Training in the West vs. Training in the PI

Very interesting post from Guro. There was a question posed to Ray Terry’s Eskrima Digest, and several students asked him to comment. The funny thing is that he did not want to respond, but did. I left the entire email intact:

From: <>
Subject: [Eskrima] Training in PI vs the West

Figured Id stir the pot once again.  I’ve had a number of experiences training in FMA both in the US and PI, experienced different styles, and views towards training, though my start down this path of FMA training was started here in the US.  For a long time I read posts from players in PI, talking about how it was different there than the US, and thought to myself well maybe for some schools, but we’re different.  We work hard, we keep true to the spirit so to speak.  And well lo and behold, going to PI and getting the chance to experience FMA there, and well it was different.  Perhaps its the water, the balut, or the rice, but well players in PI just seemed to approach and do the art differently than those with only US training.  For me it was a big change in paradigm over what I was used to with the idea of “martial arts training”, and was wondering how training compared for others who have trained both in PI and in the West?


Guro’s Response:

i was not going to answer this post, because i know some people are sensitive to my comments about american/western habits with the FMA. but i was asked to comment by a few students and friends…

i will leave alone the “attitude” of how the arts are treated by each group, and only talk about the practices and what i see.

1. Filipino fma did not change much over the years, so what we see back home, except for the large groups and schools, is pretty much what our fathers and grandfathers saw when they were young. the FMa here in the US is very young, and has its own culture and traditions. the older i get i realize this, that FMA means something different to the filipino vs. what it means to the american. FMA growth here came through karate/TKD/kanpo/JKD schools, so these arts colored everything (most everything) we see in the FMA. i believe this why we like (in the US) our FMA too look and sound “authentic/archipelago/ancient”, where the filipino will pose for arnis in a t shirt and jeans, and use spanish words. hey it is what it is, no shame.

2. filipino students usually look at what can i do for my teacher and my style, but american students look at, what can it do for me. this explains the “loyalty to teacher” disagreement with the “loyalty is stupid, i am the customer” people

3. in the philippines, lineage means nothing, but it means everything. in the US, lineage means everything, but it means nothing. 😉

— in case that confused you, this is what i mean. to the filipino lineage in the martial arts is almost as important as your family lineage, for pride, love and belonging. but for your martial arts and fighting, its a “who cares?” thing. but to the american student, the lineage is where most people get their credibility and reputation (“certified by master so – n – so”, or “master so n so said it, so it must be true) instead of building his own through his own accomplishments. but for purpose of family, beloning, etc., lineage is no different than a woman to a playboy… its just another notch on your belt.

4. in the philippines, teachers take baby steps to teaching a student skill. class is patience, and a teacher might spend only a few minutes with you and you spend the rest of the time training yourself. here in the US, class is slam bam thank you man, teacher is only going to be in town for one day, so lets absorb what we can as much as we can (drinking from a water hose?)… did anybody tape that? outside of, again, big schools and big name teachers, i would say that most filipino teachers will teach a few techs in one class and do it hundreds of times, where in the US they will give you a hundred techniques in one class. again, this is a cultural difference. in america we are busy, no time to wait for that sandwich , just give me a number 6 supersized. in the philippines, they will cook your food and you better wait or go some place else. so the level of learning patience reflected in the teaching habits.

5. most filipino teachers do not have a black belt (he might wear one, tho) or a certificate. american teachers usually have several belts and certificates

6. most filipino teachers believe in “sport”…. sparring and tournament. teachers here train “for street”

7. every filipino teacher i know has a rival. even filipino teachers here in the US. we all have our bad guy, and we are not too shy to dislike somebody in the open. american teachers have lots of friends and get along with everybody–or at least they are nice to everybody (except on the internet)

8. filipino teachers are usually not too sure about if he is going to accept that next new student (does anybody know him?). here in the west, we advertise and hope to reach everybody

9. hard training is not for everyone vs. anyone can learn it

10. in the philippines your teacher will tell you, this style will beat everybody. in the US, your teacher will try to learn everything under the sun… and respect all martial artists! no superior styles only individuals

11. in the philippines, the student will stay longer, long after he learned everthing the teacher has in his curriculum. in the US if you dont teach fast/interesting/entertaining enough, they move one. once he achieve his rank, most students are out to the next school or he starts teaching himself.

