Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lessons learned from teaching

As I got back from Madrid, where I conducted a Systema seminar less than a month after the previous one in Belgium, it was time to summarize the thoughts and conclusions drawn. As I have pointed earlier, for me, teaching is a wonderful learning experience. Especially so when you are able to intersperse regular training in your group/club with occasional seminar or two.

Spanish batch

What seems like the biggest difference in approach is that in one's group it makes more sense to go with a relaxed and not to tightly structured sessions, as knowing the people and feeling their mood allows for a more intuitive approach. It does not mean going with a totally haphazard manner, though. The point is that since the majority of club members are around most of the time (at least they should be), sooner or alter they will be exposed to all parts of the curriculum (if you have one) and learn all the fundamental stuff you have to offer.

In seminars, on the other hand, the presentation must be better structured, no matter the chosen topic, so that the attendees can put thing into perspective. In my case, it means showing the entire (or as much as possible) progression in developing some skill, thus hopefully helping the information retention with the participants. Obviously, it can mean several things.

First, mechanical fundamentals of the skill you are teaching. Preferably, you will do it in a "chronological" manner, i.e. following the logic of "what they need to know first, and then next, etc". For example, blocking an attackers strike with stick with your own will be weak if you do not know how to grip the implement; kicking someone in the head does not make much sense if you do not know how to do a low kick, and so on.

Next, adding the external force to the drill. Essentially it means some form of resistance on either side. In doing a takedown, the opponent will try to prevent the fall; in executing a punch or kick, the partner will be moving... On defense, you may first learn the rolls and breakfalls on your own, to be followed by a partner pushing you.

Finally, add the emotional content. This is a very important aspect, and many people/schools fail to do it. IN line with the above examples, you will be looking for a takedown while the opponent is punching you; same with striking; or instead of being pushed into rolls and falls - you are kicked etc. This is where sparring becomes essential, but it does not stop there, nor is it the only way to achieve the desired outcome.

The bottom line is - train with aliveness (yeah, get acquainted with Matt Thornton's work if you have not so far), but go both symmetrical and asymmetrical with it (read my own previous posts if you have not :-)

Again, back to the class vs. seminar issue. The last mentioned part of the progression is easier to realize in the club setting. simply, in seminars there are way too many factors that have to be taken into account - logistics (protective equipment, space, weapon facsimiles...), matching people's level and experience, monitoring so many people at once, so on and so forth.

Naturally, some domains of fighting are easier to govern as you go further. It is obviously less risky to go run people through the full scope of resistance in grappling then (kick)boxing, wrestling than stick fighting... But that is probably the subject to be discussed at another point in time.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Recommended fitness books

Wow! When I started working on this article, I did not expect it would turn out to be so long. I apologize if you find it bothersome, but one has to be fair in his labor of love, right? After all, this will hopefully give you a better insight into what to expect of these products.

One of my earlier posts touched upon the need to include some sort of organized and regular physical preparation regimen into your training. While that post was received with approval by several of the people whose opinion I care for, some others were asking if there was some sort of aid that could help them in putting together a strength & conditioning program that would fit their need. Since all of those inquiries came from the people from the domain of martial arts[i], here are my recommendations…


Yeah, the title threw me off a bit at first as well. However, if there was ever a book whose title claims to be ultimate something, and delivered – than this is the one! What makes it so good is the fact that the author addresses some very important topics that are almost never seen in other books, as well as his approach to the subject. This manual takes the first place in this review for a reason, although the next two are good and have something unique to offer. However, if you were to obtain any two books mentioned here, make sure that one of them is the “Ultimate MMA Conditioning”.

Namely, from the very get go of the book, Jamieson stresses what is probably the hallmark of his method – individual needs of each particular athlete/fighter! Once his fundamental training philosophy is set like that, it dictates the presentation of the material throughout out chapters that follow. Another think is that the author believes into his customers/readers needing to know all the WHYs of doing the things he preaches (now you understand my inclination to this book J ). As a result, he discusses the scientific rationale for each of the training methods he uses, but instead of trying to sound like an authority by making it all sound beyond the reach of a mere mortal, everything is rather nicely broken down and simplified to the point needed for the best possible comprehension. If you still do not get it…well, I guess you should have paid more attention during the science classes back in school.

