We don’t know how it’s going to go down, we just know it’s imminent. It could be like the Terminator or the Matrix where technology turns around and replaces us at the top of the food chain, forcing us to form pockets of resistance to fight back. It could be like 28 Days Later or I Am Legend where only a few of us have immunity to a super virus that transforms others into raging monsters. Maybe it will be like The Day After Tomorrow and planet Earth herself will wage war against us. No matter how it happens, if you get through the actual “end,” if you survive the apocalypse, you had better be prepared. One thing is for certain, if I get through the apocalypse, I’m not going to let some robot, zombie, or even Toecutter and his gang from the original (and best) Mad Max movie take me down easily.
Doce Pares style of San Miguel is my choice. Why Filipino Martial Arts? Because I’ve yet to find a more versatile system for self defence and combat, and I’ve tried quite a few. If the rapture comes and Saint Michael is heading up the charge, it would probably pay to use the fighting art that he gave his name to (just in case).
The Filipino Martial Arts are one of the few martial arts that are still current, and by that I mean the martial art is not restricted to the sporting arena and subjected to a system of rules. My teacher, GM Danny Guba, is the survivor of many an altercation involving guns, knives, and bad intentions. His instructors and peers carry the scars of a society where every person carries a blade and, all too often, life is cheaper than a bullet. The methods he teaches go from simple to sophisticated and beyond, yet the basic principles behind his teaching never change.
Filipino Martial Arts is best known for stick fighting. This is Filipino Martial Art’s popular face, but the stick is only a metaphor. It represents anything that you can hold in your hand. When learning the stick, you practice twelve basic attacking angles with appropriate defences and counters. You are then taught to apply these twelve angles and their counters at various ranges with various tools including empty hand, short blade, long blade, and blunt instrument.
Pretty soon you learn to adapt to whatever comes your way, any strike aimed at you (fist, claw, blade, or bludgeon) will travel along one of the twelve angles that you have drilled to counter. The actual attack becomes irrelevant to Filipino Martial Arts practitioners; all that you are concerned with is delivering the appropriate level of force in response. At a long range, you will attack the aggressors’ outstretched arm or leg, disabling them while you close in to finish. At a close range, you may go direct for a finishing strike, ideally to the head or neck area (especially important with Zombies).
Just as the type of attack is of little significance, neither are the weapons involved. If I am armed with my trusty Bolo (Filipino machete), my Hand Enhancement tool (a small and easily concealable blade), a club, cudgel or simply my bare hands, I still use the same movements and principles. All that changes is the target: blunt instruments aim to break bones, sharp instruments aim to cut tendons, ligaments and arteries. My first counter strike with a stick may land on the collar bone, the same counter with a blade will slash into the neck. An empty hand will chop or hammer along the same line into the side of the neck or the jaw line. The striking angle and method changes little, only the target changes by a few inches.
Filipino Martial Arts does have some grappling and ground fighting techniques, but these are usually centered on getting back to the feet as quickly as possible. In a multiple-opponent scenario, or against an armed attacker, staying on the deck is suicidal.
Very quickly a practitioner of Filipino Martial Arts becomes able to use anything at hand as a weapon and has little problem defending against an armed opponent, regardless of what he is holding (even if you yourself are unarmed). The emphasis is always on flowing movement, multiple strikes, and joint manipulations rather than brute force (although brute force is still encouraged).
This ability to improvise, adapt, and overcome puts me in the mindset of the Royal Marines, and they know how staying alive. It was a former Royal Marine Comanche member and close friend that taught me the following mantra that he used as part of an elite close protection unit: Avoid, Evade, Confront. If we are looking at a survival/self protection scenario, then these are words to live and die by.
Survival Technique 1: First you must AVOID conflict.
Toecutter travels with his gang, Zombies and mutant rats travel in packs, robots are faster and stronger than us, and those people infected in 28 Days Later can easily infect us with the tiniest drop of blood. We must avoid contact wherever possible. Think of it this way, if you never get into a fight, you’ll never lose a fight and be killed or injured. It’s simply: if you get injured, you can no longer protect your family or tribe. Avoidance comes down to observation and awareness; constantly being aware of the surroundings and scanning for things which seem out of place. If we can recognise a threat from a distance then we can avoid it.
Survival Technique 2: If you fail to avoid conflict, you must attempt to EVADE it.
Either your awareness failed you and you didn’t spot trouble, or you were ambushed. Either way, you need to do your damndest to get out of their before any damage is done. Evasion basically means running, but not fleeing blindly. Like our combat techniques, escape manoeuvres must be drilled. Rendezvous points must be identified as you travel so that if the group becomes separated during a contact you can all meet up at a predetermined safe haven. It is very common while running away to focus solely on the escape; awareness for other threats is often lowered. This can be a fatal mistake. Never drop your guard and keep your head up and scanning as you escape.
