I have my own path/for Modern Arnis Guro

This post originally showed up on MartialTalk, and can serve as several lessons in one “lecture”. It seems preachy, but we are talking about one martial arts leader addressing others (some other “leaders” as well). Take what you will from it… it was a great post:

i have my own “path”

i see something in american martial arts that they dont realize they are doing something very filipino, but consider it is “american”.first let me say that i think its because most americans come to the philippine martial arts through another style, mostly japanese karate or korean tae kwon do. when they study the FMA part time, they will probably skip over the culture and philosophy and custom, and learn technique only. so what happened is, they look at the philippine martial arts through japanese or korean eyes.

i am following the modern arnis threads, of what now, since remy is gone. this is always been interested to me, because all my students are here, yet my brother and sister are still not very “active” teaching and competing. i would think in 50 years, it will probably be my family, and i am not planning to see the same thing happen to us.

in the philippines, what you learn from your teacher will be your own art, even though this teacher will always be one of your teachers, and your classmates will always be your brothers and sisters. some will take another name for the style, some wont. but they are all family, although some people will have there own techniques. if you look at the hinigran eskrima and balintawak of eskrima where remy was once a member, through remy, it is now called “modern/presas style arnis”. but his classmates will always call him, brother. so to have your own style is nothing new, and its not being different, its expected.

the problem, then, is allowing yourself to call your seniors your senior. all of my cousins are my senior both in my family, and the martial arts. i learned from our grandfather after they stopped, some of them were 20 years before me, but when i see them, they are still senior, and i still listen. am i suppose to think that i cannot learn from them, because they graduated before me? am i suppose to think i know more, since i studied with him longer? or because i still trained with him after they stopped? no, i can always learn from my seniors, even if my training was “updated” from their’s, because they been around longer, and saw more than i did. i have met old arnisador and eskrimadors, who, i am sure i know more techniques. i was with my teachers for over 20 years, and they were probably with theres for 3. but there eyes have forgotten more than mine ever saw, and i need to understand that i am junior, and i know that i cannot learn and teach, hear and talk at the same time.

so what, you have your own path? so you think your a grandmaster now? because you made your own style? your teacher dies so no one else can teach you? you dont want to call anyone else a senior, and be “under” him? may i remind some of you, that if you dont leave your own comfortable house, you will never know what else is out there, and you will have no way to find out, how much your know, or how much you dont know.

“MY OWN PATH” is the young man’s way of telling more knowledgeable people, to shut up i dont want to hear you and you cant teach me anything. this is an excuse, that you have no humility and if it didnt come from my ears listening to my teacher say it, i wont hear it. i am better than you because i knew him this last 20 years, so your knowledge is old and outdated. the only senior i recognize are the ones i know, since the main man is dead, no one else can lead me.

so when your teacher dies, his work dies with him, because no one is willing to see the flame stayed lit, and everybody wants to have his own light. some of you are not experience and knowledgeable enough to make your own path. this is how mcdojos get made. not only because people are greedy, but many of them are too arrogant and close minded to learn more. in the philippine martial arts, you stand on your own feet, when you have fought a lot of opponents, so that your knowledge is large and your experience is plenty. but if you havent faced too many opponents, then you will need more than one teacher because you only draw a small percentage of each teacher’s lessons and experiences. edgar sulite had many teachers. dan inosanto had many teachers. remy roberto and ernesto presas had many teachers. do you put yourself on there level? how many years do you have in this art, that you claim to be an expert of? how many lessons have you have? can you teach somebody full time for 4 years on your FMA knowledge?

part of having your own path is, being able to follow someone elses first.

NEW INFORMATION! The section following was addressing Guro’s opinions about Modern Arnis (Remy Presas) teachers who refused to follow or align with neither GM Presas’ brother Ernesto nor his son, Remy Jr… both of whom are excellent Masters. There were some hurt feelings, and most were answered privately (and respectfully, Guro adds):

for modern arnis practitioners.

i am disturbed at the arrogance and rudeness many of you have for your seniors, and anybody else who makes a suggestion for you.

1. “you dont know modern arnis, you cant comment on us”
2. “ok, you are modern arnis, but you are not modern arnis USA”
3. “okay, your modern arnis, but you didnt study with master presas for the last 20 years, you didnt train for the last 20 years”
4. “well, you didnt train with PROF. PRESAS for the last 20 years”
5. “well, you only trained with him 6 times in the last 20 years”
6. “to hell with you, prof presas told me ____”
7. “why should i follow you? i dont know you!”

your father died, your a kid. your mom is gone too. your uncle showed up, who you never met. is he still your uncle? if he loved you and will take care of you, and tell you all about your family and teach you how to grow up, and whatever else he knows…will you go live with him?

modern arnis needs a family. everybody is to busy promoting himself, and theres not enough people who just wants to push presas arnis, only “mike’s presas arnis” and “tom’s presas arnis”. some of these people have only learned one or two styles of arnis, and probably no matches in the art. so it weakened with one generation, what do you think will happen in 5 generations from now? already, there is a chance for modern arnis to get a little family love going around (in new york), but everyone is afriad they will boost up somebody else’s reputation or create a leader in the family. everyone can still have his organization, and belong to the family of “Modern arnis, USA”. but the seniors of modern arnis cant even post about each other without saying one insult or saying “i am closer to professor than the rest of you bozos”. so now, a student of modern arnis cannot learn each piece you got from the art, instead he has to chose which piece and interpretation he is going to have. what is the use of a big organization, if you dont get the benefit of learning from each kuya (older brother) in the organization?

those of you who are not going to the symposim in new york should send a representative, if you want modern arnis to be taken seriously, especially by modern arnis students. my teacher is part of a large family of martial artists (strong, well known family) verses my teacher made his own organization of modern arnis, along with 10 other people who made there own too (kenpo/tkd/jkd/you name it mcdojo franchises).

modern arnis only florished as one family, with a clear group of seniors. but in little peices all over the world, its just another name like tae kwon do. take a look at my post “for my modern arnis brothers.”

