James Keating Interview
1. How long have you been involved
in the martial arts ?
I have been involved with the arts (in one form or another)
for over thirty years. They have occupied a large portion of my life since the mid
nineteen sixties. It has been a long, steady progression of education and development
ever since. Phony discipline comes and goes with the mood you are in, real discipline
is something that never leaves, it is a lifestyle, it is every day, it is forever.
It is not designed for achieving rank belts or "attaboys". Real discipline
is selfish, it is for yourself, in order to stay alive, in order to keep your loved
ones alive. I despise martial arts which exist solely for sporting reasons. When
you train for the real thing, discipline (is it the threat of death ?) is much easier
to maintain, it is the prime motivator for most long term martial endeavors. how
to make thirty years of work remain fresh and keep ticking.
2. What instructors
have had the greatest influence on you as a martial artist ?
That's a tough
question to answer because I have cross trained in so many different disciplines.
There have been times in my life when certain people (teachers) and arts have held
sway over my destiny more than others. I think that in order to really learn an art,
you must seriously commit yourself to it. Back to the question though. I have trained
with many people, but only a few left a lasting impression or actually influenced
my life. Of those few some are famous and others are unknown. Starting with those
teachers whom are publically known, I think that these men influenced or encouraged
me along the path to higher learning in their own way. Larry Hartsell (JKD), David
Harris (Wing Chun & Aiki), Paul Vunak (JKD, Kali), John Farnam (pistol), Wally
Dallenbach Jr. (Racing line at ESI) Peter Urban (USAGA) (Thank You Grandmaster Urban,
OSS !!I still love your logic ! ), Ed Parker, Skip Hancock (Kenpo), Tom Connors (Kenpo-Traco),
Prof. Remy Presas (Arnis), Bob Duggan (ESI), Cliff Lenderman (JKD, Silat and Thai
Boxing), Bill Sanders (Silat) and Jim Ingram (Mustika Kwitang & Tjimande). There
are others, but this list hits the core people. Of the unknown (non-public instructors)
I would say that Ed Sumner (GOJU), Jan Abrams (TRACO), George Kikes (Won Hop Kuen
Do, 7 Star Mantis and Hung Gar) Randy Wanamaker (Goju-Kenpo) and Tony Umek (J.T.Will
style Kenpo) would rate high on the Jim Keating scale of importance. Each person
contributed to and helped me in my quest for self perfection. Thank you all.
The material that you teach on your recent videos seems to have a lot of Filipino
influence. Is this an accurate description of what you are currently teaching ?
Much of what we do comes from the Spanish/Filipino methods of close quarter combat.
Other aspects of our method are drawn from Silat, Kenpo and JKD (to name a few.)
The nice part about what the Filipino martial arts offer to me personally is the
freedom to be myself and to express the art as I see it without condemnation. Over
the years I have come to despise the manipulative, shallow, money grubbing practices
which so many martial business systems seem to endorse today. It is anything but
personal choice or freedom, it is cult like bullshit that never, ever hits its mark
of getting the student up to speed combatively. It is a a well laid plan of martial
smoke and mirrors which redirect the beginners mind from the original reason they
first came to study martial arts (Self Defense). Now they become part of a drawn
out "milking" process designed to drain their wallet without ever teaching
them anything valid. They quit pursuing real combat skill and begin chasing colored
cloth and the approval of the teacher and group. Talk about disinformation and mispriorities
! Freedom IS the true path of martial arts, not rank belts, caste systems, indentured
servants or any other weak assed effort which attempts to cloak nothing less than
a modern form of slavery (and you pay for this ? ! ). The arts from the Phillipines
reflect not an Asian concept of close quarter battle, but more of a European (Spanish)
style. Thus, until fairly recent times the Filipino arts were devoid of rank structure
(aka: slavery_the un-necessary domination of others) and it's accompanying headaches.
