Training Street Fighters: By Calasanz

When I opened my first martial arts school, a lot of barroom brawlers and street fighters came through my door. Some grew up in environments where they had to fight to survive while others just liked looking for trouble.

I wasn’t necessarily targeting them in my “marketing” plan.  Most of them were there to challenge me or one of my students to a fight. I earned their respect with my martial art skill which was gained partly through traditional training and partly through my own experiences with street fighters in the Dominican Republic. 

Many of them stayed on as students. As an instructor, I had to integrate these natural fighters into a class with the average martial art student who just wanted to exercise and learn a little self-defense. 

I had a few challenges dealing with street fighters in the dojo.  Some are there to prove a point and you have to worry about them causing a lot of trouble, both physically and legally. So I recommend strict supervision on the part of the instructor.

In addition, fighting outside of the dojo or tournament setting lacks rules and regulations.  Basically, anything goes for these guys, so the first lesson for the martial arts instructor to convey is the ethics of training in the dojo.  Every martial art style has some form of ethical code and it’s the instructor’s job to make sure everyone in the dojo adheres to it or they’re out! 

There are a lot of positive aspects about training street fighters. They show up with something that you can’t teach…guts! Just because someone has a black belt doesn’t mean they could fight.  There are a lot of black belts out there who would be demolished in a street fight or a real self-defense situation.  They may have a lot of technical skill, but no toughness to carry it out. 

Street fighters have a fighting spirit and that enthusiasm can often encourage and inspire classmates who lack that quality.  I have seen many of them push their more timid classmates to come out of their “shells.” 

Street fighters make good full contact fighters because they have the raw talent needed to get into the ring. The instructor’s job is to polish the skills they had when they walked in the door, introduce them to new ones and channel that talent and raw aggression into the ring. 

Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness

507 Westport Ave.Norwalk,CT06851

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

Continued from: “Tournament Fighting or Training for the Streets? – Part Four: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography”

In the 1990’s, we moved our school to 507 Westport Avenue.  I purposely wanted a school with a high ceiling so that we could have boxing and kickboxing competitions.  We started promoting our Fight Nights on a regular basis.  One day, an instructor from New York City sent two of his students to my school to take private lessons from me because they were scheduled to fight some of my people at Fight Night.  I was more than happy to have them as customers, but the problem was that they were not interested in learning anything. Their teacher had sent them to me to learn something about my system, instead all they could say was that they could knock anyone out.  On the day of the fight, they ran into some trouble.  One of them got knocked out 8 times and kept getting up.  I gave him a lot of credit.  The other guy left here on a stretcher to Norwalk Hospital and was in a coma for 4 hours.  He was so arrogant during the fight that he purposely took off his headgear and that cost him an injury that he is still paying for to this day.  The most embarrassing part of this story is that he was 34 years old and my student was only 16!

Another incident took place just before our first event.  A friend and fellow marital artist came to my school one day with a group of his best students and his challenge was that any of his students could beat mine.  I was surprised at his behavior because he and I were good friends and I even helped him organize his martial arts school when he went into business.  I had one of his guys fight a student of mine who only had one arm.  During the first fight, my student almost killed his opponent.  I personally trained this young man in the art of counterattack.  He trained hard and absorbed what I taught him.  His opponent had been training in karate for 10 years.

In another fight, a couple of my guys were matched up with competitors who participated in knockdown tournaments on a weekly basis.  My students were not competing regularly.  They were teaching classes and doing some light physical workouts to stay in shape.  Both of my students were defeated in this tournament.  People started criticizing my school and gloating about this defeat.  My goal now was to put an end to their celebration.  I challenged them to a rematch and told them to give me three weeks to get these guys in fighting shape.  Three weeks later, my students sent one opponent after the other to the hospital.  Some even retired three well known fighters and instructors.  My mission with these fights was to prove that I could use my skills to correct the mistake of letting students fight who were not personally trained by me.

One match that stayed with me was the case of a young Japanese man who was being trained by one of my students who claimed to be an authentic Thai boxer.  I let him take control of the situation and assume responsibility for this young man’s training.  On the day of the fight, this young man was beat up because of the poor training he received.  After the fight, I went into the office with the other instructors and asked for 3 weeks to train this man myself.  This would cost me over $4,000, but I didn’t care; my name was at stake here.  Three weeks later, he was able to defeat his opponent in a rematch.

