Martial Arts Masters, New Styles, Instant Learning, and Internet B.S. Artists

I will try to keep this rant as short as possible, but these topics are interrelated and I have a lot to cover if I am to explain my views. So, dear reader, please pull up a chair, grab a frosty beverage of your choice, and make yourself comfortable. I will try to make the time you spend here as enjoyable and worthwhile as possible.

I have heard many comments regarding the videos that are available on this website. Surprisingly, I have yet to hear that I am completely full of crap or that Mr. XYZ could beat me down with one hand tied behind his back (I guess I am not popular enough, as of yet, to attract abuse). I have had people urge me to film and sell training DVDs (I am considering doing this and donating any profits resulting from this to Apohan Tuhan Albo’s non-profit organization set up to provide free martial arts instruction to underprivileged children). I have had people praise my skill, dedication and training, and the Albo Kali Silat style. Several people, including a few of my students, have commented that what I am putting out on the web for free is more information than is contained in many training videos that people are paying significant amounts of money to purchase. I have had many, many people ask, “Why are you doing this? You are giving away secrets/techniques/martial arts insights, are spending tons of time and effort, and what do you get out of it?” The answer to why I put so many videos on the website and give out such information is related to the title of this article.

Dear reader, let us get a few things straight at the start. I am not putting these videos on the web as an ego booster. According to my wife, my ego is quite big enough, thank you very much. I also am not giving out secret techniques or what I would consider great martial arts insights. What I am showing is actually, within Albo Kali Silat, pretty basic stuff. I have not shown many disabling or killing strikes (when you use sticks or knives, of course some stuff has the potential to be lethal). Albo Kali Silat is a combat art, and there is a vast amount of knowledge contained in the system regarding terminal and disabling techniques. I have not shown the mechanisms to develop power in strikes, the means of positioning the opponent’s body to make him most vulnerable, the ways to disrupt balance and equilibrium (except in the most crude, beginner level fashion), and the subtleties of leg attacks, balance disruptions, locks, breaks, disabling and pain inducing motions found in the low level salwa, hari mau, naga, and kuha kuha postures (I did show a few basic motions and very simple takedowns). In short, I have barely scratched the surface. So, why do I do it?

There are several reasons. One of the minor reasons is to establish my bona fides. I have memberships in three or four knife or self defense related forums, though I only really post routinely on one. I occasionally lurk on some forums where I am not a member. I am on these forums to see what is written about Albo Kali Silat (occasionally someone besides Apohan Tuhan Albo or I posts something about the art) and correct any inaccuracies. I am also out there to check out the ideas of others in regards to self-defense and martial arts and see what is the latest fad and/or stupidity being perpetrated in regard to defending oneself. On the forum where I post, I will try to answer questions regarding self-defense and correct the most gross inaccuracies being presented as fact, in an effort to help people out and keep people from getting hurt. I let an awful lot of stuff that I know to be BS slide, just because it is not worth the ensuing rabble rousing, firestorm, and “tough guy”/insulting/plain ridiculous posts that will follow and which will disrupt the forum. It is easy to be a tough guy on the Internet. After all, no one has to know that you are an untrained, grossly obese, lazy slob who lives in your mom’s basement or, alternatively, that you are a teenager with a whopping 8 months in martial arts from a McDojo where you pay your money and you get your belt. I am much more likely to be what my wife calls an “opinionated ass” in person than on the Internet or telephone. In person, I can show you why I believe your secret ABC Flying Butterfly Testicle Kicker technique does not work very well. My videos go a long way to stopping some stupidity in discussions, even on the Internet. I will, if I see something that is really, really bad and likely to hurt someone, try to correct it. I sometimes refer to my website when I do this, and sometimes will film a video in order to answer someone’s particular question or show why I am in disagreement with someone’s cherished opinion. I am constantly amazed at the Internet BS artists who will spout things that are completely ridiculous and dangerous. I feel that I have a responsibility to those that I talk with and could not, in good conscience, give out information that I was unsure of or misrepresent myself as some kind of expert when I knew less than nothing (yes, you can know less than nothing, this is a condition where you have so hopelessly bought into your own legend/lie or are so completely clueless that you really don’t even know that you are not qualified to be giving advice on certain matters, matters which might result in people getting killed or seriously injured if they follow your stupid advice). I realize that people should know better than to believe everything they read. However, some people who are basically good and decent use forums as “research” and take things at face value. I do not object to the evil getting injured, but I have had enough of going to funerals for good people. So, before you rely on the “knowledge” of some Internet self defense guru, check out his or her bona fides. Do not look at what he or she says about his or her knowledge or prowess, see what people who have trained with them say. Even better, have them show you what they know in person. If that is not possible, then a video is the next best thing.

