“Secrets” of the Filipino Fighting Arts
Words from a Modern-Day Warrior

Aug
07

I’d like to apologize to our readers for the confusion. You will see that we have added a “Members” category to the blog and they require a password. Allow me to explain.

I have long stated that I did not intend to teach by blog. When writing about the arts, I will sometimes end up talking about my curriculum material and in order to drive a point home we may have to explain terminology or techniques from my classes/curriculum. In addition to that, I have students now all over the place who I rarely see and they occasionally ask me about something I’ve taught and will put it on the blog. Thus, I end up teaching by blog.

Anyway, this blog–which is 7 years old this summer–has brought me many students, some local many not so local… even internationally. Then there are those I don’t actually teach classes to, but mentor by blog and email–and lately, by private YouTube video. Ain’t that a bitch. ūüôā lol

They acknowledge me as a teacher because ultimately, I have become their teacher; as teachers of teachers are often more mentor that curriculum instructors. I view this blog and my readers as a form of students. We have barely been doing this a decade, and already I’ve had schools named after me and/or something in my system & organization. I am an advisor to others, I have been asked to sign certificates as witnesses, even sit on boards and test students–all to people I’ve met and taught through this blog.

So I acknowledge that while one cannot fully learn a martial arts style through correspondence, martial arts development can be guided and some skills and strategies can be taught this way. It’s 2016, not 1976. Times have changed, I get that. With the change of times, so has my outlook on modern methods of transmitting the art.

This fall, the Filipino Fighting Secrets Live Blog will introduce our Inner Circle Membership, where I will teach limited pieces of my curriculum, (ugh, here it goes…) by blog. We will have a combination of articles and videos uploaded to those who subscribe. This will be real training videos and fighting techniques from my Kuntaw and Eskrima curriculum, and over at our sister blog, the DC Jow Ga Federation, we are offering the same with my Kung Fu curriculum–including a private group on Facebook. This membership will come with some other offerings–TBA–as well as an invitation to train with me in the Philippines, and it won’t cost an arm and a leg.

I didn’t intend for the members-only articles to show up on the list of posts, but I don’t know enough about this computer to make it go away. We’ll just treat them as teasers, but stay tuned. By late October or early November we will open for membership. And there will certainly be a special, dirt-cheap rate offered to charter members! (Think Filipino prices!)

Thank you to everyone who regularly supports this blog. Thank you for the shares, the arguments you engage in to defend my articles (I see plenty on social media, I just don’t have the energy to engage anymore), thank you for buying my books, and thank you for the donations. There are already over 500 articles on the blog, and there is a lot more information we have to share. Now that there will be an instruction part, we’ll have even more for our readers. Maraming salamat po sa inyo!

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Jul
22

Alright folks, you enjoy the blog right?

Well, for a limited time, you can purchase my books as a PDF file at an affordable price!

You may have already heard about these two:

  • Make a Living with Your Backyard/Garage/Community Center Dojo
  • Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months

Well, here are two more!

Eight Tips to Boosting Your School’s Income

In this book, I share 8 simple steps (note: I say that they are simple, I did not say they were easy…) to making more money out of your school. You update your knowledge base by purchasing books, attending workshops, classes and seminars–why haven’t you pursued any education to help your school become more profitable?

If you are planning to open a school, then why wait? Get this book now, and have your plan in place when you’re ready to hang your shingle!

Filipino Fighting Secrets Live:  Philosophy of the Martial Arts

This book is a collection of articles from this blog and a few essays I wrote addressing my ideas about the philosophy of the martial arts. Many of you have said that you agree with much of what I say. While it may seem that we are a tiny minority in this difference, there are actually many, many more like you and me. Here is one place that you will be able to go and read thousands of words about this unique approach to the martial arts.

Face it, these seminars that make up the bulk of the learning in the FMA community do not dig deep into the traditions and mindset of the FMA man. They are mostly technical classes on how to strike with a stick, slash and stab with a blade, and take a weapon away. This book deals with how you interact with the martial arts community, how you live as a modern-day warrior, and how this art affects you as a practitioner and community trainer of warriors. This book will talk about things your Guro does not have time to talk about in his classes.

Philosophy is the first in the series “Filipino Fighting Secrets Live on Hardcopy”. Don’t wait until the price increases to get your copy–you won’t regret it!


“So, how much is it?”¬† You may be wondering…

Ready?

Soft copies of “Backyard Dojo” and “Eight Tips” are $7.

Soft copies of “Dominant Fighter” and “Philosophy” are $15.

If you check out the Offerings page, you will see that my books are considerably more. But if you purchase them now, you will get them before the prices double!

More books coming soon, we are editing as we speak!

Dec
06

Then spread the word!

This is what I’d like you to do… please go to your personal email and send the link, www.filipinofightingsecretslive.com, to your martial arts friends and associates! Invite them down to take a look at what we’re doing here, because if you like it they’re sure to love it!

Then again, if what I write about pisses you off… still send them! I am not above being corrected and have been persuaded of the “other” view plenty of time–just through a good debate, I’m not hard-headed! But, don’t be one of those guys who just get mad and talk trash from the safety of your dojos, websites and Facebook pages. Come on over, leave me a comment (or send email like most of you do) and let’s engage!

I have some books and other products coming, so stay tuned. And if you haven’t gotten a chance to read my book, get a copy! It’s a lot better information than this stuff you’ve purchased through Panther or one of the “if-you-seen-one-you-seen-it-all” DVDs.

Thanks for visiting my blog…

Sep
11

Why don’t you subscribe, and that way we can notify you when there are new posts?

 

This is the only blog of its type on the internet for Filipino Martial Artists, and we have so much to share with you!  Please spread the word and tell your friends about it!

 

In the upcoming week, I will have video review added to the blog under “Video Review”. Talk to me before you buy! I promise to give you only the truth about what’s on the DVDs and not to fluff it up (honestly, I am not getting commissions to do this!). The good folks over at Goldstar Video have been nice enough to supply me with more sickening martial arts instructionals than I can keep up with, and I have plenty to say about what I’ve seen.

 

Please check back with me daily, as I am adding new posts all the time!

 

Thank you for reading my blog!

Aug
18

I’ve written a small book, which my editor calls a “mini-book” because it’s only 22 pages long. I wrote it for the Masters of small, independant martial arts schools who would like to feed their families with their schools. These are not men who want hundreds of students and million-dollar high-tech dojos. They are true to tradition, in both skill and business practice, and the most they want¬†is to open a humble commercial location that pays the bills and puts food on the table and their kids through college.

I have invested thousands of dollars trying to learn the business side of the martial arts. I’ve been talked into offering a belt system, utilizing contracts, teaching in day care centers (seriously), teaching seminars on tour, even opening satellite classes across the country. I have taught in the middle east, in central america, as well as in sober living homes. All this, in pursuit of wanting nothing more than to afford teaching the real art to my most dedicated students¬†while these other ventures paid my bills. My ultimate goal back then was to offer my training for free. I learned a lot about business, and learned a lot about how I can market and run my business without doing what everyone else does.

Anyway, the one thing I noticed was that I could not find business information that was directed at a guy like me–who teaches full contact; who uses profanity in my classes; who yells at students; who has ex-cons and gang bangers in my classes; a man whose students (including children) leave the school bruised, banged up, bloodied, and sometimes in need of stitches. Yes, I have insurance. Yes, I pay taxes. And yes, there is a market for my type of martial arts. I have a website, I’m in the Yellow Pages, occasionally I am on the radio and on cable TV, and I don’t promise good grades.

I have seen many good friends and good martial artists who have closed shop because they did not have the business tools to stay in business. One of the painful reminders of this, was last year, when I had refused several students of a friend’s dojo who¬†attempted to join when they saw the writing on the wall. 6 months later, they were there after his school closed, and then he stopped teaching out of his garage. I’ll say this here, and some of those students read this blog, but I thought as traditional¬†Karate teachers in Sacramento go, he was absolutely the best… even better than me.

So I wrote this book for you guys. The guy who surfs the net looking for ways to keep his school going while his wife urges him to “get a real job”. The guy (who, like I once was) working for minimum wage on a graveyard shift job in order to keep a school. The guy (like I was) who used money from tournament winnings to pay bills because his enrollment was too low to pay rent and eat.

I was asked to make it at least 40 pages, but I had a message to give, and it came out to 22 pages. Sorry Mike! I didn’t want to fluff it up or pad with filler just to make it seem “worth the money”… I know people who teach their martial arts that way. You’ll find that the other books I write will be the same way:¬† short, to the point, but full of good, useful information. And I am not some young, wet-behind-the-ears MBA who knows nothing about what the real business world is like.¬† Just like I am not some 50-something millionaire Karate clown trying to convince you that you’re not legit unless you’re selling belt exams and birthday parties. If you want to really put bread on the table with good, quality martial arts, this book is for you.

Look at our “Offerings” page off the main page, and you’ll see ordering information there. Please, leave comments or at least email me to give me feedback after you’ve read it!

Thanks for reading my blog!

Jan
20

If you’ve been around for a while on the non-seminar side of the FMAs, you may be familiar with this term, the “Personal Combat” style. Other terms you may hear are something like “Combat Arnis”, “Combat Judo”, “Filipino Karate/Filipino Kung Fu”, etc. My old friend and for a short time, mentor, Carlito La√Īada, who is the founder of Kuntaw ng Pilipinas/IKF is often smeared on the internet for a similar thing. I would like to explain a little background on the origin of this term, as told to me by my grandfather. It may not explain all of the origins of the terms, but it will definitely shed some light on it. So for those whom this does not apply–don’t take offense. I’m merely passing on what I was taught.

So here goes.

Understand that the Philippines is a melting pot for Asian culture, and as a result–our language, our food, our superstitions, and even our martial arts have influence from outside sources. I know that people like to search for purely Filipino arts and techniques, but if anyone ever passed up an FMA simply because it had some elements of non-Filipino arts involved in it… I got news for you. Having mixed origins is very Filipino. Being newly created by the teacher is very Filipino. Being only one generation old, very Filipino. Being obscure and unorthodox, very Filipino. In GM Lito’s case, his Kuntaw ng Pilipinas has Shorin Ryu origins. The forms themselves are personalized touches on Okinawan forms. Master La√Īada himself, prior to his new art, was a member of the Happy Eagles Shorin Ryu club. But he adopted this style for himself, came up with a practical and Filipino-ized version of the art, adding Arnis, angles, and structure. Regardless of what people may say about his art having non-Filipino origins–that art is Filipino. “Filipino” Kuntaw/Kuntao of Mindanao itself has non-Filipino origins.

