Joe Lewis, Ed Parker, Bruce Lee, Mike Stone. Without them there is no, “us”.

I will start by stating in NO way am I an expert in anything. I’m not a talented athlete or martial artist. I’m lucky to have been able to observe change and have practiced with many talented people. I learned by making mistakes and just showing up. Things repeat themselves and at times we think we are brilliant by our innovations. All they are is rediscovery. Nothing wrong with that. As Paul De Thouars said, “There are no secrets, only truth yet to be uncovered”.

1. All Arts/Schools Work,.. Some better than others. There are sometimes superior arts. There are superior people. There are superior techniques. There are superior training methods. When you can include all of them, you get monster. Most of us aren’t that lucky. Most all arts have punching, elbowing, kicking, kneeing, clinching, throwing and grappling. The degree to which that methodology is exploited usually stems from the environment/sociology. This can be seen in combat sport. Judo doesn’t look like Greco Roman. Both, I can assure you are real. Glory Kickboxing doesn’t look like Eddie Bravo Invitational. Both are solid war arts methods. The rules determine the, “look”. In society the nature of the country/environment establishes the rules. Americans, for example, are head hunters. So if you are from another country.. you had better be aware of that. If you hope to exploit your dynamic roundhouse and spinning kicks in some alleyway in Hong Kong, you might get a wake up call about the value of straight punching in the “bitch slap” range. “All arts have a window of opportunity, some windows are smaller than others”. [Dan Inosanto]. If you look at a chessboard, you can divide the board into thirds. Stand up, clinch and ground. Then compare your school’s syllabus honestly. All the stuff about giant attackers, club & knife wielding and multiple bad guys can wait. That only works if your basic three are optimized.

2. If You Can’t Swim, You Die,… All these online arguments over ground fighting since UFC in 1993. Silliness. “The LAST place you want to be is the ground!!!!!!!!!!!” is repeated many, many, times. Usually spit out of the mouth of someone with pizza crumbs on their lips. Of course not. No one wants to be in the middle of the ocean, either. It’s the LAST place you want to be!! But here is the thing, if you can swim.. not even well, but tread water.. you increase your chances of survival. I can see only two reasons why martial artists do not practice ground fighting, ego and being out of shape. These often go together.

Sanun Plypoolsup learning how to swim with Benny the Jet

3. Learn To Hit Hard, or A Lot,… “A punch to the mouth has incredible track record of working well”. Many, many, many, fights are won with a hard punch. “Be the firstest with the mostest”. However this requires development. In the old days you went from waza [technique] to form, [kata] to makiwara [striking post or “wrapped straw”] to kumite [freestyle sparring practice] to bogu sparring [armored]. It was supported by specialized calisthenics and stance training [practice in energy transfer]. You could follow a similar thread in boxing if you asked the older trainers. Not that older is better, they tend to rely on outcomes [proof], memory, anecdote and instinct rather than spreadsheets. Punching coaches are trying to get to the same place but they are just using different methods. No matter what your size, being able to hit with the maximum power you are capable of is part of martial arts.

Legend Mike Stone focusing on hitting hard.

4. Wrestle Everything Out,… To put it simple,.. have your partner resist with a gradient and go through a maturing process of screwing up and finding solutions. This is how we grow. Life is not a vacuum or dress rehearsal. Fights will never look like kung fu movies. They will look sloppy. That is environment, emotion, energy and chaos coming together to make a soup called, “Murphy’s Law”. When you can handle adversity among training partners of a high level, your ability to manage it increases.

5. Among Those Who Practice Violence, Look For Common Themes,… When you watch Cops, Military Operators, Kickboxers, Grapplers or Youtube street fights, focus on what works. If you simply wrote a note for every video that you viewed, the most common elements of attack and defense would be there. Remember. We can train for what is possible or we can train for what is probable.

6. Your Ego Is Not Your Amigo,.. When we spend 20 years doing something, you get proud of it. You attach emotionally. Nothing wrong. However when it fails, you rationalize rather than analyze. It’s best to understand this is the process by which martial artist get great. Years ago I was told the story about Mits Yamashita, the Aikido practitioner. He was quite astute at his art. Then he ran into some of Chuck Norris’ crew. Chuck had taken his Tang Soo Do + Judo background and trained with Japanese punching experts, [Fumio Demura, Tak Kubota and Tsutomu Ohshima]. When Mit’s tried to grab the punches, they didn’t punch like Aikido guys and his throws didn’t work. So he became a student. Then he knew throws, kicks  and punches. Then he ran into a Thai who, when they sparred, kicked his legs and pulled him into elbows and knees. So he looked at that art. Later when teaching an Aikido class in college, he engaged a wrestler. The students watched as Mits struggled, waiting for the Aikido master to prevail. He was held helpless. So he trained wrestling. Later he met the Gracies and specifically Helio. Rorion translated that Helio wanted to roll with Mits. Mits replied, “I’m 20 years younger, stronger and in good shape. I wrestle well too”. So Helio replied, “Now I REALLY want to wrestle you!” Mits said he again was helpless as Helio did what he wanted and actually grabbed the remote control on the mat to change channels on the TV!” The moral of the story is that rather than rationalize getting his ass kicked, he became better and better and better.