There are, of course, many legitimate martial arts instructors who have websites, frequent forums, etc. Please remember that there is a difference between tournament, kata or drills, martial arts academy techniques, and real combat. Many instructors have great knowledge of kata or forms and no idea at all of what is going to happen in a real fight. Some of these instructors think that they can fight, due to their skill at unrealistic “dojo” drills. There are other instructors who are adept at combat and drills. Please note that there are also many self-proclaimed “Masters” out there, both on the Internet, in the telephone book, and in strip malls and other locations throughout our nation (and the world as a whole). Many of these “Masters” will tell you how good they are in exhaustive detail. Many are heads of systems of their “own” arts. Some have legitimate training. For those of you who are saying, hey, you use the title of Tuhan, and isn’t that like saying “Master Instructor” which many shorten to “Master.” The answer is, yes and no. The title of Tuhan is one title for a very high level instructor in a Filipino Martial Art (FMA) system. A close approximation is “Master Instructor.” I was promoted to this rank by Apohan Tuhan Albo to differentiate me from any other Guros (instructors) in the art and designate me as the number two person in this system. Basically, Apohan Tuhan Albo wanted to make sure that, if he was incapacitated, I could continue the art that was codified by his grandfather, as he trusted me not to change it until it was unrecognizable or “adopt it” as my own. I was touched by his trust and humbled by the responsibility. I am an instructor, not a “Master.” I have never mastered anything in regard to the martial arts. I am very good at what I do, but my technique and skill is not flawless or matchless. Every day I practice, and every day I do something wrong. I will think, “Those last three moves were perfect, too bad the first five stunk to high heaven.” In martial arts, I seek perfection, and, as a human being, I will never attain it. I have not mastered the arts I have studied, I have studied them deeply, learned a great deal, and always, until the day I die, will have much more to learn. I am not, and do not claim to be the best FMA or any other martial arts style practitioner in the world. I can lose a real fight just like anyone else. I can have a bad day and miss a block, I can be blindsided and smacked on the head with a two by four (that happened once, I don’t recommend the experience), or I could meet someone better than I am. I expect, right now, somewhere in the Philippines or Indonesia (or the United States for that matter) there is a tiny, incredibly skilled, little, old guy who moves as smoothly as oil flowing over glass and as fast as a hyperactive cobra on methamphetamines whom, if he was reading this, would nod sagely and know firmly and with no doubt that he could drop me in a heartbeat. I would really enjoy studying with that guy.

The fact that someone uses “Master” in his or her title does not mean that they are unskilled or arrogant. Many have been awarded such a title due to their skill in their respective arts. The measure of the “Master” can be taken by how they comport themselves. Does this person act arrogantly? Does this person refer to themselves routinely as “Master So and So” or in the third person? (I kid you not, I have seen this done.) Has this person bought into their own “legend” and believes that they now have mastered their art and reached a stage of enlightenment that we mere mortals could not understand? If the answer to these questions is yes, then I don’t want to be around them. What particularly saddens me are the people (and there have been a few) who I knew to possess real skill (either through personal experience with the instructor or through discussions with their students, etc.) who now espouse the legend of themselves and are continually self-aggrandizing. I don’t need to be told how great you are, if you want to convince me, show me. Videos can help here, though, as videos can be edited, direct experience is best.

Not all “Master” BS artists have their own style, but many do. There are many people out there who take a few months of this art, a few months of that, a year or two of this, and then “create” their new style. Most new styles are a mish-mash of other arts or techniques taken from those arts. There is legitimate growth and change in the martial arts. There are modifications to old styles (the FMA is famous for this adaptation to improve the art), and valid new styles created. There are only so many ways you can move a human body, and only so many ways that you can control or injure a person enough to keep them from continuing to attack you. There is nothing new out there that someone has not done a few thousand, hundred, or handful of years in the past. There sometimes are combinations of things, martial theories of action, techniques, and the like that, when blended together, create something that is new enough to warrant another name. This is how we arrived where we are today, with hundreds of different styles of silat, karate, and other arts. I have no problem with this creation of a legitimate new art. I do have a problem with people who do not acknowledge their roots. If you studied Sayoc Kali for years, along with Shotokan Karate and developed an insight into blending these arts, developed martial theories that you tested, and a new art developed out of this, an art which seemed to have some validity when it was tested against the root arts and others, then fine. Create the new art, but give some homage to the root arts and teachers who gave you your baseline skills and insights. Do not become a self-aggrandizing “Master.”

