The book Mastering Eskrima Disarms sets out the theory, principles, strategies, and methods of four modes of disarms applied in Filipino martial arts. It then offers several dozen masters and grandmasters demonstrating their disarming techniques most used in their styles. It is the most thorough book available on the topic.
In this post, we are sharing the section of the book that looks at some of the dangerous assumptions some students and practitioners bring to the application of their disarms. By becoming aware of these, you can recognize their existence and then do your best to avoid them in your training. In the end, you react in real life as you train in class.
It is fair to say that the majority of disarming techniques taught in eskrima are applied in medium range. The obvious reason is that there simply are more defensive counter techniques in this range than the others. As a result, it is quite common for practitioners unwittingly to (mis)execute disarming techniques meant for either long range or close range, while they are in medium range. This accounts for why one’s disarm is countered or made ineffective against an opponent who is resisting or who has mastered range control. It’s dangerous to assume that all disarms are effective in more than one range. They are not.
Be careful also not to assert that all disarming techniques must be “tight.” While this is true to an extent, tight is a relative concept and is not indicative of a technique’s safety or effectiveness. Tightening the action of a disarming technique is often necessary to control the opponent’s weapon-holding limb, but being tighter-in or closer to the opponent can leave you in range of his second hand. Only when a disarm is done in the proper range and gate and with the appropriate opponent structural control, is it time to consider whether or not it should be tighter. Never put one concept (like “tightness”) above all others. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Concepts as a group are the scaffolding that give structure and strength to every technique, and one individual concept does not make a scaffold.
Many styles teach disarms as techniques that follow technical steps, like (for example) block the weapon, twist the arm, release the weapon. But there is much more to disarms than that. This method, by itself, brings too many assumptions to the encounter. It assumes that the practitioner was able to due four things: 1) maneuver into correct range; 2) stop the full force of the opponent’s strike; 3) prevent the opponent from resisting; and 4) keep the opponent from countering with his second hand or weapon. Those four assumptions are far too many to bring to an encounter with an armed assailant. It is important to understand that the disarming technique itself is not all you need to focus on and master. It is only the “shell” of the overall technique. Disarming techniques are the “main event,” but without the supporting structures there is nothing to support the disarm to make it both safe and effective in real time and under real circumstances.
To be both safe and effective against an opponent who is trying to hurt you and not let go of his weapon, there is a basic sequences of disarming action. This sequence is:
- Strike opponent… while in the proper range.
- Control opponent’s limb… while moving to a safe gate.
- Break opponent’s balance… while maintaining your own structure.
- Disarm opponent’s weapon… while aware of its characteristics.
- Follow-up and finish opponent… while not losing your nerve.
It is common when executing disarms in class and demonstrations for practitioners to do their flash disarms while the feeder (attacking partner) merely stands unmoving, his strike stopping at precisely the point of impact, and finishing too far away to actually hit the target. There is no follow-through, no power past the impact point, no counter and no (or little) allowance of what would otherwise be a natural attacker reaction under such circumstances.
Cooperative training is vital to the beginner’s learning curve. But, disarm training must progress to something more akin to the reality of what may be faced in actuality. Simple steps can be taken by the “attacking” partner to accomplish this.
- Being in the proper range to actually be able to strike the defender.
- Increase striking speed and power with each repetition.
- Following through on strikes, so the defender must actually stop or redirect the strikes, or else be struck.
- Reacting naturally to the defender’s technique, rather than posing.
Practitioners can learn a lot about their art and themselves with such a training progression. It is simple, but allows the drill feeder to lead the session and help the defending partner increase his timing, technique and structure over time. There are many more ways in which training progressions can be developed in class, and each system and teacher will have their preference and focus. The point here is that there should be a progression in place for students to advance their skill on purpose and not just hope for the best when the time comes to use it.