Padded Fighting In the FMA (For Master John Oliver)

Yesterday Sifu/Guro John Oliver asked me about my opinion about padded stick competition and my fighting philosophy. Although I have addressed this many times before, I thought it would be a good idea to give this topic its own article on this blog.

padded stickfighter
Padded stickfighting gives you a lot more than a sweaty shirt!

I have heard all of the talk about padded stickfighting not being “realistic enough” for combat, and how we should do more “realistic” training. I have dealt with martial artists who believe that point sparring is nothing more than a game of tag and will develop poor fighting habits–dangerous fighting habits. They say that tournaments give you a false sense of confidence and makes people think they can fight, when they really can’t fight.

I say, phooey. Same to the “realistic street survival scenarios” or whatever you want to call it:  Realistic sparring drills, simulated street encounters, live combat templates… GOOD LORD DOES IT EVER STOP? Sorry, but all those fancy names really get under my skin! See, all of it translates into plain English as “simulated fighting”. Some of you like to hit modified catcher’s mitts and call it preparing for the street, some of you hit each other (yet well protected, but you’re hitting people), and some of you don’t hit anything, you just go through sequences (ahem, kenpo a’la krap maga). The bottom line is that all of it is simulated! Where one method simulates a part of a real encounter, another part of the same method will be unrealistic.

Focus mitts

Focus mitts do not feel like a real person, and the distance is always either too close, or too far. One does not get to sense what the distance should be between you and an opponent because the partner/mitt holder is always two feet further than the target. Hooks and upper cuts are almost always held at the wrong angle and distance, because the holder is trying to hold the mitt for you to hit it. Not the same as a moving, twisting, attacking opponent… Oh, and to quote Bruce Lee, mitts don’t hit back. Well, even if the hand inside the mitts hit back, they don’t hit back like an opponent would. You see, you can’t receive a feed and hit back with the same hand (like an opponent would).

Patty cake drills

Patty cake drills! Don’t get me started on those! If there was anything in the martial arts I’d like to kick in the behind, terminate and bury, then erase from our collective FMA memories, it’s the FMA patty cake drill! This is the most unrealistic, bad-habit forming, waste of time and energy (not to mention a new addition to the FMA, old timers never bothered with such girliness) ever thought of. Let’s shoot this skill in the ass and never bring it back.

Sparring with friends

Good, but not good enough. your friends will never come at you with the viciousness I would if you were my opponent and I was trying to prove to the world and you that I am the superior fighter. Plus after a while, sparring with the same guy does not give you the variety, experience dealing with the unfamiliar, and the adrenaline rush that fighting with strangers would. Sparring with friends and classmates become predictable after a while, and the more you do it, the less of a learning experience it becomes.

Padded stick sparring/Point fighting

Too many rules. You don’t get to use your more deadly techniques. Everytime someone lands an attack, the ref breaks it up and they call points, and on the street no one will call your points. Everything is too safe. What about protective gear? No one walks down the street with a face cage on.

BUT:  Point fighting gives you an edge if you use it properly by looking at it as a training tool to teach explosive movement and timing. You master the initial encounter and the initial attack (as well as the counter to the initial attack). As a point fighter, you are looking at one part of the altercation–the moment you engage your opponent–and you are perfecting it. The first two movements in any fight is like a point fight; what you do after that can be perfected by ring fighting. Padded stick fighting allows you to do the same thing by giving opponents a safe way of sparring consistently using the same techniques, and you can’t do that in unpadded, live stick fighting. You can’t talk about false confidence in this area because everyone knows what a stick feels like. What the padded stick does is allow you to perfect your timing and distance by giving the fighters a way to be near the stick more than anyone else while it is moving at full speed, full power. You learn more this way, rather than the altercation being a blur when you’re getting hit with painful blows. If you look at the average guy who does unpadded fighting, he may have 20, 30 fights under his belt? The guy doing padded stick fighting has probably lost count after 200 or so.

Bottom line is that point fighting and padded stick fighting allows a fighter to do more with more intensity, more often. Does it replace live stick, full contact and fighting by the round? No. But it brings something to the table that no other activity except actually fighting on the street does, and does it in a much better way than most other forms of training.

