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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

3 Ways to Get Hurt - or Hurt Others - in the FMA's

The perception of weapons-based martial arts styles like the Filipino Martial Arts is that it's more dangerous than the empty hand styles.

Potentially, this is true.  If something goes wrong, it can go catastrophically wrong.

In practice, the truth is that we probably have the same number of injuries empty hand styles do or less, and when injuries happen, they're almost always minor injuries that don't require much medical attention (such as contusions or strains/sprains).

In fact, I think if we were to survey our community, we'd be on the "fewer injuries" side of the bell curve of martial arts and getting hurt.

We are, of course, hyper-aware of that potential for injury.  We work very hard to keep our folks as safe as we possibly can.  But if we do get hurt, here's the most common ways it happens.


"Feeding" is what we call the process where I "attack" my partner, and she responds with whatever technique we are working on.  This means I have to deliver the correct strike (the right angle at the right target) with the correct amount of force.

If I deliver the incorrect strike - if my targeting is poor (too high is the most common) or if the angle is incorrect, it may hit my partner in a place he doesn't expect, or cause a condition where his block won't work. It'll fail or his stick will rebound and he'll hit himself with his own stick.

Playing sinawali. Note how my partner's strike is WAY above my head.

Feeding with the incorrect amount of force can manifest itself two ways - too weak, and too strong.

Too strong - too hard of a strike - is inappropriate when a person is brand new to a technique.  We have to slow it down and come with less force while the defender is learning how to cope with the attack.  When she is competent in the technique, then you come with more energy and force.

Too weak - a "lazy" feed with no energy or intent to hit - is a deceptive problem.  It gives your partner a false sense of security and can "hide" poor execution of her technique.  When the feed gets stronger and faster, her technique can fail and she can injure herself

One other "too weak" method other than a "lazy" feed is "pulling your strike".  That's when you, as the feeder, actually stop the strike well before it would hit your partner.

That means that your partner isn't actually blocking the strike, because you are not delivering the strike.  Not only are giving your partner bad feedback and he tries to cope with the attack, but you're also training yourself not to hit things, which is kind of defeating the point of training, isn't it?


It is very common for folks to "drop" their hands while training.  This could mean the weapon hand - you see this a lot in sinawali where the hands are held in front of them or low at the sides vs. chambered up near the head - or it could mean the live (or empty) hand.

Either way, your hands aren't in the proper place and it's harder to defend against incoming attacks or deliver proper feeds.

We have a drill in our school where we work from a sinawali, then interrupt it and attack your partner randomly with a strike (there's a lot of variants of this drill, and I'm simplifying it big-time, but I hope you get the idea).  When the hands are dropped, the partner almost always is too late to defend the incoming attack - that is, he gets popped in the head if the feeder doesn't pull the attack at the last second.

We use the empty hand for a variety of purposes when we have a single weapon, and if you drop that empty hand, it's a lot harder to put it in play.  It can get you hurt when you aren't in a position to use that hand to check or pass incoming attacks.  Or, your hand isn't in position to help support your block against a powerful strike.

Dropped hands can affect your feeding by delivering an improper angle to an incoming attack.  While of course we can and do and should train against any given angle, in practice, we are usually isolating on specific techniques versus specific attacks.  If your hands are dropped, the arc of strikes will be different than if your hands are chambered properly.  If it's a poking strike, it may not be targeted properly or the timing will be slightly off.

Either way, dropped hands means you're increasing your risk of hurting yourself or your partner.


In Presas Arnis, we do a lot of traps, locks, and take-downs.  The easiest way to get hurt in these sorts of things is when a partner doesn't follow through on what she's supposed to be doing.

That is, if you are supposed to be taking me down, and you hesitate while delivering the technique, you might not have the momentum or the proper control of me and as a result, I fall poorly or something gets twisted the wrong way.

I'm sure you grapplers and Judo players know exactly what I'm talking about.

I have never been hurt on a take-down in Presas Arnis when a person is following through and committing to the technique, not even when it wasn't done 100% correctly. I have only been hurt when a person hesitated.

I mentioned "pulling the strike" above.  That is also a failure to commit, in this case, to delivering the strike where it's supposed to go.

Commitment to a technique isn't the same thing as being fast, mind you. You can do it slow, just don't stop in the middle!

Thus, if you want to get hurt or hurt a friend in the Filipino Martial Arts, be a poor feeder, drop your hands, and fail to commit.  Injury will quickly follow.

What are the most common ways people get hurt in your school?  Did I miss an important one in Arnis?  Let me know what you think!

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