Archive for July, 2014


Language is an integral part of learning. Inasmuch as martial arts is a predominantly physical activity, the transfer of ideas, concepts, principles and knowledge become more efficient with the precise use of terminologies and definitions. This brings to light the situation within the Filipino Martial Arts where there is a huge mishmash of terminologies in a mixed-martial-mess of a combination of Tagalog, Bisaya, Ilonggo, Spanish and English to mention a few.

This has never really been much of an issue to me, until I started teaching abroad. I found that I needed a better understanding of the words I use in class to describe or name techniques. Yes it is very easy to call a technique by numbers. Its efficient when you are trying to emphasize a sequence or hierarchy of techniques. But I find it lacking in spirit to name them that way.

I look at a technique as a self-contained principle. No matter how simple or complex, I look at it as having some guiding logic and reasoning for its existence and importance within a system. I look at it as the description and context that governs the technique. To some degree the names’ true meaning may only be understood by members of the specific style, which also may indicate some level of specialization. I’m finding it also interesting in the cultural aspect to explain things with names that open their minds to the cultural context of what I’m teaching.


To some degree the names’ true meaning may only be understood by members of the specific style


I think it is also important that we keep up the use of the core “old” terms that represent the roots of the systems we practice.  They are like the lines of our palms and fingerprints that identify us and in some ways the FMA family we belong to.

As FMA becomes more and more global, we can anticipate an explosion of new terms as people make the effort to understand it in their own ways. The potential for confusion is there admittedly but if it serves the purpose of progress in training i cant really say anything wrong about it. As FMA grows and spreads and comes into contact with other martial arts, the cross-pollination of terminologies is inevitable.

It is also a sign of the times that as it spreads and comes into contact with other cultures the language with which FMA is taught leaves its mark on it as well like the time when Spanish was the “educated” language of the times of our grandfathers and English nowadays as an international language.

In the end for me it is a tool for communication. I try to find the most efficient way to get the idea across. sometimes it involves creating interesting, whimsical and amusing names, but in the end what is your goal? the message getting across or trying to stick to archaic terminology that people cant connect to? I look at naming as the tool of innovators who are trying to bring FMA into other areas of understanding, trying to expand and expound the understanding through ingenious and creative ways. As our FMA evolves, so should the language we speak it with.