“Secrets” of the Filipino Fighting Arts
Words from a Modern-Day Warrior

Learn to Wrestle

Lately, I’ve noticed on the Big Stick Combat Blog that Darren Cook has been exploring some practical grappling moves that he’d picked up from his nephew. I took a look, and they are very valid, sound techniques. I like that he went to the source–a young, champion wrestler to pick them up. When you can, please follow the link and look at the techniques he’d written on.

That got me to thinking about something I was told when I first decided to spread my wings and investigate other martial art styles. In 1986, my mother had sent my younger brother to the Philippines–Angeles City–to live with my father. While over there, my brother had joined a group called “Kyosho” and also joined a wrestling club. Around that same time, I had begin studying Judo in DC. However, I only trained in it full-time for a few months, and then went back to boxing. My brother, on the other hand, stuck with Kyoshu and wrestling. Two years later, I travelled back home to visit my father, and of course my brother–who was now 3 inches taller than me–and I “compared” notes. Whenever we would hit the ground, he would kill me. And everytime he pulled some move or strategy I was unfamiliar with it, I’d ask him to explain what he had done. One day, my brother told me something profound. He said, Kuya, don’t just learn the moves–you need to just learn how to wrestle.

Wow. At 17 years old, my brother had taught me–a cocky 19 year old who was a ranked fighter in America (and knew everything)–an important lesson. And that lesson (“learn to wrestle“) is one of my primary principles. “Learn to wrestle” has nothing to do with actually wrestling, you must understand. LTW refers to learning the arts rather than the parts. You’ve probably heard this before, but have you ever met a man who can say “hello”, “good-bye” and “thank you” in 10 languages, but still can only converse in one language? Yeah, it’s like that. Allow me to explain…

When investigating other martial arts styles, you can only benefit so much by scraping the surface of an art with a few moves. Yes, if you practice the few moves enough, you will be able to defend yourself with them. But you will really reap the benefits by actually learning how to do the art as one of the art’s practitioners. You don’t want to be a Tae Kwon Do guy who knows stick techniques–that’s darn near a waste of time; you want to be a TKD guy who also knows Arnis. A boxer who also knows how to fight on a ground is always better than a JKD man who only knows a few techniques and pins. I’m not saying that you must be an expert at those other skills (although that is the best idea), but you should at least be as proficient as anyone else in that craft. Anything less is like the old ex-navy guy who running around blurting “sa waht dee kap!” to every Thai, yet isn’t fluent enough to ask where the bathroom is, is just as lost as the German guy with the Vietnamese phrase book in downtown Bangkok. LOL!

If I had a nephew who was a champion wrestler, I’d get with him once a week (at least) for about 6 – 12 months for weekly sparring sessions and practices. By the end of all that, 99% of your fights that go to the ground will result in you getting up and handing your opponent his ass back. It really doesn’t take much time to learn an art, just the desire to actually learn that art, and you’d be surprised how fast you develop proficiency. As a martial arts fighter, it is the best way to “cross-train”.

So tonight, I have a young Tae Kwon Do teacher from a nearby school coming to my home to learn Eskrima. Not to learn a few techniques to show his boys at the school, but to actually learn to fight like an Eskrimador. I am impressed, because he did not ask to learn “sticks” or “a few moves”; he actually wanted to learn Eskrima. I would have it no other way.

I have to tell you, I like Mr. Cook’s philosophy:  learn to smash things with big, heavy sticks, learn to fight Muay Thai style, and learn to wrestle? Sounds like he’s putting together a very powerful combat art…

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