Fat-Cream FMA

Martial artists sure are lazy these days.

I was talking to a potential student yesterday who, after brown-nosing me to death about how much he admired my school and my philosophy and the Filipino fighting arts, he insults me by asking, “Do you have anything on the north side? The south area is pretty far…”

You must be frigging kidding. You are looking for this kind of martial arts to be right around the corner from you? You’re not willing to drive 20-30 minutes for a real martial arts class? Instead, what do you suppose would be the alternative:  perhaps join another McDojo and raise your McDojo count to five? Obviously, you don’t want to study the real art.

Oh, I let him have it. In fact, I let many potential students “have it”. After all, I gotta be me, and these guys really need to get it raw, with no vaseline. I don’t sugar-coat anything–just ask my students. See, the martial artist of today is such a softee, he really doesn’t deserve to be called a “martial” anything these days. They are cut from the same cloth of lazy bastards who collect Tae Bo videos, Insane/P90X DVDs, dusty-but-brand-new exercise equipment, and fat-burning creams. The kind of guy who might purchase a gym membership and never use it. The kind of guy who eat super-sized meals at the fast food joint, but also take fat-burning-while-you-sleep pills and drink natural fat-zapping drinks. And never lose any damned weight.

Martial artists only stick with a program if they get quick rank and don’t have to train too hard and never spar. They like to wear “I’m a fighter” tee shirts and put up pics on Facebook and talk about how pussified today’s martial artist is, yet never duke it out with another fighter. The martial artist of today attends seminars rather than schools, finds tournaments too safe yet does not engage in “unsafe” sparring events, studies youtube clips and instructional DVDs and books and is always good for a demo, but won’t spar for shit.

If they sold a cream that you could just squeeze a tube and rub on some stuff that gives fighting skill, they would never step foot in a dojo again.

I use to travel by bus (non-airconditioned bus, I might add) for hours every week to study with one of my masters. I had to stay in Manila at least two or three days at a time, and slept on the floor of the school, or with a class mate when space was available. There are many people who have traveled 1 – 3 hours one way to study with me every month for years. Out of my Kung Fu students in the Intermediate class, none live near my school. Two travel 30 miles to class and make this trip 3 times a week, and have been doing this for several years.

If you want the art, you do what is necessary to learn it. I have had students come to class monthly from Canada and Texas. I have a student who use to save his money, and travel to California every few months just to train for a few days at a time. I have a student who lives in Washington, DC, and trains with me whenever I get to the East Coast. We talk by phone at least twice a month and I guide his training by phone and email. He has flown out here a few times as well.

Like I said, many of today’s martial artist knows nothing about stuff like this.

And I will not try and convince a lazy student such as this guy to join my school. He will be lazy, impatient, unfocused and undisciplined, and will be a waste of my time. To make matters worse–he might not even be the kind of guy who will pay his tuition on time.

We all know guys like this. Guros everywhere do what they can to obtain and keep such students because we have bills to pay. There is nothing wrong with that; we all take undeserving students. Sometimes we even take them hoping that we just might be able to turn this lousy student into a good one; I was one of those. But in my “old” age of 42 (actually I turn 42 next week on the 12th), I have been there, done that and can forsee such wastes of floor space. So I make it difficult for such students to join by suggesting that they are not suitable matches for our school and in these cases I will recommend the shopping center McGuro.

Hey, as Harry Callahan would say, a man’s gotta know his limitations (nod to Patrick)–and as an experienced teacher, I know when a student is wasting his time as well as mine. You know the grumpy old fart who has all the secrets to the art but won’t share them? Well, I’ve become that guy. This is why I do not accept new students into my Kuntaw class, and why I don’t advertise as much. People watch too much damned TV and Youtube, and if I have one more asshole coming in my school asking about buffalo wrestling and chicken blood and secret arts–I’m kicking his ass.

In the meantime, I’m working on this Fat-cream FMA formula. We are gonna get rich off this stuff!

Thanks for visiting my blog.


Tae Kwon Do: A *Killing* Art?

