Kali For The Cage - Black Belt Magazine Cover Story
written by Guro Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny
Those motivated principally by young male ritual fighting will always be a large percentage of the martial arts world. A very large percentage of them will cease to train as they achieve whatever competitive level that they will and face the prospect of decline.
In contrast, Dog Brothers Martial Arts (DBMA) has as its mission “To Walk as a Warrior for All Your Days”. In our vision, The Path of the Warrior is a path Of Life, and it is For Life. As such, it must embrace all facets of Aggression — not only young male ritual hierarchical fighting.
As such DBMA seeks to prepare for the un-ruled and unruly world wherein 360 awareness and unequal and unexpected situations are the criteria. This means that tools, tactics and techniques (“the Three Ts”) that exceed the inherent limitations of hierarchical fighting will be used-which of course presents the perennial question of how to prepare the Three Ts. The hierarchical competitor knows his Three Ts because he uses them on a resisting opponent, but “secret techniques” and “too deadly techniques” tend to be an untested techniques-at least as far as the individual being taught them is concerned!
So, what are we who seek to prepare ourselves for the full panoply of Aggression to do? Is there a way to test these skills in the Cage? Indeed, do we have something to offer today’s MMA competitor?
I believe that we can accept the challenge to bring a modified version of Kali Silat to the Cage that will enable us to test ourselves and our “Three Ts” in a way that allows us to deepen our non-sportive fighting skills. And I believe that today’s MMA competitor, even though he lacks substantial portions of our skill sets, can ncorporate some of what we do to his substantial benefit.
Most of us are familiar with many stories of embarrassing and/or sad endings for those who felt that their approach to fighting was “too deadly” for martial sport. Some of these were seen in the early days of the BJJ triggered UFC revolution. In the context and crucible of the octagonal cage the theories, techniques, training and performance of many martial arts systems and styles were found lacking.
This has led however to the UFC and similar events such as Pride being considered by many as THE legitimate laboratory for what works in unarmed combat. People of this persuasion tend to respect only combat sports systems such as BJJ, Muay Thai, Boxing, Sombo, Greco-Roman, and Wrestling– the blend of which we may call “Generic Mixed Martial Arts”.
Those who claim their technique is “too deadly” for this form of fighting are seen as self-deluded fools who, unwilling to train hard with resisting training partners and hostile opponents, are probably afraid to put themselves to the test- often with good reason. As I once heard one person of this school of thought say, “If someone tries plucking my eyeball out I’ll neck crank his butt into a wheel chair.” One can often hear something to the effect of “I can do that biting, eye plucking stuff too, and my delivery
system (i.e. my physical animal and its skills) are superior to yours.”
Let’s take a look at this thought process a bit further.
From the beginning of the UFC there have been rules– and the list has expanded considerably since then, so it is clear there are some techniques that are “too much”. The following list may not be complete, but if I remember correctly from when I was a judge at UFC 10, the original rules prohibited biting, gouging, eye attacks, small joint locks (toes, fingers) and fishhooks. Since then the list has expanded, and depending on the event typically the prohibited techniques will be some or all of the following: groin strikes, head butts, elbows, elbows to the head, kicks to a man on the ground, kicks to the head of a man on the ground, kicks to the legs of a man on the ground, knees, knees to the head of a man on the ground, strikes to the spine, etc and so forth.
Why is it that these techniques are “too much”? Although it may seem intuitively obvious (analogous to Supreme Court Justice Potter’s infamous definition of pornography “I know it when I see it.”) upon reflection, is this really an sufficient criterion? Not really. I think we can be more precise than this.
Aggression has different purposes. A large percentage of those in martial arts are young males looking to compete in ritual hierarchical contests. No surprise here– in the continuum of a human male’s life– that is what young males tend to do. (Females compete too, but in general their behavior in this regard is different.)
Social groups are hierarchical groups-contrast “the anonymous horde” of a school of minnows. Social groups (e.g. a pack of wolves) consist of animals that band together for mutual benefit. To the extent that hierarchical contests damage the loser, the pack/tribe/etc becomes weakened-thus it makes perfect sense that hierarchical contests have rules and limitations.
So where does this leave those of us who have purposes outside of and beyond hierarchical competition-what we in Dog Brothers Martial Arts call “To Walk as a Warrior for all your days”? We seek to defend our land, women and children-not to engage in fair fights. Thus, precisely what is “too much” for cage fighting is exactly what interests us!
