Blog Post 051610

I am catching hell trying to get these articles typed up.

A few weeks ago, my house was burglarized, and although they caught the parties that did it, the computers were never recovered. That, coupled with family issues and a big recruitment push we are doing at the school, has prevented me from dedicating enough time to the blog to keep the same momentum.

So, earlier today I was talking with a very close student of mine about the next leg of my martial arts journey. His name is Sajat Hutcheson, and he is one of my strongest fighters. Sajat has been studying with me since 2002, and I have been leaning on him to commit to what I believe should be his next level for his journey. I began teaching on my own in 1992, and nearly two decades later, I am asking for his advice.

Upon moving to Sacramento in 1999, I immediately went to work on establishing my reputation as a martial arts fighter first, and later as a teacher. I did this by entering tournaments and visiting local teachers and fighters, and working out with them. Within 6 months, my reputation was here and I started teaching right away. I heavily recommend this as a first-thing’s-first for aspiring teachers. Too many teachers skip this step, and look at their mission as not much more than a business venture. When I began teaching, my student body was much older than the one I had previously in Washington, DC–most of the guys were 30 and older–and they brought with them more dedication and maturity despite more physical challenges to the learning. Ultimately, I enjoy running a school with Dads and husbands. My students are mostly younger than me, but older than most, and they are stronger, wiser and easier to teach the intricasies in my arts. For the first time in my life, I focused on teaching and less on my own training. The result is that I have much more knowledgeable students than before. On the other side of that coin is that I also stopped training full time and have aged about 25 years in less than a decade. When I was 31, most people thought I was 21. Today, at 40, people think I’m… well–40.

So, here, I arrive at my Great New Idea.

I feel that I have done my job here in Sacramento. I do have some younger students that need the same amount of attention and care, but I have brought some very good fighters and martial artists a long way. The Great New Idea is this:  I actually enjoyed the two years I stopped accepting new FMA students because I was able to focus and develop a good core of new teachers without distraction. One of my big regrets is that I did not give my Jow Ga the same amount of attention. And in saying MY Jow Ga, I am speaking of my own skill. For my next level of my martial arts journey, I am looking to develop my Jow Ga knowledge and skill to my own standard of expertise. If anyone would like to study my Kuntaw and Eskrima, I recommend the following men:

  • Sajat Hutcheson
  • Abdullah Jinn
  • Habib Ahmad
  • Darrell Spann
  • Izhaar Samut
  • Jatinder Lal

They are fully qualified to teach my style, and I would put my money on them against any man reading this announcement. I have at my school about 5,000 flyers, and when the last one is distributed, I will not accept any new FMA students until further notice.

And for me and my Kung Fu, I have 50 forms and weapons to teach. The student who has learned the most is Charles Azeltine, who is also the webmaster of my school’s website. When I am satisfied with my Kung Fu and that of my Kung Fu student’s skill, I will resume taking on new FMA students. I estimate that this will take me about 4 years to accomplish.

Would you like to hear my plan?

  1. Renew my ability to perform Jow Ga forms
  2. Incorporate more Jow Ga into my personal fighting system
  3. Compare my Kung Fu to others by competing in competition
  4. Study and develop my Jow Ga to a higher level than that which I have already attained
  5. Pass this knowledge and ability on to my current group of students


We’ll be posting some progress and insights here on this blog. Stay tuned! Thanks for visiting my blog….

Making Sense of Kung Fu “Animals”

Over the years, I’ve read with amusement some articles about martial arts “animals”. First it was Kung Fu people who really did not have a good grasp of the animal styles within their own systems. Then it was the Kung Fu people who learns styles with no animals, trying to add “hidden” animal styles to their arts. Then it was Kenpo folks trying to make their arts appear more “Chinese”, by adding animals. Then it was Silat people. Now, it’s Burmese/Filipino/Southeast Asian/other exotic styles.

Somebody’s been watching too much “Black Belt Theater” on TV Land.

I would like to share with you readers a true secret of the martial arts. And once I share this with you, many of you will change your stories (because you’ve probably been pushing the same B.S.) or be embarassed. But the good thing is that you will be more educated than you were five minutes ago, and that’s the purpose of this blog.

