Barry Cuda Yedwabnick
AUG / 2010
ďI was taught to find the simplest answer to a problem.Ē
Interview by Eddie Morales
My name is Eddie Morales and welcomed to Martialforce.com Online Martial Arts Magazine. I want to introduce our readers to Barry Cuda Yedwabnick who is a Martial Artist with a simple and practical approach to street defense. He has studied with prominent instructors such as Dan Inosanto, which was the top student of the famed Master Bruce Lee. He has had the opportunity to test his art in the most realistic of setting, as he was a correctional officer in the state of Indiana. His study and research has lead him to interesting findings as to what works and what doesnít in a real all out fight for your life. Yedwabnick believes that the simplest way is always the best and not every technique works for everyone. His thought is, you must find what works for you and build on it. In regards to this interview I have had a few conversations with him and I can tell you that his knowledge is vast and he enjoys imparting that knowledge with anyone that is serious about learning. From my observations, Yedwabnick has a tactically sound approach that was attained through in-depth study, research and most importantly, practice. We here at Martialforce.com hope you enjoy this interview.
Martialforce.com: Where are you from?
BARRY CUDA: Iím from Rockaway Beach Queens, which is a small beach town in Queens New York. I lived there till my mid 20s. In 1986 I owned the only store front martial arts School There.
Martialforce.com: What is your occupation?
BARRY CUDA: My occupation is martial arts instructor and has been most of my life.
Martialforce.com: What system of martial arts do you practice and teach?
BARRY CUDA: Iím an instructor in JKD and Filipino Kali but I basically have my own curriculum based on my own experiences of what works for me and what doesnít. Through my teaching I like to give my students the benefit of my own personal experiences not any set Jeet Kune Do or Kali method. There are a lot of different things I learned from my instructors that I donít teach because I found them impractical in the real world. There are also things I spend allot of time on that other JKD/Kali teachers donít.
Martialforce.com: Who would you say was your biggest influence in regards to your development in Martial Arts?
BARRY CUDA: My biggest influence would have to be Dan Inosanto.
Dan Inosanto on left
Martialforce.com: Our research shows you teach Law Enforcement. When and why did you begin this instruction?
BARRY CUDA: I started teaching law enforcement as a focus of my career in 1989 when I became a corrections officer. The reason I started doing it was because of the amounts of assaults on staff. What they showed us in the Correctional Academy was a complete joke and I thought the most dangerous job needed the right tools to survive the job. I thought if staff could learn Kali they would do much better living through a shift, and I was right. I was in dozens of "altercations" with inmates but one time I had to survive an actual assassination attempt. I realized regular civilian martial arts students donít get attacked with padlocks and sharpened toothbrushes, so I focused on the law enforcement community. After a little over a year I left corrections and just concentrated on teaching. Being a Correction Officer is what got my foot in the door to teaching law enforcement.
Martialforce.com: What are the differences if any in teaching law enforcement as oppose to your regular students?
BARRY CUDA: The main differences between civilians and Law Enforcement are big. As a law enforcement officer the amount of physical force guidelines are staggering. A cop or Correctional Officer cannot hit to the face, head or neck area. Choke outs are banned and if you go to the ground you will get stomped on by others. In a prison there are always others. The goal is to put a suspect down and get him cuffed. You canít kick, and you canít really stand there and box with an inmate. Law enforcement officerís donít train to learn martial arts or get a black belt they need to learn things that are more situational and they donít put the time in like civilian students. You get maybe 2 days to teach the most relevant techniques to them not a year or 2 like civilians.
Martialforce.com: You studied with Dan Inosanto; can you tell us a little about what you gained from his teachings?
BARRY CUDA: Sifu Dan always called Jeet Kune Do a concept and he always told me "Follow your own path. Youíre JKD wont be mine" I was taught to have a method of progression. You have to be able to take a student from point A to point Z and its up to me to find that. I was taught to concentrate on attribute training and not just teaching technique after technique. Thatís why no 2 JKD/Kali instructors look the same. I was taught to find the simplest answer to a problem. Dan stressed in the end you have to find your own personal truth in combat. Some people gravitate towards kicking some to grappling and some to weapons or boxing. I have instructors under me that have completely different curriculums than mine and Iím happy with that. That was Danís influence on me.
