Be Open

Sonny Umpad was slight and quiet. How many underestimated him?

Kuntawman wrote of guys coming into his studio and dismissing him out of hand because he doesn’t teach “kali.” What a loss. And how many other martial artists and would-be martial artists pass up great opportunities to learn because they aren’t open?

I frequently travel to Cebu City, Philippines, so I decided I wanted to find an eskrima teacher there. My eventual teacher, GM Maranga, is not the best known. He doesn’t have an international organization. He doesn’t have a fancy uniform. We met in the living room of his humble home, and we train a small room of his house. He does the short stick, and I’m not a short stick stylist. But of all of the masters I met, he was the only one who would pick up a stick and spar with me. And he’s taught me a lot.

My friend and I used to train in eskrima while karate stylists practiced on the other side of the gym at Fresno City College. One black belt was teaching a takedown when the teenager he was demonstrating the move on said matter-of-factly, “I can counter that.”

The black belt made the mistake of thinking he couldn’t learn from a kid. After all, he was a black belt, right? “I doubt that. You couldn’t possibly…” the black belt confidently countered.

What he didn’t know at the time was that the kid was a state wrestling champion. The wrestler easily countered the takedown and took the black belt to the mat.

The black belt was given yet another opportunity to learn. Instead, he continued to bluff. “Ah , yeah, well, I could have hit your throat as I was falling.”

I once met up with a wrestling coach at the high school where I taught. I’m not a wrestler. I’m not big on grappling. But a high school wrestling coach showed me several dirty tricks, several legal although excruciating holds, and how one devious wrestler used a standing choke to take out opponents in matches!

In this blog I take positions. I make judgments. I may step on some toes. But don’t think that I don’t respect the abilities of others. You can learn from the high school wrestling coach. You can learn from the old man at the boxing gym, or the veteran cop. Bruce Lee learned a lot from old fencing books, which were the foundation of Jeet Kune Do.

How many underestimated Buster Douglas?

A friend of mine is a farmer in Nowhere, Idaho. On the farm next to him is an old guy who used to be an army hand-to-hand combat instructor. The vet doesn’t wear a gi, isn’t a black belt, doesn’t have a studio, hasn’t been in Black Belt magazine, and doesn’t know kali. But he kicks ass, like the time he broke the collar bone of a guy who tried to attack him with a knife.

Yet if I told you my teacher lived on a farm in Idaho, would you be impressed? Would you dismiss him out-of-hand?

If someone says he can counter your move, or wants to point out a weakness in your system. Listen. Bruce Lee had developed his methods of attack when he was forced to face the fact that a counter-puncher could defeat his style. So he accepted the truth and took it up a notch.

Take advantage of opportunities to learn, which may come in ways that you hadn’t expected.


6 Responses to “Be Open”

  1. Hello Darrin:

    I support you in your thoughts and your words. In one of my articles also talk about the same: To all you should not lock yourself in your style or system, unless it’s perfect, because maybe you only have one of these elements and others are missing, or maybe need a small change or makeup, and all this research you can discover, research on other sites, even better yet, all these are only bodily movements that you have within your mind and your hand. You just have to discover good professionals or large doses of self-analysis, all based on common sense, to find your way.

    Saludos Darrin.

    Be open.

  2. Hola Miguel,

    I agree. The person in trouble is the guy who is certain he knows it all. No style is perfect.

    Estoy de acuerdo. El hombre que tiene problemas es el que piensa que ya sabe todo. Ningun estilo es perfecto.

  3. He who knows most, doubts most. — Jerónimo de Carranza

    ” El que sabe más, duda más. Jerónimo Sánchez de Carranza “

  4. Well thats the prob its name is EGO

  5. My teacher Dr. Dom Lopez tells me of a time when Attorney Jose Villasin, one of the old Balintawak masters, went to Maranga’s village with some of his students for a fiesta and a demonstration of Eskrima. Maranga was one of the greats and a friend of master Villasin.

    I have heard only good things about Sonny Umpad’s skill as well.

    I used to own some very nice soft training sticks that he made and sold. I have not seen their equal.


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