The Filipino Martial Arts of Eskrima/Arnis/Kali is one of those highly effective and practical martial arts that are both combat and sport. This page is intended to guide readers and aspiring practitioners through the different aspects of the Filipino Martial Arts of Eskrima, giving them a bird's eye view of its fundamentals, weapons, training, techniques, and self-defence and fighting methods.
It assembles in an easy-to-learn way the basics of Filipino Stick Fighting. The different parts of this page are your ultimate resource for the Filipino Martial Arts of Eskrima/Arnis/Kali as a combative and sportive art.
Regardless of how excellent an Eskrimador is at wielding his or her weapons, it’d do very little good unless he or she has the proper footwork that brings the Eskrimador to the target. In Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), there a wide variety of approaches to footwork, but the triangular footwork is the most frequently used.
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Triangular Footwork. The triangular footwork came from the stick’s dynamics of movement as a weapon. One way to best illustrate is to draw the triangle footwork is a square-shaped box marked with an “X” inside it thus dividing the box into four joined triangles.
Diagonal Footwork. The top diagonal lines that resemble a “V” will represent the directions to take on the left side or right side of the enemy. If the enemy is performing a forehand horizontal strike using a stick from right to left, then moving forward left of the “V” indicates jamming the weapon, thus discontinuing it on its track before gaining momentum.
However, moving forward right of the “V” would indicate flowing along with the movement of the weapon until it reached in a zero-pressure area where it had already released much of the force. The lower diagonal lines that resemble an upside-down of the “V” will represent evasion, thus avoiding destruction by evading the business end of the stick of your opponent.
Linear Footwork. Aside from the triangle, other footwork approaches can be witnessed in the many styles of FMA such as the linear footwork resembling boxing and western fencing.
Circular Footwork. There are styles of Eskrima like the Balintawak style that uses circular footwork. The rationale is to move around so you don't get cornered by your opponent in a tight space. Circular footwork is facilitated by “shuffling” the rear leg either left or right and then continue to move clockwise or counter-clockwise.
- Hakbang (step). “Hakbang,” or “step” in Filipino, is a general expression for footwork. For instance, “hakbang paiwas” is pivoting footwork, whereas “hakbang tatsulok” is a triangle stepping.
Fundamental tactical ranges:
- Corto (close-range)
- Medio (medium-range)
- Largo (long-range)
Other Tactical Ranges and their Terminologies
- Hakbang: general expression for footwork
- Corto Mano: short movements, close range, a slight extension of the legs, weapons, and arms, cutting distance
- Serrada: “split step,” short-range split action, quick, footwork, back and front, low stance. This footwork is a triangular framework methodology’s base
- Largo Mano: long-range, extended motions, full extension of the weapons, arms, and legs, creating distance
- Fraile: short-range footwork, balanced position, short hop, hopping action, going away from the lead foot
- Ritriada: short-range footwork, shuffling action, pushing toward the back by shoving off the lead foot, providing 6 to 8 inches of range every action.
- Banda y banda: side-to-side action
A lot of Filipino systems focus on reacting to or defending against attack angles rather than specific strikes. In fact, the principle behind this is that nearly all forms of hand-to-hand attacks (with a weapon or barehanded) hit an opponent through these attack angles.
The reasoning here is that it’s more effective to learn to defend against various attack angles than to learn to defend against specific styles, techniques, or weapons. For example, the technique used for defending against an angle of attack coming from the right is extremely similar to when an attacker uses a knife, bare fists, a spear, or a sword.
Older style provided each angle with a name, yet more modern systems tend to number them. A lot of systems have 12 standard angles, but some only have as few as five while other even as many as 72.
Characteristic names of common single stick strikes and angles of attack:
- San Miguel (Forehand strike). Using the right hand, San Miguel is a forehand strike, shifting from the right shoulder of the striker on the way to his left hip. It’s named after the Archangel Michael or Saint Michael, who is frequently depicted by grasping a sword this way. This strike is the most usual for most inexperienced individuals. It’s frequently known as the “angle number 1” in systems where angles of striking are being numbered for training intentions since it’s assumed to be the most expected attack angle.
