One of the challenges every aspiring stick fighting practitioner face when learning Arnis Fighting Techniques is getting a complete understanding of the art – its essentials and principles, and effectiveness.
Many think of it as some ancient art that is no longer relevant in an age of guns, germs, and steel.
Besides, who uses a stick to defend himself these days?
I used to think the same way when I first started out as a practitioner. My understanding of the art back then was half-baked. I knew the art was effective but much of my understanding of it came from Hollywood movies and local sports tournaments.
After years of training and study, though, I discovered that there is so much more about the art than I initially thought. For instance, the stick is only a mere extension of the arm in Filipino stick fighting and the techniques are just as effective with the bare hands as they are with the stick.
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I also discovered the deadly, combative side of the art and just how effective it is on the streets.
In this post, we are going to discuss some of the essential principles of Escrima stick fighting techniques. These essentials principles are a distillation of the years of my training and studying the art.
A good understanding of these basic principles will help you get started on your journey towards becoming a master stick fighter. It will answer that one question that echoes in every aspiring Filipino Stick Fighter – What is Filipino Stick Fighting and how can it help me transform into a martial arts master?
So read on…
- 1 Arnis Fighting Origins, Important Terms, and Universal Principles
- 2 Arnis Fighting Weapon
- 3 Role of the Weapon in Training in Arnis Fighting
- 4 The Basic Arnis Fighting Training
- 5 Arnis Fighting Timing and Rhythm
- 6 Principles of Speed
- 7 Economy of Movements
- 8 Arnis Fighting Principles of blocking, throwing and striking with power
- 9 Distance and Range
- 10 Positioning Yourself
Arnis Fighting Origins, Important Terms, and Universal Principles
Eskrima has its roots in the Philippines.
Also called Arnis, or Kali, Eskrima is a Filipino weaponry system. There are many styles of Eskrima, but these styles follow universal essential principles in striking, defending, disarming body movement, etc. Eskrima is very practical and effective against self-defence situations – especially if the attacker has a weapon.
Filipino martial arts is different from other martial arts in that it trains in the weapon first before proceeding to the bare hands. Becoming proficient in weapons training, the student finds it easy to learn the bare hand's techniques since the basic skills are already built-in to him.
We will briefly cover the different techniques and skills of Esrkima here.
So keep reading until the end. We don't want you to miss anything…
What is an Eskrimador?
When you first made your research on Filipino Stick fighting, you may have heard of the term “eskrimador.” An Eskrimador is an individual who practices Eskrima. Both these terms originated from the Spanish influence in the Philippines. In Spanish, “Eskrima” means “fencing,” and “Eskrimador” means a “fencer.”
If you read the Philippine history books, you'd see how the Filipino warrior and eskrimador Lapu-Lapu defeated Ferdinand Magellan in mortal combat.
In other words, eskrimadors are badass. And once you've begun your training on Filipino stick fighting and learned enough to defend yourself on the streets, you too will be an eskrimador; a fighter, warrior of the art.
Now that you know what Eskrima and an eskrimador are, let's check out our weaponry…
Arnis Fighting Weapon
An “olise” or a stick is the primary weapon in Filipino Stick Fighting or Eskrima. It's made of a tough, fibrous vine called a “rattan”. Its length must be similar to the armpit's distance to the fingertips. It is supported by about 2-3 inches of the exposed butt-end.
Since it's very light, it can be moved rapidly at different angles of attack, defense, and motion. Since it's made of rattan, it's almost unbreakable.
The secondary weapons include the machete or blade and the knife. In practice, we handle the stick as though we're holding a blade; always holding and striking with the bladed side.
As we've mentioned earlier, the stick is only the extension of the arm in Eskrima and the techniques applies to the empty hands as well. Thus, your limbs become a human weapon you can use to attack or defend against a potential assailant.
And you may not be holding a stick. You may be holding an axe, a roll of a magazine, and any object extending from your arms. It's all the same. They can be your weapons too.
Filipino Arnis Fighting weaponry is awesome, isn't it?
The article Stick Fighting Techniques That Can Save One's Life shares life-saving Eskrima techniques you can learn at home.
Let's explore more…
Role of the Weapon in Training in Arnis Fighting
Many Chinese and Japanese martial artists try to teach a trainee to fight with no weapons, then, progress to just fighting with weapons in the next stages of training. Consequently, very few individuals in such arts are capable of using their weapons training during sparring.
The Filipino Martial Arts are subject to highlight the exercise of weapons first then secondly, the exercise of the empty-hand. Thus, Eskrimadors are more skilled during weapons sparring than other martial artists.
The Filipino arnis fighting incorporates sticks, swords, daggers, empty hands, and even secondary weapons in its self-defence system. The fast and elusive sticks of Filipino Martial arts is feared by all. The constant motion, fluctuating angles, reversals, elliptical motions, and convergence of weapon and bare hands make the arnisador a formidable opponent.
Training begins at the basic level and gradually proceeds to the more advanced levels as the practitioner improves his skill. While practitioners only use practice weapons during training, each pushes himself to train as though they are dealing with real weapons.
