Filipinos Using the Name “Kali”


Just came across something too hot not to share! If you are familiar with the controversy around the use of the name “Kali” for Filipino Martial Arts, this post will need no introduction. The first person I heard say that Kali was not the Mother Art, nor was it even an art found in the Philippines was thekuntawman–before I even knew who he was. Those of you who have been around for a few years (in the FMA online community) know what I’m talking about. But I never saw anyone say what Guro says here… I love it.

Without further stalling:

part of the problem with “Kali” is that we now (actually we BEEN) have filipinos at home using the word, as a way to say “my art is older and better than those other guys”. they are getting lots of foreigners to study with them, because the story they tell sounds pretty good, even that the instructors himself, is good too. but lets call a spade a spade, and name them, huh?

* leo gaje
* nene tortal
* yuli romo
* tony diego
* all the other guys who jump on the wagon of kali, muslim clothing, and mysterious art. (how about wrestling with buffalo?)

i am a muslim, born and raised. i even read those stories, and argued with my own family, that our art should be called “kali” instead of eskrima, and “silat” instead of kuntaw. after all, were muslim, so it must be true! so lets start with me, i used the name myself about 10 years ago.

part of the reason, some of us do not criticise other filipinos, is that we do not want to be in public against our countrymen. but like i said, spade is a spade…

kuya abon, i am curious to see what gaje will say to you about his use of kali. his argument is pretty good, and he uses lots of big words.

A response to this post:

Date: Tue, 19 Jun 2007 12:30:45 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: Re: [Eskrima] Filipinos using Kali

Guro Maurice:

I agree with the point you are making. That is the ugly side of
kali. I condemn the practice, but I personally would hesitate
criticizing anybody in particular, having been far removed from
the Philippine scene for a long time now.

Take Yuli Romo, for instance. I do not know if he belongs to that
group. Although one of the pillars of Kali or Kalis Ilustrisimo, he
now flies under his own banner of Sugbu Baraw. I am not sure
if that banner is still cut from the same cloth as kali, or Kali
Ilustrisimo, or muslim or indigenous tribal Filipino. And he
seems to have been forever wearing those Muslim-looking
clothes (could be indigenous tribal).

In the interest of full disclosure, I happen to know and like
Yuli Romo–a very down-to-earth, engaging individual. I do
not personally know the others in your list.

The other point I like to make is, I make a distinction between
the kali believers in the Phil. and the U.S. I feel that most of
the American kali believers in the U.S. are those that have
always known their FMA as kali. I consider them as honest
and true believers of kali, but a few of them have gotten
suckered into defending the kali claim in the Phil. and as
a result, gotten tarnished with the same brush.

Guro’s Response:

some people might call it prejudice, or national pride, but i dont like to be seen arguing with a fellow filipino, just like i wont do it with a muslim, or even a family member or member of my school. but that does not mean i wont tell him face to face, that he is wrong. i believe in the importance of showing strength by keeping in-fighting behind close doors. many of my friends know this, that even though someone is friends with me, i will argue him about thinks like seminar, 3 year black belts, even non-martial arts things like disrepecting his wife or something. i agree with the pro-war people, that protestors weaken the country. but there is always times that we need to weaken to get rid of something that hurts us.

i believe that some of these filipinos using KALI might be nice guys. but i have to question the honesty of one who is twisting facts and history, even words to support something they know is not true. example, kali ilustrisimo. i remember i read somewhere, maybe in the philippines, that antonio ilustrisimo said his students been asking him to call it “kali”, this was about 1990. well, he said his art is arnis-eskrima in this interview. guess what, he died and everyone is saying “kali ilustrisimo”. the bullshit bout “KALIS ilustrisimo”, this came years later, and we all know the story about that. wonder why the name change?

money. pride. arrogance.

i agree with what you said about american students who defend kali, especially when they start telling things about language that i guess because i am not educated i cant possible know about my own culture and language. but you know, i dont want to blame the students. a good student will defend his teacher no matter what, unless the teacher is doing illegal things nothing wrong with that. especially when somebody criticise his own teacher your not going to get anyone to listen. the teacher, of course, convinced the student that “i am the best, and the most knowledgeable, dont listen to those guys”. this might sound like garbage to somebody who does not understand martial philosophy, but nothing wrong with that either. i think the students of KALI _should_ defend it, because it is what there teacher told them, and what they believe. and this is what the martial arts is about–somebody else trying to disprove what you been taught, and you defending it. apply that to fighting technique, philosophy, history, reputation, even stupid things like what to call the art. ūüėČ

but the Kali argument is not really about what to call the art, is it? no for me its about truth in history. i will accept the argument of a guy like mark denny, who was TAUGHT kali, then i will from, like the sayocs or gaje, who came up with it.

