“Flow Drills” are training exercises commonly associated with the Filipino Martial Arts. Known by many names such as “Sumbrada Drills” (or simply “Sumbrada”), Transitional Drills or Evolutions, Flow Drills are two-person pre-arranged sequences constructed to convey lessons or develop attributes. Not unlike the two-man sets sometimes found in Chinese Martial Arts, Filipino Flow Drills utilize the energy based nature of the Filipino Martial Arts and require a living, breathing and responsive opponent.
In the Lacoste-Inosanto (Inosanto Blend) method of Kali, Sumbrada Drills (also known as Kuntra y Kuntra or Kuntra Kontrada) are taught to introduce students to the concept of counter-for-counter. As one student initiates an attack, the other second student counters the attack and returns a counter attack. The first student then counters the attack (thus, counters the counter) and the reciprocal dynamic creates a back and forth, fluid exchange. Typically, many of the drills taught by Guro Dan cycle continuously so that both sides have the opportunity to flow in an even and symmetric manner. Guro Dan also emphasizes the highly valued benefit of “flow”, encouraging students to play in a manner that is fluid and continuous rather than rigid, static or broken. This not only develops a sensitivity to adapt, modify and recover from unexpected changes but also enables participants to engage in an infinite number of repetitions. Paul Vunak, one of Guro Dan’s more well known students has stated that since we fight in an environment of continuous motion, we should train in motion as well.
Sometimes these drills are merely a construct developed to insert and then practice various skill sets such as locking, disarming or striking. “Hubad” (sometimes called Higot Hubad Lubud) is a simple three count flow drill that is used to teach basic stops, parries, coordination of both hands and movement to various reference points. In Sayoc Kali the 3 of 9 Tapping Drill is taught to incorporate the Feeder’s intention of accessing identified targets from the 3 of 9 Vital Template, and the Receiver’s basic crosstapping (crosshand tapping, or crossbody parrying) response. While one side installs target acquisition to lethal entry, the other side builds fundamental motions to counter attacks from any one of nine attacks. For the Feeder, targets are identified and accessed by inserting the left hand in clearing motions that can be translated easily to empty hand methods of trapping. While perceived initially as long or complicated, the great benefits derived from diligent practice yield essential tools that can be applied in different contexts, utilizing a variety of weapons platforms and amidst many ranges of combat.
Atienza Kali Evolutions, once understood and grasped on a basic level are then dissected to various combinations and manuevers. Sometimes called Attack Defense Patterns (ADP’s), the deconstruction of the drill into functional motions are applied in context, often at real speed and deliberate intent against one individual or multiple opponents. In this system, students are indoctrinated to various Fighter Types, methods and characteristics commonly observed and catalogued. AK students can then learn to adopt various styles and techniques, counter and defeat them.
Of course the end goal in all of these drills, regardless of the origin system, art or instructor is not to stay confined to the pattern but to break free from the arrangement but keep the lessons, skills and attributes. Guro Travis Downing and Guro Joey Pena, my own instructors from Sayoc LA (formerly Integrated Martial Arts) always stressed the preference to master fundamentals instead of collecting techniques. IEFMA holds the same value at it’s core. In a recent interview, Guro Dan explained his own feelings about the similarities between his studies in Kali and his training with Sigung Bruce Lee. He felt that the Filipino Martial Arts and Jeet Kune Do (JKD)complimented each other well due to their emphasis on fluid motions, the ability to adapt and modify and utilize weapons from a variety of sources. While JKD strived to constantly transcend preset patterns and forms, Filipino Kali keeps our drills alive by constantly infusing them with new methods, and applying them in new contexts.
Tuhon Tom Kier has said that every story has a moral, every drill has a lesson. What lessons do you take away from your training? Don’t let your drills control you. Your own training, your intent and even your own persona should drive and propel the drills that you use.
Sumbrada Concepts from Guro Harley Elmore.
Trapping and Striking from a Hubud structure, from Guro T. Kent Nelson.
Simo Eloy Quintin training Sayoc Kali 3 of 9 Tapping.
Tuhon Carl Atienza teaching elements of Knife Evolution 1.