But this article isn’t about what makes an art “Filipino” other than the nationality of its founder, its about the personlization of arts. So let’s go back to that discussion.

I believe that the whole idea of styles outlasting their creators is a new thing. Every person who learns an art, at one time, personalized his art. Very few fighters had only one teacher, in fact, and not all techniques were learned from a teacher or an expert. If you look at the histories of most of our older masters, you will hear them refer more to training partners, sparring partners, and past opponents more than they will refer to their teachers. It is a very non-Filipino institution to think that martial arts that came from a source other than a bonafide “master” was illegitimate. Most of our manong learned from a family member or family friend. Sometimes, a local teacher had only minimal training himself. However, what stands out for the customary martial arts source and the modern martial arts “teacher” is that the Filipino uncle, father, or family friend who taught the Eskrima is not pointing to a scrap of paper, an organization, or past teacher’s reputation for validation. The truly Filipino litmus test for credibility is strictly whether or not that person had fighting experience, and if he still possessed the ability to fight. As a boy I remember seeing men who worked as farmers, construction workers, working on base (at Clark AB, Angeles City) winding down their day, eating food and sparring with each other. Some were better than others, some were stronger than others, but all could fight. Our family was one of the few families with a lifelong Eskrimador, so anyone who knew how to fight hung out with us. I heard the stories, and few spoke much about who they learned from and instead talked more about who they trained with to develop the skills they had. As a young adult, I have hung in groups of other young fighters who have done the same with boxing and karate. Some had formal training, many did not, but everyone trained hard and fought hard. I consider these fighters to be just as credible as anyone paying his dues in a dojo. According to our culture, there is little difference. We are a practical people.

And I said all that ^^ to say this:¬† In the older model of passing along martial arts, you learned from whomever you came in contact with. You practiced, and then you tested yourself out on other guys just like you. Sometimes you will have a passion for the stuff and train a lot; sometimes, you only practiced sometimes, and whipped out your skills at social gatherings or actual fights. But credibility and validation in the western sense did not exist. All that menered was if you could use the art you had. And I am proud to report that because of the culture of the Filipino, nearly everyone could. Now there were many exceptions to this, but I wasn’t raised around large organizations and formal schools. Training was conducted about 100 feet from our home. And I would argue that it was more useful, more valid, than 90% of those who came from schools with histories.

Today, Filipino martial arts is sophisticated and much more developed than it was 30 years ago. In fact, it is too sophisticated. With the amount of information and cross-pollination influencing today’s martial arts curriculum, if you factor how much time and interest the average student has to develop and process this information–today’s student is receiving more than he needs. Arnis students today are little more than collectors of drills and techniques, very few even devote enough time to obtain the physique yesterday’s FMA man possessed. About ten years after I began my martial arts training, I was old enough to travel alone and began to meet and train in some well-known, established FMA schools. I found that in many of the cases, I was stronger and more combat-ready than even many of the teachers I encountered. Today at 47 years old, I no longer attribute this fact to the superiority of my family art. I realize now that a student must have sufficient time and drive to process the amount of information learned. I had the same techniques and strategy that many of my counterparts had–except my curriculum consisted of much less than theirs. But unlike them, I did not work a regular job or attend school and was able to spend entire days training where students of larger schools only attended two hour classes a few days a week. In addition to that fact, my grandfather was part of the old guard who judged martial ability by only two factors:¬† one’s effectiveness in combat and one’s destructive power. The two things I did most through my training were sparring and breaking things with my hands and sticks, and these two things were done by my counterparts the least.

I have mentioned several times that I had a teacher whose name I’ve forgotten in Angeles City, Pampanga. I quit his school in order to devote more time to Bogs Lao’s rigorous training. Before I left, I had a sparring session with the teacher’s son, and after the fight, he told me that the Eskrima I had learned was “combat eskrima”, where his was “classical eskrima”. I would encounter this term over and over throughout my life. Most of the time it was used, there were essentially two definitions:

  1. The martial artist who adopted the term had learned a “full art”–meaning a full curriculum–but chose to specialize and streamline a highly concentrated, potent version of the full art for fighting. Not wanting to use his name, a student of late Grandmaster Ernesto Presas, had such a term for his arnis. He had a Black Belt in Arjuken, which consisted of learning Judo, Shotokan, Kendo, and Arnis. But his “Combat Arnis-Karate” only contained favorite fighting techniques that he used for fighting–and he was extremely effective in fighting. No drills, no forms, no give and take, no disarming. Just attacks and defenses. He kept the original curriculum intact, but created a sub-art for himself, which he canonized for himself for fighting.
  2. The martial artist who took what he had learned of an art (if he formally studied it at all) and forged it into a combat-ready fighting style. I met a man who called his art ComJuKa Arnis, not associated with Grandmaster Ruby, who learned local Arnis from several people, and studied Karate and Judo from books. My cousin was one of his sparring partners and brought me to him to fight. Prior to meeting him I had studied Judo but only learned one skill, which was randori (throwing and sweeping), but had done enough with bigger opponents that I could easily beat most guys my size–plus I was well-experienced in fighting. This man, whose only formal training had been in stick and knife fighting, was one of the toughest fighters I’d faced in my youth. I don’t remember his name, but I would argue against anyone who claims he was unqualified to claim Karate and Judo. And there are many like him. May have only observed Judo, Kendo, and/or Karate–but trained with what they knew or came up with, and used it so often against opponents that they were extremely effective.

I would like to say something about these two definitions. Yes, it is true, that many of us who learned Karate or Judo from our FMA teachers may not have a clear lineage of who taught them. I was fortunate enough to meet men who were unapologetic about not having teachers or about how they learned, because it saved me from the foolishness of worrying about lineage and formalities. For our culture, rank and title and lineage are not as important as actual, developed, provable skill. As long as the person wielding that art can use it and back up the claims he makes about his creation–we don’t have a problem at all. But there is a third definition, which I don’t think needed to be added–but let’s add it anyway:

3. Those who wish to differentiate their art from others like it as “strictly made for the purpose of fighting”. This is sort of the reason I named my personal Eskrima style “Gatdula Fighting Eskrima”, as not all Eskrima styles are appropriate for fighting. Our old men understood this, that some arts were merely art forms, and others were created for actual life-and-death combat. This shouldn’t require any further explanation.

So when a master tells you he can teach you either Arnis or if you’d like, “Combat Arnis”, you should know exactly what he is talking about.

When they say that the old Filipino masters took techniques and arts from wherever they could find it–don’t think for a minute that “wherever” always meant formal training. Just remember that the only thing that matters is whether or not those techniques will allow you to walk home or be carried home.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Jan
01

Let’s take a break from our discussion of FMAs and turn our attention towards MMA for a second. Because of the nature of the modern FMA man’s martial philosophy–one of “learn what works, discard what doesn’t”–this subject is highly appropriate for this blog. On top of that, it is highly relevant to the modern FMA man.

So many lessons for today's martial artists in this fight...

So many lessons for today’s martial artists in this fight…

First, let me state that I am a Ronda Rousey fan. Not because of her; I actually dislike her personality, her unnecessary rudeness in the ring, her weak response to losses, her disrespect of opponents. I like Ronda because of who her mother is. Secondly, I do not celebrate her devastating losses as moral lessons against her supposed arrogance. I do believe that a certain amount of confidence-borderline-arrogance is needed to make it in the fight game. You do not pursue fight sports if you feel anything short of superior to everyone else. I saw her loss as a blow to the arrogance of Edmond Tarverdyan–a man I believe has displayed much of what is wrong with MMA and martial arts in general. Basically, we have men who know little to nothing about fighting in the ring, charging students money, training them poorly, and watching them get destroyed in the ring. I am convinced that Edmond saw Ronda as not much more than a come-up. He took a student who already had skills, pretended to train her in a skill that neither he nor she knew anything about–then planned to take credit for her wins when she steps in the ring and (hopefully) becomes the victor for skills and abilities she already possessed. He must have been clueless of how little he knew about stand up fighting–or didn’t care. This type of foolishness could have gotten Ronda killed in the ring. It certainly, at a minimum, destroyed her career. He made so many mistakes in training her–from allowing her to skip post-fight interviews to avoid facing the public after such a horrific display, to allowing her skills to decline while actively training, to failing to insist that she show respect to opponents, to failing to stop the damned fight when his fighter went 15 seconds under attack without defending or returning fire. Bottom line, Edmond Tarverdyan was a complete failure in every sense of the word–and this was one of the poorest examples of a fight trainer I have ever seen in my life. And trust me, I’ve seen some pretty bad ones. This is the first Olympian I’ve ever heard of being dominated so badly–and under his watch.

The Ronda Rousey-Amanda Nu√Īez fight highlights, proves, and brings several points home that I make on this blog all the time. When I preach against cross-training in favor of cross-fighting, one needs to look no further than this fight and a few others like it to see the point I’m making.While many use the dominance of MMA fighters over traditional martial artists to prove the validity of cross-training, I believe that such a match-up only proves the validity of rigorous training of MMA fighters over the casual training of their traditional opponents. When Ronda first hit the scene, just as Royce Gracie had done–as did Cung Le, Lyoto Machida, and a few others, they dominated because of their expertise at their specialty–not because of any cross training. Ronda was dominant at Judo, which her opponents could not figure out. Royce at ground fighting, Cung Le at San Shou, etc. Stand up didn’t help Ronda unless she was fighting smaller opponents who were lousy at stand up. Royce never came close to knocking anyone out while striking and kicking. The golden rule to this issue is to become better at what you do than your opponent is at what HE (or she) does, and learn to use what you do best to beat what he does best. What Ronda was trained to do completely violates this rule. She ignored her aces and face cards, and played with her numbered cards:¬† She is a Judo expert who tried to box a boxer. When a martial artist spends the majority of his education with one style of fighting, and then years later undertakes another for a short period of time, he cannot expect to defeat an opponent who specializes in his newly undertaken skill. In Ronda’s case, she was a grappler who began studying stand-up fighting in her 20s after a lifetime of Judo training. Without taking into consideration the level of stand-up instruction she received–she attempted to defeat a champion boxer with boxing she had only studied a few years. Those of you who are Karate, Kenpo, Muay Thai, Kung Fu, Eskrima fighters who study Jujitsu in case you end up fighting a grappler will suffer the same fate. You believe that a few years of study in BJJ (or sadly, less) will aid you in defeating someone who is heads above you in skill. A foolhardy idea.

