Eskrima, also known as Kali or Arnis, is the national sport and martial art of the Philippines. The three names are roughly interchangeable terms for the traditional martial arts of the Philippines (“Filipino Martial Arts,” or FMA) that focuses on the use of sticks, bladed and impact or blunt weapons, improvised weapons, and hand-to-hand (empty hand) techniques.
When commencing the study of Eskrima we are first introduced to the art by learning basic stick exercises. We learn the basic 12 offensive strikes and once these are mastered we move on to the 12 basic defensive blocks.
Once a student is deemed competent by their trainer with the basics, the more advanced forms are taught. These include 2 sticks, one long stick, and the 2 handed staff. As students gain proficiency we are taught skills with knives, daggers, palm-sticks and various Filipino swords. In time we learn to combine these different weapon systems.
A really good page that I found talks more about the history of Filipino Martial Arts here The Grand History of Filipino Stick Fighting – Stick Fighting Sport. This page has some very interesting information and is written by a highly experienced instructor from the Philippines who states;
“The three key elements to learning Eskrima are fluidity, rhythm, and timing. There are very few sharp, sudden movements, only smooth flowing transitions from each movement to the next. The flowing skills are the most important and most difficult to learn and apply”.
It is very true that Eskrima is a flowing martial art. Two things that I have been taught is the importance of transitioning movements and the importance of being ambidextrous. It is vital to be able to flow from one hand to the other and maintain rhythm. This also translates to me being a better Sikaran practitioner. Eskrimadors believe that hand-to-hand combat moves are similar to those with weapons and that is why these skills are developed concurrently. This helps me in Sikaran and I believe that Eskrima helps me to be become a much better martial artist overall.
BASIC GOALS OF ESKRIMA
Eskrima is primarily a weapons-based style of fighting. It involves inflicting bad, often fatal damage to opponents with the use of weapons and empty hand techniques as quickly as possible.
WHY DO I ENJOY ESKRIMA?
Eskrima is a complete martial art. It doesn’t focus exclusively on unarmed self-defence techniques nor does it focus exclusively on weaponry. Students learn to interchange weaponry depending on its availability so they can fight just as well with a weapon or without it. It covers all the ranges of combat. Eskrima trains the student to fight at long range (with feet), medium range (hands and feet), and close range (elbows and knees). It also utilises wrestling techniques, wrenches, take-downs, sweeps, throws and pressure point strikes.
Students of Eskrima learn to use weaponry first. Most other martial arts teach weaponry only to the most senior students when they have reached a high level of proficiency in their art. However, weaponry learnt this way is never related to empty hand applications and students are taught specific techniques, rather than teaching integrated principles. The benefits of learning weaponry first is that it increases the co-ordination tenfold for empty hand applications (after all, weapons are merely extensions of the limbs).
Students are taught sparring right from the start. No time is wasted learning intricate footwork, or stances. The student is taught to spar at short range, long range, grappling range, and with a variety of weapons. Eskrima is probably one of the only martial arts where sparring against multiple opponents is successfully trained.
Many techniques in Eskrima are lethal. Not many restraining techniques are taught since the art is grounded in mortal combat. Spirituality and martial virtue is attained independently by the students and not taught as part of the curriculum.
Although I started with Muay Thai & Boxing when I was 8 years old, the past 2 years of Sikaran & Eskrima have seen my skills and my passion for martial arts increase significantly.
There is just something about stepping into the circle with sticks, getting in close, delivering some strikes and backing out only to go back in hard & fast that I enjoy. Each round is 60 seconds of what appears to be utter chaos, but to me it is a beautiful dance. A dance where speed, accuracy & technique outweigh pure strength. A dance that is often painful but one that I love with a passion.