you may not fully understand. You may not understand that some Mexican immigrant may have come here for better opportunity he can’t get at home. If your ancestors came here from Italy, Ireland, Germany, or India–someone in your family had suffered the same path he did. It’s just that no one in 1910 was turning penniless immigrants away like they are today. Not everyone has the money to buy a plane ticket, get a visa and come over the way you think they should. There are still people who obey the law, pay taxes, study and finish school and still get turned down for jobs because of the color of their skin. And there are people who drive down the street having committed no crime and will be victimized by a police officer because he reminds that cop of a criminal element. If you can accept injustice anywhere, the world is unjust everywhere. As a martial artist, you don’t necessarily have to go out and fight that. But you should at least be aware of those facts and hate it in your heart. Your Guros may even be suffering those same things. As a warrior, your conscience may be called upon to defend one of these people. My fear is that many of you are waiting to be the one to punish one of those people yourself. As a martial arts teacher, you might be training a gay man who fears being beat up for his lifestyle. You don’t have to believe in his lifestyle, but that man is still someone’s son, someone’s brother, maybe even someone’s father. You can’t be an effective teacher if you hate him deep down. If your religion considers him a sinner–let God sort him out. But as a warrior, you are a protector of the weak, the oppressed, the underdog. Perhaps your Guro only taught you to kill, but hopefully, today I’ve taught you this very basic tenet.
Thank you for visiting my blog.