Bringing Martial Arts to the NFL – Part 3

Hubad? YOU Bad!

Part three of a series titled Bruce to Bosa

In part one of this series, I discussed the role that Guro Dan Inosanto played in bringing martial arts to the NFL via the Dallas Cowboys. In part two, I brought martial arts in football up to present, and suggested that the cross training between football and martial arts would pay dividends to both current and former football players.

Here, I want to discuss hubad, a core drill in Filipino martial arts. In fact, hubad was one of the original components of martial arts training that Guro Inosanto brought to the Cowboys in 1977. Importantly, Randy White took to Filipino Martial Arts, and hubad—and continues to advocate for its usefulness in football drills (White begins at about :25).

In this article, I offer many different versions of hubad, including several by some of the most respected martial artists and self-defense instructors in the country. I offer specific examples and ideas for how I have coached high school defensive linemen, but a discerning and creative coach should be able to extrapolate many additional drills for linemen on both sides of the ball, linebackers and wide receivers.

Most of you—even if you already watched some of the videos above—may wonder what hubad is. Importantly, it can play two different roles, and probably should be described to the players in both capacities. It is a drill intended to help a student or player learn sensitivity to the types of strikes or blows that an opponent or opposing player may bring to the fight. But, it is also meant to be an energy drill that helps to acclimate the student or player to the heat of battle. (As a quick aside, in my mind, since we play in the trenches, battle and fight are exactly the mindset that a lineman need develop to be successful.)

Basic hubad (the drill itself begins at about 4:10, following an introduction) is usually described as a three-count drill for both participants. Opponent one offers a strike, usually coming from about a 45 degree angle from outside the body frame to inside the body frame. The strike is downward, from about head to shoulder height. Opponent two then intercepts the strike with an elevated forearm turned so the outside of the forearm meets the strike, passes the arm with the opposite hand, and then pins it to opponent 1’s body with the hand on the side that met the blow. The drill then repeats, but with opponent 2 offering the strike. This is an excellent drill and has many variations. Note that the drill can be made even more applicable to football with just the addition of speed, when the basic drill is learned, and the addition of movement. Note, for example, the above video featuring Randy White.

However, especially in pass blocking, most offensive linemen technique can be broadly described as a straight punch. Hubad is a good drill to teach counters to the straight punch. Note a couple of important items here. First, some of these counters can be used to batter offensive linemen’s arms. This is important, because in my experience this leads the OL to be much less active in pass blocking, especially in the third and fourth quarters. In addition, applications and similarities should become apparent with this video. In particular, a drill I’ve seen Larry Johnson, the defensive line coach at Ohio State, illustrate on a video from Twitter is very similar to the drill shown early in the video linked above. In the Twitter video, Coach Johnson parried a punch, then gripped the assistant’s arm with his thumb up in the shape of a C, and concluding with a punch that the assistant then parried. And the drill continued. I was unable to find the video of Johnson illustrating this, but Randy White shows the same drill.

(By the way, the title of this series is due to the similarity of the Johnson/White drill to that of hubad. And, of course, Coach Johnson’s ability to coach early first round draft picks. This video shows two of Johnson’s former players, Tamba Hali and Joey Bosa working technique prior to a game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Chargers).

In this section, I show variations using two of my primary teachers, Punong Guro Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny and Hock Hochheim. Both are among the most creative thinkers I know, and both bring an energy and attitude that, in my opinion, make them among the best in the world to learn from. Both have taught me much that I have used in drills at South Callaway. I begin this section with a video featuring Guro Denny and former Green Bay Packer Chris Gizzi, who is now the Packers strength and conditioning coach. In this video, the idea is to introduce concepts used in stick fighting—yes, this is a real thing—to empty hands fighting. At about 2:05 you see an important idea, that the initial target can be the forearm. In this context, in a football application, the defensive lineman has an opening hand movement in conjunction with footwork, both of which are taken from Filipino Martial Arts. The challenge, then, is how to apply this strike with hubad? In a related, but different exercise, we can see how to get that angle, where the attack can be made within the hubad drill format, which allows both for the energy and flow of hubad and a direct football application where the offensive lineman’s forearm is both the initial target and the means to control him as the d-lineman attacks behind the line of scrimmage.

If you have watched all the hubad videos linked thus far, you’ve gotten an excellent overview of the drill, and seen a good range of how martial artists teach this drill. One thing that you may not have noticed, however, is that the predominate way that hubad is taught is as a three count drill, with applications only on one side (for example, your partner always striking from your left). Let me begin by saying that the drill should be done with strikes from both right and left. Another way that both sides can be trained, however, is to allow for the drill to become a six-count drill for one of the partners. Here, Hock offers an excellent overview on how this can be done. It involves about 20 variations, all of which all simple, but many of which are rarely demonstrated. Understand that not all of these variations are applicable to football, but the combination is illustrative to the wide-ranging use of the drill, its simplicity, but also how a creative mind can use hubad in multiple ways.

In an effort to wrap up this series, I noted early in the first portion of the series that “Aaron Donald, the two time Defensive Player of the Year, recently had a viral video of him working to increase his hand reaction time with a coach using a dulled training knife.” Many sports commentators thought that this was ingenious. Donald was on several sports talk shows, including “Golic and WIngo” (if I recall correctly) where he explained that he was always looking for an edge with his training. If this is a desire that you, as a coach, share, here you can see hubad and variations played with training blades. Even if you opt not to use the blades, you see even more variations, movements, and training options that may inspire you to seek depth and breadth in this training modality.

Finally, I want to leave you with this. Martial arts training has been part of training at the highest levels of football. Hall of Fame defensive lineman Randy White not only used Filipino Martial Arts drills to compete in the NFL, but well past retirement. UCLA football has found use for explicit use of FMA drills, including hubad (the entire video is pretty interesting, but straight punch hubad is shown at about :30). This drill can be useful and has varied applications in football. Please take a look, and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Coach Gibson joins the Westminster College Blue Jay coaching staff after five years with the South Callaway Bulldogs, where he coached the defensive line. The Bulldogs were the Eastern Missouri Conference champions twice (2016 and 2018) and the 2019 Missouri Class 1, District 6 champion.

In addition to coaching, Gibson is also the John Langton Professor of Legal Studies and Political Science at Westminster College. He is a founding instructor at the Kali Academy of St. Louis, having earned rank as a Red Tag Instructor in Dog Brothers Martial Arts under Punong Guro Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny, as an advanced instructor of Pacific Archipelago Concepts under Hock Hochheim and as an associate instructor of Apex/Inosanto Blend Filipino Martial Arts while a student at Apex Martial Arts.