Survival Technique 3: Lastly, CONFRONT.
If there is no way out, if your evasion tactics failed, then it’s all out confrontation time. No hesitation, do not pass go, turn the violence up to 11. If armed, get the weapon up and ready, be it a firearm, crossbow, blade, or stick. Whatever tool you are carrying should feel as much a part of you as your own skin, so if and when it is time to use it, it is as natural as saying your name. The advantage of the Filipino martial arts is that it isn’t reliant on any particular weapon, so if your rifle is out of ammo, use it as a club until you can draw your secondary or your knife. If you are unarmed, the Filipino Martial Arts disarming techniques are designed to allow you to instantly utilize your opponents weapon against them as soon as you have it.
Filipino footwork patterns are simple, adaptable, and fast. They were developed for fighting multiple opponents in rough terrain. Watch any good Filipino Martial Arts practitioner and you’ll never see their feet stop moving. They are able to change range and direction at nearly impossible speeds. This footwork should help keep you away from your enemy’s weapons and also offer you opportunity to disengage and flee. Again, at the earliest opportunity, return to evade and attempt to bug out to safety.
All this requires mental and physical agility and strength. If you are a regular My Mad Methods reader, you should already have a good idea on keeping the body fit and strong but being constantly on guard for attack is mentally demanding, remaining focused immediately after an attack is even more so. This is why some type of meditation or chi gung practice is in order to keep the mind relaxed and healthy.
There are many types of chi gung and meditation, but for the warrior, the protector, the best are the ones that follow the martial path. Mindfully practicing your combat techniques in a slow and relaxed manner, using deep breaths and perfectly coordinated movement is the essence of many martial arts practice. Usually these are called Kata (or forms), basically a systemized version of shadow boxing. But unlike shadow boxing, the goal is not to workout, rather, it is to relax the mind and body while hardwiring perfect technique.
Performed slowly, these forms loosen and stretch the body. Performed under dynamic tension, they will strengthen the body. Performed super slowly, they will develop tendon strength, fine motor control, and will power. Performed fast they will develop speed and explosiveness. In my own practice, I like to mix between the various speeds and methods. Starting with slow movements to warm up and loosen the body, adding in dynamic tension for strength, then building the speed to a fast flow with extensive footwork before ending a session with a slower breath oriented set to bring everything beck to centre.
During these moving meditations (or Kata), it is a good idea to change between weapons regularly. Perform some unarmed, some with short weapons, and others with long weapons to ensure that whatever you pick up in the heat of battle will feel completely natural to use. Breathing must come from the diaphragm; draw air deep into the belly and fully exhale in time with your movements, slow moves allow deeper breaths which has a relaxing effect on the body and mind. If working with dynamic tension, utilize the power breathing techniques to help develop integrated core strength and focus. Fast movement will require much faster, choppier breathing (listen to a boxer during a bout to see what I mean).
Breathing must come from the diaphragm; draw air deep into the belly and fully exhale in time with your movements, slow moves allow deeper breaths which has a relaxing effect on the body and mind. If working with dynamic tension, utilize the power breathing techniques to help develop integrated core strength and focus. Fast movement will require much faster, choppier breathing (listen to a boxer during a bout to see what I mean).
It is important to keep the purpose of the training in the forefront of your mind the whole time you practice. Try to visualise your opponent(s), see your strikes landing as you block and parry their’s. Kata/moving meditation is a mindful practice, its purpose is to prepare you for the rigours and unpredictability of a combat situation, a fact that seems to be overlooked in the current martial arts scene where aesthetics and sport are the main concerns.
Overall, if the worst happens and you are fortunate enough to survive the end of the world, your mental and physical training needs to be ready. The strengths and skills you develop now will help keep you alive if society caves in on itself. Others may recognize this and come to you for protection, some may wish to learn from you so that they can protect themselves and their families. It is your duty to ensure that you keep your skills, just like your blades, oiled and razor sharp. Your life and the lives of those around you may depend on it.
This article was featured in the Dec/Jan 2011 Issue of the My Mad Methods Magazine. “Post-Apocalyptic Survival with Filipino Martial Arts" was written by the Dave Hedges. Learn more about the My Mad Methods Magazine by Clicking Here
Dave Hedges is the founder, owner, and instructor of Wild Geese Personal Training & Combat Fitness and Wild Geese Martial Arts. Dave has a certification from the IKFF, he's a National Level Kettlebell Coach under Vasily Ginko's IUKL-IKSA, a 2nd Dan Ed Parkers Kenpo, 1st Dan Wado Ryu Karate, Instructor Doce Pares "Multi Style" Systems, and also a Security Consultant. He uses his experience and expertise to get people into shape using kettlebells and other unconventional methods and gear. Find out more.
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