Kathy Long, Royce Gracie, Kelly McCann, Greg Jackson, William Cheung and Bill Wallace are some of the masters we consulted for this advice-filled article. It's guaranteed to make you a better martial artist!

For this story, the staff of Black Belt asked some of the most prominent instructors in the West to name what they regard as the highest teachings of the martial arts. All the responses were fascinating. However, we were forced to weed out the duplicates and keep only the ones that likely would apply to the most people. Half were presented in Part 1, and the rest are listed below for the benefit of all our readers.


^Cross-Train

“Knowledge is a powerful thing. The more knowledge you have, the better martial artist you become. Cross-train to learn the strengths of other styles. Always make sure your cross-training is goal-oriented, though. Ask yourself what you want to learn from a particular style, then focus on that.”

Julius Melegrito, Filipino martial arts, star of the Philippine Fighting Arts DVD set

Intelligently Increase Your Speed

“There’s no advantage to striking several times or being the first person to hit the other person unless you get the job done. If you hit someone 20 times in less than 10 seconds and he’s still looking at you, you’d better run because you’re doing something wrong. Speed will come with practice.”

Steve DeMasco, Shaolin kempo, author of An American's Journey to Shaolin Temple

 

^Research Your Martial Arts Family History

“Discover who your teacher is, who your teacher’s teacher was and so on, as far back as you can. Knowing what they learned, from whom and why helps you relate to your style. You’ll find common threads that will make you feel connected and motivated.”

— Karen Sheperd, wun hop kuen do

^Master a Multitude of Weapons

“Learn how to use a knife, sword, stick, staff, gun, Taser and pepper spray. For guidance, look to Olympic fencing, kendo, iaido and medieval styles of sword fighting.”

Maj. Avi Nardia, author of Kapap Combat Concepts

^Acknowledge Mind Over Matter

“Your mind is your most powerful weapon. Understanding reality and putting that understanding to work will get you far. Without a focused mind, the body is useless.

“The pursuit of martial arts mastery always leads down a path on which mental abilities eventually exceed the physical. Your body will age and your physical skills will diminish, but there’s no limit to the development of your mind.”

— Richard Ryan, Dynamic Combat

^Maintain an Open Mind

"If you use the sporting aspect of mixed martial arts as a base, you can add things to it for very effective self-defense. For instance, the two most common reasons MMA matches get stopped are eye gouging and getting kicked in the groin, so we know those techniques are effective."

Greg Jackson; MMA coach for Holly Holm, Georges St-Pierre, Jon Jones and others

^Know Your Enemy

“Your enemy could be your opponent — or your self-confidence, your girlfriend, your wife or your job. The word covers a lot of territory. Being a great technician with a great mind isn’t enough; you’ve got to know what you have to compete against.

“Your enemy is whatever you use your skills against. Ascertain that and you’ll be able to focus on defeating it.”

Bill Wallace, kickboxing

^Be Able to Control Distance

“If a situation is worsening and you can’t defuse it, maintain enough distance to give yourself time to muster a counterattack. It’s essential to keep your hands up and your opponent far enough away that he has to step forward to make contact with a punch. Without that buffer zone, which is called 'fighting measure' in JKD circles, chances are he’ll be able to hit you because of the time lag between his punch and the initiation of your parry.”

Tim Tackett, author of Chinatown Jeet Kune Do and Chinatown Jeet Kune Do, Vol. 2

^Intention Is the Mother of Technique

“If you know what your goals are, you can create techniques that will work. Here’s an example:

“I had a student in a half-day self-defense workshop whose goal was to snap her would-be attacker’s head back, but she couldn’t quite get the hang of the palm strike, the only technique she’d learned thus far. One day, much to my surprise, she rammed her fingers up his nose. It worked like a charm to send his head snapping back. Then she promptly torpedoed his torso with knees.”

Melissa Soalt, self-defense

^Have a Backup Plan

“Realize that grappling is important to know in case you go to the ground in a fight. If you can knock a guy out with one punch and the fight is over, perfect. That’s a beautiful fight. But if the guy is bigger and stronger and can absorb your punch, you’ve got to take him to the ground and choke him out.”

Royce GracieBrazilian jiu-jitsu

Be Humble

“Know that on any given day, anyone can get his or her butt kicked.”

— Kathy Long, kickboxer

^Add Power to Your Moves

“Everyone has power. The challenge is learning how to use your power. The science of the martial arts teaches you how to deliver techniques with power. Remember, however, that without technique, power is mostly wasted.”

— Steve DeMasco

^Be Prepared — Always

"You need to learn equally about when you’ll be expected to fight and how you’ll be expected to fight. You might be able to do a certain technique every time in a safe environment — and then completely fail on the street in an unfamiliar environment [because you’re] under duress and in a compressed time cycle."

