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….

Don’t Be a Wannabe

There is a problem in the Filipino Martial Arts, that I have noticed seems to be a very dangerous one.

The arts we practice are very deadly. Not many martial arts styles address actually maiming the opponent or killing him. This style regularly introduces techniques that will result in the opponent’s death, and are designed for nothing more than killing the opponent. For street combat effectiveness, this seems to be just what the doctor ordered–our arts can truly arm the average citizen with a skill that will stop an attacker dead in his tracks. While many teachers claim to give their students self-confidence, what other skill can one have–besides shooting a gun–that would give you the range of simple self-defense to lethal potentials? Arming someone with the Filipino fighting arts can be similar to giving them a firearm, however, we must treat it with the same level of responsiblity. And this is one place that the industry of FMA instruction has failed.

I am not going to bore you with the number of FMA student who have killed in America alone. There is a conversation we must have openly in the art among teachers and masters:

Who do we teach, who do we refuse, when do we teach certain techniques, and how do we teach the arts?

Rhetoric and cowardness in the FMA have led to the philosophy, “I teach people to defend themselves, even to the point of deadliness, because they may need it.” If you are teaching people how to fight, is it necessary to teach them mainly how to kill? I know of men who only speak of fighting as a life-or-death fight, and consider everything other than a life-or-death fight a separate skill from what they do. Any idea why they have this fantasy of fighting?

Yes, they are cowards in the biggest way.

These are men who are really afraid to mix it up, they are afraid of an ass-whipping. So afraid, that any threat they perceive must be met with death. Not much different from the 10 year old kid who is bullied at school and brings a knife to confront his bullies. See, he sees no way out of this situation–no way to handle it appropriately, so he falls back on the common dream the race of the weak often fantacize about: killing the people they fear. What situation is so bad that a 5th grader must carry a knife and kill another 5th grader? What taunts or names could you call him to justify that? Of course, none! But in his mind, his parents can’t end this bullying, his teachers can’t do it, and he certainly can’t do it, and the only thing he feels safe doing is to bring a knife and shove it in the boy’s stomach.

We have men, who call themselves “self-defense experts”, who are so afraid of gambling the appropriate level of force to thwart an attacker (and the butt-stomping that would accompany that failure), that they hide behind knives and tough talk. These are men whose teachers never taught them true self-confidence and lessened their fear of another man by teaching them to deal with attackers with nothing more than bare hands. So the only thing they know will stop an attacker is the knife.

And let me tell you something about the knife.

 The knife is the perfect excuse for not having to prove you know what you’re doing. It’s the modern-day “my art is too deadly for sparring” excuse. It is something that many other men fear, and wielding one will scare other men into not challenging you on your knowledge. It is something that is so wrapped up in theory and fantasy, there is no testing or winning or losing to face–only the belief that “if I fight for real, I’ll kill you”…. It is the excuse for not being physically fit (“you don’t need abs or stamina to stab your attacker”) or really having to train hard. It is the perfect thing to hide behind–along with rank, organizations, friends, reputations, and tough talk. Frankly speaking, it is the weapon of choice for cowards.

The coward is a guy who is afraid of everything and will not face his fears, even if they confront him. He will do everything in his power to avoid confrontation. It has nothing to do with fearlessness and courage, as courageous men are not fearless, they are just men who are strong enough to do and face what they are afraid of. Cowards are quite often cloaked in wolves clothing; they are dressed like the tough guys, they talk their talk and act like them as well… but inside–deep inside–they are cowards. As the saying goes, they wear their toughness only on the outside. The knife is something they brandish because secretly, they are hoping that this image will give the appearance of toughness. And they keep just enough skills, that secretly, they can’t wait for the day they get to use it (justifiably) and redeem themselves of being… well, a coward.

Martial arts wannabees. No man wants to accept that he is afraid. We want our women to feel safe around us, and we want to know that we are capable of defending them and our children. But to hide this fear behind the false bravado of being a cold-blooded killer–when we know darn well that most of us would never face another man, mano a mano. This, my brothers, is cowardice. True self-confidence and bravery is the knowledge and belief that no man poses a true threat, unless he is the coward with the weapon. But instead, most FMA guys is that guy.

