Foolproof Martial Arts Business Idea #1

Wanna get rich in the martial arts? Well, have I got some ideas for you. I mean, who needs savings accounts and IRAs and real estate?  I know the martial arts well, and one thing I know is what makes money.

So here’s Idea #1:  SELL MARTIAL ARTS RANKING CERTIFICATES.  Yup, sell em. Don’t teach classes. After all, 9 times out of 10, none of these guys will ever get into a streetfight (come on FMAers! You know 99% of all streetfights are not real enough!) so who needs skills? Skills, shmills!  Why train and ruin all those nice patches on your uniform with sweat? Hey, the 9th degree beer belly takes a lot of work to maintain, and we all know that a belly is just a large storage area for chi power…

Here’s the business common sense–martial artists like degrees like PhDs, and they won’t pay a whole hell of a lot of money for it either. Price is low and affordable enough, you’ll sell a shitload. So how about $100?

Check out the Combat Martial Arts Practitioners Association. Here’s a list of their satisfied customers. Notice that if you treat em well, they will come back the next time they get their paws on a crisp new Ben Franklin for the next highest rank. But of course, the really smart martial artists will just skip all the doo-doo and go all the way to the top and purchase a 10th degree certificate. So that’s why you have to introduce new ranks and titles all the time. This site has already done it, with “1st degree MASTER”, which is not the same as “1st degree Black Belt”… and it’s above the 10th degree Black Belt Level. Then you can do ranks. How about “Datu”? That’s always a good one. What about “Tuhon”? No, no–SUPREME Grand Tuhon Grandma Guro? Yeah, that’s me all the way baby! Only for the big spenders!

When you get your website up, let us know, I’ll collect my fee when you’ve made your first million. Thanks for visiting my blog!

Perfection and Mastery in the Martial Arts

Can one ever actually master or otherwise achieve perfection in the martial arts?

Of course the so-called “experts” of the FMAs will answer emphatically, no. I expected that. Why? Because the Filipino martial artist today really has no depth to his martial arts due to the industry’s commercialism. He lacks strong understanding of fighting strategy and practical fighting skill–let alone any philosophical knowledge–so he must look to the Kung Fu movie… yes, I said it: THE KUNG FU MOVIE, to learn how to think and act, as a teacher of the martial arts. He believes that FMA teachers are supposed to be quiet, humble, neutered monks who avoid eye contact and speak in parables. As if the fighters who once challenged each other to test and prove skill and build reputations and forging new methods of fighting only existed in stories and anecdotes. Sorry, but that ain’t us, it isn’t our culture. This, my friend, is a warrior culture, not a temple!

I really hate to admit this because I love my kababayans (countrymen) so much, but even many FMA people in the Philippines do it, too. They try to be fake Filipino monks, with this air of peacefulness and non-violence they have to put on. They read American martial arts magazines to see what the trends are in the “sophisticated” side of the world, and then mock those trends back home. I mean, am I the only guy who notices Filipino pop stars wearing cold-weather gear while on stage performing Rap music in Taglish, in the Philippines? Where its HOT? What about Catholic Filipinos running around in Muslim costumes to live up to the imagery of Dan Inosanto’s Kali Warrior? Wrestling with karabaw in the mud and wearing straw hats and naming everything in this beautiful art rather than using numbers like the rest of us?

Sorry, I lost my head for a minute.

Anyway, while many Filipinos are peaceful, friendly, non-violent people, our martial artists are not. We don’t wear belts and hang up certificates because we don’t need them. We brag. We talk trash. We look at foreign arts and think, I can whip that guy. We try to make our students better than the lousy students up the road or in the next town. We still train well into our 50s and will cross sticks (and hands) with you to prove how good we are. We drag our students to matches to build our reputations, we train harder when they lose, and then we tell potential students that we have the best fighters in town because this is what we strive for.

All that to say, this fake-me-out humility in the FMA is new, it’s phony, and it sucks. It’s not a Filipino martial principle. If all you strive for is mediocrity, why are you even training? Are we not training for combat? Who are you preparing to fight? A boy scout? A 60 year old man with a walker? Are we not studying to win fights, but studying to fight only to a draw? Come on, people, we are allowing our weak counterparts to represent the art of our country of origin! And they are doing all the talking!

