“Thorn or Echo?” Guro Dave Gould reflects on training with Lameco Eskrima founder Punong Guro Edgar Sulite

Thorn or Echo…

Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite once commented to me that in training he would rather be a thorn in the side of his training partner than his training partner’s echo. What he meant was that if you only agree with and systematically echo everything presented to you in training with out first and more importantly thoroughly investigating and testing its actual combative worth in an noncompliant training environment, how can you honestly gauge its true combative effect? By being the thorn and not just echoing sentiment you are keeping your training partner challenged to adapt and adjust to the unexpected attack or counter attacks as they are randomly presented in a constantly changing structure. A thorn annoys, distracts and requires much investigation as it involves a certain amount of discomfort where as an echo once becoming the standard in training quickly creates an environment of complacency thereby diluting response and ability.

I demand that my students constantly challenge me when opportunities become available to do so in training as this alone will hone my combative abilities and keep them in check against an unexpected random attack. Rather than echoing what facilitates uncontested success and establishing a false perception of ability in the throws of training complacency. By my students or training partners being naturally resistive in training this keeps me honest and more importantly it forces me to constantly adapt and adjust to change as it occurs in combat or face the consequences for any failure to do so. Most importantly it keeps me challenged as I have to react to the unexpected and in doing so I am constantly kept on a heightened level of awareness throughout the ordeal looking at every threat equally as opposed to just anticipating what is expected or agreed upon in an overly compliant environment. Our training partners and our training environment are our portals to reality through which we must pass in order to transcend from martial artists to warriors. Unless we thoroughly challenge ourselves in training and hold reality solely as the standard of combative development at best we will only remain martial artists without the possibility of ever moving onwards to achieve warrior status.

Just going through the motions while training is not enough, the fact is for us to be effective in combat at some point in time our training must brush up against reality as we are always charged to diligently train with intention. Simply when our training partners comply and assist our every performance willingly without natural resistance or recourse the most important lessons can never be learned. Without resistance in training there will be no need for counter measures or counter to counter activity as uncontested success will be misconstrued for great skill, “uncounterable if you will”. Remember that opportunity in combat at real time speed is measured in inches and centimeters not in feet or meters and timing will definitely be a factor. What seems to be the accepted more popular approach to training these days (total compliance) reminds me of an old adage that states: “The cat is king over a path of mice, that is until he runs across an elephant farther down that same path”. In the dojo you are the shit mixing it up with your students but outside of your dojo forced to fight tooth and nail against some street thug willing to kill you for his next booger of heroine you are nothing more than a gift delivered on a silver platter. The only one that will be able to neutralize this situation will be you alone for if you can not stop him from killing you no one else will, this is not an acceptable place to find yourself at anytime. Remember that you will not be fighting according to your schedule but someone else’s so immediately everything that you will encounter will be unexpected and less than ideal to say the least.

Combative effect solely dictates ones abilities in combat and nothing else, regardless of how many certificates or trophies awarded or gained. We are only as effective as we are today as yesterday has passed and tomorrow is yet to be written so if your life hangs limp in the balance of what you were “told that you can do” and what you “think you can do” you are doomed for certain failure. For at this time only what you “truly are capable of doing” under less than desired circumstances will dictate if you will live or be left for dead. So how well you prepare yourself for this eventuality begins with your immediate training environment and rules of engagement in that environment. When you train as if your life depends on it you will fight as if it does as well.

I hear more times that not someone stating and gauging their own combative effect based solely on who they know or who their Instructors are. Just because your Instructor is world famous or has experienced combat himself this does not mean that you share in his experiences equally. It is true that a great source of knowledge will get you much farther along the path of knowledge than a poor source will. However, for you to pass the test of actual combat your instructor’s name and experience in and of themselves will not be enough. You will have to apply your skills in your own time of need and if you fail or succeed it will be by your own abilities or lack there of and not some one elses.

There is an old adage in the Philippines which states: “Ang langaw na tumuntong sa kalabaw, ay mataas pa sa kalabaw” which is translated as “A fly that stands on the back of the Carabao thinks that he is taller than the Carabao”. This is endemic of what is going on amongst a majority in our own community. Most seem to gauge combative effect solely in accordance with whom they are training as opposed to their own combative effect or abilities in combat. I hate to repeat myself but I feel the need to reiterate that only your own experiences will allow you greater effect in combat and you only form this type of experience by actual fighting or at the very least sparring in a very limited arena adhering not to overly stringent rules and regulations.

Respect your elders in the arts for they have paved the path that you currently travel but be your own man and prepare to fight and live as such. Prepare yourself well for war and no-one will have to fight your battles for you, arm yourself with knowledge and no-one will feel the need to speak in your defense, train as if your life depends on it… because it does and no-one will have to carry your dead carcass from the field of battle prematurely. We are judged not by our Instructors reputation good or bad but by our own actions and abilities. Either you are effective… or not. Either you allow your abilities speak for you… or not. Either you survive combat and live… or not. A lot is at stake gentlemen so please remember that there are no guarantees in combat, only opportunity and either you will take advantage of that opportunity when it is revealed to you in real time… or not.

David E. Gould's photo.
Punong Guro Sulite with Guro Lowel Pueblos.


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