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

FMA and the Art of Body Punching

I have been looking at a note for me to respond to Kris Williams, who lives in Bakersfield, CA, and practices Muay Thai, Eskrima (DP? I forgot), Kenpo and some other styles. We met in a Starbuck’s, and ended up playing Eskrima in the parking lot, before moving to discussing my articles and empty hand. He is a reader, by the way.

While talking about his views on the FMA, he admits that he has not dedicated as much time as he’d like to the Filipino arts. He says it’s a time issue, but I suggested that perhaps he just doesn’t have access to full-time, non-mainstream teachers–as is the case with most FMA people. One of his main interests are the Filipino empty handed art. Somehow, Kris believes that Filipino empty hand must begin with a “gunting”, mimic the knife, and involve the take down, limb destruction and drills. Like I said, he needs access to non-mainstream FMA, as 99% of the FMA here in this country is made up of the same stuff.

(“Same stuff” = mainstream.)

He mentions, as most FMA people I’ve met, that he does not practice body-punching because it is not “street-worthy”. My opinion of techniques being considered street “unworthy” are most likely the fault of the one teaching and training the art… not due to the merits of the technique itself. Martial artists will often discount something that they cannot do well as “not practical” because they can’t make it work. I’ll give you an example. Do you believe that a spinning hook kick to the jaw will knock someone unconscious? Do you believe that the spin hook kick can be delivered fast enough that an opponent can’t stop it? Do you believe that the spin kick–in the hands (or feet) of an expert–can be delivered fast enough that a grappler can’t stop it?

Stop the presses! I think I just heard the sounds of doubt. And I can guarantee you that 100% of those who feel this way have never fought an Olympic-style Tae Kwon Do fighter. The only time a martial artist speaks in absolutes (“this won’t work, that won’t work”) without prefacing it with a reference to personal experience I know for a fact that this person is not speaking from experience. Stuff you did as a 16 year old McDojo student (or when you were 22 living in the dorms) are irrelevant. If you’re an expert, only your experience with other experts matters.

Here’s my point. A fighter who develops a skill to the point that it hurts–it injures, in fact–can pull anything off, given that he understands what he is doing and if he knows how to use what he knows against what the other man knows. That said, body punching is very relevant to modern self-defense as well as traditional in the real FMA empty hands. And I’m speaking as one who does the FMA you can’t find in a mainstream art, seminar, or video. The truth about body punching is that it hurts, even when punching without a glove, it can injure, and if the fighter knows what he is doing–no amount of conditioning will protect you from it. Like the MMA guy who say Olympic style TKD is useless–you reveal yourself to not know what you’re talking about.

RMA guys (realistic martial arts) and SSDBMA (Street self defense based martial arts) guys included. I challenge any man claiming that body punching is useless on the street to a match, I will have you on the floor within minutes. That’s just silly and too much theory. Sounds good on blogs and in articles only.

There is a place for body punishment, and I’m not referring to the ring. Not every fist fight has to be life or death. And you don’t always have to give your opponent a bone-crushing injury. Why, just last week I was picking up a friend who was moving when his cousin came out to argue with him over a television we had packed away. Before I knew it, these two were squared off in the middle of the street, ready to slug it out. It doesn’t matter who swung first–this is his cousin, a little marijuana and alcohol was involved, some testosterone (i.e., women) face injuries and broken bones are not an option. Perfect place for a body punch. (Instead, they got a lesson in conflict resolution from yours truly) My friend clearly did not want to fight. But his cousin was the aggressor and he needed to defend himself. They made up a day later, but might not have if my friend put him in the hospital.

That said, I would like to share some tips on the art of body punching. I hope you try them the next time you train and spar.

