Congratulations! You put in your time, you attended the camps, took your licks, killed the exam–and now your Guro has bestowed a title to you every Arnis students long for: Guro. Surely, you deserve it–you earned it. Your classmates have admired your commitment and willingness to learn, your practice has finally paid off, and everyone on the dojo floor recognizes you as a senior student. So what’s next?
Let’s slow down… Because I know what you have most likely been told, and we all know you didn’t come to the Filipino Fighting Secrets blog for the fluffy stuff, right? I have some advice for you.
In today’s martial arts community, and especially the Filipino Martial Arts community, there seems to be a race to certify. After all, what quicker way to grow one’s organization than for teachers to certify more teachers? More teachers on the ground teach more students, giving your system more soldiers, pushing your status among other masters higher and higher, and bringing more people to the table when it’s seminar and camp time. All that is fine and good–I had to accept that reality myself that times have changed and the arts as I remember will never be like it was 30 years ago. Yet, never forget that the tradition you follow is a Filipino tradition. We are not in the Philippines, you are in whatever country you live in. Even the Philippines is not how I remember it. This culture, however, is a “blade” culture and do you really know what that means? Some people focus more on the weapon than they do the guy who is holding it. FMAs as a “Blade” culture doesn’t mean you carry a lot of blades. It doesn’t mean you have the meanest-looking, shiniest, or most exotic-looking blade. It doesn’t mean you carry 10 different hiding places and a different kind of knife in each spot. It doesn’t even mean you have the most ways to disarm or drill a blade on the block. The FMAs as a blade culture (yes, with a small “b”) means I could take a pencil and go up against any man with the nicest karambit or gurkha or whatever–and then go home to my wife and kids while he goes to the morgue. I am scarier with my *click* opening of an old rusty balisong you cannot see than the guy in front of me doing finger gymnastics with his stainless steel, serrated edge polished American imported balisong. With the blade culture I am talking about, my knife skill set consists of four slashes and three stabs–and if three guys approached me with the most scientific art of drills, I don’t care who’s army does the same shit–within 15 swings, all three will be bleeding out. As a blade culture, the FMAs isn’t about what you know or how much you carry–not even who taught you–but what you can do.
There are still today, in unsophisticated areas of the Philippines, men who carry no title–not even “Guro”–who can easily kill 90% of the guys with a set of DVDs out on the market. So tell me, which would you rather have: Teaching certifications and community recognition, or the knowledge that no one better cross you because you know for a fact that you can defeat almost anyone you face?
There was a time that Arnis masters would not release a student until he was confident that this guy is the absolute best he can produce, and has no fear at all that his student can take all comers. Today, we have Guros certifying students as teachers that they’ve never actually met. But times have changed. Today, a Guro is simply a guy or lady who knows my curriculum and he knows it well enough to show it to a group of beginners. They will tell you stupid shit like “This is just the beginning”, when actually, a teaching credential should say that you’ve reached the end of the study road and are qualified to lead others. How can a Black belt be the beginning, when he is also expected to lead others? So now we have teachers who have yet to reach the pinnacle of their martial arts knowledge and ability, showing others the way? Preposterous. That’s like allowing an 18 year old who has just reached adulthood to marry and lead a family. No, it’s exactly like that.
So, my advice of “what’s next” is this: You have proven that you have the ability to complete a learning curriculum. Now let’s put that knowledge to the test, against others and their knowledge and ability. Do this for at least the same amount of time that you’ve been studying. So if you took four years to go from beginning Arnis student to advanced Arnis student–take four more years to go from new Arnis fighter to expert Arnis fighter. Discover the inner workings of weapons fighting that your teacher cannot show you. Experience the bitter taste of defeat and humiliation, so that you will never fear it as a teacher with bigger, stronger students than yourself. Know how to interact with overly confident peer-teachers before you have students, so that you can teach your students how to handle bullies from experience. Get your bruises at the hands of opponents with intent, and tell those stories, rather than that one time you got rapped on the hand by accident at a seminar in ’12. Give yourself enough time to develop your own theories, test them, and revise them–all before presenting them to students, so that one day you won’t have to tell the masses of your guys “Well, we don’t do it like that anymore…” This is a phase of discovery and experience. Don’t be a student, trying to teach students, because we have seen enough of that in this martial arts community. It doesn’t work. Let the first time you are in front of a school, you are not teaching material you just learned–you are teaching material you know like the back of your soul, and from experience they could never gain from a two hour DVD or four hour seminar. You’ve earned your certificate from your Guro, now go out and prove to the other Guros you deserve to stand among them.
And where do you find such Guros? Well, most likely, you’ll have to go out and find them. You could seek them in tournaments, informal sparring groups, social media, Craigslist, or you can organize them yourself. Get as much experience as you can, find out how much you really haven’t learned about fighting, build yourself a reputation as a martial artist outside the comforts of your teacher’s school, and put your fears, insecurities and skills to the test. Do this until you get nothing new out of it, then teach.
Be able to look potential students in the eye and tell them with confidence, “I’ve faced the best, now let me show you what I found works from experience,” instead of “Master says this, and master says that…”
Remember, when you went looking for a teacher, you looked for an expert, not just a “certified” teacher. You want the best teacher you can find, not just a teacher who is recognized. Be a teacher whose reputation was proven, respected, seasoned, and whose stripes were earned the old fashioned way: By taking it from your opponents.
I know this doesn’t fit the current business model of the modern-day Eskrima Guro. But I don’t see this as business at all, the martial arts is personal.
Thank you for visiting my blog.