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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Four Awesome Things About Being A Filipino Martial Artist

Updated: Jun 25, 2019

I absolutely love the Filipino Martial Arts.

I mean, I love love LOVE it. I can't imagine not doing it. I've loved it since the first time my first teacher handed me a stick and said "Do this".

Here are four awesome reasons I love it so that don't have much to do with actual techniques:


Being an extrovert, I've always been the type of person who likes standing out from the crowd.  I've had funky hair colors, unusual haircuts, and enjoy flashy jewelry.

When it comes to the local martial arts scene, we FMA players tend to stand out.  If we wear uniforms, our uniforms tend to be brighter (and of a different cut - when we wear them at all), many of us wear our belts the Modern Arnis way (knot on the right hip), and we always have our sticks with us at a minimum.

Other martial artists  - after they realize that it's a thing - tend to ask a lot of questions about who we are, and what we do.  It's like being a person with a heavy English accent (any kind or any region) living in the United States - we find it glamorous and interesting and we love to listen to that person talk.


The basic FMA training methodology has students learning to fight with a weapon first, then progressing to the empty hand.  It involves a lot of drills that gives a person a lot of repetitions, often with both your strong hand and your weapons.  Our sticks are often taught as stand-ins for other weapons (like a machete), we typically study more than one length of weapons (knife, palmstick, stick and sword, and even staff) and we often study using weapons in both hands as well as just one hand.

This leaves us with the ability to be pretty flexible when it comes to using other weapons, (such as many of the Japanese or Okinawan weapons) as well as being able to find and use weapons of opportunity we'd find around us (like pens, or broom handles or what have you).

Probably want to keep us out of the kitchen. Image by MikesPhotos from Pixabay

It's not that we'd use a weapon - such as a tonfa or sai - from another tradition AS that tradition would.  It means that we can use our own methodology and adapt that weapon to what we already know very quickly.  I can do Arnis with Okinawan weapons - I did, many times, even before I started studying them formally.

Combine that with the empty hand training - I'd say it makes us pretty darn flexible as martial artists go.


Lineage in the FMA's can be a tricky business (because we are often having to train under a student of a student of a student of a founder, because there just aren't many of us on the ground outside of the Philippines).  But the flip side of that, is that it means a little less who you studied with or under in our culture.

Not that it doesn't matter at all. Certainly, being a direct student of some of our big names is definitely as impressive in our circles as it is in other styles. But it's not AS big a deal.

That is, we tend to judge each other not by who our teachers are, but by our own individual merit, and we have to prove it by crossing sticks.  Ultimately, it doesn't matter as much if I studied with one of the most prestigious teachers of my art; what matters is how I play, myself.

In this, we're a lot like the combat sports, where your win/loss record is more important vs. who your coach is.

This also makes us a little more egalitarian, which I think will make us more attractive to people in the West over time.  I prefer a more democratic environment, so that suits me really well.


We are still waiting for our "Bloodsport" or "Enter the Dragon" or "Karate Kid" (the real one - the Ralph Macchio one) - the movie or TV show that will make the Filipino Martial Arts known and more in demand with folks looking to try the martial arts.

But over the past ten years or so, Hollywood fight scenes have borrowed more and more from the Filipino Martial Arts.   From the "Bourne" movies, to the "Arrow" television show, to the film "I, Frankenstein", to "Mission Impossible"... more and more, anything weapons-based on film is coming from the FMA tradition.

Ed Skrein, who played Francis - um, I mean "Ajax" - in the first Deadpool movie - was exposed to kali (among other arts) and calls Kali his "fitness obsession" in this interview here.

So it's a cool time to be studying FMA's, as we can say, "Nightwing?  Yeah, you can learn to fight like him. Let me show you!"

So there's four non-technique related reasons I love being a Filipino Martial Artist. What are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments! And if you're interested in the downsides of being an Arnisadora, read HERE.

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