When a Master Dies

Most of the time we do not know when we will die. Yet sometimes we are lucky enough to make it to old age, or to have warning due to sickness, a dream message from your Creator….

In this article (which was sent to Ray Terry’s Eskrima Digest), Guro comments on the legacy of late Grandmaster Angel Cabales and the successor(s) of his Serrada Eskrima system. I must say that it is eye-opening and gives something to think about!

very interesting, which one of us have not seen a master have to choose between his children and beloved students in his old age. the answer is dont ignore the traditions of your art, when teaching it. when the students are not brought up on your traditions and your rules, they have nothing to go by. here in america, when the owner of the business dies, his partners will end up fighting his family for this share of the business, unless the owner already made his will saying, in his writing, what he wants doen with his part of the business. and some of you know, the government has rights on the business also. i think this was the probelm that happened in modern arnis, that gm remy was use to being “the man”, he did not tell the difference of who will be successor if he dies–which of the students inherit, or his kids, or maybe he didnt want anyone to “inherit” his art. death can sneak up on any of us, sometimes we are not as blessed as gm angel, who was given the opportunity from God to plan for his death. we are not always this lucky.
sometimes a teacher can die early with no plan, but there are a few things that a teacher must do very early to give students instructions:
– tell your students that your son will be the leader
– have a system where everyone knows who is the highest rank student, if you have rank
– if you have a favorite student, you have make sure all the students knows who he is. too many teachers are afraid to do this, but it is a part of the art to have a favorite student (just make sure your favorite is the best fighter, or he’s goina have problems)
– leave a will
– name a “next master” while you are still¬†young (like a ‘vice president’)
– tell your students there will be no style when you die
in the philippine art, your generation inherits the style, and it changes with every generation. this is true for most of us who are not part of big orgranizations. in the big organization, you worry and concern with things like rank and title. in the small organation (or no ogranization at all), you stand on your own two feet ( i like this method the best). after all, who can argue with skill?
for my own opinion, jc cabiero, davis, sultan, tacosa, gm vincente, khalid, they each have a strength of their own, we can respect that. for the number of years they put to the art, they deserve to be recognize for giving a whole life to eskrima, in a world when men get certified in a few seminars. if each one wants to be a grandmaster, let him, but if you are called to the doorway, just make sure you have enough money in the bank cause somebody might want to “cash a check”…some might be able to, some might not. but you should respect them all, unless you have the courage to test one of them.

Training in the West vs. Training in the PI

Very interesting post from Guro. There was a question posed to Ray Terry’s Eskrima Digest, and several students asked him to comment. The funny thing is that he did not want to respond, but did. I left the entire email intact:

From: <>
Subject: [Eskrima] Training in PI vs the West

Figured Id stir the pot once again.¬† I’ve had a number of experiences training in FMA both in the US and PI, experienced different styles, and views towards training, though my start down this path of FMA training was started here in the US.¬† For a long time I read posts from players in PI, talking about how it was different there than the US, and thought to myself well maybe for some schools, but we’re different.¬† We work hard, we keep true to the spirit so to speak.¬† And well lo and behold, going to PI and getting the chance to experience FMA there, and well it was different.¬† Perhaps its the water, the balut, or the rice, but well players in PI just seemed to approach and do the art differently than those with only US training.¬† For me it was a big change in paradigm over what I was used to with the idea of “martial arts training”, and was wondering how training compared for others who have trained both in PI and in the West?


Guro’s Response:

i was not going to answer this post, because i know some people are sensitive to my comments about american/western habits with the FMA. but i was asked to comment by a few students and friends…

i will leave alone the “attitude” of how the arts are treated by each group, and only talk about the practices and what i see.

1. Filipino fma did not change much over the years, so what we see back home, except for the large groups and schools, is pretty much what our fathers and grandfathers saw when they were young. the FMa here in the US is very young, and has its own culture and traditions. the older i get i realize this, that FMA means something different to the filipino vs. what it means to the american. FMA growth here came through karate/TKD/kanpo/JKD schools, so these arts colored everything (most everything) we see in the FMA. i believe this why we like (in the US) our FMA too look and sound “authentic/archipelago/ancient”, where the filipino will pose for arnis in a t shirt and jeans, and use spanish words. hey it is what it is, no shame.

2. filipino students usually look at what can i do for my teacher and my style, but american students look at, what can it do for me. this explains the “loyalty to teacher” disagreement with the “loyalty is stupid, i am the customer” people

3. in the philippines, lineage means nothing, but it means everything. in the US, lineage means everything, but it means nothing. ūüėČ

— in case that confused you, this is what i mean. to the filipino lineage in the martial arts is almost as important as your family lineage, for pride, love and belonging. but for your martial arts and fighting, its a “who cares?” thing. but to the american student, the lineage is where most people get their credibility and reputation (“certified by master so – n – so”, or “master so n so said it, so it must be true) instead of building his own through his own accomplishments. but for purpose of family, beloning, etc., lineage is no different than a woman to a playboy… its just another notch on your belt.