In my 20 years that I have been teaching the martial arts, I have seen more than my share of training techniques and heard a lifetime’s worth of philosophy. In almost every case, what had been presented as “realistic” fighting was not fighting at all; it was nothing more than self defense demonstrations. Some call it Kenpo. Some call it prearranged defense. Some call it give-and-take. Some call it practical applications. Some call it Kata. Do I believe it is better for fighting skill? No. Do I dislike it? Yes. Should it be dropped? No.

Everything done in the martial arts develops a different part of one’s martial skill. Some things can be done away with, some things can be emphasized more than others. But at the same time, some of these things should not be done without:

  • skills practice (punches, kicks, strikes, attack and countering combinations)
  • power mechanics practice
  • conditioning
  • sparring while material is being learned
  • sparring with strangers after material is learned
  • conducting high repetitions of tools and techniques
  • study and execution of fighting strategy

Intensity does not have to be full contact, full speed all the time either. Rather, you should place intensity and speed/power in its proper place in your training. There are really four levels:

  1. slow speed, less power to medium speed, less power–when first learning a new technique. we do this until able to execute without thinking and when motion is fluid
  2. medium speed, medium power to fast speed, medium power–after developing some proficiency, you will increase the output to perfect your technique and develop your skill in application. use various levels of speed and power when sparring to learn how to use this technique effectively
  3. fast speed, medium power to full speed, full power–once you have reached the advanced level of skill, this level should be utilized almost all of the time to reach mastery. vary the levels when sparring to learn variations in application and to develop your own flavor in using the techniques
  4. full speed, full power–to be used in fighting

I would like to add that there is a misconception that one must fight full contact all the time in order to be combat ready. Every scenario, some believe, should be identical to the street. Have you ever been in a gang? Or ran with a crew? I have, and I can tell you, these guys are really seasoned fighters, and they don’t play fight FULL POWER. No, they slap box, they work out, and then they fight. They have effectiveness in a streetfight because their mentality is aimed at fighting, and they take real approaches to fighting, rather than conceptual ones. They do not concern themselves with style, attributes, triangles, guntings, b.s. like that. Some guy says, “Hey let me show you this way to knock a dude out”, he shows it to his boys and they do it a few times and then one day, he does it. In my younger years, I was around guys who really fought–on the street and in jail–and I believe that the martial artist is actually taking a better path to fighting effectiveness than many of these guys. The martial artist is disciplined, he trains regularly, he looks at fighitng critically, and studies combat. The only drawback is that he overcomplicates fighting by inserting too much theory into his art and spreads his attention out too thin among too many techniques. And finally, he does not spend enough time fighting–simulated or otherwise–to have any true effectiveness when he does fight.

Padded and point fighting gives you the opportunity to face more opponents and try out more techniques in a safer environment. Simply by giving the fighter more time with an opponent makes these two forms of training extremely valuable to the fighter’s preparation.

Thank you for reading my blog. Don’t forget to check out my Offerings page, and check out my book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months! Please come visit again soon!

Seminar Guys, Challenges, and Chismiss

I was reading the blog of another martial artist back East (Mushtaq Ali, in Michigan), and came across this topic about a tournament they had last month. It got me thinking about a few subjects.

The article actually opened my eyes up to a few things, that I’d like to share with you. Because it’s actually 1 a.m., I would like to just write these things down now and hopefully have them edited and posted sometime tomorrow.

