The Fist and the Philippine Martial Arts

One of the most neglected aspects of fighting that is the most ignored in the FMA is training the fist for power, and its use as a real destructive weapon. It seems that we tend to get so wrapped up in neat ways to block, trap and capture an opponent, that we forget that fighting effectiveness depends on our ability to inflict damage with basic strikes and kicks. How often have we seen some guy on Youtube slapping hands and arms around just to gloss over a quick punch here and there and finish with one of those nice, fancy takedowns? 😛

Makes you wonder if this guy really understands the concept of whipping some guy’s behind in a real street fight? I’m sorry, I am sitting in Starbux laughing as I write this, because I’ve seen too many of our FMA brothers that couldn’t beat a shopping center Ronald McDonald in a real fight. Earlier today, I looked up an old friend of mine, Omar Olumee (if you know him, tell him to call me!) who worked for a long time at a chain school called Kim’s Karate here in Alexandria. Omar, was trained as a kid at Kim’s, and when I was younger, was an intermediate student learning to point fight in a class I taught at a Kim’s location in Springfield. He went on to be a very *solid* Black Belter, nationally ranked point fighter, and member of the DKT Karate team… Omar is the real deal, and if he was half the fighter he used to be, would destroy many FMA fighters. And yes, he was trained at Kim’s Karate, and worked there as a teacher for years. (Don’t judge a book by it’s comakiwaraver!)  I am laughing because I wondered how many “realistic martial artists” must have encountered him with arrogance, just to find out that he was one of the top fighters in the country…

My message to you, my FMA brothers and sisters:  don’t get too wrapped up in the variations and innovations of the martial arts until you have mastered the basics these arts require to ensure combat effectiveness.

The fist. We take for granted that all we have to do is ball up our hands and swing them into some guy’s face and things will break. Not quite. It takes understanding, training and development as a weapon in order to turn our nose-pickers/sandwich-holders/page-turners into destructive tools of combat. You must fully understand that the hand is a weapon, but it must be developed and sharpened, just as any piece of flat metal (like a butter knife or spoon) can be turned into a razor-sharp shank capable of taking down the biggest, most heavily-armed men.

I would like to offer some very simple, basic steps to training your hands. I could write a book on how to train your hands (hmm….), but some things I need to keep sacred for my own students. At least, you would have to train with me in person to really learn what I have to teach. This information is even earned within my own student body, but is well worth the investment of one’s time and loyalty:

  • Hand conditioning requires two basic types of training:  strength building and impact training. Not all forms of hand conditioning are equal, and there is a hierarchy of skills and training methods… from beginner to advanced
  • For strength building, the simple act of training for hours with a stick in your hand–swinging full speed and full power for at least one hour–will do plenty to build strength. Why do we need to build strength? Well besides the obvious–seizing and grappling skills–we also need to build a strong fist to keep our fingers tightly clenched when we hit someone with it. The difference between a fist that hurts on impact (regardless of how hard we strike) and one that does not is how hard the fist is. Sort of the difference between hitting someone with a block of wood vs an iron block.
  • Another good way to build strength would be to (1) open and close the fist 250 times, (2) roll a 20 lb barbell inside the hands 50 times per direction, (3) perform fingertip pushups on the actual fingertips, not the pads, and (4) squeeze a tennis ball 200 times
  • A simple impact exercise is to fill a paint bucket with sand, and punch into the sand until your skin bleeds. It doesn’t need to be done full power in the beginning, but hard enough that it hurts to do it. There are techniques to doing this, but I believe this is the safest thing you can practice without a teacher
  • Perform knuckle pushups on hard surfaces. In my school, we have concrete floors, and even my little girl, who is 8, can do her pushups on them. If your students cannot, work their way up (slowly, of course) until they can
  • Always, ALWAYS hit things with your fist. The more you do this, the stronger your fist will become and the less they will hurt when you use them

Guess what?




That’s it! This is such a simple thing, one can basically teach himself to condition his hands! Do I recommend it? No, I don’t. But then, even many Masters who train this way, do not understand much about it besides the fact that they have dangerous fists. Hand conditioning is not rocket science! Now, there is much to learn about it, but with these simple steps I listed above, you are less than 6 months away from being able to break things with your fist. Yes, many Masters overexaggerate the process, but it can be done alone. If you want to learn and develop more, it would be a good idea to find a Master who knows what he is doing and pay your dues to learn.

Thank you for visiting my blog, and please visit again!

Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

9 thoughts on “The Fist and the Philippine Martial Arts”

  1. Great point made! Ya just gotta hit things. You are making a great point here! Yes, we do get all tied up in technique and that’s kool! But you have to have good hands. I always get a kick out of watching the old masters. They are masters of timing! Nothing fancy, no matter what the opponent does, they just step in and hit him! Does’nt make much differenca as to the style or country of origin. they all seem to possess this skill.

  2. I am a living example Punong Guro as this has been my experience after working out in our Fighting Escrima Class where I can hardly hold my stick at times I can make the tightest fist and not only that when I hit the ligaments and tendons and muscles seem to be working in unison they are properly placed to deliver a painful effective blow. Salamat Po

  3. If you do knuckle pushups you will have arthritis later in life, and possibly get arthritis from shooting your hands in and out of a bucket of pebbles. Doctors have proven this, so this is not a good way to train.

    1. @ryan – Do you have any links to articles on the subject? I hear this now and then but never see any links to studies, I hear the same thing about cracking your knuckles and I know that one is a myth.

  4. Arthritis is caused by injury and increased use of the joints according to science. Thus any increased joint activity may increase the chance. But scientific evidence that this type of fist training done carefully causes it is very debatable. My advice massage the hands with hot water after training, or dit Da jow. Don’t neglect 20 min massage and finger dextritity and flexibility work to aid recivery and keep good movement in the joints. Be careful and moderate with fist conditioning and after conditioning and allow days for recovery after sessions. Good article.

      1. Again Good Article Thanks. People may consider these things simple but with constant practice it’s possible to progress for years with the above tips .Using sand or beans for at least six months few times a week is good. Next progression is bucket of gravel. But people should not rush with this. Slow and steady wins race with fist and hand bone conditioning.

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