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10 Points of Contention in the FMA

1) The best defense is a good offense so blocking is an inefficient tactic.

2) Elaborate disarms don’t work in actual combat. Disarms are only incidental during the course of a fight and cannot be planned.

3) Abaniko strikes are not effective in actual combat because they lack power.

4) Thrusting techniques are useless with a stick unless aimed at the eyes or throat.

5) Stick grappling makes no sense because it’s easier to grapple without a stick.

6) Light weight sticks are not strong enough to hurt someone in a real fight.

7) Multiple strikes to the hand or arm will never happen because the hand will retract quickly after the first hit.

8) Padded sticks teach bad habits because people are too over daring since they don’t cause pain.

9) Stick and dagger tactics don’t work because no one is foolish enough to attack with a short weapon against someone holding a longer one or while a person still has a longer weapon at the ready.

10) Why train with a stick or sword because they’re situational and chances are you’ll never encounter a scenario where both you and an attacker are armed with either?

During the course of my training I have heard all of the aforementioned statements and/or questions. Do you have any points of contention to the points of contention?

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Thanks for the comments.  I really appreciate "a meditative effect while training sinawalis". It is my understanding that the concept of "Flow" is important to the development of efficiency and effectiveness. Flow requires being able to keep moving, even when you make a mistake, even when the other guy seems to be overwhelming you. The idea of a meditative state is a very desirable thing, something you can't do if all your drills are geared towards combat readiness.

While we are at it, you've hit the nail on the head when you talk about the community and fellowship aspects of a martial arts gathering. Being a part of the tribe is a valuable asset. Real confidence and courage come from the interactions of those struggling through the same challenges.

I am grateful to you for being able to express these things about the Filipino martial arts. These skills are so much more than just hitting the bad guy with a stick.



Hello Michael, thank you for your comments on this thread. As I mentioned in a previous reply, my intention for posting the points of contention was to stir up conversations regarding FMA. Some agree to one or more points of contention while others may disagree entirely. I like your question or point of contention and I'd like to add my comments when time permits.



In a 06/05/15 post you mentioned: "it all works if the conditions are right". I think that is very accurate. I'd like to add: "different tools/tactics can be used for different purposes".

Look at the actual performance of martial arts as being divided into three areas:

Practice: the acquisition and refinement of skills

Training: the development of attributes and improvement of conditioning

Competition: developing toughness through trial against resistance

In those or similar categories it is possible to have drills, skills or skill-sets that might not seem functional when looking only through the lens of defending yourself from imminent attack. If I was dumping martial movements based on the notion of "actual combat", wouldn't it be a better idea to put down the baston and spend my time in firearms training?




I want to give credit for the Practice, training,Competition categories. That isn't my invention. It comes directly from the book"The Three Dimensional Performance Pyramid" By Scott Sonnon. I highly recommend that book to all martial artists



"Why do instructors need to select curriculum based solely on the practical application of the tactic/strategy in either sparring or combat applications?"

What would be the other options to teach?

Al S,

Thanks for the quote!

Don't get me wrong, sparring is an important part of training/competition, and honestly I always have protecting myself and my family in mind when I am working out.

I was just questioning the mindset that says ALL martial art has to be sparring and/or combat functional or it is USELESS. (I'm not yelling, just emphasizing for context!:)The same thinking that renders a drill or skill useless can potentially remove the "art" from martial art.

For instance:

1) Attributes like speed and power can be developed outside of sparring to enhance a students efficiency and effectiveness while sparring.

2)We respond to adrenal levels not adrenal events, practicing disarms against a resisting partner will go a long way in learning to control fear and anxiety should you ever find yourself in a self preservation position.

3)Abaniko style tactics may not seem functional, but solo practice of such drills creates mobility and springiness in the joints and connective tissue of the arm, which will directly carry over to grappling and escaping from locks and hold.

Bruce Lee is quoted with saying "Absorb what is useful and discard the rest", I'm just suggesting more absorption and less discarding, that's all.

Totally agree whith all your points Zack except for #10. I train in short sword..Machetes are everywhere especially in L.A. Also lightly padded sticks with no body protection could provide enough sense of danger for realistic sparring..Blocking indeed inefficient but you need to know blocking..

Mr. Clark,

 In reference to what you wrote:

1)Speed and Power – totally agree.

2) Disarming – Semi-agree. Keyword here is “partner” which limits the attributes to overcome fear and anxiety.

3) Abaniko tactics – or any technique will be ineffective once a proper hold and lock is executed with severe pain which neutralizes the strength and connective tissue of an arm.

Now quoting you:

“Bruce Lee is quoted with saying "Absorb what is useful and discard the rest", I'm just suggesting more absorption and less discarding, that's all.”

Under “Misinterpreted FMA” you wrote:

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

Seems to me that you are not discarding less using your filtering system.

Al S,

Thanks again.

I see what your saying in  the reference to disarming. Partner may be the wrong word here. In this situation it requires the "resisting" to make the drill applicable., but you can describe the drill any way you would like. The point I was trying to make was that we can use some drills and techniques to actually create the adrenal level of an actual personal defense crisis, even if the drill would other wise lack functionality.

My example of Abaniko was from a range of motion standpoint only. It was supposed to be an example of thinking about the holistic value of martial arts outside the function of personal protection. I apologize if this wasn't clear.

In reference to Bruce Lee, I can see that it could look contradictory, and maybe it is. It is my humble opinion that there is no need to become a "collector of techniques". How many disarms do I actually need? I focus on three, by the way, because they fit in the filtering process. Even though Bruce Lee felt the absorbing idea was important, the Tao of Jeet Kune Do is loaded with tools and tactics that would require a great deal of absorption. I hope that you understand I am not suggesting to you what to keep or what to throw away. Absorbing and discarding is a personal thing, that is why I have a system, to keep me true to my vision of what personal mastery should be.

Thanks for questioning me, it helps me make myself more clear about my ideas



Interesting points of discussion.

In regards to abanikos - 2 points. 1) sometimes a strike is more for distraction to set up for destruction rather than going straight to destruction - i.e. left jab to the nose leading to the right haymaker.  2) Nene Gaabucayan (Balintawak) can split a coconut in half.  

In regards to light weight sticks - It is simple physics.  Kinetic Energy=1/2(Mass)*(velocity-squared).  Increasing the stick speed has a much greater effect than increasing the mass(weight).  i.e. baseball players want the lightest bat not the heaviest bat.


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