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

Missing Pieces of Modern Eskrima Practice

This topic may become a series, as I have much to say on the subject. Look for future posts, and if you see this title again–“Missing Pieces of Modern Eskrima Practice”–you may notice that I’ll have added part II, part III, etc., to the end of the title.

I fancy myself an “Old School” Eskrimador, despite that I have yet to reach my 50s. However, my teachers were old men and they taught the old styles. I was in a small circle until I had reached adulthood, and by the time I was old enough to issue challenges and think for myself–the FMA community around me had already grounded itself in this video and seminar culture. Most of you who strongly disagree with my views, do so because you are part of the new guard. Perhaps your teachers are older, but if they did not come up in the outdated method I did–or they were part of the new FMA world order–you won’t like what I say, nor will you like the bluntness in which I deliver it.

Funny how everyone likes a blatantly blunt man, until he bluntly disagrees with you. Then that refreshingly blunt mouth becomes a rude asshole. LOL

This label had to be declared (I’m old school), so that you will understand where I am coming from when I make the following statement:

The new-school method of teaching and ranking in the art has left Modern Eskrima with many holes.

One of those shortcomings is the lack of Power Mechanics.

Ask a modern Eskrimador what he knows of power mechanics, and he will attempt to overexplain what I define as “hitting harder”. “Hitting Harder” is not “Power Mechanics”. I’ve listened to even some grandmasters try to explain this concept, instead of making things easier by saying their style does not address it. It’s sad, and it’s become somewhat of a game for me to watch well-known teachers with great reputations fumble over this simple concept that very few have bothered to explore. Most martial artists can barely define power mechanics; and Lord help them if they are asked to demonstrate it… or teach it! Not having power mechanics in your system is one thing. But to not have it, and then pretend to have it is most shameful of all. To do so demonstrates what is wrong with the state of FMAs today:  Filipino Martial Artists try to hard to claim mastery and/or knowledge of everything, and as a result they are proficient at almost nothing.

The method that most FMA teachers choose to study and teach the art is the reason for these missing links. Studying in seminars a few times a year, studying by DVD and online courses, studying with men who are not true experts in the art, studying with the prospect of teaching much too soon, achieving rank without challenging or being challenged, achieving rank without engaging in many contests, sharing information with other teachers, gathering information from other teachers, learning skills superficially without much in-depth dissection–are all reasons why these missing links exist. Many aspects of the art must be repeated over and over; they must be trained and practiced in a way the modern martial artist calls “mindlessly”–which is not such a bad thing. Techniques and skills must be trained until they are automatic responses, and the fighter uses them without thought. It is then that these skills can be said to be understood well enough to unlock their rarely-explored nuances and details. Among these things is the idea I call “power mechanics”.

Power Mechanics

Power Mechanics is the study of generating maximum power with techniques without sacrificing function, speed, balance, effectiveness, or efficiency. This is why I say that one needs to do more than simply “hit harder”. To both the naked eye as well as the inexperienced martial artist (and yes, even a “Master” can be inexperienced), power mechanics involves simply hitting harder, and perhaps a wind-up. However, after ample practice and reflection, the physics of a technique will change in order to gain maximum destructability while sacrificing little else. The power mechanics of one technique is not equal to that of another. A downward “caveman” blow will require a different type of power generation than a backhand strike–and both a downward strike and backhand strike will require a different type of power generation than an abaniko strike. The power mechanics will change from one weapon to another as well. You cannot use a downward blow with a machete the same way you would generate power with a rattan stick, and both will be enormously different than the same strike done with an icepick, a hammer fist, and a walking cane. Power mechanics also changes with the target. Striking the crown of the opponent is very different than trying to break his nose with the same weapon and same angled strike. Striking the crown will be different than striking the opponent’s collarbone. Striking the crown is different than striking his wrist. And if your opponent is holding a weapon, you will attack his weapon hand differently than you will when attacking his free hand. If the opponent is aggressive and attacking frequently, it will affect your power mechanics as well–since you must learn to use power differently as an initiator of the exchange than if you were counterattacking.

Each angle of your system must take all those details into account when studying those angles, and how do develop power. There is power in attacking, power in striking defensively, power while standing in place, power when striking in combination, power on a faster opponent, power on a stronger opponent, and power when you are simply trying to stop an opponent versus power when you want to kill him.

*Now take all of this information, and come up with a technique for generating maximum power for every angle in your system, learn to use it in sparring, and find a way to generate maximum power without disrupting your current fighting habits… in other words, learn to generate bone-shattering power without looking like you are getting ready to generate bone-shattering power and without having that use of power slow you down in a fight.*

Like I said, this is much more than “hitting harder”, and it darn sure can’t be taught in a seminar or book. You can’t even teach it over the course of a weekend.

