The Case for Full-Time Martial Arts

As I write this, I am involved in a disagreement with several martial artists over on MartialTalk. I am going to spare you the juicy details of our disagreement (actually I laugh at things like this, because when a martial artist is easily offended, he/she is really telling on himself about how tough he is/or not). Basically, I was reading the Modern Arnis forum, when I noticed a sticky by the list owner, Bob Hubbard. He was lamenting the fact that he started MartialTalk as a place for martial artists to exchange ideas and talk about Filipino Martial Arts, mainly Remy Presas’ Modern Arnis. Instead, he says, the forum had turned into a place for seminar promoters to advertise their events and for people to divert readers to Youtube. I am sensitive about this, which is why I try my best not to lure their readers over to this blog.

But I digress. So there are two parts to this article–one part for the teachers of the art, and the other, for the student.

So let’s start with the teachers.

There is no secret that I was opposed to Remy Presas’ notion that Arnis is the perfect add-on art. Of course, anyone could benefit from these arts, but I believe he was trying to get students to notice the effectiveness of our country’s arts and needed to use existing martial arts students to find his first students. But once his family got on the ground, I believe that he should have taken his art in a different direction… which was into full-time schools with dedicated, full-time teachers. Instead, he continued with the seminar industry until his art, as well as the rest of the FMA community, became known as nothing more than an “add-on” art. Or worse, people referred to Arnis as just “the sticks”.

It hurt in several places:

  • teachers of the art kept FMAs “on the side”, and very few people did exclusively FMAs. (As a result, when I began teaching in 1991, I only taught the Filipino arts, although I hold 5 Black Belts in different styles)
  • curriculums only covered the hair and skin of the art, because teachers needed to teach a roomful of beginners as well as a handful of more advanced students. the training then, became drills-based and very little attention was given to skill and basics development. the result? guys who knew tons of disarms and counters, but hit like little girls
  • turnover from student to teacher was too simple and too quick. rarely will one find FMA people who have fought much, and you will find three or four generations of students in less than a decade
  • FMAs become a backyard/garage class style, rather than treated as a stand alone system, capable of 100% of a man’s attention. this is has been my message the entire time I’ve been a teacher
  • when the teachers spend only a portion of their time practicing and training, they end up with mediocre skill. this is prevalent in the Filipino arts. I have shaken hands with many FMA people, and most of them have the grip of a 10 year old boy.
  • the de-emphasis on physical skills and prowess results in a community of weak, soft-skinned martial artists who are prone to hurt feelings and offense. this leads to the unnecessary feuding we see among FMA people… take your pick!

Teaching full-time gives the FMA Guro ample time to develop his skills and his own unique ideas and systems. It gives him more teaching experience, which is–in essence–a learning experience. It shows the community that these arts deserve respect and attention, rather than being an additional certificate to fluff one’s resume. It also allows beginners to have the Filipino arts as a choice of what art to study, rather than to have to choose a mainstream art as a base style and then take a few courses in “sticks” to supplement one’s training. This is my biggest belief–that the art really needs students who will take this art to a higher level rather than simply a side course. (It is also the reason I do not allow my own students to study Kung Fu and Eskrima with me simultaneously. Instead, I require them to study one for 2 years before studying the other. I do not allow anyone to study my Kuntaw until they have been with me for 2 years.) 

With a full-time FMA school, you will see things in the art you never thought about, because you are now thinking about Arnis every day and teaching it every day. I guarantee that you will develop new ideas about the art, and will be able to let them manifest through your students skill. In one generation–yours–you will take your art in a completely new direction.

I am will close here, and in Part II, we will discuss why the student should study FMAs full time. Thank you for visiting my blog!