The Myth of Training “Gaps”
There is an excellent post at FilipinoFightingSecrets.com about practitioners who feel the need to study other styles to remedy imagined “gaps” in their own style.
When I studied the long stick style of Kabaroan with GM Estalilla I asked him what he would do against someone who practiced sinawali, the method of fighting with a stick in each hand. In my thinking at the time, a person with one stick would be at a disadvantage against someone with two sticks.
I was thinking just like the student who imagines his art is deficient because all he does is the knife, and he doesn’t do any kicking. This student thinks that his knife-fighting art will be improved if he studies say, tae kwon do, to remedy the “deficiency” in his art.
I was surprised when GM Estalilla explained exactly what he would do against someone with two sticks. I began to see how in his mind he was not at any sort of a disadvantage against the sinawali stylist. If you analyze it, the long stick still has a reach advantage. Furthermore, at long range, the sinawali stylist can only hit with one stick at a time. Sinawali stylists have lighter sticks, and tend to cross their arms. If you counter by moving to the outside (which you should be doing anyway), it doesn’t matter what he has in his other hand.
If we analyze it, there are three options:
- To spend one year on sinawali, one year on espada y daga, one year on solo baston, one year on the machete, etc.
- To spend 15 minutes of every training hour on sinawali, another 15 on espada y daga, the next 15 on solo baston, and the last 15 on the machete, and so on.
- To spend almost all my time on the long stick. Part of that training may be learning how to counter two sticks, a stick and a knife, a machete, a short stick, a staff, etc.
I think we can see that option 3 is the surest route to mastery. I also have to consider how likely I am to encounter someone with two sticks, or a stick and a knife outside of an arnis tournament.
The first two options are common to the “we do it all” schools who teach everything from wrestling, to blowguns, to chains, to spear and shield, etc. The plus side for the teacher is that the checks keep rolling in, as there’s always another weapon to learn and another certification to acquire. You have to ask what sort of real-world fighting proficiency you’re gaining, unless your purpose is to have fun learning obsolete weapons and fighting techniques of other cultures.