Styles in the FMA

James posts the following, and I thought it was something I should address as a separate post.

“When I first learned about FMA I could not understand how they could call long range a style or Elastico a style, to me all ranges and all strike styles should be within the context of a style and not a style unto themselves. I just believe in being a complete fighter.”


With regard to “styles,” the late GM Giron taught 20 or so of them. GM Giron can be seen holding “the master’s fan”

El Abaniko del Maestro

El Abaniko del Maestro of GM Giron

here. Each rib of the fan is a style in his system. This page also has a full listing of the styles. According to GM Estalilla, the 21st, unwritten style on the back of the fan was kabaroan.

Some of these styles on the master’s fan might be thought of as tactics, many of them based on environmental considerations. For instance, “De Fondo” was designed for times when you can only plant one foot solidly.

I remember meeting guys from one art that did multiple¬† “styles,” Disalon and Decampo (Literally, “of the parlor” and “of the country.”) among them. Desalon was a tight, close-quarters style designed for indoors. Decampo was a broader style designed for the outdoors.

Another style was “tinulisan” (“to make like a bandit”), which was hit and run. In other words, a thief doesn’t have time to trade blow for blow, because the cops and enraged neighbors are coming, so he’s going to get in a quick hit or two and take off.

Some of the old Filipino stylists knew only one or a couple of “styles,” others might know multiple styles. While our goal is to be proficient at all ranges and in all environments, I try to give people “full faith and credit” for their system.

I’m careful to avoid the snobbery of some people, who if you don’t do single stick, double stick, wrestling, spear, knife, double knife, bow and arrow, empty-hands, rope, nunchaku, staff, etc., then you aren’t a “real” Filipino martial artist and your art is somehow lacking.


4 Responses to “Styles in the FMA”

  1. True enough,

    My old man was a Korean war vet and my first (and best) stick fighting teacher. He taught me to use a stick/ crow bar/ baseball bat/ etc. Like an M-1 with a bayonet on it. His advice to me was simple: be first, hit hard, and keep moving forward until the other guy is down and out. Different styles are fun to explore but at the end of the day, in my mind, it is important to use what you have to its greatest effect. That is, play your strengths. Look at Glenn Doyle, he uses a big stick but gets inside to do his work and it is pretty damn effective. The other side of that coin is that if your only tool is a hammer, eventually everything starts to look like a nail. I enjoy learning new things and always bring an inquisitive mind to opportunities to learn from someone new. We all have our own “style” and if we can make it work in the real world when it counts, then its a good one, but that doesn’t mean its the be all end all of the game either. I would never discount anyone because they don’t cover everything in one neat little package and anyone who says they can/ do is probably trying to sell you something.

  2. Tommy,

    Your dad is an example of my point. Someone could say, “Look at that old guy –he doesn’t do disarms, hubud-lubud, knife, wrestling, kicks, double stick, etc. That guy doesn’t know jack crap.”

    I would counter, not so fast. Don’t be so quick to dismiss someone’s simple style as inefficient.

    I would begin from a point of respect for your dad’s service and experience. I don’t care how many seminars I’ve attended or “advanced” techniques I might have, I would ask the vet if he would teach me what he knows.

  3. Darrin,

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m sure that there was much he (Dad) did not know but he was comfortable with what he did and confident in his ability to use it if push came to shove. I have spoken of his simple yet effective style in the past and what has repeatedly amazed me is how often some would dismiss his experience because it wasn’t formalized or the lineage was lacking. I think it was Leonardo DaVinci who said something to the effect that simplicity is the ultimate form of sophistication. Perhaps along the lines of Occam’s Razor. Anyways, I have certainly learned more over the years but that foundation has always stuck with me. My dad never really talked too much about his experiences but he obviously had seen his fair share of what did and did not work when men are really interested in killing one another. Anyways, I appreciate your perspective-which mirrors my own quite a bit.

  4. Oh, and I’m pretty sure that if he were still alive today he would be happy to take on all comers in a “friendly” pugil stick match.;).

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