Thus, Kali martial arts training is fast – compelling each practitioner to sharpen his skills and reflexes so that he will be ready for actual combat. Bare hands training is also emphasized since the weapons are only the extension of the hands.
You can learn all these formidable stick fighting techniques by training seriously in an arnis fighting school.
The Role of Drills in Training in Arnis Fighting
Filipino Martial Arts training is straightforward and direct. There are no flowery or fancy but useless moves. Attacks are done in a simple and efficient manner. The attacks are classified into different angles. The type of weapon – whether stick, bladed or bare hands makes little difference because the principles of attack and defence are the same.
This type of training increases the practitioner's speed and reflexes, making him more capable of defending himself in times of adversity. Defending and countering the different angles of attack is a universal part of the training.
Through two-man drills is how a student is trained, under the management of a more practiced Eskrimador. The most important and fundamental drill, known as “1 to 12,” entails alternate defense and the block against the basic stick blows. At the start of the training, the strikes are performed in a particular pre-arranged order.
Two various roles are played, that of junior and senior Eskrimadors. The senior Eskrimador will try to train the junior with the correct ways to move through utilizing light redirecting motions and coaching. Simultaneously, the senior is going be improving his style.
Firstly, the strikes are delivered in an identified order, 1 to 12, but afterwards, this order is going to be randomized and varied.
If both trainees are rather more advanced, a few additional styles will be further added. Firstly, the junior won't be able to protect himself against these techniques. However, his skill will improve sooner or later. In the end, the strikes won't necessarily be executed with the stick; all four limbs may be utilized.
Left-hand strikes can be done to trigger a finger nudge towards the eyes, a chop or a punch to the gullet or a hook to the torso. In practice, this will correspond to a light touch or slap. Due to the remarkable speed wherein the exercise is performed, the student swiftly discovers not to blink the timing, speed, distancing, and eyes.
What Training is Like
When I first started out as a trainee of Balintawak Stick Fighting, I was impressed but intimidated by the training at the same time. The strikes were very fast and coming in different directions. The junior students were using all of their limbs to strike at each other not just the stick.
For apparent reasons, the triceps are hit rather than the temple during training. This is regarded as an equivalent to striking the head. The groin is hit instead of the lower abdomen, and instead of hitting the knees, we hit the lower leg or thigh.
I've never seen anything like (not in my previous martial arts training). I knew the training would be tough and I did go through intense mental and physical training. But it all paid off in the end. Now I can move just as fast (even faster) than my previous seniors. I am now a master of the art myself.
The training I've gone through completely changed my perspective on Philippine Stick Fighting and it would change yours too.
Check out this video to get a good perspective of what APO-Balintawak Stick Fighting training is like:
But there is more to learn about the art so let's dive into the next section…
The Basic Arnis Fighting Training
The 12 Pairs of Balintawak Eskrima
In Balintawak Eskrima, there are 12 attack angles and 12 corresponding defenses. Every angle of striking stands for the target spots of a body. This kind of approach is widespread to Filipino arts.
- Angles number 1 and 2 are lateral strikes from head's top to neck's base
- Angles 3 and 4 are lateral strikes from shoulders to hips. The primary targets are the elbows, the hands, and the shoulders
- Angle 5 is a midline push from below upward
- Angles 6 and 7 are lateral strikes to the armpits or chest
- Angles 8 and 9 are lateral strikes from hips to feet. The target spots are the shins, ankles, knees, or feet
- Angles 10 and 11 are lateral strikes to the neck or eyes
- Angle 12 is a midline strike from above downwards
These strikes can be executed with a stick's end, the feet or left hand.
The fundamental training for the 12 angles is performed with a stick against a stick. This offers the foundation for all succeeding Balintawak Eskrima methods, whether executed with a stick, a knife, or perhaps unarmed.
Look at your enemy's eyes always. If you're a skilled fighter, you look at the eyes of your opponent. If not, look at the upper body. Some fighters rather keep their look focused on the opponent's lead elbow, especially if that limb holds a weapon.
The elbow and possibly the shoulder are slow in motion and present a clue to the hand's movement. Don't blink. It could cost you your life in an actual fight and simply being hit in the arnis fighting training. Look with two eyes.
In Balintawak Stick Fighting, we train under dim light. One can barely see the stick and weapon. This training is designed to develop one's vision.
Things are getting more interesting aren't they? There's more…
Arnis Fighting Timing and Rhythm
You should know when to perform your technique. This is imperative, but hard to teach. An opportunity occasionally presents itself very briefly. Utilize the well-placed pauses and proper rhythm. The rhythm should be in sync with the moves of your opponent; however, this is delicate and hard to learn.
Don't hurry through your styles; you'll lose power and balance. Sometimes, a quick movement is less efficient than a slower one might be. Some styles depend on a slight pause for their appropriate move. However, being slower isn't efficient at all.
In Balintawak Stick Fighting, we never sacrifice speed for power. Power is the result of speed. And we never sacrifice timing for speed. Timing and precision are the most important factors to consider.