4. in the philippines, teachers take baby steps to teaching a student skill. class is patience, and a teacher might spend only a few minutes with you and you spend the rest of the time training yourself. here in the US, class is slam bam thank you man, teacher is only going to be in town for one day, so lets absorb what we can as much as we can (drinking from a water hose?)… did anybody tape that? outside of, again, big schools and big name teachers, i would say that most filipino teachers will teach a few techs in one class and do it hundreds of times, where in the US they will give you a hundred techniques in one class. again, this is a cultural difference. in america we are busy, no time to wait for that sandwich , just give me a number 6 supersized. in the philippines, they will cook your food and you better wait or go some place else. so the level of learning patience reflected in the teaching habits.

5. most filipino teachers do not have a black belt (he might wear one, tho) or a certificate. american teachers usually have several belts and certificates

6. most filipino teachers believe in “sport”…. sparring and tournament. teachers here train “for street”

7. every filipino teacher i know has a rival. even filipino teachers here in the US. we all have our bad guy, and we are not too shy to dislike somebody in the open. american teachers have lots of friends and get along with everybody–or at least they are nice to everybody (except on the internet)

8. filipino teachers are usually not too sure about if he is going to accept that next new student (does anybody know him?). here in the west, we advertise and hope to reach everybody

9. hard training is not for everyone vs. anyone can learn it

10. in the philippines your teacher will tell you, this style will beat everybody. in the US, your teacher will try to learn everything under the sun… and respect all martial artists! no superior styles only individuals

11. in the philippines, the student will stay longer, long after he learned everthing the teacher has in his curriculum. in the US if you dont teach fast/interesting/entertaining enough, they move one. once he achieve his rank, most students are out to the next school or he starts teaching himself.

12. ongoing training vs seminar training

13. we do what we do vs we do everything

14. that wont work against me vs i gotta learn that

15. i am a master, let me prove it to you vs always a student

16. my art is superior to yours vs everybody has his own path

Later that day….


i wanted to add a little more to this topic, which is answering some questions from a board member.

“I know you’ve talked about it being different, but what exactly IS different? ¬†Is it the students? ¬†Is it the training? ¬†Is it the fear of being sued by a student here in the states because he felt the training was unsafe and he got a bruise on his knuckle one night in class? ¬†What’s the answer? ¬†How do we make training here in the states¬†comparable¬†to that of PI? ¬†I’m sure a lot of it depends on the instructors, but we do have some quality instructors here in the states to.”

1. what is different? i think the main difference is the emphasis on techniques development in the philippines, where here the emphasis is on drilling and pre arranged technique. but i know a lot of this is because the more popular eskrima styles here in the US come from teachers who do a lot of drilling and prearranged technique. not all eskrima uses the drill the same way, but i do know this is the favorite method of teaching with american teachers. and today, this is believed to be the best way to teach fighting. i disagree.

2. is it the training? yes, filipino schools spend more time on stroking practice, american schools spend more time doing the give and take, and working counter and disarms. i have been told many many times, that students will not return to a class where we are throwing strikes for 45 minutes. i dont agree either, i been in business 18 years, and even though we have high turnover, i have plenty of long term fighters in my school, so theres enough people who like this kind of training. most of them do come from jkd and modern arnis background, even though i prefer students with no FMA background, they are easier to teach.

also, i dont remember if i said it before, but there is emphasis on learning here in the US, vs training in the philippines. learning is softer and less painful, training is painful. once you learn something your done, and you move on to other stuff. but when you are training, you are never done.

3. is it the fear of being sued? no i dont think so. but maybe during sparring practice. but i think most arnis teachers teaching today learned from schools that didnt spar, or didnt spar much, so their students dont spar. its just how they learned. here in the US, when a student gets hurt in class its a big thing, where your teacher in the philippines would laugh and tell you to get up (or even congratulate you, as boggs lao did to me once). getting hurt is part of training, and i am not talking about getting your knuckle cracked on sinawali practice. today more eskrima teachers are willing to do “unsafe” practice, which is good. better than how it was in the past.

4.¬† how do we make it comparable? i think the answer is to train with another teacher yourself in this method. i could tell you, but you will not understand unless you go through the training yourself. sure, once in a while you’ll “get” a tip here in there, but its not the same as if you did this, week after week, for a couple years… or you can do it old-style! make your own method, test it out, make a name for it, and then just do it. too many people did this themself, and there is nothing wrong, as long as you proved it works to yourself, and to the public.

