As I approach my 48th birthday and I find myself teaching around the world and trying to get my school going with Jocelynn; I got to thinking about all the things that have kept me around the martial arts since I was eight or nine. Then I started thinking about the quirky things I have seen in the past 40 or so years and the curmudgeon in me decided to come out and put these things to paper in order to vent, amuse and educate.
You see, when I was in Iraq working for Blackwater my call sign was “Joker”. Some people would tell you it’s because I was a funny guy. I just claim to hide my insecurities and shortcomings behind humor and sarcasm.
Some of the following may offend you. If it does.. good! Maybe you will learn to take yourself a little less seriously. If it doesn’t…congratulations you are on your way to just being a normal, well-adjusted person. It is presented in no particular order of preference or importance, just as the thoughts that creep in my mind.
On MMA Culture, Dress Code, Ranks, Walkout Songs and Nicknames
To paraphrase the song, what the world needs now is another fighter nicknamed “Pitbull” like I need a hole in my head. The MMA culture has a tendency to make fun of the traditional martial arts belt or ranking system. But what competitors, practitioners and enthusiasts have not realized is that they have organically developed their own brand of “uniforms” and “belts”.
It seems that if you practice MMA, as soon as you can you must shave your head or get some form of radical hairdo. It must be long and unkempt or super short, mohawked or with designs shaved into the skull. Just a simple nice haircut that compliments the bone structure of you face won’t do. Also if you happen to be a black or Hispanic fighter you must bleach your hair.
Next you must select facial hair from the following options: The Goatee (standard or pubic style), The Soul Patch also called the Flavor Saver (What flavor are you saving? You were just rubbing that thing all over a half-naked sweaty guy…eww!), The Hillbilly (full bushy beard and moustache Grizzly Adams Style), The Jebediah (like the hillbilly but without the moustache), or the Douchebag (that thin single line that looks like somebody drew it on you with a magic marker).
As your real or imaginary skill develops you must get tattoos. Tribal tattoos, dragons, lions and skulls! The scarier and more intimidating the animals appear to be, the better. Sometimes I think they believe the ink gives them superpowers. Every time I see a guy with “sleeves” or full back and/or body ‘tats” all I see is a guy saying, “Yeah I laid down half naked for six hours while a guy with a tongue ring poked me with a needle. Please be scared of me ‘cuz deep down I really don’t want to fight…PS I hate myself!”
Then comes the nickname. We have Pitbulls and Dragons, Tigers and Spiders, Nightmares, Hammers and Stun Guns, Psychos and Ax Murderers and Cripplers. Heck, we even have a Zombie and an Experiment. Again, most of them in an effort to sound scary or tough.
It’s time to be different. I want to challenge fighters to be truly diverse and daring in their nickname choices. Maybe this way they will fight even harder. I’ll give you some examples. The Normal, Antonio “Tony” Torres. The Bizarre, Kelly “The Platypus” Keane. The Benign, Casey “Bouncing Bunny” Mast. Other suggestions are “The Guppy”, “The Unicorn”, “Teddy Bear”,”MacDreamy”, “Rose Petal” and “Creamscicle”. You get my point. I believe that, as in the Johnny Cash song, a guy named Sue has had a hell of a lot more fights (or at least is going to) than a guy nicknamed “Bone Crusher”.
My next point…ENOUGH WITH THE SKULL T’S!! Now I do own a couple of T shirts that have skull type designs on them, but man, must EVERY single fighter T-shirt depict a skull or a skeleton or the Grim Reaper or Charon? Do they all carry some secret wish that the Octagon was really the Thunderdome? It is a sport, an athletic event, not a death match.
You know who else had unusual hair, goatees, tattoos, and skull related paraphernalia? The Village People and the lead singer for Judas Priest. They were talking about a whole other thing when they sang “Macho Man” and “Turbo Lover”.
Ok so in general it’s great to work out and be fit, but putting on size for size sake is just silly. I see these guys at the gym all the time. Curling and bench pressing, Bigger biceps. Bigger pecs. The lateral raises and all these other exercises that serve no practical purpose whatsoever. In every rep they do facing a mirror I hear their souls screaming “I SWEAR I’M NOT GAY!! I CAN’T BE!! I’M SO HUGE I CAN’T BE GAY!! RIGHT? ALL THE MAGAZINES I OWN WITH DUDES ON THEM ARE JUST WHO I WANT TO BE LIKE. AND THEY ARE TOO HUGE TO BE GAY! UMM…ER… RIGHT?”
Listen; spend all the time at the gym you want. Just spend more on the work and less admiring it. If you must have mirrors to work out you are just a big vascular douche. Working out is about making your body a more efficient, injury free machine. If you are so big that you can’t clap or scratch your back comfortably, and you hurt your neck just by sneezing, you are TOO BIG! Also on the practicality of the big bench press; if you see yourself lying flat on your back, having to push 315 pounds of dead weight off you, you need to date lighter girls or less muscular dudes that don’t pass out after being on top of you.
On Tactical Things
So, this goes a couple of ways. First the good ol’ let’s paint it black put some Velcro on it and it becomes “Tactical” syndrome. What I’m referring to here is the plethora of teachers out there that take whatever style they are proficient in, change the terminology from Japanese, Korean, Indonesian or whatever to English and Voila! You have the newest elite system for law enforcement and military. Trust me…it’s been done. The first art to do this was Krav Maga. Imi Sde Or the founder was a boxer and wrestler that learned some Karate and Jiu Jitsu, got rid of the Kata and the Japanese names and now he had the deadly Israeli Martial Art of Krav Maga. Just cause it’s from war torn Israel doesn’t make it any better for self-defense any more than the nationality of your attacker will have any effect on his ability to take a punch or succeed in his attack.
Also if you are a 15th degree Ninja master or Ultimate Fighting Phenom and you taught a couple of moves to a cop or a soldier buddy of yours, and they liked the moves, it does not mean that every cop or soldier should now train in your special Ninja Tactical system. This rule also applies to cops and soldiers who in their own time decide to become 15th degree Ninja Masters.
Lastly just because somebody was a cop, or a soldier or an elite tier one commando of any sort, it does not make them an authority in hand to hand combat. I have had the honor of working with some really amazing soldiers and cops that do know a lot about self-protection and hand to hand combat, but they were the exception and not the rule. Some cops and soldiers and elite commandos are experts but I have met a lot of them who aren’t, but think they are. Just because someone can do more push-ups than you or run faster, it doesn’t mean you should follow their self-defense advice. Buyer/ Student beware!
Here’s a tip. If the ad says: “Learn The Deadliest Art of WWII Hand To Hand Combat Commando Ninja Rangers from Bobby McKickass former Elite CIA SWAT SEAL SPECOPS Operator and Defeat all your enemies in just seconds”. Run away for two reasons.. 1. A person who served on an elite unit will not lead or open with that information. 2. The stuff taught in world war two has been replaced with better stuff.
I’ll Give it a Rest Now
All the above ranting is just to say this. There is more to life than being the toughest guy around. Our monkey brains want to convince us otherwise. If we beat our chest harder or grunt and howl louder we will be the best. So we pump up our muscles, and wear our skull tees and call ourselves “The Nightmare” or “The Pitbull” all in our effort to be the big monkey in the forest.
Martial Arts and self-protection should be about using our skills to help others and about service. Training should be fun. We should contribute to other’s self-esteem rather than crush it. The intangibles of martial arts are what is really important. Perseverance without obsession, courage without bravado, self-esteem without egomania, and strength without abuse. Smile more, laugh at yourself and I dare you to find out how many people you can help now and for the rest of your life. Don’t take yourself too seriously.