Perfection in the martial arts is possible. Mastery in the martial arts is the goal. If you don’t believe that it is possible or that you are capable, then I say you are unworthy of calling yourself a teacher–let alone Master–of the Philippine martial arts. The purpose of training hard is to forge the body into something that cannot be duplicated in a gym and 99% of the martial arts schools out here. We are developing our skills and our bodies so that no man on the street poses a real threat–armed or unarmed. And while it is true that this goal is not right around the corner, it is a possibility that will meet us halfway if we devote enough time and energy towards it. The martial artist must never be satisfied with his skills, because this is what keeps him in the gym and at the top of the food chain.. and out of the hospital or the morgue. He is alway striving for a better, stronger, faster punch or kick. He wants to possess an unstoppable attack, and and impenetrable defense. He wants his knife to have a light saber-like ability to penetrate anything, and for his stick to crash through any defense. He is always striving for more, better, faster, stronger. He is always demanding his body to put out more, and he gives it the attention it needs in order to make sure that he remains capable of keeping up with his desires. He has turned down other endeavors for his martial arts journey; therefore, he enjoys a level of skill and confidence most of his martial arts peers only dream about and pretend to have on the internet and around kid brothers. In the company of his inferior martial arts counterparts, this is the only time he can really be non-violent and not have to pretend to be peace-loving and humble; these people are truly no match to his ability.

When I see mediocre martial artists acting like they have no fear, and then attempting to outsmart those with more physical prowess, I laugh because I know that it isn’t arrogance. Rather, these men really are insecure, and they are hoping you are not as bright as they are so that they can feel superior about something. Now, when he says that he doesn’t believe in mastery and perfection, he’s telling the truth; he doesn’t believe in it… for himself. When he claims to have no fear in combat, he is again telling the truth! He feels no fear of fighting, because he has no intention of ever fighting and will avoid it at all costs.

Want a test? Ask a martial artist you know about fighting, sparring and competition. If he gives you the speech about how fighting has nothing to do with sparring and competitions, or how even NHB fighters are not going to be effective on the street, you are in the company of a martial arts “wuss”. lol

These guys use logic to explain away how martial arts ain’t about fighting, and how the guys who do fight “just don’t get it”, and how guys like me who talk about fighting are the real cowards… It’s all to distract you from the fact that he can’t fight, and that his martial art is weak.

The bottom line:  If a man spent his lifetime training his arts, refining, testing and training even more, he will one day master his art; it is the only outcome. If he spends enough time fine-tuning, revising, fine-tuning some more, revising, and then fine-tuning some more–looking at his skills critically and attempting to smooth out the rough edges and build up his weaknesses until they disappear–he will one day perfect his art. But only when he has spent a good portion of his life in pursuit of these goals will it happen. And finally, others must see and recognize the results before he will… Only then can one truly say that the goal has been reached. He may be confident, but never satisfied with his skills; although he may be pleased with his accomplishments, he will always believe that he is capable of achieving more.  Remember this saying:

The Master is never satisfied with himself. Perfection is always close, but never completely within one’s grasp. Only when he sees how close he is to it, will he actually achieve it. It is a level of attainment for onlookers to enjoy–it is never for the Master himself.

When you are training for combat, you are aiming for mastery and perfection so that you will arrive at the highest level of physical ability possible. There is no other method of studying and training in these arts. This is why I say that for the serious martial artist, “part time student” status does not exist. This is not an undertaking or a hobby, it is a lifestyle. It is not a career for the teacher, it is a calling. You cannot claim to be a martial artist and separate it from your identity. We do this for life because it takes a lifetime to  complete its goals. Yes, the art in its truest form is not for everyone. But it is here for everyone that wants it; you simply have to pursue it. And pursue it long enough that someone tells you that you’ve got it. It’s complicated and complex, but it’s just that simple.

Thank you for reading my blog. Hopefully most of you are not more confused than you were 15 minutes ago.

If you like what you’ve read, you’re going to love my upcoming book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months. Available December 2009, but you can order advance copies by visiting my Offerings Page!

Come visit us again soon!


What On Earth Is a “Supreme” Grandmaster Anyway?

Is this a cat who used to train with Diana Ross in Motown, or something?

Is it that grown men–FREE men–calling another man “Master” isn’t enough? You need to lower yourself and grovel even lower?

Is it that having your butt kissed by your students isn’t enough? Don’t let me get graphic here, guys.

The FMAs have become so mainstream, it’s disgusting. Let alone that we no longer have the natural-born killers representing our arts like we did 20, 30 years ago. We have degenerated to self-promoting ranks, selling teaching certificates, promising students that they will be unbeatable in “10 seminars (ahem, easy lessons) or less”!  Our arts are now “too deadly for tournaments” and now we have to listen to the same garbage we use to laugh at being spewed by our own masters and many of you feel obligated to defend it!

Come on now, big boy… you don’t really believe that your master is undeafeated in 100 death matches, do you? See if you can get him to spar ONE “bloody nose” match with me, will you? Oh, he’s old and I’m young. Okay, since you are the one holding his jockstraps, and plan to be the “inheritor” of his system, why don’t you fight me in a light contact, friendly match?

