Weapons before Hands?

Discussion in 'Filipino Martial Arts' started by Freeform, Feb 22, 2002.

  1. Freeform

    Freeform Fully operational War-Pig Supporter

    Correct me if I'm wrong but don't the majority of FMA start off with teaching beginners weapons first and then moving onto the advanced empty hand techniques. I just find this interesting because it is in complete contrast to the Japanesse systems which do it the other way about, and I'm just waiting for someone to point out Ken Jutsu:p

    It strikes me as being a more 'realistic' approach to teaching, because if somebody was trying to kill you you'd sure as hell use whatever you could to stop them (such as a knife or stick).

  2. Andy Murray

    Andy Murray Sadly passed away. Rest In Peace.

    I have heard many opinions about people turning everyday objects into weapons. Brollies to Ton-Fa, Coins to Shuriken and keys to Kubo-Tan.

    Often the body itself can be turned into a weapon, and as such is possibly more effective. Not only is it more immediately to hand, but it should also be more instinctive to use ( and a bit more legal ).
  3. pesilat

    pesilat Active Member

    Most FMA that I'm familiar with were traditionally taught this way. The reason was that they were intended to quickly give simple villagers methods to help them survive when they were invaded by enemies (either foreign or domestic ... the Philippines were [are?] very tribal). With the little training the fighters would have, it was figured that if they lost their weapon, they were dead anyway. So they were taught weapons first to quickly give them lethal knowledge. It wasn't a military thing ... many of them started because someone in the village was a good fighter and taught his family/friends methods of survival for use when they were attacked by enemies. The skills generally taught were simple and effective so that they didn't require much maintenance. Over time and generations, these evolved into "systems" which were generally kept within a family.

    The Japanese MA, on the other hand, were primarily developed for "military" uses (either by national military or by a Daimyo's Samurai, right?) If I'm mistaken, feel free to correct me. Japanese MA history is far from my strong suit and my knowledge of it is pretty cursory. Anyway ... the people who generally trained in martial arts in Japan were professionals ... that was their life. They grew up training and trained all their lives. So they had plenty of time to cross-train in archery (kyujutsu?), swordsmanship (iaijutsu and kenjutsu?), horsemanship (?), empty hands (such as jujutsu?).

    Different environments have different requirements and influence different development.

    From what I've seen of FMA these days (in America, anyway) tend to start with weapons (sticks) and empty hands simultaneously.

    This, IMHO, is very good. Using the weapons seems to help their overall coordination which, in turn, helps their empty hands too.

    This is something the FMA do amazingly well ... teach people to use improvised weapons. The FMA (in my experience) tend to be taught in a very conceptual manner. It teaches the body to automatically find the basic properties of anything we get hold of and be able to use them very quickly.

    As for the legality ... "Well, judge, I hit him with the spine of that book because I was reading it when he attacked me so that's what was in my hand."

    Or, "I hit him with my water bottle because it happened to be in my hand."

    I can use virtually anything I pick up as a weapon. The FMA also include flexible weapons ... though most of my knowledge of flexible weapons comes from Indonesian Pentjak Silat. This knowledge means that I'm armed at *all* times. I can use the clothes I'm wearing ... or the clothes my opponent is wearing ... without taking them off (of me or him). I can use anything that I might have in my hands or nearby whether it's a towel, a handkerchief, a curtain, etc.

    As far as the body being a more "effective" weapon ... depends on what weapon you're comparing it to. But the nice thing about inanimate objects is that, unlike my body, they don't bruise, bleed, or feel pain. If I can get my hands on something inanimate in a fight I will ... it'll be my first choice for this very reason. My empty hand skills are my ace in the hole. If I can't get an inanimate weapon or the one I have gets lost/broken ... then I've got my body as a backup. But, as I previously mentioned, even if I'm fighting "empty hand" I'll still be able to use my clothes or his clothes against him.

    Last edited: Feb 25, 2002
  4. Andy Murray

    Andy Murray Sadly passed away. Rest In Peace.

    I agree entirely, but coming thru the Chinese systems can make you think a little differently about 'Body Weapons'

    While I appreciate this concept is not unique to Chinese arts, we will use different hand and foot shapes for different strikes. All arts use a fist and the edges of the hand, but Phoenix fist, Leapords Claw, Spearhand and the variations on Palm Heel provide you with a plethora of applications. I can strike a lot harder with the heel of my hand than I can with my fist. The commmon theme we both have here is that we ar both using the most important part of the body......the brain!; to adapt to specific situations.

    One interesting thing I personally found when messing about with double Sticks, was that it helped me with my defensive system. The patterns of movement used within the Phillipine systems is definitely complimentary if you are practicing systems such as Wing Chun. If you cant figure out why your Bong Sau/Lap Sau drill isn't working then try it with a couple of sticks.
  5. pesilat

    pesilat Active Member

    Absolutely. But, as an example, unless someone's nails are extremely long and sharp (which I've seen) they're empty hand strikes are not likely to be as effective as a blade. A stick, by simple physics, has more *potential* power than an empty hand strike (of course, being able to generate power with either is a matter of good body mechanics ... which takes training/experience). And, while I've heard some amazing stories and seen some interesting examples of "iron body" conditioning (from Chinese arts primarily but also some from Indonesian and other nationalities), the human body is still capable of feeling pain and bleeding while an inanimate object is not :)

    As with everything else, it depends on the practitioners. Whether talking "body weapons" or other weapons ... they're just tools to be used. It's up to the mechanic to make the work and how well they work.

