Words of Experience

by William Durbin, Soke of Kiyojute Ryu

Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace is one of the greatest martial artists of modern time. Through the years he has had many experiences. From meeting royalty to patrolling the hard streets of southern Florida with vigilantes, he has seen every aspect of life. He has hung out with some of the world’s top movie stars, including Chuck Norris, John Belushi, and Elvis Presley, as well as, working with people who simply love performing the martial arts.

          Because he has had so much experience Bill has a lot of advice to offer to younger instructors or people who are just beginning to gain notoriety in the martial arts. Once, one of his friends had a situation where another martial arts group began to try to assassinate his reputation. The young man was very upset. There was a man in the other group who claimed to have defeated the instructor in a fight, though they had never met. Other members claimed that he had not actually earned the ranks in the arts in which he was certified.

          Very upset, the young man called Wallace and asked him for some advice. As the instructor told his story, Bill laughed, knowing from experience what the young man was going through, since it was the same situation he had experienced ever since he won his first point tournament back in the sixties.

Good Advice

          When the young man had finished, Bill said, "Listen, there are three things that will happen to you once you become well known." He then continued to explain to the young man how by gaining notoriety, he had also made himself a target for every jealous person who was not willing to work hard enough to make their own achievements and so spent their time criticizing those who did.

I Beat Him

          Superfoot explained that there were three stories he could expect to hear. First of all, people who the young instructor had never met or fought would make the claim that they had beaten him. This was their way of gaining a reputation without having to earn it. Friends of these people want to believe that they tell them the truth, so when they say they fought and defeated someone famous; they allow themselves to be convinced by the story.

I Taught Him

          The second story one can expect to hear others say about oneself, according to Wallace, is that they taught the person. It is humorous that people of styles the person with notoriety does not even practice, will claim to have taught the person what they know. It is important to be careful with whom you practice with, or attend clinics under, because if you gain any level of fame, many times these people will claim to have taught you all you know, even if you only spend time sharing skills with them. Many times in sharing situations, where people are actually trading information, when one gains a level of fame, the other claims to have taught them.

          While it is always important to acknowledge what anyone has taught you, it is also important to honor your real instructors rather than just list famous people you have barely met. Today many martial artists travel around studying under famous people, but never really training under them for any period of time. In many instances they train with the famous person only once, and then claim they are their primary teacher. The person’s real, though not famous instructor, is never acknowledged, which is a true shame.

          In example, a person who had learned from a truly great Okinawan martial arts master, and had been friends with a movie star, today talks about how the movie star was the one who taught him all he knows, yet when he fights, he follows the principles he learned under the Okinawan instructor. He should acknowledge his real instruct and not the famous person.

          So, Bill Wallace, suggested, if you hear a story where someone claims to be your teacher, set the record straight to whomever your talking, but be flattered that the person thinks you are famous enough to claim to be your teacher. Most of all, don’t spend time being angry, that is just a wasted emotion.

He Taught Me

          The final story you are likely to hear, is that you taught someone you have never met, or barely know. This is the type of event that especially happens when a person has; won a tournament title, published a major book, appeared in a movie, or simply become a clinic personality. In many instances a person will meet a famous person once, take pictures with them, sometimes they never actually work out with them, but will claim to be a student of the person.

          Once again, Bill said don’t waste time in anger, just set the record straight, and be flattered that the person thinks enough of you that they want people to think that you taught them. For your real students it is important to provide opportunities for them to show others that you really are their instructor. One method of doing this is by taking photographs with them periodically. This records the passage of years that the two of you have been together. If your student runs their own Dojo, try and take pictures in their schools regularly as well.

          Some might think certificates would be enough, and if a person has a run of them from his instructor, this might be true. However, currently there are martial arts organizations, which have several famous people as paid representatives. Thus it is possible to get these people’s names on certificates, though you have never met them. Some famous instructors issue some type of personal certificates to direct students, because their names appear on organization papers. This is a good way to make sure that your truly personal students are acknowledged.

          Most of all Bill emphasizes that professional jealousy exists in the martial arts at a very high level. During his career as a point tournament champion, there were many who decried his kicks as being useless. Even though he could score at will and no one could stop the kicks, his detractors still criticized his kicking ability.

          Bill didn’t let the jealousy bother him, he proved his point by staying a tournament champion and then when full contact Karate came along, he was able to prove the power of his kicks in actual use. This was Bill’s final piece of advice in regard to professional jealousy, just keep doing what you do.

          While people want to brag about who beat who, or whom they taught, or who taught them, the only real proof of a martial artist is what they can do on the mat. If a person claims to be a kicker, watch them kick. If they claim to know Jujutsu or any of the grappling arts, watch what they can do on the mat.

          There have been people who have trained with Bill Wallace, who never practiced what he taught them. Once a person who hosted Superfoot to his city, claimed to be a great student of the kicking master, yet when he demonstrated his own kicking ability, he could barely kick above knee level.

          The ultimate expression of a martial artist isn’t what certificates they have or what famous person they studied under or taught, it is what they can do on the mats. The martial arts are about gaining ability. They are about learning how to move and apply movement. More they are about mental development and spiritual progress. The truly advanced martial artist doesn’t lie about whom they trained under, or whom they beat, or whom they taught. The true martial artist is proud of who he actually trained under, proud of his accomplishments and students, and doesn’t really care about the glory of victory.

          For the up and coming martial artists, don’t feel bad when people criticize you. Listen to the criticism and if there is something you can learn from it, use it to be a better martial artist and person. If it is groundless, then know that the people are just jealous of you, desiring to achieve what you have achieved, but unwilling to work as hard as you have.

          Most of all when someone claims to have beaten you in a fight, be your teacher, or your student, accept the claim as the compliment it really is, for if they did not consider you a great martial artist, they wouldn’t make the claims. When you can, always set the record straight, but never waste time being angry or trying to get even, that just makes the claims seem that much more justified. Just continue to do what has brought you this far, train hard and doing the best you can.

All images and text on this site are the exclusive property of the Christian Martial Arts Association.
All rights reserved © 2010