Old School Training Lessons

Sometimes, technology is wrong.

Sometimes, the old way really IS the best way to do things.

I know that in the martial arts, we love innovation and new ideas, but sometimes the truth isn’t fancy, scientific things. The truth is often the way things have been done. Look around you, and you will see that many changes have terrible downfalls. Don’t believe  me? Ask Ford about how much money they lost when they screwed up the Taurus for the ugly “500”, or when Coca Cola messed up the new formula. Or ask any Karateka about the new “XMA” garbage. Yeah, I know that over time martial arts often become more efficient and take on better strategies. However, can you name a modern-day Mas Oyama? Or a fighter who dominates the way Wong Fei Hung use to?

Today’s training methods supposedly preserve one’s body much better than many of yesterday’s antiquated techniques. On the other hand, much of what was lost in the pursuit of a “better” way has put today’s martial arts student several steps backwards.  For example, take the resistance training that fighters use today, like weight lifting. While it leads to nicer-looking bodies and bigger muscles, weight lifting does not enhance power in fighting as much as a good, solid bodyweight training program.

And they’re a lot simpler too. Look at NFL star Herschel Walker (left). This guy was a powerhouse on the field, and never lifted weights until he went to the pros. He outperformed his peers in a huge way, despite that his personal workout  included not much more than running, 1,000 pushups, 1,000 sit ups, 1,000 squats, and 1,000 pull ups a day. Most of us couldn’t do a workout routine like this in a week! As basic as it sounds, imagine how much strength you’d have, how much power you’d put behind every technique if you were capable of completing this routine.

There is a community of athletes who are returning to basics when it comes to their training, and I’d like to encourage you to at least look into it. We can talk about bag work and sparring drills till we’re blue in the face, but the kind of fitness required to accomplish this level of strength would do wonders for your martial arts skill.

And this isn’t to say that I possess this level of conditioning. However, I recognize the potential in this philosophy and have been thinking about it for years. Since tomorrow is the New Year, I might as well start with the Man in the Mirror (RIP, MJ!)

Anyone want to do it with me?

So here is what I’m proposing to make it easier on all of us:

  • We will workout four days a week. Saturday and Sunday, then you will pick two more days during the week. The workout will be no more than 20 minutes or so… for now. I don’t know how long it will take, but since it will consist of only five exercises–I will have 7–I don’t think it will take very long. As short as it is, we should not have any excuses not to finish it.
  • Here are the exercises:  Pushups, Reverse Pushups (since I know that many people may not have access to a bar for chin-ups or dips), Squats, Jumping Jacks, and Sit-ups. That’s for the weenies. For the soldiers, we will add Pull-ups and Dips (instead of Reverse Pushups) and Calf Raises.
  • Pick numbers. You may be able to perform 100 jumping jacks and push-ups, but only 3 pull-ups (I know… but it’s just an example!)  Whatever number you select for each exercise must be a killer for you to complete. But not so much that you can’t move the next day. You may have to play around with the work out for several sessions to settle on good numbers. The goal is to come up with numbers that are tasking, but realistic, and we will build on that. Let’s make it per session, rather that just in one sitting. That means that although you may only be able to perform 25 pushups at a time, you can do it 4 times during the workout for a total of 100 that day. So, can we agree that the magic number is 100? Or 50? You choose the number and we’ll build from there…
  • We will increase these numbers 10% every month. At 4 sessions a week, we will have at least 16 sessions in a 30-day period. My (untested) idea is that in a year, we should have increased our ability at least 100%.
  • Any day we miss will be made up the next day, but at the end of the week, we must have completed 4. We will not procrastinate by putting off workouts from one week to the next.
  • Get a journal (or blog), and start working! Or, if you’d like, please PLEASE comment here on your progress, and I will sticky this post to keep it easy to find. Let’s see what happens in a year!

In the meantime, I’d like you take a look at Matt Furey’s ideas. No, I am not being paid to say this, nor am I trying to advertise his tapes (books, or whatever he’s selling; I don’t even own any of his stuff). But I have a friend in DC who is a BULL of a guy and he swears by Matt Furey. He has not lifted weights in almost 15 years, and can knock out a horse with his punch. For those who are unfamiliar with him, Matt Furey is a Shuai Chiao expert who writes columns for Inside Kung Fu magazine and advertises this type of workout every month. I think it’s worth your consideration. Maybe I will invest in his book or whatever he’s selling and tell you guys about it here one day.

But in the meantime, who’s with me???

Thanks for visiting my blog!

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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

FMA Media (RIP Eskrima Digest)

Today I received some sad news by email about an old, old friend of mine.

Master Ray Terry announced that he is shutting down the Eskrima Digest, which, to my knowledge, is the oldest online forum for Filipino Martial Artists. After 15 years, its archives must be a gold mine of information, as I don’t think a day passed in the 4 or 5 years I subscribed that I did not receive something from them. Prior to that, I had students who received them and would bring me pages of their messages, or forward issues by email. And before that… one of my students, who was stationed at NSA (attended the Baltimore location of my school) would bring me his laptop to read the issues after class (this was around 1996, so you know I didn’t have any form of technology). The Eskrima Digest was where I actually saw the American  as well as the Philippine Filipino Martial Arts community start to mature, as in this place people interacted–who normally would not have had access to each other.  I have seen some Filipinos who looked down on American practitioners develop respect without throwing a single strike between them, other than a few harmless insults and flames across the list. I saw Americans who thought the Filipinos questioning Dan Inosanto’s version of FMA were jealous or just “pricks”, and eventually befriend some of these Filipinos. The Digest was a community, and people exchanged ideas, shared information, learned from each other, forged friendships–even sparred– by email.

