I’d always wanted to do a companion piece to the first article I put out on this, as I realized I left a bomb at the end that likely got a lot of tradionalists up-in-arms. Without definition and explanation, maybe rightly so. I also had wanted to complete this two-part idea before I was on my way out of the FMA community but a little late. Maybe this is out of respect to my FMA friends and my own instructors. The “some myths” part I had left somewhat hanging but I’d like to take the time to delve further into this and maybe the traditionalists can relate with a little more clarity. Or, as is often the case, maybe not. That, unfortunately, I can’t help. Really, many of these are deserving their own full and independent analysis but let’s gloss over some of the finer points:
- Sinawali/2-stick drills build true ambidexterity. This has always been a point of contention in the FMA. Now while they do get both sides of the brain activated, this may less the fault of the drill but the manner of practicing it. As a predominantly “patty-cake” drill, one robs oneself of the ability to truly develop raw power in one’s “off” (or live if thinking in terms of single-weapon usage) hand. Slowing the drills down, breaking down the individual parts and discovering anatomical power generation is a far more effective delivery system. I always tell my students, “Teach the left to do what the right does effectively. What are the minutaie that makes one more powerful than the other. Feel it.” Another method is to break rhythm, step back and fire a full-power shot at the opponent, alternating hands randomly in the midst of the flow. At best, maybe it can 1. get one used to bilateral symmetry, a very real side-effect of ASR (adrenal stress response) which sometimes causes both arms to do the same thing due to solely gross-motor accessibility and 2. cultivate pattern recognition in the practitioner that can be transferred to other pertinent areas of physical body movement. http://brainmadesimple.com/left-and-right-hemispheres.html
- V-stepping is the predominant and only method of footwork you’ll need. (You’ll usually know who’s pressure-tested/fought with minimal or no protection/done resistance training from this one as replacement stepping and the shuffle take front and center) While zoning is important, as one can see from any pro boxing match, it needs to be cultivated from actual mutual movement – meaning, your attacker needs to be actually using intent. Angling and zoning in an actual dynamic environment. One can see more clearly what I mean from a boxer like Lomachenko, who uses an active form of v-stepping after initial exchange: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gptWqO_ErI We, however, most often practice it from one committed attack with minimal intent, no multi-dimensional follow-ups and no follow-up movement. Another thing makes itself known when sparring for the first time as well, the v-step as trained simply does not work. What replaces it is usually regular replacement-stepping (no crossing, feet constantly equidistance apart and balance under center – horizontal footwork) and the shuffle – forward or back, like the more compact version of the fencing lunge. (vertical footwork) A natural progression out of respect for distancing from and the actual weapon itself.
- A huge number of angles of attack need be trained for effectiveness. (Back in the fightbooks of medieval Germany/Italy, they used 7 angles, including the thrust but infinite variations and combinations can be made from this template) I saw a video with 40+ angles of attack the other day. Over-analysis, pure technique orgasm. Where on the body it lands or what target it hits: a forehand strike high, middle or low is the same strike. A backhand the same. A downward strike at a 12 o’clock, 1 o’clock or 11 o’clock angle is still a downward strike. A thrust is a thrust and travels the same routes if done with 1 or 2 hands or with a punyo. Whether slicing, thrusting (singles or multiples), tip-ripping, using flat-of-the-blade or push cuts (with bigger, heavier blades), a “number 1” strike is a number 1 strike. As mentioned above, Fiore de Liberi, the Italian swordsman, used 7 angles – 6 cuts and 1 thrust. Basic and simple is better.
