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Is there such a thing as selective training or restrictions in teaching Filipino Martial Arts ?

Is there such a thing as selective training or restrictions in teaching Filipino Martial Arts ?
There’s a tradition I know that is still being practiced in every Filipino Family as of today -that you don’t ever teach secret fma techniques to just any person because later on that person might betray you… teach it only to a member of the family or to a person that you trust completely. Is it right ? or wrong ? There are times when certain Arnis techniques are not being passed on to anybody that they get lost or buried with their master. As of now, most of my students are below twenty years of age so I only teach them less fatal techniques for the main reason that they might use them wrongly due to their young age or poor judgement. What do you think? Is it right for one to teach or to limit one’s self in learning and teaching the true form of a Filipino Martial Arts? Or Is it purely selfishness ? Or is there no such thing as secret techniques?
Yours truly.
Sony P. Sy Palis Sagasa Arnis Pilipino

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Hello Zach,

With all due respect, I have to disagree with you to a degree.  In NYS there is a provision in the penal codes (Article 35) that allow people to use "physical force" or "deadly physical force" against another person(s).  The law is based on the tort concept of 'reasonable belief' aand makes no mention of the use of a weapon or empty hands.

Regarding the use of a gun and in partiucular the use of a handgun in terms of the "justifiable use of deadly physical force" the matter might be decided on 2 seperate issues under state laws.  First, under Article 35, was the person justified in using the gun and actually defending themself or an innocent 3rd party?  Second, did the person have a legal handgun carry permit?  One could be found innocent on the first matter and never even brought to trial, but guilty in terms of the second for either not having a NYS pistol permit or having a permit but carrying and using gun in New York City, which does not recognize a valid pistol permit from any other county in NYS.

Since NYS does not have reciprical permit recognition agreements with any other states, it would be a felony for non-residents to have a handgun on their person or in their car while travelling through NYS.  Therefore, it is advisable for non-residents to avoid carrying and/or using a gun for self-defense in NYS.  Furthermore, it would be advisable for non-NYC residents to avoid carrying or using a gun within NYC for self-defense, even if they have a valid pistol permit from any other county in NYS.  The state laws in this regard are so strict that even Federal police officers have to secure a NYS Pistol Permit to carry their guns off-duty!

Your suggestion that we need to be aware of the laws in other states or even different jurisdictions within the same state when travelling is sound advise.  There are very few quick, reliable short-handed answers to the questions that a self-defense situation could cause to arise.  If possible, the best suggestion is to avoid confrontations in the first place and engage only as a last resort to avoid injury or death.

I have had a few people, usually males, withdraw from my self-defense classes when I explained that "whipping asses and taking names" is generally not a good behavioral policy, even when one knows how to fight because the concept of 'good guys and bad guys' does not apply to real-life situations.  Your statement about detaining all parties whle you conduct your investigation is the reality which everyone must understand and respect, because that is the way things are going to go after a physical confrontation.

Hopefully, I have added a bit more information to this discussion and given some support to your very reasonable account of how things will go down from an LEO perspective.


Jerome Barber, ED. D.     


You are touching on several topics here that are all interrelated; the selection of students, the selection of curricula, witholding certain techniques, archiving your particular art, loyalty, trust and commitment.  Sharing (and by extension instructing) our arts is an act of trust.  As much as we focus in the modern world on the trust students have in their instructors we often fail to see that there is a level of trust extending from the instructor to the student.  As with all issues of trust, there is a necessity for good judgement which can often be skewed by circumstance.  The instructor who is trying to make a living by teaching may be more apt to accept students of questionable character to pay the rent.  Those of us who are lucky enough to make our living doing something else can be much more selective.  Uncle Leo sat down and interviewed every prospective student.  He judged your character and chose to teach you or politely show you the door.  Even with this rigor, there were some who made it into the system who probably should not have.  The reason is that people are not static objects.  They evolve, change, fall into different personal circumstances or struggle with imperceptible inner deamons that do not show outwardly until they are pressed by intense study in the arts.  Instructors are also subject to the same winds of change and are not perfect judges of character.  That is why teaching is not only an act of trust but also an act of faith.  We must, I think, expend every effort at all times to use good judgement in choosing students of good character and sharing everything we know as they mature and learn responsibility.  However, we should also put some faith in God that what we cast forth will fall where He wills and if we are wrong in our judgement, take it as a lesson both for us and our students.  Those who withold "secret" techniques are more likely trying to maintain their dominance over their students, pretending to have something special so the students continue to show up (and pay).  This is a cheap parlor trick far too prevelent in FMA today.  A great teacher I admire recently told me that his head stone should read "All my students are better than me".  I think that's the right attitude.  Hopefully, as we mature as teachers and gain better judgement of actions and character, we pass that judgement along to our students so they can make wise decisions about their own actions and can choose for themselves when to teach which techniques.

