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This tip deals more with the psychological aspect of fighting:
You must establish superiority between you and your opponent.
Before I begin let me qualify this. When I speak of fighting, I am not talking about any specific type of fighting. While it is possible to specialize in one type of fighting–streetfighting, full contact, point, self defense, etc.–when it comes to ability, either you can fight or you cannot. Martial artists enjoy saying, “well, I don’t do well in competition because I train strictly for the street.” By now, you should know my opinion of this: you don’t do well in competition because there is a flaw in your fighting ability… stop using excuses! The attributes of fighting can be applied to all types of fighting, some emphasized more than others, and developing them enables you to fight in more than just one arena. What I am teaching in this series is the universal principles of fighting. Catch me one day at my school, and I will prove to you these principles work. I am not an arguer.
Going into most fights, one person will be the aggressor and the other the victim. Sometimes, depending on what type of person you are, both parties will be the aggressor because the fight itself is mutual. Either way, one person is always the one who initiates the fight, but this person does not always end up the superior opponent. Your goal going into a fight (or self-defense situation, if you insist) is to establish yourself as the superior fighter in this altercation. If you can master this very complex skill, you will give yourself the upper hand in many confrontations–whether they are actual fights, in business, in competition of all types (including competition for a woman’s affection, promotions on the job, popularity in school, it is a universal principle), whatever. This is not to say that you will actually BE superior–that is what training is for. You just need to establish in y0ur opponent’s mind that you are the superior fighter, which weakens your opponent’s confidence and will to fight while bulking yours up.
We seek to establish superiority in several areas:
Speed in fighting is not as important as timing. However, most fighters cannot distinguish one from the other. The ability to land without being stopped depends more on timing and reflex, than it does speed, but having superior timing and reflex leads to the perception that you are faster than your opponent. One of the skills that will assist in improving your timing is by using counter hits instead of blocking. Blocking relies on speed and timing, but slows the defend/counter process and is easy for the attacker to follow. Striking your opponent when he attempts to strikes you cuts the time in half, and is much more difficult to follow, because most likely the opponent does not see your counter hit. When he gets hit everytime he attacks you, he will come away with the impression that you are faster than he is because he never sees your attack.
Why is this? Because on the attack, opponents tend to be focused only on landing his shot. He is not using his periferal vision, or at least is not focused on it. When you angle away from your opponent’s attack to strike him, even if you are a fraction slower, he misses and you land. This is a devastating thing to happen, and when it occurs repeatedly, it leads to a feeling of helplessness because no matter how much faster he attacks, he still gets hit.
Most fighters do not train at 100% power all the time. Therefore, they do not fight with 100% power all the time. In fact, most teachers will discourage their fighters from using 100% power all the time because it causes one to tire quickly, and results in slower movement and slow thinking. I agree. However, imagine if you fought an opponent who hits with 100% power every time he lands, and appears to never tire? What would that do to your strategy?
Mike Tyson is known for his power, and appears to use full power for everything he does. In the first two years of his career, he had won almost all of his fights by knockout–26 out of 28–and 16 of those in the first round. But he did not use power all the time. What’s interesting to note is that Tyson came out with full power for the first round always, and if he did not finish the opponent then, he jabbed, poked and prodded until he saw an opening. Only then did he attack full power again, and it was always devastating. But the psychological effect on his opponents was more devastating! Because of how he began the first round, his opponents feared him, and treated every attack as if it were poisonous. This allowed Tyson to pick and choose when to use power, which helped him conserve energy, while the opponent wasted energy in fear.
For the street, you would begin the altercation full blast, and then ease back once the opponent came to expect full power blows everytime you flinch. This not only establishes that you hit hard, but also leads to the impression that you are the more powerful opponent.
This is one of the more difficult ways to establish superiority. You must be a good actor by not reacting emotionally to any of your opponent’s successes. When he hits you, you must ignore the shot. You must not rub the area that hurts, nor should you spend extra time protecting it when he attempts to hit you again. Never attempt to stop the fight once you’ve been hit with a good shot. All of these things indicate that you have been hurt, and fuels your opponent’s thirst for more blood.
