Discussion in 'Dog Brothers Martial Arts' started by Crafty Dog, Feb 26, 2018.
Something I wrote in 2004-- it is rough and unpolished:
Secrets and the Umali Affair
By Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny (c)
A few years back a man known for manufacturing sharp knives and I were chatting on the phone. He asked why I didn't teach "the good stuff" for knife the way I did for stick. I hemmed and hawed and finally replied that knife was about killing. "So what?" he asked, "Anyone who wants to kill can just get a gun."
I had to admit that this was true. Yet although I had no good response I was not persuaded. Holding a conclusion that one cannot justify is usually a sign that additional thinking would be a good idea.
The idea of "secrets", of holding back certain knowledge and/or certain training, is as old as the martial arts. The martial arts have a long history of secrecy and none more so than the arts of the Philippines- known variously as Arnis, Eskrima and Kali amongst others (our group uses the term "Kali"). The extent of this secrecy and the seriousness with which it was taken in the Philippines is beyond what most people appreciate outside of the Philippines-- even FMA practitioners.
There are three basic reasons for secrecy in the martial arts.
One reason is to keep the knowledge and skills from those who might use them against you and yours. In the Philippines with its history of centuries of tribal conflict in the island archipelago this value runs deep and is still taken very seriously. Another reason would be to maintain the advantages of your martial art system/style in the martial arts world. The third reason is to keep the knowledge and skills from those who might use them inappropriately or even wrongly. Given the weaponry focus of the various arts of the Philippines, this too is taken very seriously in the FMA.
Yet the notion of secrecy in the American martial art context is being strongly challenged and often discarded. Even in the various FMA systems this is true, albeit less so.
Why is this trend away from secrecy taking place?
First, it needs to be plainly stated that the justifications for secrecy can be used as a cover-up for a lack of merit of the teacher and/or the material.
It also needs to be plainly stated that one powerful force in this regard is competitive pressure. This may have been of little relevance in cultural contexts where teaching martial arts as a profession was little known. But in the modern cultural context if others are sharing "the secrets" then this can often threaten a teacher with a loss of students and income if he does not do so as well.
Putting these two points aside, let us turn to the problems with secrets.
A "secret technique" is often an untested technique. Even if the technique was used in the past successfully, the current context may be quite different. Even the present teacher may not have experience with it. Even more likely is that the student/practitioner may have no experience of it save with a cooperative partner in the calm of a martial arts class. Such a technique often fails in the moment it is most needed.
In a world where those exclusively from secrecy-oriented traditions seem to do badly "in the cage" against those who vigorously and openly test their techniques and skills, why would anyone accept "proving his loyalty" for years before having the secrets shared when they don't seem to manifest in real time pressure of the cage?
In a world of guns it can seem silly and irrelevant to keep secret the knowledge and skill of one's martial art training from others. Any idiot can buy a gun and pull the trigger so why would it matter to show someone something that would require time and effort to master? In a world in which a terrible array of misdeeds are readily perpetrated by people devoid of any training whatsoever, why would it matter what "secrets" are shared with whomever?
And some reason that even though there are some bullies drawn to martial arts training, that the more realistic and rugged the testing of skills, the likelier these people are to either outgrow their immaturities or to leave the training altogether. From this some reason there is no real need to screen students or have secrets from them.
In an Internet forum I saw some proclaim doubt that there are any secrets at all beyond hard work and learning to execute well what is already available to be known by any and all. An arm bar is an arm bar and it is done well or it is not done well. I was surprised to see a Filipino FMA teacher who I knew to be of good level express agreement. I contributed to the discussion my experience as a student of the late PG Edgar Sulite who told me the story of his experience with a secret training method which he stopped doing because it made him too likely to "go off". The gist of the reply of the Filipino teacher was that along the lines of "Ohhhhh. You're talking about THAT stuff."
It is interesting to note that at the moment he had sincerely written of the non-existence of secrets that there was another part of him that knew from personal experience that they existed.) He went to say that he had experienced such things from his father, but that he had gone on to a different way. His students faced immediate dangers now and that he wanted to enable them as quickly as possible. If I may paraphrase, he said that secrecy was rejected because of the "urgent need of prompt results".