Kelly McCann, author of Combatives for Street Survival

Have Techniques to Fall Back On

“Build an arsenal of techniques that don’t rely on strength, speed or coordination. This is where Gracie jiu-jitsu enters the picture.”

— Rorion Gracie, Brazilian jiu-jitsu

Master Unarmed Combat

“Take advantage of any chance you get to study a proven form of fighting. Of particular interest are Brazilian and Japanese jiu-jitsu, sambo, judo, Greco-Roman wrestling, Mongolian wrestling, aikido, hapkido, karate, muay Thai and Western boxing.

“Also devote time to close-quarters combat as taught by the police and military. And for serious survival, learn how to navigate unknown terrain, make a fire, camp, hunt, fish, cook and administer first aid.”

— Maj. Avi Nardia

^Target Your Opponent’s Balance

“When you’re in a conflict, stay calm as you make plans to attack your opponent’s balance while protecting yours.”

William Cheung, wing chun

^Cultivate Mental Karate

“Karate is not just physical self-defense; it’s also mental self-defense. Through physical training, you develop the ability to use blocks and counters to fend off mental attacks. You become what you think. “The real lesson of karate is to empty the mind of defeatist attitudes.”

Dr. Jerry Beasley, author of Dojo Dynamics: Essential Marketing Principles for Martial Arts Schools

^Develop Strength of Mind

“Be confident in yourself, possess instantaneous tactics to outthink your opponent and have a thorough understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Never underestimate any foe. Be in control at all times — there’s no room for anger, fear or doubt.”

Jim Arvanitis, author of The First Mixed Martial Art: Pankration from Myths to Modern Times

^Be Aware

"It is essential to walk with confidence, and keep your head up and your shoulders squared. Always scan your environment. When a predator sees that you’re in touch with your surroundings, he’s more likely to think, 'She’s a little too aware of what’s going on.'”

— Kathy Long

Practice the Martial Arts Code of Conduct 

“Learn its four parts: One who excels as a warrior should appear formidable; one who excels in defeating others should not take issue; one who excels in fighting should not allow himself to be aroused in anger; one who excels in employing others should humble himself.”

— William Cheung

^Master Your Emotions

“Don’t let your emotions control your life or behavior. Happiness and suffering are your choice. The martial arts are more about philosophy and mental discipline than they are about fighting.”

— Eric Lee, Chinese martial arts

^Respect Everyone

“Every person you meet is an agent for you. If he likes you, he’ll say nice things about you. If you give him no respect, he’ll bad-mouth you, or worse. I’ve loved getting to know all the wonderful people out there — especially the ones like me who still consider themselves a student of the arts.”

Gene LeBell, grappling, judo

^Seek Balance in All Things

“'All things' includes mind, body, spirit, life, finances and so on. It’s not easy to accomplish, but it’s something you should aspire to. When you have balance, you have a serene look. Energy and happiness accompany it. You can’t force balance. The process of learning, of acting, gives you balance. That process creates peace of mind.”

— Frank Shamrock, MMA

Constantly Seek Improvement 

“Strive to develop the attributes of a martial artist: the will to survive, killer instinct, speed, strength and the ability to adapt to any situation.”

— Kathy Long

Show Courtesy

“The martial arts begin and end with courtesy. At first, courtesy requires a reward. As you develop the character traits of a master, however, you’ll be secure enough to be courteous and require nothing in return. This act — to assist another and expect nothing in return — is called kindness. The world can use more kindness.” 

— Dr. Jerry Beasley

Consider the Future 

“Think of your future in the martial arts and work to reach that goal. Then think of how that applies to your life. Without direction, you have no future.”

— Gene LeBell

^Look at the Big Picture 

“In the end, it has to have been worth it. You have to have pride in the route you took. You have to have made friends and enjoyed a life of meaning.”

— Hayward Nishioka, judo, author of Training for Competition: Judo: Coaching, Strategy and the Science for Success

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Do you want to maximize your self defense skills? Learn the game of combat chess and most importantly the queen of all moves.

Allow me to intercept those who would object to the title of this article. I'm not claiming that there's a secret move, shortcut or hack that will give you the edge in any fight. Even if there was an ultimate weapon or strategy, you likely would avoid it because you
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Looking to buy some weights to gain some strength?

Looking at Dumbbell, Kettlebells or Weighted bar? How about an all in one that won't just save you some good amount of money but also space? Look no further, we bring you the GRIPBELL!

Let's face it, when we do want to work on some strength building, we don't want to go around shopping for 20 different weight equipment things. That would just not want us to even do any sort of strength training. But what if we only needed a few, a few that can do the things we want without having 20 things lay around? That's where the GRIPBELL comes in. Let me clarify with you first, these are not some heavy duty, muscle exploding weights, they are for building the level of strength we as martial artists want without going crazy and insane in bulk sizing!

