Choosing the Right Martial Art the “Rumsfeld” Way

Today I’m taking a look at the decision making process for choosing the correct martial art for you and your family. Many years ago, in response to a reporters question, then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld gave a brilliant answer that has gone down as one of the most glorious examples of double talk in history. He is essentially breaking the strategic process of choice, into three categories:

  • known, known’s – things you know
  • known, unknown’s – things you know that you don’t know
  • unknown, unknown’s – things you don’t know that you don’t know

Here is the press conference bit:

It’s a classic, you’re welcome. I’m going to add one more that follows through the full spate of the logic:

  • Unknown, known’s – more on that later

Mr. Rumsfeld’s attempt to use this logic as a means to appear smarter and talk down to the reporters (he failed) notwithstanding, the logic is sound when attempting to make important decisions like bombing other countries or choosing a martial art.

I am going to stick to my own experiences in training, and as a school owner at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy since 2003, in giving examples of where these four fundamental understandings can be helpful for you. Know it allFurther, I’m going to focus on the two biggest variables; the art, and the instructor. Your personal goals and the way you learn, will also be of utmost importance. There are many other things including, but not limited to; the facility location, the facilities cleanliness and amenities, your finances, those of the facility and, of course, the collateral damage of your bombing. Wait, no, don’t bomb the karate school (unless you are Ted Cruz, then well, you won’t be happy until you bomb something), just don’t bomb the karate school… please…

The Known, Known – My approach to the known, known is simplicity. Do you like things to be simple (not easy)? The two arts that I have trained that come to mind are Muay Thai and Cacoy Doce Pares (CDP). Both are what I would call sparring systems; your progress is going to be achieved less through memorizing vast, progressive curriculum, and more through one on one, face to face sparring. Of course, every system must have the sparring element firmly embedded (more on that later).

Muay Thai front kick

Muay Thai – two fists, two elbows, two knees and two kicks = highly effective fighting art

Personally, I feel that the “full contact” nature of Muay Thai becomes untenable at a certain age, whereas, CDP can be trained you whole life, witness SGM Cacoy still sparring into his 90’s. I’ll find a good example and place it at the end.


The Known, Unknown – Many systems/ teachers will be the first to tell you that their training is going to take you to a certain point and no further. My American Kenpo instructor Manny Reyes Sr., for example, would always teach me the weapons techniques from that system (specifically the blade responses) and be quick to point out that the entry must disarm or control the weapon, if not, you must not continue. You must admire a teacher that knows what’s missing. I feel that most systems do not even try to be competent at all ranges (weapons, feet, hands, stand up grappling and ground). I want you to try to find a system that attempts to develop all of these ranges AND addresses the concept of multiple attackers. Having said that, the systems/ arts that know that they are not complete can often be a good place to begin training given all other considerations.Einstein smart

The Unknown KnownNow, you may remember, that this is the point that I added to the Rumsfeld dynamic. The unknown, known can fall in to two distinct areas for me. First you have the set up where an instructor is proficient but lacks the ability to teach the material. This can best be seen displayed in sport martial arts schools (MMA, Tae Kwon Do, Judo et al). In the competition scene there are a few schools that are noted for putting good players on the mat as instructors in exchange for tuition. It can be difficult to succeed under these circumstances, especially for youngsters.

The second unknown known is far more dangerous. This is the DVD trainee, someone who thinks they know, but have never really worked the  viewed material with a proper training partner. It is far better to know what you don’t know then to not know what you know. I know… try to keep up.

The Unknown, Unknown – This guy can be the most DANGEROUS. Stay away from coaches and trainers that think they know everything. Those guys that carry a belief system of arrogance that shelters them from outside learning. I’ve met a bunch of these guys over the years, “keeping it real”, as Chris Rock says, “yeah, REAL dumb.”

Chris can be offensive to some so, it’s up to you…

 So, naturally, this brings us back to the sparring concept. The BEST way to find out what you don’t know is through sparring. Virtually every single one of my Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS) brothers and sisters has gone through that sparring session (mine was with Zach Whitson, the founder of CTS) where we discover that we have so much unknown, so much to learn. Addressing the concerns about not knowing is a common trait that I see in my friends that are advanced martial artist’s. You simply have got to WANT to know, and that will lead you to the training. Then you have to humble yourself and get in there. As they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.” Find a teacher with a thirst for knowledge.

When choosing a martial arts training facility for yourself, or member of your family it is a good idea to have some ideas about what it is that you want. It is also very important to be open to knowing that you do not know all that is out there. All reputable schools will give you an opportunity to try some classes for little or no investment (we offer one week FREE), to allow you the chance to see what you may not have seen before.