The book starts with the chapter that points to most common mistakes that fighters make in attempt to work on their physical preparation, and then progresses to laying foundation for the proper planning. To that end, he stresses a few necessary principles:
-         the role of strength and conditioning; probably best summed by Jamieson himself as “developing the ability to effectively utilize their skills as fast and as long as possible”. If you prefer it in other words, the best possible transfer of your training into your performance.
-         biological power; essential concept for having a better look at the “bigger picture” of your training. Once you have a grasp of this, everything else falls in place much easier.
-         systematic approach to physical preparation; here the author explains how the operative systems of the body (depicted in the previous section) work together, and what sort of developments are looked for in cohesion, in order to make one’s training effective.
-         specificity of adaptation; a short section but a must read! This is where most program will either succeed or fail, and understanding the need for desired physiological adaptation is crucial for being in the former group.
-         general adaptation syndrome; Again, why the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts, and why your training needs to be systematic.

The second chapter is titled “Energy systems Development 101” and this is what made Jamieson probably one of the best currently most sought-after coaches and presenters/lecturers in the field of S&C. here, he discusses what conditioning really is, and what it means for fighting[i]. In short, explained is the significance of the processes of energy production and utilization, and then you have the overview of the energy systems that run our bodies: aerobic, anaerobic lactic and anaerobic alactic.

In the third chapter, we move to the treatment of the aerobic system. Here, the author sets the method of presentation for other systems as well – the meaning of this system in MMA; the adaptations is requires; methods of eliciting those adaptations (in this case, cardiac output, power intervals, tempo method, threshold training etc).

Next comes the coverage of the anaerobic lactic system. What I found very interesting and informative here was the report on some long held beliefs on the nature of fatigue and how they may have been wrong. Again, we get to understand the role of this system and  learn methods to improve on it (power intervals, capacity intervals, circuit training…).

Following is, of course, the chapter on the anaerobic alactic system, why and how to train it (intervals, max effort, complex method etc).

Once all this is behind us, Jamieson moves to the “nuts and bolts” of his training methodology, i.e. describes the programming and management of the training process. He explains how to put the pieces together in a coherent way. We learn that the author adheres to the so-called block periodization approach and what it means. In practice, it translates as the understanding of general and specific conditioning and how to order those in succession.

Chapter seven describes the realization of one’s general training program. It starts with basic programming guidelines, such as: training to maximize strengths and minimize weaknesses; training right motor qualities together; testing, assessing and tracking your progress; integration of your fitness regimen with your skill work; using the 8 week block system.

From there on, the specific blocks are presented, each specifying the methods to assess and develop:
-         general endurance
-         general strength
-         explosive speed and power
-         power-endurance

Naturally, what comes next is the info on the application of the accumulated knowledge in training – designing individual programs, selecting means and methods, organizing loads to attain desired effects, managing volume and intensity, avoiding and recovering from overtraining.

Finally, we move to the specific conditioning section in chapter eight, or as the book has it titled “Getting Ready to Fight”. Again, Jamieson first lays the foundational principles, and then proceeds to the training of specific physical qualities in the proper order. The final section of this chapter gives the overall plan of how to conduct your preparation during the week of the fight, thus tackling the issues such as making weight, resting and recovering and maintaining the results you had achieved thus far.

Since the publishing of this book, Joel Jamieson has introduced even more progressive insights in personal fitness and athletic training (just search for HRV training on the Internet), but the material presented in the book will certainly take you to the new level of your own training, like it did for guys like Rich Franklin, Jens Pulver, Demetrious Johnson and many other top-level fighters.

To order the manual and also learn loads of good things on training, check out the author’s website

NOTICE: this book does not offer any “easy to follow” sample workout plans and routines, nor are the exercises and training methods sown in big pictures! Also, there is no mention of how to organize any single training session, i.e. warm up, stretching etc. having in mind the declared purpose of the manual – it delivers, no doubt about it…just make sure to know what you are expecting out of it.


Before Martin Rooney, the physical preparation in the domain of MMA was almost in the stone age phase. His work with Renzo Gracie’s team has set the standards of what a good, properly executed S&C training regimen should look like, and now the sport is what it is largely owing to that.

Being that it was written and published before the previous book, in the time what a lot of people in MMA (and martial arts in general) were pretty much clueless about the advances in modern sports training, Ronney’s book is profusely illustrated, and in certain aspects, covers more ground than Jamieson’s.