I had to do this again against a group of Kung-fu stylists.  I had mismatched my students with this group, partly because their instructor used to train with me and is even in one of my commercials.  I let my personal relationship with this guy get in the way of good judgment.  My guys lost, which made their opponents very happy.  I went through the same challenge.  Over the next 2 events, I retrained my students and they were able to retire the Kung-fu instructor and his students.  In another fight, I trained a 14 year old student to go up against a guy who had been training for 8 years with 2 excellent boxers.  I trained this kid privately for one month and he was able to defeat this guy with 8 years of experience. 

To be continued…

Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness

507 Westport Ave.Norwalk,CT06851

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

Continued from: “Tournament Fighting or Training for the Streets? – Part Three: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography”

I was often asked by some tournament promoters to come and help out with judging and giving my famous Super Break demonstrations during intermission.  When I helped with judging, I saw that a lot of cheating was going on.  Judges would show a lot of favoritism and ignore the scoring of points when it didn’t benefit their students.  I was very careful to capture every move and to score fairly.  I was also very fair when my own students fought and would award the points to the one who deserved it.  

At this one tournament where I was a regular, the promoter had tremendous respect for me, my system and my students.  I remember the first time they were introducing all of the masters and of course all of their ranks, some included 5th, 6th and 7th degree black belts.  Then they called me and I just had a black belt.  Everyone looked at me and expected that I would have some high rank.  I never pursued a higher rank because I wanted to be a well-rounded martial artist.  I didn’t want to get locked into one system for the rest of my life.  I wanted to see the whole logic behind the martial arts.  In addition, I am of the opinion that a lot of these ranks are artificial and self-created.  I remember one guy who claimed to be a Grandmaster of Wing Chun.  I found this hard to believe considering he was only 29 years old.  He took out an ad in a local newspaper where he applauded himself for being elected Grandmaster of Wing Chun by an association that he started himself!!! 

As an instructor, I am constantly asked about my school’s tournament participation and how many trophies I myself have won.  I’d like to start off by saying that I have great respect for martial artists who devote their time to training for kata and point fighting competition.  It takes a lot of discipline and hard work to pursue these goals.  What I object to is the public’s perception that the sign of a great fighter is winning lots of tournaments.  Unfortunately, today’s martial art tournaments look more like gymnastics and dance routines.  Some instructors who do well at tournaments, but have no street fighting experience try to convince their students that they can teach them how to protect themselves on the streets.  A person would have to train for many years in a traditional martial art before he would be able to use it on the streets.  Growing up in the rural areas of the Dominican Republic gave me a lot of street fighting experience when I wasn’t even looking.  Part of being a man were I come from meant that you didn’t back down from a challenge.  This went on even after I started taking martial arts.  Men would always challenge each other to knock down, drag down fights.  In 1975, one of my first instructors, a brown belt killer, who was twice my size, wanted to fight me despite the fact that I only had a few lessons in karate.  Finally, he convinced me to fight.  Because of my experience in street fighting, they had to stop the fight by pulling me off of him.  No matter how many belts, stripes, degrees or trophies you have, nothing beats the experience you get on the streets.

In 1995, I started making my movie, so we weren’t very focused on sending people to tournaments for about 4 years.  Several opportunities did present themselves and they were too good to pass up.  One of my students, Jim Calvi, had his own school called Force Three Tae Kwon Do.  I was interested in proving my skills as an instructor.  I trained a group of 12 students to participate in the 1996 Olympic trials in both kata and fighting.  Because we were not a tae kwon do school, we competed under the Force Three name because the competition was limited to practitioners of Tae Kwon Do.  Some of my students ended up having to fight each other for the gold medal.  I didn’t care that they weren’t fighting under my name.  All I cared about was to prove a point and that my skills as an instructor could be applied in a variety of areas. 

