For Entertainment Purposes Only, pt III

We need for FMA teachers to return to basics.

Filipino Martial Arts have gotten too complicated and are moving further and further away from being practical forms of self-defense and streetfighting. This is why Eskrima, Arnis and Kali have become less “combat sports” and are now “spectator sports”. I mean, I’ve even seen flyers advertising FMAs give three prices: Advanced Registration, Participant’s Fee, and Spectator’s Fee.

(Spits out in surprise)


Who the hell does that? You mean there are martial artists so lazy, that not only will they bypass full-time study with a Master, but when they go for a ONE-DAY seminar, they won’t even get off their tushies to swing sticks…. they will watch???

Oh, God, nurse…. it’s worse than I thought. And our Guros and Grandmasters are making it an institution.

I often hear of people talking about FMA masters being “entertaining”, and among the many reasons to study with them are the words funny, humorous, excellent showman, dazzling to watch. Good gosh, nurse, it IS worse than I thought.

Don’t blame this one on the white guys, my brothers, the Filipinos started this crap.

And I think I know why. When the FMAs started to become popular, outside of Northern California and Hawaii, teachers found difficulty in recruiting new students. There were either people who wanted Karate and Tae Kwon do, Kung Fu, or one of the other Japanese arts like Judo, Aikido or Kendo. FMA teachers didn’t have movies to point to that excited people about the Filipino arts, so the best way to spread was to encounter school owners. We would show them in person, one at a time, that we were superior in some way to most other arts. Then in the effort to learn the art, they would have to promote a seminar to afford to bring the master in for a day or two and learn in person.

No need to argue, I know a few of the masters who did this and I’ve done it myself. It’s a fact.

So the teaching became like Sailor love lives–in town for a few days, slam bam thank you maam–and on to the next town. Along the way, we leave students behind who are longing for more, and until next time, my loves….

And this became the #1 way to teach the Filipino arts. With well-documented curriculums, we could teach on the move and within a few visits impart an entire system to dedicated, hungry students. How many visits did it take to get to the center of the curriculum? I say 6 to 8. I’ve met a bunch of Arnis and Kali certified teachers and that’s what they say. Give or take a few workouts with the local (or not so local) training group, and a 3 day (read: weekend) camp or two.

Hey, and don’t get me started on sparring and certification. We all have seen certificates get printed before attendees arrive. It’s disgusting.

I once met a teacher from the MKA gym in Angeles City. He told me to bring him the best fighter of any school in town, and he had two guys who can beat them. I didn’t want to bring Lakeim Allah or Bernard Savage (who would have destroyed his boys) from Boggs Lao’s gym, so I offered myself and while they didn’t beat me–they were some tough sonofaguns. And a few months later, one of the guys, a Tanod (security cop) whose name I forget, beat me in a tournament. Hell, you can’t win them all, and he redeemed himself and his club at my expense! But the lesson in this is that here we have a guy who had promoted only two Black Belt students, and he had full confidence that they were the very best he could produce. In the effort to recruit me away from Boggs into his school, he put them both up to prove superiority of his system and school. You absolutely have to respect that.

Same year, I studied Espada y daga with a master who taught at home in Angeles City, (Plaridel subdivision). When I was about 6 months in, he put his son to fight me, possibly because he didn’t like that I had been training with Ernesto and Roberto Presas in Manila. His son was the best he had, and despite that he was a kid–he was confident that his son could beat me into subjugating my training to him. Teachers who are passing on the best fight training they can will always have confidence in their students. I would go so far to say that a teacher must have tested this system with his own hands against opponents before taking what made him successful and imparting it to someone else. When he has done this, and ensured that the students learn and execute everything to specifications, he must find people to test their skills and his theories on.

This process, my brothers, is not for public viewing. It is top secrets, and you don’t want anyone seeing anything but the finished product. You don’t want people seeing the work-in-progress, the missteps and hiccups, the screw-ups and mistakes. You want them to see this amazing fighting system and dominant fighters emerge out of nowhere, and be so impressed the other fighters will declare you the best fighters in town.

But if you don’t believe you ARE the best fighter in town, you could just put out a bunch of press releases, choreograph a really cool demo, choose the coolest music, make a lot of friends, and get plaques and certificates to declare that you are one tough ugga mugga.

This way, you too can be a great fighter.

Or you could just put on the title and costume, and look like one.

Get those guys back to basics, make sure they really are the best fighters you can produce to represent you, before the martial arts community at-large categorizes us as another ninjitsu or Israeli-style add-on.

Thanks for visiting my blog.


Author: thekuntawman

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

2 thoughts on “For Entertainment Purposes Only, pt III”

  1. Thanks for the excellent blog post.

    How then would I be sure that what I am training under is teaching me the ‘basics’? – Maybe I haven’t dug enough, no?

    -Paolo Jerome Cristobal,
    Paranaque, NCR, PH,
    24, Lower Elem Teacher

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