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FMA uniforms

A friend wondered why many traditional Filipino Martial Arts uniforms are black and red. I replied, “Maybe it’s because Filipinos like the color of night and blood.”

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A quiet love

It’s been two years of steady Filipino Martial Arts and I have to say that I’m still in love with it, though not with quite the same intensity as when I first started. It hasn’t lessened but has instead quieted into something steady and just as certain.

I still remember when I first started: I was literally overwhelmed by FMA. I couldn’t concentrate at work for the first week, and then I figured out how to use my desire to go to FMA class as a motivation to finish my work as efficiently as possible so I could leave on time. After I got that out of the way, I burned with impatience while waiting for the time to pass. Sometimes, my cousin even teased me by counting down the minutes.

When I finally did get to class, I always ended up waiting awkwardly at the school, still excited but not quite sure what to do and too shy to talk to anyone. I still wanted to be there every second I could, but being sensible, I resisted the impulse since I knew I would burn out quickly if I did.

Nowadays, I don’t have the same fire about going to class as I used to. I’ll skip classes for social events, or I’ll go through phases where I don’t want to show up at all because I get frustrated with a plateau I’ve reached or irked about how certain things work. But I still train regularly regardless. Filipino Martial Arts has become a part of my weekly routine. I truly can’t imagine life without it.

To practicing many more years of Filipino Martial Arts!

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The more I go, the more I don’t know

During the beginning – what I’ll call the honeymoon period of my training – I was completely empty and ready to be filled with techniques. Each one stuck in my mind vividly.

Now that I’ve learned more than a few, I find them all starting to blend together or crowding out other moves I learned. What’s worse is that the more I go to class these days, the more I feel like I don’t know!

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Get creative this Philippine Independence Day

Philippine Independence Day 2011 plaque
Happy Philippine Independence Day!

I know, it’s a little late, but thought I’d still try to get in a post while it was still the 12th. Back in the Philippines, today is usually about parades and other events, but for people like me who live in other countries, it’s just another Sunday.

Then I discovered this cool Twitter fiction event that Rocket Kapre was doing to celebrate today: tweet alternative history micro-fiction with the hash tag #RP612fic. Sali ako! (Count me in!)

Rocket Kapre also recently concluded a special edition of RP612fic in honor of saving the Philippine corals. They had some pretty cool mico-fics come from it that are worth checking out.

Here’s my micro-fiction for today. What do you think? Remember, even non-writers can participate soooo be gentle:

1)
The Spanish generals were easily eliminated by the women who danced with candlelight and blades flickering in their hands #RP612fic

2)
They thought the sticks the rebels wielded were harmless but little did they know the sticks changed to blade in moonlight #RP612fic

I couldn’t resist the FMA slant, nor the candle dance reference. Ever since I learned our martial arts had been hidden in our folk dances, I started seeing it in everything. Just the other night, I was learning a timing drill that involved me “begging for money” as the guro put it, which was really me holding my hand out palm up to block his arm. One of the professors pointed out how that move was from the candle dance. It’s true! I remember watching that very dance being performed at a recent Filipino festival and the dancer’s hands were held in the same position!

I love learning these little bits about FMA. It always amazes me.

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A week of getting beat up

Last week, I got a bad bruise on my right hand from being disarmed during practice, was accidentally cracked in the hip by a stick during a technique, and got round house kicked several times because I wasn’t fast enough to block it. Gee, thanks guys!

To be fair, I did clumsily knock someone in the head with my stick and later that night, I accidentally hit someone else in a really bad spot. Karma?

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Overload

Sometimes, they teach so many new things at once that I just stop comprehending it, even if I’m performing the movement. Usually, I can get by with just “feeling” my way through a technique, but sometimes my body stops understanding too.

Do you ever get that feeling where your brain just won’t absorb anything more? How do you get past that and focus during class?

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How to Hook Someone on FMA

Hooked on Filipino Martial Arts

I’m hooked on Filipino Martial Arts but it’s not just because it’s part of my heritage or that it’s simply “cool”. There were a couple of things that helped me along that FMA schools should continue to do if they want to win over more students and eventually make FMA as mainstream. I’d certainly love it if people actually recognized what I was talking about when I mention FMA!

