Filipino Dirty Boxing Seminar with Daniel Sullivan

Discover The Amazing Secrets to Turn your existing Muay Thai, MMA or Boxing skillset into a Mutant Animal of Mass Destruction for Real-Life Street Survival. These are the dirtiest, nastiest, most devastating moves that you’ve ever seen…

Kung Fu Kingdom kindly invited me to attend and write about this event. It felt like something quite new and different, as my own world is all about Japanese martial arts – but I figured that was all the more reason to go along, explore and experience Guro Daniel Sullivan’s Dirty Boxing Camp and Instructor Training Course!

If any non-martial arts person read the above intro, they’d very likely run a mile. In fact, there are probably a lot of serious martial arts practitioners who wouldn’t be too keen either. But Daniel Sullivan’s website reveals a different story under the surface. Guro Daniel comes across as a kind, thoughtful, sensitive man, who talks warmly about how:

The martial arts have helped me to transform my life in the most incredible ways and I wanted to share this positive transformation with others so they too can experience the positive benefits that I have seen through the martial arts.

The London course was organised by Kelina Cowell; another kind and thoughtful person -see for example her compassionate and immaculately-researched book: “Understanding Domestic Violence and Abuse”. Yet Kelina is an expert in the same Dirty Boxing which promises to render your martial art a Mutant Animal of Mass Destruction.

So what’s it all about? Guro Daniel’s visit to London on 16-17 April was a great chance to find out more:

The two-day programme combined a crash course and a more intensive Instructor Course in Filipino Dirty Boxing (Panantukan). Guro Daniel teaches the Lacoste style, developed by Juan “Johnny” Lacoste with Daniel’s own teacher, Dan Inosanto.

The course was aimed at those with existing skills in arts such as Muay Thai, MMA, Boxing, Krav Maga and so on. It taught a series of vicious add-ons to integrate into these systems, including:

  • Scissor (Gunting) Motions
  • Head Butts
  • Finger Jabs,
  • Fish Hooks,
  • Thumb Gouges,
  • Neck Controls
  • Overhooks and underhooks,
  • Elbow (Guro Daniel’s favourite!) and Knee Strikes

It also included fighting principles that may feel alien to many martial arts practitioners, such as: when throwing someone, make sure to land on them in the way that does the most damage (for example with your knee).

The nickname “dirty” refers to the fact that there are no rules in Panantukan – because it’s not a sport, or a fancy competition art. It’s pure street-based self-defence, to be used in the most extreme situations.

One theme Guru Daniel mentioned several times, was his passion for wide research into the martial arts. He’s followed the lead of Guro Dan Inosanto – and Inosanto’s own teacher Bruce Lee – in devoting his life to exploring different styles and “absorbing what works” to quote Lee.

Panantukan is basically empty-handed Silat with elements of boxing integrated. But Guro Daniel’s expertise in other arts was also very visible. Having adroitly picked up many people’s names and martial art style(s) by the end of the first morning, he was therefore able to frequently cross-reference his teaching to basic moves and applications which he knew different students would recognise and relate to. At certain points, this included demonstrating applications with weapons, for comparison with the empty-handed versions.

Daniel is especially keen on Muay Thai, and frequently referred to it as the best striking art.

So what’s it like to learn the dirtiest, nastiest, most devastating moves that you’ve ever seen? Actually, it’s a lot of fun; and very well structured and disciplined. Daniel broke the skills down into three types: gross motor skills, fine motor skills and “dirty tricks”. He then bombarded students with intensive non-stop training, integrating all three levels in a very clear, logical way; systematically building up the complexity over the course of the two days.

Guro Daniel is an unashamed fan of focusing on the fundamentals; and getting the basics right was given emphasised priority on the course.

The students generally said that they really appreciated the fast pace and almost crazy intensity of the training. They accepted that it wasn’t the type of course where you come away feeling that you’ve mastered very much; rather they would take away a wealth of things to personally mull over and process in their own time, over the coming weeks.

Another surprise about this dirty art was how very beautiful it is. It was evident throughout the course, and particularly so when Guro Daniel was warming up with some shadow boxing. It looked almost as if he was privately dancing to the music pumping away in the background.

The art is also highly ethical -arguably just as much as any other more formal martial art. Guro Daniel explained that Guro Inosanto often says that the Lacoste style can be as brutal/violent -or as humane/compassionate- as you wish. So every component of the system can be applied at a range of levels of intensity. To give an example: a thumb gouge could be used to destroy someone’s eye(s) – or just to control the head for striking.

The things Guro Daniel teaches are horrifying in one sense. But his view is that certain people are prepared to do horrifying things to you or others; and it’s wise to be capable of matching and having the ability of bettering them.

Guro Daniel is not quite a saint though, in case that’s how it’s coming over. He slyly taught a number of moves that might be used within a formal competition -and crucially, some ways in which to make them look accidental…better not say any more about that here though!

However, if you’re interested in this topic, Guro Daniel might point you towards Champ Thomas’s book (unfortunately out of print now): “Boxing’s Dirty Tricks and Outlaw Killer Punches”. One of Thomas’s fouler tips apparently involved picking up the toxic resin from the old-style canvas used in those days – with your sweat! – and using it to blind your opponent.

But before you dismiss this as shocking or immoral, Guro Daniel revealed the reason Thomas actually wrote the book. It was because one of his favourite students was beaten by a guy who had less skill – but who knew the dirty tricks Thomas had never thought appropriate to teach his own students. This exactly mirrors Daniel’s own ethical rationale for teaching Dirty Boxing.

Overall, the contrast between the stark violence and brutality of the course content; and the warm, respectful, thoughtful class atmosphere was stunning. The room was full of good people diligently learning how to destroy other people’s bodies -with not one sign of bad intent anywhere to be seen.

A lot of Daniel’s anecdotes, principles and other soundbites were inspirational, but one that really stuck in my head was that you practice Filipino martial arts with ten times the firepower you need. It’s mastering this level of intent which then allows you to apply these brutal skillsets in restrained and compassionate ways if needed and appropriate.

This isn’t as ironic or counterintuitive as it might sound. Martin Luther King famously said, Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic. Learning darker martial skills has the potential to be a moral minefield; but it’s also absolutely essential to understand violence if you wish to overcome it.

With that in mind, learning these nasty techniques under the guidance of Guro Daniel, supported this last weekend by Kelina Cowell, felt like extremely safe hands to be in for this journey…

Check out more about Guro Daniel Sullivan’s workshops and seminars and feel free to ‘Like’ and follow the Warrior Arts Alliance community here on Facebook!

Kai Morgan is a martial arts blogger who focuses on ways in which we can become better people through practicing martial arts. Check out her stories and articles at - a number of these focus specifically on women's participation and experience of the martial arts.

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