What he said!

Greetings all,

Outstanding posts by all.  Please feel free to take mine with a grain a salt, as I am still new to the FMA (7 months approximately), but I have been in a leadership position in combat twice as an NCO in the US Army. 

As an NCO (non commissioned officer) in the US Military, our prime directive is to develop soldiers.  There are many ways to do such, one can be the "hairy a$$hole", the "go to Sergeant", and many others.

What really makes a leader, a mentor I should say, effective is his or her ability to curtail their method of leadership to the individual.  In order to do so effectively, one has to get to know their subjects.  You can't just take a cookie cutter approach to leadership.  Sure, we all have our different personalities and methods of teaching, but on the same token, our subjects are equally different.

You have to get to know them, understand them.  What makes them tick, what is in their head.  Sure, one doesn't want to be intrusive, but it is vital.  Granted, I speak from a viewpoint where I HAVE to know my Soldiers.  It's a life and death game, but, isn't a martial art as a self defense tool not the same?  Are we not a community, a brotherhood with a common interest?

That, in my humble opinion, is what needs to happen before one can really guarantee whether or not they will fully impart all of their knowledge onto a student. 

I wholeheartedly agree with Guro Lawrence.  On the same token as combat being a life or death scenario, so is self defense.  In my position, it is my duty to ensure my soldiers are trained and prepared to the best standard that I can attain.  That means holding nothing back.  If I know a certain trick that makes disassembling a .50 cal machine gun more efficiently, I'm not going to hold that back so I can be the Cool Guy who knows more about that weapon system than any other Joe.  The same applies in what we do here. Teach your students.  Impart with them all of your knowledge, and advise them, as my instructor does at the end of every class, "Use your powers for good, not for evil".  There is a gravity to his jovial dismissal.  The individual is responsible for their actions.  Not the instructor for teaching them. 

I hope this wasn't too much of a rambling.  Thanks for listening.


Glad to have you here to contribute Damon!

Thanks John!  Happy to be here, this site is a wealth of knowledge!

As a student, you've hit on one of my major frustrations in the art of FMA.

I travel a far distance to learn, I am a working man, I am a family man, I have no felonies or misdemeanors, my worst crime would probably be a moving violation.  I did well in academics.  I attend class consistently considering the distance and even more so than many of the locals.  I practice alot.  Overall, I am a good student and a strong supporter of any instructors, seminars, and schools that I have attended.

Yet I sense that some consider me a threat or someone not worth teaching.  Some have what I call a grandmaster syndrome, someone who can't be touched, hit, or disarmed.  Ridiculous!

An instructor who does not teach is the same thing as having no instructor.  

From the perspective of a student, those who have taught me and continues to teach me well who is genuinely interested in my progress are people that I will always remember and be extremely loyal to.  Teachers who have basically brushed me off for whatever reasons are the people that I will not keep around me and that is just too bad, in me they would have found a very good student, supporter, and friend.

 Guro Lawrence Motta has the best reply so far. You should teach all you know to your best students. This is not to say for your gifted students, but ones that have dedicated themselves to you for years.  These would be students you could trust that are essentially family to you. I believe it is the instructor's duty to teach his students better than himself.  Would you not want your own son to excel and be better than yourself? The only difference with non-family members is the trust, and that is why I say teach all you know to your most loyal students.