But let him hit you with his best, and have no effect on you, and he will worry that he cannot hurt you. This is the message you must send: that YOU CANNOT BE HURT BY THIS OPPONENT. It is a mental ploy, but if you can master it, you actually take away the opponent’s confidence in himself and willingness to try to finish you. A master of this is boxer Ricardo Mayorga, who invited opponents to hit him in the face, and then shook it off and retaliated. There was a time, it seemed that no one wanted to fight “the craziest man in boxing”. The truth of his skill is actually not a skill at all. Actually, most people could take the punches Mayorga takes. He was just willing to take the punches and most fighters are not; this gives him an aura of indestructibility. Any fighter, if he saw the punch coming and could brace himself for it, could withstand a punch to the face… we do it all the time. What Mayorga has done was identify an area most people are weak in–willingness to accept punishment–and taught himself to take it.
This is the hard part. Learning to take your opponent’s abuse. Doing so will make you feel like you cannot be hurt, and your opponent will feel the same way. When you are the one who is indestructible, you become the unbeatable opponent.
Everyone learns this on the first day, but very few actually excel at it. Take a stable of highly skilled fighters, and I guarantee half of them have poor footwork.
But how can they be skilled opponents, yet have poor footwork? Most fighters have other strengths that compensate for this weakness. Look at your own training. Do you train punches and kicks in place? Ever? If you answered “yes”, “sometimes”, whatever, then I would bet the bank that you have underdeveloped footwork. The reason I say this is that fighters training for superior footwork never train standing in one place. Ever. If you are guilty of doing this even once in a while, you are not placing enough emphasis on footwork. And footwork is an aspect of a fighter’s arsenal that will make or break him. It can never be weak, and must always be used. Imagine a big strong fighter like Kimbo Slice, fighting while on roller skates and his feet tied together. Do you think you would have a good chance to beat him? Of course! His power means nothing if he cannot get to you, and his defense means nothing if he cannot get away from you. If punching and kicking is the Mustang GT in a race, footwork are the tires. I might even say, footwork is the fuel. Your skill is meaningless if you do not have a method to catch a moving opponent, nor the ability to get away from him when he attacks. You work harder when you have poor footwork because the bulk of the pressure is put on your strikes and blocks when you are not mobile.
This is the problem I have with stylize footwork like the cha-cha people do when they practice sinawali, and the Triangle footwork when people want to make their art seem more “Filipino”. They are thinking too deep in terms of concept and principle and not making practicality and effectiveness the purpose of choosing footwork strategy. There are three ways to establish superiority in footwork, and these three ways will guarantee you success in a fight, if you can master them:
Make sure that everytime you launch an attack after an opponent, you end up close enough to land. Should you fail because he blocked, no problem. But make sure you never end an attack because the opponent got away. Your priority, then, should be to catch your opponent everytime you go searching for him.
Make sure that everytime he attacks you, he misses. Regardless of whether he misses by an inch or by a foot, he must fail every time he lunges. The better you evade him, the less your blocking and defense must work. We want him to believe that he can’t catch you. Just make sure that when he misses, you are still close enough to make him pay. It’s pointless to evade an opponent so far that you can’t reach him when you are ready to strike back.
Make sure that every attack is delivered by a Porsche Turbo. When your footwork is that quick, your hands and feet can afford to move with less speed and power because everything you do will be twice as fast. Too often, fighters’ footwork is lackadaisical and lazy. This causes them to rely too much on things like handspeed and complicated combinations.
So, these are the ways to establish that you are the superior fighter. When you have mastered this skill alone, you have gained a psychological advantage that will allow to even defeat better trained opponents, bigger, stronger, or more experienced opponents. Many fighters do not understand the dynamics of psychological warfare, and fall prey to more crafty fighters. Some of the masters of this art are Bernard Hopkins, “Lights Out” James Toney, and Muhammad Ali; they have all beaten younger, more physically skilled fighters by convincing their opponents by convincing them that they are actually inferior.
