Missing Pieces of Modern Eskrima Practice, pt II

I am the world’s biggest procrastinator, I swear…

So I’m doing a little maintenance to the site, which I haven’t done in a few year actually, and I come across my folder of unfinished “articles”. I put articles in quotation marks because it’s really just the titles that I put up with a small note I left for myself three years ago to write out the entire idea. (This is how I organize future articles while I’m thinking about it–I start the article, then leave it to be finished later. In this case, just a title)  This is meant to be a series from the original article, which you can find here. Like I said, I’m a huge procrastinator. My long time readers will attest to that.

And the note?

create, then seize the moment to kill

I often joke that my mother is a drama queen. Well, I happen to have inherited that trait as well. Anyone who knows me and my approach to the martial arts–whether we are discussing Eskrima or Kung Fu or anything else–will tell you that I see this arts not as something fun or technical, but serious business.

See, the modern Eskrimador has come to see the FMAs as anything from highly technical skills of reflexes, to the fanciest ways to take a stick, to weapon complements to other skills like kicking or grappling. Sometimes, you’ll witness FMA guys so eager to show how Eskrima does everything from fighting with a scarf to a whip to grappling to throwing axes and blowdarts–that they forget it all began with a stick. Yes, the stick can be used to choke, and the abaniko strike can be used to set up an arm lock. But how about breaking some bones with that stick? You know, like the masters use to do? When I look at the old masters move, I can see in their choice of play as old men that they once use to break things with those sticks–not play patty cake or rolling around on the ground humping each other with their baston. It’s a stick. Learn all that other stuff if you like, but if you can’t crush an eye socket or break a clavicle with that thing, you ain’t doing Eskrima. I’m just saying…

We’ve all heard Eskrima in its rawest form referred to as “Cave-Man” style. Don’t laugh; there is a lot of truth to it. Eskrima/Arnis, in its purest form, is a very rudimentary, brutish art designed to smash whatever is in its path. <— At its core. However, there are many skills, advanced skills, if you will–that make this elementary-but-effective art as sophisticated and advanced as any other art out there. Those things aren’t easily identified by casual onlookers. Not even obvious to casual, self-proclaimed “enthusiasts”. This installment’s missing piece, the skill of creating then exploiting the kill, is a forgotten, but vital, piece of the pie.

I could explain this skill in a few sentences, but it would take me years to teach it to you in person. This is why this missing piece is a dying art. Students don’t hang around their teachers long enough to get those lessons, and too many teachers out here have trained in a way that they never learned the skill themselves. If you believe that experience is the best teacher, this missing piece is the antithesis to that saying. For experience is not the best teacher–pondered, studied, evaluated experience is the best teacher. And it must be the right type of experience. “Experience” is not time spent studying or training solo. Experience is referring to time that the art has been learned, trained and developed, then put to the test against opponents who are seeking to challenge everything you’ve done. The skill of creating opportunities to use finishing techniques, and then the ability to employ those techniques in the blink of an eye–which is what we are describing here–cannot be taught in a seminar, book, or DVD. In Eskrima, what means the difference between life and death is not how well your left hand can twirl as good as your right, nor how closely your blade techniques look like your hand techniques, nor how many disarmings you know. What does matter are things like if you possess the power to kill a man with your stick or to cripple him, if your eyes are quick enough to recognize a flaw in your opponent’s movement or if your hands are quick enough to strike, or if your footwork is complex enough you can stay one step ahead of your opponent that he is always off balance and you are always ready to pounce. These skills are a combination of knowing tactics, knowing the responses to those tactics, knowing the appropriate responses to those responses, and the ability to finish the fight when you decide the fight should end. It is a combination of psychology, physics, anatomy, power mechanics, mastery of movement, and mastery of the ability to control the opponent’s actions.

Allow me to give you some tips on how you can explore this skill on your own. Rather than spending time learning the newest drills and grappling moves with stick, I would highly recommend returning to the days when you sparred regularly–and then seeing if you can apply these ideas:

  • learn to use light, energy-saving strikes to create openings. whether you are engaged in a weapons vs weapon or empty hand vs weapon fight, your ordeal may rely heavily on conditioning. one cannot go into a fight moving at 100% speed and power because regardless of your fitness level, exhaustion can come very quickly. even if your opponent moved at top speed as well, the timing difference between the fastest guy and the slowest guy can be as slight as a fraction of a second. purposely move slower to throw off your opponent’s timing and set him up for the kill. you move slow, he moves fast, the chances of him overshooting a block or move are great. the recovery time of a missed full power blow is dangerously longer than a half-hearted strike that is really just a wind up to a killing blow. by the way, if you click the link a few sentences back, it will explain much better than I am now, and here is part II of that article
  • make use of feinting and faking. I’m sure everyone is familiar with the benefits of feinting and faking, but very few people practice them. in fact, the only guys I see utilizing feinting and faking regularly are those who are actively fighting competitively-yet very few people actually train them and come up with strategies using them! they are a vital tool in point fighting, but since most FMA guys hate point fighting, they never develop this skill. well I’ve got news for you. boxers, fencers, and knife fighters on the street engaged in KvK fights use them–and Bruce Lee admired boxers and fencers and use to be a street fighter. will you listen now? develop your ff skill until you can make your opponent drop his hand, raise his hand, disrupt his guard, move his feet, etc., at will–and you will be able to determine when the point the fight ends and you get to go home. this ain’t just for trophies and medals, this is life and death
  • grapple. huh? wasn’t I just complaining about people grappling with a stick in their hands? yes. but that’s not what I meant. I’m not talking BJJ with a stick:  I’m saying learn to use that non-weapon hand for something other than slapping and disarming. your free hand at close quarters can be used to push the opponent. when the opponent readjusts himself from being pushed–you finish him. or pull him, and when he attempts to move back, finish him. or knock his hand down, grab his hand, and so forth. slap him, scratch him, distract him, and while he’s dealing with that pesky free hand of yours–crack his cranium.