    Absolutely. This is what I meant by the correlation between empty hands and weapons. The school I train/teach at in Texas has several empty hand classes and a stick class. Students can (and are encouraged) to train in all the various aspects of the system (the system has 4 "sub systems") and then pursue the one (or more) which best suits them. I have seen time and again (as have the other instructors) that the people who train in the sticks *and* the empty hands progress faster in both than the people who only train in one or the other. The weapon work and the empty hand work feed off of each other and help each other to develop.

    I don't think that one method (weapons first or last) is "better" than the other (though one method will almost always suit a given person better). I think both approaches have merit. I do think, though, that training in both weapons and empty hands simultaneously is a very effective method for most people ... especially when they are able to see (or their instructor teaches) the amazing correlations between the two aspects. Over time you come to see everything as a weapon ... including your own body. Each weapon, whether stick, knife, hand, foot, towel, etc. has strengths and weaknesses in range, deployment speed, method of causing damage, etc. Once they are *all* viewed as tools you end up not really caring what tool you end up with ... you use whatever is where you need it when you need it.

    I fought in a stickfighting tournament a few years ago and it was funny to watch the difference (on video) between me and my opponent. I had trained for reality ... he had trained for the tournament setting. He beat me because he'd trained for the tournament setting. But had it been a real fight, I would have walked away after the first exchange (I avoided his strike and landed a full-power strike to the top of his head). The most humorous part, though, was when I dropped my stick (it can be hard to keep track of when you can't feel it through the glove). There was no hesitation on my part. My body automatically went, "OK ... long weapon is gone now we've got to close the gap to use our shorter range weapons." (i.e.: hands, elbows, etc). My stick left my hand and I immediately moved toward the guy to get my weapons in range. His eyes got real wide and he literally ran backwards from me ... not even trying to swing his stick. While it didn't help me in the tournament (boo hoo ;-), I saw (or, more specifically, felt) how effectively my instructor had trained me to use whatever weapon I have at hand without hesitation.

  6. waya

    waya Valued Member

    You have just convinced me (as if I already wasn't looking lol) to continue looking for FMA training near me. I keep hearing alot about the advantages to simultaneous weapons and empty hand training and have been wanting to check into it personally. I think what happened in the tournament was more a blessing than most people would think. Alot of people would take that as a loss when it reality it was a bigger win than if you had won the match. You came out knowing that your skills were worth something when your own or other's safety and well being is on the line.

    Andy, did you have a question on Kenjutsu? If so I can possibly answer it.

  7. Andy Murray

    Andy Murray Sadly passed away. Rest In Peace.

    Going back to freeforms question about FMA and Japanese systems setting different priorities to weapon instruction.

    In the UK I feel it would be frowned upon in a lot of areas if people could walk in off the street and learn knife fighting . A lot of styles would like to bring weapons into their systems earlier, as it would be more interesting for a lot of students. These same styles would then have to weigh up the potential consequences of their actions, and their legal accountability.

    A policeman in the UK recently lost a hand to a Katana weilding maniac. Said maniac had, I beleive been training Japanese arts.
    You can take the maniacs out of the arts, but not the arts out of the Maniac!

    I guess you will have to deal with this as an issue, so I would be interested to hear your thoughts Pesilat.

    On Kenjutsu Rob, I know nothing, please fill me in.
  8. pesilat

    pesilat Active Member

    This is exactly why most FMA instructors that I know *don't* teach knife to people off the street. The stick is taught first. Knife (by most of the instructors I know) isn't taught for a couple of years. Well, empty hand defenses against a knife are taught earlier but how to use a knife isn't. This way, the instructor gets a good feel for the student's personality. And if the instructor doesn't trust the student with the knowledge the student doesn't get the knowledge ... period. Doesn't even get exposed to it.

    My instructor, for instance, starts with double stick drills primarily for coordination. Then goes into single stick work. The student will be at a high intermediate level (and have been with Guru Ken [my instructor] for at least 1.5 to 2 years) with the sticks before he/she ever learns any knife material. By this time Guru Ken has a pretty good idea of whether or not the student can be trusted with starting the knife work.

  9. Andy Murray

    Andy Murray Sadly passed away. Rest In Peace.

    I recall learning something called 'Heaven Seven' and 'Box Drill', is this part of Silat? The guys I trained this with referred to it as Kali!

    Looks like you should be doing an article for the Magazine on Silat. Talk to Cooler!
  10. Freeform

    Freeform Fully operational War-Pig Supporter

    I was actually amazed when I started properly cross training into different styles and found out that alot of styles don't teach using things such as coke cans as weapons.

