I Just Like This School

I’m not real big on Karate kata. But one thing I do know about kata is that it can give you a good indication of how well trained you are. Now, being good at kata does not mean that you can fight. But there is a way to tell if someone can fight, by looking at the way they perform their kata. I haven’t thought enough about it to be able to explain it, and I’m not sure I care to really dissect what it is. But I can.

Anyway, these young men are from SKIF – Philippines. I don’t know them. I am not even sure that I ever encountered any of their members when I was competing back home. But one thing I do know is that I like every performance I’ve seen them give.

So, there is no lesson in this post. I just wanted to share. Hope you enjoyed it!

Here are a few more:

Thanks for visiting my blog.


Using Sport Karate to Improve Streetfighting, Pt V

Fighting by Interception

Often, fighters on the circuit want to prove who is the quickest. In some cases, the fighter knows he is quicker than his opponent and wants to end his match quickly by using his speed to rack up points without the opponent being able to do anything about it. Either way, the fighter will not bother with blocking or evading, but fight by interception.

This technique does not emphasize speed, but timing and position. I think I have written enough about timing on this blog, so to spare you the headache of reading (again) the same old thing over and over, I will discuss position in this article.

Let’s take the skip roundhouse kick attack. My opponent and I both have our left foot in front, and the opponent attacks with his left skip roundhouse kick. Most fighters would lean back or step/slide back and block. Some, more confident, fighters would stand his ground and block the kick right where he is standing. But a fighter using this strategy would use the attack as an opportunity to launch an attack of his own. Not a straight line attack (see my series on footwork and the “secrets” of fighting superiority), but an angled one just slightly off the opponent’s centerline… a little towards my own left. In this position, you can attack with hands while the opponent’s leg is still off the ground. By doing this–instead of blocking or moving and then countering–you cut out the middleman and go right for the juglar.

This is more a mentality, than a technique. The fighter who attacks when attacked will never be a victim. Rather, he is a sleeping lion:  one whom you don’t want to wake up. The fighter that blocks an attack is showing his respect for the opponent’s power and attack, while the one who doesn’t bother defending shows that he has NO respect for the opponent’s ability to damage. When facing this type of fighter most opponents will lose confidence and become less aggressive, as he must look out for a strike or kick each time he attacks. You will find that your accuracy increases since you are no longer chasing your opponent; he is delivering the targets right to you.

I know this is a simple, short post, but I am offering a great piece of advice. Try it the next time you spar!

Thank you for visiting my blog. Please stop by again!

Using a Skill-Based Fight Strategy

There are many ways to approach fight training, and one of my favorite methods is a skill-based fighting style.  Some fighters look at fighting analytically, and believe that if you drill specific responses to techniques, when the opponent attacks you with a back-hand hook (for example), you will automatically respond with the practiced counter. This is a valid form of training, but I consider it to be an advanced form of fighting that does you little good if the foundation is not laid first.

And that foundation is the Skill-Based fight strategy. This method requires the fighter to place emphasis on individual attacks as separate weapons and little else, besides a few combinations. In the Filipino arts, the method is terribly ignored in favor of more complex strategies that sell better on DVD and in seminars… and looks good in demonstrations. But a well-developed advanced strategy is useless without a strong base of strong punches, kicks and basic strikes. For the fighter, he must have these skills well trained in order for more complicated manuevers to be effective.

It is not a very difficult method. First, you must identify all the weapons you will have in your arsenal. This would be every strike you would use, every thrust, every block, every kick, every push, etc., even grappling techniques like disarmings and locks. Next you should find all the variations that these skills would be launched from and to. This includes rear hand vs. front hand, open stance vs closed stance, static opponent vs mobile opponent, and so forth. It seems like a lot, but the variations are very small from situation to situation, and simply need to be identified and understood in order for practice to be effective.