I’m going to stop here. But hopefully you get the idea. There is a lot you can do to learn to fight with weapons besides how many ways you make music with your sticks. Sinawali music, that’s cute. Well, take this tip from the old school guys and learn to create opportunities to strike and develop the ability to exploit them before the opponent realizes what happened. You’ll go far.

Stay tuned for part III!! Thank you for visiting my blog. If you like our articles, please subscribe and share them with your friends!

The Devastation of Eskrima’s #1 Strike

Most styles of Eskrima have as their #1 strike an out to in strike to the temple or a downward strike to the crown, nose or collarbone. Both of these strikes, in my opinion are underrated and can be your best weapon if you treat your Eskrima with respect.

“With Respect”?

Yes, with respect. See, most FMA people (and this includes most teachers) do not respect the Eskrima Day Number one basic skill enough to practice it. Let me explain:

You pay your money, buy your school T shirt, buy a stick. You’re taught to salute, learn a few Tagalog terms–“Handa, Galang, Magpugay, Suntok, Guro, Isa, Dalawa, Tatlo…”, how to hold the stance, learn a little history, the stick is a machete is a knife, is a hand, blah blah blah… Now here’s strike #1, strike #2, strike #3, strike #4. Now here are a few drills…

Several months later:  Here’s drill #15….

Teacher teaches the first strike on the first day of class, and never teaches more than the same basic description unless another new guy joins. There is no in-depth study of the strike. No return to hone, fine-tune, or perfecting. It’s almost as if the #1 was only taught so that you can do the sinawali without getting your hands crossed up… oh wait–you need to practice more sinawali drills before you’re good enough to learn the next one.

And this is why I say your Eskrima was not treated with respect. First of all, two questions:

Can you kill with your #1 strike?

Can you throw a #1 strike that can neither be blocked, evaded, or survived?

They sound like silly questions to someone who neither understands the devastating effects of a fully developed, fully trained and respected #1 strike. First, the #1 strike, depending on how your systems uses it, is a throat slashing, cranium splitting, hand-dismembering weapon. You can cripple a man, end his life, kill a group of men within seconds with that strike your Guro “taught” you in about 2 minutes on your first day of Eskrima practice. Maybe some teachers may have students practice the #1 for a few minutes before teaching the next move. Most often, I have witnessed teachers teach their entire basic striking series within 5 minutes of a students first day! This is clearly someone who doesn’t think very highly of that strike, and those two strikes are often the most practical (or only practical) skills in that teacher’s entire arsenal.  Don’t laugh, I’ve seen it, and I know it’s true.

The basic strike must:

  • be pack bone-shattering power, whether executed at close quarters or long distance
  • be completed in the blink of an eye, whether the fighter is in a fighting stance or in a neutral position
  • be accompanied by footwork that is so fast, so accurate, and so explosive–that the opponent can not escape it once you have locked into a target, nor can he be able to counter it
  • be capable of breaking the opponent’s arm or stick if he attempts a block
  • be delivered from any variety of positions and foot maneuvers
  • *be delivered from any hand position*

And let me elaborate on this last item (be delivered from any hand position). It doesn’t matter what you were attempting to do or where your hands are when it is time to deploy this weapon. The Eskrimador, before he should bother with disarms, take downs or tricks–should have thrown his system’s basic strike more than 10,000 full power blows just to achieve adequate skills to move on. I am amazed by how many Eskrimadors are doing “advanced” Eskrima whose wrists and forearms are not strong enough to strike 500 blows without getting blisters. Boxers who are training for competition often will throw 5,000 or more punches in a day’s training, for a fight where he will only be expected to throw 50 – 80 punches per round. In the few seminars I’ve taught, I notice that many Arnisadors find it difficult to throw 100 full power strikes with a basic, first-day, number one strike. Back to my point, once you have developed your Arnis skill to the point that you can deliver 500 strikes with full speed and power, you will be able to accomplish this simple use of the basic strike. And just as I wrote it, a fighter should be able to change positions, stop his motion in an instant and deliver a deadly, wig-splitting, juglar rupturing, neck-breaking basic Arnis strike as soon as he needs it.

