A Story from the Golden Era
By Crafty Dog
Working from memory, the UFC started 1993. The greybeards amongst us will remember first-hand how the implications of how Royce's tremendous victories deeply challenged cherished beliefs to which so many had dedicated themselves. Egos were deeply challenged.
Many said "I'd just stick and move. I would never let him get close!" This was silenced in the crucible of the Octagon.
Many others said "You wouldn't want to do that in a street fight against more than one!" They too were silenced when Rorian Gracie answered "You can't fight one man. What are you worrying about fighting more than one man for?"
For me this wonderfully pointed question has an answer-- if more than one man is attacking me, I will use weapons. Worth rumination here is why so few thought to respond with this.
As many of you have heard me say many times, there are four types of human aggression: territorial, hierarchical, reproductive, and predatory-- and the inner logic of each is distinct.
Most martial artists are young males (and some not quite young any more males thinking to stave off death by holding on for a little longer
) and in the ontogeny of the human males young males are intensely concerned with RESPECT either from other males (hierarchy) and young females (reproduction).
Thus it is no surprise that most martial arts are focused on young male ritual hierarchal combat: boxing, judo, kickboxing, wrestling, and the paradigmatic expression of all of these in MMA.
In such fights human biology usually (but not always!) tends towards the loser not being lastingly damaged; the techniques used usually do not do lasting damage, and surrender is usually accepted. The underlying idea is that both men are usually members of the same social unit (which exists for its own reasons of human survival) and thus damaged or dead losers mean a weaker social unit.
However, there are others who think fighting is about territory (attack or defend) and predation (as the hunter or as an unwilling dinner.) A warrior mindset in these things tends to see loss/failure as not being an option. This logic leads ineluctably to weapons.
When the two mindsets meet, the potential lurks for the attendant mental assumptions of each mindset misunderstanding the other-sometimes with tragic results.
It is in this context that our story takes place.
After a mere nine lessons with Carlos Machado I had introduced Machado BJJ to Dog Brothers fighting in September of 1990. Just as in two to three years BJJ was to set off a revolution in the world of empty-handed martial arts it first set one off in the world of Dog Brothers Real Contact Stickfighting.
Eric hopped right on it, and Arlan, with no BJJ available at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico sought response in Krabi Krabong, which was to set off its own revolution down the road.
Though the BJJ seen in the first series was of a rather low level, nonetheless its results spoke for themselves when the series came out in late 1993-- especially against the concurrent backdrop of the birth of the UFC! Though the particulars of the responses were different, just as BBJ/grappling was provoking irritated ego responses in the empty handed world, so too in our FMA world.
Some said "You wouldn't want to do that against a sword."
Some said "They didn't have grappling in the death matches and the challenge matches in the Philippines!"
We pointed out we didn't want to kill anyone. We also pointed out the GM Cacoy Canete's Eskrido included judo-most certainly a grappling system-and that in the challenge match between him and GM Ising Atillo of Balintawak the agreement of the rules signed between the two specifically stated "No grappling". If grappling were not a possibility, why bother to have a rule against it? Why then does GM Atillo protest that GM Canete cheated with grappling while showing a picture of the fight from the next day's newspaper showing him head locking Atillo?
Some said that we got to grappling only by virtue of our fencing masks.
Often that was true we replied. That said, there were those of us who could consistently take a fight to grapple without getting hit in the head on the way in.
For us the bottom line was as Top Dog said in the first series "There's no way around it. Grappling happens! It just does!"
And so it was that in the mid-nineties this was an open question about which some had strong feelings.
There was a group that came to our Gatherings whose system believed it had "the anti-grappling system" that would defeat BJJ MMA- its use of knives. Some of this group had tear drop tattoos on their faces.
To the hierarchical mindset, such a response to a hierarchical fight seems deeply wrong, and someone who thinks like that is quite the , , , anus. In contrast, to someone whose training is for fights he is not willing to lose and others think in similar fashion, swearing off weapons is the unilateral disarmament of a na´ve fool.
The anti-grappling group had as its champion a great athlete (quality college linebacker) who was also a great guy who fully got what the Dog Brothers are about. Eric, Arlan, and I all liked him.
It was around this time that Eric went on extended sabbatical and the brother of Arlan's wife was murdered and there was a trial so naturally he was there for his wife and his fighting got put aside.
This meant I was on my own. Not only did I have to do all my usual "Guiding Force" stuff to do (which included "ring mastering" and keeping some two to three hundred unsupervised observers from a tremendous array of martial systems flowing with the spirit of the day) but now I stood alone as the remaining "name" fighter for the Tribe-all this while coaching my fighting students too! Quite a busy day!