Martialforce.com: You have quite a few certifications outside of hand to hand combat. What are some of your other certifications?
BARRY CUDA: I was a corrections officer in Indiana, which is one of those states where anybody without a felony can carry a gun legally so naturally I became a gun nut. My Indiana Kali School was right next to a gun shop and I became good friends with the owner. In corrections we had to be certified with an S@W .357- 4inch barrel and 6 inch, which we carried when we took inmates out of the facility for hospital or work details. We also had to qualify with the Remington pump 12 gauge and the mini 14, which was what we had when we worked a shift in the gun towers. Because Indiana is a "class 3 state"(Automatic weapon ownership). I had the opportunity to learn how to shoot fully automatic weapons. Iíve been hanging out with cops for half my life and most of these guys are very eager to show off their toys and their knowledge. Here in NY some of my CO students are also Swat members so I have a lot of range time with anything that shoots a bullet. Iíve been fortunate to be able to qualify with many weapons including the HK MP5 and the Glock in several calibers
Martialforce.com: Does the system you teach entail weapons defense such as knives, sticks etc?
BARRY CUDA: As a Filipino martial arts instructor I concentrate on weaponry although Filipino weapons are different than the way other arts approach weapons. In Kali we donít have forms. Once the basics are taught itís all about pairing up and practicing with another person. I attack you- you attack me and so on. It starts with no resistance and then progresses to your partner not letting you do your technique. This is what helps you find your own personal way. What works for me may not work for you and training with an unwilling partner is what shows you how to find your own personal truth. Dan Inosanto used to say" I can teach you 100 stick disarms and it wont help you but if I teach you the principles of disarming you will be better off" I teach a lot of single stick but I focus on the knife. Most people have no idea what they are doing when it comes to the knife. First off you canít go against a knife empty handed. Second you canít go up against a knife if you donít know how to use one. Even the FBI says the knife is deadlier than a gun at distances of 21 feet or less. The knife is unforgiving. There is no margin for error like a punch or kick. The knife doesnít need to touch a vital area to kill you it just needs to graze you and you can bleed out in the street.
Iíve seen real knife attacks and experienced a few myself. People dont attack with knifes the way itís taught in most martial art schools. I tell people to take the magic marker test to really see if a technique will work. In Kali the knife is stressed so hard we realize that you canít go up against someone with a knife that REALLY wants to cause you bodily harm if you are unarmed. My advanced students learn double stick/stick and dagger/long staff/flexible weapons and other combinations but for the most part I concentrate my teaching on the knife and the stick. I have a new DVD series coming out called Blade Smart and I really get into the violent realities of the knife. I teach that everybody should carry a small folding knife and train to use it. A 4-inch blade is legal in most states and I wouldnít leave the house without mine. I have been training in Kali since 1985 and I dont want to go unarmed against the knife. I dont think most martial artists really respect the blade and how deadly it really is.
Martialforce.com: Is your system based on long or short-range technique?
BARRY CUDA: I prefer short range to long range. My instructor Paul Vunak used to say" you can fire long range artillery at your opponent all day long but if you want to take over you must send in the troops" In JKD trapping range I have punches low line kicks elbows knees head butts joint locks hair grabs foot stomps and more.
Thatís a whole lot better for me than just kicks or punches. I can do much more damage in close than being far. Trapping range is the buffer zone between boxing range and grappling range. Most people go from boxing range to a clinch. With trapping range skills if you get in close I can barrage you with multiple rapid-fire hits and you wont be able to clinch me.
Trapping range when done correctly will keep you from going to the ground. Itís hard to grab someone around the waist and take them down when you are being blasted with knees and elbows. I teach grappling and my grappling skills are pretty good but I would never go to the ground in the street. I like having the skin on my elbows and knees intact.
Martialforce.com: Can you explain some of the ranges of combat and there strengths and weaknesses?