In case this is confusing, I will offer the following example:

Round Kick:

  • back leg round kick against standing opponent
  • back leg round kick against mobile opponent
  • back leg round kick against an attacking opponent
  • back leg round kick as an initial attack
  • back leg round kick as part of a combination
  • back leg round kick as the finishing move of a combination
  • back leg round kick to the leg
  • back leg round kick to the head
  • back leg round kick from the outside (where you are off the opponent’s centerline)
  • back leg round kick from the inside (where you are off the line, but inside his guard)
  • back leg round kick at close range

Each attack should address each of these situations because there are many slight nuances that will change from one situation and position to the other. They will mean a major difference between being accurate and effective most of the time and struggling to apply your attacks. Most fighters are unaware of the differences and can be thrown off by simply moving; it would frustrate even the most skilled fighter, if he is unprepared.

Now, once the list is compiled, one needs only to drill these skills to a high degree. We want to practice the techniques and their best applications until you are able to fire away with the appropriate attack when the opening presents itself. This is why some fighters seem to always hit their opponent regardless of what he does, while others have trouble landing. I think most fighters know what to do if you demonstrate a “what-if” situation to him, but most cannot execute it in real time. In fact, you would probably have to wait a few seconds for the fighter to try and think of what should be done, or to search his memory for the best answer. However, the effective fighter cannot afford this; all plans must be thought out in training and drilled to second-nature. This way, when a slight adjustment is needed, “the strike hits all by itself”.

Use 500 as a target goal for training and then make this a regular part of your training. I recommend having this as your blueprint for your students’ first 2 to 3 years of training, before getting into a bunch of complicated strategies and drills. It is difficult enough to simply land an abaniko to a moving opponent, than to consider doing so under pressure, with full power, speed and accuracy. Make sure your fighters are focusing on develop skill at each individual technique and he will have success at the higher levels of fighting.

Thank you for visiting my blog, please visit us again! If you like the Techniques and Fight Strategy section of my blog, then I’m sure you will love my upcoming book (Dec 2009) Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months, located on the Offerings page!

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Can a White Guy Teach the FMAs?

As I’ve mentioned before, martial artists are some of the biggest assholes.

Many of us got involved in the arts because we lack self-esteem or confidence that we can defend ourselves, and the martial arts allow us to feel like we’ve got back up. But something about arming a coward…. He usually ends up going overboard with the confidence thing, and is likely to become a bully or just major league jerk-off. Why is this? Because the martial artist was not really changed by his training, and is still a coward–and still insecure. But the arts at least gave him the wisdom to fake being tough;  it gave him the dress, the jargon, the mannerisms, and even the physique of a guy that can fight. But although he is dressed like a tough guy, he still has “puss” written all over him.

Bottom line is that the expectations of a newbie in the art are still there, if the training hasn’t done what it’s supposed to do for him. Whether we are talking about toughness in the art, fighting ability, or even our prejudices.

So one guy joins because he feels unsafe, and another guy joins because he watched “Black Belt Theater” on Saturdays in his pajamas and now he wants to be the next Grasshopper. He will bring with him all the silly, childish expectations of a beginner in the art about who he will become, what to expect, and what is authentic in the arts. If the teacher and the training are incomplete or not deep enough, as a Black Belter, he will still harbor those fantasies well into the mature stages of his martial arts career.

On the other hand, we also have those with plain old racism, xenocentrism, and prejudice in the art.

I have met more than my share of Asian teachers (not just Filipinos, but I am thinking of a particular Filipino teacher as I type this article) who believe that any White teacher of the art is inferior to Asian teachers. They have a difficult time referring to an American FMA “master” with all the qualifications–like time in the art, SKILL, and level of knowledge–while accepting a 28 year-old FOB (fresh off the boat) referring to himself as a Master. You see it in some of the Korean magazines (I didn’t subscribe, but I’ve been getting them for nearly 10 years);  Koreans of any age being referred to as “Master/Grandmaster/Kwangjangnim”, while all the White guys are being titled “Mr.” or “Teacher/Sabumnim”. I have quite a few friends and acquaintances that are Korean teachers, and many of them are very guilty of this. (Betcha didn’t know, but I grew up with a Korean stepmom, speak some Korean, and have the inside scoop in this community). Some of the Filipino teachers I know have suggested that I recruit in the Filipino community a little heavier, because my students are mostly White and Black, with a few others here and there. There is an underlying belief that more Filipino students would legitimize my school (to whom, I wonder?) and that perhaps I am giving up too much to the wrong people.

