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I like to see if we as instructors question the motives of prospective students seeking FMA instructions.

When Leo accepted me as a student he did a short interview to  question my motives for seeking instuction in escrima. I;ve heard one of the ways they used to tell if a student was teachable was to feel his head...if it was" hot" the instructor would not teach you...feeling that if you were hot headed you would may use your skills for bad things.

i ask this question because i know that our school will not accept students that are felons, on parole or documented gang members. We have asked a  few students to leave,  after we have learned of thier past history or motives.

We have many law enforcement personnel in our school, and we feel that ..why should we teach our art to someone that could be used against law enforcement in the future.

Should we as instructors be teaching our arts to students without verifing backgrounds or if we are made aware later do we comtinue.

if you have any opinions on this please respond.

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Dear Guro Terry,
I have great respect for your accomplishments in FMA and personal character. I am however going to disagree with you on certain points. Basically, I believe that we are to judge a man on his actions and not on his past. I think it is hugely important that we do use our judgement when assessing if a student is fit for passing on this knowledge to. Or, more precisely if we are going to be the instrument of passing this knowledge on to them. Because they could very well go learn FMA from someone else.

[I like to see if we as instructors question the motives of prospective students seeking FMA instructions.]

Instructors must judge the character of their students. I don't instruct anyone but my sons and one other person back on the east coast. I don't claim any title as I have not earned that. However, the skills and knowledge and love of FMA are in me and I am glad to promote them and pass them on. I have also been a trainer for physical interventions to violent patients in a clinical setting and I am a father it is with these things in mind that I write. I do think we have a responsibility to consider the character of the person we are choosing to teach. It is our responsibility to judge each person's fitness to begin this journey with us as it is for each instance of each class and sparring session and selected lesson. We are responsible for our actions. I don't think it is a one-time assesment that has to happen. Instructors have lots of judgements to make under the surface. I think our responsibility is for every action we take on a case by case basis. Each lesson we should consider if the audience is ready for the content of this lesson. Is it in the scope of their curriculum? An instructor has a responsibility to present the curriculum in an appropriate and timely manner so that the student when ready has an opportunity to put in the work and move forward. Is it in their ability? An  instructor may have to adapt a lesson to fit the student's abilities or body type. Is the student emotionally ready for this? And this is where I think the discussion post applies. If there is a student who is not ready to learn lethal translations of a move or combative arts in general, why are you teaching them? When do you discuss this with them? I think it is that you have to have the hard conversations before they are necessary true. But also that you have to have them whenever they become necessary. If an upstanding citizen student begins to show signs that they are not ready for the combative lesson you are teaching then the time is now to pull them aside and ask them to sit out or leave and discuss it later, hopefully before the next class. Hard hearted? No I don't think so but hard to do. I have seen really talented martial artists denied their black belts and graduate certificates because they weren't emotionally ready or their hearts weren't in the right place. It never should have gotten that far. It is not fair to the student so it is better for them to have the hard talk early about what you have seen and believe is best. Yes, question their motives. Have real discussions with them and get to know them. Just as a prospective student should interview the instructor and avoid the "Cobra-Kai Do or Die" guys as I tell my kids.

[We have asked a  few students to leave,  after we have learned of thier past history or motives.]

I would not judge a person on their past but on the condition of their heart today and what they want for their lives in the future. Many of us would not be in the position we are in without some love, peace, patience, mercy and understanding. That person with a felony on their record may be the next great moral leader of our times. Who better to teach a sinner than a sinner? And wouldn't we rather be in a position to influence that person towards good? Again, This must be decided on a case by case basis.

[We have many law enforcement personnel in our school, and we feel that ..why should we teach our art to someone that could be used against law enforcement in the future.]

No offense intended here but we live in the real world where people are faulty and have bad intentions sometimes even when they wear a badge or are in other positions of trust in our community. I think the same critical eye of judging the fruits of a person's spirit has to be applied no matter what clothes they wear. The uniform does not make the man. In my town bad cops have recently done some really bad things to really undeserving people ( and gotten away with it. It is public knowledge and the status quo and it needs to change. To quote Martin Luther King Jr; "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal." Everyone should be responsibly taught no matter what their station in life unless they show ill motive. Angel and Leo were among the first to teach to people other than Filipinos. I think that speaks for their belief in the value of the individual no matter what their color and in this case where their paycheck comes from. Now, do we have a responsibility to promote good and not evil actions in our town? Yeah. But that is the responsibility of each person anyways aside from their LE status. I'd be more concerned about a bad intentioned person being around my kids and family and students than if they learned combative techniques. They are going to learn them somewhere if they are determined. What about this? What if that person came to respect you on a level that they might take some advice from you and you could influence the change in their life for good? I don't speak of your specific situation but of the grace that has been shown to me and what I see as our responsibility as humans.

[Should we as instructors be teaching our arts to students without verifing backgrounds or if we are made aware later do we continue.]