Now You understand

There’s no way that I wasn’t going to have a Star Wars reference this week…


Get out there.

I’ll see you on the mat!

Guro Russ Haas

As promised (a lot of folks watch SGM Cacoy and find out a whole bunch of stuff they didn’t that they didn’t know):


Feature Friday – Ez-E

Welcome to my Friday Feature, a weekly post designed to introduce to you some of our best and brightest students at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy and illuminate where their success comes from, what brought them to our Academy, and discuss some of the challenges they may have faced along the way. If you are not yet a member, perhaps you will see yourself in one of the upcoming weekly features. We started just last week with an introduction to one of our Youth Phase II students, Tyler K.

This week I want to introduce to you my good friend Ezara–Ez-E (pronounced E-Z-E) as I call him. He contacted me for the first time, as I recall, way back in 2008. We exchanged several Facebook messages through the Miami Cacoy Doce Pares page . Ez was unable to begin


Here’s me with Ezara and Bryan circa June 2014

training with me for a variety of reasons until 2011. I always use him as one of the examples of getting in to train when you are ready. This should not translate to eternal procrastination, just realistic expectations of time, finances, and desire.

I have students come to me for all kinds of reasons: health and fitness, the search for a hobby, and, of course, the desire to learn some form of personal protection. Ezara is one of THE most motivated students who has ever come my way, partly because he was the victim of a terrible assault that landed him in the hospital, and almost worse. Prior to reaching out to me, he had done a tremendous amount of research: he knew a bit about the Cacoy Doce Pares (CDP) system and found the best instruction in South Florida at HMAA. It turns out we had a common background. We both had trained extensively in Bruce Lee’s, Jeet Kune Do and Ed Parker’s American Kenpo Karate. The funny thing is, Ez actually came to me to learn CDP, a deceptively simple, easy-to-learn system that we train primarily for close quarters blunt weapons. We teach CDP in our youth classes, as well as having it as a main part of our Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS) program.

Here’s Ez-E, early last year, as he was preparing for his blue belt test in Counterpoint Tactical System…

Ezara is in his 50s, keeps himself in good shape, is happily married, and travels up from Hollywood as often as three times a week to train with me privately. He works as a professional musician with a nightly gig as the piano man at Runyon’s in Coral Springs. As a musician he needs to look after his hands, so HMAA training is perfect for him as we train safe 100% of the time. He’s awesome–so for crying out loud, put some bread in his jar. Like so many of us, Ezara has had some financial challenges through the years, but has always maintained his personal commitment to be able to protect himself should he ever be attacked again. Ez has very bad knees as a result of spending his younger days “on the boards,” amongst other things, so over the years we have had to modify some of the tactics to accommodate that limitation.

Well, it’s four plus years since Ez started training with me. He is a good friend, confidant, and training partner. He has helped to make me a better martial artist. Ezara was awarded his 1st degree black belt in Cacoy Doce Pares in October 2015 and is a red belt in CTS. Congratulations, Ezara, on your diligence and dedication to training. You are a fine example of what can be accomplished by a student in our adult program at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy!

See you on the mat…

Russ Haas

FMA Training with Music Will Make You Better!

bob_marley__you_feel_no_painSo we begin this week with an expansion of one of the points that was made in last weeks post “CTS is NOT for Everybody…”, if you haven’t read it, check it out. One of the points that I made was that the Counterpoint Tactical System (and Filipino Martial Arts training) may not be for you if you don’t like music. Now, of course, this is an over generalization, it’s clear, when we get together, that many of my CTShello-is-this-thing-on brothers and sisters are not only tone deaf, but one might wonder if they can hear any music playing at all? Yet somehow they still manage great success in their training. As for me, “it sure helps m’trainin’ when the right tunes are a’playin.” There are a couple of elements of my solo practice, and in group classes at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy, where I feel that music has been particularly useful by improving the process, and thus improving the results. That’s what we’re all about, right? Give a few of these ideas a try and let me know if you get the feeling.

Warm-up – The first thing that I do when I step on the mat to begin class is turn on some upbeat songs and this is the only instance where I, personally, will put up with “pop” music. Yeah, I’m taking one for the team here, although, truth be told, I have used this tool when training alone. It’s easier for everybody to get going on the mat when you transition with something you may have heard on the radio on the way over. It’s got to be something upbeat, maybe something that you can sing along to (in your head, I mean, nobody, nobody wants to hear you singing on the mat… **cough cough – Shaun – cough cough**. We’ll get some footwork done, maybe some push-ups, sit-ups, etc. 10-15 fifteen minutes, for me, that’s about my tolerance for this type of music. Here are some good tunes that we have used over the years for this purpose:

  1. Harder to Breathe by Maroon 5 (when they were tolerable)
  2. Poker Face – Lady GaGa (before she became the Queen of England)
  3. Misery Business – Paramore (a guilty pleasure)

“Pop” warm-up fails include Adele, Maroon 5 (new stuff), and ANY country music recorded this century.