Not long ago, my school was like that. I have always had an “inner circle” in my school, as my teachers had one. Matter of fact, Gatdula’s Fighting Cobras (my old business name) once had ONE White guy, ONE Black guy, ONE Mexican, and ONE Cambodian, and all the rest of my school was Filipino. I don’t know, maybe it was because the older folks in my community encouraged their kids to do martial arts. But my school was also the only FMA school in Sacramento at the time (all the others were in community centers or operating out of subleased space in Karate schools), so that could be a reason too. When I moved to a bigger location downtown, I ended up with mostly Caucasian students, and I didn’t blink for a second. Hey, as long as these guys worked hard and made me look good, right? Yet there were still a few idiots who felt like my school was suffering something because although I was making much more money, I had too many “others” in the school.

And guess what? Those American guys made really good students. They are taller, they are humble and learn just as quickly–sometimes even more humble than my Asian students–and stronger. How could I complain about that? Where the average height in my school was once around 5’6″, it is now about 6′. I have four strongest fighters that are African American, and I would bet my money on them against any fighter in Sacramento. How many teachers can say that? One of my students is 55, and had been taken private lessons for about 3 years before I opened a group class (in Jow Ga, my kung fu style), and he is perhaps the best Kung Fu student I’ve had in the 18-year history of my school. My most accomplished tournament fighters (of the adults) are a guy now living in Fiji (Indian descent) and one of my African American students… both over age 30.

But cowardly is the word of the day, and none of the Guro I know that hold these feelings would come right out and say it (except the guy I’m writing this about, and I gave him an earful about it too). They express it in their attitude towards non-Filipinos/non-Asians teaching the art. I know that I’ve had people think that I was that way, but my attitude towards the FMA in the West has nothing to do with race (if you knew me personally, you would know that this is true). It was all about the approach to teaching the practice of the art. Sometimes, people don’t look deep enough into the things I say, and they believe that I am representing their view to the art and it will allow them to say stupid things around me. But if a practitioner of the art studied full-time, trained hard, tested himself regularly, and reflected on the philosophy of the art… and then repeated this process when he became a teacher, he is a qualified teacher. But if he learned by seminar, promoted by seminar, and skipped over everything else important (testing and full-time study), I have harsh things to say about you, Westerner or Filipino.

Sometimes, I can change my view of a person just by listening to the things they say, or to see what they are doing. Not long ago, I resented guys like Hock Hockheim–students of Remy Presas who now teach “non-Filipino” labeled martial arts through the seminar circuit. But recently, I came across his website/forum and really read what he says:

  • I no longer “do” FMAs because, as a non-Filipino, there is a ceiling to my success
  • I still teach FMAs, but have to label it as simply “stick/knife/empty hand” because of the implication that I am not qualified since I am not Filipino
  • I still honor my teachers for what they gave me, but I must carve my own niche in this path
  • FMAs, as it is being taught, does not involve skill development and is too random for anyone to really learn the art

Who can argue with that? As one who is very close to prejudice and injustice (remember I am from Washington, DC and Pampanga; I’ve seen more than my share of the ugly head of racism) it saddens me that this martial arts community cannot allow a guy who has paid his dues in the FMAs to simply be “one of us”. Something else you may not know:  Hock is my Kuya under Ernesto Presas’ Arjuken, so I know a little more about his training than what you can find on the internet. I remember reading that he now calls his art “PAC”/Pacific Archipelago Combatives, and for a short time (sorry can’t remember exactly what it was) some European stuff, and yeah, it pissed me off. But it wasn’t steal-FMA-from-the-Filipinos-and-call-it-something-else, it was find-a-way-to-market-to-people-who-won’t-respect-me-for-my-knowledge-because-of-my-race. And that’s a damned shame.