5. theres good teachers here too. yes, i agree, you will find good teachers everywhere. but there, we have a difference. define “good”. filipino definition of “good” is different than american definition of “good”. american definitions of good can go from, he is fit, fast and strong… to his techniques are impressive to look at… to i like him he’s a nice guy… to he has muscles and in that demo of techniques, this looks like some stuff he will kill you with. a filipino teacher will call you good if he sees that you can fight. he will look at the muscle guy and think, i can beat him. he will look at the impressive demos and drills and think, that wont work on me, he will look at the nice guy and smile, but still think his hands are soft and his forearm is too little, i can beat him, he will look at the demo and think, that is his student, of course that crap worked. now this is not everybody, but it is most of the people i know. being on the internet i see more and more filipinos who think the same way american FMA think, so maybe me and my friends are a minority, or we are to old fashioned. so i’m talking from the little world i came from. i cant speak for the bigger schools and their traditions.

More on Cowardice/Courage

The previous article on Fear and Courage sparked a lot of response. This is an old communication that was posted to Dennis Servaes’ online forum, CSEMT. I think many of you would appreciate it.


Mr. Gatdula, No matter how much I have trained, which hasn’t been much at all due to the fact that in my life at the time, it was time to refrain from training. Because I am slightly scared of fighting and would rather not fight, does this make me a coward? Thank you.


maurice gatdula wrote:

of course this does not mean you are a coward. when i talk about these things, i am talking to the teachers and so-called experts of the art.

martial arts training is not for everyone. TRUE martial arts training is not for everyone. i am guilty, like many other teachers, of softening the art to keep students longer. we all do it sometimes because we have bills to pay. but the difference between lighten up on your boys and selling out, is, are we really preparing our students? that is the question. yes, you want to make it safe, because each time you have to put a claim to your insurance it goes up. when the students see a classmate get a broken nose in class it scares the other guys. but you have to keep enough hardness in the training that it becomes useful and develops his or her ability to defend himself, and like swim lessons, you have to get wet to learn how to swim, and to learn to fight, you must overcome this fear.

teachers should teach enough of the fighting philosophy so that students understand what they are leaving when they quit. sometimes it is no more than a business relationship, i will quit and go to that school, or i will quit and come back when my money is better. no matter what you are doing that is so important that made you quit, i guarantee it wont be so important if you ever got mugged, you will wish you never stopped.

no body realized how valuable something is, until you need it.

a teachers job is to make sure every student coming in the door understands the value of training, what must be done in order to get trained, and what you have to sacrifice. i had many students after 2-3 months come to me and say, this kind of training is not for me. and there is nothing wrong with that. true martial arts training is not for everyone. just like college education is not for everybody, poetry is not for everyone, music is not for everyone. we can like these things, but maybe it is not written for us to be able to study it. but a master teacher, should be able to take the guy (or girl) who is not cut out to be a fighter, but wants to be a fighter, and develop him or her into a fighter.

like the saying, a teacher can teach athletic man into a fighter. but a MASTER teacher, can take a coward, or a soft man, with a desire to learn, and turn him into a fighter also. as long as you want to become a fighter, whether you are fat or skinny, mentally tough or weak, the right teacher can bring it out in anyone.

Secrets in the Martial Arts

Slightly edited posts from several forums. These notes were collected without references to where they are located. I apologize in advance to those who would like to backtrack and see the original threads.

secrets in the martial arts

There have always been secrets in the martial arts. Secret techniques are not like those you see in the movies; where you learn techniques that enable to you defeat anyone. That is not a secrets, that is what I define as “super” techniques. Super techniques do exist, but not in many arts. My styles contain them, and they are much more simplistic than one would think. Not many masters have such techniques, because they are rarely passed down and rarely searched for. My definition of a martial “secret” is very different–and are closer to what some might consider a “trade secret”.

Some styles have something special about them that makes them unique. If you study one art, you will have skills in a certain way of fighting, than another style, who may have their own way of doing things. At the basic level, everything looks the same. But what teachers keep to themselves — and only their most valuable students–are the things that are unique to their system. The idea that you can just train, train, train and one day beat the advance fighter who also trains, trains, trains, is the thinking of young, immature men. Now, if a system is not thought out very well, or is built on too much theory but not enough testing, then yes, the advance level is no different than everything else. (This was to answer someone who stated that the advanced level of most FMA styles contain the same thing.) But…

