In my wiser years, going over some of the Modern Arnis check hand concepts.

Eons ago when I was starting out in the martial arts, I was so taken up with techniques that I thought in terms of “collecting techniques.” The more techniques that I collected, or so I thought, would make me a better martial artist. I’m sure that a fair number of martial artists have fallen into this trap. For those of you who have not followed this foolhardy path, you took the wise approach! In any case, the reality was that, to paraphrase Bruce Lee, my martial arts was headed toward a “classical mess.”

I had an epiphany after getting a black belt in a martial art that I was studying. This school emphasized learning close to 300 techniques to obtain a black belt. Even worse was the lack of connections between the techniques. I remember thinking “how can anybody possibly pick out the right technique under the stress of a self defense situation?”

While studying this particular martial art, I fell into the trap of collecting techniques. The problem is that once you have forgotten a technique, you have forgotten that technique. Instead, you should focus on understanding the concept behind the technique. If you absorb the concept, the techniques will come. You might forget a technique but not the concept. It is much better to have a few concepts rather than remember 100, 200, or 300 techniques.

A technique is a series of specific moves done in sequence in response to an attack. Yet there are so many conceivable attacks. A “concept” is a general or abstract idea derived from experience. In the aforementioned system that I mentioned, there were specific discrete techniques that dealt with knife attacks and yet a different ways to deal club attacks and so on. That didn’t seem practical to me. 

Once I got into Modern Arnis and learned about the angles of attack, I realized that, except for minor modifications, that attacks can be dealt with according to the angle. So regardless of whether an angle 1 attack was a stick, knife, broken bottle, the underlying general concept was to step to the right at a 45 degree angle. Aha, we are dealing with angles of attack instead of methods of attack.


Stepping to the right at a 45 degree angle against an angle 1 attack is a concept that is easy to remember!

Through my training in Modern Arnis, I’ve gotten into the habit of collecting concepts, not techniques. They are so much easier to remember than techniques. If you know the concept, the techniques will come.

The below video is similar to the first video above:

Going over some of the concepts of the weapon hand.

Over the years, I have gotten into the habit of listening to instructors at Modern Arnis camps and seminars for any concepts that they might share. I currently have a list of 20 concepts that I teach. Some are obvious (“Go with the Flow” etc) and others were acquired over the years. It will likely be refined and tinkered with over the years.

It is much easier to remember a few concepts than to remember multiple techniques. Thus, it is imperative for the instructor and student alike to remember and understand the concepts of the art. Example: What are the three main ways you can hit your opponent with your cane? The strike, the thrust and the punyo (butting). Aha, you can then develop techniques off those methods of hitting your opponent.

If you’re just starting out or trying to make sense of what you’ve learned, I HIGHLY recommend that you start listing the martial concepts that you have learned over the years. Instead of a notebook of a thousand techniques that you’ve learned, try creating a cheat sheet of concepts that are easy to remember. Believe me, your personal journey in the martial arts will take a giant leap forward!

Over to you, do you keep notes on the concepts of your art?

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