Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A Teenaged White Belt Looks at Fifty Part 2

Join The Club

During my search into boxing and kickboxing I found several clubs but hardly any schools. The structure at this places was basically this; you pay dues and use the space and equipment, and if you were lucky enough a coach or a trainer might help you out with some fundamentals. If the club already had some established fighters or a team, or if the owner was still fighting competitively, you would most likely end up as cannon fodder for the fight team. You would have to spar until they saw you were tough enough and maybe then they would teach you.
Some martial arts schools to this day, specially those that profess to teach MMA, still hold to this model even in their group classes. The "instructor" basically teaches one or two moves with no set curriculum and then gets to the business of showing his students how tough he is. The only thing improving in this "club" is the instructor's ego.

The Art of Fighting With Absorbing a Useful Classical Mess

Bruce Lee was certainly ahead of his time when it came to martial science, and he inspired millions, including me, to pursue its study. What he left in his passing was both great and puzzling, gave a great opportunity for some outstanding individuals to continue to develop great martial artists and human beings as well as a ton of charlatans that take advantage of people. I have met both kinds but was fortunate enough to train with some of the best ones.
I look back with much fondness on the years I spent learning Jeet Kune Do Concepts, Jun Fan Gung Fu, Filipino Martial Arts, Muay Thai, and Maphilindo Silat from some of its most renowned proponents. I trained, and eventually became an instructor in their interpretation of those arts, with Frank Cucci, Burton Richardson, and Guro Dan Inosanto.
These instructors, each in their different way, pay honor to the legacy of Bruce Lee. Guro Dan has dedicated his life to learning every art possible while preserving said art with all his teachers' guidelines, and passes the arts to his students so as to allow them to make their choices about what is useful or seless to them.  
Frank and Burton created schools and organizations that reflect what each of them believes is the best  personal interpretation of Jeet Kune Do and pass that on to their students.
My personal belief is that there is a lot to be learned by practicing the actual physical tactics that Bruce Lee used and taught his students. One of those things to be learned is which of his tactics DONT fit in your personal arsenal. It's only intelligent to reject a tactic AFTER you actually understand it. To understand the tactic requires diligent practice. This advice applies to full fledge martial artists and not to the person who is looking to learn some basic self defense. Martial Artists have the time to practice thoroughly to then choose whether to keep a tactic in their arsenal. 
On the other side of the com are those who practice JKD following Bruce Lee's teachings physically imitating his every move as he taught his students. This makes two very dangerous assumptions which can hurt you in a real fight: One, you posses the same physical attributes as Bruce Lee and Two, what Bruce Lee taught was infallible.

On Fame

Including the instructors above I have had the opportunity to train extensively with what may be considered very famous people within the tiny field of endeavor that is the Martial Arts Combat Sport and Self Defense world. So yes although  these folks are not famous as in Brangelina or Bennifer, or Unibomber famous, but they certainly command respect or attention from numerous followers in our industry.
Besides some amazing and exciting Martial Arts, here is some of what I learned after spending many years training under each.
They are all human and as such are affected by the same things that you and I are.
They have bills to pay so they trade their knowledge and skill for instruction that you must pay money to acquire. Some of them do it ethically, some less so.
Sometimes the adoration of their fans goes to their head and they believe they are smarter than they really are and say and do stupid things.
Some of them are geniuses for what they create and simultaneously assholes because of what they believe they are.
Those who I met that were not famous when I first encountered them always changed when they got famous. Some became better martial artists and human beings and others just became horrible people.
My point is they are human beings and not gods. Be smart enough to emulate their good traits while avoiding taking on the bad ones. Do not worship them and always trust in your own skill. Never believe for a second, regardless how amazing their skill and teachings are, that you are incapable of creating  something better.  All it takes is hard work and dedication. 


After 50 years on this planet with 40+ in the martial arts all I can say is that I saw more good than bad! I am a better man for having trained this long and that I owe all my life achievements to the benefits I reaped from all the martial arts I have been involved in. Most importantly I still see everything with the eyes of a teenaged white belt which I am willing to strap on whenever I get the chance.

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