As a martial artist, I’m a firm believer in the efficiency and practicality of a solid striking system. Not that I eschew the ground game, I do dabble in a little bit of wrestling and grappling, to compensate for “just in case” moments- but in the streets or in sports, it’s always safer and practical to keep the fight standing. That’s why I was thrilled when I got the chance to join Brawler’s Lab’s Striking Protocol Workshop conducted by none other than Ricardo “Gabay” Forlales, also recognized as the one who brought the Cage Fitness system in the Philippines.
In a country where boxing is passionately revered by both fans and local aspiring fighters, and recently MMA gaining popularity with the success of Filipino fighters in the world stage, anyone who can throw a punch and slug off in an amateur bout can soon just find themselves teach in a local boxing gym. This is where the problem starts- since anyone can teach, yes, but not everyone can teach efficiently and systematically. I bet you’ve seen those YouTube videos of gym coaches slapping with their mitts the gloves of students or those awkward mitt holding, in what in my martial arts discipline we jokingly call- “coaches simulating a three-headed opponent”.
Coach Gabay’s Striking Protocol addresses these mistakes and enables coaches/trainers to effectively formulate their training regimen into something fun, simple, practical and surprisingly yes, effective in actual combat scenarios. This is a guy who knows what he’s talking about. As for credentials? Coach Gabay himself practices JKD, as well as having a deep understanding of other striking arts such as Muay Thai, Wing Chun, Boxing, and FMA’s Kali and Sikaran. He used to fight Muay Thai matches locally and abroad. Gabay is also a Submission Wrestling instructor, the only Filipino instructor accredited by Guro Guy Chase under the Karl Gotch system; a founder of the Sagupaan Self-Defense system; and already produced URCC bantamweights Jiar “The Twister” Castillo (Fight Farm Champion), Jonar Oyo “Head Hunter” Cruz, and Bernard “Burn” Soriano of One Championship.
It was such a pleasure hearing a martial arts/fitness coach lecture first about the fighting arts in general, the history and relevance geographically and rules set differences of each art. Then he moves on to discuss about proper training gear handling coupled with a few tips on how to asses your clients/students, keep them motivated so they will come back and how to gain their trust. The lecture was done in a light and fun approach where questions are entertained and answered on the spot.
The Striking Protocol is not a new invention but more of an innovation in training methodology. It encourages a continous loop of pre-determined sets relying on a system of verbal and visual stimulus. The numbering system lessens the coach’s fatigue, improves the student’s reaction time, and allows the training to be fresh each time. Once you have a good grasp of the system, it is just like creating a jigsaw puzzle where you can join these sets by “connectors” such as slips, weaves, kicks, or even takedowns, thus creating another set. Mitt holding drills were done to have everyone be comfortable to the numbering system.
I like how these sets are what Gabay calls, “high percentage strikes”. No fancy variations or theatrical movements. This simplicity enables the trainer and the student to focus on accuracy, power and speed- all essential in any striking art. It has a lot of principles relatable to JKD, the art that I also practice, where we only have 5 punches and 3 kicks- and the mastery of these simple punches and kicks allows you to add variation depending on your timing, distance and intent, disregarding fanciness and showmanship.
It truly is a must have workshop in your arsenal if any one is serious in teaching a striking art, be it for fitness or for sport competetion. In our community of martial artists and mma afficionados, Striking Protocol is a much needed program to refine an instructor’s training program. Because having a good system produces great coaches, and great coaches can produce fantastic fighters- all a giant step forward for our combat art’s development.
For more about Striking Protocol, Cage Fitness and other programs, you may visit Brawler’s Lab’s FB page for inquiries.