Solo Weapon training – Every FMA practitioner spends a good bit of time where it’s just you and your tools. Many of us have weapon racks and displays where we keep our tools/ toys. In CTS and most other systems there are many striking patterns and defensive tactics that are to be practiced on the regs, in an effort to stay sharp (a bit of blade humor there for you). In my training, I always begin with straight up curriculum and work up to freestyle, sometimes going back and forth. I’ll grab a weapon and start to play, I use the music to give me queues. The music will tell me to speed up, slow down, change my timing, or change my weapon. For this type of training, I listen to drum music. Drum music can come from all over the world, in my collection, I have several Japanese taiko drum groups, Scottish, German, African, native American and several Latin drum groups. This type of music tends to vary rhythmically in tempo and time. The use of different percussion instruments and the sturm and drang nature of it can change what you are doing in an instant. Back in the day, I used to workout with Jason Bonham (yes, THAT Jason Bonham) and I was always hoping he would give FMA a try, alas, I did get his son in for a while, but never him. Here are some great drum corps that I listen to:

  1. Fushu Daiko (far and away my favorite)
  2. Wolgemut (German/ renaissance style)
  3. Albannach (Scottish drum corps)

Double Stick banging

“I don’t like to hammer out some nice sinawali’s to hard rock music.”

said no FMA player ever…

At HMAA, all of our Cacoy Doce Pares classes begin with pengke-pengke. For this double stick practice I reserve our best hard rock/ old school punk music. The slamming guitars and super fast tempo lends itself to pushing the pace, forgetting about the minutiae and, above all, don’t stop. The only problem is many of the songs won’t fill a two or three minute round, anyway, go, go, go!

Here are some of my faves:

  1. Bad Reputation – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts (THE best)
  2. Run to the Hills – Iron Maiden
  3. Ring of Fire – Social Distortion (I love Johnny Cash, but this is the one you want)

This music is also great for pad work, oh, and, listening to every day…

Doce Pares sparring – Zach Whitson (the founder of CTS) and I always have some music on when we train. The best is when we throw some blues or reggae music on and spar in the way of Supreme Grandmaster “Cacoy” Canete. The chilled out vibe of some Buddy Guy or Muddy Waters blues records, I mean CD’s, I mean MP3’s; or the cool riddims of Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff or, of course Brother Bob really set the tone for a relaxed feeling of the movement of “Cacoy”. Try these:

  1. Peter Tosh – Live & Dangerous: Boston 1976
  2. The Rolling Stones and Muddy Waters – Live at the Checkerboard Lounge 1981
  3. Cyndi Lauper – Memphis Blues (2010)

For me music is as much a part of my life as my heartbeat or breathing and training is as much a part of my life as music, so let the music move you in more than your heart and your head.

So if you’ve come in off the street
And you’re beginning to feel the heat
Well listen buster
You’d better to start to move your feet
To the rockin’est, rock-steady beat
Of Madness
One step beyond!


Like Brother Bob says “one good thing about music, when it hits you you feel no pain.” For a bunch folks who are used to getting whacked with stick all day, well, that’s not nothing. So take advantage of the heavy heavy monster sound. Get on your feet and take your training ONE STEP BEYOND!

See you on the mat!



Friday Feature – Tyler K.

Every Friday, I will try to present one of our outstanding students and share how martial arts has assisted them with their success in life. In doing so, you can take a look at something from our video archives. I will  share bits and pieces of the Haastyle Martial Arts Academy, Little Dragon’s (Pre K-1st grade), Youth Phase I (1st-5th grade beginners), Youth Phase II (4th-7th grade advanced) and Teen/ Adult Programs. Our curriculum is derived exclusively from Zach Whitson’s Couterpoint Tactical System

Today’s video features my buddy Tyler “Derpy McNugget” K.. Tyler is a very bright boy who will celebrate his 10th birthday next week. He has been training with us for about three years now.


Tyler has been using martial arts as an outlet for his great energy and enthusiasm and to control his, sometimes, impulsive behaviors. His parents Patty and Rick are very supportive of our efforts at HMAA to promote Tyler’s enthusiasm and provide the discipline that he (and all children) needs to be successful in all his endeavors. His sister Sofia is currently on our awesome yellow belt team.