If you’d like to read the original post, you can find it here. Like with many threads Guro posts, there isn’t much to do but sit back, shut up, and read!

Words of Wisdom! (Taken from old GFC website)

Everyone, I just happened to read an article written by Master Gatdula 10 years ago. It is on his first website, created by his brother, who was 12 at the time the site was created.

Very powerful stuff.

I would just send you to the website, but I think it needs to have a home right here on his blog. Enjoy!

Words of Wisdom

The fighting arts of the Philippines have a pattern of development unlike any other: even different from other similar arts such as Silat and Vovinam (Southeast Asian arts). While all martial arts claim to have combat superiority and proven theories, very few have the history to support them. Fighting strategies change over time, and with these changes, the arts must adapt. As the arts adapt, so should the practitioner. A perfect example is the progression of Jeet Kune Do and its instructors. Various instructors, such as Lamar Davis and the “Original” clan (the early stages) represent each “era” or phase of development of the Jeet Kune Do movement. These men serve as snapshots of what Bruce Lee was teaching during the time they studied with Lee, and do little else besides those things he taught. By contrast, Dan Inosanto, who is considered by many to be his successor, has evolved his art into a completely different style than what Lee taught during his lifetime. Inosanto, however, insists that he is keeping to Bruce Lee’s “tradition” by breaking the mold Lee created; thus, breaking this “tradition” at the same time. While our teaching and fighting philosophies are quite unlike Mr. Inosanto’s, we consider him to have “kept up with the times”, while the others have not.

What makes the Philippine arts unique is the emphasis of combat over dueling. We consider the duel to be sport-oriented, and makes for an unnecessarily long and ineffective fight. The duel emphasizes blocking, disarming, and give-and-take (self-defense). Combat emphasizes the attack and replaces blocking with counterattacking. Both styles are good and complement each other, yet each has its place. Almost every style has elements of both, but the end result is what determines whether an art is for combat or self-defense. Whether your desire is to be effective and efficient in a life-or-death fight or win a full contact match, the focus of your training and the desired end result should be in pursuit of those goals. These are noble ideas, yet those who teach the art have such little faith in their craft that they treat the art as a supplement. If the Philippine fighting arts are to rise to the same level of respect as karate, kung fu, tae kwon do, and other mainstream arts, we must realize our niche and capitalize on it. The deadly arts of Arnis and Eskrima have always been weapons any fighting man could use on the street. However, with the popularity of learning by seminar and video, those fighting styles have become simplified and diluted with endless give-and-take drills, long prearranged combinations, and katas. The many hours of perfecting thrusts and slashes and evading are now unheard of in today’s eskrima lesson. Instructors must find ways to entertain their students by adding fillers and “fun” drills. The training of old is no longer worth a student’s loyalty nor his tuition. Historically, the Pilipinos who created these arts designed the art to kill. Yet today, many of the instructors are satisfied with having their students spend a majority of their time practicing forms and performing tap-tap drills. Instructors find ways to entertain their students by adding fillers and “fun” drills. Our art is not an art to be demonstrated like a sideshow or ballet routine. It is not a form of entertainment to be viewed on video. We should not teach our classes as if we would lose them if they got bored! The truth is, the Philippine arts are not as attractive as our more popular counterparts. We can only make them so by weakening them with other styles. Arnis, Eskrima, Silat and Kuntaw are combat arts. Those who cannot appreciate them for what they are should pursue another style. When the world realizes the effectiveness and utility of the Philippine arts of combat, the arts may take their place among the popular arts in its own category. Stop trying to make the Philippine arts what they are not!

One way we elevate the Philippine arts is to live what we preach. Many instructors claim street effectiveness/combat effectiveness, etc., yet these same instructors do not prove themselves in combat. Only in the martial arts can one be recognized as an “expert” of his craft and no has seen him utilize what he professes to excel in! Yes, it is true that the street is not the same as the competition, and a tournament fighter does not necessarily mean on is effective in real combat Does this mean that a swimmer in a pool cannot swim in the ocean? Must a sharpshooter participate in a live firefight to be a good shot? The argument that the competition floor is not the street is nothing more than cowardly excuses not to fight. These men will not participate in a fight, with protection or otherwise, and this is not how an art gets attention. The world knows a boxer can use his hands. We know that wrestlers can tie a man into knots. But what does the world know about the Philippine fighting arts? That we fight in “all ranges of combat”? Please! Put your money where your mouth is, and people will believe what you say. Simply put, the Philippine fighting arts does not have enough credible and believable representatives. If you say that your style does empty hand, put him into competition with Kenpo and Tae Kwon Do, and prove it. But don’t do your student the injustice of allowing him to hide behind excuses and cliches. A true grappling art should be able to stop a Jujitsu man from subduing the practitioner. Is there anyone trained in “dumug” willing to step forward and prove this? Or is “dumug” only worthy of 15 minutes of seminar time or the same few techniques shown on three different tapes? Why is Maurice Gatdula so critical of the Philippine fighting arts representatives? Because he wants to piss you off and prove him wrong. Brothers, we talk too much garbage! Let the world see what we have to offer! For those instructors who disagree, or agree if you do not have much fight experience yourself, the experience your fighters will have (and coaching them through it) will teach you how to mold the next generation of students.