Mr. Terry, you made a great thing. Your list helped me grow up as a martial artist, because I interacted with people I knew nothing about, and probably would have never gotten to know. I have had students who found me on your list. I’ve learned about other styles and Masters there. I’ve learned new ideas about what I can do to make my classes better. I’m sure there are thousands of us who can say the same thing. God bless you.

So, what next?

I have heard that the forums have been slow too. Martialtalk  and Defend.net  have not had the activity as in past years. Could it be that people are starting to train more? Or have they just found another place to interact? The benefit of the Eskrima Digest was that everything went straight to your email account and you could simply open messages whenever you wanted–even read them from your phone. Is it convenience? I don’t know.

But there is a magazine I have been receiving for a few years–an FMA magazine–by email. I have enjoyed the issues and I think many of you would too. It is the FMA Digest, published by Master Steven Dowd. For those unfamiliar with his name, Mr. Dowd is the author of the two books entitled Kuntaw:  Fist and Foot Fighting  (I am getting this from memory, because I actually haven’t even seen the books in about 20 years). It was written back in the 70s, I believe, and featured Master Lito Lanada’s system and forms. The last time I saw a copy, Master Billy Bryant showed me his, and had asked for me to take him to Virginia Beach to meet him. I learned the form in the book from Master Boggs Lao, and showed it to Billy (I can’t remember if there were all five forms in the book. Boggs had 5 versions of the form). Master Dowd is also a master of an Arnis style called Arnis Balite. He has been involved with the FMAs long before most people knew what FMAs were–even longer than many of you have been alive. He was a Black Belt in the arts when–as my son would call it–since the world was still in black and white. I’ll bet you a sweet potato pie, that this gentleman has a huge amount of FMA knowledge. His magazine is free, and it always features little-known about FMA styles and Masters. When you get over there to get your copy, make sure you tell them that thekuntawman sent ya.

So, anyway, where do we go from here? What can an FMA guy who wants to read about his art do? The martial arts magazines barely feature the FMAs, other than the occasional self-promoting jerk-offs who use the magazines to promote their new DVDs or give credibility to the new, “ancient” arts they just made. Anyone remember the Filipino Martial Arts magazines that Eliot Shearer produced? They were good, and I really crossed my fingers hoping it would grow to international levels, but personal problems kept him from moving the project forward. I suspect everyone was looking to take away but not put back in. It is like the parable of the pear tree (I’ll post more about it later), and to do something like this takes money and it is a time-consuming mission. Now, I hear that the Philippine-based Rapid Journal is now shutting down. They’ve been around forever too!

I’ll tell you what. Everyone should get behind the forms we have now–all the forums, the magazines, etc–and support them. That means FULL support:  time, energy, positive support as well as constructive criticism, attention (like spreading the word) and MONEY.  Because these things help you occupy your time, they entertain you, and they deserve something back from you.

And that’s all I need to say on that subject.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Please, spread the word!

The One-Punch Kill

“Ikken Hissatsu”

This is the Japanese term for “one punch kill”. It was ridiculed and discounted by men who can’t do it (look for my story about the fox and the grapes), because if you can’t beat em–many martial artists would say–mock em! 

There is a lot more to the one-punch kill than some guy training his reverse punch a thousand times a day. To be honest, that is actually a great way to train your martial arts (thousand reverse punches a day) because you would have such a great, powerful punch if you did. By contrast, the average professional boxer throws over 3,000 punches a day when he is in training, but then, that is his full-time job. For the martial artist who subscribes to this philosophy, a lot of attention is given to the application of the one punch–that is to land solidly and cleanly, regardless of what the opponent does–without any chance of counter or missing. This is why in competition karate, some formats end once the first point is landed: so that fighters do all they can to not get hit and do all they can to land that hit.

But can a single punch kill?  Of course it can. In my city alone (Sacramento, California), at least four people have died in one-punch fights. Some of these fights are justified (somewhat) in that the person who did the killing was actually defending himself. I have had three students since 2002 go to jail for injuring their attackers.  That’s right, someone attacked my students, and my students went to jail. Go figure. (Separate incidents)  There have been some good people pay the price for defending themselves, and some not-so-good people paid the price for poor judgment in failing to walk away from a fight. Take a look at this Google search, and you will find possibly hundreds of cases where a single punch killed someone. Involuntary manslaughter. Didn’t mean to kill them, but you certainly did something that ran the risk of killing someone.

There is a saying, that it is better to be tried by 12 than to be carried by six. There’s a lot of wisdom in this, because the one time you fail to defend yourself adequately you may be the one who dies. Still, we should at least explore the importance of developing this concept into a skill in the event you need it. I am not advocating killing attackers; I am simply saying that we should develop the ability to take out an opponent (not necessarily fatally) with a single punch. The one who has this ability is one who can apply the right amount of damage for the situation he finds himself in when he needs it. Something to think about.

And develop the skill to take out your opponent with a single hit, and your survival skill in the street will be just that much better. If some untrained guy on the street can do it accidentally, a deliberate, trained fighter can do it as well.

So, the next question is, should you?  This is an issue I have with the lot of knife-pukes (and in the FMAs we have plenty). These are guys who are so afraid of fighting, they only prepare for one type of fight, and that is where they find ways to plunge a knife deep into their opponent… makes them feel safer.  As warriors, we do not go for the kill everytime a guy looks at us funny. And just as we need to discern whether we should fight or not, we must also determine if this fight is one where we will need to justify the level of damage we inflicted later. A real concern, because in the process of defending ourselves, there is a pervading possiblity that we will kill our opponent.

I will leave you to ponder this subject on that note, and we will revisit the one-punch kill some other day. Thank you for visiting my blog.