If the objective is to learn the true art of Filipino Eskrima then everything should be done in a simple and direct manner in order to be truly combative and become very efficient in doing it. But the thing is, most people would rather study a system that has a lot of flowery and complicated movements. It’s embedded in the human psyche to be drawn and be attracted to things that are seemingly magical rather than what is supposed to be real and natural. I sometimes also tend to do that but before I get lost in this state I would somehow awaken myself in order to get back to our system’s true principle and philosophy. That is to approach combat the way we should. DIRECTLY SIMPLE and SIMPLY DIRECT.
Aliveness and Sparring
An old martial arts teacher told me that sparring is of no real value in actual combat because it has nothing much to do with what a thug or criminal would do in a real situation, and on and on he went trying to convince me of his views. Well I never believed him and continued to be an advocate of what I refer to as “aliveness,” which means that you go duke it out with your sparring partner and see what works and what fails during a quasi-combat encounter. That means that you get hit and he gets hit and both suddenly realize that you sometimes go home with a bruise here and there and it feels good. Although I believe that sparring is not the only tool you could use for practicing your skills, I really do believe it to be an essential part of martial arts training. Sparring teaches you a lot about timing, being able to read your opponent’s mind and countering his attack, when and how to attack effectively, knowing and exploiting your opponent’s strength and weaknesses and knowing yours as well. It also helps you to understand and feel pain when you get hit and what it means to fight under pressure.
I was once in U.P. Diliman with one of the instructors of AK Mr. Rommel Ramirez and we were there to demonstrate what our system was all about. Of course there were other groups too who were invited to demonstrate. I got so tired of seeing techniques being done over and over in a prearranged setting while everybody was intently watching these people. I really had nothing against them and I do respect their arts but when it comes to demonstrating what my system is all about then I would have to really show it. So after a few words of introduction I then instructed my friend to go live! Well we did stick sparring, knife sparring and hand to hand without any armor or protective gear and I got hit, my student got hit we were both getting black and blue lumps all over…… everybody was silent. We ended up laughing. That’s ALIVENESS folks!
Stick and Knife Fighting are Different Things
I have heard a lot of old-timers in Filipino martial art circle says that learning how to use the stick will automatically give you the ability to translate it’s techniques into knife work or whatever impact or edged weapon you are using. I do believe that there are similarities with the movements being used for each weapon but then again they also have their differences. And knowing this simple fact will give you an understanding of up to what point a certain weapon is effective and where its limitations lie. (Such knowledge could even save your life.) Knowing how to wield a stick does not mean that you know how to wield a knife effectively. First of all a stick is an impact weapon, and the way you generate force in order to use it effectively as a weapon is very much different from a knife, which is designed to cut, thrust or hack. No amount of stick fighting would prepare a student for knife work. So the assumption that learning how to use a stick could be easily translated into knife work or vice-versa is not true. Although the angles are the same and movement are similar, the law of physics when it comes to the use of different kinds of weapons says they are different. Try wielding a stick and a bolo or machete and you’ll see what I mean.
A Place for Locks and Holds
There are many reasons for learning joint manipulation techniques and strangle holds. They can be used as an effective self-defense method in some situations. They can be applied as restraints or arrest techniques when necessary. They can be useful in controlling or injuring a person to a certain degree and most of all they can serve as a bargaining position through which you could talk some sense to the other guy to stop whatever foolish thing he is attempting to do. In my opinion, these techniques are actually incidental in nature which means they can only be applied when the opportunity presents itself. Never engage on a street fight looking for a lock or a strangle hold. What I mean is that they should not be used as your primary tool for self-defense. Hitting with a barrage of elbows, knees, eye jabs and kicks will serve you better when it comes to a street fight, especially when dealing with multiple attackers. It would even be better to grab a hold onto something which could be used as a weapon or as an effective equalizer should the assailants be armed with knives or other things. Most real fights last less than 10 seconds. There is seldom an exchange of technique between combatants or what we refer to as fakes, feinting, trappings and other maneuvers that are only used as drills or those that are executed in study, sparring and tournaments.
As in almost all fights, the guy who lands the first telling blow is usually the one who wins. Against someone who is potentially dangerous and who constantly engages himself in trouble or does criminal acts as his way of living, it would be very risky to depend on locks and holds as your first line of defense. This is especially true if you are just a beginner in the martial arts because even for those who have achieved a high skill in the application of these techniques in the dojo it very difficult to apply these skills against a very aggressive opponent who happens to be punching, kicking, elbowing or even biting, simultaneously. It becomes even more difficult if you were up against two or more attackers. It would be like trying to catch three soccer balls in order to protect your goal. Forget what you see in the movies or even in the Ultimate Fighting Championship for that matter because we are talking about the real thing where everything is unrehearsed, goes without rules, no referees, no audience, no tap outs and no time limits. This is the world where guns, knives, broken bottles, tires and even trash cans can be used. The best equation would be to hit-hit-hit then lock, if necessary, and not lock-lock-lock, then hit. Always remember that in most instances in street attacks, the prudent behavior is to escape as quickly as possible. If strikes such as head butts, knees and elbows are to be used, there is often no need to apply restraining techniques or strangle holds.
Eskrima Street Defense by Bong Abenir is available now.