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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

One Drill To Rule Them All

So lately we've been working on Sumbrada, aka "the 6 Count Drill" or "3-8-12" (depending on the range it becomes "1-4-12") in our Meetup.

Literally I learned it a lot like you see GM Bruce Chiu do in this video, as my first teacher is a direct student of his.

This is the third drill I learned after first being introduced to Modern Arnis back in 2008. I was taught Sinawali, basic Block-Check-Counter, and then "the 6 Count Drill".

I've played this a LOT since 2008. My teacher Mark Lynn teaches and fine-tunes this drill in his curriculum, and we've played it a ton in his school, too.

Not only is it a foundational drill in Modern Arnis (and also Presas Arnis) but it's just so much fun to play, that you want to play it if you can.

We are introduced to this drill with a single stick in our right hands, and our initial goal is to just get into a flow. That is, we can do all six beats of the drill without hesitation, while also doing the footwork we're supposed to do, we're targeting properly, we're maintaining the range we want, we're blocking properly (there are three different types of blocks in this drill), etc.

Mr. Chick and I playing this drill some years ago.

Getting into the flow alone can take quite a bit of time and practice.

I'm still new enough in my training I still vividly remember the thrill I got when I realized I was in a flow and not working so hard to do the drill.

After we're in a flow, we play a little with range (long vs. medium vs. short) and moving in and out, using various kinds of footwork. Sometimes people only play this drill in a single range, but we're playing with all of them.

Next, we play with breaking the flow with things like combative interrupts (like hindering their stick), disarms, locks, takedowns, etc.

To do that, you have to sort of spot the holes that are in the drill (and there's a bunch) and taking advantage of those holes.

This is the point where the ever-so-popular question, "Yeah, but what if he does THIS?!?1!!?" can get tested and answered.

See why we play with range? What will and won't work, and what holes are there, are different if your range is different.

You can spend months and months just playing in this stage of the drill. There is just so much there, and different answers get found when you have people training from a variety of martial arts backgrounds.

As I type this, in our Meetup, we have people with backgrounds in Kempo, Wing Chun, Aikido, Karate, Boxing and Wrestling, Krav Maga, Balintawak, and Army Combatives in our group.

You can imagine all the interesting things we come up with.

Then you can convert the drill to different tools. You can use knives, you can use two sticks, you can use two knives, you can use empty hand, you can have a stick or knife in the left hand, you can both have a staff, you can have tonfa or sai, you can have unequal weapons like tonfa VS staff...

Here's my teacher and I doing that very thing (tonfa vs. staff):

This stage of playing sumbrada is stupid fun.

There's just so much in this drill, there's plenty to keep you occupied for a really, really long time.

So here's the thing: nobody fights like we play in this drill. Nobody.

So why do we do it?

This drill is a fantastic (and super-efficient) way to train the brain.

I mentioned the holes in the drill above. Initially, when you first learn this drill, you have no idea they're there. But over time, as you train this and other drills, you start to spot them. It helps you develop the mindset to look for the holes and have a way to exploit them.

We play with range(s) because our options change depending on where we are in range, and we don't always control that aspect of a fight.

We play with different tools to train the idea that you CAN use different tools - or none at all - and stay in the fight.

We teach the choice of cooperation vs. the choice of non-cooperation.

We develop the skill and timing to interrupt what another guy wants to do with something we want to do.

We can practice the concept of countering and countering the counter.

All from a single drill.

Sumbrada, the Six Count Drill, 3-8-12.

One drill, to rule them all.

Do you play sumbrada? What do you like most about it? Are you not a fan? Does your martial art style have a drill like this that you play (maybe it's a Kata?) Let us know in the comments!

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