  • Know what to hit. Do I simply hit the belly? Should I aim for the liver or spleen? Or the bladder? What type of punch should I use to get the kind of injury I want?
  • Understand power mechanics. There is a little more to it than simply punching harder. If you weren’t formally trained in power mechanics, find someone who can teach it to you. Or take $45 and spend an hour with me at my gym.
  • Use all your punches for your body-punching arsenal. I mean it:  Your jab, your cross, your straight punch, your hook, your uppercut. They all have a place, and they are all necessary to set up another attack.
  • Your feet must be wide at impact.  Don’t forget to bend your knees. Open your feet wide as you hit, lower your center of gravity and balance, and most of all–your base. You do NOT want to be caught leaning over to hit a low target.
  • Speaking of which ^^^, protect your head.  Another reason to lower your stance. When you are upright and you attack low, your high targets are exposed–leaving you vulnerable to attack. Lower yourself so your weapons can be close to your head to protect you.
  • Protect your head, part II.  By stepping offline. It is best to find your head outside of your opponent’s front shoulder when attacking low, than to be to the inside. When you go inside, you must deal with his back hand. When you are on the outside, you control the action; your opponent must follow you. This makes it harder to find your head.
  • Use a zig-zag motion. One of the biggest mistakes FMA fighters make is to practice only back and forth and triangle motion. You must step left and right, and be good enough to change directions without losing balance. As in the last rule, your opponent will follow you if you lead. If you take two or three steps in the same direction, he knows how to find you. If you alternate directions at random, your opponent will throw his attacks away, giving you plenty of opportunity to attack. So when he punches left, you have already gone back to his right, leaving all those ribs and goodies exposed. Like a kid in a candy store!
  • When you throw, start from Texas. Bodies don’t move as quickly as the head. The natural reaction for a streetfighter when you initiate a punch is to turn the head and blink (trust me). Just that little motion alone will make you miss a head punch. You can’t move a chest that easily. Yet it takes more power to cause damage when you hit the body. Take advantage of the extra time–and need for more destruction–by torquing your body all the way when you throw that body shot. Treat him like a beef carcass when you attack those ribs. Make hamburger inside his shirt. He won’t want to fight much longer, believe me.
  • Watch out for elbows. Should be self-explanatory. But punching an elbow is a painful mistake. You can, however, take advantage of a fighter looking to block with his elbows by doubling up and attacking high. It only takes a fraction of a second to stay there long enough to go upstairs.
  • Don’t forget to “combinate”. Body punches need not be single attacks. Throw two, three or more, and really punish your guy. As the kids would say: Ouch, that sucks. One of Mike Tyson’s most devastating attacks was a double hook to the body, and when the opponent drops his arm to either wince or block–come up the middle with an uppercut or a left straight down the middle.

There is a lot more to this story, but I want you to work on this and we’ll discuss it again. Let me offer this training tip. Have a partner stand before you with a rib protector and a pair of gloves (or a kicking shield). The partner should attack you at will, and you step offline, blocking or simply slipping. Before his hand returns from the attack, you should have landed at least two blows to the body. Now make sure your partner really attacks you or you’ll be wasting your time. The goal is to learn to use the body punch counter-offensively. Now do it 500 times. Then we’ll move on to the next skill.

If you like my articles, I’d like to invite you to purchase my book, “Build a Dominant Fighter“, on Amazon. Thanks for visiting my blog!

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29 Responses to “FMA and the Art of Body Punching”

  1. RMA and SSDMA usually are big MMA fans! Sacramento’s own Scott “Hands of Steel” Smith was almost KO’d with a body shot (http://youtu.be/8saDZwNy0dQ). There are a lot of examples in the MMA/UFC world of how effective these types shots are.

  2. Strange. Your article is so insightful, but it fails to mentions the practicality in kicks. A skilled TKD olympic fighter can kick just as powerfully with a reverse spin hook as he could just a regular roundhouse kick. Which requires less energy, and which would he use?

    It’s the flashy fighters who are fools. And are who I strike in the inner thigh so they understand that the art of the foot and fist is more than just overpowering kicks.

    • i was just discussing the use of the body punch, which many martial artists believe is not damaging enough to use in a streetfight or self defense situations. i have a article idea I would like to put up which will talk about powerful kicking, and this is not just the round kick to the thigh that everyone does. thanks!

