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Filipino Martial Arts

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Filipino Martial Arts or FMA is a broad term for the style of martial arts that has been nurtured and inspired within the Philippines islands.

Broadly speaking the FMA system is based on the fighting style of the Philippines, which has a tribal-based culture. In recent centuries Filipino society was ruled by a Spanish colonial power who forbade the people it ruled to carry guns. But because the Filipinos are an agriculturally-based people they've always used blades of some sort, so knife-fighting's a skill that's survived, developed and been passed on over recent generations. Other cultures may have discovered and consistently refined the gun, but the Philippinos have never lost their respect for the blade. However FMA is much more than just a weapon-based art form.

Bill Cox and Ray Terry, authors and contributors to The Martial Arts Resource website at www.martialartsresource.com offer the following observations.

The FMA are often known only as known as weapon arts. What about so-called empty-hand skills?

Most people think the FMA are stick-fighting arts only. This is a common misconception because the rattan sticks are one of the primary tools used in training. They do use the sticks for combat, but that is not all there is to the arts. The FMA are equally based in weapon skills and empty hand skills (such as kicking, punching, trapping, and grappling). The FMA cover all the fighting ranges, defending against armed and unarmed attacks with whatever is available. What is available maybe the rattan sticks or it could be other types of weapons or just the fighter's empty hand skills. The FMA teach the interrelationship between empty-hand skills and weapons. Therefore the FMA should be considered a complete martial arts system that develops many different types of skills for combat, not just simply a stick fighting art.

Keep in mind that there are also other Filipino Martial Arts that do not involve the use of stick fighting as a training method. Dumog, Sikaran, and Panantukan are examples of FMA that are based on empty-hand skills only.

Why are the FMA sometimes considered simple arts and therefore "un-complex"?

When the FMA are referred to in this manner people are discussing the systematization, not the effectiveness of the arts. Bear in mind that FMA were designed to be simple to learn. Why? The arts were originally used to train fellow villagers in a short period of time for combat against other villages and foreign invaders. There was no time or reason to teach flashy techniques nor techniques that required special abilities. Only the skills that were proven effective and could be easily taught were used. The people who were learning this art depended on its effectiveness and simplicity for their survival. They were generally not martial artists or soldiers, just villagers who had to defend their land. Some of these people had no natural talent for fighting. They had to become proficient or perish in battle. There was no time to teach a detailed and complex martial art if the village was under immediate threat. Therefore, good generic methods and solutions needed to be taught in the quickest time possible. This philosophy of simplicity is still used today and is the underlying foundation base of the FMA.

What is the symbolic use of Triangles, Circular and Semi-circular moves

Triangles are an important symbol in the FMA. The triangle is one of the strongest geometrical structures and is used in the FMA to represent strength. Many schools incorporate the triangle into their school's logo. The triangle is also used to describe many theories in the FMA. Some of these theories are footwork, stances, foundations of disarms, and theories of attack.

The circular aspect of the FMA can be easily seen in the Kali Villabrille/ Largusa system, which zones out of the attacking angle. However, the most glaring example of the circular moves in FMA is in the empty-hand disarms or in the use of foot sweeps.

Why is it sometimes said that "More is not better" in FMA?

In keeping with the philosophy of simplicity, most of the techniques are taught early in training. This is an important key to the FMA. The student can pick what works for him and create his own method of combat. The basic principles are more important than raw numbers of technique. The difference between an older practitioner and a newer one is not the knowledge of greater numbers of techniques, but rather the skill in executing a smaller number of personally selected techniques. Each FMA practitioner keeps a small core of basic techniques that can handle many different types of situations. Keeping it simple is one of the underlying principles of the FMA.

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