The Triple Effort

Here’s a quickie for today…

Last night I was talking to a young man named Rahsaan, who is an aspiring martial arts teacher. He probably has a few years before I would recommend he round up his family members to invest in a commercial space, but I like his approach to his martial arts education.

To keep it short, he has completed his Black belt in the arts and had spent several years with the FMAs in a program that does not involve exams or rank. At 19 years old, he decided to forego his formal academic education (with the blessings of his parents, surprisingly) in order to train and compete to the championship level. Not everyone will agree with this approach. My father did not support me in this decision, but my mother did. I would like to submit to you, that the martial arts is as valid a vocation as any other skill. It is a specialized skill and one can make a living doing it–even those whose knowledge and ability are mediocre. I only got to talk to him and haven’t seen him do anything, but I believe that his ability could very possibly be above average. If he keeps it up for another three years–the amount of time it takes to complete an apprenticeship in a trade, or a college degree in academics–he will become very good.

His chances of becoming a successful teacher–one who will be remembered for years to come–depend on it.

I will come back to our conversation in another article, but I would like to focus on one thing. He asked me about what I believed to be the best method of teaching advanced students. In his FMA training, he had received basically a hodgepodge of styles and skills and did not have a curriculum to follow when he decided to teach. There is no way, unless he became a student of mine, I could really impart my philosophy about teaching advanced students. There are a few approaches:

  • curriculum based.  teach “advanced” techniques at the advanced level. “advanced” is one’s own interpretation of the term. it could be dangerous techniques, difficult to pull off, favorite techniques, etc.
  • lethal based. only teach skills that could end a life or cripple to advanced students you trust. I happen to like this approach myself
  • exploratory. allow students to experiment and come up with their own interpretation of your art. they should develop the theory first, then develop the theory into provable skill before graduating them
  • skill based. teach all techniques required in the system by the advanced level, then use the advance level to develop performance to an extremely high degree
  • teaching based. use the advance level to transition students from students to instructors

Each of these methods, or a combination of them, has its merits and challenges. Which should one choose? It’s a matter of preference. Contrary to my saying that fighting is an exact science–philosophy is not. What works for one man may not work for the next, and the proof is in the performance of the students. So to answer young brother Rahsaan’s question, there is no answer. He will have to figure that one on his own, even if he started with one and years later, change to another. We talked about the different approaches, and I challenged him to undertake one that I put on my advanced students. This is a training period I have written on several times on this blog, and I would like to go a little deeper and share with you where I got it.

If you follow the comments on this blog, or discussion mediums about this blog, you will find that my detractors love to nitpick at me. Rather than challenge my skill or the effectiveness of my style, they’d rather argue semantics. I have little interest in that, and I have no shame in saying that I will import things from other styles into my FMA if it makes my systems better. And bottom line of all martial arts is the answer to the question “Can you beat me?”  All I do is aimed at making sure that the answer is a loud “NO.”

There is a Japanese ideal called San Bai No Do Ryoku (Triple Effort). Many swordsmen have adopted this before going into combat, and some have even made this a requirement before releasing a student from his own tutelage. I am a heavy subscriber to this philosophy and use it in everything I do. It is a simple notion to put on paper; yet, a seemingly impossible one to live.

Put plainly, Triple Effort is the practice of knowing what the average opponent can do, and train with triple that degree. For example, most schools in my area will award instructorship to students in 2 years. So I make my students train for 6 years before I consider them advanced. The average expert Eskrimador can throw roughly 100-150 strikes before expiring. So I work with 500. Most Eskrimadors who train for power work with a 3/4″ rattan, so I train with 1″ hardwood or a baseball bat. Most schools offer training twice a week, so I offer it six.

Masahiko Kimura
Masahiko Kimura

In somewhat modern times, the late, great Masutatsu Oyama described his training under his Judo (or Goju, I can’t remember) teacher, named Mas Kimura. Not much is available about him on the internet, but as a boy I had a magazine purchased in Taiwan with an interview with Oyama. I had read that issue many times because I only had a handful and have since lost it. I remember the stories about Mas Oyama well, because my grandfather who disliked things Japanese admitted that he admired Mas Oyama–whom he considered the last of the great warriors. Kimura was a short man, but extremely powerful and muscular. Under him, Oyama developed the physique he was known for throughout his prime. It was under Kimura that Oyama learned the ideal of San Bai No Do Ryoku. Their daily regimen was based on the Sumo training regimen (if you are unfamiliar with it, I highly recommend checking out what those guys do daily. It might give you a new respect for them). Here are a few of the things they did (I don’t really remember if all of this was in the article, but I cut and pasted it from another article some years back and emailed it to myself):

  • 1,000 pushups
  • 500 sumo squats
  • 500 punches on a makiwara
  • 100 live Judo throws
  • Bunny Hop 1 kilometer
  • 100 Judo entries
  • 100 Judo submissions
  • 100 jumps over a potted plant
  • 100 pull ups

None of this involved weight lifting, but one can imagine the kind of strength and power you would develop from such a training program. Oyama spent a very short amount of time with Kimura. However, he credited him with showing him the potential he could develop, as a human being, to possess superhuman ability. Any man would love to be invincible; this is often what drew us to the art. The question is, what would you be willing to endure to attain it?