Don’t be a wannabe.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Mastering the Art of the Chess Match

I have two approaches to teaching the martial arts that I follow. Most of this blog will deal with the lesser of the two, as I feel that every Master–myself included–should have something he is retaining for his own students. Therefore, there are many things that should be earned, and not learned. The martial arts student of the West must understand that there are aspects of this art that may not be bought, and these lessons are paid with one’s loyalty and commitment–not dollars. The greater school will be introduced with this post, and those willing to learn more must study with me in person.

The two schools of teaching philosophy are:

  1. we are training fighters who are physically superior to his counterparts (the lesser school)
  2. we are training more intellectual fighters who are philosophers as well as strategists (the greater school)

I am a loyal follower of the first school of thought, yet I subscribe heavily behind closed doors to the second.

There is a saying I learned from a man named Abraham “Ham” Johnson (father of former IBF Flyweight champion, Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson and trainer of my first high school sweetheart, Lisa “Too Fierce” Foster, former IFBA Flyweight women’s champion and old friend of my grandfather’s), that there is always someone bigger, faster, and stronger than you, so you need to have a superior fight plan that will transcend any physical advantage possible opponents may have. A fighter may have no control over his height, his genetic inheritance, little control over his natural abilities, but he can control the knowledge he has to defeat a seemingly physically superior opponent. This has less to do with tactics than it does being able to outthink an opponent.

“Chess Match” vs. “Weapons Cache”

Arming a student with only stronger punches and kicks is similar to giving a soldier a bigger gun or knife, and hoping he will know how to use it. At the same time, arming a student with tactics and techniques alone is the same as showing a soldier how to attack without showing him how to counter. The fighter, then, must have a combination of bigger “guns”, a better way to use the guns (“gun-foo”), and the art of using strategy to beat the opponent who is better prepared.

In other words, teaching a guy how to use pawns to defeat a Queen.

This skill is not easy to learn, and is even more difficult to pass down to those with different experiences and levels of learning and utilizing the art. I have a few tips:

  • study the patterns of fighters, and learn all you can about them. I do not advocate observation alone; you really have to get into the trenches and mix it up with these men yourself in order to teach with a higher level of understanding. otherwise, you may be simply teaching theories. we have too many theories in the martial arts as it is!
  • teach your students how to fight different body types, attributes and fighting styles. not every big guy fights the same way, and not every boxer fights the same way, and not every man with a knife or stick will fight the same way.
  • study how to force an opponent to make the same “mistake” you need him to make in order to initiate a preferred attack. far too often, fighters are victims of circumstance in their fights; they only react to what the opponent does, when they should be controlling what happens in the fight. when you learn to force your opponent’s hand, you become the superior fighter. this is what is meant by the saying that you don’t fight the opponent’s fight–you make him fight your fight.
  • teach your students how to attack and counter from an open position (both opponents have the opposite foot in front) as well as a closed position (both opponents have the same foot in front). they should know how to deal with the gamut of situations, as it seems that no two fights are similar–to the inexperienced fighter. to the prepared fighter, there are actually many familiar circumstances, and he is able to use the same tactics against a plethora of fighters and positions.
  • allow your fighters to have many chances to try out their knowledge and become familiar with the possiblities; therefore, they rarely become surprised.
  • your students should train their techniques, strategies and tactics enough that responses to attacks and changes in the altercation become second nature. as the saying goes, a young fighter trains until he remembers all of his lessons, then he trains until he becomes a master of those lessons, then he trains until he forgets his lessons. this is referring to the automatic response the master fighter has to his opponents, that the tactics and techniques seem to flow automatically without thought… therefore the Master forgets what he has done, or what can be done. this is the point that ability, knowledge and experience converge and manifest in the form of mastery. we cannot train for this level of skill–nor can we become “promoted” to this level:  it is a by-product of proper training, commitment to understand of the art, and dedication to living and breathing the art for a lifetime. this is perhaps the greatest lesson one can bequeath to a student, the path to mastery in the art. however, before being passed down from teacher to student, it must be lived through the teacher himself.