Perhaps the most important aspect of spreading our fighting arts is the student. Regardless of how good (or bad) of a fighter the teacher is, he should be able to develop in the fighter what that teacher considers the perfect weapon. If he does not make fighters who can defend his style’s reputation, he is not worthy of carrying on that style’s name. Forget “skill”, the word of the day is “proof”! We develop good fighters by making them highly conditioned and giving our fighters plenty of fighting experience. They should be encouraged to participate in competitions of all types—point karate, stick-fighting, etc. The more opponents a fighter has faced in his lifetime, the better prepared he will be when his life depends on it. Fail to give him opportunities to test his skills, and you’ve failed as a teacher. Arrange in-school competitions with other schools. Take students to competitions. One of the fundamental mistakes fighters have is a weak attack. Their basics have been practiced for years slowly and with no power—even with stick to stick. Kicks and punches may have been performed against focus mitts, but in drill fashion, not in an aggressive, all-out style. Many fighters fail simply because they have not had an opportunity to throw their techniques in the same way they would on a real opponent. Give them plenty of practice attacking, and your fighter will be prepared when he needs those skills for real. Aside from sparring, your students should get plenty of repetitions of the techniques he knows in the Philippine fighting arts at full speed and full power. Their training should focus of developing highly conditioned athletes and giving your fighters plenty of fighting experience. They should be encouraged to participate in competitions of all types—point karate, stick-fighting, etc. The more opponents a fighter has faced in his lifetime, the better prepared he will be when his life depends on it. Fail to give him opportunities to test his skills, and you’ve failed as a teacher. Arrange in-school competitions with other schools. Take students to competitions. Hold classroom sparring each class. Build your fighter; don’t just teach him. And keep him strong and active in the community, and never forget your mission of representing all that created you.

Hopefully, you haven’t been offended by what we have to say. However, there is a reason we do not see successful schools that teach only the Philippine fighting arts. Even those carrying the torch treat the arts as supplements. The result is a generation of would-be Philippine martial arts experts who choose another art to specialize in, but studies the Philippine styles part time and become a videotape/seminar expert. Our once-picky instructors are now selling to the highest bidder. Real, slow-bred experts are beginning to feel that there is no market for authentic Philippine martial arts in America. American attitude towards the art reflects one of arrogance, as if the art alone does not suffice. The Gatdula’s Fighting Cobras mission is to change the public’s perception of the Philippine fighting arts, and the perception of those who train in the art.

How to Train Your Students


My primary role as instructor and leader of the Gatdula’s Fighting Cobras clan (now called Typhoon Philippine School of Martial Arts) is to develop the most effective, efficient and experienced fighters possible. Regardless of the type of student I accept—whether he is a meek and educated man, or a physical fitness-minded, aggressive jock—the end result must be the same: a strong man confident to face anyone and capable of defending himself against anyone. As a Guro, I should not hesitate to act nor should I have to guess the skill level of any visitor or challenger before I allow any of my students to fight a match with him. If I do not have full confidence in any student who has trained with me at least a year, it cannot be his fault, but mine, as I have failed him as a fighting arts instructor. To accomplish this lofty goal, I must focus his training to develop the highest level of skill and physical ability as quickly as possible, as effectively as possible, as efficiently as possible. With more than 20 years of teaching experience, and as many as 500 students, perhaps I can help you and your students benefit from using my training method as a model for teaching.

Effective Technique vs. Variety
GFC fighters must be patient, diligent, and dedicated. Technique is taught slowly, as it must be mastered before more is taught. Just as the average street thug has a limited but reliable number of tactics, your fighters must rely on the few tools he knows will work when he needs it. Therefore, giving him more than he can chew and digest will actually slow his progress. He must, like the streetfighter, be limited to only those things he knows will work in the fight. A street fight is the wrong place to experiment with new material; mistakes can have permanent results. When my students are given skill-building tools that later translate to fighting technique (for example: bobbing and weaving) I do not emphasize the fighting application nor do I allow them to experiment with it until they are skilled enough to develop good use of the technique. Before then, he is limited to perfecting the few techniques he knows until he is ready to add on to his arsenal. After all, he may have to utilize his skills that night after training, and I want his mind focused on those things he is best at for this “show”. Of course, this training is not good for the over-anxious and impatient; that is why we do not accept and keep all who inquire about my Kuntaw lessons. My style is not suitable for everyone, and not every is suitable to learn from me.

In order for the slow-teaching approach to have the same success, you should emphasize the training over the learning process. A fighter can learn as many as 100 techniques in one day from a video, but effective fighters may only develop 10 to 20 in six months! How we get our students to maintain their interest in the training is to give “killer” workouts where the fighters strive to increase power, maximize speed and improve accuracy and timing. They gauge their progress by fighting matches; thus, keeping in mind that they are training to FIGHT, not to learn drills or hundreds of new techniques or complete curriculum requirements to acquire the next rank. The only thing that stands in his way is the amount of dedication, intensity and session time he devotes to his training. Mindset is everything between a roomful of ringmasters and roomful of ring fighters.

