How do you "Spread the Word" about FMA???

Discussion in 'General' started by geezer, Dec 23, 2011.

  1. geezer

    geezer Member

    I've met and trained with some very good people in my area (Phoenix) and there is a pretty diverse FMA community here... but it's very much and "underground" thing. The general public doesn't even have a clue about FMA, and it's really tough trying to build up a group. In fact, it seems like it's easier to get people to do almost any other art first. Guys I know teach Karate, Kung-fu, Jiu-Jutsu, MMA... and are lucky if a small percent want to train FMA. Well, I'd understand that if these guys did FMA as a sideline themselves... but often FMA is their greatist passion, and they still have a hard time promoting it.

    Now I'm in the same boat. I run a little Wing Chun class, but I'm really looking to build my own Escrima group. Yet at the moment, the WC is doing OK while my FMA student count is almost zero. Even my own FMA instructor, 30 miles away on the other side of town, doesn't have many students. And he's very good. Good enough for me to make the 60 mile round trip every Saturday to keep training. And even the headman of our system primarily trains MMA fighters these days.

    I've tried YMCA classes, added Escrima to my kung-fu website (see:, posted Craigslist adds and there's no response. Right now I'd take on a really dedicated training partner for free! Can't figure it out. I do shower. Brush my teeth too. Just must be "charismatically challenged" I guess. What does it take to get people to swing a stick at you these days? Any thoughts? Or are things different where you are?
  2. RevDogo

    RevDogo New Member

    Same thing on my end. I have 3 folks that train JKD and Arnis but it is like pulling teeth to get dedicated people. Seems they are so stuck on the idiot box and the video games that actual training is less important than virtual combat games.
  3. geezer

    geezer Member

    On the positive side, three dedicated people are better than having two dozen that come and go ... and basically waste your time. Unless you're in it for money I suppose. Of course if anyone's doing this for money rather than love, they need their head examined. Merry Christmas, all!
  4. billc

    billc New Member

    While I'm waiting for the big man to show with my toys, I thought I would take a swing at your question. It already looks like you are doing all the right things. The problem it seems is lack of understanding among the general and martial arts public. Too many people see the FMA as something to add to whatever empty hand art they are already doing. In my looking at crime I have found that encounters with criminals that are life ending or life changing almost always involve a weapon. Rarely do you hear of the person mugged by an unarmed man or a woman raped by an unarmed attacker. If someone is just punched and then robbed, it rarely leads to life changing catastrophic medical needs. Most attacks are going to occur with a single armed attacker, multiple, unarmed attackers or a mix of the two. So, where do the FMA fit in? The U.S. military does not spend a majority of its time teaching empty hand fighting technique. They teach weapons. Gangs in this country and others do not spend the majority of their time teaching empty hand fighting. They give the 13-15 year old a gun and have them shoot at their rivals. In the real world of crime and survival, weapons are the essential tool of survival. Stick, knife, or gun.

    Many people who look into the martial arts start from the bar fight mentality. What would they do if someone takes a swing at them at a party or out at a bar. I knew a guy in the Kali class I was in who was into the BJJ and empty hand specifically because of this scenario. He was in a class that is one of the few blade based arts in the chicago area, and his main desire was to learn empty hand fighting. I think publicizing the reality of criminal attacks, where weapons are the first emphasis and not a back up, and that the FMA are uniquely suited to dealing with weapons based threats, that are not firearm related is the first step in explaining to both new students and anyone you may meet with a martial arts background. Spread that word and I think it may eventually help our cause.

    I always explain to people I meet that criminal attacks that end life or change lives begin and end with weapons. I also give examples of this, which unfortunately, are not hard to find. I will mention the two women attacked by the drug addict, here in chicago. He initiated the attack by hitting them both in the head with a baseball bat. I will mention the 13 year old who stabbed his brother to death with a knife in an argument over a pair of sneakers. Stories like that, which show the dominance of weapons in criminal attacks is a start. I also will emphasize that to counter this type of attack, the FMA start their first class with a weapon in your hand, and you learn to deal with weapon based attacks from the very first class. You don't have to wait until you have a black belt, as some arts force you to do, or even several months to just learn a form with the weapon. Weapons are the primary focus and the empty hand training supports that focus, not the other way around. Weapons training should be the primary art, and the empty hand arts should be an adjunct to that training. Try to explain that to your empty hand students, that might help.

