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.
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.