  • apparently, I am right about the shift of trends. Seminar guys are starting to compete and fight more often, and I am happy to see this. It is one of the main things missing from seminar community. I believe that the more popular and accepted it becomes, we will begin to see better skilled martial artists coming out of that community. If they can combine this part of the martial arts subculture with better training methods, teaching philosophy and overall martial arts philosophy, the FMAs will resume its station as a great fighting style here in the West. However, we are several decades–and MANY generations behind the other more popular arts. It’s a lofty goal, but not impossible.
  • backbiting is still around as with any group of people, but it has no place among fighters. See, unlike other people, we have a “different” (for lack of a better term) way of expressing disagreement, and settling differences. In the article, we see that Guro Smith (Buzz, that is) and Guro Ali are having a bit of a squabble. It bothers me that this disagreement is more of a misunderstanding between friends, and it bothers me more that it is concerning a seemingly good will gesture gone awry, between two good men. On the other hand, Guro Ali is correct in that a little bit of conflict is good for business. In addition to business it is good for one’s art as well! What better way to exercise the old muscles and courage than to challenge someone to a fight? I love it… the Philippine martial arts are alive and well in Michigan! Seriously, I thought Guro Ali handled himself very well (if you didn’t go to the link you’re really missing out), just as Dr. Jerome Barber handled himself well with the conflicts he was involved with. I think these men did with class, and as gentlemen. I still like the good ole fashioned “kick em in the pants” method, but it is always refreshing to learn something new!
  • I see that the Jeet Kune Do guys in the midwest are fighting as well. That’s a good thing. I still don’t care much for “concepts” and their preferred method of training, but you have to give credit where credit is due. Those guys are (as my son would say) “representing”.
  • if you want to really settle a controversy old fashioned style, pick a venue (tournament) and invite your victim to enter. This way, there are witnesses, rules, and the opportunity to shut your victim up with words or his inaction. I love it.

Thanks for reading my blog, everyone… Have a good weekend!

Video Review: Steve Grody Flow of Filipino Kali Emtpy Hands Vol I

I am going to try my best to be as objective as possible; you guys know how I feel about JKD/Kali and the whole videotape/seminar market…

At first I had planned to lump all of the volumes of various DVDs together, but I thought, “the energy and material may be different from one volume to the other,  so why not judge each one separately?”  I would be lying if I said I was disappointed by Steve Grody’s Flow of Filipino Kali Empty Hands. That’s not to say that I liked it; I just wasn’t expecting much else besides what you would find from your typical FMA/JKD video. I was neither excited nor bored, turned off nor impressed. Sorry to say this, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. As I watched this tape, I felt like it was 1999 and I was looking at Burton Richardson’s (sorry, I forgot the name) videos from the 90s, Dan Inosanto’s FMA series from the 80s, and Paul Vunak’s JKD series from the 80s… along with every copy-cat instructional FMA tape that followed Inosanto’s work. The only difference is the level of skill of the demonstrator (Guro Dan is still the best, and Vunak sorta looks like he can kick some ass) and the quality of production.

What I discovered after watching Grody’s tape and then reflecting on most of the JKD/Kali folks I’ve met, is that they are very big on demonstrating techniques and their “could be’s”:  Well if he did this, you could do this, and if he did that in response, you could do that… etc.  To say that these guys know what they’re doing is an overstatement. I really doubt much of this material has been practiced in real time in serious sparring with anyone other than a novice or another JKD guy. It’s the only reason I could see someone really believing this stuff works in a fight; they haven’t used them in a fight. It is sad to watch an FMA “expert” fumble around with techniques on tape–it reflects on all of us, and is one of the reasons the Filipino arts are not taken seriously by anyone but other Filipino artists and those who don’t know much about fighting.

To paraphrase a common complaint I hear about the seminar series:  “I spent too much money to watch the teacher sit there and demonstrate stuff for two hours!”  Basically, what drives this form of fighting forward is the interest in watching entertaining demos and picking up neat new tricks that Leo Gaje and the rest of the Kali-is-from-Moroland-Krew can claim they learned from their Lolos. Neat tricks. That is the idea behind this side of the industry. At least the Kenpo guys have trained in their stuff long enough and hard enough they look like they can fight when they do it!

So, now that I have told you (for the millionth time) my feelings about this market and the art, let’s move on with the video review:

The video starts off with Grody talking about names of the FMAs, how the knife the stick and empty hand are interconnected, and how the higher levels of hte FMAs include Pana-tukan (lol), Tadyakan and all the other Inosanto-isms. He thanks Guro Inosanto for sharing his art with him and the world (thank you, too, Guro I.), and then mentions that in order for this stuff to be any use, you will need a background in kickboxing

