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!

Author: thekuntawman

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

15 thoughts on “Video Review: Steve Grody Flow of Filipino Kali Emtpy Hands Vol I”

  1. This was an entertaining review, and pretty amusing. I’ve noticed that a lot of us JKD guys do look the same. It has more to do with mimicking one’s teacher than anything else.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head about the impractical ways we tend to demo our techniques but I disagree that it means the techniques aren’t useful. We happen to borrow from any source of good, practical martial arts. Not everyone is into sparring. So does that mean that those who train hard but don’t spar, can’t fight? I disagree if you think so, I happen to know plenty of nine to fivers who are very good fighters although they don’t do full contact (it’s hard to keep a job if you’re taking time off work to nurse injuries). Where I do agree with you is the idea that too keep the “aliveness” of your training, you occasionally need to defend against real punches and kicks to know what works.

    I would like to say this, if you don’t like Grody’s work, don’t blame him. He is only teaching what the philipino masters have passed down, from the Philippines. The art is traditional and authentic. I won’t say pure, because like I said we will take from whatever works. I don’t know him personally, but I’m sure he knows his stuff. Your review, while it has many good points, is unfair to one of the leaders of the FMAs in this country. And he happens to have been trained by one of the highest ranking and most respected FMA master in the world.

    I respect your opinion, because I’m sure you are knowledgeable, but I’m not sure I liked the review at all. It was unfair and very biased.

  2. Here is something interesting: the leading Dog Brothers (people nobody accuses of being unable to fight) continue to train in the very kinds of “could-be” scenarios that this article criticizes.

    Here is a quote form Marc Denny which makes the point well:

    “All those “show” combinations of Guro I. I now see differently– they are not literal, they are kinesthetic/neurological maps to what is available where. Because of this training while fighting I see possibilities that I probably would not otherwise and my game can become more spontaneous– whatever arises I am more likely to have a solution. BUT, if I never worked on my fighting understanding, then this portion of my training would not serve me in a fighting context. This is a vital point.”

    Of course, sparring is important too. But training in these “could-be” scenarios has its benefits.

  3. Who do you think you are? Jeet Kune Do and Kali don’t work in a fight? I’m a long time Jeet Kune Do and Kali practitioner. You’re putting down me, my teacher and all of my brothers in the art. I’d like to personally challenge you to a fight any time and we’ll see what works! I bet you’re to much of a coward to post this.

      1. I don’t need to see the video. I’ve known Steve Grody since the mid 80’s and have trained with him personally. Not only are you talking smack about Steve but also about JKD, Kali, Guro Dan Inosanto (my teacher since 1985) and all of his hundreds of thousands of followers in the Martial Arts. As far as I’m concerned this is war. I’m willing to fight and die for my honor and the honor of my teacher. Even if you beat me there is an army of fighters all over the world who are ready to beat you down! All you have to do is come down here to my gym and tell me to my face that JKD and Kali don’t work in a real fight and we will fight right then and there.

  4. Guru,

    Did this guy ever respond to your acceptance of your challenge? I doubt it. If he does come to the school, I’d like to take a crack at him first if you don’t mind.

  5. Id lve to see you fight Danny Sullivan .Please let me know when that happens .I cant believe i got sucked into this shit .who what where when .im never on the computer but somehow found this and now i know why im not on the computer i work and train and have a life .have fun with Danny I’m sure he will with you……Kali who gives a f%*k its a word , read Norm Chomsky

  6. I’d like to see YOU spar with Guru Gatdula instead since you’re the one posting. I’m sure my Kuyas, myself included, would gladly spar with you. We are in Sacramento, CA. I’m sure you can find that on a map.

    1. lol lyle challenges are usually issued by people who dont want you to accept them. but they are nothing to get mad about, the martial artist should be happy to receive them, it means your an important person. and when you do them, both people walk away smarter and better as a martial artist.

  7. while we are on the subject of filipino martial arts, the way to challenge a man is to show up or call/write him and ask for one. i have got them a few times and i never turn them down. when i challenge, i do it in person.

  8. Well, has anybody as of yet showed up backing the Daniel Sullivan challenge? I would think that after your posts they would all be lined up outside your school’s door (LOL). Anyhow, I find this “challenge situation” more educational than entertaining. I am sorry that Sullivan’s feelings or sensibilities got hurt, all I have to say is this, “If you know your methods work, others will know it as well as you have done those things necessary to prove that they work.” I am disabled now (US Army), but before all that I would easily accept challenges (with a liability waiver signed of course by my challenger and an affirmation statement by myself) and I also held open-sparring in a local park every two weeks on a Saturday (unless on a holiday). What I learned is most backed out the moment they read my waiver, and some would take it only to be unhappy afterwards that they did. I also turned some of these challengers into respectful friends and students by giving them an out and asking them to come to our friendly sparring matches (rules were basic- anything goes but don’t maim or kill and no nut shots, eye pokes, throat shots, spine shots, knee shots, and no fish hooking)…well it was almost always a bloody fine time and most fellas walked away a little more humble and wise.

    I just wonder if Danny can meet you kuntawman in a way that will not leave either person’s reputation or dignity compromised? I suggest having a good liability waiver form and an affirmation statement that will keep legalities from creeping in as there are schmucks out there that would take an ass beating if they knew they could get a couple of grand or more from it later.

    BTW, I agree with much of what you said, same reason why I reassessed all my training and assured that it was combat-tested under real-time with an uncooperative opponent and from this over a five year period with over 21 years behind it (26 years total) I formed Integrated Combative Concepts (and it is still evolving) along with the assistance of the co-founders who worked with me so diligently in reviewing all these systems and methods, I say you must be willing enough to disregard any method if it can not truly serve you in real combat. It amazed me that I kept about 40% of what I had been taught all that time and had to develop solutions for the other 60% of the ICC system. Now if that doesn’t tell you something (anybody out there listening?) then what does?

    Kuntawman, you are right on with the point that they often regurgitate what they have been taught (which Bruce Lee was not for in the first place) and they tend to over generalize subjects in such a way that they are not really making strongly affirmed statements about the actual effectiveness of what they are teaching, Keep on seeking the truth.

    1. thank you i would like to write an article about this subject, challenges. people hear so much about it, but most people are not taught the filipino way of doing it. than you for your comment!

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