BARRY CUDA: In Jeet Kune Do we have 4 distinct ranges with some variations. In long range I can only reach you with my feet. Yes the feet are stronger than the hands but its still only having one weapon to use. The next range is kickboxing range and I can reach you with my hands and some kicks but not close enough to elbow knee or head butt you. Our favorite range is next- trapping range. Thatís the range where I have more tools available than the other ranges. The last range is grappling range and that can be standing or on the ground. Too close to hit so its all about joint locks and controls. I teach that if you were going to build a house you need a lot of tools to get the job done. You canít show up at a construction site with just a hammer so if you need to fight to save your life you need a full toolbox. You cant kick in a crowded bar or on the subway. If you dont know joint locks how can you stop a situation with out punching someoneís lights out? If your brother in law got drunk and rowdy at a Christmas party what would you do, elbow his face? There is a right tool for every job and in JKD we try and be well rounded and have the tools for each range.
Martialforce.com: What is your opinion on traditional systems, do you think they have something to offer?
BARRY CUDA: Like I stated earlier its all about ones attributes not techniques so traditional martial arts are just fine depending on the person. Iíve met traditional Karate people that can use their art better than someone doing Muay Thai.That doesnít make one art better than the other because it all depends on the attributes of the fighter. If someone is a gifted athlete and has good physical skills they can make anything work. Mike Tyson could probably have been just as good in football as in boxing and Michael Jordan excels in everything he does. Itís all up to the instructor if he is truly good enough to bring out the best in a student. Personally I dont like forms or point sparring but thats just me. The only thing a trophy is good for is smashing some one over the head with lol.
A young Barry on trumpet
Martialforce.com: In your opinion, what should a new student look for in an instructor?
BARRY CUDA: When a student is checking out instructors they need to turn off their ears to what he says and watch him move. Do you want to move like him? Is he sloppy? Is he slow? Bruce Lee used to say believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. Too many instructors dont move around with their students. They just walk around and talk about how deadly they are. Iíve met a lot of instructors that dont even teach their own classes. They have their students teach for them. A new student should pick the instructor that has a passion for his art and does all the teaching themselves. Watch them move and decide if he is the vision of what they want out of martial arts training.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on cross training in regards to weights and running?
BARRY CUDA: I believe cross training in other things is important. Lifting weights makes you stronger and having muscle can help you take shots in the ring. Running is important because you need stamina and its great for overall health. As an instructor you need to be in better shape than your students to set an example.
Martialforce.com: While its understood that itís a sport, do you think the Ultimate fighting championship changed the way people look at the martial arts as a whole and if yes or no, why?
BARRY CUDA: I donít think the UFC has helped martial arts as a whole. There are millions of people that watch UFC on pay per view and at the arena yet there arenít millions of people running out to the local martial arts school to join. The UFC is a sport and it has a lot of fans like sports do but most of these people arenít interested in training themselves. I like to watch it occasionally but I donít even look at it as a martial art. There is nothing really martial about it.
Martialforce.com: Have you made any videoís that can be purchased and if so, where?
BARRY CUDA: I have a 4 volume Kali DVD set called Dynamic Kali which is a pretty straightforward Filipino Kali series teaching traditional Kali.
DVDís can be purchased at the following link:
Martialforce.com: Where do you currently teach martial arts?
BARRY CUDA: I teach primarily in New York City but I also teach in Canarsie at Paul Mormandos School.
Martialforce.com: What would you say is your greatest achievement to date in regards to martial arts or life in general?
BARRY CUDA: Honestly Ed my greatest achievement has been not needing a regular job and being able to make a living doing what I love- martial arts.
Martialforce.com: What is your long-term goal as an instructor / martial artist?
BARRY CUDA: My long-term goal is to work hard, stay relevant and keep this "job" of mine for as long as my injuries let me. At my age long term means next week lol
Martialforce.com: Thanks for accepting the invitation to this interview. I really enjoyed it. On behalf of the staff and I at Martialforce.com, we wish you continuous success.
BARRY CUDA: Thank you for this opportunity.