Wait. Did he say KICKBOXING? I’m sorry, I had to get a Q-tip for my ears. I have yet to see a JKD guy with good kickboxing skill. Getting in the ring does not equate to good kickboxing skill, so save me the speech about Mark Stewart and some of the others. This is the first problem I have with Kali/JKD. They are in such a rush to gloss over the importance of good punching and kicking skill, and very unqualified to define good punching and kicking skill,  in order to get to the cool-looking Wing Chun/Hsing Yi/Ba Gua  stuff. This is the reason why MMA sucks so bad, that martial artists today believe boxing is so easy and kicking is even easier, that there are really no standards. The result? Piss-poor fighting skills, and FMA empty hand is something to impress the white belts with. Sorry, but I don’t know if anyone’s told you guys, but I’ve seen better, cleaner punching skill on my Mom’s Tae Bo videos. So I guess we should ask, Where does one acquire these kickboxing skills? In the same place Bruce Lee got his boxing skills? On video? Hell, why not? You’re getting your FMA skill on video…

Anyway. We move on to footworks. There is a triangle on the floor, and above that is a guy name Mark Baylor (I think that’s the spelling) standing in a Bruce Lee-Enter-the-Dragon stance. I won’t give you my opinion of it, but my 9 year old son is laughing his pants off. They go through the standard Female/Reverse Triangle vs Male/Forward  Triangle explanation. Lateral Triangle vs cross… Oh wait, let me explain something. If a guy is throwing a serious right cross, you will not have time to react with a Triangle-anything, let alone one of those neat FMA/Silat/Hsing Yi/Wing Chun rip-off counters. I challenge you; go into any boxing gym and try it out. No–take your GURO to a boxing gym and have him try it.

Back to the tape:  He adds and advancing step, a retreating step (using that damned triangle, of course), a side step, and angled step… The whole footwork thing was very quick and this guy with the Bruce Lee stance is no longer funny. I am starting to get irritated. Bruce Lee is my favorite actor, and if you’re going to bring it, bring it correct. My homeboy from DC, Kevin “China” Williams, a true Bruce Lee fan and butt-kicker on the street can do the Bruce Lee stance. See, this cat brings it correct, and he says if you come visit him in Tennessee, he’ll show you how it’s done. But anyway, the footwork in this system is not really revisited in the series like it should be–regardless of how impractical the footwork is–and this is obviously not a serious fighting system because footwork is treated as parsley on a plate.

Let me say this before you guys beat me up like you did over Greg Alland’s review:  Grody  presents somewhat better than many of the FMA guys I’ve seen. I don’t doubt that he doesn’t train hard. I happen to believe that he has been mis-educated about FMAs and he is simply regurgitating what is being taught in seminars all over the country. Many things he does fluidly, too many things he does not. But if you came here for my opinion, you’re going to get it. If this review offends you, go into the address bar and type www dot defend dot net slash deluxeforums and read up on how great the FMAs are. Or you could do what no one has done (to my knowledge); enter a local karate competition and show them how effective JKD/Kali empty hand is.

Back to the review. Next is the “empty hands inspired by the knife” section. What FMA empty hands video is complete without

THE GUNTING

Ah, the gunting. Limb destruction. The most dangerous, too-deadly-for-sparring excuse not to fight with your art. At least he didn’t say “gunting means limb destruction”. Thank you Master Grody! You must have a Filipino friend nearby! But he does make comments like “We like to hold our hands this way…”  Is he talking JKD/Kali guys? Or FMA guys? One of the things that bothers me about JKD/Kali guys (Inosanto included) who make generalizations about the Filipino arts is that people believe that all FILIPINO arts have these things, and when one doesn’t it is looked down upon as less than authentic or incomplete. And another thing that irritates me (besides Mark’s Bruce Lee stance and mullet) is that we have Filipinos who lend credibility to this stuff by trying to live up to the stereotype.

Anyway… he does a backfist “gunting” which is useful, but I think every FMA guy (and youtube viewer) in America knows already. But he messes it up by doing a switch step with it which would never work against a real punch. But then again, Mark Baylor (sorry if I’m mispelling) is not really trying to hit him. I wonder if Grody has ever really had someone try to hit him and this “gunting” worked. To quote Marvin Hagler, as he ate KFC the day after the Tommy Hearns fight, “I don’t think so.”