Firs three chapters actually give an overview of what MMA is and what are the overall technical requirements form a competent fighter, which should also start shedding some light on the complexity of training that it demands. In the fourth chapter, we are instructed that all of the training methods to be presented can be realized without any equipment, but then the authors recommends a few implements in order to maximize your training (barbells and dumbbells, medicine and physio balls, dragging sled, pull-up bars etc).

Then, we go to more specific stuff. Rooney first touches upon an area that everybody seems to be taking for granted – mental aspect. Here, we see what makes a warrior (nowadays, this term has been so overused that I cringe at it, but this is what the book calls it), because these elements will dictate whether the trainee will even engage in this sort of training, and if they do, how far they will be ready to push themselves.

Next in line is a warm up section. This is another segment that everybody knows is important, yet this is the most often the one to “just get it over with”. Well, if you want to do it properly, follow along with this chapter. It shows the stationary exercises, movement drills, muscle activation exercises (more important that many people will think), often neglected upper body warm ups – without tools and with medicine ball.

From there on, the author addresses the physical training in a way that many people are best accustomed to. He divides the body in parts and then describes how to train each – neck; chest and shoulders; arm and hand; back; abs; heart and lung (yes, it’s the conditioning part); hips; glutes and quads; hamstrings; foot and ankle. What this achieves is that different needs are addressed, depending on the body parts. For example, some chapters will include both mobility and strength exercises.

The chapter on flexibility training comes as a separate one, but presented in a similar manner like the previous ones, although the entire body is run through the exercises in the same chapter.

The next section of the book moves to training programs, and it opens up with important, yet frequently misunderstood topics of weight cutting and nutrition, and in a rather detailed manner. If you are actually training for fights, you seriously need this info.

The chapter on injuries is an excellent one! Now, we’ve all had some, and probably even have to deal with reoccurring ones, and Ronney offers a strategy of dealing with injuries in the form of a list. Without going into all ten of them, I feel there are at least two that are absolutely necessary to really take to heart:
  1. Accept that the injury has happened, and move forward;
  2. (actually number 9 in his list) Develop a list of things that the injury is trying to tell you.
Finally, we come to the program of “Warrior Workouts”. It also happens to be a program of eight weeks, but presented as a ready made plan, describing every workout of every week. The system is based on 4 weekly workouts – one upper body; one lower body; and two of what the author calls hurricane sessions.

Of course, not each and every single one of those sessions has to be executed absolutely to the last detail. The logistics you have on disposal will play a major role in your ability to realize some of those, but that is why all of the chapters on particular body parts have exercises that are done without any equipment, as well as those with various tools, so you could try to replace the listed ones with something that should hopefully achieve similar effect.

If you are a beginner in this field of training, Ronney’s books may be a better starting pint than Jamieson’s. However, if you take your training seriously, and especially if you are aiming to be a coach, at one point you will need to develop the kind of understanding that is provided by Jamieson.

Training for Warriors – the Team Renzo Gracie Workout

OK, obviously this book builds on and draws heavily from the “main” manual, but some of the info is presented in a way that I liked a little bit better, plus there are some chapters that deal with topics that were not mentioned in the previous.

Without going into too much detail, there are valuable insights into the areas such as punching speed and plyometric training; role of the cornerman in a fight; strategy analysis; additional (excellent) info about injuries; conditioning to taking impact from your opponent’s strikes; lessons from competition; motivation; Q&A chapter etc.

This book, at some 190 pages is smaller than the “main” manual (over 300), but I feel it has enough of good information (almost like being there with them, watching the training process) in there to be worthy of adding it to your library.

Rooney’s books used to be widely available from most online bookshops, and I guess they should not be too hard to find.

Jason Ferruggia – FITTO FIGHT

Let me get out with the thing I do not like about this book. Ferruggia’s writing style at moments tries to hard to portray the tough mo-fo vernacular that may be characteristic of some MMA fighters (and probably even more so among the fans), but in a book it can get a bit corny fairly quickly.

Other than that, this book is very good. It covers all the bases it needs to (although, just like Rooney, the conditioning aspect focuses almost entirely on the anaerobic work. Jamieson really shines in explaining the importance and problems of neglecting the aerobic portion), starting with the author’s view on what makes a good combat athlete; moving onto assessment and injury prevention; proceeding with conditioning part; following is the chapter on strength training; then speed and explosive strength; through nutrition.