A popular photo of Kyukushinkai founder Masutatsu Oyama, prior to taking his mountain reatreat...
A popular photo of Kyukushinkai founder Masutatsu Oyama, prior to taking his mountain reatreat…

My advice to the young teacher is to break free of the cookie cutter mold of teaching that 99% of the martial arts community is following. If he wanted to follow his own path, then start with ensuring that his own skill rests several layers higher than those of his peers. Then, as a teacher, point to none other than himself as the goal and show them the way. Yes, it may lead to small enrollments or a bottom heavy with beginners school–but he will know that he has truly followed and completed the path of the masters.

Or, on the other hand, he can chase rank and do it like everyone else and not stand out. <—- This is one of the secrets of the Masters.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Why Rashad Evans Lost

I’m going to switch gears a little more and do some fight analysis.

Evans on the mat... in a much different way than he is used to!
Evans on the mat... in a much different way than he is used to!

Today I was watching the Evans/Machida fight (great website, by the way) at a coffee shop with one of my students. I only saw the match once, but noticed a huge number of elementary mistakes that shocks me have never been capitalized upon before. It’s obvious Evans has the wrong people training him, or he doesn’t listen to his trainers, or he is self-training (which goes back to the first reason… wrong people in his corner). Let’s get right to business and discuss these things.

  1. The commentator mentions he has a boxing trainer. WRONG. If he allows Evans to drop his jab the way he did throughout the entire fight–and then never even use his jab–he needs to fire his trainer, and get a real boxing coach. Had Evans learned to really use his hands for something besides throw parking lot punches and hang his gloves, most of those exchanges would have never happened. He needs to learn how to punch, punch in combination, and go back to basics with learning how to box–or go and study Karate for a lifetime, train in tournaments for a lifetime, and then ask Machida for a rematch. He tried to fight Machida’s fight and it failed him miserably. Too many people, especially fighters, are misled to believe that stand up fighting is so easy that you can be self-taught and just train hard and then hang with the experts. Wrong.
  2. Stop listening to the bullshit about grappling beats stand up every time. Respect the stand up fighter for being just as much a warrior as you are, then stop stand-up fighting (yes, it conflicts with #1, but there are many paths to victory… real fighters know what I’m about to say) and do what you do, brother:  wrestle. Learn how to beat the Karate man’s game with YOUR game. You will never match him if you try to fight his fight. Maybe it worked with the sloppy punchers and kickers, but you just found out what it’s like to fight the big boys. And good Lord, DON’T look up a Karate expert! Find a strategy using what you know and just refine it!
  3. His front foot was always inside Machida’s front foot. Best place to be if you were a grappler, but worst place to be if you were a stand-up fighter. But even worse  than that; he was a grappler posing as a stand-up fighter. He should have been aware of his fighting position (not stance, position) and stayed out of Machida’s line of fire. Either that, or use that position’s advantage:  taking Machida down.
  4. He circled into the direction of Machida’s rear leg kicks. Going the other direction would have forced Machida to change strategy possibly into a lesser-trained strategy. Yes it is a gamble, but you never know.
  5. Evans’ corner either told him he was doing well, or he didn’t listen to his corner, or they didn’t tell him shit in between rounds. I say this because his fight plan did not change one iota from round one to round two. If Machida had a plan or a trap, you fell right into it, because you failed to
  6. Study your opponent. It’s obvious you did not, and he did. You even failed to study him during the fight. See #5 for why I say this. Find out his strengths and weaknesses and then plan what you should do. But don’t ever keep the same plan if the one you’re enacting is failing you.
  7. Get a real boxing trainer, and approach day one not as a Champion MMA fighter, but as a novice boxer and learn how to use those hands. I can’t stress his enough.

An older gentleman walked up while we were watching the fight and commented that you “looked lost”. You looked that way, because you were. You did not know what to do, and your corner obviously did not know what to do. The sad thing is that you have the skills to have at least put up a better fight (and possibly win) but even the most basic things you could have done were missing and no one (I think, could be wrong) in your corner could tell you how to turn the fight around.

