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The most influential people in the Filipino Martial Arts may also be the most detrimental to the progression of the art.

Over the years there have been several well-known individuals as well those only known by a few that had obtained a certain amount of expertise in the area of Filipino Martial Arts. Such exploits by these individuals can only be described by some as legendary. A person with a certain amount of experience in FMA can often watch a demonstration and often tell what system a person studied.

In my first few years of studying the Filipino Martial Arts, my exposure to the art was very limited to what I learned from my local instructor who generally picked up what he could through martial art seminars during the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s. It seemed as though most people that I came in contact with during those years who practiced FMA had relatively the same knowledge through mainly the same or similar system.
Here is where I will probably step on a few toes but I want to make it perfectly clear that this is my opinion based on my own experience and these statements are not intended to be presented as fact. With that being said, I believe that some of the most influential people in Filipino Martial Arts and other Southeast Asian Martial Arts have weakened the arts through an eclectic approach. Not saying that using an eclectic approach is bad but I believe that by partial study of different arts from a variety of sources and putting them together in some sort of Mixed Southeast Asian martial art bag has produced less functional martial art methods in the process.

The reason I believe this to be the case is because martial art systems have concepts and or principles that make them flow and work and by combining systems with different principles and or concepts can sometimes create conflicts that weaken the structure of the art. The other problem that I see is unrealistic training routines. Many instructors’ string together series of techniques that look like they work but in reality have very little chance of working in actual combat. My basis for observation is in the lack of resistance or passive resistance on the part of the training partner. If the person resists, then the technique looks bad and doesn’t flow well. However, there are systems that deal very well with a resisting opponent and still have flow.

Some well-known instructors got it wrong

Unfortunately a byproduct of not learning an adequate amount of a martial art system and mixing it with others is that sometimes things are misunderstand and are practiced in a wrong way and thus taught in the same way to the masses. Many people are reluctant to question an instructor based on the instructor’s status in the martial arts world. Only instructors and students that have dedicated themselves to a particular art know the truth.

Should it matter whether or not individuals practice methods in a piecemeal fashion from other systems and teach them in the same manner? Well, this question is up for debate since the followers of these well-known instructors are often offended by criticisms of outsiders towards their mentor. There are also those that say; why should it matter to anyone what another person’s interpretation of an art is or how they modify or teach it?

My opinion is that if a person wants to take portions of other arts and piece it together for themselves then it doesn’t matter. However, if they do this and then teach it publically it is like that old Chinese saying of a butcher that hangs a cows head up in his shop but sells dog meat. What’s your opinion?

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Well if the contents of this post doesn't offend someone, that cow's head/dog meat proverb probably will. I am admitting right now that I am very eclectic in my approach to my personal mastery of the martial arts. As a matter of fact I think of it as "A Modern, Eclectic, Non-technique specific Outcome-oriented Energy-based, Feeder system of martial arts." (I hope John Malmo, my instructor doesn't read that, he thinks I'm irreverant enough as it is!....Sorry, Sir!) I know what you're thinking: too much Bruce Lee! That's probably true, but I was "raised" in an organization that I thought tried to seem all-knowing and prevent instructors from looking beyond the association magazine for answers. So when I got out I apparently went crazy.

The assimilation of varied information from different martial arts requires a good filtering system. Anything that I add to my practice is always filtered through three concepts. By that I mean that if the doctrine/strategy/tactic in question can't be used, can't be integrated into the rest of the system then I don't include it.

Everything has to have multiple applications within the framework of "relative positioning". That includes things like largo/medio/corto as well as inside, outside, same side and cross side functions

There are certain planes of body movement, left and right, front and back, top and bottom. There has to be applications at all,or at least most of these planes for me to include something.

And everything has to be applicable to practice, training and competition in some way.

I make it a point to include valid martial arts principles and not just be a collector of techniques.

Well, that was a lot of information, apparently I am an Apologist for Instructors with an eclectic approach!:) Luckily for me I'm not well-known so very few people will be influenced by me. Oddly, I started out to completely agree with you on most of the points of this thread. I still do agree with you! I just wanted you to know that if I was selling dog meat, I'd have the head of both the cow and the dog in the window.



I think you really hit the. Ail on the head with your comments!
Nail on the head

Fair points in my view.  Having a core strategy and set of tactics that apply to various ranges and situations is important, and blending too many things together can cause this to be lost.  If this is going to be done effectively, one probably needs to have a core system, and then bring in things to complement but not replace, and only those things which were compatible.  

The bottom line is that there are too many self-styled masters who think they need to reinvent things, and too many seminar trained instructors who look good from a number of techniques perspective, but really don't have a systematic understanding of their art.  In addition, there are too many people who get apprentice status in an art and then go off on their own thinking they know what they need to.  

I agree with your reply Jason...


Another provocative topic.

I think we might consider that every FMA "system" is a blended art.  Many of the FMA founding fathers themselves blended various styles of not only Pilipino, but also other Asian and Western arts to create what we perceive today as a whole system or art.  Many people look at an art or style and perceive it as a whole, finished system that didn't evolve from many influences but rather spontaneously and wholly burst into existence with the coming of age of it's founder.  That's just pure mumbo jumbo (technical term).  No one person ever existed in a martial arts vacuum.  They all learned from a variety of sources.  I don't think anyone would argue that my teacher, GME Leo Giron, didn't present a whole and concise system.  But, he was the first to tell you how many teachers he had, how many influences he brought to play.  He loved fencing and boxing and a lot of that came into his system.  Does that mean he was not a purist because he allowed another - even western - art influence him?  I think if we dig deep, actually just scratch the surface,  we'll find most of our founders blended arts.  Placing a box around them makes it easier for us to digest their art but their arts are all  evolved and (hopefully) evolving collections of techniques and theories.  I think we do need to fully study and go deep into the art we have chosen to study and not dismiss things that we can't do.  This I agree with.  Likewise, I don't believe in being a dilatant.  But don't, for a second think that what we are studying is not a blend or hybrid of various arts that caught the attention of our founders.  That will lead us to just accept what we are told and not question or delve into the art.  This will ultimately lead to the death (from stagnation) of an art because students do not explore or understand the underpinning principles.


Thanks for the provocation.



Always good stuff sir!

Thanks Terry
Thanks guro Lawrence for your excellent insights!


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