I must make this point:  Too often, Arnis is practiced as a coordination skill rather than as a destructive power that can cripple or maim–even kill–a man. Too many people value the “drill” or the fanciest disarms, rather than how much damage one can inflict with that little stick of yours. I have noticed the new trend in the Filipino arts is to use your stick to whip up a man, and then forget about the stick to resort to Brazilian Jujitsu when the potential Arnis victim closes the gap and turns it into a wrestling match. Excuse my rudeness, but if you need grappling for your FMA, you have forgotten what these weapons were made for. Develop a strike that hurts, injures and sends men to the hospital, then you won’t have to add other arts to back your Arnis up. Train those stick strikes until you can break bricks with them. And, yes, an Arnis stick can break bricks.

Back to the conversation–we need our strikes to be mastered and perfected so that you can pull the trigger when you need it. The reason a grappler can get past a 28″ stick is because your reflexes and strikes are not developed and accurate enough to stop any man you encounter. Don’t worry if you spar and it get beat; it just means you have more developing to do–not that Eskrima is insufficient. Every old master I’ve met in the Philippines didn’t have fancy drills and disarms. Most didn’t even have names for their techniques and styles. They offer the most simplistic of instructions for Arnis: Develop your hands to be like a hair trigger to a mobile sledge hammer. Develop your feet to become lightning quick so that no man can catch you, and no man can escape you. Be capable of covering 4-5 feet in a split second. Be capable of popping a coconut with your strike.

Then as your opponent is trying to figure you out, and you are trying to figure out your opponent–your eyes are searching for a chink in his armor. The momentary loss of balance, eyes pan down to obstacles on the ground. a quick distraction, a missed attack, a reaction to a successful strike… And then end that fight before your opponent blinks next.

^^ And this is one of the secrets of the masters. Modernize, develop new theories, come up with great ways to showcase the Philippines and our arts. But do not do so at the expense of forgetting the age old wisdom of our great masters who created this arts. I want you to commit that last two paragraphs to memory, because if you only learn your style’s first strike and then follow the advice of these two short paragraphs–it will be all the martial arts you will ever need. Develop your attack to a high, lethal degree–and then develop your reflexes and awareness to know the right time to strike… and no opponent can defeat you.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Fighting Advice from Mustafa Gatdula

One thing that the modern FMA man tends to neglect in his pursuit of martial arts ability is the study of fighting strategy. This is not a flaw in the tradition of Filipino martial arts, but a flaw in the way that our arts are taught. Because of the casual method most western FMA people learn–in seminars taught by out-of-town teachers, or in classes taught by local teachers taught by out-of-town teachers–the study of the fighting arts for us is very shallow and superficial. Students spend too much time in activities that do not challenge the body and mind. “Skill” is more often than not a test of coordination and rhythm rather than a true measure of combat effectiveness. Drills are described far too often as “fun”. The occasional hit hand or head when a strike is missed in choreographed practice are the war stories told by today’s FMA guy, rather than stories of lessons learned against actual opponents. Unlike yesteryear, FMA skill is mostly demonstrated with dance partners instead of proven against unfriendly, adversarial opponents. This has lead to entire generations of “fighters” who cannot teach a student to defeat a semingly superior opponent. The difference between a teacher who imparts an art to students limited by their size and physical ability versus one who can increase the effectiveness of any student’s achieved physical prowess is the study of application through strategy.

To illustrate this point:

Fighters A and B are similar size and experience in the art. They both know the same amount of techniques, and have put in the same amount of training time. They are both physically matched in strength, speed, agility and power. For this example, let’s say both fighters come from teachers who studied the same art, and have learned the same curriculum. Is the difference between the two fighters as simple as “power is in the martial artist himself, instead of the art”? This saying of it’s-the-fighter-not-the-art is oversimplified and lazy and terribly cliched. Both fighters may have learned the same techniques, both fighters may have trained just as well. But one fighter employs his art more effectively, efficiently, and with better planning than the other. Just as two boxers of similar stature know the same techniques–it is their use and mastery of strategy that makes one the victor and the other the loser. Chess players know the same moves and have the same pieces. But one is a superior strategist while the other is simply “playing chess”. Study strategy and psychology of fighting to dominate fighters on a level that is not limited to physical ability.

Here are a few basic strategies you should explore and utilize in your training and teaching. They are universal principles that apply to all styles and forms of combat–whether in the ring, on the street, armed, or unarmed:

  • Intercept your opponent’s movement with your own movement. Anticipate what your opponent will do next, where he will go–and then attack him, cut him off, or move your position before he can do/complete it. This can be based on your observation of his habits, his footwork, even repetitive techniques. Look for things like a short step he may take before launching an attack, where his eyes look before moving, or habits like dropping the front hand before kicking. This will give the impression that you are reading his mind
  • Keep your opponent off balance. Never allow your opponent to sit for more than a few seconds in a comfortable fighting stance. Force him to move back, move to the side, follow you. Change your position often, which forces him to change his position as well. By initiating the movement, your opponent becomes predictable because he is following you. If you notice that you can now force your opponent to move when you want him to–you can also change mid-motion, which causes a short stumble or change in balance. When he is off-balance, it is only for a fraction of a second if he is a good fighter–so you must attack him in an instant
  • Make use of obstacles. Obstacles can be things that get in your opponent’s way like walls, the ropes of a boxing ring, even bystanders, other attackers, or the referee if you are fighting for sport. Obstacles limit where and when the opponent can move, they can interrupt his movement, even distract him for a second. Look at the opponent’s eyes. When his eyes shifts to, say, the referee or trash on the street–capitalize on it and destroy him
  • Bring his targets to you. Tall opponents, faster opponents, and opponents with better mobility than you have can all be frustrating to fight. But they are not unbeatable. You can force a faster fighter to fall into a trap by attacking you in positions where you have the advantage. For example, attacking less frequently or dropping your guard will certainly invite a faster fighter to attack and make use of his skill. Wait for the attack and then lean away or step away to put more distance between you. This will cause your opponent to fail in his attack–and he will try again. The second, unplanned attack will almost certainly be slower–especially if you moved away from the position he was attacking. This is your cue to take advantage of the unexpected second attack. Had he been smarter, he would have backed away and reset his stance to attack again. But an opponent with a superior advantage over you would be less likely to take precautions and launch that second, unprepared attack. The same strategy works against bigger men, who assume their reach will not fail. By forcing a bigger man to attack twice, he is most likely going to have disrupted balance, in a longer, stretched-out stance, and his hands will not be in a position to protect himself. This is how bigger, stronger men get knocked out by smaller, weaker men–after launching a failed attack or missing a punch… and the smaller opponent was waiting on him
  • Miss your attack. Sounds like bad advice, right? I learned this after almost getting knocked out myself. My opponent was a Kyokushinkai fighter who was much older and slower than myself. I saw him miss a hook punch several times in another fight (which he won anyway), and planned to take advantage of his poor punching skill. Sure enough, like clockwork he missed me while headhunting and unlike the earlier opponent, I had the speed to close in on him and BAM. I walked into a spin kick. I ultimately won the fight, but asked him for a rematch after the tournament. He laughingly told me that he waited all day to use the combination, and I was the sucker who fell for the bait. Turns out, he had developed several “missed technique” follow-ups as he aged. His name is David Rhodes, and this old fox taught me that martial arts can still evolve and change to accomodate an aging competitor as he gets slower and loses his endurance. It is born of wisdom and experience and takes advantage of the cockiness of more youthful, but naive fighters. These techniques are now a part of my own martial arts practice, and as I approach my 50s I look forward to trying out this strategy myself. For a colorful example of a fighter who evolved as he aged, watch the difference in methods used by George Foreman, who maintained his power but lost speed while improving his ring wisdom. Not only did he defeat men half his age–he dominated them while they sought to take advantage of his “disadvantages”. You can “miss” in your own way while you are young, too. If you have great feet but less developed hands, let your opponent try to take advantage of your lack of fist speed. If you are a shorter fighter, let your opponent become sloppy because he thinks his height will help him. Pretend you are out of breath. Fake an injury or pulled leg muscle. On the street, pretend to be afraid–then make him pay when he tries to use his assumed upper hand. Perceived advantages/disadvantages can be very powerful if you learn to use them!

We will save the other items on my list for a future article. Hope you like these! Give yourself some time to come up with techniques that are already in your arsenal and how you can express them through my suggestion. Then, grab a few opponents and try them out. You’d be surprised how many ways you can skin a cat with some slick thinking (and good acting). Subscribe so you don’t miss the rest of them! Happy Veteran’s Day for my fellow vets (and shot out to the 459th MAW, Andrews AFB)….

Thank you for visiting my blog.