Or was that, “Probably soup”? Hmmm…

Anyway, he does some alternate “guntings”–I’ve got a note here about Baylor’s limp wrist in his guard… another Bruce Lee thing (is he serious?). Reminds me of all the Black martial arts dudes on the East Coast walking around with  Dashikis and afros in the 80s. I have a few friends who are still stuck in that era. Now we go to Siko (elbow) destructions. Man, these cats love their terminology! But we have the elbow vs the jab (again, only in the movies) which he claims works against the cross as well (again again, only in the movies and UP videos). First, the distance is too far. The opponent is pawing from a position where he clearly is not giving a realistic attack to defend. Secondly, there are far too many steps in his counter and follow-ups. Then more terms. “Sectoring”. “Long range punching” (isn’t that a punch that is too far away to land? either it’s close enough to land or it isn’t!). Oh, he says  that we Filipinos like to use a descending siko. Against a side kick? I thought these guys used Bruce Lee’s style? Wouldn’t you get destroyed by a Bruce Lee side kick with one of those defenses?

Now we go into what he calls a “sweet series”. Don’t get me started on the taboo in boxing of calling something “sweet” that isn’t. Like “Sugar” Rashad Evans. What? He is covering hooks and none of this stuff is practical. He slap blocks a hook. (Amazing.) He wrist blocks a hook, and then PASSES it. Then he does the “block, cover, lift”-sinawali look alike technique that’s so popular with the kids. Then back to more long range counters against the hook… Oh Lord, my pen is starting to wander. I actually made a note that Mark Baylor looks like the guy from Tombstone… If this is over soon, I’m going to pop in my Tombstone video (on VHS, thank you) and laugh at Wyatt Earp and his Huckleberry…  Then comes the Thai pads with the gunting (unnecessary). Boy they sure do love their Thai pads. Makes you look authentic.

Now the kicks. He is using a knee against a low round kick. Yeah, good in slow motion, but also a good way to get your knee broke in a fight. Then comes the “what-ifs”:  shin block the kick (goodway to get it broke, pt II) and push the leg down, hammerfist the leg, the elbow lifting thingy vs the high round kick vs the shin? He slap blocks a round kick ala Bruce Lee vs Japanese guy (Suzuki) in Fists of Fury?  Is anyone testing this stuff??? I think they’re dissecting Bruce Lee movies and calling it FMA. LOL!

There are a few decent techniques. He attacked the supporting leg as a counter. There were a few, but me and the boy are looking for that Tombstone video. Then I caught something. He said there weren’t any hich kicks in the Philippine arts because “there is generally always a blade or strong stick around.” WTF??? I don’t know whether to be offended or amused at this. I guess we Filipinos are a sneaky bunch; we’re practically *ninjas*….

Okay, then defenses from the side kick. Slide back, elbow the kick. Good Lord. Hammerfist the leg. Kick the supporting leg. I know you guys would probably disagree, but I think at this point, teaching these guys how to point fight would give them better strategies for dealing with a side kick.

Then he captures the side kick. Anyone ever seen the video with Sioc Glaraga and Joe Mena on LionHeart? Master Sioc is thrusting knifes at GM Mena, then as soon as Mena moves, Sioc just drops the knife? LOL. Reminds me of that scenario. Sort of a George Dillman knockout demo.

A few more hand vs leg defenses, and the tape abruptly ends. Me and my boy are fighting over the Daddy chair in my living room, I’ve got the last of the Butter Pecan, he’s got some popsicles he made a few days ago, and I’m about to give my son some Old West history lessons via Kurt Russell’s Tombstone. Hell, at least it’s more historically accurate than the Filipino martial history lesson he’d just gotten in the last hour! At least he was amused and didn’t fall for it.

One less FMA student to worry about.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Up next:  Remy Presas MODERN ARNIS series!

Fallacy of Jeet Kune Do

When I was a boy, I read with great interest Bruce Lee’s Tao of Jeet Kune Do. Right after I read that, I read Dan Inosanto’s Absorb What Is Useful and Guide to Martial Arts Training Equipment. Being young and easily influenced, I was immediately drawn in and sold on the philosophy. As I matured, I slowly removed myself from many of Bruce Lee’s ideas until I nearly rejected all of them. Today, I am a combination of admirer and critic of Lee’s JKD. My methodology was born of my experiences and observations as well as tested theories.