Please ponder over these lessons, and think about incorporating them into your martial arts program. The student/fighter must learn to become intellectually superior to his opponents and learn to use his attributes and knowledge against whatever he faces. This allows him to rise above all physical skill and to be able to win fights “in slow motion”. As in chess, the fool rushes to move the next piece on every turn he receives, while although the master player has already planned his next move three moves ago, he pauses before execution, and obliterates his opponent’s army with a patient storm.

This will allow your fighters to use the same technique against every opponent, the same style against every form of fighting, and to use fewer weapons against more enemies. Contrary to the popular martial arts idiomatic expression, we should be teaching our fighters to win gunfights with a knife.

Thank you for reading my blog. Please come back and visit us… and please spread the word!

What’s In Your Dojo?

Okey, smarty pants, I know it’s technically NOT a Dojo. But I am using the word generically.

So, what’s in your Dojo?

I have training equipment, and our set up is a little different than most martial arts schools. First of all, we’re located in “the hood”.  My schools in DC weren’t… they were in nice neighborhoods, but I grew up in low income areas, and I feel at home here. So even though we’re doing better, I’m not going anywhere. The rent is cheap, and folks who really want good training won’t mind it at all.

Here is the outside of my school: 

Front of the School
4120 Franklin Blvd

You may notice that the front glass is blocked. That’s because I believe that good martial arts is not a spectator sport. There is a bus stop out front, and we’ve had drug sold out front, prostitutes, gang members smoking weed (I just had to get rid of two today who hung around while my girls’ class was being conducted), fights, and some folks were just bored so they would stand and watch as if they were watching TV. Plus, the neighbors used to sell drugs, and my school had gotten shot up a few times (still have the bulletholes to prove it). We need complete concentration, so our school is private, we do not take walk-ins or visitors during class hours, and we have an “appointment only” policy. It’s written on the door.

We recently got a new building owner, who will reface the front of the strip, and she has already (yuck) laid asphalt in the back. Before paving, this is what our backyard (now a parking lot) used to look like:

Striking Post III
Ignore the appliances next door, that guy got deported and the business closed...

We had a dirt lot, and two neighbors paved small plots behind their stores. At night (when they were closed) we used to send some students out back to train when we needed space. By the way, let me explain this:

I had a telephone post cut into smaller sections that we used for striking posts. We had 6 total.

Every school should have stuff to hit. My guys “grew up” on these telephone poles. When we needed to go hard, we threw tires over them, and practiced our stick technique, kicking, and knife techniques. I ruined several of my razors-sharp blades on these tires by allowing students to use them. I didn’t realize that car tires have wires in the rubber, which will destroy a razor-sharp blade.

Our new landlord had them pulled up (I did not help them. Hmmph!) and so now I have to build striking posts for the guys to train on.

Inside, we have red-painted concrete floors (it was supposed to be temporary, but I like them), two pull-up bars, two punching bag stands, four “WaveMasters”….

We've got a few guys who weigh over 250 lbs, so we needed a heavy duty pull up station

Btw, some of these pics were taken from a cell phone, so I apologize for the poor quality…

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One of two punching bag stands. We go through bags like water around here!
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This tire is used to train our leg attacks. Behind it is the other bag stand, with a 100 lb bag
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The other pull-up bar (got it at a yard sale). Behind it is my long weapons rack. We use staff, spears, and clubs for Tapado practice.
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The flag on the right is... oh, you should already know. On the left is the Katipunan flag.
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Pads, small sticks, and sparring gear. We are always prepared!
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Nice complements to any martial arts training program!

To your left are three important items for any martial arts program. Far left is the Brass Ring. If you do forms practice, these rings will do wonders for your strength and speed.

Next to that is a bottle of Dit Da Jow, and ointment to treat battered hands and arms. If your training program is serious, your students will be busting up their hands and arms. Keep them going with this stuff!

Finally, my fav, the ab wheel. Don’t waste money on the machines. This will kill your midsection!

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And what school isn't complete without trophies and medals? My guys are only asked to leave them with me for a week, but some have too many to take home!