Efficiency and Effectiveness
If you trained a boy and then had to visit him in the hospital, would you feel guilty? Most likely, on your drive there, you might worry that your training was not sufficient preparation for a near brush with death. His mother’s worried voice on the phone may have created doubt in your teaching abilities—even in the material you taught him—and made you want to stop teaching. Perhaps you would worry that you were an inferior teacher.

I had such an experience years ago in Baltimore, with a young man named Hector, who was slashed on the hand and stabbed in the thigh. However, he injured his two opponents, one of whom was taken to the same hospital. I did not find this out until I arrived, but this experience would have made me close my school in shame if I discovered that I had failed him.

As a fighting instructor, you should simplify your teaching curriculum—especially for beginners—so that your students are developing the most simple and destructive skills. More complex techniques are fine, but only after he has proven that he has acquired an arsenal he can rely on should the new ones fail. I use a maximum of 20 techniques in a six-month period, with a limit of six skills trained during a one-hour workout. Often, GFC/GFE fighters may only train two or three numbered strikes in one class—individually, in sequence, and in combination. By the end of the class, they may have executed over 1,000 hits; they have blistered palms and fingers, and can’t move their wrist. Yet, when the pain goes away their power and speed have increased, and their knowledge and confidence in those three hits have improved. In one class, they have seen an improvement in skill level, where they would have seen none if I had trained 10 to 15 different techniques that day (many people train for years and increase knowledge while skill level stays the same). When you send your students home, you should know they are at least stronger than the average man on the street. When he is fast, stronger and more skilled than the next man, the fight lasts shorter; his chances of being the one to walk away increases—thanks to you.

I was once told by a fellow Arnisador that all he could do is teach the art to his students. Their toughness and will to fight must come from within, and he could not control the student’s level of actual fighting experience. I pity this man and his students, as his teacher failed him, and he will fail his students. First, the difference between a Guro who builds his fighters and one who sells rank and knowledge is in the ability of their students. A teacher who is selling knowledge merely passes on movements and uses logic, theory and soft application to explain the moves. When he graduates his students, he only knows if the student can regurgitate the information he learned, and is convincing only by staging a demonstration with a cooperative assistant. However, the teacher who builds his fighters tests them regularly by witnessing their performance in matches. This teacher can correctly predict the outcome of his fighter’s match with any size, style and skill level of opponent—with any technique or power level restricted, or any other controlled or real situation. Although he has not seen his student in a real fight on the street, he should know if his fighter would choke with fear, if he can take a punch or if he is confident enough to talk his way out of the fight. When a teacher does not give his student enough chances to test his ability and his courage, he is allowing this student to lack confidence or develop false confidence in skills he is not sure if he has.

A teacher who develops his fighter will find suitable opponents for his student through competitions, matches with neighboring schools or clubs, or within his own school’s walls. By the time that student graduates, he should have far more tricks up his sleeve. Even if his experience was not on the street, he has a technique the streetfighter has not seen and will be stronger and more aggressive than the streetfighter expects; and this will give him a great advantage over his opponent. The fighter should have confidence because he has seen many situations and should know what level of effectiveness he possesses.

In my Instructor workshops, I tell my fellow Guro that his job is as important as a doctor, if not more important than a doctor. The product he provides may save his student’s life… or someone else’s life. By contrast, a doctor’s treatment of his patient does not affect the family and friends, while martial arts training can be passed on to others, or used to protect them. When your students train, train them. Keep in mind the combative applications of everything they do. Make sure they master it, and then make sure you test their ability. Most importantly, don’t be a hypocrite. Award them the prestige of advanced rank only when you are confident enough to bet your own life on them, since that is what you ask them to do when you graduate them. When you train your students, rather than simply teach them, you are not only passing on information, you are passing on skill.

Is it necessary to travel to the Philippines to become a Master of the FMAs?

This post was taken from a series of emails to the Eskrima Digest, answering the question above, possibly a pointed question. We did not edit this post from the original emails…. Enjoy!

i dont know how many times i saw this question, can you be a master of the art and you do not go to the philippines.
not because you must have the philippines to learn the art or to know how to fight. you can be a teacher of the art and never go. but you cannot be a true MASTER of the art if you do not go. why? because its like a woman. you say you love her, but you refuse to meet her parents, you refuse to visit her hometown in her country, you dont eat her cultures food, but you say you love her. but the next guy? he wants to know her parents to find out more about her. he learns to talk to her in her language. he can cook her country’s food, and he is not afraid to try “new food”. one guy says, i marry you, not your family. the other one ask her parents to stay with them for the summer (even if he doesnt like there habits). which one loves her more? you answer that question to yourself. no, ask your wife what she thinks.
if you are a FMA teacher, and you have no desire to go to the philippines, you would be nothing more than a guy who teaches people how to swing sticks around. i will even say either you are afraid of what you read about filipino FMA people, or you are so selfish you are only looking to see what you can benefit from the art. maybe even arrogant that there is nothing good over there you can learn (all the best masters are here).
one of the things, is, you have to uderstand there is a difference between a teacher and a MASTER. too many teachers throw the word master around, like, oh i got x many tapes and advertisements, i been doing the art 10, 15 years, i am a master. most of them, begin calling himself a master before everyone else, they put it in their ads, and businesscards, or they beg some old master to “certify” them master. so feelings get hurt when people say, your no master.
a master of the art really only goes one way–when the martial arts community sees you as a master. it does not matter what you call yourself if the others do not see you as a master, your not one, only in your own school (if you have one). i you are 45 years old with a set of videos, and a bunch of paper, but people still doubt your skill, guess what your not one.
so why go to the philippines? because there, not just anyone can call himself a master there and get away with it. i believe, this is why many US FMA people do not go to the philippines, too much to prove. so the excuses begin.

a real master, is one who lives and breathes the art. i been doing this my whole life and i’m not even 40 yet, but i do not call myself master even thoug its been 30 years for me, maybe not until i am 60. but you see, a real master also does not dream of becoming one it just comes. but can you become a master of an art you do not love like the woman in the beginning of this email? not at all.