The art was taught as a sharing experience and once learnt one could do with it as
they pleased. The arts from the Phillipines are more indicative of the spirit of
"tribal arts" than they are Martial arts. Today, the Filipino methods are
as accursed as the modern Japanese methods, this is due to their (the moneygrubbers)
unrelenting efforts to shove this bogus concept of rank up our asses just so they
can make an extra buck. In the real world rank of any kind carries little weight
except around those who agree to play the tired out old game. Remember bullets kill
generals as easily as they do the privates. I would tell those individuals who are
currently walking the thousand mile path of martial arts to seek out real, honest,
applicable skill. Avoid chasing hollow rank and short lived fame, if your skills
are really good they will be undeniable to any who see them. Fame and recognition
will follow. Your skill IS your rank, real abilities back themselves up, they need
no certification or approval, in zen-like simplicity they simply "are".
I know that this sounds like I am paraphasing Bruce Lee, but he merely paraphased
Krishnamurti, Sun Tzu, Lao Tzu and others. Much of the book "Tao of Jeet Kune
Do" is just other peoples material respun through the JKD matrix. JKD is only
camoflaged common sense and logic applied to the combat equation. I say, seek freedom
and allow others to have theirs, keep the Filipino arts from becoming calisthetic
routines or useless martial deathtraps as the other martial arts have largely become.
What is different about your martial arts curriculum as opposed to what is currently
taught by more traditional martial arts instructors today ?
There is not
so wide a gulf as some people would expect to exist between what I espouse through
my teachings today and those traditional (classical) values expressed by the Samurai
of old. At Comtech simplicity is always sought, things run smoother if they are kept
simple. Why re-invent the wheel when thousands of versions of it already exist ?
A little known aspect about the Comtech internal structure is the fact that all of
our teachings are based around the generic Samurai philosophy of life. Let me explain
further. In the past samurai were expected to learn specific skills that complimented
and enhanced their function as warriors. These skills were (but not limited to) :
Kappo or Katsu (first aid)
(flower arranging -art-manners)
Aiki-jitsu (empty hand defense)
At Comtech I instruct my
pupils to set their goals with a similar agenda in mind to guide them. Meaning we
take Ho-jitsu and teach pistol, rifle and shotgun. Ken-jitsu training becomes tactical
folder training. Kappo has evolved into CPR, first aid and possibly completion of
a paramedic course from your local college. Ikebana and its related efforts have
become a high school graduation diploma or Jr. college degree. Calligraphy has grown
past the written word and it's equivalent today is the working knowledge of the modern
computer. Kyudo has been replaced with advanced sniper training on our two thousand
yard range (and yes, we do at times still shoot bows, compound bows). Ba-jitsu is
no longer needed, but defensive driving is. We recommend that all of our pupils get
training at Sears Point raceway, ESI or any of the other hi-performance driving schools
available. Aiki-jitsu has been augmented with silat, kali and kenpo, mace, OC gas
and stun guns.
I think you get the idea, I am honestly MORE traditional than
many of those who claim to be. The term is ambiguous, "traditional" what
does that mean to me ? If I am to be traditional according to my ancestory then I
guess I should don a kilt and teach shilelegh (Irish Cudgel) fighting. To try and
mimic a part of a long dead culture (Japan, China or Ireland) is one of the most
hollow paths that a man can follow. Only in the west do we still think/act like characters
in an asian comic book. The people in asia do not even act in this manner any longer.
Then why you may ask is this path so common in the asian martial arts ? Simple, the
asian arts are indirectly linked to ancestor worship which is common throughout asia.
This one factor alone has kept asia in the background more than any other aspect
(especially in the arts). You are not allowed to change anything because that could
anger an ancestor. Thusly shit never evolves as fast as it could or should, every
evolutionary process is challenged and thwarted. To alter an art is to insult those
who practiced it before you. Comtech is not bound by this outmoded concept, we do
not come from a culture where such practices are taught or enforced. Form follows
function in the real world and in the world of Comtech as well, performance counts,
there are no second place winners in our universe. What we do prescribe to is the
law of the land and God's law, these are the traditional values of our American fighting
art (Comtech) that we teach. These are rules that the samurai of today had better
adhere to or suffer jail, law suits, financial loss and worse.