These are all very good points and I would submit that some of them are proven by Dog Brother experience. Indeed, since Eric (Top Dog- the Fighting Force) Arlan (Salty Dog-the Silent Force) and I (the Guiding Force) co-founded the Dog Brothers in 1988 we have experienced time and time again those whose secret trainings the crucible of a Real Contact Stickfighting revealed to be impractical and useless in their hands. And we have experienced that the more rugged the testing, at least in the context of the Dog Brothers' tribe's culture, the less likely the acting out of bullies--either because the bullies outgrow the inner problem, or because they are unwilling to put themselves in front of others who possess the skill to do to them what they know that they are capable of doing to others.
And yet , , , I continued to have this sense of unease about teaching knife.
The Umali case of recent fame in the New York City area, reified my previously inchoate concerns.
Say nabbed suspect tried to kill himself
MICHELE McPHEE and BARBARA ROSS
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Isaias Umali is under arrest for the murder of New York bouncer Dana Blake.
Cops arrested an out-of-work accountant trained in lethal knife-fighting techniques yesterday in the murder of an East Village bouncer who died enforcing the city's smoking ban. Isais Umali, 31, was taken into custody at Queens' Mary Immaculate Hospital - where he was recovering from self-inflicted slashing wounds to his throat and wrists. Police sources said Umali attempted suicide Monday - a day after he allegedly delivered a fatal stab wound to Dana Blake's groin as the hulking bouncer tossed the suspect's friends from a birthday party for smoking.
In the chaos after the stabbing, Umali fled from the Avenue B lounge Guernica, ditched the murder weapon and went to his fianc?e's apartment on the upper East Side to get rid of his bloody clothes, said NYPD Chief of Detectives George Brown.
"During the fight, Umali pulled out a knife and stabbed Blake," Brown said. "When Blake fell to the floor, Umali ran from the club, walked south and entered the subway station, discarding the knife along the way."
Umali's friends - Jonathan Chan, 29, and Ching Chan, 31, children of the leader of Chinatown's organized crime's Ghost Shadows - were arrested by patrol cops after Blake collapsed. They were splattered with the victim's blood. Their sister, Alice Chan, 33, was arrested the following morning. Her blood-soaked clothes were seized by cops. But all three were freed Monday night after prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney's office said they did not have evidence linking them to the fatal stabbing. That sparked outrage from cops and friends and family of the victim - until yesterday's arrest of a new suspect.
Trained in martial arts
Many of the party attendees - including the Chan brothers and Umali - are trained in the Filipino martial art of Eskrima, which uses precision knife blows and deadly weapons to fight enemies. Detectives plan to interview a Manhattan martial arts expert who trained Umali how to kill with a single knife wound, sources said.
"Someone trained this guy [Umali] to hit someone in a fatal spot to kill them, and it worked. We want to find him," one police source said.
Umali's involvement in the bloody slaying became clear late Thursday, when a tipster called the NYPD's Crime Stoppers hotline to turn him in, according to authorities. Sources said the anonymous caller is believed to be his guilt-stricken fiance, who had bought Umali new clothes before he returned to his parents' home.
"I was just trying to help out my friends," Umali wrote in a suicide note found by his parents, who were there when their son began slashing himself inside his Hillside, Queens, bedroom, according to one law enforcement source.
Brothers not cleared
Umali's arrest does not completely clear the Chans, police told the Daily News.
"The Chans are definitely still under investigation," said one high-ranking police source. "They still have problems."
But the Chan brothers' lawyer, Ivan Fisher, said Umali's arrest "vindicates" his clients.
"I feel that the recent development strongly supports the accuracy of what my clients have been saying happened here from the beginning - that they had nothing whatsoever to do with the wounding of Mr. Blake," Fisher said.
Umali and the Chans were among 19 people at a birthday party in the hip bar Saturday night spilling into Sunday morning. The skirmish between Blake and the Chan brothers began just after 2 a.m., when revelers at the party for a woman identified as Catherine Leonardo repeatedly lit cigarettes in the bar's downstairs club in violation of the city's new smoking ban. After a heated argument with members of the party, Blake, 32, grabbed Jonathan Chan and tried to eject him from the bar. As the 6-foot-5, 320-pound bouncer shoved the Wall Street banker out the door, he was pounced on by Chan's siblings, police said.
