“It’s all the same”
I was sitting there watching GM Remy Presas instruct at the first summer camp I went to with him back in 1995 when I kept hearing him tell us these words “It’s all the same.” While I heard those words and thought I understood them or his meaning behind them at the time; it’s now almost 20 years later and still those words, that concept that he was teaching us that day (and many days thereafter), continues to help shape my martial arts training. I have trained with several instructors (at camps and seminars) that have been centered around teaching the Filipino martial arts (FMAs for short) that have really influenced the focus of my teaching methods in both the FMAs and my karate and Kobudo training.
Thirty years ago I went to a Dan Inosanto seminar on the FMAs and it changed my thinking and my course of martial arts study forever. I learned more about self defense in that 6-8 hour seminar than I had in the year or so I had been studying Tae Kwon Do. Guro Dan was the first instructor whom I saw that showed the concept of translating techniques and drills from empty hand to weapon applications. Although Guro Inosanto showed more of how different martial arts and different martial systems blended together, I still took what he showed and applied it to self defense applications. Self defense has always been a main driver for my practice of the martial arts. Over time I have of course shifted my focus from just self defense study to other areas in the martial arts but….. I still tend to filter techniques, applications, strategies, my core instruction etc. etc. based on the application of self defense.
One of the things I really grabbed onto with the FMAs was the teaching concept that techniques can be applied from one weapon group to another, granted there are some adjustments but the training in the FMAs help bring about those adjustments in a quicker manner. In combining the systems of GM Remy Presas’s Modern Arnis and GM Ernesto Presas’s Kombatan system into one system which I called Presas Arnis or Modern Arnis our curriculum is based more on self defense instruction than say a stick fighter’s system. Both GM Remy and GM Ernesto stressed this concept in their instruction, however it was W. Hock Hochheim who really influenced me by giving me the vision and the instruction to help change my thinking.
GM Remy would during his instruction (demos) at his camps make statements while showing different stick techniques like “you are there already! This is a cut” “This is a throw!” and this might have been his way of making the point that with a blade this strike with the empty hand would be a cut, or with a stick this technique could be a choke and with the empty hand it could be a throw etc. etc. He was great at demonstrating and this is how he got his points across, but his verbal instruction methods lacked some making it a hard way to learn this concept. Granted we could see how to apply drills like Empty Hand Sinawali and make the translations to the Single Sinawali (double stick) drill, or how the thrust in that drill could translate to the punch etc. etc. but really this is just the tip of the ice berg, there was so much more. GM Ernesto was a bit different, his system and the way it was set up showed these concepts and the way he taught could lead you to these concepts but…… it was still kind of out there. He could demonstrate it, and demonstrate he did. GM Ernesto would do things like using a water bottle vs. a stick while doing his freestyle drill pattern (showing how you can use anything). Or, like he did at a seminar I helped host for him in 2002; at the end of the seminar he took ideas from the attendees, such as disarming with a bo, sai, tonfa a towel etc. etc. showing us how these all related to what we had learned during his seminar. However where both of them stressed this in regards to learning their martial art systems, Hock stressed it in regards to self defense and took it to a different level for me.
Hock helped me to frame most everything through self defense and he took things to the extreme like practicing Hubud empty hand against a knife then quick drawing a rubber band gun and shooting the person in center mass, or wrestling with one person going for submissions while the other goes for getting to the eyes or throat. He’d add things to the drills to up the frustration or stress levels making you adapt. Hock would take the feeding patterns and add kicks, punches, different techniques, or even different weapon combinations breaking down the barriers we would form in our minds, all of the while teaching us that this is what is going on.
This was such a different concept for me at the time because prior to this I was use to thinking that using a sai, a tonfa, and a rattan stick were all vastly different. On top of this I was being told that my empty hand techniques were similar to my techniques with weapons? WHAT!!!!!?
However this is what helped set me straight, this is what helped me to see that the weapon is an extension of the hand; that I didn’t need to learn a bunch of katas for each type of weapon. (Don’t get me wrong I enjoy learning and practicing katas, I believe that with katas there also needs to be application of the techniques found within the kata.) That a flashlight could be used like a stick, that a two handed grip on a backpack or a brief case is similar to a two handed grip on a stick, that this hand hold release could also be used to release a hand that is trying desperately to keep me from drawing my weapon or keeping me from getting to my assailant with it. That I could apply a wrist lock with my hand, a stick, a knife, a sai, a tonfa, even a water bottle and that in many ways as GM Remy use to say “It’s all the same”.