Palace Intrigue # 313: The Arnis Name Game


Max Pallen, Filipino and GM of Senko Terras and I were eating dinner in California a few years back (decades now) and he asked me why I had officially quit teaching Filipino martial Arts.

I looked him in the eye and said, “because I’m not you,”

Of course I never really quit. I still do teach some FMA here and there, but more often in a small, abstract way. I’ve graduated two big FMA “colleges.” Remy Presas and Ernesto Presas and I have slipshod, bad, “GED” in Inosanto systems. But, you don’t see my name “W. Hock Hochheim Filipino Supreme” anywhere, certainly not in my ads, resume or on my webpage.

I explained further, “because I am not you Max. I am not a Filipino and the ceiling for success of a non-Filipino teaching Arnis/Kali/Escrima is short.” I think to be a real successful, flag-bearer of a Filipino teacher and I mean a REAL one, a big leaguer, you have to have the “right” name: You:

  • actually be Filipino. (Even if you’ve never been there!) Or,
  • sound or look like you are, or,
  • your name has to be non-euro-white guy, sound Latino, or sounds, well…non Euro white guy. It doesn’t even matter if you ever been to Philippines to train. Just be “Spanishy’ and first doors will open. Its not “white privilege.” It’s…Spanish privilege.” 
  • It really helps if your name also sounds Pacific islandy, foreign.

I can think of just a rare, few white-bread boys only teaching FMA that are successful. My friend Bill McGrath for one. And if he didn’t have a day job back home, he’s be twice as worldly successful. He has “overcome.” The rest? Less than the fingers on one hand. Who else do you know can pull that off in FMA? Keep in mind, I have seen the big leagues for decades, and if you name drop someone right  now, one of your heroes? I’ll bet they are not in the big leagues. He might think he is? But he is not. The world is littered, (oh…littered is not a good word, full…yeah…) full of little-leagers, double AA ball, doing stuff, trying to do stuff.  They are just handicapped. They start out handicapped. Most remain handicapped.

Other friends like to remind me that white boys can be great teachers of yellow, black and brown systems, too. Sure they can! But they start out handicapped, which is my point. I am talking here about Business NAMES!

What constitutes handicapped? Look at the business, name game-

  • “Tim Jones Filipino Martial Arts.” Not too exciting.
  • “Jauqien Wojobee Filipino Martial Arts,” Hmmm, well, whose he? Sounds interesting. (The an odd, foreign name thing…)
  • “Calibra Latino Filipino Quesadia, Tactical FMA.” Wow. I’m in. Where is he next?

Let’s take a look at this from another angle. A non-FMA angle-

  • “Tim Jones BJJ.” Not too exciting, huh?
  • “Jauqien Wojobee BJJ,” Hmmm, well, whose he? Sounds interesting.
  • “Calibra Latino Quesadia, BJJ.” Wow. I’m so in. Where is he next? or this…
  • “Tim Jones Krav Maga.” Not too exciting, huh?
  • “Intergalactic Krav Maga,” Hmmm, well, whose that? Sounds interesting. Are the franchise fees cheaper? (That seems to be very important in the Krav world.)
  • “Ollie Meir Krav Maga.” Wow. Holey moley! I’m so in. Where is he next?

or this…

  • “Tim Jones Russian Systema.” Not too exciting, huh?
  • “Russian Systema Evolutions,” Hmmm, well, whose that? Sounds interesting.
  • “Mikhail Kusovik Systema.” Wow. Давай – Davai! I’m so in. Where is this Commie next?

(I am NOT picking on Tim Jones. I don’t know a Tim Jones and I guess there’s a Tim Jones is out there working very hard. Sorry.) 

Names. Take a second to inspect a clever name “10th Planet Jiu-jitsu.” To normal citizens, (your bread and butter business need) they might ask, “What the hell is that?” and “Didn’t they just lose Pluto off the list?” But, we in the MA business know the score, and it’s very clever name, with many happy people doing it. Eddie Bravo (also a fabulous name) is an excellent, innovative, athlete. Eddie avoided the Latino “O” with a solar system, name game. But he did risk the challenge of naming something that people cannot recognize immediately. And, he will never be as popular as a “Gracie.”

Names. Take a second to think about this. The old World Tae Kwon Do Federation, the “WTF,” voted to change their name to avoid the new “what the f___” popular expression.

Names. If you are a reader here, you know how mystified I am with the term “Urban Combatives,” Are there no fights in rural and suburban areas?  Some of the greatest fighters in the UFC are farm boys. Whazzup?

It takes luck and strategy and the IQ to know when and where you start with a name-game, handicap.  And all this is name-game, advertising manipulation we all fall victim too. No matter the category from Nike shoes, body waxing to Rolex watches, religion and politics.

In the martial arts, it use to be Japanese privilege, or Okinawan privilege, Korean privilege. Now it’s Israeli privilege and Brazil privilege. You name it. The name game. Name of thrones.  I have several terrific friends who are educators and constantly preach the importance of critical thinking and anti-advertising courses from elementary school to college. They sit there and preach this clarity, yet vote straight Democratic for decades no matter the issues, wearing Nike work-outs suits and top brand watches and driving status cars. A cognitive breach in what they say and what they actually do. This runs deep in humanity. Tribes. Clubs. Bias. None of us are perfect and critical thinking is a deep and daily challenge. It is out true  societal salvation.

I have always done martial arts just to mine the survival methods and not to “join” something. Just lookin’ for the essence. I am still  rather interested in the essentials of FMA. I am not much of a joiner, rah-rah, type anyway. A skeptic, you might say. Loyalty is deep dive in critical thinking for me. I fail at it sometimes, but hope I remember to keep trying.

Anyway, Max Pallen laughed and got a kick out of my whose-who, explanation decades ago. It still holds true. My long-time student Al Moore reported, “I was eating dinner with one of the popular Filipino Masters about twenty years ago. During the conversation I mentioned training with you, and a few others. His first knee jerk response was, ‘I don’t respect any training in FMA from non-Filipino instructors.’  My immediate thought was WTF, I am one of those, and why I am still giving you money! Unluckily, the Kool-aid drinkers are in every system of Martial Arts.”

About a year ago, another guy asked me, “why do you hate the Filipino martial arts?” I asked him why in the world did he think I hated the Filipino martial arts? Where did you get this idea? He couldn’t give me one single reason. I guess he thought I was a traitor since I am a FMA graduate? Since I don’t have crossed, rattan stick designs tattooed on my forehead…I’m a hater?

I am not so sure that design would look so good, on my white-boy, Euro forehead? A bit stark, I think.

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Hock’s email is HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com

Get a look at Hock’s FILIPINO – PAC video downloads by clicking here