The Fallacy of Empty Handed FMA

Get ready to read something that will blow your mind! When I first heard Guro’s view on this, I thought: he’s wrong here. But after “testing” my theories, as he often advocates, and some serious reflection, I realize how right he is! Please read this article with an open mind, and if you still aren’t sure… test it out. Happy reading!


One of the things I believe hurts the Philippine fighting arts is the commercial influence on who we are as a style. I am speaking about all of this “information sharing” that FMA people like to do. You know, let’s have a “gathering”, take some pictures, smile and show off to each other what we know, etc. Or attend each other’s seminars, then present the other guy’s stuff as if it was in our style too. Or “cross train” into someone else’s system–whether the art is valid or not–and then teach that art to our students. It discourages standing alone on what you do, refining what you do, and testing out if what you do is functional or not–and especially, testing out if the next guy’s techniques are valid. And don’t give me that “well, it works for me” b.s. neither; either you can fight, and your technique is sound, or it’s garbage. Martial artists, especially FMA artists, are such sissies now, that they are afraid to hurt another Guro’s feelings or even to say that some other Guro’s techniques are useless because they might have to prove it.

So allow me:  99% of what you guys are doing as empty handed Arnis or empty handed Eskrima is doo-doo. I mean that with all the love and respect I can, because our Creator knows I love my country and my country’s arts. But what you guys put on Youtube to demo to the world is making us look bad, and making the guys who are serious about fighting look past the FMA teacher, because they have seen what most of have to offer, and it’s garbage. So there are a few tough MF’s out there teaching the art, like Paul Vunak and Dog Brothers (not all, just the main guys who started it all), and they give us a little bit of credibility, but if you look closer, you’ll see that even they rely on something else to make their empty hand combat-effective, rather than the same patty-cake BS most of us do. For Paul Vunak, he is beating up on his students so he’s using plain old big balls for his fighting, but the stuff he teaches is whack. For the Dog Brothers, its BJJ, and they don’t even touch the patty cake FMA for a good reason. Out of respect for the FMA community, they don’t say it, but they don’t have to. For the rest of the FMA people supposedly teaching effective empty hand fighting, they are just going with the wind and teaching what everyone else is doing, so they don’t count. And please don’t get me started on Inosanto Kali and Pekiti Tirsia; I have friends who do those styles, and they’ve heard my opinions many, many times, and I’m tired of repeating myself on that, and pissing off my good friends.  😉

First let me say this, the hand and arms are not sticks. They cannot be used as sticks as long as you are supposedly trying to kick someone’s behind. It does not feel the same as a stick, and except for a few raw movements, cannot be wielded the same way. The striking surfaces are completely different, and different levels of power are needed to inflict damage. The targets you will hit with the hand, the fist, the arm, and the stick are very different. If you don’t understand that, you might need to go back to the (different) classroom.

Second, the hand is not a knife either. Yes, it can move in the same pattern as a knife, but if you slap some guy up against the forearm as if it was a knife, he is going to kick your ass, because it’s obvious you’ve been reading too many Inside Kung Fu magazines and you’re not serious about fighting. All those drills are good for is to impress women and out-of-shape suburbanites. Try going into a boxing gym and showing them that crap. And please videotape it so I can add it to my “humor” playlist, because somebody’s going to catch a very funny big momma beatdown!

The problem is, that people are creating a system as they go. Half the time teachers are demoing “what you might be able to do without a stick”, they are showing you something they have not practiced, and certainly something they have not USED in a fight. You can tell just by the way they show it to you. There are some that have developed a “system” of this baloney too, but it still lacks the fundamental thing needed to call it “fighting art”:  to fight with it. If  they at least did that, they would have to go back to the drawing board over and over, and either of two things will happen. One, they develop it until those “limb destructions” would become functional (btw, limb destructions do work, but not the way 99.9% of FMA people do them). Or two, they toss the techniques into the “nice to look at but not use” pile, along with empty handed sinawali (yes, empty handed sinawali too!). The seminar format of teaching is the culprit for a lot of it. It took reputatable Eskrima styles, and made them want to compete with mainstream FMA by being forced to say “oh, we have that too!” and have to devote training time to some bullcrap that ain’t your specialty.

Let’s define the “Seminar Format of Teaching”, shall we?

Seminar Format of Teaching

  1. Teach to a group of people who are not serious students in your style
  2. Stuff as much “stuff” into the class as you can to make it seem “worth the money”
  3. Oh, we have that too!
  4. Don’t make the class too hard or intimidating, or they won’t come back
  5. Make the class entertaining
  6. Make the class sound “scientific” and “innovative”, rather than just plain old, hard work
  7. Talk about who certified you so that you will have credibility
  8. Oh, we have that too!
  9. Take lots of pictures
  10. Grant certificates at the end of class, teaching creds by the 10th class (10 easy lessons?  It never went away folks)


So, what about that “testing”? You test students by doing what? How hard is that test? Did they really prove their skill’s combat effectiveness? Can you test everything you do in this test? Or is some of that stuff “too deadly”? Come on, FMA people, you know darned well, that you think some of this stuff is too deadly for testing!