Not every teacher and his art is for sale. This is an unfortunate fact that the Filipino has created for himself, where people in the rest of the world thinks we are nothing special, and you can just learn what you have by paying for it. We cheapened our arts, just like we did with our women near every U.S. military base, just like we do with our products when foreign money comes along. Now we have entire systems on video, which are sold for $200! Then i agree with you, there is no secret in the art–but THAT art. Believe me my friends, that there is so much more in the FMA than you are seeing on Youtube and in seminars. There are many teachers that have good information to show that you will never learn until you understand the phrase “dedication to teacher and style”. Why do you think you never see instruction videos for Yaw Yan? Or authentic Kuntaw? If somebone sold videos on this style, he would be rich because most of you would buy it. However, the techniques in these styles are very valuable and even the youngest student won’t teach it in a one day seminar or 2 hours video. This is why folks in the FMA world have to make up their own Kuntaw and Silat, or go to online forums to ask for Youtube postings of Yaw Yan, so they can try to make sense of what they think those arts contain, and one day re-create their own “Kuntaw/Kuntaw-Silat/authentic Moro Kali/blah, blah blah.

Author note: Master Gatdula informed me that in the 80s and 90s, some well-known FMA teachers today had called him and some even video taped him to find out what Kuntaw and “FMA hands” looked like. Some of these men were told that those levels of the art were yet to come in their own training, but had not seen them. One teacher from New York City recorded Guro at 17 years old at a tournament in NYC demonstrating his techniques, and Guro has seen similar techniques performed on video tape by the same man in recent times.

Like I said, there are secrets in the arts. They are not always carried to the grave, but are waiting for the right student to come along to learn it. The people who make fun of this statement will never learn them, and will end up studying in the same places and learn the same things as 90% of the FMA community…. in other words, nothing special (youtube, video, seminar, and FMA for sale….): Commercial, (dare I say it) McDojo FMA. The reason you are telling me 90% of FMA looks the same is because it is. You are learning watered-down FMA, that some FMA Guro/Tuhon/Grandmaster ripped off from another FMA guy–his bad Tagalog terms, drills and impractical techniques and all–and regurgitated that crap in his own video and his own way and taught it to you. The real deals that are out there are hidden to many of you, because you are limiting yourself to mainstream FMA-for-sale. Laugh all you want, me and my boys eat guys like you for breakfast.

The whole problem about videos and seminars, is that there is no looking a student up and down before you take him on as a student. There are not enough teachers of FMA who will screen students, and not take them just because he has money and wants to learn. This is not just some business relationship, and you will have to understand that about the arts. This is a tradition, and you are not the customer. Even if you travel to learn! If you are visiting a teacher and cannot commit to more than a few weeks or few months, the teacher might either

1. teach you as much as he can in that short time, or

2. show you only the basics, but keep other things because he knows you are just passing through, or

3. not accept you at all.

Of course, if you are just looking to add to an already-long resume, then sure. Put another notch on your belt, and take the certificate, and dedicate 15 minutes of your classes and seminars to the crumbs of knowledge you got off his kitchen floor. Certify people in the little you know, and sit back, thinking that there isn’t much to these arts. Join the masses.

There are just too many people who refuse to study full time, and would rather learn in seminars and video. Unless you are in Europe where the people are more serious about martial arts than here. But what is normal for this FMA community is to learn by seminar, even when there are full time teachers in your city.

Again, the definition of the word “Secret” (Are they not reading my posts?)

I think you’re not understanding what I considerl a “secret”. I consider a “secret” anything in your system you keep treasured, even what you withold from your own students, and save it for special or advance students. Like Kentucky Fried Chicken’s 11 herbs, that is a secret. My advance technique is my trade secret for my system and my business. It is what we have that no one knows about. It is what makes us unique, and what you may encounter if you fight with me or my advanced students. Other styles are like this as well. For example, Yaw Yan is not put on video, because the Yaw Yan fighters don’t want just anybone with 50 bucks to buy their techniques. That is a secret. To get it, you just have to prove you have loyalty as a student, not just fly to the Philippines and wave money in their faces. I respect that. Many other styles don’t care who learns it, which is why everybody knows what they do, and you find it all over the magazines and in other people styles, and why you think all FMA are martial whores. It explains why some of you get so upset when I say I have a technique I will never show you unless you joined my school. I have had guys say in my face, that they don’t want to learn it, and the only way I can explain it is to tell you a joke.

What is the difference between a whore and a bitch?

A whore is a woman who sleeps with everyone.

A bitch is a woman who sleeps with everyone but you.

Don’t take it personal, but most of you do not have what it takes to learn in a hard-core FMA school. The fact that you cannot commit to training long enough to get valuable martial arts tells me everything. If the information comes too easy, I would suggest that what you’re getting is a dime a dozen.