5. Do you
have a martial arts philosophy that guides your teaching as well as in your personal
Yes, Kongo Zen, diamond zen has guided me some (Shorinji Kempo).
I think that mankind itself is the key to most of lifes questions. To stay clear
headed and multi-faceted, to be hard, with sharp edges to hold up under what life
throws at you and yet to be able to crystalize your thoughts into beneficial action
for self and others in an instant. Help when and where you can, it is part of a warriors
role in society. Violence is easy and can be done quite well by bugs, thugs and cattle,
it does not take years of training to perform. A warriors path is one of higher standards,
they should use their abilities like a policeman uses his gun, as a last resort and
to adjust circumstances, to surgically and judgementally improve them if you will.
Today's martial artists are totally enamored with the physical side of the arts.
Behind closed doors they are prone toward using violence (their training) to get
their way in life, yet all of them usually preach a pious goody two shoes philosophy
in public, that old "martial arts are not about violence, honest" routine
!. It's called denial. The whole "I'll challenge him to fight" thing is
indicative of the juvenile mindset that infests the martial arts community. Where
I come from such a mindset will not gain you any respect, only a smoking .44 hole
in your chest some dark night when ya open your front door. Too bad that so many
sincere people have missed the mark., the physical side is NOT where the "himitsu"
or hidden aspects or benefits of the martial arts reside. This is when freedom of
thought and deed must come in to the picture to make things balanced again, without
this element (freedom/ the "break free from the nucleus" part) there would
be no Comtech or Jim Keating. The book by Taisen Deshimaru entitled "The ZEN
Way To Martial Arts" should be read by those interested in grasping the true
esscense of the martial path they walk. Notice what the Deshimaru focuses his teachings
on, the breath ( Just like Yoga, Sinanju or calligraphy). His attention to technique
is marginally addressed. Here is the truth for all to read.
6. What is your
opinion on the grappling phenomenon that has seized the martial arts community in
recent years ?
Grappling has tried too hard of late to be the "cure
all" of all martial woes. NOT ! Grappling is king in the right situation, it
can be very dangerous when done at the wrong moment. I think that there is definately
a time for grappling skills in the course of a standard unarmed street fight or ring
match. To be able to wrestle well is a fantastic asset to have on your side. A real
confidence builder too. But, we cannot apply it's wonderfulness much beyond the brilliant
marketing job done by it's exponents a few years ago when it first surfaced. Marketing
plans, sports and sports figures have never really held any real sway at the council
table of warriors at any time in history (or with me for that matter). These wrestling
hardsell does work well to make a living for those who tout their art as the answer
to the "bully down da street syndrome". But, beyond barroom brawling and
simple man to man confrontations (small time shit) grappling has little application
on the mean streets. There are no drive-by kickings ! No one peppers your house or
car with double leg takedowns. Today the bad guys are heavily armed, they use numbers
(5 x 1), surprise, extreme violence and deception to accomplish their goals. Terror
is the name and terror is the game. Rolling around on the earth (or worse, on concrete)
with your limbs tied up with only one man is not the place that you (or I ) want
to be in just about 95 % of any of the real world confrontations. The result of grappling
overdone in the real world is torn clothing/uniforms, scuffs-abrasions and breaks
to your bones, multiple kicks to the head and body from your adversaries accomplices
and exsposure to a vast array of blood born (AIDS), oxygen based (TB ) and touch
contact (Hep. A & B) related type of diseases. ( I could tell ya stories about
these things and how attempted grappling has backfired on many a police officer,
but that's for another time). So when someone tells you about wrestling being the
ultimate path, they underscore their lack of knowledge about the real dynamics of
violence in todays hi-speed world. They are cheating their students by perpetuating
a false security. Mind you, many grapplers are as practical as I, my hat is off to
them and their solid grounding in good logic. But to those weakassed individuals
that think that they have some sort of superior line over others because they can
do a hip toss, ankle lock or mount position escape, I say "your time is a com'in
" the world will ultimately teach you the harshest of lessons that a man can
7. Do you teach any type of ground fighting or grappling in your
Yes, we do have a portion of the Comtech curriculum devoted to grappling.