Striking Thoughts has this post, “A Killing Art: The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do”–and TDA Training has this post, “Should You Care About Your Style’s Politics?”  Both articles stem from this book, A Killing Art:  The Untold History of Tae Kwon Do, by Alex Gillis. When you get a chance read both articles (ST’s and TDA’s), because they are presenting different takes on Gillis’ book. Striking Thoughts simply gives a brief synopsis of the book, while TDA (short for Teodoro Defensive Arts) is posing the question of whether or not the politics matter. I am going to give a third view of this subject. But first, the gist of Gillis’ book:

Alex Gillis is presenting the complete history of the Korean fighting art from a biographical point of view, as opposed to the seductive story that TKD was passed down from generation to generation through lines of Hwarang warriors since ancient times. Actually, TKD was General Choi’s creation after studying Shotokan Karate in Japan, and then modifying it because of tournaments and the desire to distinguish it from its Japanese mother art. There is more to the story, such as the political stories and the business side of the art and the unification of the various factions. However, I have not read the book, but I recently saw a copy at the library and I think I will indulge the next time I go back.

Almost all martial arts were made for combat. They are not all true to that original purpose, because time change and people change. Sometimes, as with kung fu and san shou–the change is for the better. Other times, as with kung fu and the sport of wu shu–the change makes it worse. But that also depends on who is judging:  Has anyone ever seen old footage of kung fu practicioners of old performing forms? Well, they are much better today than they were even 50 years ago. Even some of the fighting styles have improved. However, many have lost that part of their arts because of modern times. Tae Kwon Do is no different. The Olympic style of fighting has vastly improved Tae Kwon Do kicking skills, but at the same time many TKD schools (I might even dare to say “most”) have lost all their fighting spirit altogether.

What happened?

Money. In the days of old, TKD masters were more concerned with bragging rights than anything else. Perhaps there was money to be made off of being the best school in town, but the driving force behind a lot of the instruction in the old days was wanting to out do the competition. When Tae Kwon Do arrived to America, one man single handedly helped TKD explode into the limelight and gain thousands of students:  Jhoon Rhee. I don’t know if this is in the book, but GM Rhee teamed up with Nicolas Cokinos of Art Linkletter Dance Studios and developed the format used today by martial arts schools everywhere. So, singlehandedly, Grandmaster Rhee changed the style makeup of styles on the American martial arts scene, as well as how we did business.

And we arrive at the death of Tae Kwon Do.

When Tae Kwon Do became mass marketed as a commodity, it became easily accesible to everyone. It was affordable, available on every corner, easy to learn, and easy to achieve rank. Classes could not sustain a profitable level of enrollment if classes were too difficult. Students would not stay in the art very long if they trained too long without some tangible benefit (like a new belt). They needed to have new “stuff” to learn frequently, or students would get bored, so instructors had to introduce new forms, new techniques, and new things like “martial ballet/musical forms” and weapons. Teachers also had to keep up with the times by getting a case of oh-we-have-that-too:  Numbchucks, Chinese swords, ground fighting, boxing/kickboxing, Israeli-like self defense, Samurai swords, sweating to the oldies, day care, clowns and birthday parties…. oh, we have that too!

Question. When was the last time you saw a TKD school owner with a 3rd degree black belt? Isn’t it strange that we have so many 8th and 9th degree masters? Yes, because you don’t want to learn from an inexperienced Black Belter! You want to study with a real, true-blue, bonafide 8th degree grandmaster! Oh, we have that too…

Schools moved out of the hole-in-the-wall and into shopping centers and malls. They got bigger, plusher, and got full-time staff with vacation pay, insurance and benefits. With amenities, you couldn’t afford to turn away students–hell, Tae Kwon Do is for everyone! So, you say you have a four year old? A three year old? Yes ma’am, we have a class for him too! (AKA “oh we have that too!”) Little Johnnie has been doing this stuff since he was 5 years old, so at the ripe old age of 7, Kwang Jang Nim (Grandmaster) tests him for and awards him a Black Belt. That’s right, your local TKD school will slap a Black Belt on a frigging DOG if you are willing to pay the testing fee. We all know that one of the tenets of Tae Kwon Do is Self Esteem, so of course Kwang Jang Nim won’t fail a student and scar that poor pup for life…

And you wonder why the phrase “Tae Kwon Do, the KILLING art” sounds so strange.

