The Purpose of Timing Drills
Here is a portion of the Sagang-Labo drill from Pekiti-Tirsia, (students of Inosanto Kali and other systems may know this as Hubud-Lubud). People sometimes complain that flow and timing drills in FMA are impractical.
I think a lot of the problems people have with drills like these are caused by the following:
1. The basic version of the drill is intended to be used like the training wheels you put on a kid’s bike. Once they actually learn how to ride, you are supposed to take the training wheels off. The basic parries in these drills are intended to be a neurological place holder for something more efficient and damaging to the opponent, but requiring better timing than a beginner may have and therefore taught later.
2. People watch a drill designed to counter one specific thing, in this case strikes, and see students (perhaps after a seminar where they first learned the drill), using it to try and counter something else, such as grappling, and then say, "That hammer doesn’t drive screws very well. Therefore, I don’t think a hammer is a very useful tool.”
3. I usually refer to these drills specifically as timing drills, because that was the attribute that Tuhon Gaje emphasized as being developed when we first learned them. You can lift weights to build strength and you can run to build endurance, but you also need a specific exercise to build good timing. How exercises like weight lifting and running develop strength and endurance are easy for most people to understand; how a drill develops better timing is not so obvious a connection for many folks.
I will use the Sagang-Labo/Hubud drill to illustrate my point, since so many FMA people are familiar with it. Let’s start with you countering a jab, using the three parries as neurological place holders to remember to move with alternating hands. Next, you learn to deal with a broken rhythm when a cross comes in-between the timing of your first and second parry. Then the cross comes between the second and third parry. Then you start doubling up your movements on each beat, so you are countering each of his attacks with two movements of your own (for example, a parry with one hand while you strike with the other), then three movements, (in a real fight, hitting him in the face will help buy you time for this) and so on. Next, have your partner feed attacks from different ranges and heights. The drill should grow in complexity only as the student becomes ready for it both physically and psychologically.
Train Hard, Train Smart,
Tuhon Bill McGrath