The following is excerpted from GM Dan Medina’s comprehensive new book, The Secret Art of Derobio Escrima, published by Tambuli Media.
The basis of Derobio Escrima is built on deflecting and controlling movements and techniques. First and foremost, the most important aspect is the principal of “passing” the attacking blow, thus redirecting the energy of your attacker, while a counter-move is employed from the outside. It is this basic idea that gives this art the ability to level the playing field, allowing you to defend yourself against attackers that may be larger and stronger than you. By redirecting the attacker’s energy, instead of meeting it force to force, Derobio has proven itself to be an effective self-defense art for practitioners of all ages, genders and physical fitness levels.
That being said, as with anything, there are no absolutes. There may be times when you will need to adapt to the given situation and a “force to force” response is unavoidable. Even in this case, the passing techniques can seamlessly be integrated into these situations, giving you a wider range of responses and options. Derobio Escrima emphasizes disarming techniques and defensive behavior rather than aggressive actions. Disarming and rendering an attacker incapable of further aggression is the primary goal.
Derobio training begins with the basic exercises, the first 12 strikes and 12 defenses. The 12 strikes or Doce Teros are similar to many other Filipino martial arts. They are practiced on the instructor’s count (in Spanish) and are continuous in movement. These strikes are practiced in a four corner pattern, striking all 12 angles then turning a quarter turn to the left (moving in a counter clockwise direction), and repeating to all four sides. The 12 defenses are not blocks in the traditional sense; there is no force-to-force contact. Instead, opposing strikes are deflected or passed. The defenses are also practiced in a four corner pattern although the quarter turn is now to the right (moving in a clockwise direction).
Once the student has become proficient in these basic movements they are paired and they begin striking and defending alternately. These drills are done slowly at first but soon move to “real time” speed, allowing for automatic or reflexive actions to be ingrained into the student’s subconscious behaviors. Basic counters are quickly added to the defensive strikes which may include strikes to the wrist, elbow and collarbone. As the student progresses, more counters are added including knees, ankles, head strikes, punching, kicking, locks, disarms, takedowns and chokes.
Because of the efficiency of the Derobio system, locks and disarms become more accessible; that is, easier to do. Each counter has a series of locks, counter locks, counter-to-the-counter locks, disarms and tie-ups. These methods are practiced single stick to single stick, single stick to double stick, double stick to double stick, single stick to empty hand, double sticks to empty hand, and hand to hand. Derobio students work to cover as many situations as possible.
Double sticks or “doble cada” teaches the weaving stick motions of Sinawali, gunting or scissor blocks, following blocks, double stick attacks and, of course, disarms and locks. Sinawali (double stick weaving patterns) are learned not as individual sets but as a single exercise using different Siniwalli patterns, flowing one into the other with no pause. All double stick defenses are practiced in a flowing series against the 12 strikes. As the student becomes more proficient multiple counters are added as are disarms, locks and counter locks. At an advanced level these are practiced with live blades.
It is a common misconception that the art of Escrima is exclusively practiced with the famed Escrima sticks. Although the primary focus is on weapons, whether a stick, a bolo, pocket knife or any weapon available, it would be a severe underestimation to assume it ends there. Bone crushing kicking techniques are employed in combination with aggressive footwork, empty hand techniques, boxing, wrestling and groundwork skills. Basically, if it can be done with a weapon, it can be done without one.
Sparring drills can consist of padded stick sparring, live stick sparring with minimal gear, multiple attackers against one person (armed or unarmed). Any or all of the drills are practiced in standing and low point positions.
Four Stages of Development
The student of Derobio strives to reach the four stages of development: Physical, Mental, Moral and Spiritual. In the Physical Stage the student develops his balance, studies the 12 main body joints and learns to relax and fl ow fluidly from one movement to another. At this level he gains accuracy and control. Physical fitness and flexibility is improved in addition to a better understanding of the human body and its weaknesses and strengths.
The Mental Stage involves focus, improved learning skills, concentration and the ability to “read” the opponent. Th e mental level student moves beyond the physical lessons and the student begins to learn and understand history, terminology, and the cultural aspects and influences of the art.
In the Moral Stage of a student’s education, a broader sense of the escrimador and it’s true definition begins to surface. Th e student becomes more aware of his/her physical self, the world around them and how they relate to their family, friends and fellow students. As their physical and mental abilities grow, the need for violence, vengeance, or hate subside, thus creating a calming state of moral and ethical being.
The final stage is Spiritual fulfillment. Regardless of religious leanings or convictions, the spiritual level speaks to a very private and intimate relationship you have with your inner self, your deity and how you approach life. All classes are started and closed with a moment of silent prayer to encourage the student’s relationship with their spiritual self.