I think I just heard a snicker. Okay Mc Guro, look in the mirror. After all, you are practicing Arnis, the ultimate add-on art, right? What has FMA become, other than the perfect add-on for the Tae Kwon Do guys? Hell, at least the Kwang Jang Nim will make you study for two years and take TEN belt exams and spar for your Black Belt… What is required for a Black Belt/Teaching certificate for Filipino Martial Arts? Attend 10 whole seminars? Buy all ten DVDs? Omg, you actually got smacked on the hand doing that sticky patty cake drill? And this art is so deadly you can’t actually spar with it! Yeah, we have that too. I think I will write a book, called “A Killing Art:  The Untold History of the Filipino Martial Arts”, because we aren’t much different than Tae Kwon Do in that sense. I live in Sacramento, where FMA is taught at almost every martial arts school in the phone book. We are 40 miles from the mecca of FMA–Stockton, California–where Grandmaster Dan Inosanto made his trips to learn directly from the grandmasters themselves. The home of Serrada Eskrima, De Cuerdas, Bahala Na. We are 100 miles drive from Cacoy Canete, the grandmaster of Doce Pares Eskrima. Ten years ago, we had the sons of both Remy Presas and Ernesto Presas living with a 45 minute trip of our town–plus the great, unmatched Sonny Umpaad. Then there were two full-time FMA schools–my own, plus Nito and Nilo’s Doce Pares–in addition to Fred Lazo in Vallejo and Max Pallen. All this authentic FMA and the main source of FMA learning my town has always been seminars and seminar-trained FMA teachers. Something’s wrong. At one time, I offered FMA 7 days a week, and visitors to my school still asked the question, “When will you put on another seminar?” They would rather learn by crash course, than actually study with a teacher full time.

But all this commercialization and watered-down art does not negate the power of FMA. We are still the most dangerous art out there. No other style teaches, at its core–how to kill the opponent. Nor does any art deal with the subject of how to stop a man from killing you. Not how to get out of a headlock. Not how to stop a spin hook kick. Not how to deal with the sucker punch. But how to stop a man hell-bent on cutting your throat. That characteristic is still present even in the most sissified FMA class (between the dancing around triangles and patty cake), and Ronald McGuro and his antics can’t take that away. I have long said, that before you dog out Tae Kwon Do as a style, let me introduce you to a few TKD fighters who will destroy you–and there are plenty. Tae Kwon Do, like the FMAs, Kung Fu, and many other styles, at its core is a killing art. Don’t forget that.

And to answer the question posed by Nathan Teodoro (over at TDA)–whether or not your style’s politics matter–is this simple:  It doesn’t matter when you are learning the basics of the art. But when you want to ascend to the higher levels of the art or become a more serious student of the art, martial arts politics could affect whether you are successful or not. In other words, yes it does.

Perhaps we will have a second installment of this subject. Thank you for visiting my blog.


Five Simple Rules for Hand to Hand Superiority

This is to fully explain my point of argument with a childhood friend I will call KH. He is a martial arts instructor and is a little sensitive about how this article will reflect on him, so I am using initials. >-P

KH is an old, dear friend of mine. I still remember when we met:  Fighting in the Boys Green Belt and Under ages 13-15 at Tomkins Tournament in 1982, I believe. I won the first place trophy wearing a Kung Fu uniform and his Sensei came over with KH, M. Speaks, and a third boy whose name I don’t remember. They had expected me to be weak and lose, and being that they were studying Shotokan–a very strong version of it, too–were looking past me in this tournament. We had been friends ever since. When I trained at Rock Creek Park with some Egyptian boys I met at the Malaysian embassy (around 1986), KH used to come with me. We were both amazed at how good their Karate was, having studied in Africa. Their father would not allow them to fight in tournaments, but I remember believing they would dominate the circuit if they did. KH was as serious as an inner city Karateka could be. We use to laugh at him because he walked the streets with his Gi bottoms and wooden shoes. Throughout our entire childhood, he was always comparing notes with another martial artist, and he was always good for a fierce sparring match. When I returned from the Philippines in 1990, he and I had a match at Everhart’s tournament at the hotel in Fort Washington, MD. I was competing, but he wasn’t. He had just returned home from the Navy, but still claiming he could kick my ass. We won’t talk about the results of that match.

In the mid 90s, I took him to Alice Lanada’s Kuntaw school in Virginia Beach (he was stationed in Norfolk) because he was dismissing FMAs, after meeting some seminar guys in the area who were afraid to fight. But the day we went, there were only kids, so he and I worked out with GM Lito. Even at his age GM Lito had impressed KH enough that it restored his respect for the Filipino arts. Not long after that, we lost touch and I often wondered what happened to him. Then, a month ago I see a very familiar name come across my email from a form on my school’s website. We’ve talked almost nightly since!