12. ongoing training vs seminar training

13. we do what we do vs we do everything

14. that wont work against me vs i gotta learn that

15. i am a master, let me prove it to you vs always a student

16. my art is superior to yours vs everybody has his own path

Later that day….


i wanted to add a little more to this topic, which is answering some questions from a board member.

“I know you’ve talked about it being different, but what exactly IS different?  Is it the students?  Is it the training?  Is it the fear of being sued by a student here in the states because he felt the training was unsafe and he got a bruise on his knuckle one night in class?  What’s the answer?  How do we make training here in the states comparable to that of PI?  I’m sure a lot of it depends on the instructors, but we do have some quality instructors here in the states to.”

1. what is different? i think the main difference is the emphasis on techniques development in the philippines, where here the emphasis is on drilling and pre arranged technique. but i know a lot of this is because the more popular eskrima styles here in the US come from teachers who do a lot of drilling and prearranged technique. not all eskrima uses the drill the same way, but i do know this is the favorite method of teaching with american teachers. and today, this is believed to be the best way to teach fighting. i disagree.

2. is it the training? yes, filipino schools spend more time on stroking practice, american schools spend more time doing the give and take, and working counter and disarms. i have been told many many times, that students will not return to a class where we are throwing strikes for 45 minutes. i dont agree either, i been in business 18 years, and even though we have high turnover, i have plenty of long term fighters in my school, so theres enough people who like this kind of training. most of them do come from jkd and modern arnis background, even though i prefer students with no FMA background, they are easier to teach.

also, i dont remember if i said it before, but there is emphasis on learning here in the US, vs training in the philippines. learning is softer and less painful, training is painful. once you learn something your done, and you move on to other stuff. but when you are training, you are never done.

3. is it the fear of being sued? no i dont think so. but maybe during sparring practice. but i think most arnis teachers teaching today learned from schools that didnt spar, or didnt spar much, so their students dont spar. its just how they learned. here in the US, when a student gets hurt in class its a big thing, where your teacher in the philippines would laugh and tell you to get up (or even congratulate you, as boggs lao did to me once). getting hurt is part of training, and i am not talking about getting your knuckle cracked on sinawali practice. today more eskrima teachers are willing to do “unsafe” practice, which is good. better than how it was in the past.

4.  how do we make it comparable? i think the answer is to train with another teacher yourself in this method. i could tell you, but you will not understand unless you go through the training yourself. sure, once in a while you’ll “get” a tip here in there, but its not the same as if you did this, week after week, for a couple years… or you can do it old-style! make your own method, test it out, make a name for it, and then just do it. too many people did this themself, and there is nothing wrong, as long as you proved it works to yourself, and to the public.

5. theres good teachers here too. yes, i agree, you will find good teachers everywhere. but there, we have a difference. define “good”. filipino definition of “good” is different than american definition of “good”. american definitions of good can go from, he is fit, fast and strong… to his techniques are impressive to look at… to i like him he’s a nice guy… to he has muscles and in that demo of techniques, this looks like some stuff he will kill you with. a filipino teacher will call you good if he sees that you can fight. he will look at the muscle guy and think, i can beat him. he will look at the impressive demos and drills and think, that wont work on me, he will look at the nice guy and smile, but still think his hands are soft and his forearm is too little, i can beat him, he will look at the demo and think, that is his student, of course that crap worked. now this is not everybody, but it is most of the people i know. being on the internet i see more and more filipinos who think the same way american FMA think, so maybe me and my friends are a minority, or we are to old fashioned. so i’m talking from the little world i came from. i cant speak for the bigger schools and their traditions.