We need to think about this with clarity because again and again we have seen many who say their techniques are “too deadly” fail when confronted with a young well-trained cage fighter who, unlike the “too deadly” practitioner, has experienced using his techniques in the adrenal state upon a resisting opponent.
Before moving on in this discussion, we also need to note that this point can be overstated. We need to remember that we have seen reflexes honed in the adrenal state of combat sport, disastrously manifest in the adrenal state outside of the ritual space. This is sometimes forgotten.
These disastrous manifestations may appear in unorganized (as versus ritual) male hierarchical fights: open guard makes much more sense when one is wearing a cup on the mat or in the cage than in the parking lot outside the night club where someone can vigorously step on your genitals. Releasing a triangle choke can get your femoral artery or genitals bitten. A takedown to side control for ground-and-pound may mean that your attacker can hold on to you long enough for his friends to arrive.
Cage reflexes can also manifest in matters of judgment. For example there is the recent case of a kickboxing champion in CA whose car was sideswiped in front of his gym by a hit-and-run driver. Understandably angry at the misdeed and confident in his superiority, he ran out of his gym while in his MT shorts and chased down the fleeing car and caught up with it at a red light at the corner– whereupon he was promptly shot and killed by the driver– who was a thief who had stolen the car.
Yet with all that said, it seems to me that we have still danced around the underlying question presented.
In my humble opinion we of the Kali Silat persuasion need to have a facet to our Art that accepts that challenge of the cage while doing so in a way that furthers our purposes as warriors on a lifelong path as well as generating success in young male hierarchical fights. If the “delivery platform” we test and hone in the crucible of the cage is consistent with the idioms of movement, the tactics, the tools and the training for weaponry, then we are ahead of the game in a subtle and powerful way when it comes to “walking as a warrior for all our days.”
In Dog Brothers Martial Arts we call our sub-system for this “Kali Tudo T”.
The meaning of the name is a pun/rhyme on the Brazilian Portuguese term “Vale Tudo” which is usually translated as “Anything goes.” If we look at the Latin roots of the Vale Tudo we may recognize that the English words of common ancestry are “Valid Total”.
In the Portuguese pronunciation of “Vale” the “e” is pronounced like “e” in “hey” whereas the in the American pronunciation it is pronounced like the “ee” in “seek”.
In the American pronunciation of “Kali”, the “i” is also pronounced like the “ee” in “seek”. Thus the rhyme is created between the American pronunciation of Vale Tudo and our sub-system “Kali Tudo T”.
Kali Tudo does not seek to replace what is in the cage right now. The fighters of today are outstanding and what they do is not to be dismissed lightly. I would note in passing though that much more than is commonly appreciated, much of what is in the cage right now has strong southeast Asian influence. Muay Thai is but a ring sport branch from the tree of the Thai military weaponry system of Krabi Krabong which comes to us in DBMA through the teachings of Guro Inosanto and Ajarn Arlan “Salty Dog” Sanford.
The contribution of the Filipino Art of Panantukan to boxing is quite substantial. Indeed some believe that the shift from the palm up structure of the John L. Sullivan era to the palm down and evasive head movements of the modern era date to the interaction of the US soldiers and the Filipino people in the aftermath of our suppression of the Filipino independence movement after the Spanish-American War of 1898. This is a matter for another day. Those interested may peruse the many points of view in
The principal systems upon which we draw are Inosanto Blend Kali and other FMA systems, Inosanto Maphilindo Silat and other Silats, Krabi Krabong, Burmese Bando, and Machado Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We also draw upon what we see currently happening in the cage.
Those familiar with this list of influences will note that with the exception of the Machado BJJ, all fall within the concept of the Majapahit Empire as described by Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje of Pekiti Tirsia and Guro Inosanto.
What are the distinctive features of our approach?
1) Even as we seek success in the Cage, we seek to minimize the installation of behaviors unsuitable for 360 degrees. We seek to maximize skills, tactics, tools and techniques suitable for the 360 degrees of the street.
2) Following the Kali principal of zoning away from the rear hand, we pay particular attention to fighting in striking range to unmatched lead. (This can apply to clinch range as well.) Thus in order to be able to fight both right lead and left lead fighters, we pay considerable attention to bilateralism. This serves us well in 360 degree situations as well due to the battlefield tactical options thus enabled.
3) This matter of bilateralism enables, indeed calls for, triangular footwork. When a fighter’s skill set is indifferent to which side is forward he may freely shift between the two and this more than doubles the number of triangles possible (Triangles that maintain right lead, triangles that maintain left lead, and triangles that change leads) In our system these skills are developed during our approach to Siniwali (double stick) training.