Pay strong attention to your enemy and your environment, but move with no forethought or thinking.
Principles of Speed
At numerous demonstrations, professional martial artists of different groups and styles have been provided with a stick and a helmet and spar with each other. To this point, nobody, including some black belts, has been able to perform to their maximum potential.
This isn't mentioned to demean these black belts' abilities, but to show that a strike in Filipino stick fighting like the Balintawak style is extremely fast. A great amount of practice is what it takes to protect oneself against a stick used in this way – before one could even notice the stick being moved and hitting.
It takes some practice and technique to block a fast blow.
Make blows more deceptive and faster by omitting all wind-ups and unnecessary movements. To maximize the blow speed during the fighting, snap the wrist. Much of the power is generated in this way as well. The use of the elbow and shoulder joints are best at a distance.
Proper torque makes the most power for finishing blows from the shoulder and hip joints.
Economy of Movements
Economical movements are a necessity. Seek the shortest trajectory all the time. This can be compared with the more extended circular trajectories for strikes and blocks found in some other arts. In stepping, don't perform 270-degree turns just like ones found in a few other martial arts.
Cross-stepping, as observed in other techniques, isn't practiced.
Check out this video of my master Andrew P. Obon doing a corridas drill to see the principle of economy of movement:
Stay relaxed and loose, to make each motion explosive. For speed, utilize muscular explosion. The relaxation principle is a section of a swift motion. A relaxed arm will speed up faster.
Arnis Fighting Principles of blocking, throwing and striking with power
Numerous body dynamics principles are utilized to build superior power. The most imperative perhaps is the twisting for power principle. All arm movements, whether executed with the rear front leg, are performed with a powerful body twist.
This, in fact, provides strikes in the lead hand almost as much control as strikes in the rear hand. Another significant component in obtaining power is using gravity by dropping your weight. This can be increased when stepping through or allowing the blow to drop into the body before planting the stepping foot.
Further power can be created in strikes by slanting into a blow. Finally, many strikes create extra power by snapping or twisting the wrist.
Distance and Range
It may not be obvious to the inexperienced martial artist, but controlling the space between you and your enemy might be the most significant factor towards achieving victory in a fight. Additionally, at various ranges, several dynamics come into play, and different techniques are essential.
During the engagement, you might encounter different distinct ranges, especially in an explosive exchange. The following classification scheme resembles several others in regular use, and should effective in actual execution. Distance is arranged from long-distance to medium, to close range, with five categories.
- 1st – outside range – initial distance. At this point, no contact is made with a weapon or foot and you have to close the distance first. You keep your head farther than the ideal range and utilize long-range defence styles. This is temporarily assumed as a safe position. If you move any closer than this, you must control the offensive.
- 2nd – long-distance range. This range will enable you to successfully strike your enemy with a long weapon or a leg, without stepping. You must never remain within this range and do not engage in the attack first.
- 3rd – punching range. This range will enable you to hit your enemy with close kicks, hand, or a knife.
- 4th – in the – fighting range – a little closer. At this point, you can utilize hook punches, elbows, disarms, uppercuts, arms leverage kind takedowns, off- sweeps, balancing, restraining, trapping and turning techniques.
- 5th – grappling range – the closest. You may utilize judo and wrestling kind groundwork and take-downs. This is the ideal range of the Jiu-jitsu exponent or the wrestler.
Even though the ground is generally more suited to grappling styles, it is best to use in- fighting styles on the ground and not get trapped in wrestling holds. We have techniques against grapplers too.
There is a common misconception that Filipino Stick Fighting lacks grappling and is therefore vulnerable to grappling techniques. As we've seen in the 5th range, the eskrimador does not allow himself to be grappled and uses in-fighting techniques to his advantage.
You might think you've read enough to make up your mind about kali stick fighting.
Keep reading a little bit more… But the fun isn't over. There's more to discover.
Use proper footwork so that the weapons are set up in the proper distances for defence or attack. Use the body motion to position the weapons at the right angles for a successful attack. Apply body motion to evade the attacker's weapons.
Thus, excellent footwork is necessary. If your footwork is very slow, the evasion or attack would also be slow, and power won't be generated at the optimum level.
When positioning yourself in proportion to the opponent, you should control your distance. If you control the distance, you can control the fight. Remember that different styles and techniques are appropriate for various ranges.
More on proper positioning to gain better momentum over your opponent in Eskrima in the article – Stick Fighting Methods – A Comprehensive Guide
Guess what, in spite of everything you've read in this post, there's still so much more to learn about Filipino Stick Fighting and we can't cover all of them in this section. But you have learned enough to help you get started. Remember these principles when you're starting out. They will guide you along the way.
As you have seen here, there is more to Stickfighting martial arts than you've initially thought just like I did). If you want to get the most from the art though, you should start training soon. As you begin training, you will see different aspects of the art that you've never seen before and learn more than you expect.
You can enhance your self-defence skills and increase your chances of survival if you are good at Filipino stick fighting. Learn this art and you will develop not just speed and reflexes but excellent fighting abilities.