If Mike Tyson were to face a college wrestler on the street, do you believe he would stop boxing to grapple with the wrestler? Or do you believe he would try to knock the wrestler out? Let me pose something to you:¬† Many of you feel Mike should know at least “some” grappling in the event he is taken down. This is an amateurish notion. You are assuming that because many stand up fighters get taken down in the ring, stand-up will always get taken down. I hear it all the time. Guys will say “All you gotta do is duck below his punch and then execute a takedown, and…”¬† Easier said than done. Just because you saw a refridgerator repairman on TV get taken down it doesn’t mean every stand up fighter will too. It’s a simple, basic formula:

  1. You better at what you > He is at what he does = You win
  2. He is better at what he does > You at what you do = He wins
  3. You know how to beat his skill with your skill = You win
  4. He can beat your skill with his skill = He wins

That’s it. Plain old common sense and mathematics.

I will repeat what I’ve said a million times on this blog… The higher level of martial arts is not “blending” or “mixing” or “reinventing”–not even “self-expression”. The higher level of the martial arts is MASTERY–doing what you do at the highest level possible, leaving no stone unturned concerning investigation, development and testing, and the ability to adapt your art to almost any situation. Think a guy who can repair almost any car problem with a wrench, hammer and duct tape. Don’t think of the cliched “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight”; think winning a gun fight with a knife. Think McGyver, who can jerryrig himself out of any problem with a paperclip and scotchtape. Develop your art until you can’t squeeze anything else out of it’s potential. Too many martial artists–like Ronda–are leaving all kinds of meat on the bone while searching the fridge for something else to eat. You leave too much on the table while looking to add something else to your repertoire. Mixed martial arts isn’t supposed to be adding lousy boxing to good grappling. It should be adding great boxing to great grappling, or great grappling to great boxing. But in my opinion, the higher level to that is putting great boxing up against great grappling and let the masters figure it out. That, I would pay an arm and a leg to see (or compete in!)

One last thought.

How cool would it be if Rousey came back after being trained by her mother and winning the UFC with just her Judo? A true test of styles!

How cool would it be if Rousey came back after being trained by her mother and winning the UFC with just her Judo? A true test of styles!

I would love to see Ronda give it one more shot, but train with her mother instead. And instead of trying to learn to box, just try to figure out a strategy to beat stand up fighters with her #1 weapon: Judo. It would be a great display of one specialty against another. I do NOT believe you have to learn to box to beat a boxer or that you have to learn to grapple to beat a grappler. The key is to figure out *how* to used your specialty against his specialty. Ronda last fight is a perfect example of trying to fight someone else’s fight. You can’t. Just like if Mayweather tries to use BJJ to beat a grappler, he will get trashed if he ignores the sharpest tool in his toolbox. If anyone could get this article to her, I’d love for her to do this. I believe I read that she is a Catholic. The Fifth Commandment is to “Honor Thy Mother and Father”. Well in the spirit of this directive, what better way to honor your mother than by finally doing what SHE recommends? Let the world see what Ronda can do by approaching it your mom’s way? You’re already a pioneer in MMA, pioneer something else by being the first mother-daughter duo to enter the UFC and show these folks how it’s done?

How many of you would like to see that?

I don’t believe she’s washed up. She is still young, she is still hard-working. She just followed behind a jackass who misled her career. There is plenty of time to come back, reinvent herself and jump-start her career again. There are those of you who think she has nothing left. So what? What could be sweeter than coming back from two devastating losses and returning to your roots and becoming Queen of the Mountain once more? Ronda, you are still young, you may be still hungry, you’re not even 30 yet. This is what champions are made of. So what you lost twice. Champions aren’t counted by how many times they’ve been knocked down; they are counted by how many times they get up. Even the great Muhammad Ali suffered THREE defeats and came back. You’re young enough to do it; just don’t give up, and don’t try to come back doing the same thing you did before.

Okay guys, 1600 words. It’s not like I get paid to do this stuff. Back to laughing at Japanese pranks on YouTube. Thanks for visiting my blog.

 

 

Dec
31

What type of Filipino martial artist are you? How far do you want to take this thing? What are your goals in the arts? Is it necessary to complete curriculums, teach the art, fight in matches, cross train, or aim for mastery?

And that, today my friends, is the question. This question is not one that you need to answer aloud, but is one you should be answering to yourself so that you can navigate the martial artist lifestyle. “That” being the why of your martial arts journey–not so much the eight questions I posed.

You see, we tend to filter everything we see in the arts through our own eyes–and our eyes tend to be discriminating eyes. If I have an insecurity about my actual fighting ability, I have been traumatized after becoming the victim of a crime, or perhaps I am a natural scrappy guy who likes to fight, I might be guilty of seeing all study in the martial arts through the eyes of a fighter. If I aspire to be called some lofty martial arts title, or maybe grew up feeling pushed around or held back, I may see the martial arts as a journey that begins with a low rank and ends in a high rank. If I am a community oriented man, have an infatuation with Filipino culture, or an interest in Filipino history, I might look at the Filipino martial arts as a way of preserving, practicing, promoting, or rediscovering Filipino culture. There are many reasons for studying the art, and we must consider why we undertake this lifestyle as well as decide what we would like to do with our knowledge once we have it. Even if your purpose is undeveloped or as simple as you simply thought it was “cool”–each reason to study is valid and has its nuances. Your journey won’t be the same as someone in the same art with a different reason for study and a different plan for his acquired knowledge. Because of this, the question does not have a simple answer. Rather than try and answer for everyone, I will answer when I believe mastery of the art is necessary. You can then decide if you fit this category, and if this path is for you.

Studying by Seminar, Distance Learning, and Long Term Discipleship

The first part of answering this question is to state emphatically that mastery of the art can only occur after one has committed himself/herself to long term discipleship under a true master of the art. If you wanted to learn to become a master mechanic, you will not be able to achieve this goal under a man who has never worked on cars for a living. You will not learn it from a book. You will not achieve mastery of automechanics from YouTube clips. You will not be able to find a weeklong workshop anywhere that will give you the tools, I don’t care if the seminar was taught by Henry Ford himself. You can tinker around in the backyard and learn a few things on your own about cars, but that is nothing compared to the guy who spent ten years under the tutelage of the master mechanics at a car dealership. There are many lessons that, while may be revealed to you through trial and error–are not going to be learned like you will learn after repairing thousands of vehicles with all types of problems 40-60 hours a week for a decade. There simply is no comparison.

Yet, the Filipino martial arts community is heavily populated by men who have absolutely no actual combat experience, no sparring experience, have 20+ teachers (and fewer than 10 actual lessons with 19 of them), and learned from the same source as hundreds of thousands of other FMA students… who consider themselves a “master” of the arts. Preposterous.

If one is a “dabbler” or wishes an introduction into the FMA, then distance learning, seminars/workshops, and extracurricular classes in a school specializing in another art will suffice. These environments, whether the intensity is casual or whether the training is difficult, can do little more than introduce concepts and give moderate explanations about techniques and theories. However, for building an actual foundation in an art, a consistent and regular, regimented and ongoing program is needed. Just as you cannot expect to take 5-6 “seminars” in learning to speak a foreign language fluently, what the average FMA man is doing very similar to the old retired Navy veteran who can say “Please”, “Hello”, and “Thank you” in 10 different languages–but can’t hold even a basic conversation in any of them. Even most “veteran” FMA seminar jocks, who can ramble off Tagalog and Cebuanu terminology as a regular part of his speaking vocabulary and transition from drill to drill, showing a plethora of escapes, disarms, takedowns, and other wonderful demonstrations–cannot hold a “conversation” (i.e., sparring match) using 90% of his knowledge without a feeder or otherwise cooperative partner. Keeping the analogy of language going, a martial artist who can “flow” his techniques through demonstration but cannot fight with those same techniques has the fluency of a 6 year old child. That 6 year old can speak as fluently as the Eskrimador moves–just as quickly, just as clearly–but is no “master” of the English language. Bottom line, dabbling for 20-plus years does not a master make.

Defining Mastery

I’m glad you asked. In conversations like this, a common question is brought up. It goes like this:

To each his own. Who are you to decide what a ‘master’ is to me? We create our own path. We look at things our own way. My definition of ‘mastery’ may not necessarily be your definition. Who do you think you are? Master So-n-So has been in these arts XX years, and has taught hundreds–maybe thousands–of guys. He has world champions/Dog Brother members under him, I guess they’re wrong, huh? Blah blah blah, quack quack quack…

Rather than engage in this debate for the umpteenth time, let me throw out my very simple, short answer. And then expound on that short answer.

Plainly put, A Master is one who has left no stone unturned in his study and development of his art, and anyone in his presence dare not challenge his worthiness of the title.

Is that easy enough to understand? Notice that this definition has two parts:

  1. A Master is one who has fully studied and developed his art, and
  2. His skill is visible enough that no one would argue that he has, in fact, mastered the art.

We must demand more from ourselves besides simply learning techniques, drills, and new arts. I could learn all the mathematical equations in the world–but if I cannot apply those formulas in the real world and use them, that knowledge is of no use at all. Too often, FMA practitioners can demonstrate the art beautifully. They can look as deadly and impressive as ever. But if they cannot use this knowledge to stop a simple aggressive, unfriendly attacker, his demonstration was nothing more than slick choreography. At the same time, we have men who can fight. They can crack a skull, they have the pain tolerance to endure all types of stinging slaps from the stick, broken fingers, etc., but most of the techniques in their arsenal is not used in those fights because he has only developed 10% of what he knows–he is nothing more than a good fighter, not a master. He could be friends with the guy from Ong Bok, he could have hundreds of pictures with GMs and celebrities, he could have certified tens of thousands of students. But if his art has not been fully developed, investigated, absorbed into his reflexes, and can be/has been used against hundreds of opponents, he has not mastered the art.