The approach to these topics is, naturally, different then in the previous books, but still well thought out and presented. For example, the assessment and testing chapter is excellent, giving a very good insights into what a trainee NEEDS to work on, instead of what they WANT to work. The conditioning section is realized entirely with bodyweight exercises, in the form of circuits and/or interval training, so that eliminates most of the logistics issues that some people whine about.

Now, the strength chapter is interesting…and titled “Strongman Training”. That is because for this purpose Ferruggia recommends the use of equipment such as sandbags, kegs, sledgehammers, dragging sleds and tractor tires. Some coaches see it as a gimmick and a fad, but in my own view it has at least two advantages – it’s affordable and it introduces some novelty into training. The former is self explanatory and the latter is very welcome for people who are struggling to find motivation for additional training. With these implements the fun aspect seems to be stronger, hence helping the motivation.

That said, the author most certainly does not shun from the use of barbells and dumbbells. They come in as a staple of his approach to explosive power and speed, as depicted in the designated section of the book, along with ply boxes, medicine balls etc. Like in Ronney’s book, Ferrugia also gives the planned workouts to follow. Again, good for a fighter who has no S&C coach, nor inclination to learn that part of the craft; not all that good in the long term.

It bears saying that Ferruggia’s professional background is in fitness training, and the man has gained, deservedly so, quite a following and reputation in that domain. This foundation really comes out well in the chapter on nutrition…

…but absolutely shines in the one dealing with supplements! Like it or not, hordes of people, on various level of training, are using those. Like so many others, the author underlines the necessity for a good diet, but on the highest levels of MMA training the demand on the body is tremendous, so it is much better to have some practical and coherent info on enhancing your eating plan, than listening to hearsay stories from “a friend of my buddy, who dates a sister of this dude who…”, you know how these things can get out of hand.

Finally, my favorite section of this book is dedicated to the recovery and regeneration from training. It is also the one that makes this book unique comparing to the previously reviewed. By know, everybody should be aware that the desired adaptations of the body come from training, but during the resting periods. With so many people training in a haphazard manner, with the only guideline being the overused principle of “no pain, no gain”, it’s no winder many of them end up finding their performance being worse from all the training, instead of improving. Ferrugia provides some extremely valuable advice and guidance here, especially for the people who like/need a proactive approach to recovery. Be warned though – you will not like all the methods he advocates!

The “Fit to Fight” is also widely available throughout the Internet, both in printed and electronic formats, so you should not have any trouble getting a copy.

Other worthy mentions

The above books and authors are certainly not the only out there to deal with the subject that concerns us here. They are, nevertheless, the ones I have found most adequate to be used in one’s training with good transfer to specific performance requirements. Keep in mind a couple of things, though – this review is still a PERSONAL opinion, and only speaking of the products I have seen and used so far. Be as it may, there are a couple more books you may want to check out.


This is book was published quite long ago, before the above ones, so the treatment of the topic is…well, consequent. Namely, the training methods presented in this one may not be cutting-edge and resulting from direct interaction with top-level competitors in a sport as physically demanding as MMA, but there are some other dimensions that make it a valuable read. First, it may appeal much better to all those people who do martial arts/sports other than MMA. For them, Staley does a beautiful job out of explaining the need to include some sort (preferably well organized) of physical preparation in their overall training. Second, with its design based on the so-called concurrent periodization, it possibly provides a better long term base for younger practitioners and those competing in sports that boil down to one or two tournaments a year.


Like all of his other works, this manual is written in a very straightforward fashion and with hands-on attitude in mind. What I liked about it is the approach from the standpoint of movement patterns (hinge, squat, pushing, pulling), as well as the treatment of topics such as breathing while exercising and grip training. For amateur fighters, who do not have either time or resources/access to logistics, this is a nice and handy book.


It was with heavy heart that I put this one in the “lower ranks” of this review. You see, I really like everything written by Ross Enamait, because it is very hard, if not impossible, to find a guy who attacks his subject with so much honesty and directness. The man himself was fighter and trains other fighters, so all his info is tried and tested. Speaking of which, it applies to any of his books, and you simply cannot go wrong with Enamait. However, I think he could use an advisor when it comes to putting a finishing touch on his products. The presentation, in technical terms, is not up to par with the information he gives. Anyway, the high point of this book is its emphasis on training the motor qualities, and using various tools as means to an end. In the days when so many people are obsessed with the tool (be it kettlebells, Bulgarian bags, resistance bands, what have you), it is really refreshing to see this kind of emphasis on getting the job done! 

