Wisdom of Bernard Hopkins

I am not going to add commentary to this video. Just watch, and he will tell you what I’ve told many of you, many times.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Bernard Hopkins meets Rashad Evans

The Lure of Living the Fighter’s Life

A gentleman who happens to be an MMA promoter stopped by my gym today and we had a pretty good conversation. He is an old-school martial artist who never actually fought in competition, but I am sure he is a capable 50-year old fighter nevertheless. I was wrapping up a session with one of my private lesson students, who is a loose-mouthed 20 year old–and MMA wannabe. The student kept injecting himself into our conversation, until I shut him up only after he suggested that the gentleman and I sparred a match.

Funny that he should do that, as I was hoping to try the man out–and we did exchange information to get together one day soon (without my silly student). But a student such as AS should know his place and keep his mouth shut before it gets him in trouble. Don’t worry readers, he got an earful when the visitor left.

In our short conversation, however, he shared with me his opinion of MMA and how MMA is missing a lot from traditional martial arts and how he had seen traditional martial artists he feels would defeat many of the fighters he employs. This was interesting to hear from a man who is involved in the MMA field for a living. In his words, “it is a hustle, just like any kind of ring fighting”.

How right he is.

But not so fast. The lure of living the fighter’s life IS a hustle for many fighter, but not for all of us. Some simply love the art so much, that he cannot focus on any traditional forms of work. Therefore, lacking the resources or knowledge or desire to open a school and teach–many of these martial artists turn to fighting. It is a way to make money, although many who do it for a living do not actually enjoy fighting, it pays the bills. And what other skills do many of these men have? If one has spent his whole life engrossed in the fighting arts–whether it was wrestling, boxing or martial arts–the only skills or desire he may have is in fighting. So fighting is the logical path. It’s honest work, although not respected by everyone (especially spouses and family members). It doesn’t pay much for 90% of those in the field. It’s dangerous and leads to many injuries. It doesn’t come with health insurance, vacation or retirement. And unfortunately for many fighters, it is not an esteemed position, except for in the daydreams of computer geeks and muscle-headed wannabes. The fighter, whether he is a pointfighter working the Karate tournament circuit for $500 prizes at a time, a Kickboxer or boxer selling tickets at barbershops for his take, a feederfish MMA fighter or boxer used to build up the win/loss records of the guys with the real potential for contendership, or the amateur fighter with a calculating trainer who is carefully building his career path… there is something about these men that many of you–even you martial artists–will never understand. It is what makes a fighter tick, to training daily for hours at a time, with no definite paydate planned.

Unlike many casual martial artists, there is a reason to stay in top shape all the time. They never know when they will get a chance to fight again, and one of the things my grandfather use to say–if you are alway in shape, you never have to train to *get* in shape. You never know when a challenge will walk through your door and you must always be ready to accept it. This is one of those traditions in the martial arts that is adopted by the prizefighter, yet lost of many of those today who consider themselves “traditional” or “modern-day/real world”. The casual martial artist is fooling himself with talk of “I’m training to fight for my life on the street, not for trophies on the mat”; the truth is, he is training casually with no sense of urgency, no stress of knowing that these skills will be used soon, and no way of truly testing whether his training is in vain or will be validated on some contesting opponent determined to test himself on you. Whether you call it “for trophies” or “for real”–the prizefighter has a frequent reality check several times a year, while the casual martial artist only has his skilled verified with friends and in his own imagination.

It is not, however, all about the money. There is a big section of the fighting world, regardless of their level of success, that is doing this for a more lofty reason. It is the sincere desire to be the best, and he wants to prove it to himself over and over that he is. Each loss is met with a period of self-reflection and calculus at the drawing board. He trains another level higher, with more intensity, and with more focus. He beats himself up about not remembering to stick to the fight plan, or dropping his hands, or not taking the shot to the jaw when he saw it open. He is constantly improving, and each year he gets stronger and stronger, faster and faster, wiser and wiser. While the casual martial artists may know the techniques and tactics, the fighter seeking to be the best knows the perfect counter to them, and he knows the nooks and crannies of each technique–every variation, every use, what it feels like to be hit with that technique, and what it feels like to hit a man with that technique. He knows his art so much more intimately than the one who bypasses a career of fighting. A thousand repetitions is a workout experience that few martial artists have experienced, but to the prizefighter it is a daily part of his routine. When we look at these men and women on the floor, it is so easy to discount what they do or fail to do–and most of us could never fathom what it would be like to duplicate it. We do are not in their minds when child support notices arrive threatening to cancel their drivers licenses are pushed aside in the effort to focus on getting faster in order to win the competition so that he can pay that outstanding bill. We are not in their sore muscles that would keep most people in the bed–this pain is ignored when that fighter gets up to do his morning run or calisthenics before the sun comes up. We do not hear the chastizing these men take from parents, spouses, siblings and friends–urging them to give up their dream and get a “real job”.