After a few emotional responses from digest members, and a private email from a well-known New York-based teacher, Guro posted the following email. I’m positive he was pretty hot–we won’t post what was sent to him, but it was very offensive, and I’m told that this Master had once attended a seminar Guro taught when he was in his early 20s:

i can tell from the comments exactly why there is a difference of opinions about this subject. excuse me now, because some people are going to be offended.
the idea, that you can become a master without going to the philippines, shows the same understanding of a guy who says you can become an expert of the fighting arts, without fighting. this is the thinking of beginners, or those with very little knowledge of the arts.
first we have to understand what makes somebody a master and what makes someone an expert, or we will never agree on this subject. (but of course, we dont have to agree on everything right?)
there is a HUGE difference between, what is advance practioner (fighter) of the art, and what is an expert / what is an expert of the art, and what is a qualified teacher / and what is a teacher of the art, and what is a MASTER of the art.
this, is why i say, you must go to the philippines if you want to be more than just “another guy with a stick”. the comments i read, are embarassing, you should hope one day they get deleted. the idea, that all that matters is, can you fight? of course that is not all that matters, unless you never want to become any more than a fighter. even the expert knows you need more understanding than that, which is what is a fighter, vs. what is an expert—it is his understanding of the art. a fool with a stick can break heads. he might be able to break the heads of most people, he is nothing more than a fighter. when he counters a younger, stronger, bigger man with a bigger stick, he has no option because his level of understanding in the art is low. here, i am not talking concept, or even amount of technicques you know. i am talking about knowing and the ability to carry that out, whatever it is you can do when you are outclassed physical ability. this is what the difference between the fighter, and the expert is. one knows how to fight. the other is an expert at fighting. notice i am not talking drills and concept. drills and concept, is for the beginner, who is not ready to fight.
fighting, then, is the next level up from the concepts/theory/drill approach. why? because fighting is the application of those concepts. it isnt easy and it takes more skill and practice to make them happen.
experts is the next level up from the fighter, because he has to learn to change his plan and beat the person with better skills (the fighter). this is not easy, and you cant learn to this level in a seminar. there are very few people who learned in seminars, who call himself an expert, who really is an expert.
next level from the expert, is the teacher, who has used his expertise so much, he been there, done that. his fighting career by this time, is over. he teaches more than “just technique”, he teaches from experience. EXPERIENCE is a big word, which people throw around too much, like EXPERT, and MASTER. experience is USING what you KNOW. so, dakilang guro so and so is “experienced”. experienced, doing what? teaching seminars? doing drills? no, the experience of a teacher is in the art/skill he says he is an expert in, which for us, is fighting. i read somebody say, fighting with rules/sparring/tournament is not “realistic” enough. what is, fighting in the street? fighting in a bar? fighting to death? how much of that did you done? the teacher has had a whole career of sparring and developing his path, not in front of a video camera and some students showing his ideas. he has had hundreds maybe thousands of opponents in front of him, who want to show that he is not very good and his art dont work, all to the point that he can teach from his experience proven, not theories, to his student.
so, any teacher who is against sparring, or against tournament, cannot be a qualified teacher of anything other than drills, but not fighting arts, because he has no experience in fighting. a good test of who is qualified? challenge him on his ability and his knowledge. if he gets mad, he cant be good, and he cant have experience fighting. see fighters, feelings dont get hurt easy, only the people who sit around worry about it. any fighter knows this. a teacher should have been challenged so many times, he is not afraid of it. another reason to go to the philippines.
(oh, and dont tell me about rock newman and steve hernandez, and others. yes, they are trainers, but one champion out of hundreds means nothing. the best trainers have been to “the show” many times. how many times have you brought somebody to “the show”?)
many people think all you need is a black belt / certificate and youre a teacher. not true. if that’s a case, then i can take my high school diploma and get me a job teaching school!
so now, we are at the master. what is the difference between a master and a teacher? why do you have to go to the philippines to be a master?
if you have to ask, you are not a master. take that word off your website.
And the final say on this subject:

you dont need to go to the moon to enjoy astronomy. but if you dont go into space, you’re no astronaut. really, if you think listening to rap music makes you a rapper, i already understand your problem. btw, suburban kids who like rap music and there not from the “hood”, everyone knows he’s not from the hood and he looks like a fool. just like 40 year old americans who calls themself “master” saying “i dont need to go to the philippines. i’m already a master”. yeah, right.

