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

Thoughts on FMA Empty Hand: The Doubter (for Mike Jolly)

Ah, that “Fallacy of FMA Empty Hand” article… I thought my Hermit article would be my defining article, yet the Empty Hand article seems to be the one that endears me to my readers–or make me the FMA public enemy #1. No need to fret FMA brothers and sisters, by this time in 2017, I will be retired and back in the Philippines and will be able to accept the many challenges I’ve received over the last 15 years. Being that we are all Filipinos and part of this beautiful culture, I expect that those who issued challenges will actually show up? I would like to announce here on this blog that the Typhoon Philippine School is coming to Batangas and Manila, so I will need such matches both on the mat and off–in the dojo and out–to build credibility for my schools. If you are interested in a match, training, or just to have lunch–please leave a comment under this article and we will see you soon, kumpadres!

So I receive a question that I’ve often answered by email or in person. I’d like to post my reply here, because it is one that the Fallacy article has sparked. I received it via Facebook and it is from one of our readers who was not offended by the article.

By the way, I should admit. When I wrote the article, I wasn’t angry–but feeling silly that day, and the article was meant to be sarcastic and humorous. The articles following the fallout were written while I was angry, but not this one. I am shocked, but not disappointed by the response. Let me say this, FMA brothers:  You should welcome people who doubt the validity of your art; not be offended. We are martial artists. We grow through our experiences, through stress-tests, through defending our arts, and by having our skills and ideas challenged. A man who says he does not think your art is fully effective should become your best sounding board after your response. You should prove yourself to him, and make him a believer. People keep saying, “I don’t have anything to prove to you.” Oh no? Then you are in the wrong art, my friend. Fighting is not about opinion; fighting is all about proof and what you can do. Theories in the martial arts should not be theories for long. In order to convert your theories to actual combat methods, you absolutely must “prove” its validity to yourself, to your rivals, to your peers, to the public. Otherwise, an unproven martial arts theory isn’t worth the paper they are written on. They are as smelly and undesirable as the breath you explain them with. You can dress them up with mints and fruit juice and bubble gum all day long, but at the end of the day and unproven, untested martial arts theory is nothing more than smelly old, hot air. This is not what the FMA is all about. So when a guy says, I don’t believe your art–this is a great opportunity for you to pick up your stick or put on a pair of gloves and make this guy a believer. And when you do, you will end up like me:  admired or hated.

That said, doubters have a second important role in the martial arts. They cause you to think. I don’t discount any new idea I encounter in the art. If unable to test the theory, I will at least reflect on what I do to ponder if the guy has a point or not. Quite often, I have been perplexed by something a martial artist had said and went on to test the idea. Once, I was showing a technique to a friend who was not a martial artist. He was a police officer, and had fought for a weapon on several occasions. He was helping me put together a curriculum I was teaching to some Maryland State Troopers, and thought my techniques wouldn’t work. We took a plastic water gun and a knife, and spent a few days fighting over the knife as well as the water gun. At the end of the week, we both had learned about disarming, neutralizing and weapons retention. He learned how realistic disarming and neutralizing could be–I learned the limitations of disarming and neutralizing–and we both learned more about weapons retention on top of what he was already taught to do. I’d like to add a side note here. My friend’s name is Brad (won’t use his last name), and he is one of those “good cops”. I didn’t realize it then (1996), but each time I showed something, he kept saying, “We can’t do that”, and “That technique is banned”, things to that nature. I realizing retrospect that Brad was exploring ways to deal with an armed, combative subject without killing him. In fact, he wouldn’t even allow me to teach him simple skills like punching to the face, striking the head with a baton, and redirecting a knife into the attacker’s belly. In my opinion, he is a truly respectable officer who puts his life on the line–rather than the rhetoric I hear today of “kill the subject if you think you’re in danger”.  If the average citizen must use appropriate level of force even in self-defense–our trained police officers should do the same. Political rant over. Anyway, I was humbled. I realized that many things I was teaching at that time were either inappropriate for Western culture, or plain old impractical. After only four days of wrestling with a man who had never studied the martial arts, I modified a good portion of my Eskrima permanently into the art I teach to day. Encountering doubters can do wonders for your development as a martial artist, even if you are a Master of the art–if you allow it to.

And now, the question:

Question for you sir if you have a few minutes…I follow your blog, and I appreciate the honesty you put out, I’ve read your post on the fallacy of FMA empty hand combatives in the sense it’s taught now days in the different kali organizations. I do believe myself the FMA are superior when it comes to the use of tools but me wanting to specialize in being not only a high weapons practitioner but to be able to transition from empty hands to a tool, against one or mass attack scenario. What would you recommend and thoughts on this subject? Thank you for your help and time

All articles on this blog are edited before being published, so please stay tuned for part II. Thank you for visiting my blog.

 

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2 Responses to “Thoughts on FMA Empty Hand: The Doubter (for Mike Jolly)”

  1. […] article is a continuation of yesterday’s article, answering a reader’s question about the effectiveness of FMA empty hand. If you […]

  2. I for one admire and respect what you write they are great articles that open up a lot of issues. I would love to meet you when you get back here, for a chat and training if that’s ok. I love the way you put stuff out there. Kudos to you and your blog.


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