The “animals” of most Kung Fu styles is not evident in the hand positions, or the way the fighter imitates the way each animal fights–but the characteristics and attributes of the animal. Some animal styles are in fact true animal arts, for example Eagle Claw style Kung Fu. Yet most Kung Fu styles are only borrowing the general strength and character of their mascot, not necessarily the way that animal fights.

We really can’t teach this on a blog, but let’s take a look at some generic info about each style.

  • Tiger Style – Powerful upper body techniques; forward movement when attacked; stressing counter attacking over defense; powerful fingers, wrists and forearms; crouching stance to reserve power for initiating attacks
  • Crane Style – Quick footwork; evasiveness; emphasizing defense and counterattacks over initial attacks; expert use of the front foot in fighting
  • Leopard Style – Attacking the opponent’s low line; fast and far-reaching footwork; ability to chase and attack simultaneously
  • Snake Style – Attack the opponent as the opponent attacks, but with narrow angles; evading with body movement rather than footwork (unlike the crane, which emphasizes footwork); specializing in attacking pressure points; emphasis on accuracy, speed, and making the opponent miss by inches
  • Dragon Style – Superior strategy and knowledge of how to destroy the body; emphasis on inflicting permanent injury
  • Praying Mantis Style – Specialty is Chin Na, the art of seizing and joint manipulation; powerful grip and knowledge of the skeletal and muscular systems

Even if you have never studied an animal style, one could actually arrange his personal combat system by using these arts as a model. As always, I recommend finding a qualified teacher if this interests you. (You could always come to Sacramento and study with thekuntawman!) If not, at least drop the gang-like hand signs for these styles. That stuff is only for forms competitors and movies.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Make sure to get over to the “Offerings” page and check out my new book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months!  We have three new books coming soon… Check them out!

Producing Good FMA Instructors, pt VI

Learn the different learner types and teach them accordingly

As martial arts teachers we should learn student types, just as one would study fighter types. Each martial arts student has a preferred method of learning, and many of these students find it difficult to learn in any other form of learning than the one that suits them best. The teacher must observe how a new student reacts to various teaching styles (assuming that you utilize several forms of teaching in your classes), and once that student has been categorized, tailor the training to suit his personality.

I cannot go into detail with each type of learner (that is going to be saved for the book, Filipino Fighting Secrets Live:  Teaching Philosophy… Keep checking back with me for updates!), but I would like to introduce them to you to get your juices flowing:

  • The Intellectual–these students must make logic of everything they do. Sometimes, you can just do something because you’ve been told and eventually it begins to make sense. Take for example Chi Sao. Some students will simply do it, and months down the road realize that there is an application for it in real fighting. Yet others must see the logic in how it works, once you learn it, before they can understand how to play Chi Sao. With these students you will have to explain everything in detail and answer questions. It’s not that the student is being a smart aleck; he just doesn’t understand many techniques and skills unless you explain it in simple terms.
  • The Feeler–these students cannot watch a technique and know how to apply it well. For them, they must have hands-on experience with close supervision. Have you had a student who puts his right hand out when you say go left? Or twists the opponent’s wrist the wrong way when you showed him the correct method? He is not uncoordinated, he just is not a good imitator. This type of student must do it himself in order to “get it”. Many of these students will require you to be hands-on as well:  you will have to grab his hand and turn it for him, or get very close to have him mimic your movement while he is doing it.
  • The Imitator–this is the student who learns well by watching. You don’t even have to explain what you’re doing because this student sees what you did and can replicate it immediately. But don’t be content when he is “doing it” right, because there is a difference between performance and understanding, and one can be an Imitator and an Intellect at the same time.
  • The Challenger–this is the kind of student I am. Most techniques I see, I think “won’t work on me”. This is not a wise guy, he is simply a student who sees the counter to every technique he learns. The best way to make the Challenger learn? Put him with The Brawler and let them work it out.  Speaking of The Brawler…
  • The Brawler–this is the student who learns “moves” and not “techniques and strategies”. He is the kind of student who takes exactly what you taught him, and uses it on his classmates exactly as you taught him. While this seems like a good thing, it does have some shortcomings:  he is often very heavy handed and aggressive, and prone to accidents. On the good side, this student makes everything you teach him practical.
  • The Dreamer–this student must do the techniques in his mind before being able to perform it. This is the guy who is waving his hands around while you are teaching, and each time you demo a technique, he hits “replay” in his mind and tries it out while registering it in his memory. I am this type of student in a way, and I can tell you from experience, that even if he does not practice a skill much, he can improve the skill by performing it in his mind. In Kung Fu, I have learned over 50 forms, and I remember them because I’ve “performed” them in my mind. Some students need a hand-on experience, where this type of learner can just watch it, replay, and then “get it”.