  3. Anyone who claims body punching doesn’t work has never been hit hard in their kidneys by someone aiming for that target on purpose. That side you’re hit on literally goes numb for a few moments and makes walking veeeery difficult. Don’t let me get started on a good punch to the solar plexus or liver. I don’t care how any sit-ups you do. You get hit hard in either place, you’re done. You ay even lose your lunch or wet your shorts while you’re begging for air… You make a great point about the spinning back kick. If you have an Olympic style competitor or even a highly trained martial artist hit you with one…first ofall you WON’T see him spin to get out of The way, and second, the next sound you’ll here is your teeth hitting the floor as they fall outta your mouth like tic tacs. Former full contact champion Bill Superfoot Wallace used to kick the living daylights outta opponents with a weapon they KNEW were coming at them but couldn’t stop. Benny the Jet Urquidez hit opponents so regularly with spinning back kicks That it actually became “boring” to see him do it. An expert can make any technique work for him.

  4. Comparatively speaking, the body is very easy to hit, and once it’s hit often enough, the person getting hit really begins to worry and hesitate.Contrary to popular belief , six pack abs don’t offer total protection, nor does a “rock hard chest” the collarbone, for instance, is one of the easiest bones to break on the human body and can be easily seen and accessed by anyone. The solar plexus, Liver, spleen, kidneys, floating ribs, sternum, and the navel are all targets of opportunity. Boxers, especially old school ones made a point of becoming knowledgable incorrect body punching. Boxers like Rocky Marciano! Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, George Forman, And Joe Frazier were all feared by their opponents not just because they were strong but because they were ferocious body punchers.

  5. unarmed fighting such as punching or kicking doesn’t have any relevance in eskrima. So I don’t see why your trying to mix those two together

  6. What relevance does punching have with eskrima? Eskrima is a weapons art, so what does unarmed fighting have anything to do with a weapons art?

    • it doesnt and i agree with you. but this article is for those who do empty hands fighting

      • Ok, so then why did you put the title “FMA and the art of body punching”? FMA is useless when it comes to unarmed fighting, its not a weak art because of the way we do it, its a weak art because its only good at one thing where else Japanese arts (judo and kenjutsu), Chinese arts (sanshao), and Thailand martial arts (muay thai and krabi krabong) are good at both and i’m pretty sure you know that, why else would you take other arts. to compensate what fma can’t deal with.

      • Then what does this have to do with FMA? FMA is supposed to be more of a weapons art than an unarmed art. So why do you mix those two together? Its like mixing fencing with tkd

      • it is a weapons art–but there is also empty hand arts that i respect. this article is talking about the way FMA people ignore the body punch or dont give it enough study to use it effectively (or to dismiss it and say its not effective). i can prove to anyone that the body punch is effective. this is why i made this blog–to first advertise my art and my teaching. when people have doubts, I am always willing to demonstrate in person every word on the blog.

      • can you describe those “empty hand arts”? What FMA empty hand do you talk about? You fail to mention how “body punching” has anything to do with FMA in the first place. You don’t see someone writing a blog about “kendo and the art of body punching” lol

      • copypacer, stop crying and arguing about words and semantics. I am talking about plain old fighting, and what really comes from the FMA and what some guys make up for their seminars and videos. the old masters you all like to study from–the real fighters–took whatever from wherever. its very alike what they do today, except the old masters fought with it, used it, and develop it **as a fighting art**. today they only use it for demo, seminar and DVD.

        i can tell by your choice of argument you are not a fighter. may i ask, what country/state/city are you in?

      • ” I am talking about plain old fighting, and what really comes from the FMA and what some guys make up for their seminars and videos. the old masters you all like to study from–the real fighters–took whatever from wherever.”

        Ok, you don’t understand anything I was talking about. My whole point was the FMA has nothing to do with body punching or most unarmed combat excluding disarms. FMA and body punching or unarmed combat has as much relevance as knife throwing and the art of wrestling.
        This is why I’m skeptical on anyone who mentions “unarmed combat” and “FMA ” in the same sentence, that is why I asked what FMA empty hands are there?

        I currently live in the usa, in the state of texas/ addison.

      • Eskrima has almost nothing to do with hand to hand fighting, except for when unarmed against the weapon. There are Filipino empty hand systems. My point of all this, at least for this article, is that if you are going to empty hand, at least make it practical. Body punching is very practical for fighting, even street fighting.