I think I have spoken on this above. I don't think a background check is a magic potion that will make them spill the contents of their heart on the table for observation. I think it is probable there are many people posting to websites and teaching our children today that are getting away with horrendous crimes that would pass a background check with flying colors. It is a good question to ask to start a conversation about their past and their character, but to do that so that you may then get to know their heart and intentions and where their mind is at today and for the future. I've helped out with rehab ministries and known federal LEOs professionally. I've seen both sides of it and it is about making a relationship with the person using our judgment not using our judgement to filter out a relationship with the person. I am sure that Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Luther King Jr. etc. never passed a background check. Just as we are to determine the truth in training as to whether some technique works well enough or not we determine the truth about whether a person is someone we want to train with not a peice of paper.

As always, much respect from my house to yours. Your brother in the FMA.
Henry Paz

[Should we as instructors be teaching our arts to students without verifing backgrounds or if we are made aware later do we comtinue.]

One other thought this brought up was about workshops and pay-to-attend seminars. What criteria do the instructors use for these? How well do they know their students? Things that make you go hmmmmm....

Much Respect,

Henry Paz


No offense taken! You have a lot of great comments and i appreciate your response!!



Hello Terry,

  Good topic, funny thing is I was having this same conversation with some of my colleagues only a few days ago.  Frankly I believe that teachers of the martial arts are guides, mentors, and leaders among other things.  As leaders I believe it is not our place to judge others for mistakes in their past.  "let he that has never sinned cast the first stone"... I have been in law enforcement all of my adult life and experience has shown that it's more effective to have programs to rehabilitate offenders than it is to just lock them up and forget about them.

 Should we throw away this opportunity to make a differnce in someones life and an opportunity to turn them away from discourse?  If you turn anyone away please send them my way, I'd love the opportunity to help someone make a change in their life for the better.




Great comment.  I think a lot of troubled teens would be grateful to have you as an instructor and mentor!  I feel the same way and would try to get to know the person, see what it was that got them in to trouble, and see if they could be brought around.




I love this stuff. Firstly, we are using an art a million miles alway from its original intention of protecting/defending family and tribe in an art that is designed to kill right from the start. Ok, I know this varies from the more blade oriented arts to the almost completely stick based arts but at a fundamental level, the arts are not for self-defence or a hobby.

Secondly, many, many of the old men were no angels (Serrada guys can lay off the puns, thank you) and have got in trouble and done proper time for crimes. Who says a cop is necessarily good or that a wayward guy cannot change their ways, perhaps using the Filipino arts as a vehicle?

Good, hard, precise training should always expose the real character of a student before when gets to show them the real meat of the art and give the teacher a chance to have a look at them first.



Good stuff! thanks for the comments


The last paragraph would have made more sense if Steve Jobs had done a proper job on the iPad.


thank for your comments

i do agree that some can be rehabilited but not all. And your right.. some people say i should not be thrownig stones!

unfortunately we have asked a few not to return. One was still under investigation and the arresting officer was an active member of the school.

thank you for your insights and comments as always!


Hey Terry,

  There are always exceptions to any rule and tough decisions are just that...


After spending some time as a (r)eborn Christian, little "r" now but was a HUGE "R" at the time, I use to go to some of the tougher clubs in San Francisco to try to get gang members out of the Chinese Triad.  Hahahaha, not sure that I told you about that, but that was before I got in touch with you at Bahala Na, #1 Club.  Some of these guys could be reasoned with...they had hope.  There is a difference between a person who you can see has hope and a person with no soul.  Did I teach them martial arts?  No, but that was not my intent in any case.  I was trying to bring them out in to the light and out of the mob.

Those were some crazy days, and to be honest with you, there have been just a few people that I would never teach any martial arts too.

In one case, there was a mentally disturbed person whose home I went to to forgive him for beating me for so many years and he picked up a claw hammer when I told him that I was there to forgive him!  Hahahaha, not sure what he was thinking but I was hoping that the Bible that I had could stop hardened steel at the time.  That by the way was the end of my "evangelizing" through the word of the Bible ... because I knew that I was NOT bulletproof.

In the end, I think that everyone needs to be judged respectfully and individually.  Everyone is different.



Great post, I have often wondered the same thing as a few of my students are in law enforcement, I typically conduct a short interview of the student just to try and determine where their head is at and make a determination if they have violent tendencies. However, I am also willing to take on troubled teens that may need the FMA’s as a positive outlet to build discipline and respect and shaping them into better citizens.  If mentored it is possible to turn someone life around, and I am a firm believer in giving second chances when someone is looking for it.  I take on all beginning students in a probationary period to monitor their progress and to see how the fit with the rest of our Eskrima Family. It just takes one bad apple to disrupt the brotherhood we have built, so I don’t take on new students lightly.  In the end it is just a gut feeling for me.  Great discussion post Guro Terry.


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