The Professional Instructor Mentality vs “Guru” Mentality

One of the things that I appreciate most about Tang Wei is the emphasis that all students and instructors remain in a humble perspective regardless of how much success is achieved, how many years of training, or what ranking an instructor holds.  The mindset of “I am safe because…I have a black belt, or I have won a match or fight, or because I have trained in the best system, etc.” is always discouraged and warned against.

Instead the advocacy is to recognize yours and your opponent’s inherent vulnerability as human beings with bodies that can be made to bleed, feel pain and ultimately receive injury and potentially die.  As one recognizes and acknowledges this vulnerability, then one recognizes that the name of the game in combat is: who can get to who’s vulnerability first?

Realizing this truth, the focus is to learn effective methods of engaging strategically, tactically neutralizing and finishing the fight and then to produce better fighting mindsets and fighting habits which can increase your chances of survival in a real combative encounter.  This leads to the advocacy of the “I am in danger unless I adapt appropriately” mindset.

A quote that we often advocate is that calm is more important than confidence.  This is because confidence is a belief in oneself based upon past accomplishments rather than the calm focus upon present tense threats and responding to them in the here and now.  Notions of being superior because of training, because of ranking or past fighting successes are catastrophic because they often trick you into thinking that the opponent you are facing in the here and now will care.  This thinking often will lead into a false confidence where one is acting as if credentials and resume will win a fight for you.

Calm focus on the threat in front of you with total determination to prevail by using the most effective fighting habits that you have is all you can do.  This is the difference in my opinion between a guru and a professional martial arts instructor.  Guru is a label that I use for those that have been in the martial arts long enough to develop a following and then at some point come to believe that they are beyond the reach of losing in a combative encounter.

The professional instructor is very respectful of others, even beginners and they always seem somewhat cautious and weary about fighting.  You find professionalism in place of ego and you don’t find them entertaining nor asserting nor implying the notion that they are beyond losing, but rather you see them working to reduce vulnerability by developing effective habits of adaptation.  You also hear them advocating that these skills are perishable and see them working personally to avoid their own skill deterioration.

The professional instructor, shares skills but never loses respect for the severity and uncertainty for the real fighting situation where any man can beat any man on any day.  Ultimately the “good guy” doesn’t always win.  Sun Zi in his book the Art of War eludes to a thesis similar to one advocated in the Bible where “pride cometh before the fall”.  He states that invincibility can be found in oneself by becoming extremely competent, but vulnerability has to come in the opponent, this vulnerability cannot be manufactured, thus victory can be discerned but not manufactured.

Implied in these quotes is a thesis developed through the 500 years of the warring states period in China that it is the ambition and the imbalance of the enemy inherent in unreasonable aggression that manufactures vulnerability which can be taken advantage of by those who meet aggression with preparation.  This basic perspective asserted by Sun Zi which we call Power through Humility is a major principle in Tang Wei.


It Takes a Fighter to Win a Fight

I remember once in a class with my teacher Tom Garriga years ago, we were discussing the difference between martial arts systems and martial artists/fighters. Tom said that at an International Martial Arts Tournament in Southern California while he was an Instructor for Ed Parker’s Kempo Karate School he was observing a match while talking with Ed Parker. Tom asked Ed if he thought that Kempo was the best fighting style available. Ed said that he thought that Kempo had at least what other systems had and usually more. Tom then asked: “then why don’t we win every match at every tournament?”

Ed’s answer was that you don’t fight the style, you fight the man. True in a tournament, this principle is even truer in a real fight. Ultimately, you don’t have your teacher there to coach you in a fight, you don’t take anything with you except yourself. This is why we (in the Tang Wei Fighting Method) adhere to the principle of non-classical training and rather focus on developing generic adaptable fighting skills. While there are hundreds of power drills and exercises, in the end all of those have either given you the ability to hit hard enough to destroy targets or not; that is the generic skill. In a fight, you don’t have time to think about how to generate power, you have time to hit them as powerfully as you can according to the habits that you have generated.

With all this said, it points to what training can and cannot do for you. Training cannot give you any valid guarantees for fighting. It cannot be counted on to decide a fight for you. The enemy does not know what belt you are and they don’t care. If they have decided to fight you, they believe they can beat you and they will only be convinced otherwise by your use of effective force to vulnerable target.

If training cannot guarantee victory, what can it do? In short, it gives you superior habits in terms of skill and mindset. Your opponent will not have time to think either and thus it is the man who through whatever medium they have developed them, has the superior habits that will prevail the vast majority of the time. Training either helps you or fails to help you upgrade your fighting instincts. As I said earlier, you only take you with you into a fight, or you could say you only take you and your fighting instincts with you.

Each fight is its own fight. Winning 100 battles prior does not guarantee anything today and losing prior does not doom you to defeat unless you let it. It is what you do at the time confronted, at the time of the fight that determines the fight. Preparation makes performance easier and it gives you a deeper, more readily accessed repertoire of skills to pull from. With all that said, when facing any fight, you still have to win THAS fight, THAT day, against THOSE opponents, so no matter how long you have trained, it still takes a fighter to win a fight.