Liberate Yourself from Classical FMA, pt IV

Give allegiance to an FMA Master

It amazes me how many independant FMA teachers there are out here who have no Master.

Don’t get me wrong; I’d take a wild guess by saying at least half of FMA teachers in the Philippines are not under a particular organization and are “independant”. However, almost all of them owe the bulk of their knowledge and experience to a certain Master… whether or not they stayed under their Master as teachers. It is commonplace for a fighter to combine learning experiences, fighting experiences, and teaching experience into a whole new system when he matures as a martial artist. Many who criticize Westerners who create their own systems do not realize that doing so is a very Filipino tradition. I believe that what offends many who look down on Westerners creating their own styles is simply xenocentrism–that only a Filipino can create or improve a Filipino art. I admit that I am a critic of many who do this, but my reasons are not the race of the one creating, but the knowledge and experience level of the new Western “grandmasters”.

Something I like about the West better than “back home” way of doing things:  Here in America, martial artists are very open in their communication with one another. I am more than an admirer of this tradition; I am a product of it. Living in Washington, DC., Virginia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, and California, I have been able to study and train with more than 10 styles. I have learned forms from 6 Kung Fu styles, and have sparred and exhanged techniques and tactics with more stylists than I can recall. I have been fortunate to learn point fighting, boxing, three forms of kickboxing, Olympic style TKD, and JKA point fighting. After losing a match against an Olympic fencer, I learned to fence, and now my children are competitive fencers. In the East, I would have not had an easy time to get so many people to teach me what they know, because Masters hold on to knowledge tighter. Despite the fact that I hold onto such knowledge myself, I appreciate that I was able to benefit from this environment.

But there is a difference between Filipino Masters who are reserving their knowledge and Western martial arts Masters eager to share it. Many of the Filipino Masters hold on to knowledge more because they have deeper understanding and technique than what is found here in the West. One of the reasons they are free with knowledge here is easy come, easy go. Not much is passed down, so the teachers do not value the art as much. Compare this to the Philippines, where knowledge is not purchased in a seminar or video tape, but earned through dedication, service and time and patience. Many of these Masters had not learned any other style in their many years, and therefore possess a deeper level of knowledge about their arts. Whereas some teachers in America can show you the buhok at balat of a style (“hair and skin”), there are Masters who can impart things about the same art those 20, 30 years into the art do not understand. The sad thing is that many teachers here will ridicule any man claiming to have such knowledge, and actually believe that this level of skill in the art does not exist. I named my blog “SECRETS of the Filipino Fighting Arts” not to taunt those who wish to learn it, but to inform my readers that it is here for those who are willing to get it. But of course, as the saying goes in the art:  There are no secrets in the martial arts; the only ones who believe this saying simply do not know any.

So what is the Western “classical” method of learning the art? Take FMA at some Kenpo/TKD/Karate/Kung Fu school or out of some guy’s garage. Supplement by purchasing every nicely promoted and packaged DVD series. Take seminars and/or seminar camps in various styles. Then go out and teach.

Compare this method of learning to one who seeks out a Master (student may or may not have prior experience in the martial arts), studying with this Master for years, while sparring against classmates and opponents in organized matches. Eventually the student achieves an advanced level under the teacher, and then spars and exhanges with more teachers, before going out to teach on his own. While the student under one Master may only have one style under his belt, he has a wide variety of opponents and experiences while using the same art against those other systems.

So, which is better?


“To each his own”?

I don’t think so. Skill, my brothers, IS definitive. Martial artists do not like to agree with this, but it’s true! Either you can fight, or you can’t. Especially in the FMAs, we are so busy being politically correct, friendly and “fair” that we do not want to call a spade a spade or call it like we see it. One method gives the sojourner the basics of many styles; the other gives 1,000 uses for one style. When it comes to actually fighting with your art, I value the person who knows and is able to apply his art against many opponents, versus the one who is only good at demonstrating what one “could do” with it. The concepts approach is just that, concepts. And when you take charge of your own education before you really know what you’re doing, you are nothing more than the blind leading the blind. Taking charge of your education is only functional when you have already built a strong foundation, and this isn’t done with just a few years of casual learning  part time. The truth is that most Filipino martial artists today have never seen a good fighter, and aren’t learning to fight. They wouldn’t recognize a true fighting system if it smacked them in the face. We judge good skill by who gives breath-taking performances, or shows us techniques that we haven’t seen before, or has the neatest, most exotic-looking ways to take away or use a knife… or worse, we only believe in who we read about. So we end up learning bits and pieces of neat little tricks and calling it “martial arts”… and to deal with anyone who wants to see if this stuff will work in a fight, we simply tap dance our way out of it with multiple definitions of what a “fight” actually is. “You see, competitions and sparring isn’t really fighting, and if I used this against you with a real, razor-sharp knife, I’d probably kill you.”  Oh, yeah, too deadly to spar with. We’ve heard that one before.

Go against the grain. Find yourself a knowledgeable master and spend the time with him to learn his art in its entirety. I have met masters right here in California who have shown me techniques–beginner techniques–from their systems that I haven’t seen in any of those videos and magazine articles, and I’m a visiting instructor! Imagine if I was a student? We have teachers out here who can literally teach you things worth his weight in gold, but instead, many of you are just interested in learning the basics of all those other styles from the magazines. You are wasting your time chasing seminars, DVDs and Youtube clips hoping to find some new stuff, thinking that one more seminar will improve your fighting skill. I have reviewed DVDs from 11 different FMA masters for this blog’s “Video Review” section; take it from me, everybody’s teaching the same shit. You do that same stuff everyone else does, so why not break from “tradition” and try something “new”?

You won’t regret it, unless you just study from the wrong guy. But I’m willing to bet that you will learn a much deeper side of the martial arts, and a whole world more than those McScrima guys in the black T shirts and tatoos, holding machetes. The Masters are there, and they are waiting for you to decide you want to learn the real stuff. Because right now, FMAs are the new McDojo, and most of us have no idea. To quote one of my favorite Kung Fu superstars:  liberate yourself from this classical mess.

When the student is ready, the Master will appear….

Thank you for reading my blog, I hope this post has benefitted you.

Author: thekuntawman

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

One thought on “Liberate Yourself from Classical FMA, pt IV”

  1. Very informative and I am one who had a moment when I realized that I have access to some one of a kind training and fighting experiences that would be impossible to impart in a Volume of 10 min Youtube clips,it is in the doing that it gets done , Salamat Po PG/Kuya !!

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