[i] This is what I had in mind in the first note.

[i] While all three main books reviewed are aimed primarily at the performance in MMA, once you understand the material therein, you should be able to apply it for your own needs.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Updates and expectations

Later this month I will be conducting a seminar in Belgium, and then another one four weeks later in Spain. It's been a while since I have done seminars abroad, so there are several things I look forward to.

First, seeing some old friends and making new ones. Honestly, at this point of my "career" in martial arts, it is probably the main good thing about going to seminars. Of course, learning something new is always exciting (btw, there is a LOT to learn from teaching such events, if you pay attention), as is seeing new places and trying new cuisines and stuff, but it is the specific energy of the gathering that distinguishes these get-togethers from other communal instances. I guess it is due to the shared passion for something that not too many "ordinary" people understand...

Next,  over the years I have adapted and changed (hopefully grown) as a an instructor, and presenting a seminar is always a nice testing ground for your technical skills and teaching "chops". Getting away from the comfort zone of one's own training group/club provides the new and different energy to work with and plethora of valuable insights. Teaching in a condensed block fashion also requires a different kind of focus and communication approach, so again - fresh perspective on my own understanding of the material. Not to mention the questions coming from the participants...

All in all - I expect have a blast, and promise to share the impressions and some footage with my faithful readers :-)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Systema mittology (and lack thereof)

In most martial art circles nowadays, Russian Systema is considered to be from the category of modern systems, although they will sometimes claim centuries old historical roots. Still, even so, the majority of systema schools around the world will also advertise themselves as modern, science-based etc.

Having that in mind, there is one striking feature in the training process in the grand majority of most “classical” schools, and is the conspicuous absence of training equipment involved. Some of the will occasionally reach for some boxing gloves and/or headgear for (rather rare) occurrences of pressure testing (with a few honorable exceptions that make it a regular feature of their programs), but that is pretty much it.

There is a piece of training equipment that is very versatile in it possible applications, that I really fail to fathom how come it is not in common use – a good old-fashioned focus mitt! Sure, striking practice with a live, breathing partner is indispensable, but it does lack in some areas, such as hitting the head, groin area and hard kicks to legs from certain angles for example.

Shapes, colors, sizes...
Another point is, even with punches to the body, one’s progress in developing the power in punches and testing it is more or less limited by their partners’ ability to take those same hits, especially in dynamic circumstances and drilling on the move. Again, some sort of striking target offers a quick remedy for those impediments.

Ok, in this clip we see the trainees working punching combos on focus mitts. The catch is that they are working from a kneeling position on the ground, as it forces them to really work the mechanics of punching that relate primarily to the upper body, since they cannot “dig in” hard and push from the feet. Also, it aims to open their mind in view of all the options of WHEN to strike, i.e. not missing the opportunity to hit a good target just because you’re not in your most comfortable zone.

It kinda lays the foundation (well, at least one aspect of it) for the next type of drill.

Here, the trainee is instructed to hit the target as often as possible in a more chaotic situation. Namely, the third participant works on his or her structure breaking options and takedowns, while the striker does not oppose it. Instead, they have to go with the flow, engage the ground as subtly as possible and get up again immediately, while striking the mitt at all times and from any position.

This one would be much harder to do safely with targeting people, especially if also trying to hit with some tangible force. Again, while it is necessary to be hitting people (and get used to being hit as well), there is nothing wrong with making things more “fun” with the simple introduction of some simple equipment.

The prevailing majority of guys in the videos are beginner with 1-3 months of training experience, so don’t be too harsh in judging their performance ;-) 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

FMA for 21st century - interview with Jon Escudero

I first met Jon Escudero, a master of Lightning Scientific Arnis, during a martial art training camp in Slovenia, back in 2010. He immediately struck me as a very nice, down to earth person, very easy and agreeable to talk to. However, what made him really gain major respect in my eyes was the way he moves and teaches his style, and especially seeing his students perform. In this case, Jon's students are a true testimony to his teaching skill. Therefore, I though a little bit of interrogation was in order...

OK, let’s start with some brief introduction, i.e. cliché stuff – how did you get involved with martial arts; and then how/why did you end up doing FMA?