        The other articles I am tired of discussing and debating. But it’s just that people look past the existing FMA empty hand styles, and make up new ones while acting like the new ones are not newly made up

      • “There are Filipino empty hand systems.”

        Oh? like what exactly aside from sikaran/yawyan or kuntaw which is more associated with the moros rather than majority of the Filipino population?

        sikaran is mostly kicking rather than upper body striking, so your atricle is meanlings here

        yaw yan isn’t really an fma, its a modern kickboxing system that majority of the Filipinos happen to practice under mma.

        I know what your article is about, but like I said so many dam times, it has nothing to do with FMA

        I’ve read all your articles, not once have you ever mentioned an FMA style that focuses on empty hands (aside from the ones I mentioned above).

      • Then you don’t know much about the Filipino martial arts community, and don’t know much about the evolution of Asian martial arts either. Stop reading Dan Inosanto articles. That stuff is fucking you up.

      • Everything I said is practically the complete opposite on what Dan Inosantao believes and personally I don’t respect him. When has he ever beat anybody?

        Anyways, everything I said was true, and from what I’ve read so far, I’m right when I say there are no Filipino martial arts that focus mostly on unarmed that originated in the Christian/animist areas of Luzon and Visayans regions. Oh, and please don’t bring up panantukan which is a american martial art made from lucalucay or suntukan which isn’t even a martial art to begin with lol.

      • Well I agree with you on those points so no argument here. But I disagree about no empty hand. Filipino karate and like that is unique to our country and it’s very effective.

      • Karate originated in Okinawa, its not unique to the Philippines no matter how many times you put Filipino over it. So please stop with the whole Karate is a Filipino martial art bull shit.

        When it comes to stating what is a filipino martial art or isn’t, you either have a martial art that ORIGINATED from the Philppines, or you don’t period, in which case you can’t name any.

      • So far judging from what I’ve read, you don’t know what the fuck your talking about when it comes to mixing the words empty hands and FMA together.

  7. Is boxing an American martial art? Is Capoeria Brazilian? Is Muay Thai, Thai? All of these arts came from some place else, and became a local tradition with its own identity. The Philippines has its own styles of Silat, Kuntaw, Karate, Judo and Kung Fu, just like there is now, American/Western FMAs. I’m not going to argue about this with you forever. If you are from the Philippines and don’t know this, then you didn’t get around much to be arguing with me about it.

    • OK, you really don’t know what the fuck you talking about. I wouldn’t be speaking like this if I didn’t know anything about what martial art originated and where and what country it belongs to.

      First off, boxing or western boxing is a broad term to describe the upper body striking system of many western countries, the USA does not claim it to be an american martial art, although there are styles that are developed there. Mexico does not claim that boxing is a mexican martial art either. As for muay thai and capoeria, they did originate in those places and those arts are largely related to its people to.

      Also, silat and kuntaw are practiced by the Moros who contribute a minority population in the Philippines and also don’t like to even be associated with Filipinos and FMA. Majority of FMA that is largely in the Visayan and Luzon regions which again don’t have anything to do with unarmed combat, If ripping off other martial arts and calling it your own country’s martial art is your idea of an FMA, then you really need to re-consider where most of those techniques and methods of originated, and I can tell you this, 100% of karate western boxing did not originate in the Philippines, so they are not Filipino martial arts.

  8. I don’t see how unarmed combat like body punching has anything to do with FMA. According to you there are no FMA’s that can act as a replacement for a full hand to hand system and that every time someone brings up martial arts like panantukan or suntukan, you claim they never originated in the Philippines.

    • It doesn’t have much to do with it at all. I am just saying, if you’re going to fight empty handed, you can’t ignore it. if you ever fought against someone who uses body punches, you will understand why.

      • Then that’s fine, but I still don’t see why you bring FMA into body punching especially that you don’t consider to have effective unarmed that can substitute a full empty hand system. The only arts you ever mention are kuntaw or sikaran which is rarely mentioned in FMA compared to panantukan/suntukan/pangamot.

        Maybe in the future you can type a blog about this, considering this one of the biggest controversies in FMA and since the only thing you ever talked about in FMA empty hands is what you want to see from it.


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