To be continued…

Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness

507 Westport Ave. Norwalk, CT06851

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


Continued from: “Tournament Fighting or Training for the Streets? – Part Two: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography”

I have prepared many students for competition, who could survive a real fight with a street fighter.  Not all students however, are able to do this.  This doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t train in martial arts.  By training, they increase there chances for survival in a self-defense situation.  They can also enjoy the martial arts as physical fitness, mind development and as the study of an ancient art. When  I mentioned point fighters earlier in this piece, I indicated that real fighting and point fighting are really two separate issues and that successful point fighters shouldn’t fool themselves into thinking that they are reality fighters.  This does not mean however that point fighters and other competitors are not true martial artists.  It takes a lot of discipline and self-denial to train for competition. Tournament training also takes facing your fears and becoming your own personal best.  These people have a place in the martial arts. 

I had a few students who came to me with the intention of becoming tournament point fighters.  Their names were Mark, Dave and Matt.  Because of the reputation I had built with my street fighter competitors, these guys were immediately matched up with opponents who were instructors!  I made a deal with one of their mothers and promised her that if she agreed to drive her son to the competitions, I would make him #1 in New England in his division within a year an a half.  It happened.  Within that period of time, he was #1 in New Englandand 4th in the nation in sparring and in kata.

As I mentioned earlier, I earned my reputation by training street fighters.  They fought not only in the streets, but I also sent them to tournaments so that I could prove myself in the martial arts community.  Many of them became popular competitors.  When they first started, they would get disqualified because they were accustomed to street fighting.  I decided that if we were going to continue going to tournaments, we would have to learn to play by the rules.  So I taught them how to play the game.  I trained them to score at least 12 points before their opponent scored 3.  Eventually, many of them started winning.  They did as best as they could, considering opponents went to tournaments every week and they were just competing on a part-time basis. 

It was a common practice to match my students with some of the toughest competitors.  Sometimes it was even hard for them to register in advance because they would purposely try to stack the deck against us.  I had tried point fighting myself and gave up on it because it was more of a game to me than a fighting art.  If you learned the little tricks of playing the game, you could win.  What I feared about engaging in point fighting, was that my fighting ability would suffer because I would develop bad habits.  Point fighting rules that require you to pull punches and make no contact with your opponent are directly opposed to the skills you need to learn to survive on the streets.  One guy who trained with me for point fighting tournaments earned the nickname “Flash” because his moves were so fast and fancy.  While he was one of the best point fighters, he had a problem when he tried to engage in hard fighting because of the habits he had developed.

To be continued…

Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness

507 Westport Ave.Norwalk,CT06851

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

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

Another way I proved my skill was to train police officers.  I took my first police officer student and taught him how to move like a black belt within one month.  He spread the word as well as encouraged me to put an ad in the phone book advertising a Street Survivor course for law enforcement officers. The program was very successful and to this day, we continue to draw police officers, body guards, and security professionals to this school.  These are people who put their lives on the line everyday.  The fact that they trust us to train them and that we get repeat business from them is the best recommendation we can get for the Calasanz System.

Anyone who runs a martial arts school for any considerable length of time has had to prove himself just because of the nature of the business.  People very often come to the school with the desire to fight you because they have to prove something.  One day, a crazy Thai Boxer came through the door.  He was about 22 years old and told me that he had many fights.  While he had great technique, he lacked shin conditioning.  He had a trial lesson and he threw a kick to kill me.  Luckily, I always trained to protect my head, so his kick didn’t connect.  I then took a deep breath and we touched gloves.  I took a Chinese boxing stance and he came to hit me even harder.  I closed the gap and threw a punch to his head that could have broken his neck, but I let the strike pass through so it wouldn’t connect.  He was as pale as a ghost.  That was the end of his trial lesson.  He came to the office and signed up for a month of private lessons.

Another group of visiting kickboxers came through the doors in 1990.  They were a couple of big guys who wanted to throw their weight around.  The bigger of the two wanted to fight one of my students.  I watched him fight for a while and he was the type that didn’t like to block.  He just would take blows because he thought he was tough guy.  I put him to spar with my student Tony, who I had been training for three months.  Tony delivered a heel kick to his stomach that almost made this guy throw up.  He walked around, got back his wind and then came at Tony like he was going to kill him.  I jumped in the ring and told him that he needed to use defensive techniques; that offense without defense did not work in this system.