These warriors were born to fight, and they will endure until their bodies tell them it’s too late, it’s time to quit. They are not satisfied with training a few times a week and then going fishing or boating or wine-tasting on the weekends. They want to be the best in the business, to know, believe and prove to themselves and others that I am the best, and no man in the room can lick me. They may not meet your standard of being a “martial artist”, but they are every bit of a martial artist; they are today’s version of the warrior.

I even have respect for the “wannabe” MMA fighter. I am speaking of the guy who walks into a gym with almost no skills, but ends up under an unscrupulous coach who lacks the knowledge to train a champion or contender, but still encourages his fighters to climb in the ring prematurely and risk their lives for a few hundred dollars a fight. These men have the desire, but lack the training as well as lack a good advisor. They take the easy path to the ring, by skipping the path of paying one’s dues and learning the ins and outs of the fight game. They turn pro after a short amateur career–which is supposed to tell them whether they are ready to turn pro or not, and do so anyway. They lack the experience and technical skill to defeat the best fighters. They lack the experience and technical skill to BE the best fighter. But they are not under the tutelage of any master; they are customers of a business. A business whose product is to exploit the foolish desires of men and women who watched a little too much Pay Per View and thought, “I could take some lessons, and do that too!”  They take the misconceptions and charge them a fee, dress them up in a MMA fighter’s costume, sell him bumper stickers and T-shirts, teach him a few moves, camoflauge his lack of skill and knowledge with muscles gained from weight-lifting, and set up fighters, taking 10-33% of all the purses his fighters make in Indian Casinos and other events. Promoters don’t care if these fighters know what they are doing; people will buy tickets anyway just because it’s MMA.  Sponsors and advertisers don’t care either, as long as their product is sold. The real contenders really don’t care either; these tomato cans will pad their records so they can get their puncher’s chance to win a title.

Sure sounds like the path of the professional boxer to me. Sounds like how Samurai were manipulated by their lords in feudal Japan. Sounds like any army’s warriors, using their skills to serve the selfish purpose of his country’s politicians. The strong will always rule the weak, and the strong will always be ruled and manipulated by the rich. But you have to respect the ones who dedicate themselves to the life of being a fighter–regardless of why they chose that path, or whether they become rich, or champions, or loved and revered, or fall and ridiculed, or injured and forgotten, or killed. This is a path that few of us can understand, and even fewer can endure ourselves. It is something that many people dream about, but a dream that so few of us actually allow to manifest into a lifestyle.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Update: Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter, pt II

The book is done!

I am sending the file tomorrow to be printed and bound, and right now I have someone working on creating an electronic version of it!

Expect the book to be mailed by Saturday (along with some of the orders for Make a Living…) !

Last chance to order advance copies!!!!!

Learn by Teaching (The Case for Full-time Martial Arts, Pt II)

I’ve been wanting to write on this topic for a long time, so finally I am getting this one out. I hope you find it informative.

There are many things in the martial arts that can only be learned by teaching–or, I should say best learned by teaching. I have had some discussion with freelance martial artists about my opinion that martial arts development requires full-time indulgence. There are many part time martial artists who feel that one can pursue the art a few hours a week and attain the same results as one who does the martial arts all day long. This is an absurd, arrogant notion, and not worth my blog time disputing. Bottom line, you can’t. And I’ll prove it to you.

But that isn’t to say that you can’t learn and excel at the art while pursuing it part time. Of course, what you do when you train makes a significant difference, and if you couple serious training with active testing/sparring/competing, reflection and teaching you can certainly benefit while training part time in the arts. Today I am going to discuss how teaching the art can enhance your experience.

#1:   Seeing things you hadn’t seen before

The first reason I recommend you teach at some point in your career is to experience the arts from the outside in. By saying “outside-in”, I am referring to the switched role of student/fighter to teacher. As a student of the arts you think you understand the techniques, but you are really following directions and often your opinions are mere regurgitations of what your teacher has said, or whatever you have read in a magazine, book or internet. But as a teacher, you must take a novice from scratch and teach him the finer points, until the student is performing the way you want him to. In doing this, you will make adjustments to how the technique is executed, answer “what-if” questions, and be in a position of defense if the student is not easily convinced.  This is quite difficult to do because you cannot treat the student as an adversary, so you must find the most logical way to explain the technique as well as demonstrate it. Once you have done this many different ways (as students all learn at different levels), you have looked at this technique from many angles that you most likely have not done before. 