    For those who are concerned about the drunk at the party or bar, I try to explain to them that the FMA also have empty hand skills, which are even more enhanced because of the weapons emphasis. Training with knives and sticks/swords, enhances the reflexes to an amazing degree, and the empty hand of the FMA can deal with the casual fighter as well as the sophisticated fighter.

    One of the students in our class was confronted in an alley by 4 guys. He acknowledges that it was a mistake to cut through the alley, but he took the chance and he lost. The 4 guys were unarmed, and were slowly ramping up the confrontation, leading up to a physical assault. This student fortunately had a small folding knife with him. He slipped it out and opened it without the 4 guys first. As they goaded him, one of them noticed the knife and told the others, they backed down and then left. If he hadn't been armed, and trained, the encounter would have led to an assault. The weapon deterred the encounter in a way just empty hand skills would not have.

    I would advise talking to your empty hand guys and new students by emphasizing how not just how important weapons training is, but how more realistic that sort of training is over empty hand training. Training with weapons from the first class, against weapons, armed and empty hand is experience the primarily empty hand guys will not have. I hope that helps.

    Try incorporating the crime and weapons link in your advertising. Since most people don't know what the FMA are, even some Philipinos, telling them in your advertising that you teach defense against armed attackers may help get people interested.

    A little more from my experiences...

    My current instructor trains with an exceptional Wing Chun/boxing teacher. When they first met and sparred, my instructor held his own with his FMA and silat background. instructor showed the wing chun/boxing instructor what happens when you put a knife in the hands of someone trained to use it. He was told by his wing chun/boxing instructor that the knife increased his abilties by about 100%. He was able to lay that knife on the wing chun/boxing instrtuctor and there wasn't much the guy could do to stop him. Now explain that to your empty hand guys, and then show them yourself. A small folding knife is going to increase the fighting potential of a trained FMA artist to incredible degrees. Imagine a 3 inch folder in the hands of an FMA guy vs. say a BJJ guy. It would not end well. Of course all the disclaimers about knowing the legal definitions of self-defense and the law apply here. All I am pointing out is the importance of weapons training that most newbies and even experienced martial artists do not see. Try demonstrating a knife vs your wing chun guys, see if they can see what you are trying to show them. It might help in your recruitment efforts among experienced martial artists.​
  5. rayman

    rayman New Member

    Hi Billc:

    Great writeup your feedback is very insightful. Here in the US a majority of the population is audience and consumer oriented. People are largely interested in TV, movies, football, and shopping at the mall. From my perspective you can take a couple of D9 cats and crush everything at the mall into a large square box and then toss it into recycling. On the other hand, knowledge and strength acquired through training in escima/serrada arts is a life changing value add experience.

    Business these days is about networking and promoting, finding ways to add value to the community. Host a seminar, participate in a seminar, stay active on fmatalk, myfma, and youtube, sharpen your skills and promote the art to those who will listen and learn.

    Good luck and happy new year..........
  6. NAGA

    NAGA Member


    Hello All,
    The problem arises from the fact that martial artists have tried to explain FMA and Silat apart from there primary skill sets which is weapons usage. The empty hand component is there primarily for when you either do not have a weapon or you are looking to get your hands on one (Usually from an opponent). Also the empty hand play in these arts is designed against (mostly) a knife or bladed weapon coming at you with intent. Again some martial artists have tried to make the weapon skills as an enhancer for empty hand skills, when it really is the opposite. Your empty hand skills should not be so far removed from weapons skills that they do not make sense, when you do get a weapon in your hands. The thing that sets both arts apart is the "Blade Mentality" when somebody swings a real sword knife or other bladed weapon at you, you will move and your awareness will skyrocket. Combine that with the tenacity and violence necessary to survive such and encounter and there is the thing in itself!
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2011
  7. lhommedieu

