Path To the Perfect Martial Arts Student (A Series)

Can you believe that I wrote 900 words of this article–and then LOST it???

Starting over. And boy I am NOT very happy about this. I need a new computer, jeez.

Happy Fathers Day. *fuming*

Today is the perfect day to introduce this subject. I first had planned to write this series as a book about 7 years ago, but between my schools, my custody battle (which I won) for my children, and my business, it never got done so now we will just offer it for free right here on the blog. Of course, in a year or so I will be retired and may be able to actually produce a book that explores this subject more deeply than I can with this blog. It is a subject few care to think about; and it is the theme for this blog all year long–how to become the ideal martial arts student. Why? Because in the path to mastery of the martial arts, we must always remember the first rule of mastering any craft…

To become a master teacher, you must first become a master student.


Today’s student has a world of information promising him knowledge, skills, and ability. He even can choose an organization to call him a master. But what no one is actually offering is the most vital information of all:  What you must do to properly learn, study, explore, and become proficient at these arts. There are many universal principles. However, there are many principles that are art-specific. This is what I intend to impart over the course of the year, including this article. And, God willing, sometime in 2017 or 2018, we will be able to produce a text that explores even further than a few articles.

So today being Father’s Day (actually, tomorrow is Father’s Day for most of you in the west. Today is Father’s Day in the Philippines) is appropriate for the first installment of this series, because in my opinion, it is the older, married Dad who makes for a better martial arts student for several reasons:

  1. Older students are more focused and have waited longer to start training. We have few of the distraction that younger, single students have, such as dating and recreation
  2. Older students do have some challenges. We come to the art with more old injuries, medical/physical problems, we are out of shape, we have guts and double chins. However, we also work harder because of this. In my 27 years of teaching, I have seen my older students surpass the younger, more fit students within a year of training. This is most certainly due to their need to train harder, while the younger guys assume they have and will retain the advantage because they walked through the door with a better physique and more physical abilities
  3. Older students often do this art for different reasons than younger students. Older students have waited because of obligations, but have done their research and bypassed other arts for Eskrima and Arnis. Even to this day, my best fighters are men in their 40s. Younger men study Eskrima because of some movies they’ve seen or their friends do it. Older students find Arnis effective self defense. Younger students find Arnis “cool”. I’m giggling because I’ve heard this on many occasions
  4. Younger men come to the arts because of the desire to kick some butt one day, self protection, street self defense reasons or whatever. Older men tend to be husbands and fathers, and while self defense is also a motivating factor–older men study to protect their families. This is a very special reason to train, and that is what makes them unique
  5. Older men do have less time to train, so when they do, they make more efficient use of their time. Unlike their childless counterparts, who go to the gym to hang out–fathers and husbands only have a few hours to spare and will spend less time chit chat and get the most out of training time
  6. About to transition here, but–Fathers have children, whom they bring into the gym when they reach a certain age. If you look at the martial arts, regardless of the style, you will find many, many masters–many great masters–who arrived to their particular level of mastery because their fathers brought them to the school to train and gave them the opportunity to become a child prodigy. See, fathers are often the sacrificial generation that pave the way for sons and daughters to become the great masters of tomorrow. We are the ones who were too old to get the most out of the arts, but we bring our children to the art at an age young enough to be raised as a warrior from the cradle to the grave. It is the next generation that will be the Bruce Lees and Floyd Mayweathers of tomorrow. Fathers may have dabbled in the art, or they may have been decent fighters. But it is the children they bring to the arts at a young age who will become the best that system has to offer. This is a universal principle. Read on…

Quite often, we come to the art with physical limitations and time constraints. We have jobs and other responsibilities. We have arthritis and trick knees and elbows. If you engage in serious study of the arts even as young as 30, you will only have about ten years left of your prime to get the benefit of your style, and even then, you do not have many years left to master everything the system has to offer. However, by joining at 12 or 13, a child has almost two decades more than you do to study, develop and master the entire system. They may be young, but they are in a great position to decide to make the art a career–while those of you who already have careers must keep the martial arts as a pastime. A child has enough time to learn an art fully by the time he reaches adulthood, and then can spend his 20s and 30s mastering those skills. Children, however, are fickle. They want to train this month and quit the next. Yet if the father puts his foot down and does not allow laziness and does not give the child the choice to train or quit–he will have quite the master on his hands. Ask any of the child prodigies of any craft, not just the martial arts. As children, yes, they rebelled and wanted to quit. It was the fathers and mothers who decided that you will not quit–and this is why today, we have a Jackie Chan, a Michael Jordan, a Jet Li, a Venus and Serena Williams.

The first and easiest path to creating the perfect martial arts student, then, is not just to begin training as a child. That wasn’t my point. The first and easiest path to creating the perfect martial arts student is to make this a family affair. Make the martial arts a family activity, a family function. This is more than just for the child. Take for example the Mayweathers. Is it just Floyd Mayweather, Jr.? No, the Mayweathers are made up of former boxers Roger and Floyd, Sr.–Father and Uncle of Floyd–as well as Jeff Mayweather, the “other” uncle, who is a former fighter and now an MMA coach. The Mayweather family is perhaps the most sought out family of fighters on the planet. They have combined their knowledge and experience, and have mastered a style of boxing that is very difficult to beat as well as duplicate. On the martial arts side of the discussion, we have the Lau family of Hung Gar, the Cañete family of Eskrima, the Presas family of Eskrima, the Lañada family of Kuntaw, the Lacey family of Choy Lay Fut, Chen family Tai Chi (whose children were great fighters, by the way) and the Gracie family of Jujitsu. This isn’t coincidence, folks.

Bringing your children into the art does not require that you already have mastered the art. You can bring them in while still a student, and let the children learn from your master. Then after you have both learned the art, you can act as an intermediary to find more training for your children or you can simply manage their careers. I have seen non-martial arts parents who hadn’t studied one day, coach their children to mastery. At the same time, I have also seen father and son teams who learned side-by-side, and then father began training his son with his own ideas–and the son became an outstanding martial artist. When you involve your loved ones, you take this art who an entirely new level. Nothing is quite like martial arts done as a family affair.

Food for thought. Thank you for visiting my blog.

Author: thekuntawman

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

One thought on “Path To the Perfect Martial Arts Student (A Series)”

  1. Greetings,

    This is a great article. Thank you for it.

    As an older man, and father, you have described many things with which I’m familiar.


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