7. “Who Do You Think Sucks?” Gets Old Real Fast,… “How many martial artist does it take to screw in a light bulb? “100…. One to screw it in and 99 to tell him it won’t work in the street”.  Realize this for all you martial queens out there. For you to succeed, everyone else does not have to fail. Life doesn’t work that way. Years ago the legendary Joe Lewis fought in a small tournament in his home state of North Carolina. Of course after he dropped several competitors with sidekicks.. the judging became a bit one sided. He “lost” to the hometown hero. The guy jumped up and down saying, “I beat Joe Lewis!” Joe looked at him and said, “Are you famous for winning the Grand Championship or for beating me?”. That is a valid point. If your most of your game is to post to Youtube videos on, “Who do you think sucks?”, then you might get into software work, construction, law, medicine or administration. I mean with all that energy, do something that pays well. If you see valid flaws.. put them on the mat for students with NO name calling and increase the level of force to show how it comes apart. That is win/win. I mean Randy Couture got knocked out by a front kick. Luke Rockhold got knocked out a spinning back kick. Fedor got tapped out by an armbar. Do they suck?

8. If You Are Out Of Shape, Change That,… When most of us started martial arts, one of the things it was supposed to do was get us in shape. It is usually listed as, “Fitness”, on advertisements. Fitness is adapted as we age to accommodate different goals, health issues, time and priorities. There is no excuse for being overweight. I didn’t say you couldn’t throw a hard punch or teach, but from what I remember being taught, self preservation included not having a stroke or heart attack or crushing your knees under your weight. It also covers self perfection aspects of the art. The discipline we learn from fighting arts carries over to better communication, confidence and yes, diet and fitness.

9. Weapons. Train Them,… Regardless of where or who you train with.. I’d suggest practicing weapons with pressure based training. While attacks with rattan sticks are uncommon, tire irons and pipes are. The machete is one of the most common tools on earth. A simple screw driver is a wonderful thrusting weapon. Jackets are great to choke with. I mean it’s all part of the game. You may have to explore some exotic stuff too. It’s easy to be critical of a room full of guys wearing sarongs, but then you hear of a guy showing up at a wedding wearing a rash guard. Of course there is a fine line between training with padded weapons and losing a limb from a machete. You have to survive training. Realize short of killing each other it’s all fake stuff. The idea is to have the best, but safest, fake drills out there. Just looking at the language will give you a clue. GunFIGHT. KnifeFIGHT. GripFIGHT. StickFIGHT. There is a common word there. It’s not form and it’s not in isolation. It’s FIGHT. Get good at fighting and add the weapons.

10. Step Into New Methods Even If You Don’t Agree With Them,… We need to be uncomfortable. There is no growth in sitting on our ass. Even if you think Tai Chi has no application to weapons retention for law enforcement, you might want to try a class. What you gain is up to you. It beats playing, “Who do you think, sucks?”. You might be surprised what you might find. I mean.. I have seen John Machado during Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instruction do hubad. Eddie Bravo mention Chi Sau during grappling, Harimau practitioners pat an opponent down for shanks during a takedown and OH!,… the weapons retention and belt oriented wrestling done by LEO? You might want to look at “Obi Waza”. It’s been around a while.

11. Stop The “Stem”, Add The Pressure,.. There is an “ideal” snapshot in training called the, “Stem”. Basically the demo partner sticks his arm locked out and holds it there while the instructor does some form of, “Dance of Death”. You see, the bad guy is told what to do and doesn’t get to hit back. Be wary of teachers who don’t let their students resist. I’m sure you can resist against Buakaw the kickboxer or Marcelo Garcia. It won’t matter a bit though. A large percentage of video material is taught in the old, right handed lunge punch, locked out, position. Historically I have been told the right handed attack was taught first because the right hand is the hand of God. The other reason is that these waza were versus weapons and most of us are right handed. Now don’t believe me, but ask anyone in law enforcement or doorman, what is the most common attack. It’s the right handed haymaker to the head. This is thrown with the left foot forward. Now you can only pray that the guy is SO drunk or SO unskilled that this is what you get. If he jabs and retracts, throws a straight right followed by hooks.. it’s going to be a long night. The argument used is that the “stem” is a starting point and they have drills beyond this. OK. OK. Then why is 99% of the stuff they show on Youtube from an unresisting opponent with their arm locked out? Pressure like weight lifting has a break in, a progression a back off and another wave of progression. You avoid injury by backing off on intensity when it is just about to peak. You train to fight another day too. You don’t start and finish by posing with the dumbbells. You practicing failing or coming close and allow adaptation to occur. The same with martial arts. Adaptation does not occur without pressure.