This is one of the secrets of the masters, and I am sure you will not find such a strategy in any book, video, or class. This is not knowledge that is passed down from teacher to student, but most often from experience and trial and error.
I have mix feelings about this subject. At one time, I was oppose to the idea of a child holding a Black Belt. This is despite the fact that I was a youth Black Belt myself. I know, I know, it sounded hypocritical. But the difference between me and most underaged Black Belts is huge. First of all, I trained 7 days a week, and sparred with Adults weekly. I was under my Master for 5 years before being allowed to compete at the Black Belt level, and worked my up through the ranks like everyone else (yet a little accelerated), one step at a time. And I *believed* I was of a higher skill level and understanding than most of these shopping center Black Belters. I swore at 12 years old that I would be a martial arts teacher, compete at the International level, and be known in my circles as the best at what I do… and accomplished all of those goals by the time I was 18. I’ve met other kids younger than I was doing the same thing, and compared to the McBlack Belter from the Safeway shopping center doing XMA, was light years ahead of my peers.
But, then I saw the light. And I see that this is more an issue of maturity, school culture, and teacher preference.
See, in some schools, the idea of a Black Belt is much simpler than what many of us believe it should be. I still believe that the Black Belt is not the “beginning”, but the END of a long arduous road to expertise. This isn’t to say that a Black Belter should not have more to learn, but if he decides not to continue studying and to teach or pursue other goals, his skill level should be at a level where he “has arrived”. It is more an issue of awarding deserving candidates the BB, than it is what age is the minimum age. Some teachers have devalued the Black Belt to the point that anyone who can demonstrate the forms, and have hung around long enough to learn the curriculum, and afford the testing fee can get this award. And that is just plain wrong.
But if a youth has poured years of his life into training rigorously, studying academically in the art, and testing himself over and over until his body is showing the physical effects of serious martial arts training, then why not?
Take a look at these kids. Can your Junior Black Belter fight like that? If not, you might want to redefine what a Black Belter is. I know children, right here in America, who can probably whip these boys. But you see, the Black Belt is supposed to represent the best you can produce, and too many teachers simply don’t care to raise the bar that high for those who represent him. When I think of a Junior Black Belter, this is the level I expect. They don’t necessarily have to be the best in the world, but they damned sure better be one of them.
It’s just like the title “genius”. A kid can be smart, but he ain’t no genius unless he has proven that he’s a genius. In the world of the martial arts, a kid could be knowledgeable, a kid could be good, but it don’t mean he’s Black Belt material. I’ve had a few parents who needed to understand this…. that the Black Belt is more than a kid who can do nice forms, score points in a tournament and do the splits. There is a lifestyle, a way of thinking, a way of behavior, and a way of treating one’s martial journey that should be developed before a person (not just a child) can be a Black Belter. And it isn’t made for just anyone, and not everyone is going to be able to achieve this–I don’t care how much money or desire you have. It takes hard work, dedication and a true desire to become the goal.
When a child understands this and can make the commitment, DOES make the commitment and follows through, then we can talk about earning the Black Belt. Age at this point is immaterial. I know some very committed and disciplined 9 year olds who will make your head spin, and make some adults look bad. The key is remember that the Black Belt is an honor that must be earned through hard work and separates the accomplished from those who are mediocre. This is the only way the Junior Black Belt is to have respect and meaning.
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Scrap your whole Program: You’ve become another martial arts cliche’. You’re nothing special, every other FMA guy in town does the same crap you do, the same way you do it. So start from scratch, and rebuild a new art! Hell, why not? How long have you been studying this art? Don’t you think you can come up with a complete, practical, original art? Start with only the most practical, most devastating and damaging strikes and kicks. Then select no more than 10 good and reliable grappling attacks. Build your methods of attack and counter attack until you have a small set of 20 – 30 useful techniques. Forget the drills, katas, the disarming, etc. Take your small set of fighting skills and create a style-within-a-style. This is your personal combat system, and will be what you train with 80% of the time you train on your own.