Some of the worst offenders in the “grab a whole bunch of stuff from other systems and people” genre are the “instant learning” and some of the “reality based” martial arts people. Before I get blasted by all the “reality” instructors and students out there, I wish to state that I do believe in the injection of reality into martial arts. I believe in training to fight rather than to spar in a dojang or do pretty, gymnastic kata in a competition. I have no problem with many reality based systems. I do have a problem with those systems which grab a few techniques from various arts, emphasize forceful contact in training, and automatically shun any traditional training methods. I believe in stimulus and forceful contact (ask my students), but I believe in the use of a coherent system of fighting, one that teaches grappling and locks, weapon and empty hand striking, kicks, throws, etc. I believe in developing technique, speed, and flow (which is how you obtain the speed needed in real combat), prior to adding a whole bunch of contact and stimulus. If you add a lot of physical contact and stimulus too soon, you get sloppy technique. Speed and aggression will get you through a lot of real world self defense and combat situations. However, when the speedy, aggressive fighter meets one who is just as speedy, aggressive and who also has superior techniques and skill, the first fighter is in trouble. Anyone who does not emphasize footwork and body positioning when teaching how to fight is also immediately suspect.

The “arts” or “systems” that really get on my nerves, however, are the ones that have advertisements in the back of many gun, knife, and martial arts magazines and state that a completely untrained person can learn, in a few hours, how to defeat a dedicated martial arts black belt. Sure, black belts can be beat, and there are many who are not “combat oriented” black belts. Please realize, though, that nothing in life is that easy. If there was an instant combat system that would make me death on two legs and that consisted of 10 or 15 moves, why have I been studying martial arts for almost 30 years? If you believe it is because I don’t know the “secrets” that these people can teach you, please review the section above where I discuss that there is nothing truly new and that there are only so many ways to move or to strike, throw, etc. Lean in close people, I am going to give you the secret to all martial arts. Here it is: HARD WORK and PRACTICE. Anyone who tells you that you can get something for nothing is selling something. If you have ever played a sport, driven a car, ridden a bicycle or done any physical activity, were you any good when you first learned how to do it? Did it not take lots of practice and time before you could do a lot of these things well without conscious thought? The same is true for any physical activity, including martial arts. You don’t learn in 10 minutes. Please understand that there are a lot of people earning a living teaching martial arts seminars and who have developed “quick learn” systems. A lot of these people will be happy to sell you a training video or two as well. Many of them are completely full of crap. Some are very good at what they do. The good ones will tell you to practice what you learn, and that the more practice the better. They good instructors will emphasize the fact that they are teaching a system that is designed to give a person a decent level of skill and a decent chance of defending against a real attack. These guys are providing a service for those who do not want to invest gobs of time in learning self-defense but want to become reasonably effective. The good instructors will give you no illusions, though. They will not tell you that, after a couple of seminars or a video lesson or two, that you will be a match for someone who has trained hard for years.

The most important reason for posting these videos to the web, and the creation of this website in general, is to advertise Albo Kali Silat and help educate good people. Neither Apohan Tuhan Albo nor I want or expect Albo Kali Silat to have thousands of students. We want people to know about the art, we wish to give homage to the Filipino fighters and teachers who came before Apohan Tuhan Albo, and want to attract a few good students. We plan to keep this art a combat art, and we do not plan to give training in it to everyone who asks. This could be like giving a loaded firearm to a child or a man convicted of armed robbery. We will not teach killing and maiming techniques without knowing our students very well indeed. Both Apohan Tuhan Albo and I can and will do seminars. We may decide to create some training videos. Students of seminars and buyers of training videos (should any be produced) will get much more information than is contained on the videos available for free on this site. However, without a personal and ongoing student relationship, neither Apohan Tuhan Albo nor I will provide everything that Albo Kali Silat truly has to offer. In reality, in order to understand most of what the art has to offer, you have to practice it for years. I constantly practice, and I continually learn. I hope that what I have written and filmed and posted on this website has helped a few good people learn a bit about how to protect themselves and understand some of the beauty and grace found within Albo Kali Silat.

Thank you for your interest in Albo Kali Silat. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.

Tuhan Holloway
September 2007

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