How to Beat an FMA Guy – For “Wolf” Soderstrom

My Kung Fu brother from another brother (Sifu Randy Bennett, my older Kung Fu brother) is competing in a televised weapons-based tournament called the UWM. His name is Martin Lobo Soderstrom, and his character name for the show is “Wolf”. Please take a look at his profile video:
We were chatting about weapons fighting, and he observed that Filipino martial artists and HEMA fighters tended to do the best in these tournaments over other styles. The interesting feature of the UWM tournament is that they do not have “divisions” pitting like weapons styles against each other. In the UWM, anything goes, and you may end up with anyone in front of you. I really like that! It’s something I’ve been talking about for years, and when we’ve had weapons fight nights at my school, we’ve done it. Unfortunately, we rarely get takers. I am appreciative for the few risk-takers I’ve been fortunate enough to meet over the years who obliged me with matches in their respective styles. Such tournaments are starting to pick up momentum here in America. Master Darren Tibon holds such tournaments in California. The Dog Brothers I believe pioneered the concept in the 1980s, and to this day holds the only mixed-weapon, mostly unpadded tournaments around. Lately, Shihan Dana Abbott has been promoting his Chanbara padded weapons tournaments pitting FMA against Japanese styles. If you want to take your martial arts skills to the next level, participating in such events is the best way to get experience that can’t be duplicated in the classroom or training with friends.
So, SiHing Soderstrom was looking to neutralize these fighters with his skills–and this article was written for him and anyone else looking to do the same.
And before I go on, let me say this:  A very important stage in the understanding of your martial arts is one of self-criticism. Too often, we simply learn our arts and practice them. Yet, by failing to look for holes and openings in our own systems, we miss the opportunity to improve what we already do. Teaching others how to beat us will teach you a lot about your art–or show how little you know about what you do. When I teach seminars, two popular themes I use are “How to Beat thekuntawman” and “How to Beat Eskrimadors”. These are challenging workshops because they force me to look at what I do, and show others what can be done to counter me or my students. Of course, I keep the counter to those counters for my own students. 😉  Try it yourself. I guarantee you will discover a whole new set of skills to practice. If you’ve ever lost a fight, doing this will most likely tell you how to prevent it from happening again!
Secondly, I would like to add that the answer is not necessarily to study other styles. In order for me to learn to beat Mike Tyson, I don’t have to go and train with Kevin Rooney or Teddy Atlas. I simply need to study how he fights, find opponents who fight like Mike (or have his attributes) to fight with, and then find a way for me to use the skills I already have to beat the skills Iron Mike has. Be better at what I do, than he is at what he does, and then know which skills to use where and how to employ them. Not to “cross-train”, but cross-fight. If I am a boxer who has never grappled and I fight an expert grappler, even if I study a little grappling–I could never catch up to my opponent on the ground. I would do better learning how I could force him to deal with my boxing skills and never give him the ability to use his specialty. Those who ask what if I get taken down are doing two things. First, they are assuming that boxing is inferior while on our feet to grapplers and I will be taken down 100% of the time. Secondly, they are assuming that with a little cross training, I can beat a superior grappler at his own game once we hit the ground. Both are preposterous ideas. Find how you can get the most use out of the advantage you already have in your system against your opponents. Not easy to do, but it’s a hell of a lot better than trying to beat a man at his own game with just a few lessons. I get this from seminar guys all the time. I’ve been doing this art all my life. Since the age of 18 or so, I have been throwing thousands of strikes a week, and have only recently started missing workouts. If you are a grappler, and I pull stick on you, and you come at me with the little bit of seminar Eskrima you got from Master So-n-So… I’m going to make you my girlfriend. No homo. LOL you’d better find a way to get me on the ground and kick my ass there!
And here goes!
Mustafa Gatdula’s “HOW TO BEAT AN FMA GUY”
  1. FMA guys swear by the Triangle. The Triangle is angled stepping, and FMA guys practice it as a dance. I have never seen any Arnisadors train this angled stepping with any sense of urgency. It’s a formality, really. First, when FMA guys practice, they lackadaisically move. If you get an opponent who does this, attack at full speed, and you’ll catch him–guaranteed. They are not used to moving at top speed. And do you know what happens when an Arnisador actually is forced to move quickly? He says screw the Triangle, and moves back in a straight line. Attack him with intent, you’ll catch him either way. The drawback? If you get a guy who knows how to use that Triangle and does it well–you’re fucked. Soon as you notice that he has mastery of angles, use a back-and-forth footwork that puts you back at your original spot. When he attacks from his angle, he’ll land right in front of you (where you would have been had you stayed). Finish him there.
  2. Speaking of abandoning angled footwork, if you do happen to notice your opponent retreating in a straight line back–attack him in large strides. You can always move forward faster and with better balance, than he can while moving back. Eventually, he will stumble, hit a barrier, and/or you will catch him. But careful, one of the skills we use in Eskrima is the Mongoose attack, a simultaneous retreat (footwork) and counter (with the hands), which I have yet to see in any Kung Fu form. It is easy to follow the opponent and neglect to protect yourself while he is running. Keep in mind that moving while moving the feet is a specialty of FMA folks
  3. Most modern FMA systems are defense-oriented systems. This means that most of his training has been against an opponent’s attack. He will more prepared to counter what you throw at him, and have more trained responses for your attacks. For this reason, I would advise try to beat them when they attack. One thing I know about FMA guys is very few of the newer styles have studied methods of attack. So you will most likely only have to defend against one and two hit combination attacks. If your FMA opponent does attack with long combinations, it is not natural and the rhythm of the strikes will be slow. He may even lack power or slow as the fight progresses. Take a look at YouTube clips of FMA, you will notice two basic things which are typical of modern FMA styles. First, about 90% of material covered will not be attacking skills. Secondly, when you do find attacks, they are always single hit attacks or two hits. There is almost no instruction in how to attack. When training, give yourself enough training on countering a one or two-hit attack, and then fire back with multiple hits. Because we generally only train with one or two hit attacks, no FMA style has a defense from 4-5 hit attacks, except to run
  4. Although Eskrimadors train for angled footwork, two things we never train for:  a. An attack with multiple advancing steps, and b. An attack that changes direction. Be creative in your planned attacks. Start off attacking from one direction, then zig zag to a different direction and attack from the new position. It’ll be like speaking a foreign language to an American; we sometimes act as if our way is the only way. Using the Zig Zag attack is very confusing to a fighter who was trained to thing everyone attacks from one direction. You’ll knock em dead
  5. Filipino styles cover all kinds of weapons. However, we specialize in short sticks and blades. As a Jow Ga fighter, I know you have experience with all types of weapons. Jow Ga is known for the staff technique, and in the late Sifu Dean Chin lineage, the Sern Tao Gwun (double headed staff, for non-TCMA folks) was his specialty. This weapon is especially advantageous against Eskrima. If you can neutralize an Eskrimador by simply using longer footwork and more steps–imagine doing so with a longer weapon. I would recommend taking the Sern Tao Gwun form and dissecting it into techniques to use for the competition. Remember, you have the advantage of reach with the staff–and you also have the advantage of power. The staff, if you train it right, can deliver sledge hammer-like power. The rattan stick has power, but not the same type of power as the staff. Eskrima can shatter a bone; but a staff can break bones, even those protected by muscle and fat–even those protected by armor. Train for destructive power, and then train to use that destructive power with speed. Then use that quick, destructive power with footwork that your opponents cannot escape from
  6. The Eskrimador has a mastery of close quarters. We are experts of trapping and disarming, which is something that Chinese styles contain but do not specialize in (especially concerning the weapon). If you wanted to learn anything from the FMA, I would recommend learning this. I haven’t seen any art with a superior set of skills for our trapping and disarming. Even by studying basic Arnis disarming, you can gain an edge on the best weapons fighters. However, against another FMA man you might looks for ways to counter disarming. This is something very few FMA people study. I would advise to learn the disarm, and then find ways to stop yourself from being disarmed. A good start is to strengthen the wrist and the grip, and then practice twisting your wrist away from the direction of the disarm. Disarms work because of the element of surprise; with resistance many do not work
  7. I’m not sure if empty hand skills are allowed in the UWM, but few FMA styles teach punching, striking and kicking with a weapon in the hands. Incorporate this into your regimen, and at close quarters you will have an advantage most of your opponents won’t be expecting

