What Defines a “Functional” Fighting System?

What Defines a “Functional” Fighting System?

I’ve been teaching Filipino martial arts full-time through Bayani Warrior (www.bayaniwarrior.com) these past two years. I’ve been studying the martial arts throughout my entire life, and in that time, I’ve heard people talk about “functional” fighting systems. A lot of fighting systems fall into the category of a “functional” fighting system. However, my definition of a functional fighting system differs from that of the mainstream martial arts community. In this article, I intend to explain my definition of a functional fighting system, as I see it. 

 (Picture Above: MMA and the combat sports that make up it’s foundations are regarded as functional fighting systems. However, the term functional fighting systems goes beyond just the exchange of techniques.)

People begin training in the martial arts for various reasons: fitness, health,  self-confidence, etc. However, the main thing that people seek to learn in the martial arts (Filipino or otherwise) is how to protect themselves against a violent threat. While there may be people out there who train in the martial arts to get in better shape and feel good about themselves, the truth is that at the end of the day, those who take the step to train in the martial arts wants to learn how to kick some ass at some point, in some capacity. 

Like many hardcore martial artists, I set out on a journey to find the most effective fighting style I could find. My journey took me to the Philippines, Thailand, as well as the United States. I was on a quest to truly possess skills that would help me handle any situation on the street, and as a result, I have been fortunate to meet and train with many people from various backgrounds from all over the world. 

(Picture Above: Most martial artists want to be able to find the most effective styles for wining a life-or-death fight.)

Throughout my martial arts journey, I have been told of fighting styles that are widely regarded as being “functional” fighting systems. The word “functional” was used as a means to differentiate a fighting system that actually worked in a combative exchange from a more traditional, esoteric system that was based in art form, tradition, and spirituality. A lot of these “functional systems” ranged from combat sports such as Muay Thai, Boxing, and Brazilian Jujitsu to military-oriented combatives styles such as  Krav Maga, and of course, sophisticated, fluid, and scientific fighting arts such as Filipino Kali and Jeet Kune Do. Of course, I am a Filipino Kali practitioner and fighter to the bone, and it’s what I would base all of my fighting skills on in a real-life situation.

The reason why people dub such systems as “functional” fighting methods is simple: they teach a person how to actually fight in a combative exchange with another human being. Those in search of a functional fighting system seek such systems out because they want to be able to actually use their skills in a real-life exchange. They want to know what works, and what doesn’t, in a real fight.

However, in the last several years, I’ve learned that there is a huge difference between a fighter, and a warrior. I’ve learned that there is a difference between a martial artist, and a combatant. I’ve also learned that there is a difference between a realistic fighting style, and a “functional” fighting system.

The truth is that I’ve met dozens upon dozens of martial artists out there who want to learn how to stick fight, knife fight, disarm weapons, and take on multiple attackers. I’ve met even more people interested in knocking people out, choking people out, and being able to fight their way out of a hostile situation. The thing is, I understand exactly where these people are coming from. Kicking ass is an essential skill that I feel everyone, man or woman, should possess. There are few things that are more empowering and build your self-confidence more than knowing that you can handle yourself in a violent altercation. 

However, I’ve met very few people who want to learn how to treat their families right. I’ve met very few people who want to learn how to be a role model for those they teach. I’ve met very few people that want to learn how to approach their personal finances properly. I’ve met very few people who want to learn how to stay away from drugs and alcohol. I’ve met very few people that want to learn how to navigate their relationships in the right way. I’ve met few people who want to help those in need.

(Picture Above: The Bayani Warrior Officers and myself preparing food for the homeless at a local soup kitchen. Serving others in need is the basis of what we do.)

The truth is, while it is important to be able to kick ass, it’s even MORE IMPORTANT to learn how your training applies to your everyday life…to your relationships with those you love and care about, how to better your health, your finances, and your spirituality. Why? Because the truth is, we don’t get into knife fights, gun fights, or stick fights everyday on the street. However, we do experience things everyday…challenges, obstacles…that consist of REAL LIFE problems and real life battles. 

In my eyes, a true FUNCTIONAL fighting system not only teaches you how to function and thrive in a violent situation…it can also teach you how to function and thrive in your everyday life. I don’t care how effective a fighting style is in a fight…if it cannot help you become a more functioning, patient, strong, loyal, and honest human being in your daily life…then it is not a functional fighting system in my eyes.

As I push and spread Bayani Warrior, it is my intention to help people grow not just as fighters, but also as honest, strong, and more capable human beings through the training I provide. If the student is only good at fighting with weapons, and cannot thrive and grow in his or her everyday life and approach their relationships properly, then I have not done my job. While I am the owner and Chief Instructor of Bayani Warrior Group, my older brothers in Atienza Kali and Sayoc Kali have helped me stay on the path I am on. They have guided me, inspired me, and as a result, I want to carry on that role to my students in Bayani Warrior. It is through my training in Atienza Kali and Sayoc Kali that I have grown not just as a fighter, but also as a man. As I push Bayani Warrior further, I am reminded that Bayani Warrior is not just a martial arts organization, or a business, but rather, it’s a way to help people grow, thrive, and function everyday as honest, strong, and courageous human beings.

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