And once all that research has been done, the sparring partners have been trained with and beaten, the art has been revised and reduced and concentrated and renamed–he should have developed his skill to such a high degree that most people who encounter him cannot name ten men with the same level of skill… or he is no master. You cannot call yourself a master when most people know plenty of people with better skill. Age is irrelevant here. If you’ve ever encountered a master musician (and I have) a master artist, a master mechanic, a master physician, a master of academics, a master chef–then you would know exactly what I mean. Many of us just don’t know what a true master is, so it is easy to call a likeable, older fellow with mediocre or above average skills as “Master”. I get that. But once in a while, you encounter a true master of the arts–any art. One who seemingly has no peer. One with nearly perfect technique. One who can answer every question, not from his opinion file–but his been there, done that file. To bring it home, at a bare minimum, and this is not mastery but the first step towards achieving mastery–you should have developed every strike in your arsenal to the level that you can shatter bones with it. I have met many so-called masters who tell me that they don’t do backhand strikes and abaniko strikes “because they aren’t destructive enough”. Telling that to a guy who can break objects with every technique in my curriculum is actually telling on yourself. Let’s be blunt here; very few men in these arts have full investigated their art. And very few have developed their physical skills to a destructive level, and this is just the ground floor of the uphill climb to mastery.

But of course, there are men who feel that fighting with blunt weapons and blades do not require physical fitness and therefore knowledge is sufficient to combat effectiveness. If that were true, I could put a razor-sharp blade in the hands of a determined 16 year old and none of these “combat experts” will fuck with him while empty handed. There is a higher level to this martial arts thing, and that path is not for everyone. Most guys don’t even know that the path exists. Let me drop a few tips that will help you get started on your path towards mastery:

  • perform every technique in your system–attack as well as defense–at least 5,000 times
  • face and fight 100 opponents
  • develop and train at least 3-4 defenses for every attack 1,000 times
  • regularly work with 500 repetitions in training
  • impact training and testing; you should be able to break wood, bricks, coconut, baseball bats with your skills
  • have a specialty, that if you used that skill, weapons or technique–you know you will defeat 90% of your opponents
  • you can actually BEAT 90% of your opponents and have done it regularly
  • accomplish and then revisit a technique that you have used 10,000 times–and do this regularly

To most people reading this blog, this section ^^ above will sound unrealistic. However, if any of you know my personal students, anyone who has studied with me more than 4 years has already done this. Plus I know several other martial artists who train this way and these numbers do not sound unreachable or unreasonable to them. If you truly want to explore the possibility of achieving mastery, give it a shot. It is a simple, but difficult goal to achieve. Anyone with the will, and anyone with the guidance and motivations can do it.

Depending on your goals in the martial arts, this may inspire you. Others may thing it’s overkill. Plenty of folks have ridiculed me for saying these things. But only those who have been to the summit of this climb know how real and lonely this journey is. This is not for the dabbler, and it is not for the guy who lacks the vision and stomach to make it happen. Achieve it and you will have few peers, but you will understand how silly awarding a “Master” certificate in a weekend seminar actually is. Yes, this is a physical goal and we did not touch on the nonphysical benefits of such a training regimen. Perhaps next time. Either way, there are many benefits to fully developing an art as far as your body will allow you to–and during this training you will find that your brain’s creativity will come up with much more material than even your teacher gave you. Understand that there is another dimension beyond simply knowing a martial arts, and another past being good at that arts. Few will understand, but take the nonconventional road to proficiency and that other dimension will be revealed to you. I hope this article sparks your curiosity to digging deeper than most of your peers will.

Before I let you go, I would like to introduce you to a FMA Vlog I recently came across:

His name is John, and he just started making videos such as this. Make sure you go over to YouTube and subscribe and support his channel. I suspect that there will be some great topics being discussed over there! Thank you for visiting my blog!

Nov
12

One thing that the modern FMA man tends to neglect in his pursuit of martial arts ability is the study of fighting strategy. This is not a flaw in the tradition of Filipino martial arts, but a flaw in the way that our arts are taught. Because of the casual method most western FMA people learn–in seminars taught by out-of-town teachers, or in classes taught by local teachers taught by out-of-town teachers–the study of the fighting arts for us is very shallow and superficial. Students spend too much time in activities that do not challenge the body and mind. “Skill” is more often than not a test of coordination and rhythm rather than a true measure of combat effectiveness. Drills are described far too often as “fun”. The occasional hit hand or head when a strike is missed in choreographed practice are the war stories told by today’s FMA guy, rather than stories of lessons learned against actual opponents. Unlike yesteryear, FMA skill is mostly demonstrated with dance partners instead of proven against unfriendly, adversarial opponents. This has lead to entire generations of “fighters” who cannot teach a student to defeat a semingly superior opponent. The difference between a teacher who imparts an art to students limited by their size and physical ability versus one who can increase the effectiveness of any student’s achieved physical prowess is the study of application through strategy.

To illustrate this point:

Fighters A and B are similar size and experience in the art. They both know the same amount of techniques, and have put in the same amount of training time. They are both physically matched in strength, speed, agility and power. For this example, let’s say both fighters come from teachers who studied the same art, and have learned the same curriculum. Is the difference between the two fighters as simple as “power is in the martial artist himself, instead of the art”? This saying of it’s-the-fighter-not-the-art is oversimplified and lazy and terribly cliched. Both fighters may have learned the same techniques, both fighters may have trained just as well. But one fighter employs his art more effectively, efficiently, and with better planning than the other. Just as two boxers of similar stature know the same techniques–it is their use and mastery of strategy that makes one the victor and the other the loser. Chess players know the same moves and have the same pieces. But one is a superior strategist while the other is simply “playing chess”. Study strategy and psychology of fighting to dominate fighters on a level that is not limited to physical ability.

Here are a few basic strategies you should explore and utilize in your training and teaching. They are universal principles that apply to all styles and forms of combat–whether in the ring, on the street, armed, or unarmed:

  • Intercept your opponent’s movement with your own movement. Anticipate what your opponent will do next, where he will go–and then attack him, cut him off, or move your position before he can do/complete it. This can be based on your observation of his habits, his footwork, even repetitive techniques. Look for things like a short step he may take before launching an attack, where his eyes look before moving, or habits like dropping the front hand before kicking. This will give the impression that you are reading his mind
  • Keep your opponent off balance. Never allow your opponent to sit for more than a few seconds in a comfortable fighting stance. Force him to move back, move to the side, follow you. Change your position often, which forces him to change his position as well. By initiating the movement, your opponent becomes predictable because he is following you. If you notice that you can now force your opponent to move when you want him to–you can also change mid-motion, which causes a short stumble or change in balance. When he is off-balance, it is only for a fraction of a second if he is a good fighter–so you must attack him in an instant
  • Make use of obstacles. Obstacles can be things that get in your opponent’s way like walls, the ropes of a boxing ring, even bystanders, other attackers, or the referee if you are fighting for sport. Obstacles limit where and when the opponent can move, they can interrupt his movement, even distract him for a second. Look at the opponent’s eyes. When his eyes shifts to, say, the referee or trash on the street–capitalize on it and destroy him
  • Bring his targets to you. Tall opponents, faster opponents, and opponents with better mobility than you have can all be frustrating to fight. But they are not unbeatable. You can force a faster fighter to fall into a trap by attacking you in positions where you have the advantage. For example, attacking less frequently or dropping your guard will certainly invite a faster fighter to attack and make use of his skill. Wait for the attack and then lean away or step away to put more distance between you. This will cause your opponent to fail in his attack–and he will try again. The second, unplanned attack will almost certainly be slower–especially if you moved away from the position he was attacking. This is your cue to take advantage of the unexpected second attack. Had he been smarter, he would have backed away and reset his stance to attack again. But an opponent with a superior advantage over you would be less likely to take precautions and launch that second, unprepared attack. The same strategy works against bigger men, who assume their reach will not fail. By forcing a bigger man to attack twice, he is most likely going to have disrupted balance, in a longer, stretched-out stance, and his hands will not be in a position to protect himself. This is how bigger, stronger men get knocked out by smaller, weaker men–after launching a failed attack or missing a punch… and the smaller opponent was waiting on him
  • Miss your attack. Sounds like bad advice, right? I learned this after almost getting knocked out myself. My opponent was a Kyokushinkai fighter who was much older and slower than myself. I saw him miss a hook punch several times in another fight (which he won anyway), and planned to take advantage of his poor punching skill. Sure enough, like clockwork he missed me while headhunting and unlike the earlier opponent, I had the speed to close in on him and BAM. I walked into a spin kick. I ultimately won the fight, but asked him for a rematch after the tournament. He laughingly told me that he waited all day to use the combination, and I was the sucker who fell for the bait. Turns out, he had developed several “missed technique” follow-ups as he aged. His name is David Rhodes, and this old fox taught me that martial arts can still evolve and change to accomodate an aging competitor as he gets slower and loses his endurance. It is born of wisdom and experience and takes advantage of the cockiness of more youthful, but naive fighters. These techniques are now a part of my own martial arts practice, and as I approach my 50s I look forward to trying out this strategy myself. For a colorful example of a fighter who evolved as he aged, watch the difference in methods used by George Foreman, who maintained his power but lost speed while improving his ring wisdom. Not only did he defeat men half his age–he dominated them while they sought to take advantage of his “disadvantages”. You can “miss” in your own way while you are young, too. If you have great feet but less developed hands, let your opponent try to take advantage of your lack of fist speed. If you are a shorter fighter, let your opponent become sloppy because he thinks his height will help him. Pretend you are out of breath. Fake an injury or pulled leg muscle. On the street, pretend to be afraid–then make him pay when he tries to use his assumed upper hand. Perceived advantages/disadvantages can be very powerful if you learn to use them!

