One Peak, Many Paths

This week I got a pair of Bahi hardwood sticks that was brought in from Cebu for my iKali practice. They truly are a lovely pair of heavy and solidly hard sticks.

I got a lovely bonus from the seller in the form of an interesting introduction to the version of Filipino martial arts (FMA) that he practices. Let me start by saying that I can see from his movements that he is a very skilled practitioner.

If I did not know that he is an FMA player the stuff that he told me could well pass off as things we talk about in the Neijia arts. But as it is it is a pleasant surprise to hear of this aspect of FMA.

I find it interesting that their art is heavily concept based in that they don’t teach drills. Instead, they teach you to respond by giving you pressure to teach you to react properly.

When I listen to someone talk I try not to bring my own bias and knowledge into it. Instead, I try to keep an open mind. Let him tell it as it is. Then later after I have a chance to think it over properly then I can have a better opinion.

Though his art takes a radical approach to the training of FMA, on reflection it is similar to iKali in the teachings. I have outlined my impressions and conclusions below :-

1) Concept based – his art begins with a concept and keeps to this path instead of moving on into drills. In iKali we begin with a concept and use drills to learn how to use the concept

2) His art has no drills. In iKali we do have drills, lots of it. Their art looks upon drills as not realistic and in this I agree, that is, if drills are taught wrongly then they are next to useless. However, in iKali drills actually teach us usage. In fact, though I am only a month into it and I am still doing the most basic drills I am constantly amazed by what I discover.

Beginners keep working on the basic footwork and Open Series drills. Today I was out and for some reason my hands went to work on the salute. I mean the salute is the first thing we learn. We are told what it means and even about the hidden application inside. So what else is new?

Well, as it is I kept moving through the salute without a stick in hand but a machete in mind. I went through the movements and kept the application in mind. The more I did it the more the Open Series drills I have been practicing now came to make sense. I had also looked through a video from the Flow section particularly the Umbrella Series and now I get it, at least I think I did, the salute is an Umbrella movement followed by an Entry 4 cut.

And once the butt of the stick or should I say the butt of the machete handle comes to the heart I can have possibilities of continuing on with the attack, perhaps a jab then Entry 6 cut (or even disarm using Sagang Labo), or a hip load into a cut to the knee (and change into Entry 6), or even a tap (feint) and change to a horizontal cut. I have seen Tuhon Apolo explain these things in different videos but seeing is seeing, and experiencing for myself is a different thing.

3) He mentioned that when striking the other non-striking hand is important. I won’t mention that this is a common knowledge in Chinese martial arts. Certainly, I had learned this in the early teachings in iKali when I learned about the shoulder loading position. Tuhon Apolo also pointed this out in the teaching about the use of the blade specifically the importance of learning to check.

4) He pointed out that a concept can be expressed many ways by illustrating different ways to attack Number 12. Interestingly, I had seen an earlier video of Tuhon Apolo explaining the concept of Meet and Merge in the Flow section.

Here Tuhon Apolo demonstrated a few ways that Meet and Merge can be applied conceptually instead of as a fixed technique. When I think of it a number of the techniques in the Wing Chun Bart Jam Dao that I know are essentially ways to apply Meet and Merge.

5) Feeder – this was the term he used to describe how they used pressure to teach students. Tuhon Apolo has also said that iKali is a feeder art. But then so is any Chinese martial art that trains sensitivity drills.

Sometimes the teaching can also begin from the other end of the spectrum. When I learned Tai Chi push hands my teacher didn’t try to feed me energy first. Instead, he had me attack him any way I like so that I can learn how he responded. It was only after some time had passed that I reached the stage of him attacking me, feeding me the energy to train my reaction.

By this time and in this manner I had learned to control my reaction and so is in a better position to learn how to use techniques to respond instead of panicking and twisting and turning to get away from the feeding attacking.

A different art can sound different, look different at first glance. However, when you get into it you may realize that different styles are essentially many paths to lead to the same peak even as the flavors taste different. So diversity is the spice of life.

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