The solution, in my opinion, is natural. The seminar industry simply does not allow for students to develop, it is a dog-and-pony show for martial artists to sell videos and increase attendance to more seminars. I know what goes on. A bunch of seminar junkies and magazine/video tape/youtube nut-huggers gather around to watch the Master dazzle them with a tap-dance of techniques and drills. They take pictures, collect a certificate, and then add another notch to their resumes, while practicing what little they were able to take away from the seminar in their Karate schools and garages. Most of the complaints many people have of the FMAs (which caused them to come out with a new-and-improved version in the first place) come from this industry, and taking the traditional road will give you a different experience. And then, you have to fight. If American guys like Hock needed respect, they would get it by fighting and letting the world see their credibility; it’s an easy sell. You can’t convince a guy in a seminar. A common expression you’ll hear the Sayoc/Atienza guys say is “come to a seminar and you’ll see”. But that won’t do it for some of us, we have to see it in action. And the old, sad excuse “sparring ain’t real fighting” isn’t good enough either; if you don’t spar, you’ll have to streetfight and I’m sure there aren’t too many of you doing that. But respect comes from skill, and regardless of your race or ethnicity, you will have that respect if people see you fight–whether you are a dominant fighter or not. This is one reason why the Dog Brothers and their members get instant respect just by being a member. Ever heard the Filipino expression “Skill is rank”?

Sometimes, your skill in movement is convincing enough. But few people will really ever witness your skill before they meet you, and as a teacher you need to be able to put your stuff in print and paint a picture that way. A bio that reads, “Guro X fought in tournaments from 1988 – 2000” carries a lot more weight in the minds of potential students than, “Guro X is certified by GM Y, GM Z…”  That stuff is for other seminar junkies. Substance will almost always transcend misconception, never forget that. And if you have good skill and they are still judging you by your race, then I say you wouldn’t want those guys as students anyway. The ones who hold the prejudices will eventually die away, they are really insignificant, insecure children who never grew up. Whether they are here or not, they won’t affect your bottom line, the life of your business, or the reputation of your skill and character.

Thanks for reading my blog, have a good Thanksgiving!

Using Sport Karate to Improve Streetfighting

I am going to give you a secret that will improve your overall fighting ability 100% if only you’d listen and learn, and open your mind.

First, forget all that crap about point karate not being realistic enough. I can tell you, most of the guys who say that aren’t doing anything else “more realistic”.

Within my school’s walls is a sub-system I created just for those who want to learn to fight on the tournament circuit–whether they want to fight full contact or point. It is mandatory for my Kuntaw students to study, and I strongly recommend my Kung Fu students to participate as well. I call this system Gatdula’s Sport Karate. It is a three-tier system that utilizes more than 60 techniques, and each of the 60 techniques is drilled at least 500 times before a student is allowed to move on to the next level. Besides the 60 techniques, we have more than 15 secrets that the students must learn and live by. I will reveal only one today on this blog:

You must treat each contact you make with your opponent as if this were the only exchange you and the opponent will have.

Point fighting, in essence, the perfection of the initial attack. It is perfecting how we engage the opponent and how we counter him when he initiates the attack. That is it. What you do after the exchange is up to you. For the point fighter, a point is called; for the ring fighter, he must finish the opponent. But learning to master the initial attack and the various ways to counter those attacks is what point fighting is all about. When you have perfected this craft, you learn to gain the upper hand on an opponent–whether in the ring or on the street–because you have learned both to land the first shot as well as counter the first shot (and make the opponent miss).

This is a philosophy post, not a technique post, so I am not telling you how this is accomplished. You are welcome to experiment with this concept in fighting by simply sparring for points. It isn’t as hard as people would have you believe, and learning to do so won’t hurt your fighting ability. Rather, it will give your fighting ability a little nitrous oxide behind it. When you land first, you have a greater chance of landing 2nd, 3rd and ultimately, end the altercation. When you get hit first, you have less of a chance to counter and you are more likely to get hit again if the opponent decides to take you out immediately.

This will be the first of a series of posts on this subject, and I hope you will take some of my advice to heart and actually get out on the circuit and make it happen. Trust me, you will see a huge improvement to your fighting ability if you do. If anyone lives in the Sacramento area, please contact me so you can stop by and I will prove to you in person how effective this type of fighting can be (or anything else I put on this blog).

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