Professor Presas often admonished his students “Go with the flow!” This quote is foremost in my mind when I talk about the flow drills that I teach to the Bamboo Spirit students. I have posted previously about these flow drills. I have mentioned that they are not combative. Instead, they are designed for the student to learn the major concepts of Modern Arnis and attributes such as spontaneity, adaptability, tempo, rhythm, speed, timing, footwork, and body mechanics. Above all, they are designed to teach the flow.
The 20 Bamboo Spirit Flow Drills were inspired by this flow drill by Master of Tapi Tapi Ken Smith and incorporates all the major concepts of Modern Arnis as taught both by Master Ken and Master Chuck Gauss.
I think that the flow drills are an essential part of the Filipino Martial Arts learning experience.There is no question that you need to learn the basics before graduating to flow drills. My opinion is that practicing techniques ad infinitum does not necessarily lead to self defence proficiency. I believe that flow drills does a better job in this regard.
Does practicing flow drills lead to the flow? Not necessarily. After all, these drills consist entirely of prearranged flow patterns. There is no set pattern to real life self defence situations; one can never predict where the next move or attack will come from. The drills are designed to teach you the flow.
Some can say that you can extract techniques from the flow drills. Yes, it’s true that you can extract techniques or insert a “kill shot” in the midst of these flow drills. However, you should be extracting “the flow” out of these drills instead of “techniques.” No wonder why Professor talked so much about “the flow.” You need to learn and get the feel of what “the flow” is about. When you get the flow, attributes such as reaction, speed, timing and rhythm improve exponentially.
The flow is hard to define; you have to feel it. It’s akin to Justice Potter Stewart’s famous quote about the definition of “obscenity” in a 1964 US Supreme Court case. His test for defining “obscenity” was “I know it when I see it.” Change it to “I know it when I feel it” and you have a decent definition of “the flow.” The best way to learn it is through flow drills.
To reiterate, the flow drills are not combative. It is not even necessarily THE flow. They are just prearranged flow patterns that enable you to LEARN the flow. The continuous flow drills require cooperation between training partners and is a good method for learning the flow. But that’s not all. How can you really flow when you encounter resistance? Recently, I started introducing “freeze points” or “resistance” in some of the flow drills. After all, the bad guy isn’t going to “cooperate.” This requires sensitivity to the other person’s energy and it takes time for this attribute to develop. There are a number of variables that can be thrown in as well. Still, regardless of what variable is thrown in, you still need to “go with the flow” and that takes time, patience, and practice.
Over to the readers, what have you done to develop the flow? Let’s hear about your innovations, ideas, and eureka moments!