The Essential Ray Floro is a two-DVD set available through Chief Instructor Floro’s website, RayFloro.net. The set begins with Instructor Floro explaining that his Floro Fighting Systems is an edged-weapon-based art. His philosophy may be at odds with many martial artists’ sentiments on the topic: “Why do we need to learn how to use edged weapons? The simple fact is, using edged weapons is different to using empty hands,” he explains at the beginning of the DVD. “To get an appreciation of the nature and the character of the edged weapons, you need to learn how to use it. I wanted to offer a DVD where an individual or a school can take an edged weapon syllabus and put it into their curriculum.”
Floro himself holds high-level rankings in numerous traditional martial arts, including Kalis Ilustrisimo and Lameco Eskrima. His two-DVD set comprises five lessons covering offensive and defensive use of the knife as well as defenses against a knife when you are unarmed. “Learning all these areas,” he explains, “will give you a rounded and a complete appreciation of what to do if you are attacked against a knife, and how to develop a system to defend yourself empty-hand against a knife.”
“Floro Fighting Systems is a system of Edged Weapon combat and defence that is not only simple to learn, but is one of the most effective systems of self defence available today,” reads the Floro Fighting Systems website. “Efficient, direct and immediate, FFS is one of the very few styles that is still based on the blade, and is used by civilians and members of the military, and law enforcement agencies worldwide.”
The lessons are formatted in 5 progressive modules. Disc One contains Lessons 1 and 2, while Disc Two contains lessons 3, 4, and 5. The lessons are outlined as follows:
- Lesson 1: Grip, posture, basic thrust, basic defense
- Lesson 2: Basic slash, angle matrix, defensive tactics, the lunge
- Lesson 3: Universal shield, knife vs. knife, unarmed vs. knife
- Lesson 4: Fake tactics, fake matrix, improvised weapons
- Lesson 5: The pivot, jamming tactics, stealing distance
Overall production values are both reasonably good, with only minor issues. There is some echo and background noise, particularly during the instructional sequences (which take place indoors, as opposed to the introduction sequences, which are outside), but nothing that causes any problems. The picture is clear in all cases. In a few of the sequences the audio drops out on one side (I wore headphones when watching the DVDs, so the change was noticeable), but again, this did not stop me from hearing what needed to hear to understand the lessons. The division of the DVD into multiple lessons, which can be selected through the DVD menus, makes it easy to keep track of what you are doing.
There are two aspects of training with knives that Instructor Floro always emphasizes: The first is the importance of safety in training (including good protective gear and respect for one’s training partners). The second is the social and legal responsibilities of training with, carrying, and using knives. Especially given that knives are not legal in some areas, the latter is extremely important, while the former fosters a training environment in which quicker and more realistic progress can be made, he asserts.
The lessons are easily followed and build on each other by design. The instruction is never boring; Ray is an engaging and personable instructor who brings enthusiasm and energy to what he is doing. Camera angles change, zoom in, and zoom out as required. The backgrounds change multiple times. A variety of training equipment and visual aids are also used, so there’s plenty to keep you interested as you go through all five lessons.
There are some interesting surprises. I was fascinated by Ray’s demonstration of the Floro Fighting Systems’ slash. “I think it is one of the most unique techniques in the system in that it is very deceptive. …The thrust and our slash looks very similar. In terms of my opponent, he’ll find it very hard to discern whether I’m actually stabbing him or cutting him.”
To perform the thrust, Ray executes a reverse-grip, blade-in thrust and, in the last moment of the strike, closes the last two fingers of his grip (FFS advocates a grip with the first three fingers and thumb) in order to orient the knife blade for the slash as it is retracted.
“There is no circular motions in Floro Fighting Systems,” Floro explains. “…It’s straight line, straight line, retract.”
Overall this is a very well thought-out system presented thoroughly in the two-DVD set. It honestly doesn’t matter if you like or dislike Ray’s system, if you advocate it or don’t advocate it, and even whether you have trained in it or not; if you have even the most basic grounding in martial arts you’ll be able to learn from the systematic way it is presented here. To me, that is the ultimate goal of any DVD presentation: Can it teach the viewer how to perform the system at at least a rudimentary level? In this case, the answer is a resounding yes. If you are interested in knife combatives, this DVD set is one of the better ones we’ve examined.