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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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Hi Sony,

I personally think that, if you really do trust the person, then I would teach them other things pertaining to fma.  Such people as law enforcement, military .  Just a thought.


I'm an individual who likes to interview all potential students to see what makes them tick.. This comes from my 40 yrs in the FMA along with my personal background.. I always meet a student in a neutral location to see what makes them want to train with me.. There have been times in the past where I have been burnt by students and associates in other martial arts that I taught without following my own guidelines.. It's been to the point where Ive actually had students go to other schools and say they were instructors in the systems of eskrima that I teach.. I also do have a policy that if our interview and your reasons why you want to train with me doesn't sit with me right, you will not be taught by me.. It is this concept that has kept my goose out of the deep fryer and following this policy, I have had students stick with me for over 20 yrs even after they have left my little piece of real estate in the south pacific.. And so far, none of them have had any problems coming to me for help or advice on teaching or training as I have always treated them like members of my family..

I believe that the only restrictions or selective training that can really exist in the FMA are those which are imposed by each individual instructor.  Whether it is a family tradition or not isn't really an important matter because each individual instructor must decide whether or not that he/she will continue to teach in the manner that they were taught. 

Following tradition is really a neutral consideration because it is neither all good or all bad.  For some people tradition serves as a guide while others see it as "law".  Having had 9 seperate FMA instructors during my 32 years of study, I have come across a great deal of similarities and some subtle differences.  I do not know if any of my instructors restricted themselves in terms of what they taught me, but as a student it was my responsibility to learn and practice what each person was teaching me and then research more things on my own.  I believe that it is the teacher's responsibility to open the doors of the classroom, it is my responsibility to absorb the lesson s being taught.  With some background knowledge and skills I should be able to make the lessons work for me and in turn be able to teach them to my students over time.

Too often i have come across people who were seeking "the secrets".  They wanted a short-handed version of the particular system or style without having to put in the 'sweat equity factor' and thoughtful reflection that seperates a dedicated student from an 'entitled paying customer'!  As a person who consiuders himself to be a dedicated student of the FMA, I never worried about whether or not any of my instructors were restricting what they taught me.  My major concern was and still is, am I capable of learning the lessons being taught?  If I did my job correctly and thoughtfully, I would over time be able to replicate what i was taught and understand the underlying principles that were at the foundation of the lessons being taught.  I might even "discover" some 'secrets' contained within the system or style on my own.

As an instructor, I never taught all of my students in exacttly the same manner, all of the time.  I did and still do follow essentually the same curriculum, but after 4 to 6 months of introductory lessons I will begin teaching each new student on a more individualized manner that better suits their personality and abilities.  This "tailoring" approach is somewhat subconscious on my part.  I know what I want to teach in terms of the curriculum, but how I teach it is predicated on what each of my students are capable of learning and doing at a given moment in time.  I do not have a singular one size fits all approach.  I do repeat lessons, I do teach the same concepts and techniques with different words or examples to different students from time to time.  I will sometimes have instructional sessions in which I insist that everyone in the room must revert back to and practice the basics of footwork, blocking, kicking, punching and evasions.  I will require everyone, regardless of rank and skill level to practice the basic system drills and tighten up their individual techniques because "the secrets" are always found in the correct execution of the basics.

I still attend seminars and camps as a paying customer so that I can concentrate on being a student.  If any of my instructors restricted wehat they taught me, I am unaware of that situation, however, as a student it not my job to worry about I might not be taught, it was my responsbility to absord the lessons that I was being given so that I could ready for the selective or restricted lessons that might come my way because I was an excelllent student who earned the right to receive those special lessons.


Jerome Barber, Ed. D.   



Dear Jerome Barbers,Ed D.

     Well said,I agree with you.

Yours truly,


YES! Jerome!,

EXCELLENT post/response, sir!!!

Some of what you said brought to mind, Yip Man, the Wing Chun instructor ... who taught his students in a "tailored for the individual" manner!

Again, GREAT POST!!!


Mike Parsons

Huntington, WV

Great reply to the blog!

Dear fellow FMA,

  Thank you for all the ideas , insights and comments from all of you and to those who highly appreciate my contributions. Here’s more for you to examine.