This portion is comprised of various methods and means. I like what Dumog offers
(Filipino), I like the dynamic CQB methods of Aiki-jitsu, I love the Harimau and
Indo methods of ground fighting/grappling, Mr. Larry Hartsell's version of British
"catch as catch can" wrestling appeals to me too. We also teach the exotic
and rare Buah sets of Bersilat and their accompanying traditional entry lines. Highly
formalized for sure, but loaded with invaluable conceptual information. We also have
of counter-grappling manuevers tied into our weapons training that are not seen to
often anymore since everyone seeks to grapple (as if this were a sound tactical logic
to pursue. Hmmm ! I really wonder) I know experience will guide you further than
any teacher can and the truth (for you) will be eventually realized in one way or
another. "Truths" tend to vary from man to man in martial arts circles,
seek yours. As a side note please check out our "Grappling/CQB Knife Work in
Arctic Conditions" article in this issue of Modern Knives cyber-magazine ( http://www.combattech.com
). It shows a side of law enforcement where grappling skills ( Indonesian style)
can really make a positive difference.
8. You are known for the Riddle Of
Steel seminars that are held in the northwest United States. Would you like to tell
us something about the Riddle of Steel ?
I first came upon the idea of doing
a Riddle of Steel around 1990 or so. I was deep in the wilderness of Hells Canyon,
Idaho, mourning the death of my dear friend and business partner, Max, my favorite
Pit Bull dog. I had been listening to the soundtrack of the first Conan movie on
a cassette tape. The connection was this, when the thought of putting this seminar
together first struck me I was listening to the song titled the "Riddle of Steel".
Quite appropriate, so I went with the Zen of the moment/movement and named the event
I was planning after the experience I was having. Actually I was also contemplating
suicide up in them canyons, it was a bleak time for me, too many headaches. But,
by the grace of the creator I pulled out of that terminal nosedive and took stock
of things around me. I decided to strike out in a new direction and try one more
time to get into a positive groove. Before that time the seminars I did teach were
titled with the heading of "Jim Keating's Martial Arts Super Sessions".
We chose exotic sites to meet, practiced, played, counciled and generally had a good
time. Slowly it matured into the institution it is today. There was no master plan,
just a logical evolution from one stage to the next. At this time I wish to thank
the countless thousands who have attended the Riddle of Steel. I am in awe of you
and your dedication. The Riddle is beyond knife work or martial arts, it is a high
speed, low drag, self enhancement program. If feel good guru Tony Robbins can make
you feel better, make you do better and make you more $$ in your career by teaching
how to firewalk (Huh ? ), then Jim Keating can do (and does) the same or more for
his clients via the Riddle of Steel experience. Live large amigos !
