Ignorance, Stereotypes, and Misconceptions

Master Monino

That pretty much sums up most people’s knowledge of the martial arts. I just had an exchange with a martial artist (here), who was looking for a Filipino uniform. He has to take into account what people view as a “real” martial artist.

I’m reminded of an experiment in which one of the world’s top violinists was persuaded to play at a subway station “undercover,”using one of the world’s most valuable violins. It was an experiment to see if people could recognize genius in a man without a tuxedo, not in a concert hall, and without any fanfare. The result?

He bombed. The same guy who is paid $1,000 a minute, made $32 in 45 minutes. Without the tux, without the concert hall and orchestra, in street clothes in a subway, he was just another talentless schmuck in the public’s eyes.

How can you be accepted as a martial artist and an authority when people have no idea what the FMA are? Without the gi, the barefeet, and the black belt, will you be just as invisible as the violinist in the subway?

What do you do when this is what people think a real martial artist looks like?

Here is the problem. You’re a Filipino martial artist. The questions start, and it’s like an avalanche of ignorant misconceptions raging from the mouths of people who couldn’t find the Philippines on a globe.

  • Is that like karate (pronounced kuh-rotty)?

  • Where’s your uniform?

  • What belt are you?

  • What? You’re teaching kung-fu and you’re not a black belt?

  • Oh, weapons. Like the numchucks?

  • So you train barefooted, right?

  • Eskrimuh. Yeah, I can do that. Hee-yah! ha ha ha

The ignorance runs so deep, how to even begin to explain what you’re doing, especially when people are drawn to the vaguely familiar arts with belts, bare feet, yelling, nunchaku and swords, etc.?

Look at this video, with the guy smoking a cigarette while practicing eskrima! This is the real deal eskrima, in jeans, t-shirts, and tsinelas, with cigarettes and a couple of bottles of San Miguel or Red Horse thrown in for good measure.


7 Responses to “Ignorance, Stereotypes, and Misconceptions”

  1. Man you really hit that one on the head. I learned some of my best stuff from an old dude who could fight…period. We never talked about belts, or kata, or dojos or whatever, just fighting. A lot of what we did was sparring. In the park, in the garage, you name it. The uniform consisted of jeans and a t-shirt or whatever you showed up in. Sometimes we wore heavy duty work gloves for protection, I got mine at Harbor Freight for 5 bucks. Kinda reminds me of Mr. Miyagi: “what kind of belt do you have?” he replies “J.C. Penny, $3.98” Therein lies the lesson.

  2. It is my personal thoughts and opinions Ignorance, Stereotypes, and Misconceptions Big Stick Combat Blog is without a doubt a well written write-up. Without a doubt genuinely referfing to furthermore worthwhile bringing up https://bigstickcombat.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/ignorance-stereotypes-and-misconceptions too. Regards, Clair Wason

  3. Just read this too.

    All I can say is: GOSPEL truth is said here!

  4. Thank you for saying this about eskrima. I’ve been asked most of the questions myself and I’ve just started. and the questions come from Filipinos! Now, I wonder, what do we do about it? The Ignorance, misconceptions, and stereotypes do go deep.

    • Deadly Dance,

      Sadly, even in the Philippines ignorance (and by “ignorance” I mean a lack of awareness, not stupidity) of the Filipino martial arts is common. The Tae Kwon Do/ Karate/ Judo schools predominate. I’ve met Filipinos who never studied the FMA until they came to the US.

      When I was involved in the local Filipino-American association, I had to fight to get 15 minutes in the Christmas program for an FMA demo. I had to explain that the Filipino martial arts are as much a part of the culture as the tinikling, the pandango sa ilaw, maglalatik, etc. At a time when it seemed the whole world was beating a path to the doors of Filipino arnis masters, some Filipinos were trying to sweep it under the rug. Is it the “colonial mentality,” in which Filipinos dismiss fresh-brewed Batangas barako coffee in favor of the “better” imported American instant coffee?

      I hope you can be an ambassador for the Filipino martial arts, dispelling ignorance, educating Americans and Filipinos about the FMA, while instilling in Filipinos a sense of pride.

  5. […] Ignorance, stereotypes, and misconceptions / Big Stick Combat Blog […]

  6. jbailey90 Says:

    This style of thought is so toxic, but yet so prevalent. People think that wing-chun (most don’t even know that wing-chun would even be it’s proper name) is the end-all, be-all martial art. You can run up walls with it and fight off twelve grown men all at once, just give them a smack with the good ‘ole iron palm or monkey fist or donkey punch or whatever stupid animal mimic you learned at dance class today. True and practical fighting arts like kali, arnis, krav, and philippine martial arts are under-practiced and under-estimated. People see the newest hollywood movie and want to be bad asses like the actors they see on the screen. They don’t realize that the oh-so-cool, stylized crap they see on screen would likely get them killed in a real-life encounter. I think it’s gotten a little bit better with the surge of MMA into the spot light. While it has brought more enraged teens to martial arts all wanting to learn Muay Thai or BJJ so they can beat up nerds on the playground or steal the captain of the football team’s girlfriend with a rear naked choke or guillotine, at least they are learning a practical martial art that could save their life if they ever need it. And most of these wanna-bees drop out in a month anyway after they realize that you actually have to put in some work.

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