Frequent regular classes

In my case, the key thing that hooked me was going to class regularly. My school offers classes almost daily, so there is always going to be something to fit a student’s schedule. The great thing about the people running it is that unlike other martial arts schools, they don’t force a schedule on you. I guess it’s part of the laid back Filipino culture – they told me I could go when I wanted, and even come late or leave early.

“Life happens.” An instructor told me when I asked about their policy. “We understand that.”

That lack of pressure to attend was actually a big reason why I started to go more often. (This probably only applies to me, though, as I hate expectation.) How often? Double the twice a week classes I took when I did beginner’s kick boxing. As I started attending often, the momentum was strong enough to keep me going, even after I took a one week break.

I understand that some FMA schools don’t have the luxury of teaching full time. I’ve heard of many FMA classes being taught in garages or back rooms, which is necessary for smaller schools. In those cases, as long as the classes are offered regularly on whatever days they decide on, and the schedule is made clear to both old students and new guests alike, that should also work. What’s important is that there is a time that students can regularly look forward to so it becomes a permanent part of their own schedule.

Keep it relevant

For every technique I learned, I was given an example of how I could use it in a real life scenario. This engaged me in really learning the technique properly, while sparking my imagination for other possibilities. The street doesn’t work like a text book – there are infinite situations, and new students like me need to be aware that we have to adapt.

That’s why the scenarios I was given wasn’t always life or death. Sure, being assaulted by a random stranger is scary and possible, but real life isn’t always black and white like that. Sometimes, you have drunk friends or friends of friends, and those are the people you don’t want to completely destroy. Knowing how to vary the damage done by a technique is important in those situations. My school knew this and taught us both how to be merciful and how to take someone down.

Seeing how I could easily adapt a technique to any type of situation made me realize that FMA wasn’t just some fancy looking martial art that I’d never use in the real world. It became a practical skill I wanted to learn for life.

Teach quickly and effectively

There is nothing more empowering than learning how to defend yourself in multiple ways in just one hour. That’s how I was taught in my very first class. I never thought I would be able to absorb so much information – how to hold a stick, how to strike, how to zone out of the way, how to perform a technique with a weapon AND without – it was almost overwhelming, yet at the same time so exhilarating.

Other schools like to have an overly structured system, but not Filipino ones. They teach the way it was taught to our ancestors – efficiently. After all, there were no professional soldiers back then, only villagers. You had to teach the mot effective moves quickly if you wanted to train a bunch of villagers to defend themselves. (Read this interesting blog entry I found at Albularyo that sums up the history of FMA.) It’s certainly a different style of teaching that takes getting used to, but it’s perfect for someone like me who has a short attention span.

These were the top three things that got me hooked on FMA. Anyone know any others?

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Falling for Filipino Martial Arts

I am absolutely smitten with Filipino Martial Arts.

No one is more surprised than I am! Growing up, I had never been involved with organized sports, let alone martial arts. The most I ever did was the stuff for P.E. I do love watching action movies but that’s about the extent of my exposure.

Recently, I took an FMA class at a local school dedicated to the art, and it blew me away with its versatility. In just one hour, I learned how to use a stick to defend myself AND I learned how to use the same technique without a weapon. Talk about flexible. After that first taste, it was like I was suddenly empowered, and that was just from one technique! I could only imagine the possibilities that would open up to me if I took more classes.

So I went to more. Every class had something new, which is critical for my short attention span. I was never bored for a moment, and in fact, couldn’t get enough. I started going every day I could, and with each passing day, I fell more and more in love with the art, so much so that I feel compelled to write about it.

This blog is therefore dedicated to my experience learning Filipino Martial Arts and all the life lessons I get from it, fused with my interest in my Filipino heritage. Because I’m totally new to all things martial arts, I’m going to write about it from the beginner’s point of view. Since I notice that this sport, like many others, is dominated by men, I’m also going to cover it from my perspective as a woman.

The name, Pitik-Pitik comes from the Tagalog term, pitik, which means flick, like that from a finger or in this case, a stick. All it takes is that quick flick to deal damage.

Pic of the Pitik-Pitik blogger, Apil