Insights and Training Tips from Tactical Arts


Training you should be Doing at Home when Learning Filipino Martial Arts


You can’t effectively learn any martial art without training partners, but there are certain types of training that you need to be doing between classes if you want to get good at your chosen art. Classes offer instruction, coaching, drilling, sparring and the opportunity for guided review, but your time alone is best for coordination practice, impact training, conditioning and study.


When you are fist learning a new skill, you need to start with your coordination. This will include some amount of demonstration from your instructor, probably some guided practice, and then some feedback to help you make corrections. After that, it’s up to you.

You need to get all the repetition and self guided practice you can. Mastering a skill such as coordination comes from hours of attentive repetition. A master piano player may spend up to 10 hours a day to master the coordination, rhythm, tempo and presentation of a concert piece. It’s no different for you. You need to put in hours of solo training time refining your technique until you can execute it precisely and without conscious thought.

The more you train, the better chances you have of performing with better control and accuracy in a sparring match or fight for your life. When you are met with a life or death stressor, your body prepares for action by going through significant changes including respiratory escalation, increased heart rate, and a chemical dump all to make you faster and stronger. The problem is that it can also make you lose some of your fine motor skills. Training can minimize this negative effect of stress. More repetition together with stress inoculation training will help you maintain sharper skills when someone is trying their best to hit you in the head.

It’s about the hours you put in, not the years. Grandtuhon Leo Gaje likes to point out that we can claim to be in the martial arts for many years, but we may not have dedicated significant actual training time while those years ticked by. You can spend years dabbling with the piano and only be able to play twinkle, twinkle little star, but if you regularly devote many hours to your training, you can develop significant skill quickly. A pianist has to meet a deadline for a recital. Do you? Are you preparing for fight night, a tournament or a violent assault that could happen anytime?

Impact Training

One of the best conditioning tools for learning Kali is impact training. Full speed strikes through the air are useful for learning to control your weapon, but if you plan to win any fight, you need to get good at hitting something, not just the air. Sometimes we laugh at ourselves in class when even after only a few full speed strikes, we are already getting winded. That is before there is even an opponent in front of us. Build your stamina by hitting tires. You will have a much better command of your Kali skills and be able to keep up with the best of them.

To hit harder you need to practice hitting things hard. Hang a tire and practice your strikes. Work up gradually to hitting with full power. First, get comfortable with the quality of your strike, then gradually hit the tire harder and faster. Make corrections and choose a very specific spot of the tire to target. When you are improving your mechanics and generating more power, you will feel and hear it.

Impact training will build your grip. I can’t count how many new students have disregarded my advice to start hitting the tire lightly, then hit it the first time only to see their stick fly across the room and rattle across the floor. In my school, this is especially loud because a dropped stick means pushups.

At first, you will find it is hard to grip your stick when your hands become sweaty and blisters develop. More impact training will solve that. Your grip will improve. It is likely your hand will be sweaty or even bloody should you ever need to use Kali, so working through it with tires is good preparation. You have to take care of your hands when you get a blister, but don’t let a thin layer of skin be the difference between life and death when you feel the discomfort of a little pain. Don’t over do it, but train through it. Don’t let a blister stop you.

Strength and Conditioning

If you expect to win a sparring match or violent assault, you need to have some strength and conditioning. One of the best indicators of a who will win a sparring match is conditioning. I sometimes see a more senior student lose to another with less experience simply because he ran out of gas. Don’t be that guy. Use some of your time outside of class to develop fitness.

Athletes of almost any sport use strength and conditioning to support their sport specific skills. The majority of your time should be spent on the skills directly related to Kali, but 2-3 hours a week of strength and conditioning will help you make great gains in your fitness. That fitness will affect your Kali skills by giving you a better command of your body mechanics, more power, more speed and more resilience.

Condition yourself specifically for the demands of Kali. A confrontation with more than one opponent my require multiple bursts of full power including rapid strikes, sprinting footwork with frequent direction changes and perhaps the full exertion of your hips in a dumog takedown or throw. Structure some of your workouts so that you include training that uses the energy systems need for those activities. This would look more like very short, high intensity, interval workouts with some explosive exercises and maybe some very heavy lifts. A bolo fight to the death may not last very long, but you should probably train for longer than a few seconds. Try conditioning workouts lasting from 3 to 10 minutes. You don’t need to run marathons, or do insanely long workouts.

Study your Notes

Take notes while reflecting on your lessons. Write down everything you learned in class. If your techniques or drills were taught first in parts, write down those progressions. Notes will help you in your practice sessions and become invaluable if you ever decide to teach. Many of my senior students have all the skills they need to perform the techniques I have taught them, but often forget what they did to get there. Having the notes will give you an advantage when you want to review or prepare your own lesson plans. Also, the act of writing down what you did will help you remember it.

Memorize the terms, drills, principles and content contained in your lessons. Review your notes to help you commit the information to memory. It will enable you to learn faster. Study your notes and rewrite them to be more accurate. I often take my initial notes by hand in a notebook, then later type them into Evernote adding more detail, descriptions and formatting. This makes it say to organize, edit and reference them as needed. When you first start training, you may not feel like it is necessary to do this, but you will quickly realize that you should. You will avoid forgetting important details and be prime for moving up to the next level.


For best results, the instructor has to do a good job teaching, and the student has to do a good job learning. You have control of both. Find an instructor that knows how to teach, and learn how you can practice to maximize what he has taught you. I hope this article will help you get more out of your solo Filipino Martial Arts training.

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