- Defanging the snake is all that’s needed in weapons combat/defense. It hurts, have no doubt. But often later that night. Tomorrow will be a bitch, too, with even less movement. But adrenaline often takes care of the rest in the moment. We over-rely on this as a stopper. Let’s isolate the knife as an example, so many quote the “just cut the extensor or flexor tendons and you shut down complete arm function.” Well, for that to happen, some intangibles need to be at play: sharp knife, clean cut, clear angle, clothing-dependent (a Canadian winter, I can assure you this ain’t happening), target accuracy, size of opponent (the muscles/tendons/ligaments/nerves can be far deeper on an overweight or large person than on a regular-sized one, to be clear)
- Biomechanical cutting is always the quickest and best way to shut down and stop the human body (adrenaline factors/depth of cut/sharpness of knife/cleanliness of cut/dynamic movement factor). See above as another example. Here’s the thing, if you’re in such dire straits that you need to deploy a blade to save your ass from the fire, are you truly going to be protecting his life first-and-foremost? Are you going to, under extreme duress, be adherent to hitting small, finite and specific targets that vary in depth from the surface from person-to-person? And what if you hit and they don’t have sufficient stopping power, what then? Guaranteed stoppages are the CNS (brain, spinal cord), heart, etc. Even arteries or veins aren’t a sure thing with adrenaline and its physiological effects. I know doctors who’ve seen first-hand victims of multiple stabs walk into the hospital white, with a small portion of blood left in their body but still talking coherently (albeit it in bad shape) so trusting the slash (or the slash alone) is flippant at best.
- “Trapping hands” or de cadena works the way it does in the club (though “trapping” is an element used regularly in boxing, grappling, clinchwork but not in the way most FMA people train it) It does not. Try it while sparring with a boxer. There’s no over-commitment, few over-extensions other than by mistake. However, trapping does work but within context. BJJ, sambo, wrestling and shoot proponents utilize traps all the time, often just not knowing it. My definition of a trap is this: “any temporary containment to facilitate a greater overall goal.” Is trapping permanent? No. Is it a momentary containment to gain a greater overall advantage, though. Try grappling against a resistant opponent and not use some sort of trap to gain submission or position advantage. It’s there, in the FMA it just tends to be over-complicated, over-hyped and under-applied. Subtle, not grandiose.
- Knives magically appear in your hand whenever needed (deployment/weapon retention/concealment & carry skills…even dropped weapon protocols…need to be implemented into one’s training) I don’t know how many FMA instructors I’ve met who have minimal idea of how to open a modern tactical folder. We train from the duel, knives already in-hand. Deployed. I want to make this one clear, if you’re a “knife specialist” or call yourself a “knife fighter” (I don’t, I’ve been in knife encounters but never a knife fight) and don’t teach blade awareness, dropped blade protocol and retrieval, deployment, testcutting, weapon retention, different types of modern blades, concealment and carry, you are neglecting a huge part of modern knife self-defense, if that’s even an applicable term. (Another time, another topic)
- That if you train with weapons you’ll simply conquer any attacker as you’re a “weapons man” now (you’ll need more and nothing is a fast guarantee of success with the vast number of scenarios that can unfold) Here we see 2 examples and Youtube is littered with many many more: https://www.facebook.com/carlosandres.gomezdelgado.73/videos/313052115793918/ https://www.facebook.com/DeplorableMediaVideos/videos/1185973638178852/ Though training makes the odds better, there’s no guarantee that simply presenting, using or knowlege of using a weapon ensures success, let alone survival. If you’re measuring stick is simply that you have one and that makes you more dangerous, I’ve got some bad news for you. I used to have a student who said she walked around armed, she had pepper spray in her purse. I asked her where she had it in her purse. “Somewhere on the bottom.” Have you ever practiced getting it out of your purse as fast as possible, if ever needed? “No.” Do you know how to use the spray, have you actually shot it, you know where the deploy button is? “Not exactly.” Have you ever trial shot it before? “Um..no.” Then you have a decoration, my friend, not a weapon. And this isn’t even factoring doing all those things right but not counting on the other person’s adrenalized state – pain tolerance, pain threshold, your own survival stress state, will and innate justification to use it and the factors already listed above. (Innate justification can include spiritual/religious factors, appropriation of extreme use-of-force internally, societal/legal worry, moral/ethical resistance, among others)
- That gunting/nerve destructions/pressure point attacks shut down the moving adrenaline-filled human body (later that evening they can hurt like hell but hardly helps in the moment) I think we covered most of this above already.