Oh, I see. Your grandmaster is a direct descendant of Lapu Lapu. His art is 8 generations old. Okay, name each successive grandmaster/grandfather going back 4 generations.

These guys will tell you that their art goes back 9 generations, but they can’t name their great, great grandfather. Come on!

Instructorship in the FMAs use to be a graduation. Once you’ve learned an art, you knew it, and your rank depended on your skill level and knowledge base. Now, it is a level with titles and numbers (6th degree Black Belts). People ran out of numbers to give themselves–I actually met a guy who told me his Great-Grandmaster was a 15th degree Black Belter (whew!)–and titles, so now they are reaching for more things to call themselves. Heck, next these guys will start calling themselves the “Pope of Arnis de Mano”, or “Great Grandma Guro”. This is getting out of hand!

When my guys have learned my art all the way through, they will know more than I did when I first opened my school because I have had 18 years of knowledge more than I did at 22. They should be better than I was because they had more classmates than I did. They deserve to be more than just my Instructor-level student; they deserve to be my peer. And that’s the reason for these higher numbers and lofty ranks. Teachers want to remain superior, despite that they no longer can do what they use to, and that their Black Belt students will be better than they ever were, and that’s just plain wrong. What says more about a teacher:  His best students are still lesser skilled than they are at 40 or 50? Or his best students surpasses his own abilities?

May I suggest, brothers and sisters, that the best Master should be able to produce students who become better than the Master himself. I am 40, I have arthritis. Two weekends ago I performed 100 pushups–which is a basic requirement of my advanced students–and I ached for nearly 7 days, when I use to do that as a part of a regular workout. By contrast, my advanced Kuntaw students do this regularly as a warm-up. I blistered last week when I threw 1,000 strikes with my sticks (yet I was shooting for 2,500… remember the “Challenge” article?). 1,000 hits use to be a demo I performed for students complaining about 500 hits! I am a shadow of who I was, as are most men calling themselves “Master” and “Grandmaster” or more. Still, it is ego that makes some men accept this fact and still shoot for more power and arrogance, and cease to strive for improvement.

My Grandfather once said that a man’s fighting career should end in his 30s, when he begins his teaching career, then becomes a master in his 40s, when his peers begin to consider him a master. But he must continue to hone and improve his skills until his body quits, and this would be in his late 50s and 60s. My Grandfather could still spar at 78, and he never adopted the title of Grandmaster. I’ve seen only a few old men who could compare to him at an advanced age, yet most Masters with fewer abilities and younger years dare to make up titles like “Supreme Great Grandmaster” and stuff like that?

The FMA way of doing business just perplexes me, and we are going by the way of Big Business Tae Kwon Do with the ranks, multi-level marketing schemes and de-emphasis on skill development and testing. When men make up these crazy titles and wear them proudly and without shame, I know that my beloved FMAs have become the next Amway.

I believe that when a student graduates from the Advanced Level, he should have two or three more levels to aim for:  the Expert level–when he has learned the entire art and can utilize the art with great effectiveness;  the Teacher level–when he has attained an entire fighting career worth of his own fighting experiences as well as supervised teaching experience; and if you decide to (I don’t), a Senior Teacher level–which is your political/business/social status level (which I believe any rank higher than a 3rd Degree Black Belt is anyway). There is no need to test at those levels; you’ve seen what they can do in class and on the mat. I would hold a presentation ceremony and maybe a demonstration, but nothing more is necessary.

I had always been taught that the title “Master” was to be bestowed not by an organization or by oneself, but by the community you belong to. I had two significant  experiences with  the title Master around 10 years ago, and I believe that teachers should achieve it this way, rather than to pay for certification. The first was shortly after my arrival to California, when I was still on the tournament circuit and making friends among the instructors. A few times when I had visited a school, I would be introduced to students as “Master Gatdula”. This is aligned with the saying that teachers become masters when the community recognizes you as one. The second was at Manong Leo Giron’s school and house, when he and Grandmaster Vince Tinga introduced me to another teacher from the Bay as “Master” Gatdula. When I suggested that I was just a teacher, Manong Leo said, “you are a master because I say you are one…” Vince Tinga introduced me to the community as his nephew, and adopted my school as family (he actually taught in my school 7 days a week for nearly 2 years before his death). This is how one becomes a master, not through some ceremony.

Like I said in my previous articles, return to basics. Train yourself, train your students, give them plenty of opportunity to prove their sklls to you and themselves. Don’t try to make money off them forever. Give your students the respect they deserve and give your art the respect it deserves. Don’t pimp your martial arts. If you want to pimp something, throw 24s on your ride, put some bass in your trunk, but leave the arts and our traditions alone.

Thank you for reading my blog, please come back and check with us often!