i know my last post was long, i dont like long posts, so i want to say it shorter.
there is a difference between a person who knows the art, some one who is an expert in the art, someone who is qualified to teach the art, and a master. some of you are confusing all four words.
1. you “know” the art – you can swing a stick, maybe you can swing with power and you know lots of different ways to swing it.
2. you are “expert” – you can fight with the stick to a very high level. not “know” ways to fight. you can actually fight, and you are very good at fighting, so good physical ability alone cannot beat you.
3. you are qualified to be a teacher – you fought so much, been doing the art so long, you can teach a student EVERYTHING about using this art. you cannot be a teacher unless you have your own experiences.
4. master – this is a secret. but heres a hint. people begin to call you master FIRST. this is not a level you get on paper, it is not something you call youself. there is such a big world between teacher and master, there is no reason to ask what they are.
some people are very quick to strap on the words you use to describe yourself, that they see no difference between a beginner and advanced, between a fighter and expert, between an expert and a teacher, between a teacher and a master. they sound like a 17 years old kid with a 1st degree black belt after 2 years, who calls himself, “expert”.
or worse, the 45 year old teacher of that kid, who calls himself “master”.oos!
*** Something I noticed. If you look at the threads Master Gatdula posts in, often the last comment in a thread will be his. I think this is significant. ***



The fighter/teacher is a man who has pursued the martial arts in hopes of becoming a superior fighter. He is often the student of a relative, or a long-time student of a local teacher. He may not necessarily belong to an established school, but his goal is for skill rather than rank. More often than not, a fighter/teacher relies on his skills as a fighter or on his students’ fighting skill to build his reputation as a Master. As a student, the fighter/teacher is literally under the wing of a master, and lends his loyalty to the training and is cultivated as a fighter, rather than promoted.

The martial artist can learn from the fighter such attributes as patience, loyalty, humility, courage and dedication. Because of the lack of a well-known reputation and established organization, the fighter is a self-made man. He must fight the desire to “keep up with the Joneses” and be patient and obedient to his teacher. He trusts his teacher’s lesson plans and trains as if his life depends on his teachings. Most of all, the fighter/teacher must be willing and capable of proving his worthiness and the effectiveness of his martial arts. He can neither hide behind his organization nor the fact that there are many others practicing the same styles. He is unique, and is not afraid to stand alone while establishing his credibility as a fighter by doing what others do not: Fight.

Because the fighter/teacher is not part of a well-established organization or certifying body, he is most likely self-promoted as an expert. While many teacher had formal graduations or status-denoting ceremonies, the fighter/teacher did not. Upon being released by his teacher, the fighter is expected to try his skills in combat with other fighters (oh, let me say this: “combat” is a relative term. No one expects teachers to fight in the streets. “Combat” is referring to sparring, whether it is in the tournaments or the classroom). It is during this process that he begins to forge his knowledge and abilities, and his reputation as a fighter. His experience in matches may lead to creative changes in what he has learned or it may result in his study of a new style. (In future articles, we will discuss the pros and cons of each method) It is when he has spent years and taken part in countless matches that a seasoned fighter is experienced enough to be recognized as qualified to be a teacher. His acceptance by the community as a teacher, therefore, does not derive from a certification or promotion ceremony—nor does it come from being “recognized” by an organization. The fighter/teacher declares himself a teacher, and based on his accomplishments and skill level, the community accepts as such. In essence, self-promotion is acceptable in the Filipino martial arts community; tests are not necessary. Any doubting teacher may “test” another teacher’s skill anytime he wants, simply by inviting him to some friendly sparring. Teachers are “promoted” not by a board of instructors, or friends or organizations. Teachers promote themselves, and may even be “promoted” by the acknowledgment of a rival who can attest for one’s fitness for duty.

The fighter/teacher is a rarely-seen sight today.

As featured on Ezine

Who is thekuntawman?

Let’s first introduce you to Master Gatdula, better known as “thekuntawman”. In this article, he introduces himself as a teacher, and defines what he considers the categories of Filipino martial arts styles.

Who is thekuntawman?
My explanation

I have been practicing the martial arts for more than 30 years, and have been teaching for more than 20 years. My four most significant teachers were Chin Yuk Din, who taught me Jow Ga, Eagle Claw, and White Eyebrow; my si hing(older brother), Raymond Wong, who completed my training after Master Chin died; Yun Gatdula, who taught me his Kuntaw style and three Eskrima systems (Abaniko, Pekiti Tirsia, and Singko Tiros); and Boggs Lao, who taught me his own martial arts, plus Lito Lanyada’s Kuntaw ng Pilipinas and Modern Arnis. I associate closest to my Philippine heritage and art—not because of my ethnicity, but because of the influence it had on my life as a man and as a martial artist. The philosophy of the Philippine martial arts is unlike that of most cultures, and once you experience it and its teachings, is life-changing. Even in my Kung Fu classes, I teach with a Filipino philosophy-which enhances and lends uniqueness to my school’s aura, fighting style, and the students we produce. While fighting techniques are very commonly found—even in the Philippines—the philosophy about the theory and practice is not. Where you find voids in martial arts training, you will find innovation and absorption of foreign arts. Many FMA teachers have this void, and turn to other style to fill in the gaps and (dare I say it) deficiencies. Because of this, I can recognize a Philippine-style teacher who has adopted the practices and attitudes of foreign styles. Nothing wrong with that; unless the teachers attempt to pass those things off as “authentic” or “original”.

