I am not in competition with other “martial arts studios”. I don’t care how many students they have, how much money they extort, or how many trophies or titles they’ve paid for. I care even less about who taught them or what style they teach. I’m not here to speak against them. I’m sure they’re good people who believe and enjoy what they do, and they have many students who love them. I wish them all the best.
I walked the path of a “multi-ranking black belt” for many years, and it always felt empty and pointless. When I crossed paths by fate with those who opened my eyes to the true beauty and freedom of martial arts, there was no going back. Being a filmmaker, I relate my training in many ways to “Neo, from the Matrix”, and being free. My eyes are open and they can never be closed.
In so many instances, I have been told by those who train with me, that this is what they have been seeking their entire lives. It is because what I teach, is for you to discover your way. The foundation is the same, but the expression is unique. Those who find emptiness or no value in their training, and those who are searching for more, they will know when they find me. It is like stepping out into the wilderness night sky, miles away from the city lights, and seeing a universe of stars brighter than you’ve ever experienced. The stars were always there, but we could not see past the pollution of city lights.
Survival is about adaptation. Traditional martial artists grow dependent on point sparring in open spaces and playing pretend self-defense while their partner allows them to perform a dozen and one techniques they rehearsed and memorized. The MMA fighter is convinced all fights end on the ground, and that while he holds his opponent in a choke hold on the floor of the bar, no one will decide to take a beer bottle to his bead to get him off his friend.
The world of martial arts is a lie. There is no ultimate style, there is no perfect defense, there is no unstoppable technique, there is no perfect situation. If someone claims they know exactly what they’ll do if someone throws a punch, it’s likely they’re an idiot or a liar. There is no way of knowing exactly what you’ll encounter or what will be the most optimal solution to the conflict. There is only the ability to adapt, respond, react, and overcome. If you can’t adapt, then your style is worthless.
This is why I often take training outdoors. To throw the elements against us. To train on uneven ground, with the sun and heat and wind or rain against us. Are you a TKD guy in a confined space without the room to do a spinning head kick? Are you an MMA grappler holding one man in a headlock while dealing with multiple opponents? Are you a Black Belt who thinks your memorized form will condition you for a real fight? Well, Tough Shit. The world doesn’t care about your style requirements or your rules.
However there are two melee weapons beyond my own body I still enjoy working with. They are in our world, practical and present in society in some form or another. These are the Knife and the Stick.
Developing a tactical knowledge with knives and sticks only enhances ones ability to strike, maneuver, redirect, and adapt. An opponent using a broken beer bottle is no different than one wielding a knife or stick. As I develop your ability to utilize these weapons, you’ll better understand how to fight against them. You’ll develop the ability to effortlessly blend the three tactics of stick, knife, and open hand combat, largely due to the fact they all feed off each other and seamlessly flow together.
I feel like slapping people in the face when they call it a sport. For some yes, it’s competition to be the best looking peacock in the room, or a title they flaunt to the world. For me, it’s internal. It’s a beast clawing and biting to escape its cage and run free into the night. It’s beautiful, it’s lethal, it’s a pure level of expression, it calms me, it invigorates me, it fulfills my needs. In my darkest days, I found myself alone in my studio, training, training, training to the point I could barely stand or raise my arms. As I fell to the ground in exhaustion, I felt peace. If you don’t understand this, then you don’t deserve my time as your trainer.
I’ve tried several times throughout my life to walk away from teaching… but the call of the wild is in my DNA as it is for any wild animal. I teach not because I have to, not because it is my job. This is no longer my career, it is purely my passion. So I do not have to be polite, I do not have to be politically correct, or accommodating. Whether you have years of training and feel (as I did) something always was missing, or you are stepping into the arena for the first time… I ask one thing of you only… give your all or walk away.
The men who trained me… they called me the Phoenix and the Bear. I was not even the strongest or most skilled of them, but what I brought was a fire that could not be extinguished. I stood back on my feet every time they knocked me on my ass, and I begged for more. A Bear cannot be tamed or broken. It can only be what it is what born to be… a Bear. I don’t rest on their accomplishments, or hold myself to their skill level, I only validate the quality of training I received, and the standard I set for myself.