Thursday, April 03, 2014


In this cycle we are working on some hubud lubud drills and their variations.  Hubud Lubud or simply "hubud" as they are often called, refer to a series of predominantly empty hand drills found in most of the major FMA styles.  These drills are commonly taught as sensitivity drills, and considered as being similar to Wing Chun's famous chi sao or "sticky hands".

However, using that label sells these drills short of their true value.  There is a wealth of training locked in these drills, and they are worthy of focused effort and regular practice.

Hubud drills generally have a basic three-step sequence:

  • Receive
  • Redirect
  • Return

First, we receive an incoming movement.  This can be done with block or parry, but intermediate and advanced variations receive directly with a gunting.  Secondly, we redirect or move the attack off the center line and control it.  In the drills, we usually use just a small motion, but in reality, this redirection can already take the opponent's balance/structure and give us a vital moment to enter and resolve the situation decisively.  Some variations also involve trapping as an element of the redirection, also providing a split-second of opportunity that can be sued to strategic advantage.  Lastly, we return.  In the drill, this is feeding the partner back so he/she can also train, but in reality this can be any kind of strike or attack.  In hubud, we are able to express and practice both passa (going with the incoming force) and contradas (going against the incoming force) principles effectively.

In Kali Majapahit, we use hubud drills for a wide variety of training.  Here's some of the major skills you can learn from them:

by working hubud drills, particularly the intermediate and advanced variations, you can greatly improve your co-ordination and ambidexterity, which are essential traits of all good FMA practitioners.  We place a lot of emphasis on the "living hand" or non-dominant hand in Kali Majapahit, and the hubud patterns are a great way to keep both hands moving in and around each other smoothly.  The drills allow for switching sides as frequently as needed to develop both right and left equally.

The drills can be slowed down or sped up based on the partners' confidence and skill level, and once both are comfortable, speeding up the drill can be good training to improve the hand speed and decrease reaction time.  We use hubud to burn in muscle memory so that in a surprise situation our automatic response is to block or gunting, redirect, and return an attack of our own. Under stress, this patterned movement can be the difference between life and death.

Stress Management
Real fights cause a rush of adrenaline and create high levels of stress.  Hubud drills are an excellent way to gradually introduce some stress and pressure (by increasing speed, pushing a little harder, etc.) and allow us a chance to become used to contact and close proximity while consciously suppressing fearful or panicked responses.  In these drills we can slowly build our confidence until even full-speed drills do not cause us to become shaken.  This is extremely valuable in an actual encounter.  

Peripheral Vision
During the drills, it is important to keep the eyes focused on the upper chest of your partner, along the line of the collar bones.  Our peripheral vision is faster for the brain to process than our fixed gaze, and we want to develop the automated response of picking up any aggressive motion from the shoulder line, since shoulder rotation is the critical beginning of any movement.
The more we train in hubud, the better able we are to judge which arm will move and be ready when it does.

Hubud has a rhythm.  We use this rhythm to establish a connection with our partner - a connection we would break in a real encounter.  Although above I suggest that hubud drills would have a three-count rhythm, this is only for absolute beginners.  The reality is that there should be at most a two count timing involved (receive - redirect/return).  As you pass intermediate into advanced, everything is done on a single beat simultaneously.

Hubud drills are done at corto distance or close range (at least when done with empty hands).
The closeness of the drill gives us a great chance to train how to create some working distance in and around our partner, which in a live situation gives our opponent a feeling of being smothered and crowded, while we feel free to move with ease even in close quarters.  Variations on hubud can teach us to open outside and inside lines, as well as low lines inside the drills.

In Hubud it is very important to keep the shoulders relaxed and low, and to have a solid, balanced stance.  If you focus on receiving with the arms, they quickly tire out.  Instead, the drills should teach you to keep your arms relaxed at all times and use your feet and hip rotation to provide speed and power.  In some variations popular with our friends in Sweden doing Kali De Mano, hubud drills are done very strongly, which force us to keep good posture during the drills or be knocked off balance.  These variations also get us used to the type of arm contact likely to occur in a real fight, and make for excellent training.

These "scissors" attacks directed at the opponent's arm are one of the trademarks of kali and include strikes done with the knuckles or phoenix fist, as well as a variety of elbow strikes to the hands, forearms and biceps.  Some variations flow effortlessly into locking series as well.  Since all of these techniques are integral to good kali flow in kadena de mano (empty hand fighting) the more you practice hubud the better your kali will become.

FMA are all blade-base arts.  Thus, hubud patterns have their equivalents (usually almost exactly the same) using blades.  It is another hallmark of good kali training that all concepts are easily transferable between sub-systems meaning that skills gained in empty hands improve stick and blades, and vice versa.  It is especially easy to put knives or karambits into these flows.

Hubud drills are not fixed in stone the way katas or poomse or forms are in other martial arts. It is best to think of them as a framework or skeleton around which you can explore all of the above ideas and more.  Once we begin to randomize movements in hubud drills including many different types of attacks and angles, the drills become extremely advanced and very spontaneous - causing the receiver to adapt instantly to rapidly changing stimuli and offering endless variety to keep the training lively and engaging.

In summary, hubud drills contain a treasure trove of possibility for interesting training and skills development.  I consider them to be very...well..."handy".  So should you.

See you soon.

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