Tournament Fighting or Training for the Streets? – Part One: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography

Continued from: “Training Students from other Systems Part Two: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography”

While some like martial arts competition, I believe that it creates a false impression of one’s fighting skill.  As a martial artist, I never wanted to be accused of being a phony.  I hated hearing people accuse Bruce Lee of “not being able to fight his way out of a paper bag.”  On the contrary, Bruce Lee was for real.  Read any of his books and you will see that his philosophy made sense. Does the fact that he didn’t spend his martial arts career in the ring mean that he was not a great fighter?  I was never interested in tournaments, so I chose other ways for people to understand my skills.  It seems that a lot of martial artists are under the impression that you can’t fight unless you have a bunch of medals and trophies.  There is nothing farther from the truth.  Some of the best fighters in the world have never set foot in the ring.

One of the ways I proved my skill in the Dominican Republic was to fight the winner of any tournament in the local park or at his home.  When I came to this country, I noticed that people put a lot of emphasis on tournaments, so I thought I’d try one. I was watching this point fighter who got beat up so bad.  The most disturbing thing was that he won.  All the judges and referees were his coaches.  This guy had no skill, not even enough to play the game of point fighting.  He walked out of there with a six foot trophy with all of his friends congratulating him!! 

I talked myself into competing at a point tournament, and it reminded me of playing pool or dominos.  It wasn’t about fighting.  In order to play, you had to know little tricks.  I got in the ring with this guy, threw a technique and waited for the call of the judge.  My opponent caught me off balance and hit me.  When I was ready to continue fighting, the fight was over.  I had no clue what happened, but that was not a fight, it was more like a game of tag.  I was so angry that I couldn’t sleep that night.  The next day, I found another tournament and the same thing happened.  It was the most ridiculous experience I ever had.  I thought long and hard as to whether I wanted to continue wasting my time.  I decided that I was not going to try to play games.  I had come to this country to make a movie and become a well rounded martial artist.  I wanted to be real and express myself as did Bruce Lee.  I didn’t need to prove anything by winning a trophy.  If I wanted to fight for real, like I did in the Dominican Republic, it was not going to happen through point fighting.

I had a friend who came from Brazil and taught Capoeira. He invited me to one of his shows where he asked me to help put on a demonstration.  One of the guys who was there was a point fighter from a well-known demo team.  He had lightning speed.  I’m talking very fast.  I learned a lot during my first point fight, so I was ready.  We squared off.  I closed the gap so fast that his head banged into my block and he almost knocked himself out.  This is how you use skill versus flashy techniques. 

In 1989, I wanted to test my skill against a boxer.  I arranged a fight with someone who was in the top ten of his weight class at Gleason’s Gym.  Because I was keeping such a grueling teaching and training schedule, I had to cancel the fight.  I was training at 3:00AM and teaching from 5:00AM to 11:00PM.  (That’s why boxers need sponsors.  Running a business leaves no time for rest and recuperation.)  I still wanted to fight a boxer, so I arranged a fight with someone named Vito, who was planning to turn pro.  No one in the audience saw him land a punch. Vito was a very tough guy and weighed about 205 pounds as opposed to my 145.  He also had fought 100 amateur fights and was never knocked down.  I did this to prove to myself and to my students that I wasn’t a point fighter and I could withstand a fight with a boxer.

To be continued…

Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness

507 Westport Ave.Norwalk,CT06851

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