The term tactical means relating to military use. The tactical application of the Filipino martial arts (FMA) has a long and colorful history. It was used by Filipinos in precolonial tribal conflicts and against invaders namely the Spaniards, the British, the Dutch, the Americans and the Japanese. Today, the blade techniques of the FMA were taught to members of the Philippine Marines particularly those who are regularly fighting Moro extremists in Mindanao.

Whatever style of FMA are you practicing; you can make some adjustments to convert it into a tactical art. It’s like owning a sporting shotgun and then converting it into a tactical shotgun. What you have to do is just add components to the gun that would meet the demands of the battlefield like a shotshell carrier for faster reloading of ammo and a flashlight mount for low light combat.

The following are elements you can incorporate into your FMA style to make it tactical:

Emphasis on blade training

The stick is a potent weapon but in an actual battlefield, you’re surely better off with a blade. Tactical FMA training should focus on developing skills with the long blade and the dagger. Today, the ginunting, a single-edge long blade, is the official standard issue bolo for the Philippine Marine Corps Force Recon Battalion. The dagger, on the other hand, is a standard first line gear (meaning a gear constantly attached to the operator’s body) of military forces around the world.

Long blade training should focus on dealing with single and multiple opponents. In military operations, blades were usually employed when the operator run out of ammunition or in situations when the use of the firearm would be impractical. A Filipino Marine interviewed by a cable TV channel referred to the bolo as an “extender of life.” The soldier extended both his arms sideways and said that the measure of his extended limbs symbolizes the length of his life. He then extended his arms anew in the same manner but this time one hand is holding a bolo. The soldier explained that when they run out of bullets, the bolo could indeed lengthen their lives.

Besides face-to-face combat, the best tactical use of the dagger is in sentry neutralization. Sentry neutralization is a nice term for killing an enemy guard efficiently and quickly. And since the knife is a silent killing tool, it is perfect for this kind of tactical work.

To execute sentry neutralization effectively requires thorough grounding on physical maneuvers (techniques) and surface anatomy (knowledge of what vital organ lies underneath a certain body surface). The former would allow the operator to subdue and position his opponent for a strike while the latter is helpful in identifying which target to hit for best results.

Stealth, cover and concealment

With rare exceptions, the only chance you can defeat an enemy armed with a gun is by ambush. To be able to execute an ambush, you must be quiet and virtually unseen. Stealth within the context of this discussion means moving silently toward your target while cover and concealment is about camouflage.

The following words from Pavel Tsatsouline will give you an idea of what type of stealth skills you need to develop for tactical purposes: “There is a term in the military, ‘individual movement technique.’ Only movie actors and third world insurgents stand tall and shoot from the hip; professional soldiers eat dirt, keep low profile, and make the other guy die for his country. The Russian Spetsnaz uses five types of low IMT. Move on all fours behind low cover such as tall grass, otherwise crawl on your belly. Stay on your side when dragging a wounded comrade or a prisoner. Flip on your back in a ravine, when expecting an ambush, or when covering a leaving team. Finally, there is ‘the Lizard.’ Unique to former Soviet spec ops community, the lizard is the fastest, the most silent, and the hardest low movement technique. It is used to approach a sentry. The operator slings his AK on his back, assumes a low pushup position, and quickly runs like a lizard over to the enemy with a knife in his teeth (Beyond Bodybuilding).”

The simplest definition of camouflage is to blend with your environment so you become virtually invisible to your enemy. The animal world is ripe with lessons on camouflage – weak animals hide their young to protect them from predators while the latter blend in with their surroundings and wait for the prey.

Camouflage methods are too numerous to discuss in an article thus its more practical to present the principles behind the skill. The following factors would affect your method of concealment: colors, light, and shadow, texture as well as terrain. Simply put, the type of camouflage you would employ will depend on your surroundings and the time of day.

Improvised weapons

An improvised weapon is a found object used as a weapon. The knowledge of how to improvised weapons is critical in a tactical environment particularly in situations where the operator run out of ammunition or has lost his primary weapons. Training in arnis, escrima and kali is useful in a tactical environment because its principles allow its practitioner to pick up any handheld weapon regardless of shape and size and use it effectively.