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Many different types of "blocks" are taught in most martial arts school. We are taught high blocks, low blocks, middle blocks, knife hand blocks, etc. Some schools will also teach how to use the legs to block an attack, as well.

The purpose of this writing is to possibly open some minds to the possibilities of going outside the box and considering alternatives to the basics.

Blocking is taught as a way of protecting oneself from harm. Truly, we don't "block" anything, as a non-martial artist would think of it. What we call "blocking" is more of a redirection of an opponent's attack, or even a counterstrike against the opponent's attacking limb.

To block something would mean to put something, like your arm, leg or other body part directly in front of the attack. That would certainly hurt and possibly cause some damage. The goal should be to move the attack out of the way in order to prevent injury and provide a way to fight back. For example, many schools teach blocks as a limb moving toward the strike such as a circular high block.

The movement required for a block might have other uses, if you keep an open mind. The blocking techniques can also be used as attack techniques. For example, your "low block" may be used as a striking technique against the outer thigh of the attacker. Your high block might be used as a strike to the jaw. The set up for a block can be used as a deflection, as well as the actual block.

Doing a block or a series of blocks will most likely not end an attack. A block needs to be followed by a counterattack. While the block is usually taught as a separate technique in order to learn it correctly, it should also be used in combination with a counter.

The more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know. Intensive books can and have be written about basic techniques. With this writing, I am hoping to create interest in exploring the additional possibilities for what we have been taught and what we teach others.

About Grand Master Stevens

GM Stevens has been training in taekwondo for 47 years under the tutelage of the late legendary Grand Master Richard Chun. He holds an 8th degree black belt and is certified in the USA and in Korea. Grand Master Stevens is a member of the Board of Directors of the prestigious Richard Chun TaeKwonDo World Headquarters organization. He has been very active in his community and has been a volunteer with the Glen Rock Volunteer Ambulance Corps for over 11 years. He is a certified member of C.E.R.T. (Community Emergency Response Team).

Gary Stevens Taekwondo is located at 175 Rock Road in Glen Rock, New Jersey.

For more information: call (201) 670-7263, email: StevensTKD@aol.com or go to www.StevensTaeKwonDo.com

Having partners at or above your skill level is important for improving in your martial arts training. At some point, however, you will probably find yourself with a shortage of skilled partners, especially if you are an instructor.

This can happen for any number of reasons: students can move away, change their work schedules, start a family, etc., and just like that, you find that you're the highest-ranked student, or sole instructor, in your gym or dojo. This doesn't have to be a bad thing. In fact, if you take advantage of it, even working exclusively with lower-ranking classmates or students can improve your skills.

I used to host a twice-a-week training session at my dojo where I invited mostly black belts from other schools (as well as a few of my advanced students) to come and run drills. It was a blast. These were tough two- to three-hour sessions where I got to work with fighters of all different sizes, speeds, and technique preferences. My sparring improved dramatically over the next few months, and I don't think I've ever been in better shape. But unfortunately, it doesn't always work out that way. And as the old saying goes, "You gotta work with what ya got." So, make it hard on yourself.

I like to set handicaps when fighting my students. Specifically, I focus on forcing myself to work on improving my weak areas. Is you right leg weaker than the left? Then only kick with the right leg when sparring your students. Not much of an inside fighter? Don't kick at all. Training with partners of lesser skill not only helps you improve your weak points but gives them an opportunity to improve as well by working on strategy. It's also great for building their confidence. It can also be a low-cost opportunity to test new techniques and combinations, which benefits you as well.

In grappling, just like sparring, there is little benefit to wrapping lower ranking classmates into pretzels over and over, for them or you. Instead, let your partner put you in a bad situation. Let them get the mount; help them sink in that choke or armbar. If you start standing, such as in judo, allow your partner to get the superior grip before attempting a throw. This way you will get comfortable working out of a weaker position and your less-experienced partner can perfect their technique (and get experience using multiple techniques, if you get out of their first one).

You might think that giving advantages like these to students who may be far beneath your skill level is much of a challenge. Trust me, you'll reconsider that sentiment when you wind up sparring a 6'5" novice with zero control over his strength after deciding to only use your weak leg, or have a 250-pound green belt lying across your diaphragm trying to get an armlock after you let them get the pin. Remember, this is exactly what you signed up for: a challenge.

If you find yourself at the top of the heap without partners who are sufficiently challenging, there is no need to despair. Use it as a low-stress opportunity to improve your weaknesses and develop avenues to help your less experienced classmates and students to grow. You may even be surprised. One day they might present more of a challenge than you ever imagined!
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