The Kali Master and the Ditch Digger: A Parable

Two men were walking down the street. They just so happened to be going into the same direction

The Ditch Digger

and wound up side by side. To break the awkwardness, one asked the other, “So that’s a fancy uniform you got there. What do you do, karate or something like that?”

“Oh, no,” the other replied. “I’m Supreme Grandmaster Datu Smith. I am the world’s greatest combat expert, and study the world’s greatest style, Kili-Kili Kali.”

“You got a lotta patches there.”

“Yes, I do. I worked hard to earn them all, but the one I’m most proud of is the Kili-Kili- Kali International Ass. badge.” Supreme Grandmaster Datu Smith then did a flourish with the two rattan sticks he was carrying.

“So you fight with them sticks?”

“Yes. And the single stick, knife, chain, nunchaku, staff, spear, sword, machete, and 23 other weapons. Would you like to learn Kili-Kili Kali?”

“Well, I’d like to, but things are kinda tight right now. I’m a ditch digger and I don’t make much.”

“But what would you do if you were attacked?”

“I’d just whack ’em with this here shovel. I been a ditch digger for years, and I used a shovel on the farm long before that. I’m pretty handy with a shovel.”

“You’d be lucky to last 10 seconds. You have no technique. On the other hand, I could teach you 17 different defenses with a stick, and that’s just on angle number 1!” Supreme Grandmaster Datu Smith briefly demonstrated an x block, a wing block, a gunting, a block and hit, a pass and hit, and a few more moves.

“Wow, them sticks look like blades in a blender. I dunno know, though. My dad was in the Korean War, and he took out a guy with one of those little shovels.”

“An entrenching tool. A guy like that with no skill and no training is lucky to survive.”

They were so engaged in their conversation that both men were surprised by the wild eyed man at the street corner. He was high on something. His matted hair and glassy red eyes created the impression of a rabid animal.

“I’ve got it.” Supreme Grandmaster Datu Smith clenched both sticks and began to move in close –after all, he was a master of close range combat. He stepped and then seemed to freeze for a moment. “Should I merge, or meet? Maybe an X block follwed by an… no, wait, how about an abaniko to the hand, followed by a…”

As he was debating his next move, the psycho lunged forward and stabbed him.

The ditch digger brought the shovel resting on his shoulder right down on the psycho. The flat of the blade struck the deranged man on the skull, and clanged like a bell. It was a strike powered by both hands, calloused by long years of hard work. He had launched the strike without even thinking, and struck the mad man with the knife a second time as he fell.

The ditch digger waited for the ambulance to come for the two men. The martial arts expert was losing a lot of blood, but the knife had missed his heart.

As Supreme Grandmaster Datu Smith was wheeled on the gurney into a waiting ambulance, he weakly whispered to the ditch digger, “Don’t thank me, I was just doing what any other Supreme Grandmaster Datu of Kili-Kili Kali would have done.” He then gripped the ditch digger’s hand briefly and let go as the ambulance doors were shut.

The ambulance raced off with lights flashing and sirens wailing. The ditch digger looked down at his hand. Resting in his palm was a blood stained business card for Supreme Grandmaster Datu Smith and Kili-Kili Kali.



5 Responses to “The Kali Master and the Ditch Digger: A Parable”

  1. I don’t think this is really a parable, it is just a story twisted to agree with the authors view point. If it was a parable then it couldn’t so easily be written the other way to prove the other side. For example the “ant and the grass hopper” only works one way because the nature of each creature is only one way, all ants do the same thing, they store food.

    With martial artists and also the common man it can go either way.

    If someone has attained a high level of skill they aren’t going to freeze up just because it could be done more than one way. When we practice self-defence in class we don’t stop a student if a technique is improper or in the wrong order, we just say keep going, do something. We train them to flow with the attack and not to freeze up by trying to think of the right and wrong way. The right way is to do something, the wrong way is to stop and try to think of your options after the fight assult has already started.

    And a ditch digger with no experience is not going to be better than someone with skill, it just doesn’t work that way. He may be lucky, but he won’t be better.

    For beginners, showing them too many ways to do the same thing can be counter-productive, it has lead to freezing or at least slow engagement with our RCMP during training (and that comes from the trainer, not me).

    In that last photo the guy is a poser. While some FMA in the Philipines may adopt to wear belts it is more common just to wear everyday clothing or the school t-shirt. When I do jujutsu I wear a GI in the dojo, if I am doing Escrima it’s just pants and t-shirts, Celtic Stick Fighting it’s street clothes including pocket knife and watches, if I go to someone elses jujutsu school the black belt is left at home and I wear my white belt. Also, he is not holding the swords for fighting, just for posing, the one is his left hand is the worst. Oh, and everyone in the philipines does not go around with two swords all the time like the posers think.

  2. Haha, funny story, taken for its face value its pretty true. I like the concept of parsimony. KISS, it really is the best way. I appreciate the tongue-in-cheek humor…must be a Fresno thing! When I lived up in Coarsegold, I killed a few snakes with my shovel, and I’m glad I had that instead of anything else: long, heavy, and well-used. Training “uniform” is always the same, whatever we’re wearing that day.

  3. James,

    You’re right. Of course the story is loaded to make my point. But then my point isn’t so much about the martial artist being skilled, but about him being delusional. He’s living in a fantasy world and not doing the hard work necessary.

    I don’t see the ditch digger as unskilled –particularly with a shovel. Another factor he has going for him is toughness.

    The FMA guy in the picture is not as bad as some of the other pictures that came up in my search.


    I haven’t heard of Coarsegold in some time. I think that where there was a hermit who lived in a cave surrounded by junk. There’s some beautiful country up there.

    There’s a story in the Stun Stagger Stop video of a farmer destroying a couple of punks with a shovel. I hear the sjambok is also hell on snakes.

  4. The Sjambok is an interesting tool, for sure. I have one by Cold Steel and have played around with it for quite some time. A very nasty semi-flexible weapon but I am not too convinced. IF you use a knife in the off hand AND doctor it up so you have a big nasty bolt or screw put in the pommel for more effective punyo strikes it becomes a pretty effective little system. I would way rather have my long handled shovel for the snakes though…
    Coarsegold is an interesting place, especially since they casino went in a few years back.

  5. I have a sjambok as well as James Loriega’s book on it; it’s a fun toy and does hurt but I like a solid stick rather than a flexable weapons as I feel a solid stick gives more options expecially within close range. The power of whip-like weapons is mainly at the tip.

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