The Paths of DBMA

by Graeme ‘Scotty Dog’ Higgins

The thing that the Dog Brothers and DBMA (Dog Brothers Martial Arts) are undoubtedly best known for is the Gathering. Thanks to the series of instructional DVD’s, what started out as a group of guys hanging round after class, searching for the truth of their art, has grown into a well known event where people from differing backgrounds can come to find the truth in what they do and who they are (as long as they can abide by the codex of “Be Friends At The End Of The Day”). While DBMA is a direct result of the knowledge gained through this endeavour, the Gatherings are now but one path for someone training in DBMA.

Everyone’s reasons for training are their own and no-one’s reason is more valid than anyone else’s, especially as people’s reasons tend to change depending at which point of their path they are on?.

As the recent Gathering in Europe demonstrated, the Fighter’s path is still a very popular one in DBMA. There is apparently an abundance of people out there for whom hitting each other full force with big sticks, and little protection, holds a great appeal. Despite the self cultivated image of “Sweaty, Smelly Psychopaths with Sticks”, these people are some of the most intelligent, nicest & friendliest people you could meet. Fighters tend to come from all walks of life with the only common threads being humility & a love for what they do (traits I feel that are attracted in part by the fact we don’t keep score). The people on this path are the pillars upon which a DBMA group is founded. Without them, everything trained is theoretical. Through their experience, an insight into the nature of what we train is gained, which otherwise may be lost.

Another path in DBMA is that of the Practitioner. As popular as the Fighter’s path is, the practitioner’s path is more so. For every fighter in my group I have three people who train because they enjoy the drills or the exercise or the sparring (please note that in DBMA this is differentiated from fighting). They enjoy the art for the art’s sake. They are the people who help ensure that we develop training methods which can be used into old age. They find ways to train with the insight gained by the fighters, while keeping us to the mission statement of “Walk As A Warrior For All Your Days”. They stop us focusing on what builds a better immediate fighter at the expense of what builds a better, more complete martial artist and person over the years. Without them we would still build good fighters, but may be lost when a fighter burns out. What may be lost?

These paths are firmly routed in what we like to call the ritual space: a place where people will meet, for the greater good of the tribe. A place where some of us can choose to test ourselves against full resistance, or others can practice the art with a more holistic intent.

The final path of DBMA is reality. This is a relatively recent path to develop in DBMA. Its focus is the darker area of aggression outside the ritual space. Though the insight into this path may be newer, the material trained in this path comes from the roots of FMA. In this path the main focus is finding how best to integrate the skills developed in our other training in the way which will be most effective outside the controlled environment.

Without a proving ground, in the same vein as the Gathering this is no easy task Although the Gathering can let us test our physical skills against full resistance, the mental issues faced outside the ritual space prove a greater issue. Luckily Guro Crafty is involved in the training of a number of Prison, Military and Police Departments. Drawing on their training needs and experiences, along with the experiences of people who have fought in the Gatherings who are also involved in these vocations, this path has started to develop. This Path doesn’t boast of having all the answers, but through the integration of the more traditional aspects of FMA along with the fighters’ insight gained through the Gathering, its aim is for you to “Die Less Often”. Without this path, DBMA could end up being nothing more than an extreme combat sport.

One of my favourite things about DBMA is the “Loose Leash” philosophy. Each school has a slightly different focus, while remaining true to the core of the system. Furthermore it’s up to each person to find their own path in the art by choosing which path suits their needs and reasons for training at that point in their life. Starting out as a practitioner, may lead to becoming a fighter. A fighter may decide he is more concerned with real world issues. Someone who started training for self defence may find fulfilment in training purely for the love of training. None of the paths are mutually exclusive and all cross over to one degree or another. The good thing about having them is that as your circumstances & needs change, having the different paths allows the art to change with you.

Graeme ‘Scotty Dog’ Higgins has been training FMA for over 20 years and is the first person in the UK to be both accepted into the Dog Brothers tribe and made a Lakan Guro in Dog Brothers Martial Arts.

He can be contacted via Facebook or email at

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