- Redonda (Circular Strike). Another signature style is the “Redonda,” which is a nonstop, circular, downward-striking, double-stick twirling style. A redonda, which means round in Spanish, is a strike that thrashes circularly to go back to its spot of origin. This is particularly useful when utilizing sticks instead of swords, such a strike permits tremendously fast hits but needs regular practice.
- Abanico/Witik (Snap Strike) An “abanico,” or a fan in Spanish, or “witik,” is a strike that’s carried out through flipping the wrist in a hundred and eighty degrees in a fan-shaped movement. This type of strike can be especially quick and can come from unanticipated angles.
- Pilantik. Pilantik” is a strike carried out through thrashing the stick around the wrist above the head, resembling a strike in a way an abanico is being used, but in irregular, three hundred degree strikes. It’s most helpful when combatants are in a grappling range, and cannot make adequate space for regular strikes.
- Puño (“hilt,” “fist,” or “handle”) is a form of strike delivered using the weapon’s butt. Usually, it aims for the opponent ’s nerve point or other soft spots, but in expert hands, this style can be utilized to shatter bones. In general, arnis techniques are based on the notion that both practitioner and his or her opponents are well prepared and highly trained.
II. Weapons used in Eskrima
Nobody walks around with katanas, jeans, or sabers anymore, but machetes, clubs, and knives are still among the most frequently used weapons in the streets and the fields, thus making Filipino Martial Arts a very sensible and feasible towards street and military fighting.
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Traditional weaponry differs in size, design, weight, usage, and materials but due to the resemblance of styles, the practitioners can only handle them in certain ways, any stuff that can be obtained easily can be made into a weapon by a martial artist.
Impact weapons are quite handy, portable and highly accessible weapons you can bring or use any time, anywhere. When someone attacks you, or you need to attack someone, you can strike using these impact weapons at potential target areas to neutralize him. You can also use impact weapons to defend against weapons.
- Olisi/Baston: Short sticks, usually crafted from kamagong or rattan
- Largo manoyantok: longer stick that ranges from 28 to 36 inches.
- Tongat/Bangkaw: Staff, pole or rod
- Tameng: Shield
- Dulo-Dulo: Palmstick
- Improvised weapons: key chains, pens, umbrellas, keys (push-knife grip), walking sticks, rolled-up magazines or newspapers, etc.
The walking stick is an improvised weapon fixed with blades on a short and long stick. Also, a weave/braid takes in the top segment of the walking stick to guarantee an excellent grip.
Instead of guns, Filipinos maintain the culture of swordplay with blades as the primary tool. Today, numerous locals utilize large blades as a tool to cut fruits, grass, and meat. Because of their accessibility blades became the secondary weapons of Esrkima.
- Bolo: a sword/knife is resembling a machete.
- Pinuti: a kind of sword from the Cebu Island. The blade is shaped that resembles a “Sundang” but elongated
- Sundáng or Iták: a household or farm bladed implement. Its blade has an evident belly, and a carved ground tip with a handle slanting down.
- Barong: a flat, broad, leaf-shaped blade frequently utilized by women.
- Binakoko: a lengthy blade. It is named after a porgy fish.
- Dinahongpalay: has an extremely fine blade shape that resembles a rice leaf.
- Kris or Kalis: an Indo-Malay dagger, frequently having an undulating blade, it is most frequently utilized in the southern region.
- Kampilan: a fork-tipped sword, famous in the southern part of the Philippines.
- Sibat: a spear
- Daga/Cuchillo (dagger and knife in Spanish) or Baraw/Pisaw: daggers and knives of various sizes and shapes.
- Balisong: butterfly knife or fan knife from Barrio Balisong, Batangas. The handle has two pieces and is attached to a pivot that folds up and enfolds the blade when closed up.
- Karambit: an Indo-Malay, claw-shaped blade held by placing a finger into a hole at the top side of the handle.
Refer to the following articles for more information on Filipino Blade Culture and Fighting: Filipino Bladed Weapons – Bolo Fighting, Filipino Knife Fighting in a Nutshell, Deadly Filipino Knife Fighting Technique
This is the rarest among FMA weapons. The phrase “A weapon is just the extension of the arm” is true when referring to FMA.