My philosophy is all over the internet, and hopefully we can bring all of those writings to this blog. I am not interested in arguing point-for-point every detail, because much of what I wrote 10 years ago is no longer my position today. This is a vast subject, and being a “nobody” (since Jeet Kune Do people like to point out that I am a nobody) my martial arts career will neither be broken nor made because of this position. I would like to share some of these things in this article, and I hope that at least some of you will find what is in this article helpful.

The Paradox of Bruce Lee’s Philosophy

Bruce Lee’s JKD is a style that claims not to be a style. It has a curriculum, a philosophy, teachers, schools, a TRADEMARK, students arguing about lineage and authenticity (just like every traditional legacy I’ve seen) and even “forms”. Although these “forms” are combinations and drills, what is a form but a series of blocks, attacks and counters that have been prearranged? Do JKD practitioners not do the same thing? You strike me here, and then I do this and that? One person holds out an arm while the defender blocks and counters with X, Y, and Z? Looks like Kenpo from here. Bruce Lee himself came from the traditional system (Wing Chun), which is apparent in his system. Yeah, call it Jun Fan Kickboxing, whatever… but his system of no systems sure looks like a system to me. From what I hear, he even tried to dismantle the art shortly before he died because he saw it going down the same road the traditional styles travelled. Did Lee practice forms? Sure. Those of you who know Ying Jow Pai may recognize the first few moves of “Jeet Kune” an Eagle Claw FORM, being performed by Lee in “Return of the Dragon” in the alley before he whips up the Italian guy–and in the Game of Death, he does the end of the form while in his room the first day on Han’s Island (ironically, Shek Kin is an Eagle Claw Sifu–he is my kung fu Uncle). Surely, he practiced the 4 forms of Wing Chun:  Siu Lum Tao, Chum Kiu, Biu Jee, and the Mook Yan Jong form. But he didn’t teach them to his students… or did he? Ever seen any of the students from his early days? They do those forms. In my opinion, they seemed to be more fighters than the ones who came along in later years. The truth is, Bruce Lee benefitted from traditional martial arts training, but he preached against it. It was his traditional training that encouraged his search for “non-traditional” martial arts. I believe in fighters with a strong foundation creating their own methods–but only after they have a base of knowledge to grow from. Bruce Lee’s ideas were good, but in my opinion not well thought out and tested. We love him because of his movies and his profoundness as a martial arts philosopher. But keep in mind that he was a young man without a master, without a lot of actual learning (he learned mostly by books, except for limited exchanges with others and his short time with Yip Man). He was a talented specimen who trained full time in a young martial arts community without a lot of exposure to martial arts masters. Was he in great shape? Yes. Was he a skilled fighter? I don’t know, no one really questioned or tested him. And that was the problem.

The Process of Development

Where was Bruce Lee’s laboratory? Who did he test his theories on? How long did he test those theories? How was his art tempered?

Let me answer those questions with a question:  Who taught Bruce Lee how to box?

The answer:  no one. Create your own path, remember? Bruce Lee studied boxing the same way most of you do. Not by going into the gym and boxing, but by looking at youtube clips and HBO. Oh, he didn’t have youtube and HBO, so he really had less exposure than many of you have. Bruce Lee learned to box by observation, and came up with his own theories. This is the common method of young men who thought they knew everything. Hey, I was the same way myself at one time… but I was given the opportunity to get older and I had the humility to go and learn from those who know more than me. Imagine where his JKD had been if Lee had walked into a boxing gym instead of looking at Muhammad Ali fights. (By the way, Ali was one of the worst people to learn how to fight by observing. He only used a portion of boxing basics, and relied more on his natural talents and hard work than by boxing basics)

Bottom line, Bruce Lee was a fine physical specimen among a community of martial artists who were in awe of him. I believe many men who admired him could actually have beaten him–Jim Kelly, Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris, among others. This was one of Bruce Lee’s main flaws (keep in mind, he was young and human):  that he believed he was not in need of a master and that he could teach himself better than if he had gone to the masters personally. Mostly everything he incorporated was self-taught…. Fencing, boxing, wrestling, judo. What would you say if a man appeared today and announced that this was how he learned, and today he is introducing his own art? Be honest! His celebrity status and his strength and prowess prevented him from improving his art because he lacked the two things that every master needs to forge his art:  doubters and humility. He needs the doubters to fine tune his art and prove his theories on. And he needs the humility to seek the information and foundation that his art would be built on.

