23 Martial Arts Masters Reveal the Most Important Teachings of the Self-Defense Arts, Part Two

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 One, and the rest are listed below for the benefit of all our readers.


“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, star of the Shaolin Chuan Fa DVD set

<<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, star of the Kapap Combat Concepts DVD set

<<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; star of the Greg Jackson MMA Core Curriculum online course

<<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 the Chinatown Jeet Kune Do book and Chinatown Jeet Kune Do DVD

<<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 Gracie, Brazilian 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, star of Kelly McCann’s 5-Volume Combatives Self-Defense Course

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

Wing chun kung fu expert William Cheung in action with a wooden dummy.<<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, star of the Wing Chun Kung Fu DVD set

Dojo Dynamics author and martial arts expert Dr. Jerry Beasley.<<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

Kathy Long, former world kickboxing champion

<<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

Hayward Nishioka, judo legend and Black Belt Hall of Fame member.<<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

Read Part One of this post here.

Source: Black Belt Magazine

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