Alfredo Tucci is without a doubt the decade’s most influential person in the international martial arts scene. Many American professionals are already quite familiar with his name and his magazines. For those who don’t know him yet, “Pappa Tucci” (as he is known in Italy) will be the key to opening the worldwide gates of contact Arts and sports. This “Rupert Murdoch” of the martial arts is much more affable than the Australian publishing tycoon and certainly driven by much loftier motivations. A painter, writer, cook, expert in Eastern medicine, and of course a practitioner of the martial arts, Tucci is one of those dreamers who make their dreams come true.
Building the Tower
Fifteen years ago Alfredo Tucci started down the road that has led him to revolutionize the traditional patterns of communication in the martial arts. Over the years, Tucci has torn down the barriers to multinational communication within the arts brick by brick, and used those bricks to build a beautiful international headquarters in Madrid, Spain, which he designed himself. From this martial arts “Tower of Babel,” he edits the only magazine in the world that is published monthly in seven languages (an unheard-of development in the history of the Arts), publishes four or five new videotapes and DVDs in five different languages each month, and writes and publishes books. His business covers the entire world. On the top of a hill with a commanding view of Madrid and surrounded by nature, his offices seem rather like a Budo sanctuary, with a beautiful dome in typical Japanese style crowning a building that features the most up-to-date technical resources. Its four stories are used as recording studios, post-production facilities, offices, and more. It is a “smart” building in which the lights go on and off as you walk past the various rooms, where everything from the garden to the gas is computer-controlled. There are locker rooms, showers to get ready for a session or to relax after a recording, a kitchen and adequate places to rest and to eat. A staff of 25 keeps busy around the clock: “Australia is signing off!” “Las Vegas is logging in!” “Must talk to Argentina!” “Connect to Great Britain!” “Shaping and managing such a company is at times an exhausting task, but I have a great team working with me. I lead the company according to the teachings of Sun Tsu. No wonder I wrote a version of his book, ‘The Art of War,’ now published in five languages! Sun Tsu said that leading many is just like leading a few: it’s a question of flags and signals. Creating a pleasant environment and fluid relations is just as important as having all staff making a commitment to whatever they do. Here we work hard and intensively, and for this reason I wanted all my fellow workers to breathe the finest air. The building, according to the head of the Shaolin Temple, has a fine Feng Shui. He told me that he would have built a temple here, and I replied, ‘I’ve already done that!”‘
Success Has No Secret
What is the secret to his success? “There is no secret,” according to Tucci. “There is only a commitment to the authentic essence of our martial arts world. With that in mind, we must see it not only from the outside, but also from the inside. This business cannot be conducted as if one were selling hotdogs (with all my respect to hotdog vendors); it requires passion, the will to become a better individual and to make a positive contribution to society. The martial arts are not only a sport, a show, a system for self-defense or a tradition. They are all that and much more. The martial arts are a method of human initiation that is particularly important at present, in the framework of an alienated society, full of misguided individuals without any solid references. They are a way to reorient and to channel the innate, underlying aggressiveness of young people into something positive, into a path for personal knowledge, health and education. If you hit your fellow practitioner in the dojo, you will surely receive a similar blow in the future; then you understand that causing pain creates an echo and that negative things can come back to you. Aggressiveness is cured by more of the same. As the ancients said, ‘Similia Similaribus Curantur’ or ‘the same is cured by the same.’ The martial arts are a form of homeopathic medicine for aggressiveness, and this is a fine social asset. I think that after September 11th society has taken a better attitude towards [teachers of martial arts]. In the final analysis, the forces of order are trained by us, in our dojos and gyms.”
Balance in Print
Tucci’s company, Budo International, distributes its magazine throughout Europe, South and Central America, and Australia. Recently, Budo expanded its distribution to the US and Canada. What made him decide to launch the North American edition? “America and Europe are at the heart of our Western civilization. They complement and assist each other. They are the functional basis of modern history. But, doubtlessly, the USA is the true leader of our times. Hence, anyone who wants to spread a message having universal content must be present there. I’m absolutely sure that we have something different to offer those who love the arts in the USA and Canada. Our magazine has a different approach and even a different ethical viewpoint from what was available there until now. We print it in full color and we believe that the purchaser should receive some extra value in return for what he pays. It seems to me that the amount of advertising I see in [the US] is inadmissible… in the end, you are just buying ads! Advertising is all right, but you must have content. There must be a balance. I have seen magazines filled with up to 65% advertisements! Readers deserve more for what they pay. Since Americans are highly demanding, they will appreciate our devotion to quality in form and content.”
But “Don Budo” does not only publish a magazine. His martial arts business has many other aspects. For instance, he believes his videotapes will have a particularly strong appeal: “Our approach when producing a videotape is different from that of many American firms. We provide more time and more techniques per videotape, as well as professional broadcast quality. Some teachers seem to be a bit stingy when they produce their videotapes in the US. They just teach you a few things and that’s it. It’s as if they were afraid of drying up their sources — but I think it’s the production companies that are to blame. They prefer to sell you a 90-videotape series about something that could perhaps be taught much better in just three videotapes. I feel that the age of secrets has been left behind, and that no one should be afraid of teaching through videotapes. This will not lessen the number of their students, but will instead bring them more disciples. When somebody appears in our magazine, he or she will connect with the entire world at once. Who else can offer this nowadays? We make it possible, by publishing three or five new videotapes every month, for a still nonexistent martial arts television channel to exist in a different way. No one will be able to learn an art from videotapes — unless he already knows it, of course! Nothing can replace a teacher, but videotapes complement your training and allow you to learn from somebody who perhaps you would never meet otherwise. We record the best trainers in Argentina, Italy, Germany, the USA, Japan, China, and France … from any country! Believe me: if somebody appears in our catalogue, he has certainly passed rigorous quality control standards. There will be many surprises for dedicated students. Masters thus far unknown in the USA will set very high benchmarks, such as the Italian Paolo Cangelosi, or the Shao-Lin monk Huang Aguilar, chosen in the Temple itself to produce the Shao-Lin audiovisual encyclopedia. Masters of the stature of the Spanish Victor Gutierrez, the most amazing and outstanding Wing-Tsun teacher of our times, appear in our videos along with others of international fame like Ueshiba, Kanazawa, Adriano Emperado, Don Wilson and the editor of this very same magazine, the father of modern contact sports, Mike Anderson. Others who were not famous before they appeared in Budo are now well known in the rest of the world, and the same thing will happen in the USA. The important issue is to provide quality! The rest will come by itself.”
