Apex and MIBOME in Filipino Martial Arts

By Louelle Lledo and Andy Sanano

In journalism, the writer is taught to use the inverted pyramid method to cover stories. In the inverted pyramid, the beginning of a story contains the majority of the content – the widest part – and the ending of the story contains the smallest amount of details – the narrowest part:


Using the inverted pyramid method, the writer provides an overview of the story’s main points at the very beginning including the characters involved, where the story took place, how it took place, and why it took place. The rationale is that the audience gets the main points of the story right away, regardless of how much is modified or altered by the editor.

In martial arts, the inverted triangle is reversed. The bottom is the widest part and the top is the narrowest part. The widest part is called the foundation and the narrowest part is called the apex. Even if you were to cut the top off, you’d still have a wide base to fall back on. In Filipino martial arts, the student is advised to select the best technique (Apex) based on their foundation.


The apex is the culmination of doing the basic techniques a thousand times based on the principle of Mindset and Body Mechanics (MIBOME). The principles and techniques of MIBOME involve breath-control, stance, center of gravity, footwork, transfer of motion, efficiency, consistency of movement, balance, distance, timing, focus, direct application of force and leverage, which equates to one’s simple reaction. MIBOME is the collective term for spirit, skill, speed, strength, and style.

MIBOME equates to good form, which is sometimes defined as “economy of motion.” A good teacher will teach that best performance is achieved through striving for the best form possible, which corresponds to minimum use of motion and wasted energy, but maximum efficiency. Energy saved by sound “mechanics of form” translates into a more forceful expression of the skill. Practitioners must always attempt to exert all the momentum in the effective direction, while not forgetting that one “form” may be suitable for one athlete, but impractical for another. Applying the MIBOME approach to your martial arts practice helps improve and achieve the following results:

  • Variation of force and speed, which is essential for the various movement of a skill pattern.
  • Timing of movements in the pattern and the complete pattern.
  • The effective use of physical principles of leverage in connection with the projection of force, inertia, and momentum.
  • Concealment of intent from the opponent.
  • Beauty of motion. The principles of beauty in sports are no different from the principles of beauty in art or architecture.
  • Proper footwork. Footwork makes direct lines of force possible, initiation of movement easier, and increase the possible range of motion.
  • More precise control over one’s center of gravity.
  • Individuality in form. Instead of imitating others, which limits one’s potential by what he imitates; an individual must develop a form that is truly his own.
  • Ambidexterity or the skilled use of either hand or foot for a movement pattern.
  • Follow-through or an acceleration of recognition of a threat to the completion of the application of the technique in neutralizing the threat.

Martial arts are similar to constructing a building. You always start from the bottom. The bigger and taller the building, the wider and sturdier the foundation must be. There should be more piles driven and they should be driven deep to make a solid foundation and hold the weight of the building. The rationale is the stronger and sturdier the foundation, the stronger and more effective the technique will be. As stated earlier, this handbook deals exclusively with the basic techniques, the fundamentals of the art that form the very foundation of mastery.

To the uninitiated and to those who do not or refuse to understand, it must be emphasized there are no advance techniques only basic techniques that are executed in a superior manner. Likewise, there are no blocks in Arnis de Mano, only defensive courses of action. Strikes are used not to block or stop an attack, but to deflect and re-direct the attack.


As the student progresses, he will understand. People who have witnessed practitioners perform the intricate swirling of the sticks may say that is what they want to learn. They may even say they do not want to be bothered with the basic techniques or they do not have the time or they just want to learn how to fight. To these people, all that can be said is they do not understand that martial arts training is about more than swinging limbs and weapons in a flashy way.

This teachers’ training handbook is designed for current, prospective, and aspiring martial arts teachers or practitioners who want to understand the Filipino martial arts concepts of effective teaching and learning. The material is systematically arranged so as to make the student aware of each technique’s specific application in the overall scheme of things. For the most efficient mastery of concepts, each technique is broken down into its most basic elements and minute skills. For example, stick fighting is a complex skill.

In learning a complex skill, one must begin with a framework towards a goal, with a complete and thorough understanding of the principles involved in each movement. Regardless of religious orientation, one cannot deny that duality of nature is the hallmark of creation. There is always a beginning and an end; the sky and the earth; up and down; right and left; male and female. Stick fighting is the same thing, as explained below:

  • There are only two patterns of motion: linear and circular.
  • There are only two types of strikes: forehand and backhand.
  • There are only two types of thrusts: overhand and underhand.
  • There are only two empty-hand disarm maneuvers: turn and twist.
  • There are two actions that off-balance the opponent: push and pull.
  • There are only two opposing forces: centrifugal and centripetal.
  • There are two principles that govern every maneuver: efficiency and consistency.

To explain the last point, efficiency is accomplishing a specific goal in as little time and with as little effort as possible, while consistency is executing the technique the same, correct way every time. 

By developing the techniques that work best for you based on your training and physical capability and then limiting the mechanical and mental options until “simple reaction” is achieved, consistent efficiency and efficient consistency may be attained as the very top or apex of the martial arts pyramid. To those who do not understand or refuse to understand, look at all the swirling and twirling of the sticks; they are nothing more than the forehand or backhand strikes, the overhand or underhand thrust executed in linear or circular motions. This also illustrates why martial arts teaching must be systematically arranged. Pile driving and solid preparation of the foundation must be achieved prior to putting the roof on and the walls up.

The prerequisite requirement for taking this course is a basic skill in Arnis de Mano and an open mind to understand the lessons thoroughly.


NOTE: The essay was excerpted from FMA Education: The Fundamental Core of Arnis de Mano, by Mataw Guros Louelle Lledo and Andy Sanano. 

 RAVE REVIEWS of FMA Education…fma-education-cover-72-dpi

“I commend Mataw Guros Lledo and Sanano for their dedication, vision and mission for creating an FMA Education platform. This book covers all areas of this program and offers depth of detail for beginners and teachers alike.” —Dr. Mark Wiley, Senior Adviser, Mataw Guro Association

“This book will be very beneficial in learning, for the beginner in understanding and being able to grasp the basics and for the experienced practitioner reviewing where it all starts.” —Punong Guro Steven K. Dowd, FMA Informative

This valuable source of instruction and advisement is one answer to cultivate that quest for self-preservation, self-development and self-mastery found in the many reasons for training.” —Dr. Christopher M. Viggiano, President, Society of Black Belts of America (SOBBA)

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