Without being in person to teach you, this is probably the best advice I can come up with by blog. Hope this helps!

And for my FMA-based readers:  Please use this list as ways to modify or update your FMA training. Study your art for what an opponent could do against you, then have something waiting on them when they try it. Don’t let these Kung Fu guys get an advantage over us. Mabuhay ng FMA!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

The Problem with Being Polite

A Filipino martial arts philosophy that you might notice, but never hear discussed, is the absence of politeness from some parts of the FMA experience. Ask a master about it, and he will never admit that this is true. But observe him, and you will quickly notice that Filipino martial arts teachers are rarely polite or politically correct–especially when it comes to close students as well as opponents. Not only that, but the older a master gets, seemingly the more rude and impolite he may get. And the better he was as a fighter, the more this is true. It is like the old, dangerous masters are the most difficult to get along with because perhaps they have earned the right to be this way.

Which reminds me of a joke, that the four most honest people in the world also happen to be the most rude:

  • small children
  • old people
  • drunks
  • angry people

I think we can all think of examples to validate the above observations!

This will likely become a short series, as I found several factors and variables concerning this subject, so I’d like to tackle them one at a time. The installments will appear in different categories, by the way. This one is being placed in “Techniques and Fighting Strategy”. Hopefully you will find some value in it.

I’ve noticed that many martial artists feel the need to be polite to the point that they are dishonest. Get a group of martial artists together–in person–and quite often they will be very amiable and complimenting to each other. If one of the group shares a martial arts skill or technique, the others might not believe that skill is effective, but not wanting to offend–will approve and withhold his real opinion about it. This is problematic. (I’ll explain why in a few)

Conversely, if you gather martial artists in the virtual world and the same is done–you will find more honesty. Some will say (politely or otherwise) that they may not believe the skill or technique to be effective. Some will say that they once practiced this way, and then explain what they’ve discovered through training and testing. Another group may offer advice on how to improve.

There are benefits to both approaches. On one hand, there is an air of humility among martial artists who are in each other’s presence. This is due to the possibility that one may be asked to actually prove their opinion–and few are willing to prove their martial arts when called on the carpet. There is also the desire to choose one’s battles. Not all opinions need to be stated, especially when you weren’t asked for it. There’s truth in that. On another hand, a martial artist who shares a skill or technique with others might appreciate criticism. As martial artists, very few of us know absolute truth, and feedback from our peers is how we learn and grow. Even if we disagree with the critique, we have the opportunity to solidify our knowledge by testing it on someone who doubts our skill is valid. The more one puts his skills to the test (even if his skill was poor), the more his skills will improve over time. The huge benefit in this is that that skill no one thought useful–the theory that no one believed–can be put to the test so much, that one can modify and tweak, adjust and develop… and before you know it, that strange technique or theory has been perfected and few can defeat it.

I’ll give you an example. For decades, Judo and other grappling arts were taken for granted by many martial artists because striking systems were thought to be more effective in combat. Movies featured it, books were written, heroes were made. And then enter the mixed art match… Grapplers had been studying how strikers fight, learned their weakness, trained the counters… for generations. During this time, strikers all but ignored grappling. When popularity grew for matches between grapplers and strikers–who came out on top of those matches?