We will save the other items on my list for a future article. Hope you like these! Give yourself some time to come up with techniques that are already in your arsenal and how you can express them through my suggestion. Then, grab a few opponents and try them out. You’d be surprised how many ways you can skin a cat with some slick thinking (and good acting). Subscribe so you don’t miss the rest of them! Happy Veteran’s Day for my fellow vets (and shot out to the 459th MAW, Andrews AFB)….

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Oct
23

This article is a continuation of yesterday’s article, answering a reader’s question about the effectiveness of FMA empty hand. If you haven’t read it, please do, because you will need to understand where I am coming from in order to fully grasp what I am saying here.

One part of Mike’s question is that he wanted to transition from weapons to empty hand, and this is a conversation that I believe is sorely needed in the Filipino arts. My articles on this blog, which I’ve got several that address this idea, are almost always met with anger and opposition and even a few challenges here and there. Unfortunately, the only two who had ever shown up to follow through have been non-FMA guys who had limited exposure to the FMAs. Both, in fact, became students of mine. So let’s just give the short answer first, then I will give the longer answer afterwards.

In short, weapons translations to empty hand is a waste of time if your interest is combat and self defense.

And here’s why.

I have yet to meet, spar/fight, or see spar/fight a martial artist who subscribes to this philosophy who could spar or fight well. Are there Eskrimadors who can fight empty handed? Of course, there are many. But I have never met a man who can fight empty handed using skills called “Empty Handed Eskrima”. Where I’ve met Eskrimadors who can fight empty handed, he is using Muay Thai, boxing, BJJ, or something else. Trust me, I’ve tried! But I gave up in the 1990s on finding FMA guys who could use this stuff, and then I just changed my focus on developing what I do into something that is hard to beat. I doubt there are many men reading this article who have been challenged as often as I have, so good luck finding such a fighter. Now, for those who wondered if I believe that FMA empty hand is ineffective… No I don’t. I understand and teach many of the things taught in seminars and DVDs and certification courses, but as I say in my articles–they don’t work the way most people teach them. This is what is ineffective. Ideas like “catching a jab”, gunting, and other FMA empty hand staples are in fact effective, but the way most people teach them will get students clobbered on the street. The test of it all is if these skills can be used effectively and with dominance against a non-FMA man who is both an adversary as well as unfriendly and combative. In the rare occasions I have seen FMA folks use their empty hand skills against myself, my students, or a non-FMA fighter the skills were ineffective. So if someone would like to demonstrate these skills used effectively, I’d welcome the opportunity.

This is not to suggest that weaponed movement is not similar to empty hand movement. Doesn’t take advanced science; of course the movements may be related. But it is NOT true that if you study stick fighting, “you can pick up a stick, a knife, a broom, a sword, a common household object, blah blah blah, quack quack quack…”¬† We need to stop spreading that nonsense. A fist is a fist, a stick is a stick, a small blade is a small blade, a staff is a staff, and a nightstick is a nightstick. Each of these are very different from the other, and must be learned and trained separately. So an Eskrima #1 to the temple may come at the same angle as a right hook, an Eskrima #1 with a knife, and an Eskrima #1 with a staff–but the distance is completely different, the damage caused is not the same, power is generated completely differently, the TARGETS on the opponent will be different, and the method of defending each is not even closely related to the other. For example, let’s create a small matrix below:

  1. Eskrima #1 with rattan stick–distance of about 3-4 feet away/designed to break or shatter bones/power generated mostly with arm/striking the temple, neck or eye socket/defend by leaning out, stopping striking arm with either hand or blocking stick itself close to the opponent’s hand
  2. Hook Punch with fist–distance of 2-3 feet away/intended to lacerate eye or rended opponent unconscious/power generated from waist/targets are eye socket, jaw, cheekbone/defend by raising elbow to meet punch, ducking, shooting punch straight at opponent’s face while protecting jaw with punching arm’s shoulder
  3. Eskrima #1 with knife–distance less than 3 feet/intended to cut flesh/power originates from attacker’s grip, arm movement, and how much of blade makes contact with skin/targets are primarily neck, face, arms–but any available exposed skin (may not damage if opponent is wearing jacket, sweater or blade is serrated)/defended by blocking followed by grappling, intercepting, or evading
  4. Eskrima #1 with staff–distance greater than 4 feet/used to break bones or maintain range/power generated by momentum of the strike/targets are head and limbs/defended by intercepting opponent’s range of motion at close range

Throw in speed (each of these are used at different speed and tempos), ability to attack in combination (some weapons are likely used in combination, others will be single strikes), and either fighter’s familiarity with the weapons–you will see that you cannot simply “translate” one to the other without any serious study. Each is so different from the other–they are completely different arts and skill sets. So while they all come at a similar angle, once cannot just make a blanket claim to proficiency or ability at each weapons just because you know Eskrima. It is impractical, dishonest, irresponsible, and foolish. Try a stick defense against a knife, and you’ll be in big trouble. Use a hook defense against a staff, and prepare to be thrashed. The footwork is different for these weapons, the timing is different, and the distance and likelihood of a counter attack varies, depending on which weapon is being used. To think that one can translate a staff to a hand, a knife to and elbow, a chair to a rattan stick is naive and foolish. Shame on the teachers out here teaching that stuff.

In order to be an effective empty hands fighter, you must simply train and investigate empty hands fully. Eskrima Empty Hands can be highly effective, but one cannot just devote 15 minutes of class time to it, playing patty cake and hitting focus mitts and think you’re preparing for the streets. The nuances and intricasies of fighting without a weapon must be dissected, studied, trained, and tested–then studied some more. Much more than what the average FMA guy is doing, and darned sure not in the same way you would practice stick and knife. If I could ever fault our pioneering Grandmasters in the western FMA world for anything (besides promoting this as an art one could “add-on” to other arts in seminars and video), it would be this one fallacy, that learning weapons means your empty hands improves. It simply is not true. They are separate schools and separate specialties. Students will suffer a great disservice by teachers who teach and promote classes without fully investigating these skills and subarts. It would be better to drop those weapons from one’s curriculum and inform students that we have not specialized in those arts, than to lie to them and say we know it all because we know how to swing a stick. If you want to become proficient at small blades, you must train primarily with small blades. If you want to become an expert at the rattan stick (as opposed to the hard wood stick; I consider these different weapons and skill sets), you will need to choose it as a specialty. If you want to specialize with the staff, empty hands, the bolo, yo yo, or other weapons–you must undertake it like a college major. The Filipino martial arts are indeed one of the great combat arts. Our arts are practical, simple, and deadly. We are most effective at fighting with weapons, rivaled only by Japanese Kendo/sword related arts. Our masters are walking libraries of information because unlike most other stylists–they have actually fought with the weapons they teach. But they are not all-inclusive. Just as a libary is a place of learning for nearly all subjects, you cannot possibly know everything just because you walk in one–not even just because you work in one. You cannot absorb knowledge through osmosis. The information is there, but most of it must be explored, deciphered, and developed. Sticks and knifes can indeed enhance empty hand skill–but this is not automatic, and it is not 100% relatedable. Please remember this. We are, at our core–weapons fighters.

I should also add that it is not necessary to go to other arts to supplement FMAs as well. There is enough in the Filipino arts to gain this knowledge; but it must be studied, trained, and tested. In tomorrow’s segment, we will discuss how to do so even further. Thank you for visiting my blog.

And if you haven’t read my book, How to Build a Dominant Fighter, make sure you get it. It is an easy, quick read; my training philosophy is summed up in its pages. It’s a great place to start!

Oct
23

Ah, that “Fallacy of FMA Empty Hand” article… I thought my Hermit article would be my defining article, yet the Empty Hand article seems to be the one that endears me to my readers–or make me the FMA public enemy #1. No need to fret FMA brothers and sisters, by this time in 2017, I will be retired and back in the Philippines and will be able to accept the many challenges I’ve received over the last 15 years. Being that we are all Filipinos and part of this beautiful culture, I expect that those who issued challenges will actually show up? I would like to announce here on this blog that the Typhoon Philippine School is coming to Batangas and Manila, so I will need such matches both on the mat and off–in the dojo and out–to build credibility for my schools. If you are interested in a match, training, or just to have lunch–please leave a comment under this article and we will see you soon, kumpadres!

So I receive a question that I’ve often answered by email or in person. I’d like to post my reply here, because it is one that the Fallacy article has sparked. I received it via Facebook and it is from one of our readers who was not offended by the article.

By the way, I should admit. When I wrote the article, I wasn’t angry–but feeling silly that day, and the article was meant to be sarcastic and humorous. The articles following the fallout were written while I was angry, but not this one. I am shocked, but not disappointed by the response. Let me say this, FMA brothers:¬† You should welcome people who doubt the validity of your art; not be offended. We are martial artists. We grow through our experiences, through stress-tests, through defending our arts, and by having our skills and ideas challenged. A man who says he does not think your art is fully effective should become your best sounding board after your response. You should prove yourself to him, and make him a believer. People keep saying, “I don’t have anything to prove to you.” Oh no? Then you are in the wrong art, my friend. Fighting is not about opinion; fighting is all about proof and what you can do. Theories in the martial arts should not be theories for long. In order to convert your theories to actual combat methods, you absolutely must “prove” its validity to yourself, to your rivals, to your peers, to the public. Otherwise, an unproven martial arts theory isn’t worth the paper they are written on. They are as smelly and undesirable as the breath you explain them with. You can dress them up with mints and fruit juice and bubble gum all day long, but at the end of the day and unproven, untested martial arts theory is nothing more than smelly old, hot air. This is not what the FMA is all about. So when a guy says, I don’t believe your art–this is a great opportunity for you to pick up your stick or put on a pair of gloves and make this guy a believer. And when you do, you will end up like me:¬† admired or hated.