Some of my students enjoyed competing in tournaments and I have supported their desire to compete over the years. My school participated in competitions and demonstrations for about 15 years.  We’ve taken a break for the last 4 years, but from time to time, we send groups to compete in fighting or kata.  It really isn’t a concentrated effort on our part.  We just send them without any special preparation, just the regular training that they get here.  Even in this relaxed atmosphere, our students placed 1st and 2nd in a variety of categories against one of the best schools in the world.  The katas we teach here are some of the best for competition, even though our system is not dependent on kata.

To be continued…

Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness

507 Westport Ave.Norwalk,CT06851


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

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

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

In another case, a guy who was a third degree black belt visited me and enrolled in one of our Street Survivor classes.  I paired him up with a 16 year old who had been training with us for only one month.  I had them do some practical drills and the 16 year old got the best of him.  He kicked him in the shin and dropped him to the ground.  He got up from the floor and started crying when I told him that the kid who just knocked him down had only been training for one month!

Another problem with training students from other systems is that some lack the basics.  There are many good martial art schools out there.  The way I can tell if someone has had a good teacher is to look at their basics.  Do they have a strong foundation?  Can they throw a punch?  Can they throw a kick without losing their balance?  Are their stances strong and grounded?  Some students from other systems know a lot of techniques, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they know their basics.  It is just a house built on a very shaky foundation.  I had one woman come to my school who failed to mention that she had a black belt from another school.  She told another one of my students of her rank, who later told me.  I thought training her would be easy.  Wrong.  I gave her three techniques and asked her to put them into a sequence.  Start in a front stance, switch to a horse stance and then switch back into a front stance.  It took me 10 minutes to get her to do this right.  It should have taken a well-trained black belt 3 seconds to do this properly.

Some experienced students started training in a style that was not particularly suited for them.  For example, I have had some students over 40 who started training in a style that emphasized a lot of high kicking and jumping.  Other styles demand low stances or too much snapping when kicking.   It is no wonder that they come to me frustrated and feeling that maybe martial arts is not for them, even though they really enjoyed it.  Any style can be practiced by anyone.  It is up to the instructor to tailor the system to fit the student.  Unfortunately, many schools have a “one size fits all” approach.  This means that you have to keep up with the class with little or no special attention.  I like to tailor the techniques to the particular student.

One woman enrolled in my school after 10 years of training in another system.  She lacked confidence, could not fight and wasn’t very street smart.  I personally trained her for 3 months and saw her confidence and skills improve dramatically.  After the 3-month period, she decided to take the group class.  I paired her up with another woman who was fairly new and had not had any martial arts training.  This bothered her.  I was hoping that by putting her with someone new, it would remind her how far she had come in her training.  When she first started, she could not block a shin kick without experiencing pain in her leg.  I told her that this would soon change and it did.  Experienced martial artists who come to train with me are very often asked to assist with lower ranked students once we have taught them the basics of the system.  Because there are students with different ranks, everyone learns from someone else.  I also expected someone who had trained in martial arts for over 10 years to understand the importance of learning how to teach and assisting lower ranks.  She could not see this.  All she saw was that we put her to train with someone who was not as good as she was and this upset her.  She had a lot to offer and the higher ranks had much to offer her.  This is one of the ways we help students improve their skills.  Unfortunately, she couldn’t understand it not matter how much we explained it.

This brings me to the case of a student who came to me after he had been hired by the sheriff’s department.  He was having a problem dealing at job in controlling the people he was either arresting or transporting.  He had taken martial arts classes for a long time and even though he was a good kicker, he had no concept of the streets.  He asked his instructor for help and his response was “you’re smart enough to put it together.”  So he came to me.  I worked with him for 2 weeks.  He had a lot to offer, he just needed someone to help him translate it into something practical.  His teacher was not willing, but I was.  After the 2 weeks, he never had a problem again.  This man went on to become a police officer and trains with us to this day and has referred countless numbers of law enforcement officers to this school.