Let me say that grapplers won most of those fights, not because grappling is superior–but because grapplers were more prepared to adapt their systems to fight non-grapplers. And it all started when grapplers were honest with themselves and dared to question what strikers were doing. How many of us failed to learn because we were concerned with not offending? How many of us continue to not learn because we take offense at those who dare give an honest opinion of what we are doing–rather than join them in dissecting our skills and seeing if they are right?

Now, here’s where this honesty can really help you.

There is still a thing called tact, and like I said–not all opinions need to be given. You should, however, still learn to criticize and critique martial arts skills you see. Actually, as a fighter, you should always do this. Anytime you watch a fighter train or fight, you would benefit greatly by noting all of his flaws, all of his mistakes. Look at his dropped guard. Look for slight stumbling in his awkward footwork. Look for openings and opportunities to capitalize on mistakes. This should come as natural at looking at a fighter. So when you see even impressive martial artists move–look at his flaws. While others will be awed by his speed, power and grace–you notice his undisciplined guard and ineffective footwork. This is what the champions do, and it explains why they are champions. They don’t always speak their minds, but they study. As a fighter, you should do this so much it becomes second nature. Then when you train, you train to capitalize on those observations and exploit the weaknesses you see. (Remember, seeing the mistake is the easy part; having the skill to destroy is something totally different!)

And I will give you another example. In the 80s and early 90s, “Terrible” Terry Norris was dominating the Welterweight division in boxing. He was a scary fighter to watch. He was blazingly quick, accurate, and powerful. He completely destroyed two fighters that cemented his reputation as a fighter:  John Mugabe and Sugar Ray Leonard. Down the line, however, there was an experienced fighter who was a former champion himself named Simon Brown who was coming off of a loss. He was a good fighter, but nowhere near as exciting and young as Norris–and certainly not seen as skilled as Norris. While boxing was excited about the up and coming Norris, Simon Brown stated that he was good, but he “saw something” that he believed would help him beat Norris. No one was ready for what happened that night; Brown had his number and destroyed him, knocking Norris out in the 4th round. While everyone was so focused on Norris and his speed and power, Brown saw the flaws in Norris’ timing and his guard (namely, his chin that was always open)–and he pushed that button all night.

There were other fighters too:  Felix Trinidad and his lack of mobility; Mike Tyson and his exposed chin; Roy Jones, Jr. and his over-reliance on speed but his lack of a useful jab. Someone saw flaws and trained to capitalize on them. If you, as a fighter, could duplicate this skill–you could destroy anyone. Don’t train in tactics alone. Learn to study fighters-in-motion, and choose the tools to defeat them right there on the spot. Be honest. It’s not impolite to notice flaws and openings; it’s half the battle and it’s what we do as martial artists!

Hopefully you will find this concept useful. Thank you for visiting my blog.

More on FMA Footwork

One of the weaknesses in modern martial arts is that the philosophy of fighting is no longer studied. FMA people either delve into fighting, they immerse themselves into philosophy, or they skip both and deal mainly with transmission of the art as a business–which I consider to be the worst of all. Regardless of the path most people take, there is not enough balance in today’s martial artist and much is lost through the generations. As I look around the FMA world, I see a centuries-old art, behaving as a brand new genre. Most FMA people today cannot give a history of their arts beyond the last 10-20 years. Almost none have their own fighting experiences to draw on as martial artists; and instead will either point to their occupations as proof of experience (cop, security guard, etc), point to their grandmaster’s experiences, or deny that actual fighting experience is relevant. Students are taught as well as promoted in mass, and very little is passed on while sitting at the feet of masters… mainly because today’s master must pack up a day after the seminar is over and get to the next city.

Pure arts cannot be passed down this way. “Have sticks, will travel” is the calling card of a fighter–not a teacher.

The result of all of this is that there is no longer a balance between knowledge, theories, experimentation and experience. On one extreme end of the spectrum, we have fighters who do little else besides fight. Most of these fighters rely strictly on courage, brawn and pain tolerance for their recognition of expertise. It doesn’t matter if the fighter was actually good at fighting–the only thing that matters was that he had the courage to fight among a sea of FMA “experts” too chicken shit to step on the mat. This is to be commended, but it isn’t good enough. Take today’s backyard brawler. Sure he’s tougher than most. He’s braver than most. But as Kimbo Slice proved, put him up against a trained professional who is just as tough, just as brave, but more knowledgeable–he will get destroyed every time. The FMA man of today rarely is of that caliber.

On the other end of the FMA universe is the “technician”/FMA choreographer who talks a good game and may even put together cute demonstrations, but can’t fight worth a damn. You know the type; ask him a question and he’ll talk your ear off for 30 minutes. He might show you a thousand disarms and cool drills, but deep down he knows and I know that none of that stuff will work in a fight. Makes for good advertising and youtube videos and entertaining seminars for guys who didn’t come to fight. But is there a place for him in today’s art? Sure, there certainly is. Like I said, it must be a balance. You have to take the technician’s ideas, the tournament competitor’s drive, and the tough man contest’s balls and find a happy medium where they interact and exchange and the result is a complete fighter with more than a few tricks, more than heart, and more than ideas.

