The “Wrecking” of the Filipino Martial Arts…

Social Media is abuzz with anger and hurt feelings, and this time it ain’t because of anything Mustafa Gatdula wrote… 😉

So there is a martial artist named Christophe Clugston who is posting video blogs about the martial arts. From what I can see, he is as true to the spirit of the Filipino martial arts as can be–at least, what I was taught the Filipino arts were supposed to be:

  • efficient
  • effective
  • provable
  • adversarial
  • destructive
  • evolving
  • dominant
  • indomitable
  • per the taste and specialty/specialties of the keeper of that style

Not everyone is true to these principles. Too often, FMA guys get into the flashiness of a cute demo, where you could wow audiences with the most clever ways to take a stick or flip a balisong. How many ways can we weave our hands as if we had sticks and demonstrate how “connected” our sticks are with our knives and our hands–regardless of how ineffective they are. And speaking of “effective”–there is truly only ONE definition, but too often our FMA brothers will try to explain why their definition is not your definition… to each his own. See, you’re sparring, I fight to the death, if I use my guntings I will leave you crippled or dead and we can’t really spar sports style with this stuff it’s too deadly. We are the kind of people who will tell you how our Grandmasters fought to the death when he created this style–but as a modern day Guro, I won’t even fight a “bloody nose match”–let alone a death match. But if I challenge you to a light sparring match, you’ll tell me you only fight to the death. And a pocket full of posies…

The Grandmasters of yesterday, if he were not revered in stories today, was an asshole. He would look you in the face and tell you those other Grandmasters weren’t shit. He will tell you that his style is the best, and that other Grandmaster copied off him when they were younger. He will tell you about how a Karate guy went in his dojo one day to fight him and he chickened out. He will tell you that if you want to learn to fight, do this–and anything else you do is a waste of time. He is not politically correct, he may be homophobic, somewhat racist, he doesn’t care if you’re sore from last class, you pussy–wrap that ankle up and keep training. He may not speak the language well, but who wants from whom? You’d better get a Tagalog dictionary and keep up! Those masters of yesteryear bragged, he may have been rude, abrasive, quick to insult or challenge and slow to compliment. If you don’t have those fees for class today, go back to work and come back when you’ve got it. If he thinks you made a sissy move, he will tell you. He is not into trying to baby your low self esteem, he gives horrible relationship advice, he may have been a drunk, a gambler, a womanizer–but if you want to learn how to beat someone into the ground and never know the sting of defeat, you’ve come to the right place.

Today’s Guro does not compare. Sorry. Quite often, you are learning from a guy who has never beaten anyone’s ass in his entire life. He has never known the feeling of being the Tiger in the room, has never known what it feels like to know that he can whip any man in town. But he is old, he is Filipino, and if he’s not Filipino–he’s got certificates to say that he might as well be Filipino. All that paper on his wall, and the only scars he has are from a paper cut. Today’s Guro is a showman, he is a used care salesman, he is a comedian, he is a Master presenter. He sells everything from price-inflated rattan to teaching certificates to Master certificates to local licenses to use his art’s name–and will take it away if you piss him off. He is a great talker, he’s a historian our Colonial masters would be proud of (his stories are as reliable as a colonial master’s), he is a true hustler who knows how to make a buck and convince you he’s the cat’s meow. He might have come from humble beginnings, but today, he’s got so many certified “Guros” and certificates, he can’t name them all. If he took any one of his “certified Masters” under him to a tournament, he wouldn’t bet a dime on his guy versus any fighter in the place. Nothing like yesterday’s Guro, who will swear that if you beat his guy, he’ll pack up and move. Today’s Guro is merely spreading the art and making money–yesterday’s Guro trained you as if his livelihood depended upon your ability to win fights.

Which brings me back to Christophe Clugston. My introduction to him was observing a flame war on YouTube between him and some random guy talking like an expert under a video. Mr. Clugston first tried explaining his view, then before you know it, he’s telling the guy he doesn’t know shit, couldn’t back it up, or something like that. Actually, I’ve seen this sort of thing a few times. Those who have known me for a long time, know why I like him; I was the same way a few years back. And trust me, this isn’t disrespect–it’s confidence. If you have done your research, you’ve done your homework, you KNOW what you’re talking about–no way are you going to let someone who is most likely not your equal speak with authority. If you are a Filipino martial artist and this type of trash talking bothers you, shame on you. Trash talking is as natural to the FMA as it is in the sport of boxing, it’s what we do. If you have thin skin, you are in the wrong business. If your feelings are easily hurt, how tough can the body be in a stickfight? This seems to be the only adversarial activity where a man claiming to be an expert gets offended when someone asks him to do what he is an expert in.


