First of all, apologies for the brief hiatus from generating content for the blog. Teaching Eskrima five days a week while working full-time, going to school, and trying to meet the weekly deadlines for blog content is a pretty rough schedule. As such, I am starting back up with a bi-weekly blog format. The benefit of this will allow me more time to research and generate more quality content as well as produce some tutorial videos to go along with the blog posts as applicable.
As many of you know, I no longer teach out of commercial schools unless I am brought in for seminars. Instead, my personal students and I train out of my home in Nashville or, as the weather permits, in various parks in the area. This allows me to be very selective with whom I teach, what I teach, and the expectations/standards I put forth as an instructor. The sad reality is that it is difficult to find these types of standards in most commercial schools because of the general economics of keeping the doors open and the lights on. Most often, the lunatics are running the asylum in terms of the expectations and standards that the instructor can “realistically” enforce with the students, in stark contrast to generic mission statements about, “training champions/warriors” etc. Most people in these environments are only seeking a hobby/activity and are ok with mediocrity when it comes to actual ability. In some cases, the individuals who are in these facilities seeking real skills are being misled by merit of their ignorance of martial arts and quality training methods. Worse still are the unscrupulous instructors who whiling mislead them further by instilling a false sense of confidence.
A few years ago, I was at hotel with friend and longtime student of mine. He was in college ROTC at the time and now is a Lieutenant in the TN National Guard. We were riding the elevator up to the 4th floor to our room. The elevator stopped on the second floor and a teenager who was, at most, 18 years old, boarded with his sister and a baggage cart. He was wearing a full karate gi, black belt, and various patches. The one that jumped out was a generic black belt club and the official school patch for a known area “McDojo” with 3 locations around Nashville. My friend attempted to get off at that floor, not realizing that we were not at our stop yet. He nearly bumped into the baggage cart and promptly apologized with a smile, and said “Sorry! Come on in, I will get out of the way.” The black belt club alumni responded by saying, “Yeah, it’s probably a good idea for you to do that!” I chuckled at the shear absurdity of a 120lb teen tying to intimidate two grown men, both weighing about 200lbs each, in the close quarters of an elevator with his little sister in tow; never mind the combined years of martial arts and military training both of us had. After the fact, I found it troubling that somewhere along this kid’s “ascent” to the “black belt ranks,” no one taught him respect, civility, courtesy, or politeness. But most importantly, he did not learn the old axiom of not letting your mouth write a check your ass can’t cash. For this, I blame his irresponsible instructors.
From my experience, when a new student comes in, they usually have a number of preconceived notions about what they think training and the process of learning will be like. Most of the time this is to serve what they want, but often, what they WANT and what they NEED are two totally different things. This is because of the media machine that feeds the public delusions on these topics, and unfortunately there are a lot of unscrupulous instructors who will buy in and sell out to make a quick buck by marketing on the fantasy image of the action hero or the macho image of the MMA/cage fighter.
If you are seeking out instruction in martial arts, especially from me, you should:
Step 1: Figure out exactly what you want and what is needed to get it.
Step 2: Research and find a qualified instructor.
Step 3: Allow yourself to be instructed! Do not tell your instructors what you want. Let them give you what you need. If you feel you are not getting it, you can leave.
I am a martial arts instructor, not a businessman. I am not here to sell you something that you want or get to rich quick. My time is mostly spent developing and guiding you to a degree of functional proficiency in my particular martial art. While you only see me instructing you in class, my work is not finished. I am generally working diligently to refine my craft (teaching) throughout the week until I see you again. I regard all of my students as a direct reflection of my quality as an instructor. The bottom line is that I will give you what you need to be as good as you can be at what I do. This is where the business side ends.
I teach Balintawak Eskrima. It is a close quarters form of self-defense with its roots in the Philippine Archipelago. It is a weapons-based system born out of necessity in a violent time full of violent men wishing to due harm to one another with impact and bladed weapon. The empty hand component of the art is based solely on simple and direct techniques designed to end a fight as quickly as possible. These techniques include punching, slapping, kicking, bone breaking, and biting if the need arises. We aim for high value targets including the eyes, ears, nose, throat, and groin. Our abilities and attributes used for the empty hand component are trained throughout our practice with the weapons.
Are there similarities and overlap with other arts such as boxing/MMA? YES. Will you be able to go and be a cage fighter after training in Eskrima? NO. If you are looking for Boxing/MMA or sport martial arts, sign up at a boxing gym or an MMA school. If you are looking for “fast” and “easy” self-defense, get a GUN and practice with it. What we do as Martial Artists is something else entirely.
If you are still sincerely looking for solid self-defense skills, I will gladly give you what you need to know right now, FOR FREE! If you are concerned for your safety, it is a good idea to observe a few simple rules, most importantly the “Rule of Stupid” which states: DO NOT go to stupid places, at stupid hours, with stupid people, to do stupid things! Also, be aware of your surroundings: get your head out of your cellphone when walking, do not wear head phones when walking alone at night, and never carry more cash than you are OK with losing (for me, about $20).
Going a step further, I would caution the use of the blanket term of “self-defense.” I instead prefer the use of the term “Self-Protection” for general mental alertness and preparedness and “Self-Defense” for the specific physical skill set. By definition, if you are “defending” yourself, you are on the receiving end of a violent engagement. This is most likely because you screwed up one of the points I listed above. So, Self-Defense is what you are forced to do when you have failed at maintaining a self-protective mindset based on situational awareness. While this approach is not applicable to everyone (i.e. military, security, and law enforcement) when individuals who work in these fields are not on the “job,” I promise you, they very much avoid the potential for violent encounter. As anyone who has seen combat knows, who lives and dies is not always as simple as the most fit, better trained, or best equipped. If you are frequently exposed to these situations, eventually your number will come up. But if you are actively aware and avoiding these scenarios, you will most likely never find yourself in one.
As far as Martial Arts go, Eskrima is dynamic, engaging, and tons of fun in training, but not fancy or complicated in application. It is simple and direct without superfluous complexity, because complexity breaks down under pressure. So if you are seeking quality self defense, training should be based on simple principles, concepts, and movement. It takes many hours of quality (focused, slow, and controlled) training to be truly functional at ANY Martial Art, and Eskrima is no different. But no matter what you spend countless hours training and practicing for, you may still fail when the time comes to apply what you have practiced – be it Krav Maga, Eskrima, BJJ, Boxing, MMA, Karate, firearms training, or any of the new breed of reality self-defense systems. This is a fundamental paradox of martial arts training that no one likes to talk about, because it is not good for business.
So with all these things in mind, I would advise any prospective students of any martial art to ignore the hype and fancy marketing. Just find something you like doing, being done in a place that you like to do it, with a group of people with whom you like to do it with. At the end of the day, skill is not a by-product of an art, although, good training methods help. It is also not a product of the instructor, however, a good instructor also helps. Instead, skill can only be measured by the amount of QUALITY time you put into your own training. Because at the end of the day, a punch is just a punch and a kick is just a kick, sticks and stones will break bones, and guns and knives WILL kill you. REAL Martial Arts should always be approached as a process and not a product.
So, based on your wants and perceived needs for training, why do you want to study martial arts? Or Eskrima, in particular?
– Guro Jerome Teague
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities.
In the expert’s mind, there are few.”
~ Shunryu Suzuki (1904-1971)