Which leads me to today’s lesson, boys and girls:  Footwork.

FMA “Footwork”

I have always taught pieces of that triangle because I was convinced that I’m supposed to. It’s not how I learned, but so many people were doing it, I once thought I was doing it wrong because none of my teachers taught it. The student in me wanted to learn it properly. The young man in me was bold enough to question my own teacher’s wisdom. But the fighter in me had to put it to the test. The outcome of my research:  Pure garbage, and I’ve said it for 30 years and I’ll say it here. I will put my method up against any man’s method anytime. No man can defeat me using this triangle. I give you 30 seconds before you abandon your use of it for the duration of our match and switch to something similar to mine. Don’t get hurt trying to adhere to something just because idealistically, you think the FMA is supposed to have it. It’s silly.

Footwork has several purposes:

  • Keep you out of range of the opponent’s attacks
  • Get you into range so that you launch your own attack
  • Put you in a superior attacking position, where your opponent cannot defend himself and you have an advantageous position to attack him
  • To increase the speed, range and power of your attack
  • To give your opponent a difficult target to hit
  • To off-balance your opponent

None of the above is “To draw the shape of a stupid triangle with your feet”. Who cares about that stuff when you have these advantages?

I’ve written quite a bit on this subject already, and I’m not going to post a link. I want you to search this website yourself. I’ve written 500+ articles on this blog, and you’re going to have to work a little to get information. Hopefully you will discover new things about me, you, the arts in general, and my systems while searching. 🙂

You could also buy my books. It’s amazing that you will pay $100 to attend a seminar and do the same patty cake drills you did last time, watch the same demonstration you watched last time, receive the same certificate you got last time, and leave with the same fighting skills you had as last time–and all of that stuff is already on the internet… yet there is no other site like Filipino Fighting Secrets, and you won’t drop $29 for a book.

Now, before I go, a few extra tips:

  • Any weapons art worth its salt requires strong, flexible legs. I am shocked at how many Eskrimadors I meet who are physically weak. If empty hand fighting requires strength, and weapons fighting is more lethal than empty handed fighting–it only makes sense that stick and knife fighters have quick, explosive footwork that gets you out of harm’s way. We all claim that footwork is necessary, but most FMA folks I have met–including you Guro’s–are out of shape. Lazy, slow, not limber at all, and no stamina. If you did any kind of fighting, one would know right away how vital footwork and its development is to the whole equation. Your training must include plenty of stretching, explosive bursts forward and backward, and the ever-neglected sidestepping and flanking
  • Remember this simple equations:

(1) Strong, immobile stance for power + quick, explosive footwork for fighting

(2)  Stance =/= Footwork

(3)  100 lbs of force in a strike x 100 lbs of force in movement (ahem, footwork) = Deadly force

  • Responsiveness:  Learn to transition from a strongly held position into explosive movement and transition from quick movement into a stable, powerful stance to generate fight-ending power. Not many people can do this. Being mobile does nothing for you if you cannot stop on a dime when you see an opening and finish off your enemy. It’s more than “stop dancing to attack”. Those of you who fight know what I am talking about. Not only should you have fast light feet and strong, powerful legs; you must have quick eyes and rapid enough response time between when your eyes see the opening and you feet deliver you to the place you need to be and your hands can fly—-> before the opponent have change his position
  • Differentiate between attacking footwork, defensive footwork, and evasive footowork–and develop those skills individually
  • Remember this:  Don’t rely on tactics alone. Fighting is a complete, exact science with many possibilities, variations, and outcomes. Learn the concepts yes–but learn the strategies and theories as well, and learn how they are applied in fighting. It’s more than grabbing a partner and working things out. You must test these ideas out over and over and over, and train them over and over and over. By the way, this is not a “pass/fail” test; it is a “how does this work?” test. Once you have your tactics, concepts, strategies, theories, and research/findings–you need conditioning. If you have been doing these arts more than 10 years, and teaching, but you do not have a strong physique–you are most certainly doing something wrong. Sure, no bodybuilder’s physique is necessary to win a knife fight. But get out there armed with nothing but skinny arms, tactics and a flabby body, I guarantee you quick defeat even with your seven knives. Stop trying to avoid training!

You know, I do try to write without insulting my readers. But as I write, I am hearing my detractors and their excuses–as I have for the last 30+ years, and I so strongly disagree. Plus after 3 months of Donald Trump on TV I’m starting to not give a damn LOL LOL. You’re grown folks, sugarcoating won’t be heard. If you are interested in real Eskrima, come to this blog and I’ll give it to you. No it might not be what your Guro told you, but this is the real thing–including this article. You cannot have effective weapons fighting without strong, decisive footwork, period. And you won’t get it sitting in front of Youtube. Now get up and train.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

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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Thank you for visiting my blog.