That said, doubters have a second important role in the martial arts. They cause you to think. I don’t discount any new idea I encounter in the art. If unable to test the theory, I will at least reflect on what I do to ponder if the guy has a point or not. Quite often, I have been perplexed by something a martial artist had said and went on to test the idea. Once, I was showing a technique to a friend who was not a martial artist. He was a police officer, and had fought for a weapon on several occasions. He was helping me put together a curriculum I was teaching to some Maryland State Troopers, and thought my techniques wouldn’t work. We took a plastic water gun and a knife, and spent a few days fighting over the knife as well as the water gun. At the end of the week, we both had learned about disarming, neutralizing and weapons retention. He learned how realistic disarming and neutralizing could be–I learned the limitations of disarming and neutralizing–and we both learned more about weapons retention on top of what he was already taught to do. I’d like to add a side note here. My friend’s name is Brad (won’t use his last name), and he is one of those “good cops”. I didn’t realize it then (1996), but each time I showed something, he kept saying, “We can’t do that”, and “That technique is banned”, things to that nature. I realizing retrospect that Brad was exploring ways to deal with an armed, combative subject without killing him. In fact, he wouldn’t even allow me to teach him simple skills like punching to the face, striking the head with a baton, and redirecting a knife into the attacker’s belly. In my opinion, he is a truly respectable officer who puts his life on the line–rather than the rhetoric I hear today of “kill the subject if you think you’re in danger”.¬† If the average citizen must use appropriate level of force even in self-defense–our trained police officers should do the same. Political rant over. Anyway, I was humbled. I realized that many things I was teaching at that time were either inappropriate for Western culture, or plain old impractical. After only four days of wrestling with a man who had never studied the martial arts, I modified a good portion of my Eskrima permanently into the art I teach to day. Encountering doubters can do wonders for your development as a martial artist, even if you are a Master of the art–if you allow it to.

And now, the question:

Question for you sir if you have a few minutes…I follow your blog, and I appreciate the honesty you put out, I’ve read your post on the fallacy of FMA empty hand combatives in the sense it’s taught now days in the different kali organizations. I do believe myself the FMA are superior when it comes to the use of tools but me wanting to specialize in being not only a high weapons practitioner but to be able to transition from empty hands to a tool, against one or mass attack scenario. What would you recommend and thoughts on this subject? Thank you for your help and time

All articles on this blog are edited before being published, so please stay tuned for part II. Thank you for visiting my blog.

 

Sep
18
My Kung Fu brother from another brother (Sifu Randy Bennett, my older Kung Fu brother) is competing in a televised weapons-based tournament called the UWM. His name is Martin Lobo Soderstrom, and his character name for the show is “Wolf”. Please take a look at his profile video:

We were chatting about weapons fighting, and he observed that Filipino martial artists and HEMA fighters tended to do the best in these tournaments over other styles. The interesting feature of the UWM tournament is that they do not have “divisions” pitting like weapons styles against each other. In the UWM, anything goes, and you may end up with anyone in front of you. I really like that! It’s something I’ve been talking about for years, and when we’ve had weapons fight nights at my school, we’ve done it. Unfortunately, we rarely get takers. I am appreciative for the few risk-takers I’ve been fortunate enough to meet over the years who obliged me with matches in their respective styles. Such tournaments are starting to pick up momentum here in America. Master Darren Tibon holds such tournaments in California. The Dog Brothers I believe pioneered the concept in the 1980s, and to this day holds the only mixed-weapon, mostly unpadded tournaments around. Lately, Shihan Dana Abbott has been promoting his Chanbara padded weapons tournaments pitting FMA against Japanese styles. If you want to take your martial arts skills to the next level, participating in such events is the best way to get experience that can’t be duplicated in the classroom or training with friends.
So, SiHing Soderstrom was looking to neutralize these fighters with his skills–and this article was written for him and anyone else looking to do the same.
And before I go on, let me say this:¬† A very important stage in the understanding of your martial arts is one of self-criticism. Too often, we simply learn our arts and practice them. Yet, by failing to look for holes and openings in our own systems, we miss the opportunity to improve what we already do. Teaching others how to beat us will teach you a lot about your art–or show how little you know about what you do. When I teach seminars, two popular themes I use are “How to Beat thekuntawman” and “How to Beat Eskrimadors”. These are challenging workshops because they force me to look at what I do, and show others what can be done to counter me or my students. Of course, I keep the counter to those counters for my own students. ūüėȬ† Try it yourself. I guarantee you will discover a whole new set of skills to practice. If you’ve ever lost a fight, doing this will most likely tell you how to prevent it from happening again!
Secondly, I would like to add that the answer is not necessarily to study other styles. In order for me to learn to beat Mike Tyson, I don’t have to go and train with Kevin Rooney or Teddy Atlas. I simply need to study how he fights, find opponents who fight like Mike (or have his attributes) to fight with, and then find a way for me to use the skills I already have to beat the skills Iron Mike has. Be better at what I do, than he is at what he does, and then know which skills to use where and how to employ them. Not to “cross-train”, but cross-fight. If I am a boxer who has never grappled and I fight an expert grappler, even if I study a little grappling–I could never catch up to my opponent on the ground. I would do better learning how I could force him to deal with my boxing skills and never give him the ability to use his specialty. Those who ask what if I get taken down are doing two things. First, they are assuming that boxing is inferior while on our feet to grapplers and I will be taken down 100% of the time. Secondly, they are assuming that with a little cross training, I can beat a superior grappler at his own game once we hit the ground. Both are preposterous ideas. Find how you can get the most use out of the advantage you already have in your system against your opponents. Not easy to do, but it’s a hell of a lot better than trying to beat a man at his own game with just a few lessons. I get this from seminar guys all the time. I’ve been doing this art all my life. Since the age of 18 or so, I have been throwing thousands of strikes a week, and have only recently started missing workouts. If you are a grappler, and I pull stick on you, and you come at me with the little bit of seminar Eskrima you got from Master So-n-So… I’m going to make you my girlfriend. No homo. LOL you’d better find a way to get me on the ground and kick my ass there!
And here goes!
Mustafa Gatdula’s “HOW TO BEAT AN FMA GUY”
  1. FMA guys swear by the Triangle. The Triangle is angled stepping, and FMA guys practice it as a dance. I have never seen any Arnisadors train this angled stepping with any sense of urgency. It’s a formality, really. First, when FMA guys practice, they lackadaisically move. If you get an opponent who does this, attack at full speed, and you’ll catch him–guaranteed. They are not used to moving at top speed. And do you know what happens when an Arnisador actually is forced to move quickly? He says screw the Triangle, and moves back in a straight line. Attack him with intent, you’ll catch him either way. The drawback? If you get a guy who knows how to use that Triangle and does it well–you’re fucked. Soon as you notice that he has mastery of angles, use a back-and-forth footwork that puts you back at your original spot. When he attacks from his angle, he’ll land right in front of you (where you would have been had you stayed). Finish him there.
  2. Speaking of abandoning angled footwork, if you do happen to notice your opponent retreating in a straight line back–attack him in large strides. You can always move forward faster and with better balance, than he can while moving back. Eventually, he will stumble, hit a barrier, and/or you will catch him. But careful, one of the skills we use in Eskrima is the Mongoose attack, a simultaneous retreat (footwork) and counter (with the hands), which I have yet to see in any Kung Fu form. It is easy to follow the opponent and neglect to protect yourself while he is running. Keep in mind that moving while moving the feet is a specialty of FMA folks
  3. Most modern FMA systems are defense-oriented systems. This means that most of his training has been against an opponent’s attack. He will more prepared to counter what you throw at him, and have more trained responses for your attacks. For this reason, I would advise try to beat them when they attack. One thing I know about FMA guys is very few of the newer styles have studied methods of attack. So you will most likely only have to defend against one and two hit combination attacks. If your FMA opponent does attack with long combinations, it is not natural and the rhythm of the strikes will be slow. He may even lack power or slow as the fight progresses. Take a look at YouTube clips of FMA, you will notice two basic things which are typical of modern FMA styles. First, about 90% of material covered will not be attacking skills. Secondly, when you do find attacks, they are always single hit attacks or two hits. There is almost no instruction in how to attack. When training, give yourself enough training on countering a one or two-hit attack, and then fire back with multiple hits. Because we generally only train with one or two hit attacks, no FMA style has a defense from 4-5 hit attacks, except to run
  4. Although Eskrimadors train for angled footwork, two things we never train for:¬† a. An attack with multiple advancing steps, and b. An attack that changes direction. Be creative in your planned attacks. Start off attacking from one direction, then zig zag to a different direction and attack from the new position. It’ll be like speaking a foreign language to an American; we sometimes act as if our way is the only way. Using the Zig Zag attack is very confusing to a fighter who was trained to thing everyone attacks from one direction. You’ll knock em dead
  5. Filipino styles cover all kinds of weapons. However, we specialize in short sticks and blades. As a Jow Ga fighter, I know you have experience with all types of weapons. Jow Ga is known for the staff technique, and in the late Sifu Dean Chin lineage, the Sern Tao Gwun (double headed staff, for non-TCMA folks) was his specialty. This weapon is especially advantageous against Eskrima. If you can neutralize an Eskrimador by simply using longer footwork and more steps–imagine doing so with a longer weapon. I would recommend taking the Sern Tao Gwun form and dissecting it into techniques to use for the competition. Remember, you have the advantage of reach with the staff–and you also have the advantage of power. The staff, if you train it right, can deliver sledge hammer-like power. The rattan stick has power, but not the same type of power as the staff. Eskrima can shatter a bone; but a staff can break bones, even those protected by muscle and fat–even those protected by armor. Train for destructive power, and then train to use that destructive power with speed. Then use that quick, destructive power with footwork that your opponents cannot escape from
  6. The Eskrimador has a mastery of close quarters. We are experts of trapping and disarming, which is something that Chinese styles contain but do not specialize in (especially concerning the weapon). If you wanted to learn anything from the FMA, I would recommend learning this. I haven’t seen any art with a superior set of skills for our trapping and disarming. Even by studying basic Arnis disarming, you can gain an edge on the best weapons fighters. However, against another FMA man you might looks for ways to counter disarming. This is something very few FMA people study. I would advise to learn the disarm, and then find ways to stop yourself from being disarmed. A good start is to strengthen the wrist and the grip, and then practice twisting your wrist away from the direction of the disarm. Disarms work because of the element of surprise; with resistance many do not work
  7. I’m not sure if empty hand skills are allowed in the UWM, but few FMA styles teach punching, striking and kicking with a weapon in the hands. Incorporate this into your regimen, and at close quarters you will have an advantage most of your opponents won’t be expecting

Without being in person to teach you, this is probably the best advice I can come up with by blog. Hope this helps!