Since we are defining terms, let’s define what most people call a “test”:

FMA Testing

  1. Prepare certificates before the test
  2. Show them what you’ve learned
  3. I said “show”, not prove! Watch that contact sir, ‘we’re all here to learn’!
  4. Do some drills, some sinawali, some ad-lib techniques and “translations”… (yawn!)
  5. Smile, take pictures….
  6. Hand out premade certificates
  7. Shake hands, take more pictures, give a speech to the rest of the SEMINAR attendees that if they complete 5, 8 or 10 seminars, they’ll get one of these teaching credentials too
  8. Go on the website to add names, test takers go on the forums to announce the beginning of your new classes


Let’s do my version of a “test”:

Mustafa Gatdula’s “Test”

  1. Announce to the class that we are having a “test” today, or
  2. Have a student make an appointment for a private lesson and then ambush him, or
  3. Take student to a tournament and register him as a Black Belter
  4. Bring higher ranking students of another school to the “test”, or
  5. I suit up
  6. Push these guys to see what they can do, and how much they are capable of doing, then
  7. Ask them to do more
  8. Finish with a nice strength test (100 pushups, 30 minutes of hard sparring, 500 Abaniko strikes, etc), something I’m not sure if they can do at this point
  9. C ongratulate them and send them back to class

That’s it! Testing is something you should be doing all the time. You should not know if your fighters can pass, and in many cases, there is no pass/fail, just something for them to record the results in their heads for future reference. Don’t announce the test; ambush them. Streetfights are often not announced until just seconds before it happens, am I correct? Why should training be any different?

Well, now that you understand the TEST, then understand that you are teaching something that is not being “tested”. Those techniques and empty hand vs. stick have not been tested. And without it, you’re Karate’s Shit, Russo! LOL

Let’s visit some of the irritating FMA empty hand that will get you beat down in a fight:

  • Limb destructions–too much reliance on it. most of you have no idea how a punch actually feels coming at you to use it effectively. hands and feet often move too fast and are too unpredictable to spend valuable time searching for strikes when you can simply counter the opponent and cut out the middle man
  • all that pad-punching–how about developing those punches, waldo? learn how to hit, you hit like a stinking old woman. you have no power mechanics, no accuracy, no tactical use of those punches, but you want to make nice combos and patterns
  • backfist/finger jab–have you ever hit anyone with a backfist or finger jab? why are you doing so many of them? yes, its a modern arnis #2 strike, but how much power do you have in the stick #2? but you’re so eager to “translate” it into empty hand… sometimes, it is time to step away from “concepts” and enter the real world once in a while. that stuff looks neat, but it ain’t all that practical
  • hand as a knife–you’ve got to be kidding! I suppose you believe you can develop the “glow” too?
  • disarms–this is a whole ‘nother topic… I could write a book on it!
  • stick and dagger as empty hand–okay, the 70 year old man is impressive doing this, but not you. you’re almost as bad as those kenpo guys with all of that
  • trapping–yeah, maybe if the guy you’re fighting is drunk, in a wheel chair, and blind. plus, the wing chun guys are tired of you all ripping them off!
  • footwork–cute, let’s put it to music. maybe i can dress you up in a sarong and charge navy guys to come in and stuff dollar bills in your drawers. oh wait, you already wear sarongs…
  • fighting stance–will you please stop holding that Bruce Lee “Enter the Dragon” pose? you don’t look like Bruce, and speaking of which, STOP CALLING HIM BY HIS FIRST NAME AS IF YOU KNOW HIM… ESPECIALLY IF HE IS THE FOUNDER OF YOUR STYLE!!!

I’m getting tired of typing. I’d go on, and if I’ve missed anyone, it’s been a long day, I’m a little tired.

Can we talk here? Eskrima is good stick fighting and good knife fighting. That’s it. Sure, there are some, who have developed some good Karate, Tae Kwon Do, and Judo on the side. Some have even done an excellent job combining it. But at least they are honest about where their techniques come from, and the thing I can say about groups like Comjuka and Lanyada Kuntaw (Shorin Ryu rip off), is that, whether they have a stick in their hand or a gloved fist, those cats can give you a beatdown like you wouldn’t believe. Not too many Doce Pares guys can do it with empty hands AND the stick. Not many Modern Arnis can do with empty hand AND stick. Not many Kombatan guys can do with empty hand AND stick (Arjuken is a different animal, trust me. Maybe I’ll write an article about it, maybe not… out of respect to my former Guro. We’ll see). The bottom line is that you cannot use the hand like a stick or a knife and expect to win fights. FMA people must learn to separate them as weapons and develop those skills individually. We need to stop being the Japanese copy cat of the martial arts and trying to imitate everything under the sun. And finally, once we have developed something, we need to return to the FILIPINO tradition of proving to the world, proving to our local martial arts community, and proving to ourselves, that these techniques can hold their own. There is a reason you don’t see DP/MA/CSE/PTK/JKD-Kali guys in the Karate tournaments doing their “empty hands” against the Tae Kwon Do people they like to laugh at; they know that stuff don’t work, and it’s much safer to say your art is too dangerous for the ring, or tournaments are too unrealistic (yeah, punching pads or doing drills is more realistic, right?), or “been there done that” (as a Karate student) and there’s nothing to prove.

Okay, streetfighter, go on the street and kick someone’s ass then.


Oh, wait, your Guro has already won, like, what… 300 undefeated streetfights already? Gotcha.


Thank you for reading my blog, and whether or not you agree with my statements, please leave comments!