Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) is an extremely deadly martial art. Training usually starts with learning how to use a stick, sword and knife as weapons. Empty hand techniques are taught when proficiency with the stick/sword and knife have been mastered. But even if the practitioner is empty-handed, strikes are usually performed as if a weapon is being used.
Most styles of FMA incorporate “dirty” techniques such as biting, eye gouging, groin shots, joint bending, pinching and finger locks. Basically, you do whatever it takes to win the fight – even if it means poking someone’s eyes out. Otherwise, you’re dead.
When it’s life and death, being flashy or trying to look pretty while fighting gets quickly thrown out for techniques that are simple, fast, and effective in combat.
Training in FMA gives you the ability to pick up everyday objects and use them as weapons, whether it’s a rolled up magazine, a pen, car keys, an umbrella, a jacket or even the belt you’re wearing. You learn how to quickly adapt to any situation and be able to use any object to your (lethal) advantage.
Nothing promotes a specific martial art faster than being glamourized in action movies. Unfortunately, when it comes to martial arts movie actors, FMA doesn’t have that one undisputed representative. Chinese martial arts has Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li. Aikido has Steven Seagal. Karate has Chuck Norris and Jean Claude Van Damme. Muay Thai has Tony Jaa. Boxing has Rocky. Vampire hunting has Blade. But what about FMA?!
I guess we’ll have to settle for fight scenes rather than specific actors for the time being.
Here are ten of the best movie fight scenes that showcase Filipino Martial Arts.
10. Enter The Dragon
It’s a no-brainer to start off with one of the greatest martial arts movie ever made. At the 2:27 mark, Bruce Lee demonstrates Escrima when he picks up two sticks and beats the crap out of several guards.
9. Wrong Side Of Town
Big Ronnie (Dave Batista) and Markus (Marrese Crump) use Escrima in this fight scene with cheesy fight music. After the ground and pound, notice how things get dirty quickly: sucker shanks, biting, strangling the other dude with their own belt. Big Ronnie should’ve just shot him in the beginning though.
8. The Bourne Identity
Using a mere pen while the other dude has a knife, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) wins a well-matched struggle with an assassin. Director Doug Liman said that FMA’s principles of minimal effort influenced their development of Bourne’s character.
7. The Bourne Supremacy
Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and Jarda (Marton Csokas) fight hand to hand, close and dirty. Watch how Bourne uses a rolled up magazine as a weapon while the other dude attacks with a knife.
6. The Bourne Ultimatum
Bourne (Matt Damon) catches up to Desh (Joey Ansah) who is chasing Nicky (Julia Stiles) and the two fight to the death. This time, Bourne beats him down with a thick hardcover book and uses a small towel to defend himself against a shaving knife.
5. Bourne Legacy
Filmed in the Philippines, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) beats up a bunch of Filipino security guards. Notice his “dirty” tactics like his kick to the groin and his punch to the throat. Jonathan Eusebio picked up the reins for The Bourne Legacy as the fight coordinator, after being assistant coordinator under Jeff Imada on The Bourne Ultimatum. Both are students of Dan Inosanto, a living legend of FMA.
4. The Book of Eli
An awesome bar fight scene. Eli (Denzel Washington), uses a stylized Bolo blade (Filipino machete) in self-defense. Washington trained for months to prepare for the role under Dan Inosanto and his senior student Jeff Imada.
3. James Bond: Quantum Of Solace
James Bond (Daniel Craig) uses Filipino Martial Arts to subdue a knife-wielding assassin, a great example of picking up whatever you can in order to win the fight. Dan Bradley, the 2nd-unit director, worked with the same team from the Bourne series of movies for the fight choreography.
2. Death Grip
A straight-to-DVD movie that has one of the baddest double knife vs. empty-hand fight scenes ever. The Asian dude (Alvin Hsing) uses a Filipino weapon: a balisong (or butterfly knife), which is a folding pocket knife.
1. The Hunted
Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro showcased Filipino knife fighting which was choreographed by Sayoc Master Instructors, Tom Kier and Rafael Kayanan, from Sayoc Kali.
Bonus: Big Stan
Just for fun….Dan Inosanto, the legendary teacher of FMA makes a cameo. Big Stan (Rob Schneider) fights prison inmates with a mop broken in half that he uses as double sticks. Dan Inosanto, the Prison Chef, appears as his last opponent.
Now learn more about the history behind Filipino Martial Arts by watching 6 Short Documentaries On Filipino Martial Arts That You Can Watch Online For Free.