 I took pictures of some of our other equipment, but for some reason, they didn’t make it to my email account from my phone, so I’ll just describe them:

  • dumbells. we’ve got a few, some adjustable, some are just the single weight ones (35, 45, 55, etc.)
  • sand bags, we use them for grip training
  • a bucket of sand (for striking practice)
  • a wrist curl bar (the kind with the rope that you attach to plates)
  • bricks (for various purposes, mostly to add weight to hand technique practice)
  • an old punching bag with two ratchet straps. we use this for throwing practice and for lifting dead weights. i used this this morning, and my upper back is still feeling it!
  • weapons, weapons and weapons!

I want my students to have access to everything they need for success. They shouldn’t need to join a gym or buy equipment to work out at home, unless they just want to (we are open 7 days a week)–whether their thing is body building or just training for skill and strength–a good school should be self-contained.

Collectively, my school over the years have lost over a ton–literally. We have had several students lose over 100 pounds, and I have had students gain 50 pounds of muscle. We have seen guys come in our school with no strength at all, no confidence, no muscular build, and leave as very strong men and women. I had a young boy, who joined extremely overweight, who is now in his first year of college on a football scholarship. We have a few students now fighting MMA and full contact kickboxing. I have had students join the military, become police officers and correction officers, become martial art teachers and fighters. I have students all over the world that came out of my tiny little school:  in Thailand, in Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Canada… and they are excellent fighters. Not bad, for a kid who went from third world country to the hood without an education!

I know this is different from my usual posts, but I thought I’d give you the grand tour.

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please visit again!

Producing Good FMA Instructors, pt V

This will be a short entry, because I have one small tip that really means a lot and I want it to have its own article.

I’ve discovered after 18 years of teaching the arts in my own school, and after over 1,000 students, that the best way to teach martial arts skills is in small, manageable bites of knowledge. When I was learning, I had traditional, patient teachers who demanded diligent, focused practice and perfection. While this may not be for everyone, for the teacher who wishes the best for his students it is the only path to this level of skill.

For my own students, I began them as advanced beginners by assigning them one technique to teach, demonstrate and explain during class. This got them to recall all of the details of a technique, and often opened their eyes to mistakes that they may not have been aware that they were making themselves. Another technique I used was to take the more advanced students, and give him a lower level classmate to tutor for a small number of skills. We have done this over the years with older students teaching younger students, having the better fighters lead a sparring class, and having students with better skill in one set of techniques (like kicking, or stick sparring) teach his method to his brothers. This leads to two things: 

  1. humility and respect–everyone realizes that someone may be better than someone else at one thing, but no one has it all. it also keeps the hierarchy of skills within my student body in check
  2. camaraderie–the students become closer brothers when they share information, and this is healthy for the growth of my school and my style

Teaching skill and fighting skill are by-products of this method.

When teaching students there are several philosophies about what method is best for developing skill in the shortest amount of time.  Here are my thoughts:

  • when explaining a skill, technique or strategy to the students, give them just the basic movements, and not too much detail. as they progress, add more details and variations, but only when they are beginning to develop proficiency at what they’ve already learned
  • it is not necessary to make every correction and micro-adjustments in the beginning. again, I advocate giving a few details at a time. this allows the students to retain more of what you say
  • always prove your point with actions, not words. students will understand better when they see it, than when they are asked to envision it. especially when a student asks, “will it work if… ?”  what better way to prove it than to show it in application
  • spar with a technique to demonstrate its effectiveness, and to test and rehearse their understanding of it
  • a good idea would be to spend an entire class session on one skill, one technique, or one strategy. it really gives the students a complete understanding of the material you are teaching by focusing attention on just that item, and giving them ample time to practice it
  • always utilize enough repetitions to drill the information into their memories, and then perform more. 10 reps is not ample.
  • i like to take one week, or several consecutive class sessions to spend time on many variations or parts of a technique. often one class alone, or a few minutes of a class, will not be enough time to properly convey what you want them to learn. we have actually spent 3 months developing one technique in my school.