Testing: Vow to yourself that you will spar 100 opponents using only what is in this system. Notice I did not say, “100 rounds”. It doesn’t matter how many rounds you fight, the idea is to use this art against 100 unique fighting styles and unique opponents. You would be surprised what you’ll discover when you do this
Develop: One of the most neglected aspects of martial philosophy is the necessity for development and tempering. You should train your skill to a high degree. This, my brothers, is not practice; there is a difference. For the casual martial arts student, unchallenging practice is sufficient. However, the career martial artist needs something far more intense. We must train with extremely high repetitions and develop our speed and power to an almost superhuman degree. Many in the arts believe that this is unnecessary or impossible. Let them feel that way; they are not one of us. We only have a short amount of time in our youth to accomplish this and may not have the rest of our lives to ever achieve this level. As you age, your body will deteriorate and physical training will yield smaller gains. It is far better to take advantage of youth while you have it, and have achieved this level at some point in your life… your martial arts will forever benefit from simply reaching this level in your youth. I know martial arts “Masters” who have never enjoyed the prestige of being one of the best in his local community, and there is a psychological barrier to his art’s development and that of his students. To make it easy, commit to performing everything in your personal fighting system 1,000 times in the first 3 months, and then at least 5,000 repetitions as soon after as you can. Do this and call me in the morning; you will never be the same man again.
Forging: You must utilize impact training in your system. My best friend is a peach tree growing in my front yard. Besides providing my wife and children healthy snacks a few weeks a year, this tree is used to practice my Iron Arm(blocking practice), punching and striking practice, and pulling and pushing. Stand square in front of a tree or Mook Yan Jong (Wooden Man Post) and execute your blocks or strikes against it a minimum of 50 reps per set. If you have never done this type of training before, I suggest you wrap a towel around the trunk (or low branch if you have one available) and secure it with duct tape. Work only one technique at a time. Sometimes I will spend weeks on just one technique per session. In my youth, I worked on a coconut tree at my home in the Philippines for hours before going to class with Boggs Lao, just for him to put me on a free-standing tree log in his gym. You can wrap a jacket, rope or karate belt around the tree/log/dummy to practice your pushing and pulling, and grabs. This will give you a very hard feeling to your techniques, which also doubles as a fight deterrent on the street. No one wants to fight a guy who feels like he can snap your bones like twigs.
Learn from the Japanese: Get a Makiwara. Or build one. But you must have something besides a punching bag to hit, preferably one that does not move much. I can always tell when someone has training without one, because his technique has a sort of weakness to it that cannot be compensated through weight-lifting or BJJ certifications (lol). And don’t listen to all the naysayers who tell you Makiwara training is bad for the joints, those are just old wives tales told by people who don’t know better. I have never met a man who couldn’t use his hands as a result of the training. Utilize this thing as much as you can.
Your Reputation: Either teach some students this system and put them in front of opponents, or train like a madman and get in front of as many opponents as you can. Don’t publicize it; just do it. Word of mouth will spread your reputation for you. Document it if you want, after all this IS America, but focus more on proving your art’s worth, one opponent at a time. Forget the websites, press releases, and articles… this is old school reputation-building. As the old Filipino saying goes, a fighter’s reputation is built from the testimony of his opponents, not his friends.
You are a Filipino Martial Artist, so act like one! Want to do something traditional? This is it. Trust me, this is the only path to mastery and respect in the FMAs. You create your own system, you develop true fighting ability, you get yourself a reputation and then you allow your accomplishments speak for themselves. None of those old Masters had websites, or Seminar tours, or PR people. They stood on their own feet, not the shoulders of others, and possessed the skill to back up their reputations themselves. You gotta respect that.
FMA empty hand is a laughing stock. The only people who really believe that patty-cake stuff you do will kick someone’s ass are 12 year old boys, 45 year old men who know nothing of real fighting, and the women you date. Get out, prove to yourself and the world that your empty hand is worthy. The Filipino Martial Arts need it.
That is the question. Banging sticks, stick-tapping, cross sticks, whatever. To me, they’re nothing more than code words for those “stick guys” who are not interested in really learning how to kick someone’s butt with their sticks.