To be continued…

Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness

507 Westport Ave. Norwalk, CT 06851

Training Students from other Systems – Part One: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography

Continued from: “Training the beginner: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography”

One of the biggest challenges I have found in my years of teaching is dealing with students who come from other systems.  It is much easier to teach a student who has come to you with a clean slate because they have not become accustomed to a particular style.  I do however, welcome people from other systems and don’t want them to lose what another teacher has taught them.  What I do want them to do is to learn my system and appreciate it for its simplicity and practicality.  We often have to prove ourselves to students from other systems because they are expecting lots of complicated techniques, one-step, two-step sparring routines and long and involved self-defense maneuvers.  For example, we had a guy train with us who was considered a super martial artist from Europe.  He had a lot of fancy techniques. I paired him up with a student who had good endurance, hard shins and a good roundhouse kick.  After they sparred, the guy from Europe with all the martial arts experience couldn’t understand how a guy with only one good technique was able to hurt him.  Once you send a message, then you can get back to the business of training.

A highly ranked instructor and student of Ninjutsu came to train with me.  He was very good, but didn’t understand our method of endurance training and conditioning.  It is my philosophy to prepare you for an attack and to counterattack using the strongest part of your body-the leg.

I paired this experienced guy with a student who was a bit on the heavy side and had big legs.  My student had good basic techniques. I let the two of them go at each other.  My student threw one of his hard kicks and dropped him to the ground.  He now understood the meaning of our training.

I enrolled this one guy who had trained in a very traditional school for over 12 years.  He told me that he hadn’t trained in a long time and wanted to get back into shape.  He came to the group class and all he did was question everything we were doing, claiming that there was a better way and that his instructor would have done it differently.  I left him alone for about 4 classes.  Each time he refused to learn anything and interfered with class.  Finally, I decided that he needed to be taught a lesson.  I paired him up with a man who had been training with us for just about 5 months and was 3 times smaller than this guy.  I asked them to do roundhouse kicks using a pad.  He made sure to tell us that they did the roundhouse kick differently in his other school.  I then told him to kick his opponent with his roundhouse kick.  All of his kicks were blocked.  It was impossible for him to hit his opponent with the roundhouse kick he was so proud of.  It was particularly embarrassing when his opponent kicked him and he almost was thrown to the ground.  While this guy was very good in his particular system, he had no endurance in his legs and arms and could not survive in a fight.

This story had a good ending.  He finally understood and didn’t interfere with his classes.  He participated and opened his mind to learning something new because he had to experience the value of what we were teaching first hand.  We ended up becoming good friends and had an understanding that any disagreements he had with my instructors would be addressed to me after class.  I appreciated his years of training and acknowledged that he had a lot to offer.  By having a dialogue with me outside of class, I was able to explain why we did things differently in a way that did not threaten him into thinking that we were contradicting the system he had studied for over 12 years.

To be continued…

Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness

507 Westport Ave. Norwalk, CT 06851

Teaching the Calasanz System – Part Three: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography


Continued from: “Teaching the Calasanz System – Part Two: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography”

Many of our messages have been directed at students who are very good fighters.  One of the messages I have to give over and over is that you don’t have to brutalize yourself in order to become a good fighter.  I don’t believe in this type of training.  I think that an effective fighter has to train “smarter.”  Sending a message or teaching a lesson to a student does not require that you physically injure them.  I’ve never had to physically injure a student in order to get my point across.  Why?  You train in the martial arts to be able to defend yourself.  Survival is not dependant on knowing thousands of techniques, but rather on your balance, grounding, power and most of all, heart.  Courage and intelligence will go farther in self-defense.  This is the key to surviving a life-threatening situation.  This is the philosophy behind many of my messages to my students.

I have taught many high rank students from other system, some of them have been very talented martial artists.  I enjoy teaching students from other systems because they bring their own special talents.  The one thing that does frustrate me sometimes is getting them to make the transition from their style to the Calasanz System.  I have designed this system to be practical.  With that in mind, I have done away with the tradition of teaching hundreds of techniques and forms.  Unfortunately, many students are more interested in quantity, not quality.  They haven’t even practiced a front kick to the point they can deliver effectively and they are asking, “What am I going to learn next?”  My philosophy is learning a few things, learn them well and make them as automatic as possible.  When you are confronted with a life-threatening situation, I promise that a lot of those fancy techniques will go right out the window.  In addition, an attacker on the streets is not going to engage in polite cooperation.  He’s not going to let you take your time while you respond to a wrist grab.