And for my FMA-based readers:¬† Please use this list as ways to modify or update your FMA training. Study your art for what an opponent could do against you, then have something waiting on them when they try it. Don’t let these Kung Fu guys get an advantage over us. Mabuhay ng FMA!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Sep
02

There is a concept often thrown around in the FMA/SEAMA circles (mainly, seminar circles) that I must challenge.

In the hopes of maintaining one’s appearance of humility, many claim to be “always a student” of the art. Some use this perpetual status as an explanation for always investing in their video collection and adding yet another seminar certificate to their walls. Some may use it to avoid claiming to be an expert or skilled, as this preemptively excuses mediocre skill. Then you have the guys who use this title to avoid being challenged in a community of martial artists who frequently challenge each other. And there are always the “Always Learning” guys who still claim to be experts and Masters–but are constantly adding to their knowledge base by attending and “researching” (put into quotation marks for a reason, btw–but more on that later). This last group irritates me the most, because they are (mis)leading others down the same path–when they should be leading students to fighting dominance.

In a nutshell, the Perpetual Student is like that beloved old guy who has been attending the local community college for 40 years and has amassed something like 15 degrees–still lives with his mom, and has never actually held a job although he’s damn near 70. For someone called a martial artist–this is unacceptable behavior.

If you were to visit a war-torn country, or a crime-riddled neighborhood, what would you take with you for protection, a prototype weapon that is still being tested? Or a reliable old 45 caliber that’s been used by hundreds of thousands of men in combat?

If you were a mugging victim who swore to never be a victim again, who would you go study with–the guy who has admittedly never fought in his life (but attends every seminar that comes to town) and is too chicken-shit to call himself an expert around other experts? Or the guy with one Black belt who promises you that after you train with him–no one on the street will be your match?

Some of us really need to think about the message we are putting out there. Often we tell more about ourselves than we think when we come up with clevel stuff like “I’m no expert, just a guy who loves the martial arts!”¬† You’ve been clearly eating too much tofu, dude… The least you could do is talk like a meat-eater!

There comes a point in a martial artist’s life when he has to put away the check book, take off the “student” label and become a scientist/fighter. We simply cannot avoid it, if we are indeed seeking to teach others to defend themselves. Martial arts technique must go through ten basic stages in its development. Too often, we take techniques from the Learning stage to the Teaching stage so quickly, teachers themselves fumble with them while teaching. I have witnessed GRANDMASTERS who claim to have studied these arts all their lives perform a technique as if they had just learned it themselves months earlier. I have seen two grandmasters get asked in a public forum about how to handle a very basic technique–and they both stuttered and fell over their feet trying to explain as if he asked them to calculate the circumference of the moon. You would think that if you have been doing this art for a lifetime and call yourself an expert–regardless of what age you are–such answers would be delivered as smoothly and straightfaced as you answering what your name is. But apparently, our ideas of what makes a Master or Grandmaster are vastly different.

The transition from Learning to Student must have several stages:

  1. Student learns technique
  2. Student practices technique
  3. Student becomes good at technique (practicing isn’t enough–you must have proficiency)
  4. Student learns to apply technique (because learning and applying are two different things)
  5. Student learns to use technique (applying is a little different than using… “how to throw” vs “how to fight with”)
  6. Student learns to fight with technique, even when opponent is countering (and then, ready?)
  7. Student learns to become dominant* with technique (more on this later)
  8. Student becomes teacher
  9. Teacher alters technique, based on proven experience with technique
  10. Teachers teaches technique to student

Notice, that while the Perpetual Student does get something right–the student status really is the most important part of the learning process–most FMA guys stop at Step II and go directly to 10. There is very little actual research with each technique. Most learn, practice casually, get promoted awfully quickly, and, barring a few concepts and independent ideas (often merely possible variations rehearsed with a friendly partner)–goes directly to the classroom to teach someone else. The learning process is thusly disrespected and taken for granted. No, the learning process is severely disrespected. You have seen, as well as I have, teaching certificates in the FMA community get awarded the same day techniques were taught. This is the reason not a single FMA tournament in America–and I can say this without ever going to every tournament in America–ever pits empty hand versus the stick in a match. Yet, we ALL teach it, don’t we? The reality is that there is a rush to promote those who learn the FMA to instructorship far too soon because most people are unaware how to judge the advancedness and expertness of martial arts skill. The FMA industry is much like the medical industry here–we are not in the business of building teachers, just the appearance of building teachers. Just like the medical industry is more in the business of treating patients than curing them–actually building teachers cannot be done on a mass scale, and requires closer, more individualized attention. A doctor who only has a few minutes with each patient must quickly guess what a patient needs and quickly write a prescription to get to the next guy–your friendly Mainstream Guro needs to hurry and sign certificates to get to the next city. Quantity over Quality.

Bottom line, the Perpetual Student is only interested in learning things that makes him look like a warrior, he does not actually have the stomach to become a warrior. So by calling oneself a “Student” and not a “Fighter”, he can comfortably continue what he had been doing for years–while in his mind BE whatever he envisions he is. The Student is like the 40 year old guy who never moved out his mother’s house; although he looks like a man, may have a job, might even have children, claims to be a man–in reality, he is avoiding actually BEING a man.

The Filipino martial arts cannot survive off of so-called experts who never give their knowledge a full course of study and development, and never feel ready enough to declare himself a true authority and stand on whatever his research and investigation has concluded. Another reason why tournaments, fighting matches, and allowing oneself to be challenged are all very important parts of the Filipino arts… and why those who dislike these pillars should be avoided if you’re serious about your martial arts.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Aug
30

If you are an FMA veteran, even if only a veteran student, you may walk away from today’s article feeling cheated. Please don’t, though. Because although much in today’s discussion is common sense and often-quoted advice, very little is followed. I am reiterating them here, because those often-ignored, seemingly common sense things are what stands in the way of mediocrity and true martial arts dominance and superiority.

Let me explain.

I often hear the terms “boring/mundane” practice described as unimportant, foolish wastes of time. This term really underemphasizes one of the PILLARS of martial arts skill, and those who use them are really telling on themselves as foolish martial artists themselves. I hate to keep picking on Bruce Lee, as I consider myself a fan–but we have to separate the actor Bruce Lee from the martial arts philosopher Bruce Lee from the young inexperienced man Bruce Lee. He made many wise observations about the martial arts and really taught his fellow martial arts generationers how to train and how to think. However, I don’t believe that he had enough time to fully develop and investigate his philosophy. Since he died at a young age, and before he had a chance to see what his JKD would manifest into through his own students–we are stuck with a 30 year old’s unfinished work. And those who carried his torch stopped developing and testing his system although they did continue adding to his system. Many fundamental “truths” to his JKD were flawed. This concept of there being a such thing as “mundane/mindless/boring/repetitive practice” is one of them. Watch a master of any sport or activity at work. Not during the actual game or function of his expertise, but his actual practice of his craft. What will you see? You will see Mike Tyson throwing 4,000 jabs in several hours. You will see Michael Jordan throwing hundreds of layups. You will see a master chef cook the same dishes hour after hour, day after day, year after year. How do you think they became so skilled? Hopefully, you don’t believe the chefs who created the greatest dishes in the culinary arts got so good by cooking thousands of different dishes! No. Skill is perfected by isolating one’s repertoire to only a few key, core tasks–and then rehearsing or practicing those few things over and over and over and over, more times than a man can count. When you are watching the news, the musician is practicing his notes. When you are sipping coffee, he is practicing his notes. When you are driving to work, he is practicing his notes. When you sleep, he is practicing his notes. It is not the variety that drives him to perfection; it is the actual act of perfecting a few pillar skills in his chosen craft that affect everything he does in his specialty. Does he do everything perfectly? Absolutely not. But he may have the appearance of perfecting everything, because he does so much so well–and a few memorable things we witness, he does better than anyone else we have ever seen.

Bruce Lee had a great concept–to separate from tradition in order to become well-rounded, and to hone in on keys of the skill of fighting in order to become a skilled fighter. He felt that we should know how to do more than one thing in order to become well-rounded. I agree with this. However, a few things he missed:

  • You must have something you do better than 99% of your opponents
  • Knowing a little grappling may help you with a grappler, but it won’t help you if you face a master grappler
  • Knowing a little boxing may help you with a boxer, but it won’t help you if you fight a good boxer
  • Your foundation must be cemented in order to be used to root other skills upon it

And let me explain #3. If I learn a little boxing, but cannot box; learn a little kicking, but cannot kick well; and learn a little grappling, but cannot grapple–what good am I? In concept, I am well rounded. But against a good kicker, I am mediocre. Against a good boxer, I am mediocre. Against a good grappler, I, again, am mediocre. I must have a foundation upon which to build, and if I spread myself too thin too soon–I have nothing but the appearance of a foundation. I kick too poorly to force a bad kicker to fight at a distance. My hands are too undeveloped for me to force a poor boxer to fight me standing up. My wrestling skill is too weak for me to take even a poor grappler to the ground and finish him.

So what does this have to do with the FMA, you ask?

Because almost the entire FMA world has followed behind the approach led by the FMA/JKD community of learning a little of this and a little of that. In the Philippines, we claim to have the best FMA, but we actually have followed the seminar and video trained, western FMA community. So a few die-hard stick fighters are keeping classic Eskrima alive by sticking to stick fighting. But mostly, we have stick fighters with almost no experience fighting barehanded trying to convince YouTube subscribers and DVD customers that they are “well rounded” and have the FMA Holy Trinity of Hands, Stick, and Blade–when they really are lost with one or two of those skills. In turn, said Eskrimadors who cannot fight their way out of a paper bag without their sticks are teaching and certifying new teachers to pass down the art. Each generation becomes more and more diluted through the years, and this is how we end up with videos being made about the “wrecking” of the FMA–by a man who honestly wanted to learn the great fighting art we claimed to have. In the end, we sold wolf tickets and have disappointed many outside the Filipino martial arts community. Before we end up the next Tae Kwon Do, I am hoping article such as this one reaches more FMA people.

On with my point.