This is much like how football players look at football in a smaller way than the coach, who is on the sidelines watching everything.

#2:   The Student Who Doesn’t “Get It”

In our career, we will meet many students who has the coordination of a bowl of Jello or the rigidity of a statue, and you must firm up the Jello guy or loosen the statue. You will say to yourself, “If I can teach this guy, I can teach ANYONE!”  And that’s true! Not everyone walking through your door will be a child progidy. Many people are terribly out of shape, uncoordinated, difficult to explain concepts to, or so excited they try to talk and learn at the same time–without listening. As the teacher, you must take them all. Our martial arts is far more than just repeating what our teachers have taught us. We must grasp what we know, mix that knowledge with what we have heard, seen and felt, add a little of our own prejudices and opinions, and then mold it into the learning and physical level of the students who are attending our classes. Good luck!

This is a skill that is mostly learned by trial and error. If you are one of the fortunate few who had a teacher who also taught you how to teach, then it will be easier. Yet, most teachers learned on their own, as the art and teaching the art are like day and night, or vinegar and water. Rarely will you be able to enjoin both skills. I would say that the majority of your time, you will have to reinvent the wheel because you will find a better way to pass on the art that suits your needs.

#3:   Leading your men into battle

This is one of the most important parts of being a teacheer, as it relates to your role as martial artist. It is unlike most other teachers, who teach a skill and send students to the next level (like the work force). The martial arts teacher is expected to accompany his students into the battlefield, and often maintains the teacher-student relationship well after graduation. This means in addition to being a fighting arts teacher, we will be their coach when they fight, and their debriefing officer when they return from the battle.

You are responsible for helping the fighter connect his learning, to his training, to his fight plan against each successive opponent–if you lead your students into battle. Fail to do this, and you have done nothing more than a DVD from Panther Video:  teach movement alone. It is important to take your students to a place where they can fight with other fighters and refine what they have learned afterwards. This is an important stage in a martial arts student’s learning career. Prior to matches, he has learned nothing more than movement. After he has had an abundance of matches under his belt, he has learned a skill. Your job is to help him navigate through this process.

I understand that many teachers did not have this experience:  learn, fight, refine. But you can still help your students with their learning. No–you must help your students with this experience. Once they have had it, they will have better command of their knowledge and what they can do will catch up with what they know, and they will do it better. And you, as the teacher, will understand your art much better and can do a better job teaching the next generation of students.

This is what mastery of the art is all about.

So, I return to old arguments that have been rehashed in the martial arts community for ages:  Can one become a Master without teaching? Probably not. Can one become a Master without fighting? Absolutely not. See, somebody has to do it. The teacher may not have fought, but his student better have, or that art will become diluted with every generation. Teaching your students, and then taking them to matches and teaching them some more is a very healthy, important stage in each of the levels of the martial arts:  the teacher’s development, the student’s learning, and the art’s propogation.

And one last argument:  Is there a such thing as inferior/superior arts? The answer:  YES.

You see, the quality of an art is only as good as the ability of the students and the knowledge of the teacher. If the teacher has not proven his knowledge, and he has not proven the students’ ability, he will end up passing down unproven, untested art. “Testing” does not take place in the classroom amongst friends and family. “Testing” is an event that must be proven to adversaries who intend to prove that his way is superior to your way. You cannot get this by taking pictures and holding hands in a seminar or gathering. If a style has skipped this process, it’s teachings are not worth the paper it’s “certifications” art printed on.

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One Notch In the Gear

There is an idea called the Flywheel Concept which is an important part of the Good to Great concept.

To answer the question about which notch in a gear is responsible for turning the machine–the answer is all of them. In business, there is rarely no one thing that leads to success, but is a combination of many things. The great thing about it is that most activities push the business forward a little at a time, with a lot of energy invested, but eventually the gears and the momentum from their movement will propel the machine by the law of inertia. This article was inspired by something I read over on MartialTalk in response to my post about how to succeed in an FMA school. Two posters wrote about how they thought flyers were a waste of time because they had schools and flyers yielded no results. I thought this was worth an article, as I understand the low ratio of flyers passed out to new student. However, I have built my business off of flyers and I believe strongly in them. The difference is that I focus on the positives of my efforts than the failures;  the truth of flyers is that you will have to pass out possibly thousands of them to gain a few students. But they are new students I didn’t have before I pass out flyers, and your efforts–if you stay at it long enough–will ultimately pay off. That is, unless you quit.