The 70s and the 80s were a great era for martial arts in cinema.  Every cliché was pretty much explored.  Everything from Shaolin monks, to ninja and samurai found its way to the big screen.  So I think I just about watched every movie there was with my father.  As a kid growing up, these movies as well as comics and books on fantastic and mythical battles sparked my interest in the martial arts.  There that many schools accessible or reputable around that time so I just took what lessons I could in school as well as fooling around with friends and classmates.  I'll skip to college where training took a turn for the serious.  I was involved in establishing the university Wushu club where I was active for several years until the day I saw the university arnis club perform a demonstration.  It changed my life.  This was this university club founded by Maestro Elmer Ybanez practicing the LESKAS system, a Lightning Scientific Arnis group. It was the speed and power that impressed me.  I've seen many styles in the parks and competitions in malls by then but, this style spoke to me.  

Who were your FMA instructors, and what was the training like?

 The martial arts community in the University was very small so it was just a matter of time until I joined them.  In the university club I trained with different people, but one of those who introduced me to the training floor was Felipe Jocano, Jr.  He was actually my professor in one of my classes in the university.  We struck up a friendship and started training with him and the other guys in the university club.  It was Master Elmers club, but at that time he'd already moved to the US, so I mostly trained with his seniors.  People in the FMA will know them as the younger generation of LSAI  masters.

The group training was very eclectic.  Arnis was at its core, but we'd mix it up with a lot of stuff.  You see, apparently we all came from previous martial arts backgrounds.  I had my Kung fu, while others came from Karate, judo, boxing, wrestling, jujitsu and Muay Thai and other athletic backgrounds.  What brought us together was the stick fighting.

A lot of time was spent at the tire dummy working out various different speed combinations, power combinations with different weapon combinations and other stuff.  Of course the partner training was interesting because the atmosphere was different.  Training was like a jamming session.  You brought what you knew to the table.  We worked our core skills but whenever we thought we were on to a good idea, we tried it out.  We broke a lot of sticks and gear this way.  The group also cross-trained in other activities.  We ran together, got involved in wrestling, boxing , power-lifting.  We didn't concern ourselves with collecting techniques, what occupied our time was training what we knew and making it work. This meant a lot of sparring time and being on the receiving end of many hard knocks.

Eventually, the whole group migrated to the Grandmaster. It was our transition into the GM's methodology.  He exposed us to a lot more material.  He basically threw everything he had at us. We were also some of the lucky ones he took on demonstrations abroad. It was the experience of a lifetime.  The learning experience under him was more than just what you could learn in class.  Many times eureka moments would come from the conversations with him.  Of course watching him teach was one of the best ways to learn, and provided us insights into the development of Lightning.

During one of our conversations in Slovenia, as a response to my comment on some interesting and modern training methods you were employing, you mentioned “giving something in return to the art”. What does it mean, how do you pay your dues, and why would you want to do it?

There are some events in life that can be called life-changing.  Arnis is one of those things for me.  Martial arts is my passion. It is something I cannot see myself doing without.  Arnis has heightened that passion.  It has brought me many experiences and things that I'm very thankful for.  I've met the most interesting people, travelled to amazing places and done some pretty cool stuff, so what's there to not be thankful for.  Arnis changed my life.  So I think that's why I teach.  To be able to share the knowledge, understanding and joy of the art.  I wouldn't be where I am if not for my teachers.  LSAI Grandmaster, Benjamin Luna Lema, and his legacy serve as my motivation.  So I give back to the art by teaching his system, keeping his story and history alive in my students.  Wherever I teach I tell them about my roots.  Whenever I teach someone, I tell them that they're connected to a lineage and legacy and not to just a bunch of techniques.

If I understood correctly, you have a two-prong approach to teaching LSA – traditional and modern/tactical. Could you elaborate on the reasons for this division, common traits and differences? Also, where does the sportive practice of FMA fit in?

That is correct.  It mostly has to do with training mindset.  In a classical curriculum, it is assumed that the student agrees to train in a planned progression of ranks or levels advancing through different technique sets and drills to develop the fighting attributes that the style or system deem appropriate with the fighting philosophy of the style.  It also speaks about the readiness of the student in terms of physical and mental terms to progress to more sophisticated techniques and applications. This is the long term plan.