The Arnis system of fighting includes empty hands techniques which employ the flowing method of training like the tapi-tapi (Tapping) system to develop reflexes, sensitivity, timing, and good coordination.
It also utilized kicking techniques but usually applied to the lower part of the body and other empty hand maneuvers such as grappling and takedowns which are part of dumog or Filipino wrestling.
- Ice picks
- box cutters
- broken bottles
- car keys
- towels/socks with rocks
- power cables
- steel pipes
- wood planks
- tennis rackets
- chair legs
- rolled-up newspapers or magazines
- cellular phones
- the butt of a billiards cue
- coffee mugs
- tree twigs or branches, etc
- Sarong: fabric that envelops the waist
- Ekut: a handkerchief
- Tabak-toyok: chained flail or sticks, or nunchaku.
- Latigo (a whip in Spanish): consists of a handle that ranges from 8 to 12 inches, and a lash made up of a plaited thong that is three to20 feet long. The “fall” at the lash’s end is a single bit of leather that is 10 to 30 inches in length.
For a complete list of Filipino Martial Arts Weapons, see article: Filipino Martial Arts Weapons – A Complete List
III. Weapons Training
What made Arnis or Eskrima a unique form of martial arts is that its begins training by using weapons such as sticks swords, and daggers and it progresses to empty hand techniques or maneuvers. Traditionally this makes a lot of sense because the meaning of martial arts is the art of war and no one will go to war without weapons.
What You Need to Get Started with Training
Before you begin your training in eskrima, make sure you can gather or gain access to the following primary weapons or materials:
- Stick. It is the main weapon in Balintawak Stick Fighting. In the Philippines, it is known as Olisi (Cebuano) or as Baston (Visayan). The commonly used baston, yantok, olisi sticks used for training range from 24 to 28 inches long or the largo manoyantok: longer stick that ranges from 28 to 36 inches.
- Double stick. They can be utilized in the same way as the single stick. They can also build up all the traits that a single stick can do. In Balintawak Eskrima though, it is only used mainly for exercising the left-hand. The commonly used baston, yantok, olisi sticks used for training range from 24 to 28 inches long or the largo manoyantok: longer stick that ranges from 28 to 36 inches.
- Dagger. This weapon is very dynamic and useful – generally for thrusting, hooking and slashing. It can be utilized defensively or offensively in different ways against a variety of weapons. For Practice, use the wooden dagger: measures 300 to 360 mm or 12 to 14 inches.
- Bolo. The Bolo, the secondary weapon of Balintawak, is larger, machete-like, although still single-edged.
In Sports Arnis, Eskrima trainees wear hand, body and head protection while fighting with rattan-made sticks, or padded batons. Some modern organizations utilize sticks constructed from high-impact plastics, or aluminum or other metals.
- Body armor: the arnis body armor was designed to protect the upper body while at the same time, allowing mobility to the eskrimador. Depending on the type of armor, the material could be made of vinyl, hard plastic, or leather capable of absorbing the impact of strikes. Lower panels provide extra protective coverage.
- Headgear: the headgear is a necessary gear is sports arnis. It protects the eskrimador from strikes to the head while maintaining head mobility.
- Arnis gloves: useful gear for protection against strikes to the hands while allowing the eskrimador to get a firm grip at the weapon.
- Arm and leg guard: protects the eskrimador from strikes towards the limbs while allowing limb mobility.
- Panangga: protection or shield. These could be ancient shields used by ancient Filipino warriors or modern versions used in anyo or arnis presentations.
You can find more information on Sports Arnis on the post: Arnis Martial Arts in the Philippines – Sports Arnis
- Proper training attire for Balintawak Eskrima includes a pair of rubber shoes, jogging pants, and a t-shirt. Some styles of arnis also have their own training uniforms and you can use these uniforms during formal training.
Here are some images of training attires used in Filipino Martial Arts:
- Wrist, arms, chest, legs, back, neck, body
This training covers the different forms of striking using a single stick. Practicing the different kinds of classical strikes, striking figures, and learning their application to self-defense techniques.
In this training, practitioners shall learn different forms of Doble-Baston strikings and defensive movements as applied to sports and self-defense.