    Anyway, would the Filipino's teach their childern the same way? I've got a 5 year old nephew who practices shotokan karate (or at least tries his best, i think he's to young but thats a topic for another forum) and he's dangerous enough with a video box. I'd be a bit scared to let him loose with a piece of tiger cane and tell him to express himself :eek:
  11. Cooler

    Cooler Keepin The Peace Supporter

  12. Andy Murray

    Andy Murray Sadly passed away. Rest In Peace.

    Hi Cooler

    I had already read the article, but I must bashfully confess that I hadn't realised Pesilat and Guru Mike were one and the same. And yes I enjoyed the article.

    Why is everyone playing at Ninja's, with secret identities anyway? mumble, mumble, mumble

    45th degree Levitating Guru/ Master of seventh hell
    ( the artist formerly known as Andy Murray )
  13. waya

    waya Valued Member

    I agree with not teaching the use of the knife to people just off the street. I know the subject has been run into the ground but that was done with one of the terrorists that hijacked one of the flights on Sep 11th. He trained specifically with knives in FL for several months and the instructor later said that he was very advanced in it. Just one example of how you never know who walks into a school and asks for training.

  14. pesilat

    pesilat Active Member

    LOL ... well, Pesilat is my login name and is what gets used by default. I haven't seen a way to change my name there ... but I have now changed my "Title" to my name so that there's some connection :)

    Of course, my full name was always in my sigline :)

    Incidentally, "pesilat" means "practitioner of Silat" :)

  15. waya

    waya Valued Member

    Do you know of any good FMA instructors in NC?

  16. pesilat

    pesilat Active Member

    Actually, Heaven Six :) Yes, that's Kali (or Eskrima or Arnis). Filipino Martial Arts.

    There is some Silat found in the Philippines, mostly in the southern Philippines. Silat is more predominant in Indonesia and Malaysia.

    There is some historical foundation to say that the Filipino arts have their roots in Silat ... but over the centuries they have evolved differently and emphasized different things. There is a lot of cross-over between them ... which is why they blend so well together. But there are also a lot of distinct differences.

    It would be analogous to, for instance, Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate which has roots in, I believe, Fukien White Crane Gung Fu from China. But Higoanna Kanryo (sp?) took it back to Okinawa from China, it was blended with the indigenous Okinawa-Te and developed separately and became its own entity.

  17. pesilat

    pesilat Active Member

    Traditionally, yes. I'm not sure about other FMA schools these days in America but my instructor has a kid's program that's run by his wife and a couple of our senior students. The curriculum is different. There's a lot more focus on "busy work" to keep the kid's attention. There's a lot more focus on building self-confidence and discipline. We do that also with the adults ... but to a lesser degree than with the kids.

    As far as the technical aspects, yes, the kids start with sticks on day one also. They use PVC sticks so that if there's an accident the damage is minimal (at worst it's a minor bruise). The PVC *can* do more damage than that but it takes intent and that's where the disciplinary focus comes in.

    Even at the upper levels, though, the kids don't really learn how to *apply* anything beyond the basics. We give them enough to defend themselves but not so much that we turn them into super bullies. But they get a very good foundation. Then, when they reach a maturity level where they can handle the adult class (the youngest we've ever had was 14 and he was a *huge* exception) we let them come into the adult class. There are 10 phases in the kid's program and 10 phases in the adult program. The 10th phase in the kid's program is roughly equivalent to the 4th phase in the adult's program. So they will not have learned any knife work yet. At most they will have learned some empty hand defenses against a knife. When they move into the adult program, though, they start back at phase 1 in the adult program. They move through the first 3 phases pretty quickly because the material is essentially what they already know but it's taught with a different focus. So, even the 14 year old who's in the adult program. He'll be 15 or 16 before he starts getting into anything really mean and nasty. As I said, he's an exception. Very mature for his age. If he sticks with it, though, he's going to be a very impressive (in and out of the martial arts) young man when he hits his early/mid 20s.

    So, as a short answer (sorry :), yes the kids are taught with the same progression ... but the focus is different.

  18. pesilat

    pesilat Active Member

    Umm ... is Fort Bragg in NC? If so, I know a guy there who's *VERY* good ... but I'm not sure if he's teaching.

    Charlotte is the headquarters for Balintawak Cuentada and is where GM Bobby Taboada lives. I think he has a school there. If not then I'm sure that at least one of his students teaches in the area. Balintawak is a good system and I have quite a bit of it (enough to get certification from GM Bobby if I were so inclined) ... but it's a little different than most of what I do.

    I'm not sure who else may be in that area.

    Here's a site you can visit ... it's an online DB of FMA instructors:


    They've also got a lot of good FMA information there in general :)

  19. waya

    waya Valued Member

    Ft Bragg is only 3 hours from me, and Charlotte is just over two.
    I will definitely look into that site.

    Thanks :)
  20. pesilat

    pesilat Active Member

    Cool. I'll e-mail my friend at Bragg and see if he's open to teach. He's been doing FMA for 20+ years and is very good. He plays rough but is excellent.


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