Unlike many teachers who mimic very closely their teachers and the knowledge they acquire, Filipino teachers tend to find their own expressions of the arts they possess. Sometimes, the teacher has actually improved his teacher’s art; more often than that, they are merely an alternate version of the first teacher’s style. Side note: teachers who do not feel qualified to make the changes will attempt to assign their new art a false history, as if to say “A more qualified master created this and then passed it to me.” Only the most confident masters will claim to be the originator of a new art. This is something rarely seen outside of the Philippines. It is common and acceptable to rename your own blend of techniques and arts, even if you learned only one style. Teachers of the Philippine style usually fit into one of three categories:

1. The Mainstream Style: they follow recent trends in the art and change their styles as they learn what other masters do. These teachers “keep up with the times” by attending seminars or exchanging and sharing with other teachers. Many of those teaching abroad claim their arts had these new techniques all along, while some admit (quite proudly) to combining, blending and adopting newer methods. Most styles found in America and Europe fall into this category, as seminars are very popular there, and seem to be the primary method of instructing the martial arts. Nearly everyone teaching the Filipino arts in the West teaches by seminar, or has learned from a teacher who learned through seminars. The Mainstream styles overemphasize the importance of performing drills, give very little attention to the development of basics (since they have to entertain “audiences” and everyone from basic beginners to teachers are learning the same thing in the seminars), prearranged defense and counters, and have very little strategic instruction for sparring. While there are many good teachers in this category, this category has the highest number of unqualified, yet certified, teachers. Reputations for the Mainstream teacher depends on personality, amiability, and marketing skills.

2. The Legacy/Organizational Style: Teachers who have followed in direct footsteps of their teachers and have strayed little from their styles and teachers. These teachers tend to have had only one or two teachers in their lifetime and will preserve entire systems and curriculum, as they learned it themselves. Many who follow these traditions have clear curriculums and lineages, and most often are well-skilled, enjoying fine reputations. While there are only a few of these organizations and styles in the Philippines, most are well-known and respected, and have well-documented histories—despite that many have fierce rivalries with other schools and masters. Their curriculums are well-developed and are known for having high quality of instruction. Many have adopted foreign practices and arts, such as belt-ranking and grading requirements, but are admired and looked up to by many teachers as these styles have evolved through trial and error into the systems they have now. Most of the founders of these styles began in the third category (see below) and are simply canning a good product. However, a drawback to this type of style can be the lack of development and hungriness in its masters’ hearts, as an inherited reputation can lead to students who feel their worthiness by association. Often the reputation of the school or style rested on the shoulders of the Master who founded the organization and his first generation of students. You will see that a school may be riding on the accomplishments of their founder, whose exploits may have taken place several decades earlier.

3. The Traditional Teacher/Fighter: Perhaps most Filipino experts one may find in the Philippines fit into this category. They tend to have studied full time with at least one teacher, but about half of their learning came from sparring with other fighters. These teachers have usually created their own styles based on their fighting experience and personal reflection, rather than the curriculum of other teachers. Most traditional teachers have few students and do not certify others. Reputations vary, as traditional fighter/teachers have informal training, but each teacher builds his own reputation by himself and is only locally known. Their curriculums and progressions are not well-defined, they often do not have a physical school to teach from (let alone websites and published media), and will have very few students “certified” under them… this is one tiger that earns its own stripes. However, most are known to have good fighting skills because of this, and accepting and issuing invitations to matches is very commonplace for these teachers. Again, most do not have schools, but some do and aspire to join those in the Legacy styles.

I am a product of the third category.

My martial philosophy is primarily from #3s point of view, although I have some influence from #2. My purpose for writing this blog is to bring the lessons I learned to those who have not delved deeper into little known levels of the martial arts (hence the name) and/or have a weak philosophical foundation for their martial arts knowledge. I am not popular or well-liked in the Filipino Martial Arts community. No problem; a fighter’s reputation is built by those he opposes, than by those who like him. Most readers will read this blog and beg to differ. That’s okay! Martial arts styles were not created because everyone agreed that a particular strategy or technique was superior. No, styles were created because someone had an idea, and others disagreed, and the result of their attempts to prove and disprove the theories was beautiful.

I will challenge your view on the martial arts and its practice. We will question popular masters and even call them out. I may ridicule YOUR master or style. But this is not in contempt, but only in the effort to do what the old masters did: find a better way.

Well, please, keep an open mind, and check with us frequently! We have lots to discuss!

Controversy in the Filipino Martial Arts

This is Guro’s response to the following post, by Brian VanCise, a member of MartialTalk at this thread:

Let’s ring in the New Year with a little controversial thread.

Is there one indigienous superior FMA?

Due you have to be a Filipino to be the best at FMA?

If you are a GrandMaster or a Punong Guro are you selling out
by accepting money for teaching people?

Have the Filipino Martial Arts been influenced by their former
Spanish occupiers?

Are the Filipino Martial Arts the premier weapon based systems
in the world?

What about someone cross ranking over to another art after only a
practice or two?

Okay just a few questions and anyone else can add more if they so choose. I hope this thread will be met with good intentions as that is what MartialTalk is all about! We are not here to bash or belittle anyone but instead explore people’s varied opinon’s.
Brian R. VanCise

Master Gatdula’s Response:

Re: Controversy in FMA?
i will put my comments next to the questions,

Let’s ring in the New Year with a little controversial thread.