The tactical class is a concentrated class, something like a high-intensity immersion in techniques with simple mechanics.  In this class we work with the tactical baton, folder and Dulo-Dulo.  We also work hand to hand as well as empty hand against weapons.  The class focuses on short quick techniques that can be learned fast, built on the gross motor sets to bring quick results.  Nothing too fancy, twirly or sophisticated in terms of motor coordination.  Mostly it's the use of repeating strikes at different angles with substitutions such as punches or kicks or other attacks of opportunity.

The funny thing is, in the end, there are no shortcuts.  We somehow meet up in the middle.  Students in the classical class are curious about the dynamic mix on non-standard techniques in the tactical class, and the tactical class sees the value of learning the foundation of the techniques and how it improves their applications and execution.

When it comes to the training methodology, what segments/fields of the contemporary sport training do you find relevant to training/learning FMA, or weapon-based martial arts in general?

I go back to the core attributes - speed, strength and stamina.  Do sports that compliment your training.  It doesn't even have to be a martial art.  Training hard at martial arts can lead to some form of burnout, so sports or games with similar movements can be a welcome break, or even refresh you.  Badminton is one of those sports great for developing agility and smashing power. Table tennis is also great for fine motor development. Sprinting is wonderful for developing linear speed, track plyometrics also develops multidirectional bursts and movement. Doing these drills with variable amounts of resistance and over different durations might well redefine your game.

In mentioning your name with other LSA practitioners (like Bob Park or Shaun Porter for example), they frequently respond with phrases like “excellent methodology”, “good curriculum”, “nice teaching system” and similar. So, what is your take on forming a sound FMA curriculum – what does it consist of; what are the principles and logic behind making it as such?

LSA in general embodies an impressive body of knowledge.  What changed for me though is that I stopped teaching people to memorize stuff.  Instead, I broke things down into redefining why we move the way we do in LSA and show how it does not work against our natural instinctive reactions.  By doing this we are establishing a fighting philosophy or in simpler terms, determining our goal and defining our task (which in this case is ending a fight in the swiftest, most efficient and safest manner available).  Understanding this helps us frame how we learn technique, as well as answer the question of WHY we do stuff.

You have to ask yourself, are you creating fighters or dancers?  What I learned was, you become by doing.  So my classes have more and more involved sparring and this is supplemented by the classical material.  

Logo of Jon's school

You have taught in both the Philippines and abroad. Are there any significant differences between the approach to training among the people back home and in western world?

That is an excellent question.  It is also one of the most interesting experiences I've had. I've learned teaching abroad.  It is easy to take for granted cultural differences and miscommunication can happen a lot of times.  And it's easy to base your expectations on what you are accustomed to as well as on assumptions based on culture. So all in all it's been a very eye opening experience.

The most significant experience, I think, is that you have to represent more than just your style.  In the Philippines it's easy to be very focused and specific to your style because representatives of other systems come in handy readily since you are all in the same country.  Outside, they often do not have this background information, so a lot of effort must be put in to educating them on the differences and similarities, histories, personalities.  Terminologies and language can be challenging to teach and explain.  To me, it's not just about teaching the fighting aspects, but it's also an education in what's Filipino.

What makes a good instructor?

For me it's about balancing the needs of the student with the needs of the style.  Students come for many different reasons.  Health, fitness, love of martial arts, self defense, or national pride.  An instructor should know what experience he's offering and stick to it, put the effort, put his heart into it. A good teacher doesn't teach halfway.

What makes a good student?

Hard work impresses me.  Diligence and perseverance impresses me, sometimes stubbornness as well. Initiative is a good trait to have, definitely.  Being a good athlete is an advantage or having the talent for it, but for me, it's only a plus that they should use wisely.  I’ve seen talented people be overtaken by diligent and hardworking students.
Jon and his wife/partner Neta

Where do you see the place and practice of FMA in ten years? Where would you LIKE to see it?

I definitely want to see more FMA in the mainstream. I don't think there's anything wrong with hoping FMA becomes a household word like karate or kung fu. It deserves it's place in the sun. I'm glad that it has been formally recognized as the Philippine national sport. Maybe now the traditions, efforts and contributions of the Grandmasters will get some recognition.

Any closing words?

In closing, I dunno…  I can keep going on and on and on.  But to wrap things up nicely, to me the martial arts is a path, and this road is only as long as you can walk it.  I'll do what I can to promote the FMA, and for as long as there is a student out there, I'll teach.