These lessons should be built into your instructor candidates’ training, as they will be accepting students before you know it, and they should already be very familiar with these teaching techniques.

Of course, I have more on this subject, but I will expound on them in future articles. I hope you found this entry useful!

Thank you for reading my blog!

Secret #4 for Fighting Superiority

Make Use of “Perfect Timing”

In fighting, there is too much reliance on being faster or stronger than the opponent. In the FMA, there is too much emphasis on ideas less practical than that:  untested theories and skills, and prearranged sequences. If you can harness the ability to use timing–and not just timing, but PERFECT timing, then you will be able to land on a faster man, and destroy a stronger fighter.

“Perfect timing” is not the same as “timing”. When you time an opponent, you look for the right moment to land your shot (if you are attacking) or the right time to move (when the opponent is attacking). Other factors are involved as well, like distance, positioning, and angles, but today we will just talk about timing. Timing is perfect when there is no better time to do it; therefore, you have the best opportunity to counter or attack and your opponent really can’t do anything about it.

Example:   Opponent swings a vertical strike at your head with a stick. In many style this is called a #1 strike. Good timing has you fade away to put distance between you and the opponent as you hit his hand. Once you have done that, the opponent is now vulnerable to a follow up strike to the head or a good combination that finishes him. PERFECT timing against the same opponent allows you to skip the fade away and hand hit, and just go straight for the finish. Meaning you do not defense at all, just counter hit the opponent with nothing but power strikes–and you don’t even need to angle away from him, because your timing was so good he had no chance of hitting you at all.

Good timing is based on a possibility of failure and requires you to take precautions (moving away and hitting the hand). Perfect timing is a technique that wouldn’t normally work in a million years, and this is your year. Like I said–there is no better time than this moment. Precautions are not necessary because the opponent, no matter how good he is, has no chance of success.

So what was the secret to the timing in the example?  You initiate your attack when the opponent chambers. If you can do this, it won’t matter what strike the opponent throws, how strong he is, whether or not you’ve moved away far enough, or whether the strike to the hand damaged him, etc. Learn to blast him when he thinks about moving and he won’t know what hit him.

Here’s another secret. Save it, write it down, teach it to your best fighters, commit it to memory and utilize it, because it’s heavy:

The opponent will attack you when two very significant things happen:

  1. When he is ready to attack
  2. When he notices that you are not ready to attack

Your goal is to make sure these things never occur at the same time… from his point of view. Let me clarify:

  • You are ready + he is ready = clash, may the best man win (don’t attack unless you know that you are the superior man with a better plan)
  • You are not ready + he is ready = this should never happen. Do all you can to make sure it never does
  • You are not ready + he is not ready = this is going to be a good fight. But only because you two are equally unprepared. If you find this occuring, either you have met your match or you have some training to do, Lucy!
  • You are ready + he is not ready = GET ‘IM!

Move to keep your opponent out of his fighting stance and needing to readjust. Train yourself to attack from any position (who said martial arts stance training was useless?). This includes when the opponent is in the process of throwing an attack and when he is moving. You also want to train for possible counters to your attack.

Example: You attack your opponent with a left back leg round kick while the opponent has his right in front. You have several things to think about:

  1. what counters can he do?
  2. which directions will he move?
  3. will he attack or will he defend?
  4. what does this opponent tend to do?

In training, you want to have these questions asked. Number 4 is really having a category that all opponents will fit in to. After the fight has started, you will place your opponent into the category, thus giving you your strategy for this fight.

Back to perfect timing, these factors will be useful in executing your plan. There is a moment, a trigger, that pushes your “start” button and gets the attack under way. It is usually a reaction to something the opponent has done, but also depends on where you are in relation to the opponent, how fast he is (compared to how fast you are), whether or not he hesitates or if he is aggressive, how tall he is and whether he headhunts or tends to attack low…

There is only so much I can relay on this blog, but I hope this was enough to get you thinking. So we’ll close here, and I’ve got to clean up this mess (my kids have been in the kitchen, “cooking” and fighting for the last hour… the 8 and 9 year olds) before the wife gets home.

Thank you for visiting my blog!

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