Are you better than blankety blank?

Instructing for a living is a very interesting profession.

You get to meet lots of different people and get to interact with them in ways that are extremely rewarding and profound as well as downright aggravating and unpleasant.

Expectations of teachers range from the humorous to the insane and often the teacher is put in a position where they must sell themselves with some fairly extreme marketing simply to stand out from the crowd and gain the attention of prospective students. As a result it is fairly common to interact with folks who have some interesting views as students and who have some interesting although often not exactly respectful questions for the teacher.

One of the most uneducated questions is of course are you better than blankety blank?

Here are a few common questions that are often asked of martial arts and Tai Chi instructors,

  • Are you better than blankety blank?,
  • Can you fight better than blankety blank?
  • Also, are you the best at this skill / art?
  • And, is anyone else better than you at this skill / art?

I personally am a continual life long student and if I ever asked such questions (and I probably did) I am happy to say that it was well over 25 years ago as I learned that there is almost always someone who is better or more skilled or has a skill set and / or a perspective that is very educational and that I am learning and gaining knowledge from.

Having said that, how does one best answer the questions that a beginner may ask concerning your abilities compared to someone elses?

Of course, you have folks that will answer by saying, “Oh YES! I am way better than him” and I am sure that there have been times when I have been guilty of giving such an answer. But, this is not my favored, preferred or recommended way to answer such a question. There are several much better and correct ways to answer this question and I will detail a bit of them here for you and will address it more from just a Tai Chi standpoint in my next post.

First of all let’s consider a practical and simple answer of fighting skill.

  • How is blankety blank feeling today?
  • How am I feeling today?
  • What is the situation and is it better suited to their strengths or mine?

For instance, I have studied from several very skilled instructors who are very old or are very overweight (or both) but who are very deadly if you are standing within reach of them. I study from them because they have the skill and knowledge that they have which I have not gained yet.

So, if we are fighting in a confined space they would likely be the winner. However, if we are outside in the open and I am not within easy reach of them then I can certainly do reasonably well against them because my physcial state and health is such that I can run fast and far. If I honestly can get them winded then they have a problem.

If they are a world class grappler but I am extraordinarily explosive fast, powerful and accurate while on the move then they would likely win if we got into a grappling position but I would win if I can keep them off of me and blast them with bone breaking shots from 3-6 feet away. So, the question I can ask back is, “What game are we playing?”.

I am often asked by folks how my extreme survival based martial arts would fare against most mma / ufc stylists.

My standard answer is that if I play their game then they would most likely win but if they play with the rules that I am used to then I would likely win.

This is because the “no rules” environment of the street works quite a bit differently than the rules in a tournament. This includes the idea that concrete is a different surface than mats. Also, my knife and other weapons are all part of the game in the street and are not part of legal tournament rules.

There is also a difference of mentality. If I am used to thinking about how to stop someone in the most efficient manner possible even if they are huge, crazy strong and fast then I am thinking about and training how to do things that are guaranteed to be illegal in the ring. The ring fighter is going to have a very hard time with this and consider my tactics to be evil and wrong. Their thoughts on the matter will not help them in the fight and will almost certainly hasten their loss. Unfortunately for them they will tend to perform the way that they train and that is the downside of being in a competition that you have not trained for.

Some things to consider until my next post on this topic. Fighting (and who is deadlier) on the surface may seem like a fairly easy comparison to make but how do you compare stylistic and practitioner attributes for health and peace of mind? Also, just because someone is a better practitioner than someone else does that make them a better teacher? My point here is that teaching is also a skill.

Until next time.
Peace and Blessings.


  1. Rich, It has been beaten into my mind, “If you find yourself in a fair fight; your tactics suck” over the decades of being a war fighter I can tell you that this mind set has saved thousands of lives. To get it applied to your everyday Joe Citizen like your program does is a feat, one I am sure you will handle with grace and violence of action. Glad for the internet, been too long since we have had time to hang out. Be safe and keep up the good fight.

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