• Jackie Bradbury

4 Ways to Make Your FMA Experience Suck (for Newbies)

So you'd like to learn some Filipino Martial Arts.


First off, let me encourage you to seek out and study FMA's, no matter what your martial arts background is.  As someone who studies FMA's (pretty much) full-time, I love it when new folks join me in enjoying that special burning smell that you get when you work the rattan.


But, there's things that you can do to make your FMA journey, well, kinda suck.  Here's some of the ways you can do that:


1) Trying to Learn off the Internet


I'm not talking about online instruction here (although if you have read this blog for a while you know that I am not a fan of it outside of very specific parameters).


Nope, I'm talking about people who find snippets of what is usually either a demo or a slice of a seminar online and think they can just copy what they see there and they're good to go.


Guys, you're missing the context and you're missing a lot of the basics and details of what goes into the drill you're copying.  It's like you're just eating the crispy crust off the top of a brownie, missing all of the deeper levels of gooey chocolately goodness underneath.


I have no idea if this is common with other styles as it is with the FMA's, but dang, y'all, stop copying a sinawali off of random videos online and thinking you know all you have to know.

Get with a teacher in person as much as you can, train with live partners, and if you must use online training, do so in a program from a teacher, not copying demos off of YouTube.


2) Infrequent Training


Filipino Martial Arts are often taught as an add-on to other styles.


Unless you're really lucky (as I was), you'll typically train with a teacher or training group once a week, and often you're required to study other styles at the school as well as FMA's.


This often leads to folks ONLY actively training in that once a week class (or even less frequently than once/week).


In your karate or kempo or kung-fu or taekwondo or BJJ or whatever class you take, they tell you that formal class time isn't enough mat time to really make good progress in what you do. And they're right.


The same thing applies to the Filipino Martial Arts. So if you are in a program that is only once a week, you HAVE to practice outside of class.


Whether you just make sure you can schedule time to hit a bag solo, or you arrange to meet other students outside of class somewhere (you really don't need THAT much room, y'all - push the furniture aside in your living room and you might have the space you need), commit to training outside of class.


You'll see and feel your progress much faster and you won't feel like you're stalling out (as many people can feel after a while of training only once a week).


3) Thinking It's Only About The Stick


I know, I know, you are reading a blog called "The Stick Chick". But I'm here to tell you that it isn't only about the stick in the FMA's.


Traditionally, the stick is a stand-in for a blade, which usually is a short sword of varying kinds depending on the area of the Philippines the style comes from. I am unaware of any FMA style that doesn't include this point of view in their training (but it's possible, I guess...?)


The style I train in also treats the stick like a stick and NOT a blade, because the context of where we live and what we do is different.


Either way, it's a mistake to think about your FMA training ONLY in these terms.


Most of us also teach a lot of empty-hand material, and a lot of us incorporate grappling of one kind or another too. Those are just as important as the "stick stuff". Training in empty hand is just as "FMA" as training the stick is, and don't neglect this part of your training.


To really get the full FMA experience, keep an open mind and learn the whole of it, not just the stick/knife/sword stuff.


4) Skimping on Fundamentals


In a lot of FMA's, we don't really restrict you from being shown the "upper-level" stuff based on your rank (heck, a lot of us don't even use ranking systems at all).


I can tell you that if I show you something that's a bit advanced for you, I certainly don't expect you to master it now. I expect you to do your best, have fun with it, and later, when you return to it (maybe years later), you'll make connections you can't right now (because you don't have the experience).


Where the mistake comes in is that you'll try to master that before you master those fundamentals you're primarily focused on as a newer student.


Just like in all martial arts systems, to be really good at the FMA's, you have to master fundamentals (the specifics vary a bit from style to style but generally we're talking about footwork and how to hold the stick and how to be safe and not get hit). And just like other martial arts, there's no shortcuts to mastering fundamentals.


You train. You train. You train. Then you train some more.

Me teaching a fundamental drill in my style. Yep, I practice this on my own every so often, even after all these years.

There isn't any substitute for putting in the reps.


For now, as a newbie, don't try too hard to remember all that fancy pants upper level stuff you get shown from time to time (especially from seminars). Put your focus on making sure your fundamentals are sound. You'll get to that stuff again later, and you'll be able to retain it then.


So that's 4 ways to make your FMA experience suck when you're new. I bet all y'all non-FMA players out there recognize them, too, right?


What did I miss? Is there another way to make your FMA experience suck (for newbies)? Is there something similar or different in YOUR non-FMA style that you'd want people to know about? Let us know in the comments!

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