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

Strive to Get Better

In the Filipino Martial Arts, we find far too many technique collectors, and not enough martial arts supermen. Even rarer, would one find a man who is dominant at hand to hand fighting. And just as rare, we don’t find many FMA men who would even engage in a hand to hand match.

Go ahead and fire off your excuses why you don’t. And while you are busy trying to convince yourself that you are still a fighter while you really don’t fight, I’m going to drink this extra hot Grande White Mocha in starbuck’s.

Now, if you are ready to learn something, read on.

The FMA man must strive to improve his physical skills in the art of combat. I am not speaking of how well he can “flow” from one drill to another, or how creative he is at linking his knife or stick fighting movements to the empty hand, or how well he can crack a whip or toss a knife. I am referring to the things you do in combat that actually cause your opponent harm–the punch, the open hand strike, the elbow hit, the frontal snap kick, the head butt. Stuff like that. I want you to commit to executing those attacks faster and faster, stronger and stronger, and more accurate. I want you to be able to land those attacks at will while moving, and your opponent can’t do anything about it.

After all, isn’t that what fighting is all about?

  • cause the most damage
  • incur the least damage
  • be difficult to catch
  • be difficult to get away from
  • go home in one piece

My question to you, FMA brothers, is this:  how much time do you spend in your workouts trying to develop faster hands, harder hits, better evasiveness, superior speed in hunting down an opponent? Are you a more accurate puncher now than you were a year ago? Do you hit harder than you did a year ago? Can you follow up a damaging kick with hand techniques more fluidly than you could a year ago?

See, I’m willing to bet the house that you have casually trained in the last year, probably spent more time doing P90X or ab crunches, than you did in trying to develop a harder stick strike. When was the last time you gauged your ability to punch faster? What measuring tool are you using to determine how superior your fighting skills now are to last year’s skills?

You know what I’m getting at…

Karate men spend hours and hours trying to punch harder, kick faster and move smoother than they were a year ago. The FMA man is more concerned with learning new arts and styles, and more way to pop a knife out of an attacker’s hands. He is not sizing himself up to the next guy, in the effort to see who the superior fighter is between the both of them. We are full of excuses NOT to; full of reasons why it is impossible to determine who the better fighter is.

Okay, Bill Clinton, define “better”.

Superior fighting skills is measured two ways. One, he must know how hard he can hit and how fast he can hit. In a nutshell, he is striving to improve his physical ability to execute those attacks and defenses. He is not satisfied with simply knowing how to throw a punch–he strives to punch faster and harder than the next guy. When he hits like a mule at the speed of a cobra’s strike, it’s safe to say this guy can whip some attacker’s behind. Second, he must see how successful he is at attacking a resisting, combative opponent and how well he can stop the attack. Period. Whether you want to do it full speed/full power or not, you must do it. I am not speaking of sparring with your classmates and sparring partners. I am talking about comparing your skill against another man who wants to completely dominate you. These are the only two things you can do to “measure” fighting skill. Anything else, and you are not measuring “fighting” skill.

And one method of measuring enhances the other. You cannot have fast hands and assume that you will be a dominant fighter. Just like you cannot dominate in a game of “tag the opponent’s head” and say that you are a great fighter. You must have both. One measures your ability to land and evade, the other measures your ability to cause damage.

There is a third test that FMA people do not usually use, and that is the destruction test. Basically, feats of strength and breaking skills. Please spare me the BS about “boards don’t hit back”. While true, neither do opponents who get hit by fists that break them. We must have a way to see how much damage our hands and feet can cause without sending our opponent’s to the hospital. I suspect that many martial artists who knock breaking, simply can’t break. And they are probably the same guys who want to see how strong you are by asking to post a youtube clip of yourself causing damage with your hands. LOL! You must strive to meet all these tests in order to have full confidence in your empty handed skills. And this effort must be made with every stage of your martial arts journey. It is the only way you can actually say you are “improving your martial arts skill”, rather than “adding to your resume”. The two are not the same.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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3 Responses to “Strive to Get Better”

  1. Maurice, my Brother,

    It seems to me that you’re always disparaging the FMA family. With good intentions I’m sure, but still… sometimes I wonder just who is your target audience? You’re addressing FMA practitioners… but perhaps beginner level? Without malice, I’m going over some of what you wrote:

    >>In the Filipino Martial Arts, we find far too many technique collectors…<>Even rarer, would one find a man who is dominant at hand to hand fighting. And just as rare, we don’t find many FMA men who would even engage in a hand to hand match.<>Go ahead and fire off your excuses why you don’t. And while you are busy trying to convince yourself that you are still a fighter while you really don’t fight, I’m going to drink this extra hot Grande White Mocha in starbuck’s.<I am not speaking of …how well he can crack a whip or toss a knife, I am referring to the things you do in combat that actually cause your opponent harm–the punch, the open hand…<>My question to you, FMA brothers, is this: how much time do you spend in your workouts trying to develop faster hands, harder hits, better evasiveness, superior speed in hunting down an opponent? <Are you a more accurate puncher now than you were a year ago? Do you hit harder than you did a year ago? Can you follow up a damaging kick with hand techniques more fluidly than you could a year ago?
    <>See, I’m willing to bet the house that you have casually trained in the last year…<>When was the last time you gauged your ability to punch faster?<>…he must see how successful he is at attacking a resisting, combative opponent and how well he can stop the attack. Period. Whether you want to do it full speed/full power or not, you must do it. I am not speaking of sparring with your classmates and sparring partners. I am talking about comparing your skill against another man who wants to completely dominate you. <<
    Yes, I couldn’t agree more. To truly know, you must do this. Perhaps the best way to do this safely, is to go all-out against someone in a redman suit who is resisting and also fighting back.

    You can’t go “cruisin for brusin”. That’s just morally wrong. But you can choose to intervene when you see someone, or two, or three… beating up on a helpless person. You quickly calculate the risk, ACT, and accept the consequences. After all, this is what we train for. If we can’t do this, to defend another or ourselves, then why train?

  2. Wow, I don’t know how the middle part of my reply got rolled up into one hard-to-read string. Sorry.

  3. The above didn’t even have my replies. I’ll try once more using quotation marks instead of arrows. If you would, perhaps you can erase the prior post. Sorry for messing your blog up. Here goes:

    Maurice, my Brother,

    It seems to me that you’re always disparaging your FMA brothers, with good intentions, I’m sure, but still… sometimes I wonder just who is your target audience? You’re addressing FMA practitioners… but perhaps beginner level? Without malice, I’m going over some of what you wrote:

    “In the Filipino Martial Arts, we find far too many technique collectors…”

    That’s probably true for martial arts in general, MMA practitioners, police officers, and soldiers. Why? Because at anytime there are simply more beginners than advanced. Almost everyone wants to try it at some point in their lives, but most drop out because they find that they’d rather get their kicks elsewhere. That’s alright with me. Those who persevere move past the mere accumulation of techniques.

    “Even rarer, would one find a man who is dominant at hand to hand fighting. And just as rare, we don’t find many FMA men who would even engage in a hand to hand match.”

    Every FMA practitioner engages in hand-to-hand combat, but not everyone does so emptyhanded. Still, FMA is now practiced world-wide; and in many pockets of the world, including the Philippines, there are many FMA practitioners whose strongest attributes are their empty hand skills.

    “Go ahead and fire off your excuses why you don’t. And while you are busy trying to convince yourself that you are still a fighter while you really don’t fight, I’m going to drink this extra hot Grande White Mocha in starbuck’s.”

    I know you’re not addressing this to any one specific person but to a specific group in general. Let me reply on behalf of a good portion of that group: We don’t have excuses and we don’t need any. Yeah, I won’t pretend I’m still a spring chicken since I’m in my sixties. I warm up with a cup of coffee too… but after that anything can happen.

    “I am not speaking of …how well he can crack a whip or toss a knife, I am referring to the things you do in combat that actually cause your opponent harm–the punch, the open hand…”

    I don’t practice the whip, but I imagine it can harm me… and maybe the knife too… (sorry, I couldn’t resist; but I know what you mean.) 🙂

    “My question to you, FMA brothers, is this: how much time do you spend in your workouts trying to develop faster hands, harder hits, better evasiveness, superior speed in hunting down an opponent?”

    8 hours today, 32 more in the next 4 days. (You asked this question at just the right time. We happen to be concentrating on empty hand this week. Next week, it’s combat shooting.)

    “Are you a more accurate puncher now than you were a year ago? Do you hit harder than you did a year ago? Can you follow up a damaging kick with hand techniques more fluidly than you could a year ago?”

    Yes, yes, and of course.

    “See, I’m willing to bet the house that you have casually trained in the last year…”

    Can you drop the the keys to your house at my place? You know where I am. (Just remembering what you wrote in your previous post, LOL.)

    “When was the last time you gauged your ability to punch faster?”

    Never mind the faster bit (I know, E=mc2). How do you gauge your punch, period? You know that ritual where a newly promoted student has to take a punch in the gut from everyone and tenses his stomach for it? Well, it’s when that guy tells you he felt your punch not at the front of his stomach, but all the way to his back!

    “…he must see how successful he is at attacking a resisting, combative opponent and how well he can stop the attack. Period. Whether you want to do it full speed/full power or not, you must do it. I am not speaking of sparring with your classmates and sparring partners. I am talking about comparing your skill against another man who wants to completely dominate you.”

    Yes, I couldn’t agree more. To truly know, you must do this. Perhaps the best way to do this safely, is to go all-out against someone in a redman suit who is resisting and also fighting back.

    You can’t go “cruisin for brusin”. That’s just morally wrong. But you can choose to intervene when you see someone, or two, or three… beating up on a helpless person. You quickly calculate the risk, ACT, and accept the consequences. After all, this is what we train for. If we can’t do this, to defend another or ourselves, then why train?


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