So, what I need for you to understand is that all is not lost with the FMAs. We can say what we will about FMA “effectiveness”, by taking a look at our tournaments, you will see how effective the FMA have become. We say that we can do everything out there, from knives to staves, to sticks to empty hands… but in our tournaments, we play tag with chalk and do no staff, knife and certainly no empty handed fighting. Except for Yaw Yan fighters and Silat fighters, what Filipino styles are out there fighting against Muay Thai, Karate, Boxers, and all? Are the FMAs all inclusive arts that need no importing of boxing and Judo? Or are we really importing boxing and calling it “Filipino” boxing and calling Judo “Filipino” wrestling? The truth is, the Filipino arts are like our culture, a mixture of foreign influences. I am not ashamed to admit this. Our cuisine, our language, our blood and ancestry, even our dance and clothing–are all born from the clash and blend of various cultures, and we mix it so well. Understand this first, then let’s bring it all to the middle.

The art you are most likely getting on DVD is just that–a mixture of skills that the teacher on the video is calling “Filipino”. No problem. But do not make the mistake of past FMA generations by simply learning the skills and drills and choreography–and regurgitating in front of your own camera to represent your “skill”. Take whatever foundation you gain from those DVDs and whittle them down to a few core, basics that support all other skills you might find of those and other courses. Trust me, there are possibly hundreds of drills and combinations out there, but look closely and you will see that they all have a very small number of techniques as a common denominator. What techniques do you see repeated over and over and over in all those YouTube clips and DVDs? Those strikes, those punches, those kicks, those cuts and stabs–are your core foundation. The FMA people of the past, almost never practiced them. They preferred to practice only what was pleasing to the eye, what wowed onlookers and wide-eyed beginners, and as a result many had spent decades in the martial arts but lacked the basic skill to injure or stop an opponent with a simple, basic strike. What you will do, is return to the root of the Filipno arts–all the way back to a time when most Eskrima styles only consisted of a few strikes, few blocks, few disarms, and a few take downs–and then reached a deadly level of speed and power with those few techniques. After that skill level was reached, they found hundreds of ways to use them.

And those last two (run-on) sentences really summed it all up:¬† Pure Filipino martial arts really only consisted of a few practical skills, trained until the fighter could unleash them with blinding speed and destructive power. He did not bother with fancy demonstrations and creative ways to look cool doing it. He simply trained his skills day and night, thousands of times over and over and over and over, during your sleep, in his sleep–until his fighting skill was so second nature, that any attacker who thought of attacking him would be answered in the blink of an eye. The Eskrimador of old was not a showman like today’s YouTube master; he was a killer. He did not bother with rank. He did not carry multiple titles and websites. He never had to brag about himself or his organization. He was a man whose hands spoke for him. Everything that Master of old knew, you probably know now.¬† You just can’t do it as well as he can. And your mind must work its way through the jumbled, crowded mess of garbage flashy techniques to reach your hands. Forget that stuff. Quality over quantity. You don’t need 50 ways to take a stick. Learn a basic 12 ways to strike, develop each strike in that set until they can destroy anything put in your way. Drop the certificates, the drills, the acrobatics, the forms, the twirling. Just reach a level with your knowledge that anyone’s bones in front of you would be turned to dust when you strike. This will come from those “mindless, mundane, repetitive” trainings, and only by training this way. Give yourself this kind of skill first–then go through everything you know until you have reached this level of ability with your entire arsenal.

This is how you make your DVD learning “work”. Bruce Lee was right. There are only a limited number of ways to strike a strike. Whether you learn it from a sagely old master–or a $50 DVD–a strike is a strike. But there is a huge difference a strike you’ve memorized, versus a strike that you’ve trained 10,000+ times. This is the essence of the Eskrima of old. Let’s see if we can bring that back, regardless of how you learned.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

Aug
27

In other words, “How to Study the FMA, Even by Video“…

I give up. You guys know, I absolutely despise the FMA video industry. Yes, it has helped the FMAs grow commercially. Yeah, grow into a classical, McSupersized Mess! I guess I could go ahead and admit that as much as the video and seminar market hurt the Filipino arts, I have still benefitted as a teacher from its popularity. So although I’m temporily throwing in the towel, I am not changing my opinion of the commercialization of the arts. I’m merely going to give some advice on how to make it work. I’m not sure if it’s really going to work, but if I had to give advice–here goes.

Perhaps the most important stage to proficiency is the learning stage. This could be said of any endeavor. You cannot become a master mechanic unless you first learn to work on cars. You cannot be a scholar unless you first become a student. And so on. But with this commercialized “have-it-your-way” environment we exist in, students are never truly students of the art. Before we can get into how to study by video, let’s first explain WHY you’re probably learning by video instead of a teacher. Every city has FMA teachers, but too many students are too arrogant to think they can learn more from a teacher than a DVD.

Allow me to explain what I mean.

In order to become a student, you must be completely humbled enough to learn–as well as to be humble enough to be taught. There is a difference. In my 25 years of teaching, I have disliked most FMA students who come to me from the seminar and video industry. Students who join from the street and have almost no knowledge of the Philippine arts make the best students. What I have to teach, they learn. Not just that, they learn it well, and will always end up light years ahead of those from the seminar/video industry in a short amount of time. The reason for this is that students off the street truly want to learn. I am the teacher, they are the student, they pay me, I instruct, and they shut up and swing–and they learn. Not so with FMA video/seminar students. First of all, they approach not as students, but as consumers. In their minds, they are the customer, I am the business, they tell me what they want to learn, and I show them (not “teach”–but show) the techniques. They almost never shut up. From the moment they walk through the door, FMA students tell me and the others who they studied with, they feed me gossip, tell me about who sucks in person, who is selling certificates, who’s a jerk in real life, who trained who…. Makes you wonder why they never stuck with those masters. Oh yeah, it’s only, like, 3 seminars per year. So they come to me to find out what I’m doing that those other teachers don’t have. They want to see my entire curriculum. How many disarms do I teach? How many classes before the next certificate? They know enough single stick, can I teach them double stick and espada y daga? Do I teach knife throwing? How about pangamut? Do I have any of those cool takedowns like Aikido, only more “Filipino”? Then there are the terms… I could go on. When we train, they have blisters. It’s too many, can we do more learning and less striking? We spent a full 30 minutes just striking, what’s next to learn? While the class is doing stations, seminar guys go to the side of the classroom to talk about how Master So-n-So is coming to town next week. When students are sparring after class, they have pulled some curious student to the side to show him a drill from the Inosanto blend. Within a few months–cause seminar guys never last more than three months in my school–they quit and go back to the way they did things before. And what do they gain from the 3 months with me? Nothing at all. I would hope that they would at least walk away with an appreciation for actually training. But those students didn’t come to train. They came to acquire stuff, maybe a certificate or two. But these students are picking and choosing what they want to learn, as if they were ordering off a menu. They don’t want to be taught anything. If I had a DVD that contained my entire curriculum, I guarantee that 99% of them would try one class, then opt to buy the DVD instead. Who cares that they never develop the skill or strength to beat a full time Typhoon student? They were never actually students, just customers. Show me what I came to learn, so I can quit and go to the next guy. In 5 years, he’ll be teaching, and in 10–he’ll have his own system.

Don’t be that guy.

There is so much to learn in the arts, even a school that only teaches single stick, single knife. Even in a school that won’t let you see its curriculum. But the only way to learn to shut your mouth, train, learn when information is given, and develop according to the calendar that the teacher has set. Judge your progress by the skill you’ve acquired and the changes to your physical attributes, not by the certificate you were given or the moves you got to show. Keep striking until your hand bleed, then tape them up and keep striking until class ends. Along the way, much of the information not found on DVD, in books or in seminars will be revealed to you in a way that the guys going the easy route will never experience. This is how to learn a skill. Humble yourself to gain the knowledge–not buy it. Not demand what to be taught. The more disagreeable a student is to a teacher, the less he will impart to you. Trust me, it works this way in every endeavor you’ll ever pursue. It’s just that not everyone will tell you. Ever hear the adage “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”? Well students who are flapping gums are never ready. You could spend months in a classroom with the wisest of teachers and never learn a damned thing. How much money you’re spending is irrelevant.

It is through this type of learning that the best learning occurs. In silent introspection, through mundane repetition, while the muscles are burning with the desire to quit–it is there that the body learns the true art. Where strikes are unleashed without thought, where the ability to sense an opponent’s movement before he appears to move is developed. Where a mirror is no longer necessary to see if you’re doing it right. It is through this silent training and never ending practice that the finer points of movement are revealed to you and the deeper lessons that cannot be put into words are realized. This is the kind of students those with true knowledge prefer to teach–not to the students holding a handful of cash and mouthful of shit. The students who submit completely to the teaching are the only ones who will walk away with complete understanding of the art. While the consumer-student is stuck chasing certificates and celebrity teachers, it is the patient quiet pupil who will become the Tiger in the room. The one quoting anecdotes and giving demonstrations must give a resume to convince you of his knowledge–the quiet student can convince you with his movement through actual combat. There is a saying that you cannot learn and talk at the same time. The same could be said about students who tell teachers what they want to learn–especially if they have the inclination to teach while learning. Because in actuality, the student who comes from the industry believed in the foolish words of a 20-something year old “Master” who thought he knew everything:¬† Create your own path. Yes, I said it. You won’t ever truly Master the art, because you never believed you were a student. By creating your own path–by choosing your own teachers, choosing your own “blend” of experiences, and picking and choosing who you will listen to based on who the rest of the industry is admiring–you literally walked through the door thinking you knew more than the teacher, but you just needed a certificate to get your own path approved.

If you want to begin this journey properly, you must let go of the desire to tell teachers what you want, what you’ll do and not do. You must accept that you do not know everything and that, perhaps, even teachers who aren’t well-known can teach you something, regardless of how boring the training is, or how unlike he is to everything you’ve read in the internet. Submit yourself to the learning, train as if there were no other truth, train to improve–not to “get certified”–then after your teacher has informed you that he has taught you all he can… then go to Step Two.

And what is at Step Two?

Next, next time. Thank you for visiting my blog. In the next installment, I want to talk about how you can make the video thing work, since you insist. LOL