An educated eye
Dan Inosanto once said that one of the benefits he got from training with Bruce Lee is that he gained an “educated eye.” Inosanto is pertaining to the highly conceptual nature of Lee’s jeet kune do, which is similar to the approach of the Filipino martial arts (FMA).
An escrimador who attained a deep understanding of the foundational concepts and principles of the FMA will likewise gain an educated eye. This educated eye is the escrimador’s advantage over other martial artists who view martial arts only in terms of techniques.
Let’s take boxing as a case in point. It is my personal observation that many old school escrimadors naturally gravitated toward boxing. To name just three, the legendary Johnny La Coste as well as father and son masters Lucky and Ted Lucaylucay were all accomplished boxers during their time. The reason perhaps was that the conceptual nature of escrima allowed them to cross train in boxing with ease.
When an escrimador examines the movement dynamics of boxing, his first concern is not the techniques or the weapons involved but the angles of attack.
The angles of attacks are constant and having understood that, the comprehension of techniques is easier.
Going back to boxing, the jab and cross are simply thrusting motions from an escrimador’s point of view. The hook, uppercut and overhand are merely fists heading toward a target via horizontal, diagonal and vertical angles in varying degrees.
Now, that is only about offense.
Defensively, the understanding of the angles of attacks would allow the escrimador to monitor his opponent’s movements efficiently.
Given that the angles of attacks are constant, then you can more or less predict where your opponent’s blows will come from. To quote Lee, “I don`t believe in different ways of fighting now. I mean, unless human beings have three arms and three legs, then we will have a different way of fighting. But basically we all have two arms and two legs so that is why I believe there should be only one way of fighting and that is no way.”
Base on the concept of angles, you can only do a few things against an oncoming attack. The options available are getting beneath the plane of attack, evading the reach of the oncoming weapon or smothering the attack before it gained momentum. The latter can be a jamming motion or a stop hit.
The escrimador also knew that the underlying concepts of hitting with a weapon like a stick are the same as that of hitting with empty hands.
Muscular contraction and relaxation are two constant elements in hitting with a weapon or with bare hands.
In stick fighting, the escrimador understood that maximum muscular contraction upon impact is necessary to deliver a powerful blow and to prevent injury on himself. But he also knew that he could not be in a constant state of muscular tension because it will slow him down. In a fight, he knew that he must be relatively relaxed when not attacking, and maximally contracting the necessary muscles upon impact when delivering a blow. Take away the sticks and not much has changed except the reach of the escrimador.
Another thing that is a constant requirement for efficiency is proper form. Needless to say the individual must know the proper form of a technique whether it is a weapon technique or an empty hand technique.
But the greatest benefit of gaining an educated eye is that it will allow you to choose intelligently things that suit your natural abilities as a martial artist. In an interview conducted by Jose Emiliano Alzona published in the December 1990 issue of Black Belt Magazine, Inosanto brilliantly expounded on this idea and it reads, “Well, join me in some verbal research. Consider a side kick: how does a Japanese stylist counter a side kick? How does a Chinese stylist counter it? How does a streetfighter handle it? How about a wrestler? First, you look at all these different ways. Then you have to pick one for yourself, and the key ingredients, like Bruce Lee said, are timing and rhythm, and not so much the technique itself. That's why a person can use a technique that's not optimally efficient, but if he has the timing and an understanding of the structure, he can make it work. For example: in basketball, if you make 30 percent of your shots from one part of the floor and you make 90 percent of your shots from another part, you would take most shots from the latter.
What Bruce Lee was trying to say is this: find the movements that will work for you in combat 90 to 100 percent of the time, but remain open to other arts to see what they do, because unless you understand what they do, you cannot really understand total combat. When silat stylists go down to the ground in a cross-legged sitting position, that is foreign to the boxer, because how's he going to jab or cross a guy that's on the ground? And it's foreign to Wing Chun also, because how are you going to deliver a pak sao, lop sao (slapping hand/grabbing hand) technique to the opponent when he's on the ground? Now a grappler will deal with that stance because he's used to the mat, but to people who are not, it would be hard to handle. But today, many martial artists will say, "My style is A, and I'm not even going to consider B because A is better." Their minds are already closed.”