does your material differ from the more traditional Filipino martial arts training
I am a concept school and I see very little difference in the methods I
teach versus those found elsewhere. My methods make the art clearer and easier to
grasp than others, but thats due to how I teach, not what I teach. Although, I am
sure that there are those who will take exception to what I do, but they don't count
anyway. Mr. Parker used to say that "it's always easier to cut the line of another
man, than to take the time to lengthen your own". The men who take exception
to my interpretation of the Southeast asian martial arts are not at odds with my
art. They are merely angry because they are not able to do what I have done. Success
in the teaching of or development of any style of art is more closely linked to the
elements of personality, good hygiene, theatrics and sound business sense than it
is on how many kata you know or how many asses you have kicked. Basic Dale Carnegie
stuff like in his classic book "How to Win Friends and Influence People"
go further to help you than all the front kicks, knife cuts or kata combined. Professionalism
speaks louder than juvenile anger. I have taken a lot of heat over the years for
what it is I do and I know that it is not because of my art. It is because of my
success. Karateman Joe Lewis once said ( I paraphrase) that "America loves a
winner, but they also can't wait to see a winner loose his footing, then the same
crowd loves to put the boots to him as well." Mental marksmanship Joe, right
10. In your martial arts teaching, do you address the psychological/mental
component of fighting ? By this I mean such topics as dealing with adrenalin dump,
I address these areas in detail because their are the
silent, unseen controllers of our bodies and of the fight. I know how to strengthen
a man's muscles, but how do I strengthen his courage ? I know how to make a man kick/punch
hard, but how can I deliver him from his own self doubts and inexperience ? The answer
to these questions can be found only within the mental/spiritual realms. All of the
many symptoms we can list can all be encompassed by the general heading of "fear
of death". All of these intangible aspects that many martial artists avoid are
supposed to be present in training. To be familiar with them is why we train, training
is about these elements more than it is the endless aquisition of physical technique.
Human psychology, observational psychology and understanding of the sympathetic
and para-sympathetic nervous systems are all part of the Comtech internal tactical
doctrine. These components you mentioned such as adrenalin dump and pain tolerance
have long been taught in many of America's better firearm/gunfighting schools. Whether
it's Chuck Taylor, Col. Rex Applegate, Mas Ayoob, John Farnam Gabe Suarez, Andy Stanford
or Mike Janich, they will address the aspects of "Tachy Psyche" somewhere
in their training program. We are all on the same page in this respect. It's something
they have been doing for years, it is par for the course. The term "tachy Psyche"
encompasses all of the "discoveries" that martial artists have made of
late and then some. It is only recently that the martial arts community has begun
to deal with this well documented phenomenon. (Remember that at Comtech we have always
been gunfighters, long before we earned our bones as knifemen.) The martial arts
are behind the curve in real world methods of conflict management. Instead of catching
up , they are re-creating the wheel. It is like they thought of these things about
two years ago and are now sharing these hard won secrets with the public. The fact
is most martial artists are out of their depth in true conflicts and they have taken
this long to finally come into agreement with the rest of the planet about what actually
occurs in a lethal force confrontation. Duh, really a backward, time consuming evolutionary
process. More open mindedness and exploration is needed from those in the arts to
cut losses and improve performance as a whole. The Quai Chang/mother Teresa-social
worker/culty-creepy thing strikes again though. Untill we all (as martial artists
together) agree that we are not living in times past or in some asian fantasy realm
(Big Trouble in Little China, indeed) then we will continue to see time expended
on worthless counter-culture ritual and unproductive endeavor. While many people
and publications involved with the martial arts today are vigorously hashing over
these new, "hot topics", they are old news (and under control) for most
cops, pistoleers and real world players.
11. You are generally regarded as
a weapons expert by the martial arts community. Could you tell us about the weapons
program that you currently teach ?
Man is a tool bearing/using being. The
surly cave bear was not subdued by our primitive ancestors through the use of the
mount position, front kicks or (the deadly) double spinning, leaping, drunken, board
breaking, dragon kick. It is through the use of tools that mankind has streaked ahead
of other speices. To deny or limit weapons use, or the knowledge of weapons use as
some martial arts schools do is not only stupid, it's criminal. As long as weapons
are present men can remain equal and free. When weapons are not present you can look
for some shallow, money driven, "dominator" personality that wants to be
the big shot and rule the roost for their own gain. Helping others is always secondary
to their real self oriented agenda. The schools which teach weapons early on give
their students priceless ability and confidence. The bad type of teacher actively
seeks out followers, the good type teachers actively seek out fellow leaders. My
programs are designed to create intelligent leaders because I love running with the
wolfpack, not walking with the dogs. Mahatma Gandhi once said " Of all the injustices
perpetrated on the Indian people by the British, the total disarmament of the Hindu
people is one of the darkest, cruelest injustices of all". To quote another
british source "Only the lowliest of the low use their fists".
of our weapons program is based around the 12 areas of Kali. Using that as a rough
guide we modify and refine both ancient and modern combative skills to suit our needs.