Umali then allegedly entered the scrum, stabbing Blake - who died 11 hours later.
Umali was released from the hospital yesterday afternoon and arraigned on two counts of second-degree murder at Manhattan Criminal Court. He was brought into court wearing a blue hospital shirt and gray khaki pants, bandages swathing his throat and wrists. Criminal Court Judge Deborah Kaplan ordered Umali held without bail and on suicide watch. Umali's attorney, David Krauss, said his client is "traumatized" by the slaying. "He's traumatized by the whole thing," Krauss said. "It's sad. Sad all around. For him and his family."
With Greg B. Smith
Originally published on April 19, 2003
Like the famous parable of the each of the seven blind men grabbing a hold of a different part of an elephant and describing it differently so too reactions to stories such as this one. Although I may make reference to many parts of this elephant, my central focus in this article is the matter of who and what to teach and how to do so.
I trust you the reader noticed that the police are looking to talk to Umali's teacher. And those of us here in America may well wonder about the prospects of a civil lawsuit against him in our increasingly Kafkaesque legal system. Even in victory the expense of defense leaves one financially and emotionally drained and devastated. You may say that there should be no claim against Umali?s teacher.
I agree. In order to be free, we must be responsible for what we do. And to hold responsible those other than the doer of the deed is for all to become "unfree". I want to make this point strongly as I enter into a brief discussion of legal matters here. I am not suggesting that you buy into other people's efforts to dump responsibility for the actions of others onto you! The overlap between law and morality and higher consciousness can be substantial?as can its divergence. To be a purist and ignore the law while being guided solely by morality and consciousness may sometimes leave oneself vulnerable to being eaten alive by criminal and or civil charges. And to simply accept the law as one's guide in some cases may be to become a sheep to be castrated and sheared by "The Matrix" (term used here not in its mathematically precise sense, but in the cultural sense used by the movie of this name). If and when the law, especially as created by plaintiff lawyers and activist judges, seeks to neuter our rights as a free people to self-defense (Constitutionally found in the Ninth Amendment of the Bill of Rights) we must exert ourselves in our republican form of government for respect of our freedoms.
That said, herewith a summary of legal issues I found on the Internet at
(URL now gone) by PA attorney Peter Hobart, who describes himself as a "prosecuting attorney", which I understand to mean a plaintiff attorney-- and to my 20-years-out-of-the-practice-of-law eye it has a bit of the orientation of that perspective. That said, I think it may serve here to give the laymen reader a sense of the questions that can arise:
Martial arts teachers? liability:
Under the Theory of Agency, the principal is liable for unlawful acts which he causes to be done through an agent. There are three possible ways in which a martial arts instructor might be held liable as the principal for the unlawful acts of his students, as agents. First, if the instructor appears to ratify or approve of unlawful conduct, he may be held liable for the commission of such acts. Thus, a dojo which encourages the use of excessive force, or lethal force in inappropriate situations may be seen to ratify and approve of unlawful conduct. Similarly, an instructor who continues to teach a student who has abused his knowledge may be held responsible, if not liable, for subsequent torts.
Second, an instructor may be held liable for having entrusted a student with ?an extremely dangerous instrumentality?. "[W]hen an instrumentality passes from the control of a person, his responsibility for injuries inflicted by it ceases. However, when an injury is caused by an exceptionally dangerous instrumentality, or one which may be dangerous if improperly used, a former owner or possessor may ... be charged with responsibility for [its] use...." The implications for instructors who teach potentially lethal techniques is clear.
Finally, an instructor may be liable for harm to the student or other parties as a result of negligent instruction. Anyone who holds himself out as an expert capable of giving instruction is expected to conform to the standards of his professional community. Thus, any instructor who, by his own negligence, fails to provide, teach and require adequate safe-guards and supervision, may be liable for any resulting injury.
Having mentioned the legal issues, they will now be ignored.
From a moral and consciousness perspective, how can those who teach or share best do so to minimize results similar to this tragic case?
Separate names with a comma.