I Don’t Do It All

Once I was training in Cebu City at a kickboxing gym, when one of the students came up to me and said, “We have 49 kicks in our style. How many do you have in yours?”

Two,” I replied.

Ego is an unavoidable hazard of the martial arts.

I see these styles with curricula as large as the Texas panhandle. They do single stick, double stick, espada y daga, single knife, double knife, boxing, kicking and wrestling (only you have to call it sikaran and dumog in order to be authentic), the staff, the spear, the bullwhip, projectile weapons, the two-handed stick, weapons with a point at each end, etc. Do they really do all of these weapons or do they just want to brag about doing all of these weapons?

For some of these styles I think one-upmanship is involved. “Look at Master Kidlat’s school; They don’t even do spear and shield.”

One guy on a DVD was teaching the 59 angles of the system. Nobody wants to admit that he only does twelve angles, and you really sound ignorant if all you do are five.

Nobody wants to look like his art is “kulang (“lacking,” or “kurang” in Ilocano). Oops, there I go, dropping Filipino language terms to make me sound authoritative. “What, you don’t speak Tagalog?”

I got the lecture the other day from some guy who does a retreating step, an advancing step, a cross-hopping step, the diagonal slide closing step, etc. It sounds even more impressive when you label these terms in Tagalog or Bisaya.

To put all of this into perspective, just this week a co-worker told me of his conversation with an American veteran of the Pacific campaign in WWII. In that conflict it often came down to hand-to-hand combat. The American faced Japanese soldiers who had martial arts training –he had none. In fact, he only had one technique/strategy, and that was embarrassingly simple.

Imagine the field day that the stylists with the 59 angles, the 27 weapons, the 17 different footwork methods, the Tagalog, Bisaya, and old Filipino alphabet would have with this guy. Why, he wouldn’t last 15 minutes! That ignorant grunt didn’t even have diagonal cross-stepping footwork.

Yet he survived and prevailed. In combat to the death the American vet’s only technique was to “bullrush” the slighter Japanese, who were trying to work their complicated techniques on him. Sometimes it came down to him slamming the enemy’s head against a rock. And now he’s a very old man telling his story.

Don’t fall into the trap. Don’t feel like you have to know it all. Be on the lookout for the baseless puffery of guys bragging about all of the stuff they do (and “stuff” is not my first choice of words) in order to make you feel like an idiot, like you’re somehow lacking because you don’t do everything, including the bow and arrow.

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One Response to “I Don’t Do It All”

  1. i like this post! its true that the commerical side of the filipino arts, makes people want to offer everthing. this is why video tape and seminar business is so big, people are always adding to their art, instead of making what they do better.

    and your rigtht, its ego. since they have no plans to fight and prove to himself and others if he is good, they can talk and post in forums about this and that (dont forget all those youtube video demos) and this is suppose to convince. like the saying, they do everything, but they do nothing well.

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