The Double Standard

Bruce Lee said you cannot swim on dry land; that a fighter needed to fight to test himself out. But Lee tested himself out on students and friends, if at all. He did not meet Jim Kelly and fight him to see where he stood. He trained alone, and showcased his abilities before a camera and his students. He did not care for fighting with rules, but he did not fight without rules. Every fight has rules. If this was the case, when he sparred with Chuck Norris, one of them would be dead, now wouldn’t they?

I am going to end this article here, but would like to close with a few statements. Bruce Lee did revolutionize the martia arts generation he lived in and the one that followed because he made them think. Yet his ideas were not the absolute truth, and included many inaccuracies. We admired the man and his encouragement to test and question, but no one wanted to test and question his art. Today, nearly 40 years after his death, martial artists quote Bruce Lee sayings as one quotes the Bible. His theories are considered to be the most valid of philosophies and anything contrary to be foolish. Despite that in his last years, Bruce Lee wished to alter his art and ideas. His followers are stuck in the “Original JKD” vs. “Concepts”  and Seattle vs. Oakland vs. LA feuds, as if the version they received was better than another.

I would like to suggest several things to consider:

  1. Making one’s own path is useless with no sense of direction. You need a structure and foundation to build from; otherwise you are guilty of building a home on sand
  2. Every style or system is one man’s “path”. If he has tested his art, proven it on opponents and fine-tuned it, the art is valid. You cannot skip the testing of an art by saying he chose his own “path”. Contrary to popular belief, there is a such thing as “bad” or “weak” martial arts styles–regardless of how tough the student of that style is
  3. Teachers who point students down a path that he did not travel is either not confident in the path he took, or sending his student down an unfamiliar road
  4. You cannot confuse admiration, respect, or love with confirmation of your teacher’s theory. You must prove everything, and to accept a dogma without testing is nothing more than “blindly following”. Failing to question a man’s theories because you like his movies, his ideas or his body is foolish
  5. An inexperienced martial artist teaching himself is always foolish. Just as a 6 year old cannot raise himself, a man cannot teach himself an art and expect to be taken seriously. It doesn’t matter how ripped his abs are, how good his movies are, or how many thumb-push-ups he can do
  6. I am a great admirer of both Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto. They are heroes and highly significant characters in martial arts history. However, no man is above reproach or criticism

Thank you for reading my blog… please come back and visit again!

Why the forums are good practice for the FMAist (and Why Dan is a better fighter)

The online forums are sometimes considered a waste of time by many in the FMA world. I believe this is because we are human and do not want to hear views that conflict with our own, or worse… to hear someone say that our way of training, our style, sometimes our teachers–are wrong. Emotions can run high when these discussions occur, and feelings are hurt, reputations can be ruined, etc. And to make matters worse, many schools, masters and teachers are openly ridiculed by nobodies and other teachers alike.

So how can you call this a good thing, Mustafa?

One of the things a fighter must have is toughness. How tough can a man be if his skin is fragile? If his feelings are hurt easily? If his anger cannot be controlled? The forums are a place where people can face opposition without having to fight. Isn’t that great? You won’t get called all the way onto the carpet? I understand that many martial artists will not fight. That’s okay, you have your way, and we have ours. But one must at least be willing to hear a dissenting view…

Let’s look back to 1999, when I was arguing that Kinomutai does not exist in the Philippines, Kali is not the Mother Art, and the way most FMA people practice their art will get them killed. Guess what? I was ridiculed, folks thought I didn’t know anything about “real” FMA, and most FMA people with experience who looked for schools bypassed my place. Today, in 2009, a decade later, most of the FMA world knows that Kali is no Mother Art, and that Dan Inosanto’s terms and stories are most likely not accurate.

So, who was the prophet where most of you first heard the news?

And where did you hear it?