    lhommedieu Senior Member

    The problem with attracting students is that most people still view martial arts in the context of their self-image: everyone expects to walk home from a bar fight or a sidewalk confrontation a bit bruised and bloody but with their head held high. A fear of public humiliation is probably a more influential factor with respect to why people study marital arts compared to a realistic appreciation of how and why criminal assaults go down - by a factor of 100 to 1. You only need to turn on the T.V. to see the "skinny kid gets sand kicked in his face, trains hard, and beats the bully" scenario played over and over again. It's a right of passage myth for most men that's too deeply felt and shared to be shaken off. It's also a myth that's "safe" enough for most parents to drive their kids to marital arts classes with the belief that just a little martial arts is "good" for them.

    I had a Vietnamese friend who weighed 125 pounds soaking wet and although he was a talented martial artist he probably wouldn't win a bar fight against a 235 pound, 'roid rage-driven, BJJ bruiser. Or maybe not - on second thought I'd put his odds at 50-50, which is as good as you should expect. Put a razor in his hand though and there's no doubt what would happen. That's a far cry from how martial arts is portrayed in our media-driven culture, and why the FMA's will remain a square peg that won't fit into a round hole.


  8. fangjian

    fangjian Jo Dong

    I ran a martial arts school for about 5 years. I teach at my house now. More like a small club.

    The reason why people aren't interested I think is:
    1. Stick Fighting 'sounds' scary
    2. Stick Fighting 'sounds' useless and impracticable compared to what they could learn at a typical MMA gym

    I have about 3 students right now. I know for a fact that when I start teaching Grappling/Kickboxing again a lot of my old students will come back . As many of you know Eskrima is not just 'stick fighting'. Knife of course but there's a lot of barehand material. I think I may try to market FMA differently. Instead of saying 'it's kinda a lot of stick and knife fighting. Oh but we have empty hand stuff too!! We swear!! I think I may try to market it as more of a Hybrid MMA, Self Defense system, and display more of the empty hand material or something. Idk
  9. kaliman1978

    kaliman1978 New Member

    I agree with most of the responses here. FMA isn't an easy thing to market. For those of us that love our respective FMA styles we cant understand why people wont jump at the chance to learn what we love and have knowledge of. There are a few FMA schools I know of that have a successful program (20 students or more) but they have a fitness component added to their school like crossfit or cardio kickboxing. I currently have a small group and prefer it that way. In a large group setting you are always trying to work on ways to retain students (ranking etc) while in a small group of dedicated guys they could care less about a title or rank and just want to train to perfect their skills. Large groups are over rated. In the U.S. karate, taekwondo, and the like will always have a large following and be successful. I refer to the FMA as a graduate art as most people come to FMA after already having trained other arts for quite sometime. With that said not alot of people feel comfortable enough to admit what they don't know and would rather have a black belt in karate and be king of the mountain instead of being humble and relearning something that could invalidate what they have been taught over the years. HAd many experiences where black belts have come to train with me and leave after not having the patience to learn footwork, ranging, timing etc. I say dont worry about the big group. If it comes it comes. Just worry about your trainign and the training of those in your group already and if its meant to be you will grow.
  10. Phil Mar Nadela

    Phil Mar Nadela New Member Supporting Member

    Been teaching for 3 years in Edmonton.

    Taught about at least 50 or so students(passed by),
    had at least 5 guys that stayed and left after 6 months or up to a year,
    Only have 3 regulars,
    Only one will promote next year.
  11. billc

    billc New Member

    The problem I see is getting enough people in the arts to keep them alive. I have trained in iaido and I have to say that iaido as an art may one day become extinct. I would hate to see that happen to some of the styles of FMA that have such small followings that they may disapear altogether. There will always be some sort of FMA around, but some of the styles may not be able to survive.
  12. kruzada

    kruzada Punong Guro

    Build a website for your class and register a URL that incorporates the city and name of FMA style you teach, i.e; "" put keywords in your meta data like Filipino Kali, Escrima, Arnis.

