Video Review: Steve Grody Flow of Filipino Kali Emtpy Hands Vol I

I am going to try my best to be as objective as possible; you guys know how I feel about JKD/Kali and the whole videotape/seminar market…

At first I had planned to lump all of the volumes of various DVDs together, but I thought, “the energy and material may be different from one volume to the other,  so why not judge each one separately?”  I would be lying if I said I was disappointed by Steve Grody’s Flow of Filipino Kali Empty Hands. That’s not to say that I liked it; I just wasn’t expecting much else besides what you would find from your typical FMA/JKD video. I was neither excited nor bored, turned off nor impressed. Sorry to say this, but if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. As I watched this tape, I felt like it was 1999 and I was looking at Burton Richardson’s (sorry, I forgot the name) videos from the 90s, Dan Inosanto’s FMA series from the 80s, and Paul Vunak’s JKD series from the 80s… along with every copy-cat instructional FMA tape that followed Inosanto’s work. The only difference is the level of skill of the demonstrator (Guro Dan is still the best, and Vunak sorta looks like he can kick some ass) and the quality of production.

What I discovered after watching Grody’s tape and then reflecting on most of the JKD/Kali folks I’ve met, is that they are very big on demonstrating techniques and their “could be’s”:  Well if he did this, you could do this, and if he did that in response, you could do that… etc.  To say that these guys know what they’re doing is an overstatement. I really doubt much of this material has been practiced in real time in serious sparring with anyone other than a novice or another JKD guy. It’s the only reason I could see someone really believing this stuff works in a fight; they haven’t used them in a fight. It is sad to watch an FMA “expert” fumble around with techniques on tape–it reflects on all of us, and is one of the reasons the Filipino arts are not taken seriously by anyone but other Filipino artists and those who don’t know much about fighting.

To paraphrase a common complaint I hear about the seminar series:  “I spent too much money to watch the teacher sit there and demonstrate stuff for two hours!”  Basically, what drives this form of fighting forward is the interest in watching entertaining demos and picking up neat new tricks that Leo Gaje and the rest of the Kali-is-from-Moroland-Krew can claim they learned from their Lolos. Neat tricks. That is the idea behind this side of the industry. At least the Kenpo guys have trained in their stuff long enough and hard enough they look like they can fight when they do it!

So, now that I have told you (for the millionth time) my feelings about this market and the art, let’s move on with the video review:

The video starts off with Grody talking about names of the FMAs, how the knife the stick and empty hand are interconnected, and how the higher levels of hte FMAs include Pana-tukan (lol), Tadyakan and all the other Inosanto-isms. He thanks Guro Inosanto for sharing his art with him and the world (thank you, too, Guro I.), and then mentions that in order for this stuff to be any use, you will need a background in kickboxing

Wait. Did he say KICKBOXING? I’m sorry, I had to get a Q-tip for my ears. I have yet to see a JKD guy with good kickboxing skill. Getting in the ring does not equate to good kickboxing skill, so save me the speech about Mark Stewart and some of the others. This is the first problem I have with Kali/JKD. They are in such a rush to gloss over the importance of good punching and kicking skill, and very unqualified to define good punching and kicking skill,  in order to get to the cool-looking Wing Chun/Hsing Yi/Ba Gua  stuff. This is the reason why MMA sucks so bad, that martial artists today believe boxing is so easy and kicking is even easier, that there are really no standards. The result? Piss-poor fighting skills, and FMA empty hand is something to impress the white belts with. Sorry, but I don’t know if anyone’s told you guys, but I’ve seen better, cleaner punching skill on my Mom’s Tae Bo videos. So I guess we should ask, Where does one acquire these kickboxing skills? In the same place Bruce Lee got his boxing skills? On video? Hell, why not? You’re getting your FMA skill on video…

Anyway. We move on to footworks. There is a triangle on the floor, and above that is a guy name Mark Baylor (I think that’s the spelling) standing in a Bruce Lee-Enter-the-Dragon stance. I won’t give you my opinion of it, but my 9 year old son is laughing his pants off. They go through the standard Female/Reverse Triangle vs Male/Forward  Triangle explanation. Lateral Triangle vs cross… Oh wait, let me explain something. If a guy is throwing a serious right cross, you will not have time to react with a Triangle-anything, let alone one of those neat FMA/Silat/Hsing Yi/Wing Chun rip-off counters. I challenge you; go into any boxing gym and try it out. No–take your GURO to a boxing gym and have him try it.

Back to the tape:  He adds and advancing step, a retreating step (using that damned triangle, of course), a side step, and angled step… The whole footwork thing was very quick and this guy with the Bruce Lee stance is no longer funny. I am starting to get irritated. Bruce Lee is my favorite actor, and if you’re going to bring it, bring it correct. My homeboy from DC, Kevin “China” Williams, a true Bruce Lee fan and butt-kicker on the street can do the Bruce Lee stance. See, this cat brings it correct, and he says if you come visit him in Tennessee, he’ll show you how it’s done. But anyway, the footwork in this system is not really revisited in the series like it should be–regardless of how impractical the footwork is–and this is obviously not a serious fighting system because footwork is treated as parsley on a plate.