And now, my point. My good friend and warrior, KH, is “dabbling” in Wing Chun because somehow he is convinced that his Shotokan hands are not strong enough. Of course, after sparring with some MMA wannabes (I call them wannabes because these guys have yet to have a match), my friend is clocked a little too much for his taste and he chalked that up to having weak hand skills. Never mind that he admitted that he did not use his kicks out of fear of being taken down (please go back and read my “Clint Eastwood” article). He has good strong hands as well as kicks. But his method of fighting is a combination of both hands and feet–and although he is not a grappler, his stand up from what I recall is excellent. I said it last night my brother… you have to use what your specialty is.

I went through my normal spiel, but since we are 2,500 miles away from each other I can’t prove my point like I normally do. Plus this blog allows me to be able to “say” things a lot better than I am able to do in person, thanks to an editor.

First, let me say that the fighter, regardless of style, must have the same qualities in order to have full effectiveness when using the hands. If you have very strong hand (striking) technique–strength in terms of skill, not power–anything you add to them will be multiplied. But if you have weak hand skill, you can add BJJ, Aikido, the kitchen sink–you just have a whole lot of mediocrity. And the difference between a mediocre Karate man, a mediocre boxer, a mediocre grappler and a mediocre MMA guy is that the MMA guy sucks at more things.

Here are my five rules, which are repeated several different places on this blog. But you can’t read them enough. Keep reading them until they have found a way into your arsenal:

  1. You must have a probe. And everything comes off the probe. Do you ever play hot hands? Do you vary the speed? Or do you sometimes move full speed and sometimes move slow? That is what a probe is for; to vary the tempo of the action so that the opponent cannot adjust himself to the varied power levels, speed and timing. You have to sometimes use power, sometimes use speed, sometimes commit and sometimes probe at your opponent. Even the man with fast hands can be timed and beaten to the punch.
  2. You must fight by combination. If you are only fighting with counterattacks (this is one of your weaknesses, if you still fight the same way), you are a sitting duck waiting for the opponent to dictate when the action is going to happen or not. And when you attack, you have to be capable of throwing a barrage of attacks that keeps your opponent from being able to hit back. Using the combination also robs your opponent of confidence. When he is the aggressor, he feels like he is winning the fight and will win the fight. There is a way to counterattack effectively, but it still involves using the combination. If you make your opponent pay dearly for every attack he launches at you, it accomplishes what you want to accomplish:  defeating the opponent. Keep him busy so he won’t have time to kick your behind. Give him too much time to think and attack, and you might have your butt handed to you.
  3. Study and make good use of power mechanics. You already have this down, my friend. But when you spar, I suspect that you are not making use of this skill to your advantage. Take it from me, in sparring with strangers you can be too “polite”. It sounds to me like you were being polite, while those guys were not, and now you are looking at another style. You are a good fighter, but you have to use what you’re good at. Train with power, and be skilled enough to pull that weapon out of your hat whenever you need it. If you must adjust a technique so much that using power is awkward, slow or throws you off-balance, you need to spend more time training with power. It has to be at your fingertips whenever you need it.
  4. Develop footwork that can run down an evading opponent while escaping an attacking opponent. That’s it. Be hard to catch, while also being difficult to get away from. This should be rule #1, now that I think of it…
  5. Study strategy and the art of landing and stopping a punch. This is what I believe you are looking for in Wing Chun. It’s a good style. But (and that’s a BIG “but”) adding WC to Shotokan is like a football player cross training into lap swimming to improve his football. There are many strategies that utilize what you are best at. If you undertake an art that is completely unrelated to what you already do, are you really improving your Shotokan? Or are you just adding an art that you will never be as good at as your Shotokan? Like the MMA guy who is mediocre at 4 styles, you will never improve your Shotokan. Find ways to use what you have to improve the ability to land your strikes and stop your opponent’s strikes. Use what you have to do it. Not what the WC school across town has.

Folks, I’m not anti-cross-training. I am just pro-mastery of what you have. If you take these rules and apply them to what you already do–and you never deviate from them–you will improve what you are able to do already without having to take precious time away from your specialty.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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.