If you are at least a bit familiar with me, chances are you know I am a bit controversial. I have some very close, good friends. I also have plenty of critics who simply despise me. No one ever said you can please the entire world. I’ve also been in the politics of the martial arts world for more than two decades. I’ve also worn a lot of hats in this community, each with its own pitfalls and liabilities.
I doubt anyone who has lived their lives wouldn’t change at least a few parts of it. If I had it to do all over again, I’m sure I would do some of it differently. However, as I just said, sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions. Especially when important things are at stake.
In my early 20’s I was responsible for a large kung fu organization (Chan Tai San’s school). Chan Tai-San was himself a controversial character, with a famous name and reputation. There were no shortage of people who tried to advance their careers by associating with him, some who barely knew him. Chan Tai-San spoke NO ENGLISH and all of his real, close students speak some Cantonese. Yet there are guys who can’t order a pork bun claiming to have received all his “secrets”. Sifu Chan has been dead since 2004 and there are still guys popping up claiming to be his disciple.
In the 1990’s there was also a political war between the original Eastern United States Kung Fu Federation and the newer North American Chinese Martial Arts Federation (NACMAF). The Eastern US Federation had been around a long time, but it was fairly inactive in the late 1980’s and the 1990’s. It also operated a lot like a Chinese gang, assuming you had no choice but to join if you were in New York City and that it had the power to tell you what to do.
As an American, I saw no need to pay a fee to an organization that did nothing for us. I certainly wasn’t going to listen to them when they told me I couldn’t advertise my school to gain new students. They also hadn’t sponsored a tournament in YEARS. We started attending the NACMAF tournaments. Eventually we sponsored tournaments in NY with NACMAF sanctioning. This didn’t make us popular with Eastern Federation schools. A lot of students of those schools also listened to gossip the federation started, not even aware what the real story was.
Running tournaments also makes you unpopular. People lose and blame the organizers. People show up and want to get in for free, and you don’t let them. Somebody wants to be in the night time “masters’ demo” and you don’t have room for them. You get the idea.
Of course, nothing made me more unpopular than entering the fighting world. A “kung fu guy” who had the nerve to put his students into Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting. It was easy to make fun of “kung fu” people trying to fight, until we won. I will admit, I wasn’t always gracious in victory, but mostly because people gave us so much shit and acted like such assholes. Sorry, that is the brutal honesty of it all.
People will tell you that we only won because we promoted fights. They seem to “forget” that we not only won on the shows we promoted, we traveled across the country, fought on other people’s shows, in other tournaments and won there also. The USA WKF HATED US, and we were multi time champions in their national events. Basically, despite all the good talk, there are many “fighting gyms” that simply don’t like to lose. I’ve heard all sorts of lame excuses and BS, but that’s what it comes down to.
My own friends in the sanshou / san da community always felt I was rude and too aggressive in my arguments with the USA WKF and the “national team coach” Shawn Liu. Yes, I have a bad attitude, I never held back, I always spoke my mind. But in retrospect, I was correct. The USA WKF sold out the sanshou community. Shawn Liu WAS a giant fraud. And sanshou in the United States is dead today because of it. Maybe I should have played nicely with all the other children, but in the end I had warned everyone and what I warned them about indeed came to pass.
I will admit, the funniest “excuse” I have heard, which persists in some extent even today, is the idea that there is some sort of conspiracy where some secret unnamed person(s) are training all the fighters. You’d think after the HUNDREDS of guys who have come out of my gym, the 17 years that fighters have been representing the NY San Da name, people might consider “yeah, they must have an idea how to do this”.
I could go on, really I could, but I hope you get the point.
I am not a politician. I don’t go for political correctness. I speak my mind. Often my views are controversial but over the years many of these views have been proven correct. I also speak from experience. Experience running organizations, running schools, making plenty of mistakes, training fighters, putting up with the BS of training fighters (a separate blog to be sure!), the BS of dealing with promoters, matchmakers, large tournaments, etc.
This blog is a lot like me, it may make you uncomfortable at times, but it’s really designed to make you think and to provide you with my experiences. And in the end, you might be better off for it.