This matrix is European in it's format and content. It's western-ness is easily identified
since no matrix from any asian art comes close to matching it for real pound for
pound value, mind you this is merely my opinion. I do not want a bunch of "deathmatch
seeking" boneheads lurking around outside my door attempting to "prove"
their masters art for the honor of old Uncle Chang (who died in China about six centuries
ago). Just an opinion on what works for me and mine, gang, dats all. Weapons skill
of the Spanish origin IS tops for me. They ruled the known world for over three hundred
years. No one pulls that off without having some serious shit to lay on the enemy.
The Spanish were the masters of this factor in their time. No asian country has yet
to rule the Earth as have the western nations. There are several western nations
that have (IE: Britain, America, Spain, Germany and others at certain points in time).
History does not lie. Within Kali are the remains of a once fantastic close quarter
fighting system. But do not look to the Phillipines for info on this, look to your
history books and go to Spain. Weapons skill of the type we at Comtech ultimately
espouse for combat is found in these old references to the Spanish methods. We have
within our curriculum flexible weapons (whip, latigo), double and single use of weapons,
short and long weapons training (dagger/sword/staff), projectile weapons (guns, blowguns,)
Flying weapons (spears, chakrams) and much more. Since we truly are a universal system
or method, we have little trouble in dealing with such a large volume of material.
Each subject area relates to the other, forming a link that even novice's in the
Comtech system can eventually find and follow to the good stuff and to their personal
12. Here at MAVR, we have reviewed several of your videos. What do
you think is your best work on video so far.
Hmm, well, I reckon it would
be the often misunderstood (reverse grip) "Drawpoint seies" volume 1,2,3.
It is a complete edged weapon personal defense system on tape. It is taught in a
conceptual manner that transcends its title. It is a fantastic self protection methodology.
It is an ideal transition tape for those who are already gunmen and who wish to aquire
combat grade, defensive blade skills in a rapid time. It is a quality video set,
both on a content level and from a production standpoint. I might mention that irregardless
of the Paladin Press title of Volume one or what others have claimed this video tape
set to be it is not about knife fighting ! Never has been. These tapes are about
protecting yourself in a lethal force confrontation where the knife may offer you
the only recourse to being murdered. We only use the standard knife-to-knife training
format to impart knowledge, not to endorse the antiquated idea of "knife fighting".
Does a football player who hits the tackling dummy mistake that exercise for what
he is supposed to do in a game ? No, in a game he puts those skills to use against
the opposing team (and not a one of them are carrying any tackling dummies on the
field ). Amazing ! Does the fisherman who practices casting in his own backyard actually
anticipating catching a fish ? I think not, but he then uses his newly trained in
abilities to cast his line with accuracy and control, even amongst branches and snags
along the creek to then catch real fish. Thus one must see beyond the obvious veil
of practice and move to the next level of application. So it is with the Drawpoint
series. I also believe that my "Conceptual Gold" series (Vol. I and II)
are very good videos for anyone, at any level.
13. Which of your videos would
you recommend to a beginner in the martial arts ?
It would between my three
volume set known as the "Knifecraft" series and the two volume set called
"Conceptual Gold". Either one of those sets would be appropriate for the
novice. These videos take you from point A to Z in their respective fields so that
you have a thorough understanding of their guiding principles. Even people who are
handicapped or wheelchair bound will find this material to be of benefit.
I would like to thank MAVR for this opportunity to set the record straight. I admire
their honesty, professionalism and work. I think they are accurate in their views
and balanced in their approach to the arts. If any of you readers have found reason
to take offense at any thing which I may have said in the course of this interview,
please do not let it reflect on the fine folks at MAVR. They have only provided an
avenue of much needed communication for all us in the arts. I think the truth is
out there and it needs to be known now. Avoid conflict, help others and seek truth.
James A. Keating
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