I like your reply Chris ... during an Inosanto seminar, Dan spoke of an instructor (who shall remain nameless) that he knew well ... this instructor had an "old school" mindset (you may have another "name" for it) ... anyhoo, say this person was a Level 10 in his art, yet he would never allow any of his students to graduate any higher than a Level 5 status in his art!!!!      How's that "grandmaster syndrome"?!?!?!

Not tryin' to make any big point ... just that your response jogged that memory!

Mike Parsons

Huntington, WV

Dear Chris Soriano,
    I am with you… An instructor who does not teach is the same thing as having no instructor.
Yours Truly,

Mr. Motta,

This is one of the wisest responses that I've read ... in years ... regardless of ART / STYLE!!!

As I began reading this discussion, I was waiting / hoping ... for someone to pop out w/ the word CHARACTER!!!

I believe its an extremely important factor ... regarding the relationship between teacher & student!!!

CHARACTER = CARE - ACTER = We should be very considerate of  / interested in ... "caring" about how "we act"  or "model" our lives before students, as well as how potential "students act" during their interaction w/ teacher, classmates and the public!!! They not only represent themselves & their immediate & extended families ... but their teacher / art / classmates / training  partners, as well !!!

My thoughts on "secret" techniques ... is that there is "nothing new under the sun". We are either taught "secrets" / movements / applications  that we've never been exposed to before, or we discover ourselves thru trial & error. Again, these "ways of movement" / "secrets" have been in existence ... discovered, lost (taken to the grave) and re-discovered from life time to life time ... from participants of the arts ... all over the world.

Merely my humble opinion!

Always open to be re-directed, if I'm off the road to any degree!!!

Mike Parsons

Huntington, WV

Even though I have not had the opportunity to learn FMA yet, this is a subject that has crossed my mind a lot.

To begin with, I don't think that knowing a 'secret technique' makes a person any more deadly than average.  For a person with murderous intent there are a lot more (and dare I say more effective/convenient) ways of ending a life.  Time and time we see on the news of a bar fight and a person dying from one punch to the head.  It just happened to hit the right (wrong) place.  I would even imagine that any escrimador has enough gripping power in their hands to crush a windpipe.  I could come up with many more examples but for the sake of morbidity I won't (and who does that, anyway haha).  I can give a real life example though.  A very good friend of mine was involved in a fight.  The fight went to the ground with my friend on top (who has never had any combat training), who then proceeded to smash his opponent's head into the sidewalk.  Had my friend not been dragged off he most certainly would have killed or permanently damaged the other person.  (For the record, my friend has changed his life radically since then and is now nothing like the person he used to be, praise God haha).  I suppose to condense what I just typed, a secret deadly technique won't necessarily make someone more dangerous.  At least that is the conclusion that I have come to in my limited experience.  Take it as you will.

Also, I would think that martial arts training has the potential to limit the damage one does in combat, especially when trained in a physical art like FMA where boundaries are tested and thresholds are developed.  I would think that when someone knows how much force is necessary to neutralise the situation, they are more likely to keep a cool head and not fly into blind panic or rage.  It is the scared/enraged person that is more likely to overcompensate and throw that one last punch or kick that has permanent consequences.

As for secret techniques themselves, I'll admit I am a bit skeptical.  Maybe the concept has been ruined for me by hack teachers and low budget kung fu movies.  But I think some people like to hold on to them because, secretly, (some) people enjoy the thought of holding someone's life in their hands and possessing the ability to end it at their will.  Of course that is just pure speculation on my behalf and I could/would very likely be wrong, but I also would not be surprised if I was onto something.  Also, I am not implying that anyone in this thread or involved in this site harbors any intentions like the one I just described.

That is all I have to add.  Guro Lawrence Motta already has an excellent post that describes anything I would want to suggest a million times better than I could :)

Also, these are just my views.  I am always open to correction if I have misconceived anything.


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