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.

3. 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 ?

Yes, 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.

4. 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) :

Ho-jitsu (firearms)
Ken-jitsu (sword)
Kappo or Katsu (first aid)
Ikibana (flower arranging -art-manners)
Sumie (calligraphy-education)
Kyudo (archery)
Ba-jitsu (horsemanship)
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 training ?

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 be taught.

7. Do you teach any type of ground fighting or grappling in your school ?

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 a arsenal 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 !

9. How 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 on !

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, pain tolerance,etc.

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".

Much 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 goals.

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.

Lastly, 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. Thank You.


James A. Keating


© 1997-2016 Martial Arts Video Reviews. All Rights Reserved.