Doble Baston. Doble baston, and less often doble olisi, are common terms for a set of techniques that involve two sticks. This art is frequently known globally as “Sinawali,” which means “to weave.”
Sinawali. This technique involves the user to exercise both right and left weapons equally; several synchronization drills are utilized to assist the practitioner in developing into a more ambidextrous one. It’s the part of the art that’s taught mostly at the basic and intermediate levels and is regarded as one of the most crucial areas of training in the martial art.
Check out this video to get a perspective of esrkima double stick training:
Get a comprehensive view of Double Stick Training in the article: Double Stick Training to Develop Both Hands
Punta y Daga (Stick and Dagger)
Training with the stick and sword provides you with the basics of using nearly any non- projectile weapon for defending yourself. It is mainly transferable to empty-hand fighting, teaching you lessons you could use in other fields of self-defense.
Also, it is excellent for satisfaction and exercise. In FMA, the dagger and stick techniques and training are a combination of a range of styles based on the four-step matrix.
Stick and Sword
Sword and stick training are different but very similar as well. The weapons used are of the same length along with the same attack angles, defenses, and entries. On the other hand, there are several substantial differences.
For instance, far less power is needed to damage something using a sword whereas a strike on the arm may not affect using the stick but not with a sword. Moreover, it is unwise to block using a sword because the edges can certainly be damaged.
Essentially, a sword slashes while a stick hits. You may thrust using a stick, but it will not have the same effect as using a sword.
Knowing and becoming skilled at how to grip a knife with precision and skill requires just what it takes to become excellent at anything in our day-to-day lives: practice in single-knife combats as well as defense systems.
Training knives and practice knives are crucial to have as well as to use. Using these tools can enhance your knife skills in numerous ways, such as building muscle memory for knife handling as well as provide you with additional skills in how knives can be utilized in several situations where you need to defend yourself.
Double dagger training is essentially using two daggers: one dagger in each hand during a fight. It isn’t a common combat practice though. Even though historical accounts and records of dual-wielding in battles are limited, still, many weapon-based martial art systems like Filipino Martial utilize dual-wielding in their training.
Esapda y Daga (Sword and Dagger)
The Espada y Daga or sword and dagger uses a long stick or sword and a wooden dagger. While both weapons are used for offense, the dagger is generally used to deliver a finishing blow. Stick Fighting styles like San Miguel Eskrima specializes in in the Espada y Daga.
Creative Anyo using Espada y Daga would include offensive and defensive maneuvers and must have a practical application in combat.
IV. Other Eskrima Techniques
Disarming. Techniques for taking away the weapon of an armed opponent. Disarming can be done with or without the weapon (empty-hand), attacker or defender. The practitioner first parries or blocks the attack and executes a disarming technique. The technique should be executed fast for it to work.
Butting using “Punyo.” Also called basic “pokpok” in Visayan, the technique uses the base of the stick as a weapon to strike against vital areas like the fingers to disarm the opponent. Instead of delivering a counter-strike after block the opponent’s strike or counter-strike, use the base of the stick to delivering a butting strike on his weapon hand.
- Dulo y dulo: short stick roughly 4 to 7 inches long, held by the hand. This weapon is used for butting and striking in very tight places like inside the vehicle.
Traditional or “common sense” techniques
- Balitok – back-flip or acrobatic flip to escape attacks. This can as well be utilized in conjunction with kicking to knock opponents.
- Bikil, sapid or sapiti – hitting an enemy’s center of gravity for imbalance
- Bunal, puspos or bangag – downward hitting with a blunted weapon
- Bungot sa kanding – a goatee exercised by men to allegedly distract or intimidate an opponent.
- Busdak – throwing an adversary down toward the ground
- Dunggab, Luba or dusk – furtive stabbing stroke
- Dusmo – to shove an enemy’s face toward the ground
- Sumbag or hapak – packed a punch intended to take an opponent down
- Hata – fake movement meant to open up an enemy’s defensive stance
- Kamras or kawras – scratching assault to sensitive parts of the body like the eyes
- Kumot or ku-ot – furtive grappling and grabbing of body parts like the hair
- Kulata – combo strikes to overwhelm or disable an opponent
- Tamparos or laparo – slapping utilizing the palm
- Lihay – escaping attacks
- Lubag – joint twisting to an abnormal position to immobilize a bodily stronger opponent. This takes in a lethal snapping and twisting of the neck.