  I want to teach an Arnis technique…                                                                                      1. It is a regular knowledge for us but it is not a regular knowledge if you don’t belong in our group.                                                                                                                                     2. It is a basic knowledge but it is complicated if not taught to you.
3. I want to teach an Arnis style but because you don’t have the speed it will be useless.
4. It is a simple thing to remember but hard for you to comprehend.
5. You learn an Arnis style but you don’t have the confidence to apply it.
6. Want to teach a style but the person is not ready to learn the style.
7. You have to practice the art but you don’t have the passion and the dedication.
8. I teach you a style to counter another style, you’re confused.
9. I want you to jump, roll and dive to attack but you’re too big to do so, too stiff.
10. a style too risky to practice, safety first
11. Study human anatomy.
12. Lack of common sense , too dense
13. Attitudes and behaviour
14. Discipline and loyalty
15. Insecure and doubtful
16. Arrogant and overconfident
17. Humility and submissiveness
18. Character and courtesy
19. Impatience and over familiarity
20. Ulterior motives and selfishness …and many more to mention.

  These are some of the reasons why certain Arnis styles and techniques are not meant for you to learn because of what we call “ Individual Differences ”. That every individual is unique in their own ways. Again I am not imposing on anybody…. these are only my personal beliefs and opinions based also on what I have learned from my mentor, Doc Guillermo Lengson.

Yours truly,

Hello Guro Sony,

Rather than go through your post and answer point by point, I would take the position that YOU are the instructor and it is YOUR decision about what to teach and to whom.  Every individual is somewhat different and whenever it is possible, teaching directly to the individual is my prefered methodology, therefore I am going to be totally supportive of your decisions.

Over the years I have had some excellent students and some duds.  I'm sure that anyone who has instructed has had that same experience.  Sometimes the issue is merely incompatibility between the student and the instructor.  A couple of my duds have go on to study with another instructor and/or changed arts, then developed into strong, capbale and confident players.  Does that make the other instructor better than me?  I serious doubt that.  Was I a better instructor than someone else when i accepted a former student from another instructor/system?  I serious doubt that as well.  It was really a matter of compatability, maturity and commitment on the part of the student.  It was a case of being at the right place, at the right time and working with the right person.  There is an old saying that I often herad from my grandparents as I was growing up:

'People will hear what they want to hear, when they want to hear it and from who they want to hear it.'

As instructors we can only control a segment of the learning process, the rest is totally dependent on each individual student.  Therfore we should understand what is within our control and do the best that we can.  One of the areas of control that we have is over WHATt we will teach, to WHOM and WHEN!

Nothing that you have posted above is unreasonable and should be part of any instructor's considerations regardless of the art or system being taught.  I fully understand and support your ideas and reflections on being an instructor.


Jerome Barber, Ed. D.


EXCELLENT response, Jerome!!!

Well articulated!!!

Very insightful!!!

Totally agree w/ all you had to say!!!


Mike Parsons

Huntington, WV

Hello Guro Mike,

Thank you for your comments.  I'm just writing from my experiences and a teaching perspective.  I have 43 years of teaching experience and have always seen myself as a teacher first and a martial artists second.  My goal has always been to learn, understand, refine information and then present it to others so that they can benefit from it.

One of the reasons I like this forum is because there is a great deal less BS here than I've seen/read on most other martial arts forums.  People posting here are much more respectful, thoughtful and mature than is generally seen on other forums.  I truely appriciate that reality.


Jerome Barber, Ed. D. 

Dear Jerome Barber,ED.D.

     Thank you for your comments and opinions and I highly appreciate that you can understand my point of view.

Yours Truly,


Hello Guro Sony,

I understand your position because you are writing from the perspctive of an experienced and mature teacher, not someone bent on massaging his own ego by telling the world just how big and bad they are... just in case we hadn't noticed them before they posted something on a forum.

Teaching martial arts is not an easy thing to do if the lead instructor is going to do more than merely show people how to punch, kick, lock and throw.  As one of my own instructors, GM Bobby Taboada, repeatedly tells every one of his students, "Teaching someone how to hit is easy, teach someone to defend is harder".  The ideas that you have stated in your posts are very similar to the ideas that i learned through a number of my instructors and that I try to impliment when I am teaching.  After all is said and done I sense that for you the important person is your student and that you want to help that person grow and mature within the art as well as beyond the art.

We are friends because I respect your approach to teaching.


Jerome Barber, Ed. D.



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