Well, Mrs. thekuntawman wants me to cut the grass. Thank you for visiting my blog!

You Really Don’t WANT to Learn From a Master, Do You?

Edited response from a gentleman complaining that his trip to the Philippines was wasted, as the local masters he encountered there either watered down his training, or “played games” with their acceptance of him as a student.


If you don’t mind me saying, you really don’t WANT to learn from a Master, do you?

I am saying this, because there you were, in the presence of not just one, but three Masters and you approached them as if they had a product to sell and were desperate for your American dollars. You have to understand the mentality of many of these gentlemen if you are serious about becoming a student. I told you last year that you shouldn’t treat this as a business relationship, but instead act as if you were preparing to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. To tell you the truth, I agree, your trip was a waste of time and money. You probably would have had better luck offering him $100 to sleep with his daughter.

By now, you should see that there are three kind of Filipinos when it comes to the martial arts, the ones who have a product to sell and they don’t care who gets it, the ones who value what they have and would like to have loyal students to teach, and the ones who value their art as one values a family heirloom. A true Master in the art treats his art as a family heirloom. My friend, you blew your opportunity to learn a very valuable art, and I don’t even know the men you met. Or their arts.

The currency we use in the true art is your patience, loyalty, hard work and trust. We do not want to teach a guy and have him go on the internet offering home vidoes of us swinging sticks for $49.95. We do not learn our skills from lumps and bruises we earned ourself, to have some bozo run out and teach them to a roomful of strangers in a seminar. And even though you know the man’s daughter, you are still a stranger, and you must know your place. The art you want can only be bought with your patience, dedication and understanding. If he cannot trust you to do what he wants with the art, he’s not going to teach you, period.

For the guy who gave you his 5 strikes… SO WHAT??? You must realize that the strike is the backbone of a system. It is not something you memorize first day, “and now, let’s get to the real meat of the art”. This is an insult and very arrogant to say that you got nothing valuable. If you told me you bought a Arnis video and only learned the first 5 hits, then I would say that yes, you got nothing valuable. But do you agree with me that an opponent can be defeated with those 5 hits?  Then the issue is, what would that Master do with those 5 hits, that is different from your old teacher and his 5 hits? Should he just give you his secrets just because you handed him some compliments and cash? This is not how it works and I hope you know more about the Filipino Filipino arts.. but then, maybe you don’t.

What you should have done is practiced those 5 hits as if he gave you gold–because he did, it is the backbone of his system–and then returned to do whatever he had for you to do for as long as he wanted, and believe me, you would of learned more here and there. This is how training with a Master is done, not “line up and do what I do”. I recommend that you take whatever he taught you and do it thousands of times, but write him letters, send him a little cash (because all teachers need money) and then promise to give him all your time the next time you return to the Philippines. Maybe you will make it up to him for your rudeness, and yes… you were rude.

He was asking for one month. Do you know, in my school, if you cannot commit to training with me at least 6 months, I won’t accept you as a student? Because if a student is not that interested in learning from me, or he isn’t sure, I am not interested in him as a teacher. A month? That’s nothing! There is plenty of beer and Filipino women here in the US, don’t insult these Masters by passing them up for a good time. If a month is too long, how long do you plan to teach the art to your students?

So, let this be a lesson for you as a teacher also, my friend. You have to valuable the art you offer, more than money, more than the pride of having a nice big pretty school with lots of students. You must selfishly guard it because you don’t want the wrong people to have it like you don’t want the wrong guy to marry your daughters. Have skills for just anyone to learn who walks through your doors, but save certain skills for the students who have earned it. And understand that there are Masters out here whose knowledge is deep and useful and they aren’t offering to just any fool with a stick and some money (even foreign money). You will be glad you did!

Peace and Blessings