12. Learn Restoration and Teach Restoration,… Years ago restoration was acupuncture, herbs and stretching/yoga practice. We live in different times. There is still value in those things. We have CPR, First Aid, Foam Rolling, good nutrition and physical conditioning. We also should know about tapering after hard training and when to take layoffs. Knowing several arts is good. If you can’t roll in BJJ due to a back injury, you might be able to do some light weapons work, chi sau or take a Yoga class. As someone once said to me, “When I hurt my knee my bench press went up”. Regardless of the historic stories of hard training, realize this, if you train to reach your limits, you will find them. If it is always balls to the wall, some day it will be raisins to the wall. Your training will change every few years. I used to find this insulting.. like I won’t get old, but with notes from the past, your future path is a lot easier. It’s like a map to avoid potholes. Hopefully you get smarter or maybe you don’t. Another component of restoration is getting a grip on process orientation. That is, focus on consistency and not intensity. That doesn’t mean you don’t train hard, but you train on being able to show up and do it. Whether it’s the bag, sparring, clinching, weapons or some softer stuff, you log the hours and put the “X’s” on the calendar. “Blood on the mats”, was a cool thing to say, but now you get disease from that sort of thing.

 13. Keep It Secret and Watch It Die,… There used to be a thing about keeping certain techniques secret. Like teaching your enemy to fight would ensure your death. Well those days are gone. I recently worked out with a group that said, “Our stuff stays here”. I’m not longer a part of them and I thought everyone was great. That thought process is anachronistic though. Thai fighters watch fights since birth. The Gracies have videos of street fights they were in. A match like Garry Tonon vs Palhares is on Youtube in days. There are no secrets. That is why grappling is advancing so quickly. Rather than learning and “absorbing what is useful”, keyboard cookie eaters constantly find someone wrong on the internet and can’t sleep until they fix it. Those with curious minds and work ethic just get better. Simply watching Cops on TV can be beneficial to anyone in martial arts. You also learn that the biggest problem with arrest and apprehension is people resisting arrest. The biggest problem with archaic martial artists is keeping it secret.

14. Lot’s of People You Believe Can’t Fight Can Kick Your Ass,… In the right place and right time, anyone can knock out anyone. Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Royce Gracie have all lost. That doesn’t make them less great, it makes them human. While this is a bit about ego which I covered earlier, it’s also about, intent, first to strike and being out of your environment. It’s about another element, trying to beat people at their own game. I had a story related to me from someone who tended bar in a rather vigorous environment. Apparently at a local gun range there was a workshop for some sort of tactical methodology. So a participant, who was CLEARLY not an officer shows up at the bar with his new $30 workshop t shirt and wearing pants that I used to buy off the back of Parade Magazine at 2 for $25. He was a big guy and clearly had some schooling. According to my friend, he didn’t look like someone you’d shove around. So he is throwing his weight around a bit at the bar, being the center of attention and telling stories of his skills, both in altercations and with ladies. Behind him, a couple walked in. The guy was athletic and lean, the girl was bursting out of her tight outfit. Curves on curves. The male went to the restroom while the young lady sat at the bar, ready to order. This was all it took for the Workshop Wonder to sit next to her and put his arm around her. The bartender related how he was already to call the police since he knew what was going to happen. The girl asked him to please don’t do that and moved away. He smiled and let her know that they were made for each other. Out of the restroom came the younger male. He sat beside his girlfriend asked what was going on. Before she could speak, the Workshop Wonder put his hand on the young male’s shoulder and said, “She’s going home with me, pal!” [Before I go further, my friend told me the younger male was a local who wrestled in high school, was a doorman during his schooling and had ten years in Wing Chun]. He replied, “Listen, we’ll move, we don’t want any trouble, we want to have a good evening”. At that point as the Workshop Wonder went to shove the intended victim, his hand was parried and pinned to his chest. He was shocked at how fast this happened, but stepped back and prepared to charge forward to show this young guy a lesson in front of his girlfriend. He exploded into his, “Tactical Snowplow” that was designed to deal with any attack. As the bartender explained, he almost saw it in slow motion as the young lad rooted, angled, slap, trapped and zapped. He said it was if he was punching the Cantonese alphabet into the Workshop Wonder’s centerline. It was a quick language lesson of bong sau, pak sau, bil sau, lop sau, tan sau and gum sau.. Basically all of the “sau’s” with a three to one ratio of Jik Chung Chuie. As the Wonder dropped he tried clutching the legs in a failed attempt for a takedown [learned at a “Street Grappling Workshop” no doubt] as the young lad pivoted in his, “character two, goat pinning stance” and knelt on Wonder’s solar plexus. After the police arrived they recognized the local as a Fireman/Paramedic and local instructor of children. The Wonder was revived and bandaged. Both agreed not to file charges. No one heard of the guy wearing the pants from the back of Parade Magazine again. Now as funny as this is, the Wonder might have been a fairly formidable individual with just an abrasive personality. It doesn’t matter. Wrong place, wrong environment and wrong distance. I’m sure Wonder’s resume was longer and biceps were bigger though.

None of what I say is necessarily correct or by any means the only way to think. It’s just a bit of observation. Sometimes it’s good to do a strong forensic on your thought process or simply to jump into uncharted martial waters to feel alive.