Sort of the Michael Jordan “missed shots” phenomena:  some men define themselves by the number of successful attempts, while others define themselves by the number of unsuccessful ones. In his career, NBA great Michael Jordan missed over 9,000 shots. But we don’t address those, do we?

So, you may waste 998 flyers while attracting the attention of 2 potential students. Do you focus on the $80 you lost on flyers? Or the $300 you made off of the two students?

Okay, someone out there just thought to himself, “but I can’t feed my family off of 2 students”… But how long did it take you to distribute 1,000 flyers? 4 days? A week? Is that the only form of recruitment you use? Each mode of recruitment will bring you a little success–a student here, two students there–and in the end, they add up. So the flyer brought two students this month. If you charge $150 a month, it’s $300. An ad you placed brought you 2 students, another $300. Your website brought you one student, $150. A poster you put up in the local library brought you two students, another $300… and so on. So far, I’d say you made at least $1,050 more than you made last month. What’s the problem?

The Flywheel Concept of business says that every little function in marketing helps to push you along, and one by one, little by little, success by success. No one thing is responsible for your success or failure–everything helps if you do it, hurts if you don’t. We cannot afford to turn anything down, as long as it adds something to our bottom line.

The Flywheel Concept also applies to the martial arts. In training, no one exercise or drill is responsible for good skill alone. We must use everything that adds to our skill’s “bottom line”:  stretching, endurance training, power mechanics, sparring, techniques practice, hands, feet, evading, etc. Many martial artists try to discount one aspect or another because they dislike it or lack skill in it; then another martial artist will overemphasize another. The truth is that everything we do develops some part of our skill–even forms training and one-step techniques practice–and whether we like it or not, something will be lacking if we choose to ignore it.

So when someone emails me, asking what can they add to their training to develop power, or improve sparring ability, or increase their ability to evade and chase on foot, there is no one answer. At the same time, there is no shortcut! Many of us look for the few things that will help us get rid of the middleman on the road to skill, and there is no middleman. You must first begin with a strong, well-planned training regimen, and then fulfill all its requirements. This takes patience, diligence, commitment, discipline and TIME.

For those who are still confused about how the Flywheel Concept applies to you, I recommend reading Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great. In the meantime, this definition should explain it better than I can.

Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you found some value in this and other articles I have posted. And as always, please spread the word!

Using Sport Karate to Improve Streetfighting, Pt V

Fighting by Interception

Often, fighters on the circuit want to prove who is the quickest. In some cases, the fighter knows he is quicker than his opponent and wants to end his match quickly by using his speed to rack up points without the opponent being able to do anything about it. Either way, the fighter will not bother with blocking or evading, but fight by interception.

This technique does not emphasize speed, but timing and position. I think I have written enough about timing on this blog, so to spare you the headache of reading (again) the same old thing over and over, I will discuss position in this article.

Let’s take the skip roundhouse kick attack. My opponent and I both have our left foot in front, and the opponent attacks with his left skip roundhouse kick. Most fighters would lean back or step/slide back and block. Some, more confident, fighters would stand his ground and block the kick right where he is standing. But a fighter using this strategy would use the attack as an opportunity to launch an attack of his own. Not a straight line attack (see my series on footwork and the “secrets” of fighting superiority), but an angled one just slightly off the opponent’s centerline… a little towards my own left. In this position, you can attack with hands while the opponent’s leg is still off the ground. By doing this–instead of blocking or moving and then countering–you cut out the middleman and go right for the juglar.

This is more a mentality, than a technique. The fighter who attacks when attacked will never be a victim. Rather, he is a sleeping lion:  one whom you don’t want to wake up. The fighter that blocks an attack is showing his respect for the opponent’s power and attack, while the one who doesn’t bother defending shows that he has NO respect for the opponent’s ability to damage. When facing this type of fighter most opponents will lose confidence and become less aggressive, as he must look out for a strike or kick each time he attacks. You will find that your accuracy increases since you are no longer chasing your opponent; he is delivering the targets right to you.

I know this is a simple, short post, but I am offering a great piece of advice. Try it the next time you spar!

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