Let me say this before you guys beat me up like you did over Greg Alland’s review:  Grody  presents somewhat better than many of the FMA guys I’ve seen. I don’t doubt that he doesn’t train hard. I happen to believe that he has been mis-educated about FMAs and he is simply regurgitating what is being taught in seminars all over the country. Many things he does fluidly, too many things he does not. But if you came here for my opinion, you’re going to get it. If this review offends you, go into the address bar and type www dot defend dot net slash deluxeforums and read up on how great the FMAs are. Or you could do what no one has done (to my knowledge); enter a local karate competition and show them how effective JKD/Kali empty hand is.

Back to the review. Next is the “empty hands inspired by the knife” section. What FMA empty hands video is complete without


Ah, the gunting. Limb destruction. The most dangerous, too-deadly-for-sparring excuse not to fight with your art. At least he didn’t say “gunting means limb destruction”. Thank you Master Grody! You must have a Filipino friend nearby! But he does make comments like “We like to hold our hands this way…”  Is he talking JKD/Kali guys? Or FMA guys? One of the things that bothers me about JKD/Kali guys (Inosanto included) who make generalizations about the Filipino arts is that people believe that all FILIPINO arts have these things, and when one doesn’t it is looked down upon as less than authentic or incomplete. And another thing that irritates me (besides Mark’s Bruce Lee stance and mullet) is that we have Filipinos who lend credibility to this stuff by trying to live up to the stereotype.

Anyway… he does a backfist “gunting” which is useful, but I think every FMA guy (and youtube viewer) in America knows already. But he messes it up by doing a switch step with it which would never work against a real punch. But then again, Mark Baylor (sorry if I’m mispelling) is not really trying to hit him. I wonder if Grody has ever really had someone try to hit him and this “gunting” worked. To quote Marvin Hagler, as he ate KFC the day after the Tommy Hearns fight, “I don’t think so.”

Or was that, “Probably soup”? Hmmm…

Anyway, he does some alternate “guntings”–I’ve got a note here about Baylor’s limp wrist in his guard… another Bruce Lee thing (is he serious?). Reminds me of all the Black martial arts dudes on the East Coast walking around with  Dashikis and afros in the 80s. I have a few friends who are still stuck in that era. Now we go to Siko (elbow) destructions. Man, these cats love their terminology! But we have the elbow vs the jab (again, only in the movies) which he claims works against the cross as well (again again, only in the movies and UP videos). First, the distance is too far. The opponent is pawing from a position where he clearly is not giving a realistic attack to defend. Secondly, there are far too many steps in his counter and follow-ups. Then more terms. “Sectoring”. “Long range punching” (isn’t that a punch that is too far away to land? either it’s close enough to land or it isn’t!). Oh, he says  that we Filipinos like to use a descending siko. Against a side kick? I thought these guys used Bruce Lee’s style? Wouldn’t you get destroyed by a Bruce Lee side kick with one of those defenses?

Now we go into what he calls a “sweet series”. Don’t get me started on the taboo in boxing of calling something “sweet” that isn’t. Like “Sugar” Rashad Evans. What? He is covering hooks and none of this stuff is practical. He slap blocks a hook. (Amazing.) He wrist blocks a hook, and then PASSES it. Then he does the “block, cover, lift”-sinawali look alike technique that’s so popular with the kids. Then back to more long range counters against the hook… Oh Lord, my pen is starting to wander. I actually made a note that Mark Baylor looks like the guy from Tombstone… If this is over soon, I’m going to pop in my Tombstone video (on VHS, thank you) and laugh at Wyatt Earp and his Huckleberry…  Then comes the Thai pads with the gunting (unnecessary). Boy they sure do love their Thai pads. Makes you look authentic.

Now the kicks. He is using a knee against a low round kick. Yeah, good in slow motion, but also a good way to get your knee broke in a fight. Then comes the “what-ifs”:  shin block the kick (goodway to get it broke, pt II) and push the leg down, hammerfist the leg, the elbow lifting thingy vs the high round kick vs the shin? He slap blocks a round kick ala Bruce Lee vs Japanese guy (Suzuki) in Fists of Fury?  Is anyone testing this stuff??? I think they’re dissecting Bruce Lee movies and calling it FMA. LOL!

There are a few decent techniques. He attacked the supporting leg as a counter. There were a few, but me and the boy are looking for that Tombstone video. Then I caught something. He said there weren’t any hich kicks in the Philippine arts because “there is generally always a blade or strong stick around.” WTF??? I don’t know whether to be offended or amused at this. I guess we Filipinos are a sneaky bunch; we’re practically *ninjas*….

Okay, then defenses from the side kick. Slide back, elbow the kick. Good Lord. Hammerfist the leg. Kick the supporting leg. I know you guys would probably disagree, but I think at this point, teaching these guys how to point fight would give them better strategies for dealing with a side kick.

Then he captures the side kick. Anyone ever seen the video with Sioc Glaraga and Joe Mena on LionHeart? Master Sioc is thrusting knifes at GM Mena, then as soon as Mena moves, Sioc just drops the knife? LOL. Reminds me of that scenario. Sort of a George Dillman knockout demo.

A few more hand vs leg defenses, and the tape abruptly ends. Me and my boy are fighting over the Daddy chair in my living room, I’ve got the last of the Butter Pecan, he’s got some popsicles he made a few days ago, and I’m about to give my son some Old West history lessons via Kurt Russell’s Tombstone. Hell, at least it’s more historically accurate than the Filipino martial history lesson he’d just gotten in the last hour! At least he was amused and didn’t fall for it.

One less FMA student to worry about.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Up next:  Remy Presas MODERN ARNIS series!