Natural Spirit Modern Arnis: The Evolution of Martial Movement

by: Belton Lubas


Natural Spirit Modern Arnis

The Evolution of Martial Movement By: Belton Lubas


Natural Spirit Modern Arnis was developed and defined during the 1980's when Professor Remy A. Presas was still formulating the conceptual progressions of Modern Arnis. Kelly S. Worden began his training with Professor Presas in 1982 and was already an Arnis black belt instructor in Combat Arnis under J. Cui Brocka. Additional foundation skills also included Isshinryu and Shotokan karate coupled with western boxing and a street defense system known as YaoMun Nomad kung fu. YaoMun Nomad was originally formulated using a template similar to Jeet Kune Do while also extracting the beneficial aspects of traditional forms into spontaneous free-style interpretations and full contact sparring.

The first time Worden trained with Professor Presas he realized that the overall "defang the snake" methodology of Modern Arnis art was similar to the conceptual "intercepting fist" strategies of Jeet Kune Do. In the October 2013 Black Belt Magazine issue Worden was quoted "Modern Arnis was the Jeet Kune Do of the Philippines and Remy A. Presas possessed the same ideological strategies of the famed Bruce Lee."

Modern Arnis was a natural fit for Worden and he immediately realized the value of Professor Remy's conceptual teaching methodology of "the art within your art." Without hesitation in 1983 Worden renamed his school "the Natural Spirit Chapter of Modern Arnis."

Over time, Worden formulated the strategy of connecting the systems with emphasis on the development of physical attributes, psychological conditioning, and legal knowledge for the purpose of personal protection. Worden believes the steps for triumphing in a self-defense situation need to be simple, easy, and adaptable to the environment. During the 1980's, Worden began intensive research into edged weapon training and methodology. Presas encouraged Worden to integrate the classical strategies of Filipino knife fighting directly into his teachings. Referred to as sub-systems in Natural Spirit, the elements of Double Action Abanico (fanning), Banda y Banda (side to side), Crossada (crossing) Palis Palis (passing with the force), Rompida (diagonal slashing), Ocho Ocho (figure eight), and Espada y Daga (sword and dagger) were seamlessly blended into Worden's interpretation of Modern Arnis. By also defining functional usage and distinctions of the pical (ice-pick/reverse grip) and the saksak (hammer or standard grip) the dynamics of both close quarter knife and long range bolo/machete skill development became a key component in the Natural Spirit curricula. Inspired by the freedom of expression aspects of Jeet Kune Do, Worden became personal friends with the late Ted Lucaylucay and integrated the concepts of "Blade to Boxing and Stickboxing." Worden's efforts clarified the natural connection to Modern Arnis and Professor's variation of "sinawali boxing." Blade to boxing as well as Stickboxing translate the effectiveness of western boxing through line familiarization. The geometric angles of classical arnis as well as variable numbering diagrams refine the practitioners comprehension of broken timing, rhythms, unpredictable angulations of attack, and unified physiological body dynamics for increased speed, power, and balance. Drawing from Jeet Kune Do's the five strategies of attack, Worden instills the simplicity and practicality in all aspects of his teachings. (ABC) Attack by draw, (SDA)single direct attack, (ABC) attack by combination, (PIA) progressive indirect attack and (IA) immobilization attack, all five strategies are directly relative to Modern Arnis, Western Boxing, Filipino Dirty-Boxing, and most aspects of martial combat. Worden's progressive research into Jeet Kune Do includes 30+ years of association to Richard Bustillo and Leonard Trigg, both instructors have added to the depth and natural evolution of Worden's art.

No system is complete without footwork and mobility; Worden teaches a progressive breakdown of stance platforms that are formulated to activate spontaneous usage of base disruptions. These applications are referred to as the low art and are structurally identical to traditional martial art stances, yet they are rooted in application from Indonesian Silat footwork maneuvers for deception, positional control, foot-trapping, leg-levers, sweeps, and low base destructions. To activate body target awareness a sequential set of Filipino Dirty Boxing targeting maneuvers is isolated and refined; the Essential 24-Double Dirty Dozen guides a student to develop Filipino Fast Hands with short range explosive power and efficiency in striking. The Essential 24 consist of (12) twelve frontal and (12) rear body targets; mobility and footwork enhance these maneuvers to familiarize the practitioner with positional control, multiple attack threat situations, and avoid potential tunnel vision. The usage of walls, tables, chairs, vehicles and other environmental obstacles are essential strategic components that enhance the practitioners comprehension of spatial awareness, cover, body shielding for positional control, weapon retention, as well as increase access time for weapon deployment.

Worden implements the conceptual aspects of close quarter training with his creation of the Silent Fighter Training Dummy Simulator. Designed specifically for solo-training; empty hand as well as weapon sets are formulated on the Silent Fighter to enhance attribute development, target awareness, and improve sensitivity. Because of its diversity to improve a practitioners full power kicking, striking, trapping, and weapons training, Professor Presas often referred to it as a Philippine martial art dummy.

​Worden was constantly blending and fusing the technical aspects of arts and systems ​that complemented the dynamic flow of Modern Arnis. It is documented history that ​Professor Presas integrated elements of Wing Chun for his trapping hands which ​enhanced the speed and finesse of his lock flow compliance strategies. Following those ​foundational ideals Worden sought out the Wing Chun connection through the ​evolutionary core elements of Non-Classical Gung Fu and the original teachings of Bruce ​Lee's first student Jesse Glover. By integrating Presas joint lock flow, Non-Classical Gung ​Fu, and silat driven base disruptions Worden formulated the Close Quarter Combat ​standing grappling strategies that he has instructed to thousands of U.S. Army Special F​orces soldiers. ​Worden was contracted as the primary Combatives Instructor for 1st Special Forces ​Group (Airborne) at Ft. Lewis, Washington and was assigned the task of developing a ​system of techniques that could address the missions that Special Forces soldiers may ​need to execute. The Special Forces carry out five basic missions: Special ​Reconnaissance, Direct Action, Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, and ​Counter Terrorism. Each mission has its own distinct operational requirements, tactics, ​techniques and equipment. Combative techniques, like equipment and tactics, must be ​modified to support a given mission. He covered all ranges: stand-up, standing ​grappling, ground fighting, as well as impact, edged, and improvised weapons. He also ​provided valuable instruction in the escalation of force, and the use of force from ​varying degrees ranging from controlling to lethal. It’s a concrete world and the only ​way to successfully test a concept is to “Get Real.” The soldiers trained on concrete, ​against walls, on grass, and among trees. Teams trained in field gear and mission ​specific equipment in order to fine tune their techniques for a battlefield engagement. ​Worden simply offers, “I believe that the most important thing is to develop the ruthless ​intent and mindset required to execute these techniques…that is the main objective.”

In ​conclusion, the concepts, training methodology, and applications of Worden's teachings ​have been military tested and street proven; Reality isn't sport, no referee, no Tap-outs!!!

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