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

Training Individual Techniques

I would like to share with you some tips on training individual techniques.

In the Filipino arts, we tend to focus too much on combinations, defenses, and complicated drills. As a result of this, we ignore developing individual techniques, and our ability to execute a fight-ending, powerful and accurate single strike never manifests. I’ll give you an example; take what we call in my system the “number 2″ strike. This is the back handed strike to the opponent’s temple. Can you destroy a man’s temple with this strike? Does this strike have enough power to break something? Like a 1” board? I could safely say that most Eskrimadors do not have this kind of power with a back-handed stick strike, and will dismiss this lack of skill by calling the strike a “weak” strike.

Ahem. It’s not weak because the strike itself is a poor strike, it’s weak because you have no power with this strike. Ditto for the Abaniko strikes. I have heard quite a few Visayan style practitioners say that they either no longer practice the Abaniko or de-emphasize this strike because it is a weak one. Take heed to the saying, that the fighter should have nothing in his arsenal that cannot singly end a fight. At the same time, one should not discard a technique without attempting to fully develop and/or explore it’s use. To do so is foolish, because you may be getting rid of a very important weapon. This is like a child who aspires to be a writer deciding at 10 years old that he finds spelling or grammar to be useless… and his teacher agreeing.

As a fighter-in-training, one should spend ample time developing and training everything in his respective system, and once proficiency is achieved in everything–then slap a Black Belt on him, and allow him to decide what to specialize in. At that point, a fighter can begin work on developing his own personal system of combat.

That said, let’s look at the basics of developing individual techniques:

  • techniques should be execute at least 75% speed and power, regularly. I do not believe in lackadaisical training and practice. Too often, in dojos and gyms, you will see students “practicing” skills so weakly and lazily, they barely break a sweat. In order to improve speed and power, you must challenge the body to do more.
  • one should work with enough repetitions that at the end of the set, you require a short rest. If not, the student is not getting stronger.
  • only a few techniques should be trained each training session, in order to gain some benefit from its practice. Performing 10 repetitions of 20 different techniques in a single training session may offer some cardiovascular benefit, but for fighting the student has not made any progress. In my own classes, I will often practice a specific set of skills for several weeks, and sometimes they overlap. This way, in a two-week period, the student may have practiced a technique possibly thousands of repetitions.
  • a good rule of thumb is to use sets of 100-200 for beginners, 300-500 for intermediate students, and 500+ to a thousand for advanced students and students in competition season. This standard alone will help you develop dominant students. And they will progress quickly using this method.
  • use a combination of shadow-boxing (training without a called cadence), group training (called with a cadence) with varying degrees of intensity and speed, target training standing still, target training while chasing the target-holder, target training while the target-holder is striking the puncher/kicker, and bag/striking shield training.
  • insert sets of strength training and stretching exercises between technique sets. This fatigues your students and teaches them to attack while exhausted–a very important ability that many martial artists lack.

Further, I would like to offer my school’s “Four Factors”. These are observed by all students when training individual techniques:

  1. Delivery and execution–paying close attention to footwork and ease of closing the gap between you and the opponent. Fighters should start further back, as many martial artists tend to stand very close to their target. Opponents move and will not allow you to stand close. By covering a larger distance in training, catching a moving opponent will be easier while fighting.
  2. Maintaining the guard–very often, fighters will allow this very simple rule to be violated. When the guard has been breached in fighting, the experienced opponent will see and exploit the many opportunities to attack. Maintaining the guard will force the opponent to find a way around the guard.
  3. Balance–if the student is allowed to lose his balance often during training, he will surely lose his balance while fighting. Due to the chaotic nature of fighting a moving opponent, your techniques will often lack the degree of balance you have in training. If you are losing your balance in training, you have no chance in combat. Balance in practice should take its place of importance next to speed and power. An opponent who knows what he is doing will force you to lose balance while attacking (most likely by lateral movement) and then make you pay for making that mistake.
  4. Recovery–once a technique has been executed, you must find your way to a superior position of attack/defense as quickly as possible. Your recovery time must be quick and your position must be stable. After an attack is complete you want to be off your opponent’s line of fire, and be in a stable stance (with balance) ready to follow up the attack with another. This is also greatly ignored, and is very often the deciding factor in who wins the fight. Recovery can also help a weaker, slower opponent defeat a bigger, faster, stronger man.

If you would like to learn more about my approach to training fighters, please check out my book, Mustafa Gatdula’s How to Build a Dominant Fighter in 12 Months, on Amazon!

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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