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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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Very good, Sony!

I've either stated, experienced, heard or read some of these in my life, but never seen anyone take the time to list them!

Mike Parsons

Dear Mike,

  Thank you for your kind words. I am only too glad to impart whatever I have learned from my mentor and the knowledge I have acquired over the years of training, competing and coaching in the field which I know best...gladder still that there are colleagues like you who appreciate my posts.

Yours truly


Personally I don't believe there are any secrets in the martial arts - at least not any more. There's nothing new under the sun. If one instructor doesn't teach something, another likely does. The expression might be different but the underlying principles are the same.

I think the idea of "secrets" comes from a handful of places.

1) In the "old school" training methodology students rarely trained with anyone except their own instructor. Therefore secrets could be kept by the instructor and selectively handed out. I don't think this is very true in this day and age.

2) It's a marketing ploy. Either: "train with me to learn the secrets" or "I have uncovered secret techniques in the art [that happen to coincide with whatever the current fad is]"

3) It's a misconception on the part of the student. Some material simply can't be taught until the student has developed a foundation for understanding/doing it. Students who don't develop that foundation may consider those techniques to be "secret" but it's only because they haven't done the work yet to develop the foundation necessary to learn it.

4) It's used as encouragement. A closed door, invitation only class. No one in that class talks about it outside of class. The only thing the people outside the class know is that the people in that class improve by leaps and bounds where everyone else is just crawling. People outside the class get excited and really start putting in their "dirt time" to get invited into that class. When they get their they find that the "secrets" are the basic techniques (the stuff they learned in their first few months of training) but drilled to perfection. I heard about a BJJ instructor who did exactly this for a while.

5) It's done for safety. The material is risky even in training so a certain level of control is required before training it. Or the material is simple but very dangerous and the student has to earn the instructor's trust first. I use this with teaching blade work. It doesn't take any training to be incredibly dangerous with a blade. I'll teach the basics of dealing with a blade wielding attacker to anyone but when it comes to teaching people how to be more efficient/effective with a blade, I reserve that for people I feel I can trust with the material (or someone who has been vouched for by someone I trust). I do this simply because I think it's the responsible thing to do as an instructor.

I don't really consider any of those to be "secrets." They are information withheld (or presented) for a specific reason. I think some of those reasons (and there are probably more than I listed) are positive and some are kinda shady. I think some are necessary (like #3 & #5).

To paraphrase something I heard Victor de Thoaurs say at a seminar once, "The only secret in martial arts is training."


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