Let’s repeat that. You, as an Eskrimador, Arnisador, Kalisto–claim to be an expert on fighting. But when a guy says, “Your style doesn’t look effective, you’ll have to prove it to me”–you get mad?? Or worse, you refuse to fight, give reasons why a “fight” isn’t a “fight”, therefore proves nothing! Right here on this blog, I’ve been challenged to “post a video” proving my case when the correct answer is to show up at my school and ask for a match. Post a video? Excuse me while I walk away and LMAO.

And check this out folks, I haven’t even gotten to the content of the video yet. 🙂

Regardless of what Mr. Clugston believes “wrecked” the FMA, I’m appalled (but not surprised) at how angry FMA guys are about it. Even some Filipino masters are pissed. He has legitimate gripes, and these are his opinions. The man is clearly interested in fighting. I’m positive he, like many others, traveled to the Philippines to learn to fight–using the art written about so extensively–just to have some “Master” charge him an arm and a leg to learn a bunch of drills and unrealistic choreographed techniques. He probably investigated FMA “Empty Hand”, just to discover, several thousands of dollars later–that this weapons master doesn’t know jack shit about fighting empty handed. Well, I tell you what… this explains why there is never any empty hand fighting going on at Arnis tournaments, even in the Philippines. Hell, the only “FMA empty hand” you see at our tournaments are when some kid’s bulky gloves won’t allow him to hold on to his toothpick and he *drops it*. We walk around wearing titles, writing “Constitutions” and “By Laws” for our Eskrima style (the hell is all of that all about?), giving certificates in 4 weeks of training, charging foreigners a ton of money for the same amount of puke you can buy on our DVD, and we know damn well the one thing we supposedly do best, we do the least. Chew on that.

And that is, fight.

Even a group of Americans, the Dog Brothers, had to show the Philippines what our Eskrima looks like when our grandparents had it. 30 years after they were founded, I wonder how many of us would acknowledge Mark Denny and Eric Knaus as true Grandmasters.

I have seen some foreign Eskrimadors work full time to promote their teachers and their systems, live and breathe this stuff, by pass careers in law, law enforcement and real estate–to benefit their teachers–just to be discredited or disowned later. Men like Buzz Smith, Greg Alland, Bill McGrath, Tim Waid–have all had to watch their efforts and hard work go unappreciated and dismissed. You think after all this, maybe–Mr. Clugston has a point? I have been parroting many of these points myself online and right here on this blog, it was good to see/hear someone else say it. Rather than jump all over the man, perhaps we should look at our state and think “Is this really where we want the FMA?” I know I don’t.

If the Filipino arts want to have the respect we deserve, we will have to conduct ourselves with respect. We will have to have enough balls to call out our GMs and GGMs when they behave like children or money-hungry crack whores. We must do something about the rush to certify everyone without ensuring they have the skill to represent us all. We must take another look at how we train, teach, execute, and judge these arts. Our tournaments must keep up with the times, too. The old fashioned Eskrima tournament is okay, but there should be another level to this stuff. On the world stage, we cannot treat the Arnis floor like it was our backyards. Make it exciting. Make it realistic. We take pride that we have (supposedly) the best stick and knife fighting on the planet–but are you sure? How many men reading this blog has fought a Chinese weapons fighter? A Kendo artist? A man using a Jo? Tell you what, Eskrima is one of the best, but did you know that a Filipino art was created just to beat Eskrima? Take a look at Katatapado in person (a video won’t do them justice)–the system is new, but well thought-out and those guys have a system that is so far ahead of what your local Guro is teaching. If any art was “too deadly” to spar with, I’d say it was Tapado. But where there is a will, there is a way. Take a look at these Aussies. This is the state of the art, modern day MMA with weapons, sort of gladiator, sort of old school Eskrima. This is a new millennium. It’s time to reflect about what’s the next level for our arts. Our beloved masters and grandmasters preserve the art for us, but as the current generation, we will have to find a way to maintain relevance.

If you are a believer of one of the Abrahamic faiths, you may recall that in most of the stories of the prophets and messengers, the people did not like the message nor the messenger. They always appreciated it when both where gone. Don’t shoot the messenger because you don’t like the message or how it was delivered. For the FMA man to get angry and look to discredit a fellow practitioner who is saying why the community is not growing, is like a businessman who sees a poor review on Yelp, and rather than reflect on why he received a poor score–he attacks the customer for being dissatisfied.

Look at Mr. Clugston’s site. He is interested in combat and self defense. He wants the best in combat and defense, and he came to the Philippines to learn it. Don’t get mad because the man left a few thousand dollars lighter but dissatisfied; get mad at WHY.  Let’s find out how we can make sure we have no more unhappy clients. No one should ever come to the Filipino arts and feel like he didn’t get the best training. Egos, money, branding, quality control. These are simple principles that if we adhere to them, ALL Eskrima teachers will enjoy more success.

Perhaps next time, we will talk about what’s actually IN the video. For now though, watch the video. Thank you for visiting my blog.