I had many of those moments, but through it all, I still look at the 30 or so teachers I often had feuds with online as my brothers. Though many of them would like to nail me to a cross with their “karambit”, I don’t hold grudges and still grew within the art. My point of this is that too often, the FMA person hides from the dissenting voice, and is really afraid to hear someone question their art. Want to really piss off a Filipino Martial Artist? Tell him that you don’t think his art will work.

This is one of the secrets of the Filipino arts. That your art does not grow by having a bunch of nut-huggers. This is what happened to Jeet Kune Do. People swallowed it whole because Bruce Lee created it, and Dan Inosanto’s skill made it look so good. Remind me to tell you something I haven’t said much in public, btw.

Jeet Kune Do had 30 something years to get marketed and develop WITHOUT having people question and put it down. See, each time someone tells you to your face that your art doesn’t look effective, you have just received a chance to grow your art. Prove it works. Test it out to see how it does. One of the best things to happen to Emin Botzepe and William Cheung is that Emin went to a seminar and kicked his ass… not with kung fu, but very bad streetfighting. What it did to Emin was to give him the confidence to do it again, and make sure that no one ambushes him in a seminar. For William, I’m sure it made him go back to the drawing board and revise his comfy Wing Chun and how he promotes it. While some of the momma-boys-turned-martial-artists saw it as a black eye, it was actually a wake-up call. That you can’t hide behind seminars, popularity and surrounding yourself with friends. That even though you have hundreds, maybe thousands of people, call you “Master”, you are a man like everyone else and will have to keep your blade sharpened. That if you’re going to be out there teaching, you better be ready to back up your reputation anytime, anywhere.

Now, if you are so closed-minded that you can’t bear to hear another person question your credentials or skills or ideas, you won’t be able to focus when someone wants to see your skills… right now. Forums, for this reason, helps you prepare to defend yourself–at least verbally. Learn to face contradicting voices and ideas. You’ll never grow if you can’t.

Reason #2 that forums are a good idea: You will hear about training methods, styles, techniques, stories about other masters and histories, and many, many other things that you may not have heard before (nor will you hear them in your own school)! Not everything will be true, but your martial education will be enhanced by what you will read. Sure, there will be the occasional Angela Blancia (or whatever her name is), but many historical facts, stories and new training ideas are discussed there. Many of these are news to even your teachers! You can always benefit from more education, and the discussion forums–MartialTalk, Defend.net, Eskrima Digest, Dragonslist, and others–are a great place to supplement your martial education.

Now, about Dan Inosanto. I have always thought, that as a fighter, I thought Dan was better than Bruce. Even when I was in high school, I had a lot of non-martial art friends as well as martial artist friends who thought I was crazy for thinking that (even saying I thought so because he was Filipino.) Here are some of the reasons:

  • Inosanto fought in tournaments, and it’s documented. Yeah, so Bruce Lee fought on the streets, whatever. I’m sorry, but from what I read, he didn’t handle doubters very well. Anyone who is this way is not secure enough to know without a doubt that his art works. Bruce Lee may have been in tremendous shape, blah blah blah, but skill isn’t always packaged nicely.
  • Inosanto exchanged with many more fighters, than Bruce Lee, who spent a lot of time with his “laboratory” ALONE. Having a lot of partners who were not in awe of you will make you work harder. When Inosanto earned his black belt in Brazilian Jujitsu, I am sure he earned it. No offense, but Bruce Lee learned from books, we all know this. If he had stepped into the Kronk Gym instead of studying Ali videos, JKD would have had a completely different set of hand techniques. If he had gone to a Muay Thai gym JKD would have been different. In my opinion, Dan improved JKD. Dan humbly chased arts, Bruce arrogantly tried to “make his own path”, possibly because he thought no one could teach him, and that he could teach (and train himself).
  • Bruce Lee tested himself on students. This is why we always heard how much of a bad-ass he was. If you talked to my students, they’d say the same thing about me that people say about Bruce Lee. But talk to competitors I fought with, or other instructors I sparred with. That’s convincing. Like I said, Dan is the one with the record.

Now, if I had put this on the forums, I’d probably get flamed more than Bruno. But this is my blog, and I felt like writing it, and hopefully Mike doesn’t edit it out (like he does everything else!)…