And all these things must be fully investigated and identified, trained, utilized and tested, modified, defined again, trained after being fine tuned, AND THEN presented to the student. Honestly, either you know, or you don’t–and I can assure you, a very small number of Eskrimadors have put in this kind of time to explore their Eskrima to include this vital missing piece. Trust me, if they did–they would turn down offers to teach seminars, because honestly, you cannot impart this level of fighting in a damned 4 hour seminar. Most Eskrimadors did not receive this level of instruction. What most certified “Guros” got can easily be placed in a 6 DVD set and learned in the comfort of your living rooms, garages or youtube channels. However, you can surpass your Guro’s superficial instruction. Start by taking this article, print it, then start exploring:

  1. Start with your system’s #1 strike. Standing in place, what must be done to hit the hardest you can without telegraphing much? Without disrupting your ability to strike again in combination? Without hurting your balance? What changes to your fighting stance must take place when simply striking #1 to land first vs striking #1 to end the fight? (Surely, you didn’t think a speed #1 was the same as a power #1?)
  2. What footwork must be utilized to change from a regular #1 strike to a power #1 strike? Will there be modifications to your body movement? Head movement?
  3. What are the disadvantages to using the #1 with full power? Trust me, there are plenty. I’m leading you.
  4. What position must your opponent be placed in to make him vulnerable to your #1 power strike? Here’s a hint:  You shouldn’t attack your opponent with a power strike if he is comfortable in his normal fighting stance. This is the position most Eskrimadors have trained their blocks in, so he is most likely to be successful in stopping your power #1 strike. In other words, you must find ways to set your opponent up to disrupt his stance and ability to defend your power #1 strike.
  5. How much time does it take to deliver the power #1 strike, and once you use it, what position will you most likely be in?
  6. You need this information ^^ to detemine this —> What is the best follow up to my power #1 strike?
  7. How should I best use the power #1 if I am attacking, versus
  8. How should I best use the power #1 if the opponent is attacking?
  9. In other words, using the #1 strike while rooted vs using the power #1 while moving backward/evading vs using the power #1 while moving forward. This is one of the least studied aspects of Eskrima. Everyone assumes that Eskrima can be practiced while flatfooted, and any old time master can blow that theory out the water with one match. There is a difference between practiced Eskrima and utilized Eskrima, and there isn’t supposed to be.
  10. Once you have developed #1’s theories 1-9, then do the same with power #1 with various weapons and to various targets about the opponent. Some will be universal, but many will not. Take for example, my #1 strike, which is the out to in strike to the temple. A #1 to the hand is quite different if I am striking the weapon hand or the opponent’s rear hand. The footwork is different, and the danger is different. The opponent’s weapon is different as well. If my opponent has a stick, I will attack his rear hand versus if he is holding a knife (if he is holding a knife in the front hand, we do not attack the rear/naked hand. Only if he is holding the knife in the rear hand).
  11. And don’t forget to train your newly discovered methods of striking thousands of times! If you’ve done it properly, at the least you should have your basic numbering system times 3:  Your basic strikes (1-5, 1-6, 1-12, 1-24, 1-64, etc.), your basic strikes done for power, and then your basic strikes done as a counter. Each should be drilled and mastered separately. Your simple #1 is nothing like your power #1 and neither will be like your counter #1. Some masters would say they are all the same, this article is me begging to differ…

We won’t go into much more detail than this. However, I will give this last tip. In item #10, if the opponent has a stick in the front hand, power strikes to the rear hand:

  • prevent him from being able to grab your weapon. this is the reason we do it
  • are never the initial strike in an attack, we draw his weapon hand down, then attack the naked hand (this prevents his ability to counter with power while we are reaching far into his guard)
  • are retracting strikes. when attacking the rear hand, even with power–you always want to use snapping strikes rather than swinging strokes
  • can be thrown as a double strike (#1-#1). when hitting the hand, most of the opponent’s attention goes to the hand and he will most likely draw back when hit. you want to do more than just land a hit, you want to destroy the hand. the second hit ensures that you’ve broken something
  • can be used to set up finishing power strikes. why? because almost no one strikes that back hand. once you do, he will be more protective of the rear hand, giving you perfect opportunity to utilize feints and fakes, and then finish him with a strike to another area, like the throat or nose

There is so much to explore and explain, I’ll close here. Hopefully, you will have a lot to keep you busy for the next year 🙂  Remember, don’t rush through this lessons. Most teachers have skipped them altogether. If you’d like to take your Eskrima to a higher level, you need this very important and neglected knowledge!

EDIT:  One last thing… the same can be done with your empty hands techniques.

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4 Responses to “Missing Pieces of Modern Eskrima Practice”

  1. Nicely written Master Gadula.
    Thanks for sharing.
    The insight gleaned is very thought provoking.
    Leaves me feeling frustrated that i only came to the knowledge of FMA so late in my life (instead of younger).
    And even more so,that the ability to accquire the skills you speak of, requires a dedication and discipline that few can readily commit to.
    Save by,comitting to full-time study,as in your 2 year FMA apprenticeship course.
    And even this oppertunity,is sadly no longer available (?)
    Again,due to the onslaught of ‘time’ (for it waits for no one).
    Its like being shown a burger,when one is real hungry.
    Inspite of these personal frustrations,i am grateful for being enlightened through your article.To a path for improvement.
    For this, i am appreciative.
    Regards,
    Garrith-South Africa

    • Thank you Garrith. And I have good news, I am building a school back home this year! I will hire a company to build and once that is done, around the beginning of 2017, we will begin classes. Soon as we start the construction I was going to post and article and pictures on the blog!

      • Master Gadula,that is awesome news!
        Again..thank you for sharing.

        Asking that you keep me on your list of sincerely interested potential candidates,please.
        I say potential as i know your standards are stringent.

        Yet, i always return to your own words…and i paraphrase:
        ”I [M.Gadula] will take you [Garrith]…a mere young boy , who can hardly pee straight.And make you into a man.”

        I feel that you can better mould one who is genuinely interested in the path he has chosen.
        I desire to be proficient in FMA through dedicated daily practice,more than i desire anything in my life.

        Im sure you will test this claim.
        Yet,i felt it important to share with you.

        Best regards,
        Garrith Brokensha
        South Africa

      • Thank you, and I appreciate your passion for the arts! I think you will do great!


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