    Post a YouTube video that incorporates the city and name of FMA style you teach, i.e; "Phoenix Kali class promo video"

    List your class on google maps.

    Create a meetup group on

    In my experience, people can't be convinced to train in the FMA, it has to be something that they are already searching for, and when they search they will always need to be directed to your website which should be strictly FMA, not a subpage.

    Hope this helps.

    -Rich Acosta
  13. Datu Tim Hartman

    Datu Tim Hartman FMA Talk Founder Supporting Member

    I do martial arts business consulting as part of my business. Most of my clients are FMA schools. The problems that we have are not exclusive to the FMA. I don't see the problem being promoting FMA as much as it is promoting yourself. Here are a couple freebies

    1. You need to have a website. Too many people rely on a social media site as their main site. This is bush league and doesn't show up in the search engines.

    2. Use social media sites to funnel traffic to your main site. (Face Book, You Tube, Four Square, etc.)

    3. Professional looking flyers and business cards. Too many people's flyers look like they were done by a first grader. It doesn't take much to put a flyer together. If you don't have artwork, sites like Vistaprint have form style flyers, cards, etc. that look pretty sharp and at times have FREE offers.

    Now let me ask a question. Are you limiting your potential clientele? Do you only want a small group? Are you willing teach children? The more restrictions you add to accepting students, the less students you will have.

    Is your system weapon only? If so, that may make it even harder to find students. Balintawak is one of the systems I teach. It is part of my students’ education after becoming Black Belts. The system I learned was single stick only, with no open hand material. If I tried to teach that as my primary system, I would most likely only have a couple students. Most of my students were not looking for FMA. I was just a local martial art school to them. In Presas Arnis we punch, kick, lock and stick. It has little something for everyone.

    I can keep going but I don't want to bore those not interested.
    Whether or not you want to do this as a non for profit training group or turn this into your profession, these things can help. There are two reasons why communities may be “underground”. The first reason is that they prefer to be that way. They have their community, and they are not looking to expand upon it. The second reason which seems to be more common these days is a lack of how to promote what they do. We put in all of this time to learn the physical part of our craft but we don’t get an education in how to run the business. I have met a lot of masters and grandmasters who wanted to do their martial arts full time but didn’t have the business tools to make that dream a reality.
    As I said earlier, I do martial arts business consulting. Anyone who is interested, I can go over my first five “musts” for running a martial arts school free of charge. You can private message me here to schedule your free consultation.
  14. NAGA

    NAGA Member

    Hello all!

    I would simply thank Datu Hartman on the forum thread, but it would not do justice for what he is actually offering. A few years back, Datu/GrandMaster Hartman gave an intro business consultation at one of our seminars. The information he offers is really worth it! So if you get a chance please consult him; as Bill says, "this stuff may die."

    Thanks and Happy New Year,

  15. Bob Hubbard

    Bob Hubbard Darth Vindicatus Supporting Member

    You need a website.
    A Facebook page isn't a website, it's an electronic yellow pages ad. Interactive yes, something you should have, yes, but not as your sole online presence

    You need your own domain. isn't it.

    You need to have someone who understands how websites work put it together for you.
    1-Not everyone in the US has high speed internet, so that neat 10MB picture plastered on your home page takes too long for more than half the people to see. They don't wait, they leave.
    2- Just because it makes sense to you, doesn't mean it's intuitive to non-experts.
    3- Experts have built hundreds of sites. This may be your only one. Who would you want building your house or operating on your kid? A guy with a dummies book or someone with experience?

    Some older articles I wrote that should be helpful when doing the website side of things.

    A website is part of your marketing attack, but it's not the whole plan.

    It's a business. Treat it as such.
    Get nice business cards done that show you off at your best. 2 sided, make the back a coupon for a special offer. Give them away like mad, then track them when they come back.
    Spend the extra couple of bucks on full color. 1 new student will more than pay you back over the course of a year.

    I do graphics, website and we offer a discount on hosting (banners on the main forum page). Feel free to contact me about those, or if there's any questions on the links I posted above.

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