Wanna piece a me?  Karate Dojos across America will owe this man a lot!
Wanna piece a me? Karate Dojos across America will owe this man a lot!

Rashad Evans, if you happen to catch this article, don’t get pissed… just try something different for a change. Here is what you should do:

  • Get a copy of Good to Great, and ponder over how this “business” of fighting could be applied to you. You failed to use your Hedgehog, you failed to get the right people on the bus, and you failed to utilize the Brutal Reality (I just gave you some right now).
  • Call me. No, no–come down to Sacramento and train with me. Spend 2 months and I will send you back into the ring ALONE and you’ll beat him in a rematch. Or you could just go back to doing the same old thing you’ve been doing and repeat the cycle.

Thanks for reading my blog. Keep checking back with us!

My Prediction for the Next Martial Arts Craze

It’s funny how martial artists today seem to have no faith in their training. I attribute this to the lack of dedication teachers are demanding of their students, the low standards they ask their students to meet, and the fear many teachers  today have of losing students–which causes them to promote prematurely and train students with less intensity and fire.  When the NHB style of fighting started to gain popularity, the way traditional martial artists jumped ship did not display a new approach to the way martial arts are treated. Rather, it just showed a very common one.

This is what I mean.

Every 5 – 7 years, another “new” art would come out, and every martial artist who was studying an art would leave his present system and take up the next system. It is rare–including me–to find a teacher who only did one art from beginner all the way to today. While it is common to find teachers representing many systems, it is still rare to find a teacher who commits equal time to each art he is qualified to teach. Let’s not get into my definition of “qualified”; but most teachers are adding arts to their resume, rather than their class schedules. A student under most of these teachers would likely only have two or three systems to study, and will only get a small sample of those other arts. I believe that most teachers carry certifications in arts he is really not qualified to teach. These notches are nothing more than quick certifications and bragging bullets for websites and school brochures. Think of all the guys you’ve seen go from Karate in the 70s, to Ninjitsu in the 80s, to JKD/Kali in the 90s, to BJJ/MMA in the early parts of the 21st century, to Krav Maga/Israeli combat garbage in the last few years…. and where they’ll go next.

So, here is my prediction:

The next new art is not a “new” art at all!  I believe TRADITIONAL KARATE will make a comeback!

Here’s why:

  1. Many of these MMA fighters are grapplers who are mediocre stand up fighters. We all know that. They have been sucking up the belief that stand up fighting is basically a side dish to “real” fighting, and that if you could do away with one and still be a beast, you could just get rid of kicking and punching. After all, don’t all fights go to the ground? Not really. But we do know that they all start standing up
  2. The truth is that people really have not seen good stand up fighting in the Octagon. They’ve gotten a chance to peek a few good fighters;  aging kickboxing champion Maurice Smith, aging San Shou champion Cung Le. But as far as traditional hard style martial artists who come straight from the dojo, they haven’t seen much. Loyota Michida is one of the few who dared step into the Octagon, and he is whipping people who were bred to believe that Karate is only for kids. And like most martial artists, soon as they see one person do something they walk away with “Good Lord, I need to learn that stuff!”  No one believes in what they are doing these days, and martial artists today are still looking for the “bulletproof art” that will enable them to beat anyone just by taking a few classes. Tell you what?  Many of these sappy martial artists just never grew up.
  3. Hard-core Karate and Tae Kwon Do are valid martial arts. They also happen to produce some of the toughest son-of-a-guns on this planet. The commercial dojos at your local shopping centers have fooled most of you into discounting real Tae Kwon Do and real Karate. I feel sorry for the mediocre MMA guy from your local MMA franchise (yes, as disgusting as it sounds… they have them!) who encounters a hard-core Kyukoshin fighter, thinking he’ll make easy work of him. As the world begins to see the vulnerability of even lofty ideas like “taking the best of all arts” (which is really a false idea), students and fighters alike will search for experienced, traditional Karate teachers. But look out for ex-MMA/JKD/FMA guys with Karate backgrounds to flock to the scene and once again, don Gis while announcing to the world that, “Yes! I teach that too!”

Martial artists kill me. They are like the men in poet TS Eliot’s “Hollow Men” (which is really talking about politicians, but it’s applicable here)–men who stand for nothing but fall for everything. Only the ones who stay true to themselves will ever have any true respect in the martial arts, and the only ones who will enjoy longevity by being known for their skill and knowledge… not by their political affiliations or marketing efforts.

Thank you for reading my blog. Here, for your enjoyment, are the first few stanzas of T.S. Eliot’s “Hollow Men”:

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

"Hollow Men"