Is there one indigienous superior FMA?

of course there is. i can prove it to you. this is one part of filipino culture you have to understand. all the friendly, hands-holding, humble kwi chang kang stuff is not the filipino culture. all of us here on MT loves the filipino martial arts because (we say) its effective. am i right? so what is wrong saying “i have a superior style”? if you have not found a better way to do it, and you dont feel like you can take any man out there, you should not be teaching the art. you see, this is how the FMA became the art we have today, each master tries out his art against the next guy, he changes what he need to change, he developed a better way, then he declares that he had a better more effective way. if a man cannot guarantee that he can teach you to fight anyone, dont study from him. either he is weak, too weak to admit he can fight, afraid to say he is a superior style, or afraid somebody is going to say, prove it to me. well, this “humble” is someone elses culture. our masters do not call themself “master” unless he has proven to himself that he knows his stuff.

Due you have to be a Filipino to be the best at FMA?

of course not. but to truly understand this art, you must understand the culture. i dont care how strong or tough you think you are with your FMA already, you can become stronger if you take the time to learn how the culture and the art are connected. you cant learn this on video, a magazine, a book, dam sure not a seminar, but you have to study under a teacher who can teach it to you. and you know what? you dont have to go the philippines. some people goes there for a two week trip a couple times, and he raised his head over other people. thats not going to do it either. you need full time study.

If you are a GrandMaster or a Punong Guro are you selling out by accepting money for teaching people?

if you are calling yourself grandmaster or punong guro, and you do not require your students to pay his dues to become an expert in the art, yes you are selling out. there is no crime for charging money, people gotta eat. but when a man can get “certfied” to teach your art, and you dont have this kind of confidence that you would bet your money on him, you sell out your students. when you back up a student by giving him a rank, you have guaranteed to the world that, this guy knows his stuff.

i want to tell a story about one of my teachers, Boggs Lao. one time another teacher came to visit Boggs while students were training. the other master, who was young walked in the door with some students, and told Boggs i am a new teacher and i want to show our skills. do you have some students we can fight with. Boggs was reading a book or paper, and he told him to “pick someone to fight with”. the other teacher said, who is your black belters (we wear shorts in this class), and Boggs said, doesnt matter pick someone. the guy and his students fought with all of us. some beat us, some got beat, even him. the man thanks Boggs and left. after that he asked one of my kuya (older brothers) “how did they do?” (he never watched us fight). and he told him, they’re okay. maybe 6 months later i asked him, why didnt he watch us fight. boggs said, if i am a good teacher, and you are a good students, i have nothing to worry about. then he gave me a lecture about responsible martial arts teacher. see, you always train your boys so you always have confidence. ernesto presas is this way. my granpa was this way, and now i am this way. some teachers, they dont care. they say, “martial artist is not about fighting”. oh yeah? since when?

Have the Filipino Martial Arts been influenced by their former Spanish occupiers?

yes, FMA is influenced by everybody, even US soldiers. in 1988, we use to practice to fight against bigger stronger opponents. the schools that are near a base do this. many schools do not, they dont even see americans in their tournaments. you will find kung fu, tae kwon do, judo all kinds of arts in the philippines. there is a saying, that your opponents will be your reputation, not your friends. so i wold say, that the spanish and the portugese have to be the biggest influenced. even japanese, you can see this in kuntaw lima lima which used shorin ryu forms, arjuken which used shotokan forms, and kyosho arnis, which used kyukushinkai forms.

Are the Filipino Martial Arts the premier weapon based systems
in the world?

yes. many of these so-called WMA guys was arnis at one time, so they met some irish or french or english stick fighting books, or they saw national georgraphic african style looks neat, so they “switched” over. i dont blame them. we always want to believe our culture is great. but when i see some ex-FMA guy who wants to bash filipino arts (especially that some of them wasnt that good at FMA), it will piss me off. but there, you have the difference in culture, many of these guys will “prove it” with his website and in HIS seminars (MR “X”), i will do it in person. but if somebody wants to say his country style is better, good for him, he is suppose to say it. maybe there is better ways of fighting in other countries. but i will believe it when i see it.

and another difference in how we do things. when some people see a new interesting way of fighting, they will say, i have to learn it. the hard-core FMA philippine style, he’s going to say “that stuff not going to work on me”. and if it does, that means i have to train harder and drawing board. if it keeps happening, then i have to learn it. this is the filipino way. we dont get dominated easy.

What about someone cross ranking over to another art after only a practice or two?

i hope theres nobody older than 10 years old who still thinks that. but i forgot where we are. yes they do it in the martial arts all the time, called the “intensive” seminar, or “crash course”. i have friends who teach this way and i get in there ass about it, that’s selling out. but you know, each person in the martial arts has a place. some people are in the food chain, some people are the food. i dont know, if i was not so serious about my reputation and i have a guy who is not serious about training, i might make a little money selling confidence. the mcdojo do it all the time! anyway, thats crazy, but the FMA is the world perfect “add-water-mcdojo”. its so bad people think theres something wrong if you dont certify, dont teach drills, etc…

Okay just a few questions and anyone else can add more if they so choose. I hope this thread will be met with good intentions as that is what MartialTalk is all about! We are not here to bash or belittle anyone but instead explore people’s varied opinon’s.

that was good, and i dont think we can talk about this enough, because everybody looks at the art different, and i dont think enough filipino teachers want to disagree with what most people think. so, we end up that we allow people to think the wrong thing about our cultural art and fighting arts.

Hope you enjoyed the post! If you’d like to read more comments or join in on other discussions about the Filipino Martial Arts, please visit MartialTalk.