I grew up without Sinawali. Yeah, I learned what is commonly known as “Heaven and Earth 6 count”, or simply “Double Sinawali” when I was about 9 years old, but my Eskrima training did not involve them. In fact, I did not learn Sinawali from my grandpa until I was 20 years old, after learning 10 Sinawali drills from Ernesto Presas in the Philippines. I came home thirsty for more, and then my Papa taught me the ones he knew, never to repeat them again minus a few conversations when I asked about them. You don’t need them, he use to say. But stupid me, reading the magazines and exchanging ideas with martial artists who mostly couldn’t “hold a stick” to my fighting ability…. I was convinced that “complete” FMA must have them. Why? Well, the experts say that Sinawali drills give you coordination to weave your hand in intricate patterns for fighting. As if you couldn’t learn how to deliver a knockout punch without using Sinawali drills. As if you would never have the speed and timing to stop a punch without them. As if you could never grapple, clinch, take a guy down without them.
Hey, just like forms… the only form you need is perfect form. Likewise, the only punching ability you need is punching ability. The only blocking ability you need is blocking ability. You get it.
If you recall, I understand the saying, that when a martial artist can’t fight, he will spend all his time emphasizing the importance of everything else to distract you from the realization that he can’t fight. So, he’ll talk about how fighting isn’t real fighting. WHAT? That’s right. He will confuse you with theories and demonstrations and explanations about how the MMA guy’s ability won’t “translate” to streetfighting ability. He will give you a very convincing and scientific argument about why Eskrima knife fighting isn’t real knife fighting and will get you killed on the street. He will show you all these demonstrations and lectures about how to stop a punch, how to immobilize an opponent, and basically how dangerous he is without actually fighting. The sad thing is that most martial artists will eat this stuff up. Not just eat it up and believe it, but adopt these ideas and drop his own, and start repeating this stuff to his own students.
Honestly, have you ever really seen Sinawali used in a fight? I’m not just talking about some dude wailing away in padded sparring with a stick in each hand, but someone seriously sparring using Sinawali? I don’t deny that one can use the patterns as striking patterns in fighting–let’s not be stupid–but I’m talking about the way those sticks are swung, but in a serious stickfight? How about Sinawali while empty handed? Of all the things that turn my stomach about commercial, watered-down FMA, empty handed FMA is one of the most embarassing innovations. Even white belts at McDojos are looking at Youtube laughing their pants off, it’s disgusting.
You see, we have gotten so far into making FMAs look exotic and different, that we are now trying to force-fit logic into our FMA in order for everything to tie together (the stick is a knife, is a machete, is the empty hand and everything is preparation for everything else). I’ve even had a well-known Grandmaster (friend) try to convince me that the Sinawali develops staff sparring skill. 😉 But you know me, I’m a “hands-on” kinda guy, and we shut down that argument real quick. But guess what, he is still teaching that garbage in his classes! The bottom line is that Sinawali–the way they are practiced–do nothing for fighting ability. The best fighters in the Philippines do not train them for their fighting ability. Beginners do not need them to learn how to hit or defend. They don’t even do a good job developing forearm, wrist, and hand strength like plain old striking practice does! They don’t “translate” well to empty hand. And if you ever tried to use those techniques against a guy determined to knock your head off your shoulders, well, he’s going to knock your head off your shoulders! The way most of you are taught to practice them, the distance is wrong (sticks usually meet in the middle of you and your opponent, so the distance is unrealistic), you don’t practice with any amount of power (striking power, that is), and once you “get” the rhythm down, it is no longer beneficial for you to practice it other than just having more coordination to do it faster or ad lib your drills. The only benefit I see is that it kills time during class when you don’t have much practical shit to teach. Oh, and some people like to decorate their school with frayed up sticks and the smell of burning rattan… Makes you guys look like you’ve been kicking some ass in there.
The bottom line, Sinawali are a waste of time, and a waste of valuable training space. On top of all that, a waste money from busting up all those $10 sticks.
If you want to learn how to fight–really learn how to fight–hang around; I’ll teach you the secrets….