Alfredo Tucci is also a writer. When he was 18 he published his first book on natural cooking, of which 80,000 copies have been sold in Spanish. His annotated edition of “The Art of War,” translated into English, has been approved as an official textbook by the Spanish Navy and by the armies of several European countries. It has become a classic. Each month he writes the introductions to articles in his magazine, which he edits painstakingly in a very personal fashion. His editorials project a very personal approach that is far different from the usual “comments on the summary” that we see in other publications. In them he spells out his reflections about life and deals with complex issues concerning humanity, such as aggressiveness, violence, the path of the warrior, and the future of the martial arts. “To me, writing is like breathing. I couldn’t stop doing either. At times I find it difficult to get started, but when I do, everything flows out easily. My editorials bring me a deep personal satisfaction and they are the best way to write a book that I will soon publish, with a collection of them all. They help me make discoveries that I share with other people. Many readers write to me and give me their opinions. I always reply to all emails, even if it takes me all morning to do so. Being a public person as editor of an international magazine, I must be accessible to my readers. Even though at times this is a bit hard and tiring, I learn a lot… and sometimes they even praise me! Further, this publication allows me to relate to many of our future collaborators and friends. The editorial that moved me most was the one I wrote on the death of my dog Eleuteria. You will probably ask, ‘What does this have to do with the martial arts?’ The martial arts speak to us about life, death, courage, the eternal and the finite, strength and bravery to overcome difficulties. There are many battles that we can win, but not against death. We will always lose that battle. That is why the warrior must learn to surrender to it when the time comes, after having fought impeccably. My dog taught me that, and readers understood the issue perfectly. Martial arts are not all about fist blows and kicks! Some have forgotten this while they conduct their businesses, but true practitioners do not forget. This is why sales of martial arts magazines have declined drastically in the past few years, while the number of practitioners has increased. Something’s wrong with the communicators. I truly believe it is a lack of passion, of loving what you do. They forgot what they felt the first time they stepped on a tatami — provided they ever did! As a sport and as a way of life, the disciplinary arts are something wonderful that awakens passion. They shouldn’t have forgotten that.
…But So Is the Sword
After 15 years at the head of his company, Alfredo Tucci has certainly met many martial art masters from all over the world. “I love my work and I’m excited to meet people who also love the same things I do. Many people ask me which martial art I practice. My reply is, ‘Alfredo!’ One’s specific style does not matter! The essential issue is that we all have the same roots. We must show respect to those who practice a different style, even if we think that ours is best. We must nave an open mind to learn from others. I don’t like speaking ill of anyone n my magazine, nor do I enter any rebates. I prefer to present the arts as a whole to the public as I practice rem—meaning, in a positive way. Evil words, debates, attacks against other styles may perhaps account for some sales in the short term, but they spoil the fine climate that should prevail in our relationships. Budo International is the home of bu do (Bu: warrior, Do: path). Our magazine is open to all those who work sincerely, no matter what their own way is, whatever their sport, their defense system or their martial art. We are a big family and I want to promote that attitude. True practitioners understand this and respect each other.”
Magic and Mystery
We don’t know where he finds the time, but Alfredo Tucci is also a painter, a sculptor and a photographer. Some of the best photos published in his magazine are credited to him. “I believe that art is not over when one walks out of the gym. The visual arts help me refocus my mind on the useless. I have earned a lot of money from my paintings. There’s a great demand for them, but I paint very few pictures. I don’t make a living from them. As far as I’m concerned, it’s for my own personal relaxation, without any practical use or financial motivation. It’s the opposite of what I do daily at my office, when I have to deal with a challenging reality as I lead a multinational company. That is why it brings me a sense of balance, in a strange and mysterious way: Art is magic, mystery… no other human endeavor is anywhere similar. You don’t choose it. In the final analysis, it is art that chooses you, that forces you into it. It is a necessity. Anyone who has a feeling for art in him should let it come out, and then he’ll understand what I mean.”
Just the Beginning
Budo International has a network of specialized stores supporting the major European business groups in the field, a publishing house specializing in the martial arts, and even some bookstores, but Tucci is still working in unexpected directions: “Budo has only just started — at least that’s how I feel. There’s so much to be done yet! The most immediate, project is our launch in the USA and Canada. We are very excited at reaching readers in these countries, where we started sales in December. We also have some contacts for editions in Russia, in China, in Poland, and a very important one: an Arabic edition of over 150,000 copies! We also have big plans for television, but all these things are slow and require a lot of time; we’ve been working on this for years. Almost all work in this area is still ahead, even though we have made some relatively important achievements, like the two documentary programs ordered by the European division of Universal Pictures, which have already aired in Europe to great acclaim. Now they’ve been published in videotape format and I think they are the best I’ve done. They’ve had a fantastic success. There are other things ahead, larger things, but we can’t speak of them yet!”