4) Striking skills ARE based upon our approach to weaponry-both siniwali and knife. Punching is only one of several striking modalities. Trapping most certainly is part of the mix. At the simplest level this means at two (and occasionally three) hits per shift of body weight in contrast to the one hit per shift of body weight of boxing. Furthermore, the nature of these strikes makes them more usable during clinch and ground game-often to surprisingly instantaneous results.
5) The integration of these strikes with bilateral triangular footwork, developed during our approach to weaponry, yields an approach quite different to what is currently seen. Indeed, it can often look quite freaky. It is applied in principally in four ways ways. In addition to the already mentioned clinch and ground ranges, this approach has considerable merit in maintaining a fight in striking range. In the cage this can force an opponent to overextend himself in his efforts to close the distance. In the
street, the art and science of keeping someone from entangling you can be a matter of life and death. The remaining category is in aggressive attacks that are both triangular and crashing at the same time.
6) It is precisely the present absence of triangular striking crash combinations in cagefighting today that explains the current difficulties in applying Kali Silat in the closer ranges. Conversely, its presence enables it. Kali Silat works.
7) Young male hierarchical competition is a secondary motivation-although in my humble opinion we have plenty to offer a young MMA fighter, even one without Kali Silat skills. That said, our principal motivation is to install real time, real world skills in the adrenal state that will prepare us to “Walk as a Warrior for all our Days”. Our subsystem of Kali Tudo T is but a step in that process.
Kali Silat does require some training methods distinct from those of generic MMA. Currently many people deride this training as “dead patterns”. This can be, and often is, true when the training stops at this point in the process.
But just how does one train a Silat takedown that calls for ripping the medial miniscus of the knee safely upon a resisting opponent?
IMHO part of the answer lays in what Guro Inosanto calls “cooperative quarter lever” technical training wherein the correct leverage is identified but applied only a little bit in order to facilitate the development of the understanding of the application AND DANGERS of Kali Silat. Part of the answer lies in BJJ/submission type training. And part of the answer lies in working with training partners who have done both quarter lever training BJJ/submission type training.
In other words, both need to have an understanding of the risks/consequences of Silat techniques, a sense of what uncooperative people feel like, AND the ability to roll and/or strike at partial intensity without accelerating– as the Machado Brothers say, “leaving one’s ego at the door.”
Not only is this type of training highly effective in installing these dangerous skills for real time application, it also is relatively safe and quite fun.
The same process described here for learning and training Silat leverage also applies to Kali Silat striking.
This conception of training methodology is essential to manifest Kali Silat in the cage.
Why have we not seen Kali and Silat in cagefighting/NHB/MMA?
My answer is that we have not seen it yet, but we will-very soon. I will go further and predict that it will change the fighting– as have other systems that have come before it.
When I was a flag carrying fighter for the Dog Brothers twice a year at time and place certain I was available to all comers and put my ideas to the test. I did this until I was 48 years old. I am now 52 and am past the age when I can plausibly step into the cage.
Still I test myself and these ideas in sparring at Rico Chiapparelli’s R1 Gym, a world class MMA facility. I thank the fine fighters there for matching my diminished level of physicality so that I may continue to play and research. In addition to Rico, I thank Frank Trigg and Vladymir Matyushenko for their help.
The three men I have worked most in our “Kali Tudo” are Chris Gizzi, DBMA Lakan Guro “Dog” Jeff Brown, and DBMA Guro Benjamin “Lonely Dog” Rittiner. Although in my opinion Chris (who you see in the photos in this article) has the physical gifts and the understanding of this material to take it all the way, Chris has decided to stay with his roots in football (he was a standout linebacker for the Green Bay Packers) and now trains pro football players and other elite athletes as well as mere mortals.
Jeff, in addition to being a Lakan Guro in DBMA is also highly ranked in Silat under Herman Suwanda (with considerable training in Indonesia) and in Silat and Kali under Guro Inosanto, in Bando under GM Gyi, and others. He competes in Bando kickboxing and BJJ. I think Jeff expresses Kali Tudo very well
So too does DBMA Guro Lonely Dog. Rico has graciously complemented him on his quality participation in hard sparring at R1 using this material.
These three men can be seen with me in our double disc DVD of “Kali Tudo T” which principally covers the portion of the subsystem dedicated to triangular crashing striking combinations.