- Luglog – forward stabbing (or striking) and abrupt withdrawal with a rounded weapon. It could as well refer to thrusting/poking sensitive parts like the eyes
- Pakug– head butting
- Pa-ak– biting
- Sablig – hurling natural irritants to the eyes, for instance, sand to the opponent
- Sagang – blocking of attacks
- Tigbas – cutting and slashing stroke
- Tu-ok – locking or strangling the neck
V. Barehands Training
Empty-hand training is the main component of all the studied and taught arts by master instructors of Filipino Martial Arts. With the particular viewpoint of bladed arts and weapons, empty-hand training is just one of the many advanced subjects taught in Filipino Martial Arts.
Empty hand techniques are frequently taught last in FMA because the idea is that no one would want to go to battle empty-handed.
Other Empty-hand styles integrated into Eskrima include:
- Mano Mano: (lit. hand-to-hand) integrates kicks, punches, knees, elbows, finger-strikes, headbutts, locks, blocks, disarming and grappling techniques.
- Sikaran: Kicking styles, moreover, a separate kick-based art practiced in the province of Rizal
- Dumog: Filipino technique of grappling.
- Buno: Filipino technique of wrestling.
- Sayaw ng Kamatayan or Yaw-Yan: (Dance of Death) Yaw-Yan very much is similar to Muay Thai, but varies in the hip-torquing movement and the downward-cutting quality of its kicks, as well as the highlighting on attacks delivered from long-range (while Muay Thai highlights more on clinch). The strikes, punches, dominating palms, elbows, and hand motions are empty-hand versions of the blade weapons. There are twelve “bolo punches,” which were modeled from Arnis.
Check out this video to get a perspective of how eskrima bare hands techniques work:
IV. Drilling or Palakaw
Numerous classes of exercises, like the sinawali, sombrada, Contrada, sequidas, and hubud-lubud, originally shown to the public by the Inosanto school as organized drills, are expressly made to allow partners to move fast and experiment with different forms while staying safe.
For instance, in sumbrada, a partner performs a strike, which the other counters, thus flowing into a counterattack, and then countered, thus flowing into a counterattack, and so on. The Doce Pares’ hubud-lubad or hubad-lubad is often used as a form of generator drill, in which one is compelled to act and think quickly.
Firstly, students learn a particular series or attacks, counters, and counterattacks. As they advance, they can include slight variations, alter the footwork, or change to entirely different attacks; ultimately the exercise becomes nearly in total free-form. Palakaw is an un-choreographed and random offensive and defensive moves.
In Cebuano, “Palakaw” means a walk-through or practicing the various defenses and strike angles. It may be called corridas or attacking without any pattern or order. Take-downs, disarms, and other styles often break the flow of this drill, but they’re often introduced from this sequence of moves to compel the practitioner to adapt to various situations.
The drills start with each practitioner armed with two weapons. And as soon as the drill is flowing, if the practitioner sees a chance to disarm the enemy, they instantly do, but the drill doesn’t stop until both practitioners are empty-handed. Several drills utilize only one weapon per pair, and the opponents take turns disarming each other.
The FMA instructors schedule sparring sessions for each student to test their skill and learning. In sparring, the instructor must see to it that safety measures such as using protective gears, rubber mats and the like are strictly observed to prevent injury among the practitioners.
Sparring sessions shall be done first with double sticks, single sticks, knife fighting, then progress to empty hand fighting which includes boxing, kickboxing, dumog or wrestling that employs takedowns and grappling techniques. The type of sparring to be undertaken must be suited to the level of the student.
Creative anyo or form must contain both defensive and offensive techniques applicable in self-defense. However creative anyo must possess artistic movements but will not sacrifice the combative aspect of Arnis art. The duration of the anyo must not be less than one minute but not more than two minutes.
The anyo should be ended to the spot where it was started. The creative anyo should be memorized therefore it is necessary that the members of the board of examiners should require the examines to perform the anyo twice.