I have created a course called Street Survivor that teaches simple defensive techniques.  I can teach you some effective fighting skills within a relatively short period of time.  I once had a man training with me who was hired as a bodyguard for a well-known politician.  He was required to train as part of his job, so he was sent to me.  While he didn’t understand the difference between the different styles of martial arts, he understood the basic techniques I taught him, especially, heavy leg training and kicking.  I programmed him to counter attack with great ferocity.  One day, I put him to spar with a Thai boxer from Cambodia.  Regardless of the attack this Thai boxer delivered, this man was able to counter attack and hold his own.  I finally had to stop the fight because the Thai boxer had taken a couple of heavy kicks to the leg and I was afraid that any more kicks could lead to an injury.  The Thai boxer was humiliated and couldn’t eat for two days.  This sent a clear message to him.  He came to my school with the attitude that he knew it all and that he wasn’t going to learn anything from anyone.  I told him after this fight that he really needed to stop being so arrogant and try to learn something so that he could be as effective as the bodyguard.  I purposely gave two messages that day; one to the bodyguard and the other to the Thai boxer.  A message is more effective than giving a lecture to a student.

I sent a similar message to two other students who had come from another system.  They had a lot of techniques, so I decided to put them to spar with a student of mine who at first glance looked heavy and out of shape.  They were both hurt by this guy.  They couldn’t believe it!  This was done with training simple techniques and making counter attacks automatic.  This is what we create at Calasanz.

 To be continued…

Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness

507 Westport Ave. Norwalk, CT 06851

Teaching the Calasanz System – Part Two: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography

Continued from: “Teaching the Calasanz System – Part one: A Lifetime of Lessons – Calasanz Extended Biography”

Regardless of my students’ goals, I always like to give them some techniques they could use on the streets.  My private training in Wing Chun was the reason why I have incorporated this philosophy into my system.  I was not happy with the fact that some of my classmates had spent close to ten years training and had no street survival skills.  Many Wing Chun students spent all this time throwing punches without a purpose or sense of how they would use it in real life.  For instance, our Wing Chun classes emphasize bringing your elbow to the center, which helps your punch get very hard and learning how to get grounded.  I was fortunate enough when I began my Goju Ryu training that my teachers promoted self-defense skills and I have passed these skills down to my students.

Schools that promote black belts too quickly or don’t teach self-defense often trouble me. What troubles me more is the aerobic kickboxing craze.  Unfortunately, they give people a false sense of security in believing they’ll be able to defend themselves with a dance routine.  Understand that organizations that certify personal trainers often offer short-term courses or clinics that will teach you how to teach kickboxing.  This is an insult to all of us who have spent many years training in the martial arts and a scam on the public.  In some cases, students who have taken the aerobic kickboxing classes have been injured because of inadequate teacher supervision. While I train students who only want to learn kickboxing for recreation, I always incorporate some realistic movements so they can walk away with something useful.  No one leaves my school without at least some basic knowledge of street survival.

The Calasanz System is very simple.  Simplicity combined with skill allows us to take the best a student has to offer and improve on it.  An example is training women.  Because my style of fighting was always unsuited for tournaments, I found that I had to send “messages” of my skill to those who challenged me because I was not a competitor.  My favorite type of message was asking a female student to do kicking drills with an obnoxious male!  While women’s upper body strength cannot compare to that of a man, women do have naturally strong legs.  I take that ability in women and teach them how to capitalize on it.  Some of the best messages given here at the school were by women who embarrassed arrogant men!

Teaching a diverse population requires a lot of patience and natural skill.  You can train someone to be a teacher all you want.  If they don’t have it inside of them, they will never be effective.  In this business, you have to help not only the talented and coordinated, but also the uncoordinated, the slow learner and the student with a variety of challenges.  It is also a challenge to teach those who are very intelligent.  I had this one student who was very smart and had spent twelve years training in a well known martial arts school.  I was training him in kickboxing and trying to teach him how to protect his head when fighting at close range.  He told me “Calasanz, all I have to do is pick up my hands.  This would cause his opponent to look up, and then I could kick him.”  This guy with twelve years of experience just demonstrated the skill of a white belt.  I recognized was why his instructor had a hard time with him.  This guy thought he knew it all and didn’t need help or correction from anyone.

To be continued…

Calasanz Martial Arts and Fitness

507 Westport Ave. Norwalk, CT 06851