Allow me to flesh out my prediction that Kali Silat will alter the course of Cagefighting.
My thinking in this regard began with my experience in Dog Brothers Real Contact Stickfighting when I started BJJ with the Machado Brothers in the summer of 1990 and others in our tribe began shortly thereafter. At that time (Pre UFC) most of the martial arts world was blissfully unaware of the realities of grappling in the context of fighting, particularly so in the mostly FMA world of “Dog Brothers Real Contact Stickfighting”. )
In most of the Filipino Arts in America the received wisdom was, and is, that in the presence of the skilled use of weapons (either impact or cutting) grappling was pretty much a non-issue. Yet in the context of our fighting, we found otherwise. It is true that in many of our fights grappling range was created due to the increased survivability of head shots due to the fencing masks we use, but in my considered opinion we developed many fighters capable of consistently closing to grappling without taking
any shots to the head and in the naivete of that era even moderate blue belt level skills produced results that were nearly magical. This is not surprising. Our opponents at that time were unfamiliar with the structure and its dynamics that we were using-just as I believe will happen as we begin to apply Kali Silat in the cage.
This is not a rare dynamic. We have seen this pattern of new and unfamiliar structures changing the fighting repeatedly in the UFC too.
In the beginning, those who entered the event prepared only by training and fighting focused on various forms of striking tested by ritual hierarchical contests with rules designed to isolate striking tended to do quite poorly. They were unfamiliar with the structures of grappling and their dynamics.
Naturally in response to these experiences people did not stand still! Most everyone learned the basics of BJJ-and sought weak links in its structures to exploit with the strong links of other structures.
For example some people looked to shootfighting and Sambo for their leg locks to counter BJJ’s guard game and it was the turn of some BJJ fighters to be surprised as their knees, ankles, and feet were locked.
Another example would be that in the beginning of the BJJ revolution against non-grappling strikers, BJJ fighters could create almost any sort of tangled mess to drag the fight to the ground and then win it there. But then wrestlers such as Greco-Roman man Randy Couture came on the scene-and the BJJ people lacked the skills to bring such men down. Often the result was that either or both looked to use Muay Thai type skills in the clinch-even though fighters trained exclusively in Muay Thai had not fared well
Although those trained solely in BJJ often could not bring down the wrestlers, the wrestlers often could bring down the BJJ fighters into highly unfavorable positions for a “ground and pound” game that made good use of the grapplers’ good base and balance.
Trained by boxing trainer Eddie Stanky, Vitor Belfort brought in sport boxing to excellent effect. Even though most of his early wins were with boxing hands, I think it fair to say that his foundational skills in BJJ Vale Tudo and the attendant understanding of range gave him an understanding of how to use boxing in the context of cagefighting.
Yet then we saw Randy Couture’s “dirty boxing” (something the Filipino art of Panantukan has taken to a very high level) neutralize Belfort’s sport boxing.
In short, in the Cage we have seen new structures and dynamics come in with dominating results again and again. In a similar manner we have seen again and again that over time there will be responses that neutralize and/or counter these structures and dynamics. Advantage is transitory. Indeed as I write, the current UFC Champ Chuck Liddell won his belt with boxing strikes over superb grappler and great champion Randy Couture. How the wheel has turned from the early UFC!
Closing on a more personal note, recently I showed a rough edit of our Kali Tudo DVDs to Top Dog for his thoughts on it. One of the things he said to me was “This almost feels like you are letting out a secret.”
I do confess to sharing his feeling in this regard.
So why do I do it?
I must confess what provoked me into starting my journey into KT was a bit like the plot line of many a Chop Socky movie: “You can’t say that about our teacher!” The attacks by some on his teachings concerning sticks-“dead patterns!” they said, I felt were well answered by the performance of the Dog Brothers-no teacher has produced more, either directly or through his students such as me.
“But what of the FMA claim that the unarmed motions are just like armed motions?” these people persisted.
This question I acknowledged did not have the answer (YET!) that the weaponry question did.
As I thought about it, it certainly made no sense to ask someone to use the weaponry motions while unarmed if they couldn’t use the weaponry motions when armed! Thus, it seemed to me that I was, despite my modest physical gifts, due to my training in the Art and my 140 or so Dog Brothers stickfights, in a position to step forward to respond to this challenge.
And so I have. It is the Dog Brother way, the Tao of the Dog if you will, to search for Truth.
The Adventure continues, , , ,
Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers
Founder and Head Instructor of Dog Brothers Martial Arts.