During the Annual Michigan Modern Arnis camp this past weekend, Master of Tapi Tapi Ken Smith had an interesting quote about training in the martial arts. He observed that martial arts instructors tend to either “go hard” or emphasize “lots of repetitions.” I had not heard it phrased that way but it seems accurate. Master Ken said that he favours lots of repetitions but will tell his students to go hard once in awhile. This is my teaching philosophy as well.

While there is value in “going hard” the inherent downside is that repetitions is usually sacrificed in the process. I prefer teaching material with lots of repetitions. This is especially important in Filipino Martial Arts. If you are going to be able to counter an opponent’s attack, you better do it without thinking. There is much value in the process of learning basic movements through countless repetitions. There is a reason that Professor Presas said “you must practice!” so many times.

Speaking for myself, I like working on basic moves in the basement of my house in my solo training workouts. It can be anything from the 12 angles of attacks, the traditionals, anyos, kicks, and Mook Jong work. I am not satisfied with doing something just once. I get more enjoyment over practicing, for example, Anyo Isa Empty Hand Form One 25 times in a row. I have to admit that I used to go at full speed. Nowadays, I’m more likely to go at slow to moderate speed, emphasizing form and muscle memory. Speed is easy but correct form is not.

During the Michigan camp, Master Chuck and Master Ken emphasized repetition a great deal, particularly in leading the camp through group drills involving Modern Arnis basics, using either a 3 or 4 count. For example, we drilled the block, check, counter drill with a 3 count. When Master Chuck shouted “one” we executed the block. “Two” was insert the check hand. “Three” was the cue to counterstrike. Over and over and over. It was repetitions, baby!

Go hard or go for repetitions. I choose repetitions, hands down.

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