I’ve had the blessing of training in an array of martial arts for almost 30 years. I’m not talking about “kid karate” classes or even youth tae kwon do. I’m talking about the serious training I started as an older teenager and heading into my 20’s.
I believe this age was important to be aware of martial arts and self defense, because it is at this age that high schoolers are getting into fights, and young bar goers are seeing fights break out in bars, parking lots and at concerts. Therefore, without getting into my personal experiences, I was at the age when “fighting” was around me on a regular basis. However, because my functional training also started around this age, I was more aware of what was working, and what wasn’t.
The one fighting culture and set of arts which definitely caught my attention was the Filipino Martial Arts, or FMA. When diving into their history along with their defensive techniques, I realized they have been fighting armies who had guns and motars, when they only had sticks and swords. Although their “empty hand” techniques are nothing to laugh at, I also found their use of weapons to be far superior than other arts’ applications.
FMA is a combination of ancient fighting methods combined with more modern modified fighting techniques created in the Philippines. Arnis, Eskrima and Kali are the most popular forms of FMA and all have elements of both the Western and Eastern martial arts in them.
Many of the Filipino martial arts are known to use weapons or empty hands which the local people call “mano-mano” or “pangamut”. They also use improvised weapons where they changed every day house hold items into deadly fighting tools, which definitely caught my attention. Using a broom to dust your floors is one thing but being able to use that same broom to protect yourself and your loved ones is another thing.
Arnis, Eskrima and Kali are focused on strikes, grasps, and flinging moves using a stick or a blade in hand. But once again what makes this so different from other weapons-based arts like from the Japanese or Chinese, is the way the FMA has taken weapons and modernized them, and as I said before, even adapting them from everyday items you could find at a restaurant, parking lot or in your home office. This might be the best, most simple lesson I learned, which is to use what is already in the environment around you.
It is unlikely you’ll be carrying around a shining pair of nunchucks or perfectly polished sword when a crazy fight breaks out, or someone attacks you by surprise. However, what the FMA have taught us to think about is “what could” act like a nunchuck, sword, stick or knife, which is around you right now.
FMA has made a great impact on the modern world. Because of its’ use of hand to hand combat as well as its’ use of weapons, we see it used in film, video games, television and even comic books. Hollywood has often used it to train actors and stuntmen for various films, where the list is too long to share in this short article.
However, we see its’ influence in movies like Netflix’s 2020 movie “The Old Guard”, the 2015 movie called “Spy” and the 2014 movie starring Denzel Washington “The Equalizer”. In this movie, Denzel must escape a room full of thugs using a knife, shot glass, broken glass from a Champaign bottle and a corkscrew, all as improvised weapons to take down the attackers. Once again, using common things which are in everyday environments.
If the Filipino Martial Arts intrigues you, look to the ancient world for its’ beginnings but the modern world for its’ many real life uses. Training in this very practical modern weapons system could just one day save your life or the life of a loved one. But, as a simple exercise you can do right now, by setting a personal alarm to ring at 90 minute intervals, especially on a day where you’re traveling around or have a lot of errands to run.
When the timer goes off, look around you immediately and try to find three items you could use to defend yourself. You will find yourself to start to see tools around you which you might not have seen before, which is an asset when you need something to defend yourself when the odds are stacked against you.