It seems that everyone in the FMA believe that they are masters. I recently saw an ad by a classmate of mine (who I outranked when I was 18 years old, and today couldn’t defeat any of my advanced students) listing himself as a GRANDMASTER. And he is a Filipino! Without hurting his feelings, I tried to check him on this, but he wouldn’t even discuss it with me, so I guess we’ll just add him to the list. The way to beat this, is to go back to arnis roots and how it was treated many years ago, go back to the tournament and matches as a way to determine who was the best, and get rid of the mass marketing of the FMA, where even a 10 year old girl can hold a black belt in arnis. If the arnis and eskrima schools can become more competitive, you will start to find teachers keeping what they discover to themself more, and fighting skill will get better.

Again, when I say secrets, I am not talking about super-techniques like in the movies. What I am talking about, are the things in your style that are unique to your style, that maybe other people may not have or may not do as good as you. I’m sorry to say this, but many of these so-called “masters” do not have such techniques or skills in their styles, and yes, they are willing to put the ENTIRE system on video or taught to un committing students in a seminar. Not every old Filipino in good shape you meet is a real Masters. Many of these men are just old men with mediocre skills who lived long enought to be the FMA “Miyagi-san”. Many of them were average martial artists and have nothing valuable to teach you, so they are lucky enough to certify Joe Blow from America… who’s got connections, and Bam! Next thing he’s in the mags and on the Lumpia circuit telling stories about killing Japanese Samurai and surviving death matches. But the truth is, there are many REAL masters who have techniques you have not seen, and will not see unless you train under them full time. It is foolish to think that Doce Pares/JKD/Stockton Eskrima/Modern Arnis/PTK/Balintawak has it all. It is also foolish to think that just because they won’t put it on Youtube, or sell it on dvd, that it has no use.

Competition is a necessary thing for the martial arts, and the reason we have people teaching all they know is because they are not competing enough or they don’t value the competition (or winning), or the stuff they sell is useless in competitions. You cannot go to Freddie Roach and ask him what is the secret to Manny Pacquiao’s fight strategy; he will tell you to screw yourelf. Why? Because his success in fights depend on his opponent not being ready against whatever plan you have. Now, you can watch his fight on video (which martial artists do better than they do training in the gym) to guess what his style consist of, but you’re not going to know fully unless it is explained. People might figure out the hair and skin of what you’re doing, but the real meat of it can only be learned in person… From a teacher willing to share it with you.

Some responded that special techniques are worthless, and that hard work and serious training beats all.

I believe in hard work and good concepts too, but I also believe in the student earning the knowledge I had to earn myself, instead of selling to everyone with a credit card. I’ve been noticing that the new thing in the FMA is to say, “oh, we have that too”. Sure, thanks to video it became easier. A perfect example is the misconception that there are not blocks in the FMA, only limb destructions. Inosanto’s style utilizes and emphasizes it, but you may notice that every FMA guy out there seems to think this is important in every style. Not true. Basically, a bunch of people learned it, and said, “Oh, we have that too.” There are still many things you cant get on video or in seminars, and thank God for that.

Response to this comment:

My second point of confusion with your post (sorry) is that I fail to see how more healthy competition between good schools will make FMA practitioners more secretive. In an open society, I would expect just the opposite result. People would see what worked, even if they didn’t fully understand why, and they would flock to that school. Eventually, the more effective approach, techniques, “secrets”, or whatever, would become appreciated and dominate the field. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work?

Sorry, I forgot another point I’d like to make.

I hope that students don’t just leave their schools to go to the next one they see that’s a little more impressive. When I was younger, I use to be flattered when a guy left a school to train with me just because of my fights in a tournament. Now that I am older, I see that it is very disloyal, and I don’t welcome every student who does it. We are now fighting on 5 circuits, and this happens all the time. I still keep my system for my students, but now we have tournament training times when visiting students can come. Sometimes I’ll keep them, many times I do not. I mean, still have to feed the family, but stealing money out of another teachers household is not a good way to do it.

Everytime we compete, we will get guys who want to train with us. So they come to fight night (we do this once a month) and everyone gets better, even my own students can learn. But my message to both my boys and the visiting fighters is this–learn how to fight against the other style, not learn the other style. This is a more effective way to grow in your art, instead of adding this and adding that, just learn how to counter those other unfamiliar techniques.

The “jump ship” approach to training is not good for anyone in the martial arts, and is not much different from a man who jumps from one woman’s bed to another, a whore.

Originally Posted by Timmy Boy I might be a n00b to FMA but this seems to be a moral statement, not a training-related one. A student is paying you for the service of providing him with martial arts instruction. You work for him, not the other way round. What duty of loyalty does he owe to you that he wouldn’t owe to his electrician or plumber?