This video is from April 2015 and shows Mr. McNugget demonstrating one of our junior orange belt ground tactics requirements; “around the world”. Our youth Phase I beginner’s focus on escape first on the ground, and learn basic controls. At the Phase II level we are more focused on getting comfortable moving around on the ground while looking for control’s and escapes. Go Tyler!

As you can see, control-move, control-move, we even add some striking in there as a reminder. This was taped on the same day Tyler learned it for the first time. He knew all the positions and began working on his transitions from one to the other. You should see him now!

How’d he do?

See you on the mat!

Russ Haas

>> and Tyler will probably be there too!<<

CTS is NOT for Everybody…

Hey folks! Here’s my first shot at posting via Word Press so, I hope it makes you laugh, makes you cry and maybe makes you wonder WHY? Sheesh, I’m already Dr. Suess; thanks for reading, here goes…

So often, I find myself presented with questions like:

“What is the Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS)? “CTS Crest Hi res crop

“Can everybody do it?”

My responses run the gamut from “Are you looking to start training?” – “YES”; “Are you willing to do something great for yourself?” – “I want to, buuuut…”; “Are you willing to give it a try?” – “WHEN ARE CLASSES?”

You can do it

All that is really all that is needed for success in my program at Haastyle Martial Arts Academy is; 1) the desire and 2) the follow up action of getting on the mat. From that point on any reasonable person can see what CTS has to offer. The high percentage of people that do not follow through, and the sometimes STUNNING reasons why, are a subject for another article.

The premise of this article touches on possible reasons why someone that may try a class or two doesn’t follow through. It’s time to come clean; I’ve decided to put the truth out there:

The Counterpoint Tactical System is NOT for everybody!

Do NOT do CTS if…

  1. You need more drama in your life; you definitely should not be training in the Counterpoint Tactical System if you are the one who is alwaysSweet georgia looking for something or someone to bitch and complain about. CTS practitioners tend to stay cool and focus on the positive improvements that the training brings.
  2. You believe in “no pain, no gain”; the CTS training model is designed to build you physically from the ground up. Initially balance and stability are the focus of the training through the development of proper footwork. Check out my friend Eric Primm’s site for his regular Footwork Friday posts. Punching, kicking, wielding a weapon and evading all of these things are the foundation that we build upon. Do not practice CTS if you need to leave class bruised, battered and broken down to feel fulfilled.
  3. You like a “varied” wardrobe; yeah, well, like it or not, you will likely spend the rest of your days wearing tactical or cargo pants/ shorts and some type of black (maybe grey on “fancy” day) t-shirt, day in and day out (**except for you Val**). If you’re all about the traditional pajamas and belts, CTS is not for you.
    Counterpoint Tactical System first generation black belts circa 2013. L-R Kevin Wagner (Dayton, OH), Brian Brown (Atlanta, GA), Russ Haas (Boca Raton, FL), CTS Founder Zach Whitson (Charlotte, NC), Josh Ryer, Joel Dougherty & David Curet (Pittsburgh, PA)
  4. You need to do jump spinning 360 kicks; just NO…
  5. You need to keep every belief that you previously had about martial arts; most CTS students have had more than one strongly held belief about martial arts, and martial arts training methodologies disproved after practicing our “open training model” with progressive resistance training for a while.Are you serious
  6. You want to rest on your laurels; while CTS is still in its formative years as a system, it stands that training is an institutionalized part of the culture. From the top down, with CTS Founder Zach Whitson as our inspiration, virtually every, CTS black belt trains almost every day.
  7. You can’t embrace change; CTS is an ever evolving system that will change with the times as any, relatively, small group culture is prone to do. It will change as you age, it will change with improved teaching methods and technology. The CTS practitioner is never set on “cruise control.”
  8. You don’t love to laugh; it stands to reason, if you are going to spend so much time with your training partners, it has got to be fun. Make jokes; laugh. Make a mistake; laugh. Do something great; laugh. LAUGH, LAUGH, LAUGH… What If I Told You Missing SomethingThat about covers it, but it seems like eight is not the right number though, so let me add the following:
  9. You don’t like to train with music
    One good thing
  10. You have a fear of trianglesor you suffer from rhabdophobia (look it up).
  11. You don’t like to eat your veggieshealth is wealth!
  12. You don’t like the number twelvesee what I did there?

Maybe my next post will be about why we all SHOULD train in CTS?

That’s going to be long one, with a lot… of… words…

I’ll see you on the mat! RH