When I saw this challenge, I had to take this opportunity to pay tribute to a man who has made a change in my life and well, in addition just share a few insights that I’ve learnt from him.
The man I speak of is my FMA (Filipino Martial Arts) instructor.
A little intro about FMA. FMA is a very broad term to describe the art, styles and systems that call Philipines its home and origin. Unlike most martial arts, FMA teaches its practitioners weapons first before advancing to empty hands. Its core concepts and philosophies, no matter which style, focuses and revolves around bladed combat. There are some styles that focus on empty hands like Panantukan, but its still based on bladed combat principals. The craft I’m practicing is a system, or more accurately, a combative system.
To put it briefly, a combative is any type of martial art that goes towards the direction of preparing its practitioner for actual fights and applications. It is used by the military, law enforcement and security officers. It tends to focus on efficient movements and tactics. And with anything to do with efficiency, it’s always a fun journey exploring and finding out why certain things are done the way they are.
Now back to my instructor. A teacher / instructor is someone who guides you. But not anyone can be a teacher. It takes a certain special kind of mind to teach. There’re a lot of core values that someone of this position requires.
Patience, creativity, tolerance, an eye for detail, an eye for inner potential…just to name a few.
And that is what I see in him. He has the attention to detail in regards to the craft he teaches. He has the creativity to make dull moments interesting, tedious lessons fun and painful moments less painful. But above everything else, he has an eye for inner potential and the patience to see it grow and nurture it.
In my life, there have been very very very very few people who have the traits that he has.
Paradoxically, for a combative that has hard hits and violence, he has a mind that’s thoughtful and an opposite to the rough physical nature of the system he teaches. His is a mind that is philosophical, the mind that questions and wonders. And above all, it contains principals that I believe we should abide by. I’m not saying he’s a God or something, that he’s all perfect and infallable. And of course he’s not the the only one who practices principals. But to see him make an effort to uphold and maintain principals is something that I’m seeing very rare of in most people this day and age.
He has taught me a way of life. To adhere to principals and uphold a code of honour, integrity and honesty. He has taught me loyalty and perseverence. I may have an innate perseverence in me, but he was the one who had the patience to allow it to pull me through and nurture the skills that I have with me today.
And there is no better honour than gaining his trust and letting him know that you as a student care for his interests.
There have been students who come and go. Some are just passers by, curious about the system. Some come in and leave within the span of less than 2 – 3 months. And it’s quite nasty doing that because one has wasted my instructor’s time and effort to bestow and share the knowledge. I think the one way we can do him justice is to stick around, take in his teachings and see it through till there’s a certain benchmark accomplishment.
In addition to that, there’s another thing about him that sets him above so many others.
He has no problem acknowledging things. If you have progressed as a student, he will acknowledge it and tell you so. He has no problem acknowledging your strengths, achievements and weaknesses (and he will mend that weakness and bring you up).
And above all that, he has my respect because he acknowledges and admits when he himself has made a mistake or does not know something. He has no reservations of admitting from which instructor he has learnt a drill or technique that he is bestowing upon us. And he doesn’t mix around. If he says he will teach something, he will teach only that and not mix it around with any other knowledge that he has.
That is very important especially for a martial art, because every art / system / style has its own essence, flow and unique footwork. The presence and addition of a foreign concept from another school of thought will cause a clash. Yes you can mix things up, but one must first have a strong foundation in one’s art to have the understanding to intergrate in any new concept.
I’m the kind of person that has very limited trust towards others. I mean, I can be friendly. But to truly trust someone that I’ll give my time and all to that person, that person needs to be in my circle of trust.
But for a man such as my instructor, there is no question. My loyalty lies on a person, man or woman, with principals that they adhere to and practice.
And now that my tribute is done, a little sharing session about what I’ve learnt.
A few basics, pretty common sense and pretty much practiced by other combatives as well.
Always assume that you will attacked by multiple opponents.
Keep the altercations short and quick – this is where tactics and proper skills come. Why short? As stated in number 1, always assume you will be attacked by multiple opponents. If you spend too much time on one opponent, you’re opening yourself to attack from others. Also, you’re a human with a limited amount of stamina. Sure you may run rounds in the track all day. But when you’re under life and death situations, the adrenaline pumping in your system saps your stamina pretty quick.
Do not fear the blade, but respect the blade. A blade isn’t a toy. There must exist a certain level of respect towards it. Do not underestimate the damage a cut can do. In the hands of laymen, the blade swinging around is dangerous. In the hands of a skilled fighter, it is deadly.
Footwork is key. Hand techniques are important, but footwork plays a bigger important role. Displacement of the self is important in a bladed confrontation. Blocks do not work because the blade has many angles of attack and it can circumvent the obstacle a static block provides. Mobility is key. The blade or attack can’t hurt you if it isn’t able to reach you.
Cliche as it sounds, basics are important. As my instructor said, “There is no advance. Advance is just the combination of basics.”
A building without a strong foundation collapses easily.
Do not fight unless necessary. Another cliche but it has its grounds. Training with blades and blade-concepts have taught me that it is very easy to get killed with the presence of a weapon.
Practice practice practice. No matter how long you’ve trained, just like blades, you can get rusty and dull. Always sharpen your skills and keep fit.
I have to also give a thank you and respect to my seniors. They have guided me as well and have been teachers to me in their own right. But the emphasis of this post lies on my instructor because he is the progenator of the skill that I now possess within me.
As the Buddhist saying goes, “Respect your teacher and guru first before even Buddha because without them there wouldn’t even be any knowledge of Buddha in you”.