One question I am consistently asked is “How is your art different?” This is a legitimate question, especially since the majority of people in the midwest really have only heard about tae kwon do, karate and of late, MMA (mixed martial arts).
The variety of martial arts today is pretty astounding. It took a little time to discover what I wanted, where to seek out instructors and what style to train in. I traveled to seminars or brought instructors to me to learn. I really enjoyed the aspects of the arts that differ from what we normally see. The fluid nature and movements of Filipino and Indonesian martial arts compared to the linear approach of tae kwon do which I learned as a kid had me hooked. Please note that I’m not saying one art is better than another art. In you are interested in martial arts, you will have the one that calls to you and will reflect your character. The evasive and efficient movements of kali and pencak silat really appealed to me and reflected who I am. Okay, that’s one answer to how KSMA is different: we focus on being evasive and fluid over linear.
While there are instructors who are above reproach, I have been fortunate to train with those who wanted me to understand the material and not just regurgitate it back to them. These instructors looked forward to my questions. That is an aspect, especially of the Filipino arts, that I respect. The name of the art isn’t as important as the principles and essence of the art. They encouraged me to find my own expression within the art. Yes, there are basics that are the foundation of the arts that should be learned within the structure of the arts. Once those basics are integrated into your movements, they become part of how you move. Each situation, while different, will have a base similarity that you will recognize. That’s two: We want you to integrate the art into your life and express yourself, make it your art.
I asked one of my long time training partners how he felt we were different. His response was that tae kwon do and karate are more sport oriented (for the most part, there are some schools out there that really bang) and kali and pencak silat are more about getting out of a bad place. In that context, we take a step back from the physical, non-verbal conversation that is a fight and start with attempting to de-escalate the situation. This isn’t always possible, so that is why we train what we do. It’s an insurance policy.
Ultimately, the differences are superficial. Bruce Lee pointed out that we are all human and have similar body types with equivalent movements. Therefore, any martial art has similarities with attack and defense. What I believe it comes down to is intention in the expression. If your ultimate expression is to break boards and have a form that you can do flawlessly, and that’s your thing – do it and do it well. If you want the knowledge of what happens, why and what to do, great. I offer the latter. The choice is yours.