By Louelle Lledo & Andy Sanano

Defensive and offensive techniques in Filipino martial arts revolve in a pentagonal foundation (known as MIBOME) that are interrelated and complement each other in spirit, skill, speed, strength and style, as follows:

Spirit—Spirit is the mental aspect. It is the active type of utmost concentration in every aspect of training. For clarity, spirit will be referred to as “active meditation.” It has nothing to do with religion or spirituality; although it is similar in the sense that the aim is “oneness of mind and body.” This “state of oneness” is possible only with rigid training and strict discipline in accepting the martial arts as a way of life and not just a combative art.

Skill—Before speed and strength, a student must have the ability to hit the intended target with the proper weapon at the proper time. In simple terms, this is called accuracy or precision of movement. It is also known as exactness of the projection of force. To achieve this aspect, the student must be taught the proper sequence in muscle contraction and relaxation, timing, balance, distance, coordination and most important of all: breath control. This type of training makes the student focus more directly on a situation and elicits a more rapid response. Every aspect of learning is an active process that teaches a student to apply a simple reaction. A simple reaction is faster than a choice reaction.

Speed—Through training, the practitioner learns that speed comes not from moving faster, but from the efficiency of the movement. Efficiency of movement includes the time of recognizing the threat up to the time of neutralizing the threat. This ability of “recognition and reaction” is attainable only through proper and constant training. Every technique, both defensive and offensive, must be executed in natural rhythm with minimal effort based on the underlying principle that a simple state creates speed, and a fluid response generates maximum speed, and maximum speed achieves maximum efficiency.

Strength—Big muscles that are needed to move heavy objects at a slow rate of time play a secondary role in Filipino martial arts. Sinewy, flexible muscles that can move a lighter weight at a greater speed are more important. In martial arts, strength may be better represented as power. Power is generated not by brute force, but through efficiency of movement and directness of application of energy. As a natural simple state creates speed, it also creates power. Sometimes power is also defined as “explosiveness,” created by muscle-speed unification or muscle contraction of every part of the body at a given instant. All techniques in martial arts must be designed to offer all around development by utilizing the principle of motion and applying the best angle of force.

Style—No two human beings are exactly alike psychologically or physiologically. In order to achieve maximum results, a technique must be executed according to an individual’s physical capability. The art must be adapted to the practitioner, not the other way around. The system is based on the principle that the simpler the technique, the more effective it is. An attribute of style is form. Good form is an important aspect of the martial arts. Best results are achieved through good form. Good form creates proper muscle tension and contraction, which in turn minimizes wasted energy. Good form also facilitates movement because it affords better control of the center of gravity and balance. Good form is a manifestation of a properly directed energy that results in superior performance. Do not imitate others or your form will be limited by what you see and imitate. Study and learn the techniques, improve on them, and develop your own form based on your own physical capability.

Mindset—Mindset refers both to one’s attitude and their state or frame of mind. There are those who call it determination or motivation. Others use more colorful terms such as “never say die” or “do-or-die” and other descriptive terms. For our purpose, we will simply call it mindset. More than good technique, and more than proper conditioning, mindset is the most important factor in any encounter. A fighter less skilled and less conditioned but possessing the proper mindset can beat an opponent who does not have the appropriate mindset.

Mark Wiley, Louelle Lledo, Andy Sanano, Walter Crisostomo, Marlon Hudak

There are individuals born with a positive mindset who are ready and willing to face any type of confrontation head on. These people have self-confidence, self-reliance, and the determination to be steadfast. Unfortunately, there are those born with a negative mindset and hide their weakness behind the cloak of pacifism. They mistake timidity and fear for peace and even godliness. They mistake docile submission as cooperative endeavor, not realizing or perhaps refusing to admit that it means crushed spirits and unhealthy attitudes.

Opposition to the use of force under any circumstances may be a noble ideal but in the real world where “dog eats dog,” it may cost an individual his or her life or the life of a loved one. It is an individual’s right and duty to protect and defend oneself and his or her loved ones against harm and violence. Skill in any fighting art may not alter an individual’s mindset because mindset comes from within the individual. However, martial arts may build self-confidence. This self-confidence may help the individual turn fear into an unwavering and resolute spirit, the main ingredients of a positive mindset.

Self-confidence and self-reliance create a positive mindset. With this frame of mind, an individual is ready and willing to stand straight and face the world head up high against adversity. Positive mindset is a firm strategy. A positive mindset must not be confused with haphazard aggressive action. A positive mindset is the product of proper training. A well-trained mind cannot be overwhelmed by fear or defeat. A well-trained mind will enable an individual to execute techniques and maneuvers without consciously thinking about it. In this state of mind, an individual will have no doubt or hesitation. With a positive mindset, the inner self (mind) and the outer self (body) work together in harmony.

It is sometimes possible to diffuse hostile intent when you project an aura of self-confidence. Sometimes, though, you may have to take a more positive and proactive step when an antagonistic attitude portends an impending confrontation. In this type of situation, you must always take advantage of your opponent’s initial move. Aside from the motivation of avoiding being struck, you must have the willingness to strike back, strike hard and strike effectively, and completely neutralize the threat. Some even claim that the “taste of blood” only makes them bolder and stronger.

Proper training will give you the ability to gauge your opponent’s intentions. Proper training will enable you to form strategies against an opponent’s attack. When your opponent takes the initiative to strike first, proper training will enable you to avoid being struck by striking your opponent faster and harder. Do not allow your opponent to recover from your strike. Do not take it for granted that once you hit your opponent, you must discontinue your attack.

Do not dwell on your first strike or it will lose its effectiveness. Keep on striking and never give your opponent a chance to gain his composure. If your opponent is as skillful as you are, shift your strategy. Use broken timing and never give your opponent the opportunity to figure out your rhythm. Always keep your opponent off-balance. Always strive to end the confrontation with one strike, and, if possible, the first strike. After all, the Filipino martial arts is based on the principle of “one-strike, one-kill.” All these put together is what a positive mindset is all about.

Mindset makes the difference when the requirement is beyond the common experience.

** This article was excerpted from the authors’ book, FMA Education: The Fundamentals of Arnis de Mano. **

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