It is against this backdrop that at first some of the anti-grappling group was not fully getting the spirit of a Dog Brothers Gathering. Typically while ring mastering I would also walk along the edge of the crowd while keeping an eye on things. While so doing I heard a couple of calls from this group for their man during his fight to "Break the Leg" of his opponent. I spoke to them quietly on the side and they heard the message and adjusted accordingly.
However, this and some other comments a few in their group had made went down poorly with some people within earshot. This included some folks from a standout BJJ clan.
And so it was, unbeknownst to me at the time, that at the next "Gathering of the Pack" that an outstanding young BJJ athlete came to "put things right". During the day despite about weight differential of about fifty pounds he asked me if he could fight the man from the other group. I relayed the word to him, and worthy competitor that he was he readily obliged.
With only nine months of training under his belt, the linebacker's stick work was not polished, but he could close like a linebacker hunting down a quarterback in the backfield. Once he had his opponent down his anti-guard game was definitely formidable.
The young BJJ fighter had no stick experience whatsoever.
The excitement from the two groups within the crowd was palpable as the two faced off. Young BJJ fighter made no effort to use his stick and shot a double leg and put linebacker on his back.
As this happened both the anti-grappling group and the BJJ group surged onto the field to surround the fight like a BJJ/Vale Tudo fight on the beach in Rio de Janeiro. I sought to stop this and almost came to blows with one man but instead turned to the ongoing fight.
In classic BJJ fashion, the young fighter took side control and then established mount and began to punch from mount in classic Vale Tudo fashion. Linebacker then turned over.
For most people this is a sign of lack of training, but in Linebacker's case he had been trained (with a backpack with eighty pounds of bricks!) to do exactly this and stand up and shake off his opponent. (He could also tiger walk with a car axel across his shoulders! Very impressive!)
"What about the rear naked choke?" you might ask. In Linebacker's case he had a proven good anti-RNC game. The first time he had fought Eric, Eric (who was a purple at the time) got back control with his legs establishing body lock but for a full three minutes he could not establish the RNC.
However this time he was fighting a much higher level of BJJ than he had previously experienced and in short order he was submitted with a RNC.
The BJJ folks exuberantly hoisted their man on their shoulders while chanting "Jiu Jitsu! Jiu Jistu!" as was then the custom in Brazil. As his friends led Linebacker away there were taunts of "Not so bad now! Not so bad now are you?"
I cleared the field and went over to Linebacker and his friends. I could tell that some of them were quite angry and I apologized for the behavior of my friends and promised I would speak to them. This seemed to lessen the temperature somewhat, but things were still rather edgy.
The day continued and came to its close.
But all was not done. Despite our efforts to prevent videoing of the Gathering, someone had secretly recorded the fight. Eventually it began popping up on the internet labeled as "BJJ beats Silat!", "BJJ beats Kali!" or even "BJJ beats the Dog Brothers!" This rekindled smoldering feelings.
In the aftermath of the Gathering I spoke to all concerned about how our fighting might look like a Vale Tudo pit fight, but it really was something quite different and that chanting the name of one's style and similar behavior was not part of how we did things.
I am the Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers because from the beginning the vision of what this could be has been mine and in addition to my fighting and teaching I have done the work to make the vision real. In this context, these events made a deep impression upon me.
First and foremost was how close things had come to a riot breaking out.
I mentioned above that when I had sought to stop people from surging onto the field, I almost came to blows with someone. It was a ridiculous moment-I merely sought to block him, but he took it as a personal affront.
Now contrast that with might happen with a jostling, intentional or otherwise, within the on-looking mob that surrounded the fight. On one hand you have BJJ-MMA types with an attitude towards the anti-grappling group and on the other hand that group believes its knives are the answer to grappling.
All it would have taken for all hell to break loose was one testosterone driven spark and the ensuing riot (knives, killings?) could/would have brought an end to the Dog Brothers experiment right then and there.
The second thing for me was a strong and clear affirmation of our policy of concerning video.
The origin of this policy goes back to a moment when I was showing Eric an early edit of what was to become the Real Contact Stickfighting series. In my voiceover I was saying the obvious sort of thing "And now see how Eric does XYZ to his opponent, etc." Eric stopped me and said, "I don't think we should name the fighters at all."
I paused for a moment and realized he was right, and it has been that way ever since-and because of that policy any and every one who fights at a Dog Brothers Gathering knows that his fight will not be used to disrespect his teacher, his style or him-not in our DVDs, nor anyone else's, nor on the internet.
This is an important building block for the context in which the Dog Brother code of "Be friends at the end of the day" can flourish. The bad karma of "Here is footage of our style kick the ass of Style X" is strong. I know because I had to deal with it in settling things down between the two groups so that everyone could get along at subsequent Gatherings.
I understand that it is quite natural that people want footage of their fights. I hope with this story people understand better why things are done the way they are.
The Adventure continues,