Nicolas (left) using a standard grip counters his opponent’s attack by cutting the wrist.

Nicolas (left) using a standard grip counters his opponent’s attack by cutting the wrist.

The Filipino martial arts (FMA) are highly conceptual in nature. Understanding the underlying concepts of the FMA is the key to mastering the transition from weapons to empty hand fighting.

The dagger, being shorter than the sword or stick is a good tool to use in understanding the transition between weapons and empty hand fighting. Take note that the FMA being originally a battlefield art has a reversed progression of training compared to other Asian martial arts. In arnis, escrima and kali, the student trains with weapons first then later on progresses to empty hand fighting.

After taking away the daggers, the practitioner would realize that he could destroy his enemy’s limbs even without a blade. The nerve-rich areas at the base of the arms, the shoulders and the armpits are excellent targets for empty hand hits like punches and elbow strikes. The armpit areas are so vulnerable that the improper use of crutches could damage the nerve networks underneath it causing paralysis to the triceps and wrist extensors. A grappling move that dislocated the shoulder joint may press the arm bone on the nerve of the armpits paralyzing part of that limb. Any hits on the various points of the arm could damage the median, ulnar and radial nerves that run along its length. The effect may range from pins-and-needles sensation to temporary motor dysfunction to permanent paralysis, depending on the force of the blow.

The most common way of translating FMA weapon techniques into empty hand applications is through the basic angles of attacks. This means you retain the angle but substitute the blade or the stick with your limbs. Take for example angle number one – a downward diagonal blow from left to right common to many FMA styles. The gist of the whole thing is it doesn’t matter whether you’re using a baseball bat, a kitchen knife or your fist; a downward diagonal blow is a downward diagonal blow. It won’t take much practice to identify what empty hand technique would fit best a particular angle of attack. Hooking punches and roundhouse kicks fit horizontal angles while uppercuts and knee strikes fit upward angles.


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