- That complex flow drills build attributes or that some flow drills build attributes at all (drilling for the sake of drilling, becoming a drillmaster or not knowing the reason for your drilling makes it moot, period). I have talked to FMA “masters” before that have no idea WHAT attributes they’re cultivating but they can sure regurgitate the phrase in a hurry. “They build attributes.” Tell me which ones, what the purpose is of building them and why that’s important. Example, we’ll take the uber-popular hubad flow drill. Practitioners add one small element to the drill (a low kick being a most popular one) and call it “progressive hubud” or that they’re using it in a totally unique manner. Hubad is a construct drill, a base drill for beginners to get a feel for the unique sensisitivity and flow that exhibit the FMA. But it’s done in the same non-dynamic construct, the same dummying for technique, demo or not. Here are some ideas, if drilling is your thing and you’re not replacing it with resistance training, pressure-testing or any form of active resistance. Incorporating forward, linear or changing pressures. With breakoffs – a push to create distance for deployment or spatial reinforcement followed by the “pushed” giving a hard charge or tackle (you won’t be standing upright for long, one way or the other if you’ve been doing hubad like a piece of plywood, I can assure you) or wearing boxing gloves to start throwing upon engagement. (If a knife drill and you couldn’t deploy, using empty-hand skills to get to deployment phase, clinch to learn to control attack, or use closed-folder tactics until full deployment (or half- or quarter-openings) can be facilitated. Have one of the 2 participants break off and throw a sucker punch with the other slowly getting over the backward flinch response and learning to do it forward-aggressive utilizing various methods of striking within the construct (ax hands, hammerfists, palms, etc. or even methods of delivery – wave, explosive, ballistic ,etc.) Hubad in buno/groundfighting range into joint hyperextension opportunities using an entirely different type of sensisitivity. All heavily pressure-based and with active resistance. Abecedario is another that stays in the “self-defense” phase, I used to use 3 levels of abecedario. 1. working the basics with no resistance. 2. increasing levels of feedback, opponent starts moving with varying types of pressure. 3. you have 3 seconds after first-contact to finish or opponent starts fighting back with full resistance.
Now these are within the framework of traditional FMA, I’d like to point out. This should be a bare minimum type of legitimate self-reflection on how you train. For those who aren’t interested in taking their training to extremes or push the envelope, these are some things to consider that we, in the FMA world, simply assume and accept to be truth. Question. Challenge the norms and the stereotypes. We simply do not live in an age where pressure-testing is always needed to legitimize a system due to the time we live in. And I’ve sometimes been critical of this, maybe overly, and maybe therein lies the problem with my own fun and passion. But I had also put a lot of effort into developing my own expression of the arts and ensuring, at least from my small corner of the globe, combat arts derived from function and with unique learning, movement and kinesthetic learning methodologies, don’t go the way of tae kwon do and ninjutsu – a caricature of their original inception.
*As a final comment here regarding the FMA community at large. I have respect for all sides, I do. I respect those that want to maintain the traditional, hereditary and cultural authenticity of their native arts. That is their prerogative and it is a relative heirloom in that regard. It it were part of my birthright and had historical significance to my country of birth, I can definitely see the passion and protectiveness one might have for it. I would. I can also understand the progressive side wanting to modernize things and further these arts into the 21st Century. (often a North American thing, admittedly) But I’d like to give a parting note for thought to both sides. If a Canadian invents something, puts it on the market, it’s always going to be a “Canadian” product, one that was originally made in Canada, will always have its origins there and Canadians can take pride in the fact it was one or more of their own who came up with the idea. That being said, let me put this in the context of relatable terms regardless of nationality: if a German (company, individual or entity) purchases the product – invests money in doing so, worked hard for that money, put the effort into developing that product, promoting it globally, tweaked it to fit his demographic/culture – it will still be of Canadian origin. But it will be his product now. He bought it. Invested in it. Put the effort in for a price – be it financial, physical/labor or emotional. It’s his. Period. No Canadian has a right to tell him what he can and cannot do with that product. They can be proud that the German has taken it to different or at times even greater heights, knowing that that product is Canadian-made and the German will always give credit for it being so. But it’s his. Legally. Socially. Ethically. In every way. He bought it. Now that German could hypothetically be Filipino/Pinoy, another Canadian, Asian, of Middle-Eastern descent. Really, it doesn’t matter. We’ve struck globalization on products, maybe it’s time for the martial arts to catch up in some way. Think on that for a bit while you make the correlation.