In some martial arts communities, this is true. But in the traditional world of martial arts, it is not. Martial arts is not just some business, even though some people treat it that way–both teachers and students. There is a relationship that you created through teaching someone martial arts, and its too much to describe here, I will explain it better in another post. The making of martial arts into “just a business” is the heart of many of the problems in the martial arts. “Just a business”, makes teachers promote 7 year old black belters, lower the standards for the students (to make it easy for anyone to do it), make crazy claims about the art (this technique will help you whip anyone on the street), created titles (great grand poo-bah, 12th degreee master). It will make students hop from school to school and never learn anything except everybody’s basics, or demand rank from their Masters. I’ve seen students who left a school because next belt comes too slow, or another school promised them black belts very quickly. I’ve lost many students before because our training is too hard. A teacher has to balance tradition and everything with it, and being able to feed his family. In my school our tradition is that only the best move up, but then I have to work with students who cannot train except one day a week, or they are overweight, or knee problems, afriad to fight, etc. But this is what we do, as Masters in the art, we take them all and despite their weaknesses, develop them into warriors. I can’t do this if the students think I work for them.

Going back to my original point, when a teacher says he has secrets in his art, he is not talking about “magic”, he is talking about proprietary techniques, unique skills and training methods that he is not willing to let out the bag for a price. If you remember when Iron Mike Tyson was up coming, they did not allow the public into his training camp like other fighters, this is because his training method was “secret”.

Here is a real SECRET in the Martial Arts:

At the beginner levels of the martial arts, the “secret” to skill is hard work. But at the advance levels of fighting, the “secret” is, superior technique as well as hard work. This is where true Masters, non-commercial Masters, become stingy with their knowledge.

I believe the lower levels of learning in the martial arts is commercial. You are selling yourself to the student in a way, and you want to convince him that your school is the best place to train. The student then, has the choice to join or not join and can quit at any time. In my school we do not use contracts. BUT… a student can only quit on me two times. After the second time I do not let them back. There is no obligation to stay, but after he reaches a certain level of skill, we do have an understanding that whats in it for me (and not even money because i dont charge tuition for my advanced students) is that i am training them to become teachers and fighters to represent me and my school. Every student is told this, I am not doing this for them money. My goal is to grow my style and make my school a strong reputation. This might sound wierd to some teachers, we do not give belts or titles etc., i teach skill. But in exchange for my teaching, I want my students to represent our school and my styles. This is the basic difference of many Filipino (and other asian) teachers, and western teachers. In the Philippines, a guy will learn skills and rush to the competition to try his skills out. Here in the US, a guy will learn (sometimes after one visit to the Philippines) and rush out to teach a seminar, or post what he knows on youtube.

I believe ego, not money, is why many American teachers McDojo their FMA. I believe that money AND ego is why Filipinos McDojo our FMA. We have as much responsiblity for this… probably more, because we started it, with the slogan “FMA as an add-on art”. This is selling out in the worst way, not much different than renting out one’s own daughters.

Back to your point, Tim, at the lower levels of learning, you are right. Find a school you “like” and pay them money to learn. But in a traditional school, learning is only up to a certain level unless you commit. This is why in my school I stop charging tuition after the advance level, because its not business after that point.

And to your second point, do you stay loyal even if the teacher is a bad teacher. Of course not, but many students can’t tell if a teacher is good or bad. I have to admit that when I was younger, I opened my school at 22 years old, I was a bad teacher. But people trained with me because I was a good fighter and I offered styles you cant get on video (in 1992 you couldn’t). Many student quit, but some stayed too, and as I got older and wiser the training was better. Today, I have students who fight and teach all over the place, even in other countries, because they stuck with a “bad teacher”. On the other hand, I had trained with a guy who had a drug problem, but learned a lot from him. I had one who had a terrible temper andIi learned a lot from him. One of my teachers was a gangster, and I learned from him. In the philippines i had one who did not teach anyone who was notFilipino (he told me, dont teach Americans, but today he is over here hocking videos) but I learned a lot from him. In a way you can say, that it was all business with those guys, but I learned what I wanted.


“If a student handed me a fistfull of money then said this is what I want. I would watch him train for an hour then say THIS IS WHAT YOU NEED and it will cost you in sweat and effort it cannot be bought.(I am not a plumber) Then if I thought that HE didn’t have what it takes I would tell him to leave rather than waste his time and mine. I would also tell him the secret of martial arts on the first day by pointing at the student who was putting 100% effort and attitude into his OWN training.”

This happens a lot to FMA teachers. Since many of us teach by seminar, they believe that we are martial arts whores who give it up when we see dollars. I always explain the difference, then sometimes I might give a demonstration of power hitting (we specialize in that) or something that most guys cant do, and if they insist that he doesn’t want to train, then I show them the door. Funny, in the nine (10 years at the date of this post) years I’ve been in california, I seen a few guys who left my place that way, that are now FMA “guro”.

There is more to come, but I am in the process of editing a wealth of information on this topic.

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,, 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!)…

Making a living with your FMA, part 1

As a child, I never had a chance. I was destined to become a martial arts teacher. There were a few interests: politics, football, boxing, magic, even journalism. However, the one thing I have always said was that I would be a martial arts teacher.

When I got older, all the masters I knew were poor and I started to doubt that a real martial artist could feed himself off of traditional martial arts. Sure, there were some making tons of money, but those guys had lousy students, short classes, easy promotion exams… and I would never do that!

Then I discovered the tournament prize.

I learned that if I trained really hard, I could make between $100 – 500 per tournament for a first place or grand-champion placement. Following the footsteps of Sifu-Guro Billy Bryant (and many other great martial artists), I passed up the opportunity to get a “real job” and made the martial arts my full-time job. And it was a hustle. In order to make this work, you have to compete at every tournament that comes your way. Sometimes, you don’t make enough to pay rent, buy groceries, or even have gas money to get to the tournaments. We even paired up to attend tournaments with friends–with the agreement that if either of us won, we would split the prize. We had to endure the displeasure of our family and friends, who saw us as “karate bums”. We did it, and reaped the benefits of pursuing a passion with a level of skill many of our peers wished they had. Some people simultaneously achieved skill in the arts and finished college degrees. The rest of us just stuck with the martial arts.

The great thing about the tournament was that it was great for networking. I met Apolo Ladra, who introduced me to Jae Kim (owner of Kim’s Karate), who introduced me to Han Kim (owner of US Tae Kwon Do College). All these men taught me that one could make a living from teaching good, pure martial arts. Apolo taught me that teaching kids was not tantamount to pulling your own teeth. Jae Kim taught me how to handle large classes, quality control management, and development of a good teaching plan. Han Kim taught me how to sell, market and operate a martial arts school.

Around the same time I learned from these gentlemen, Billy Bryant introduced me to the seminar. A product of the FMA seminar, he learned how to “hype” oneself and taught me just how lucrative the seminar was. I did a few on my own, made a few thousand dollars, but learned that I hated teaching this way. There is no skill development, quality control, and dedication demanded from the students. Yes, you can reach large audiences, but mass consumerism never resulted in good martial arts. Sadly, Billy, as talented as he was, never made enough to feed himself off his full-time school, and had to sell certificates through seminars to make his living. I walked away from this experience committed to prove that traditional Filipino Martial Arts is marketable in its pure form, and that it could support a full-time school.

Let me add this note: In order for this to work, you must have a high degree of skill and accomplishment. By “accomplishment”, I am referring to a reputation built in combat with other martial artists. Combat is through tournaments, or friendly or unfriendly sparring. You must be known for good skill and your students must be known to possess above-average skill. In this, my first rule of marketing your martial arts:

#1. good marketing spreads the word. good skill signs them up

Without good skill, all you’re doing is talking a good game, and you will have to constantly keep new students coming through the door because there is nothing motivating people to stay. And remember what I mean by “skill”… I am talking about fighting ability and all its attributes–power, speed, sparring ability, knowledge. Part of your work week will need to be, at a minimum, enough training sessions to keep your skills functional. High reps of strikes, strength training, shadow boxing to keep techniques ingrained into your hands’ muscle memory. Without decent skill–good skill–your school doesn’t have a chance.

Where you find martial artists with poor or mediocre skill, you will see things that barely matter being emphasized:

  • lineage
  • rank
  • easy, frequent promotions
  • entertaining drills (that distract you from the fact that this guy hits like a woman)
  • tough talk and posturing
  • addition of “bulletproof” arts that they hide behind–BJJ, Krav Maga, blade arts, etc.
  • Kiddie Classes, afterschool karate, Tae Bo
  • memberships and organizational affiliations–i.e., strength in numbers
  • de-emphasizing the importance of fighting skill

The bottom line is that in order for your school to grow without the use of fluff and bells and whistles, you will need to make sure that your own physical martial arts skills are above average. Now, I told you about my pre-teaching experience because I believe that the best martial artists are full-time martial artists.

Some of you may be saying, “Not everyone can do this full-time.” True that, but teaching and mastery of the art is not for everyone. So you will have to make up your mind–are you put on this earth to be a great accountant/government worker/whatever, or a career martial artist? Just because you wish you were master material doesn’t mean you can just do it part time and think that you’re equal with those who have made this their life. I do believe, however, that anyone who wants it and is willing to do what he has to do to pursue it can achieve it. But you will have to decide whether you will truly make the martial arts your life, or will you just make it an exaggerated hobby?

In closing, the first key to making a living with your FMA is to be good at it, and dedicate your life full-time to teaching and practice of the arts.

In Part II, we will discuss your mission statement and building your organization.