Monday, 9 May 2011

Arnis Kali Eskrima Strike

For Filipino Martial Arts, weapon strikes are also included aside from empty hands strike. Reason being the Filipino Martial Arts heavily uses weapons for training.  Even though the most common training weapon used is the rattan stick the term "weapon" can also refer to short weapon (knife, karambit, dulo dulo, balisong, etc) , long weapon (swords, bolo, parang, kukri, etc), empty hand (fist, knife hand, elbow, knee, kick, etc), improvised weapon (umbrella, bags, pens, handkerchief, etc) and other form of martial arts weapon.

Almost all martial arts has strikes and striking techniques, there are many strike and combination of strikes in martial arts that utilizes parts of the body ranging from punches, kicks, back fist, knife hand, elbow, and knee among others. It can start as a single strike then develops to two, three and four combination strikes until it becomes multiple strikes.

Basic building block of a Strike

Strike comes in different forms, angles and ranges. As to angles, there are diagonal strikes, horizontal strikes, circular strikes, and frontal strikes just to name a few. As for ranges, there are long range strikes like slash, mid-range strikes like snap strikes, short range strikes like and thrusting and butting. As diversified as the striking form may be, it boils down to the three basic forms of weapon striking: the straight, forehand and backhand forms. When a weapon strike is done it will take 1 of the three basic forms.  Forehand refers to the form where you can see the hands,  while backhand is the form where you can see the back of the hands while it is holding the weapon.

Strikes numbering system

Using numbers to refer to strikes or angles of attack in Filipino Martial Arts is very effective since the practitioner usually memorizes the strike and the number associated with it while the instructor also uses it when referring to a strike when teaching a student. Strike numbering serves as a shortcut when referring to a strike, so rather than saying "upper left diagonal slash strike" or  "downward diagonal strike to the left temple" once the student knows the strike number, the instructor can say "number 1" instead of the long strike name.  The term "numerada" actually refers to the numbering system that means calling a strike number and the student will react to it by doing the strike associated with that number.

It is very common in Filipino Martial Arts to use numbers when referring to a strike. Usually the number refers to an angle of attack in a particular style or system. Even though almost all systems has the same types of strikes, the  sequential numbering of the angles of attack are were most systems differs.  Aside from differing in angles of attack, there are styles or system that differs in the number of strikes.  There are styles that have 3 strikes, while others has 5 strikes and still others have 12 strikes. The12 strikes are the common to most systems.

Strikes and Striking systems

Another resemblance and/or difference that can be observed in Filipino Martial Arts styles are the strikes that are commonly used within that style. There are styles that are built on certain type of strike that almost immediately defines the kind of style being used. For example, there are styles that focuses mainly on snap strikes that is often referred to as "witik" strike.  Given the range of the witik strike that is for medium to close range, the styles and system that uses this almost immediately becomes mid to close range styles.  On the other hand, there are styles that focus on slashing strikes. Slashing or follow through strikes like Rompida, Otso (Figure 8), Banda y Banda, can be considered as long range strikes so almost all styles that uses this strikes are considered as long range styles. Another common example would be the fanning strikes that are heavily utilized by the Abaniko style.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Filipino Martial Arts Stances: Kinds of Stances

Ready Stance

Figure 1: Ready Stance

Stand with your feet apart parallel to the shoulder with both toes pointing forward.   The knees should be straight, the waist and the body facing forward.  Hands are on waist level and the hands should hold the sticks on both sides.  The ready stance is commonly used when standing at ease during training or tournaments.

Attention Stance

 Stand with your feet forming a 45 degrees angle.    Heels should be close to each other, knees should be straight, the waist and body facing forward.  Shoulders are dropped to the side and both hands are at waist level.  The Attention Stance is commonly used in preparation for courtesy or “bowing” at commencement of sparring.

Forward Stance

Figure 2: Right Foot Forward Stance

 Starting with the ready stance, move one foot forward until the knee and the toe are in line to each other.  Both toes are pointing in front, the waist and the body is facing forward.   The body should not be too low or the lead foot too extended otherwise it will be hard to maneuver.  Distribute the weight or center of gravity to both legs.  Forward stances can be right foot lead, which is the Right Foot Forward Stance or it can be left foot lead which is Left Foot Forward Stance. Forward Stance are commonly used with frontal striking or blocking techniques.

Oblique Stance

Figure 3: Right Foot Oblique Stance

 Starting with the ready stance, move one foot forward 45 degrees away from the body until the knee and the toe are in line to each other.  Move on the same direction as the lead foot (e.g.  for right foot lead, move 45 degrees forward to the right). Both toes are pointing in front, the waist and the body is facing forward.  The body should not be too low or the lead foot too extended otherwise it will be hard to maneuver.  Distribute the weight or center of gravity to both legs.  Oblique stances can be right foot lead, which is the Right Foot Oblique Stance or it can be left foot lead which is Left Foot Oblique Stance.  Oblique Stances are commonly used for forward blocking and evasion techniques.

Straddle Stance
Figure 4: Straddle Stance

Starting with the ready stance, move one foot about two feet (2’) to the left or the right direction until both lower legs are almost perpendicular to the ground.   Both toes are pointing in front, the waist and the body is facing forward.  The body should not be too low or extended otherwise it will be hard to maneuver.  Distribute the weight or center of gravity to both legs.  Straddle stance are also called Horseback Riding Stance since it mimics position when riding on a horse back.  Straddle stances are commonly used for blocking the strikes to the side of the body.

Side Stance
Figure 5: Left Side Stance

Starting with the ready stance, move one foot about two feet (2’) to the left or right direction.  Moving foot will be perpendicular to the ground while the other leg is extended thereby creating a position like that of a side kick.  Both toes are pointing in front, the waist and the body is facing forward.  The body should not be too low or extended otherwise it will be hard to maneuver.  Distribute the weight or center of gravity to both legs.  If the left foot moves to the side it becomes Left Foot Side Stance, if the right foot moves to the side it becomes Right Foot Side Stance.  Side Stances are commonly used for strike deflection and evasion techniques.

Back Stance

Figure 6: Right Foot Back Stance

 Starting with the ready stance, move one foot backward 45 degrees away from the body. The heels of the foot should form an imaginary “L” shape while the legs are in a straddle position.  The body should not be too low or extended otherwise it will be hard to maneuver.  Distribute the weight or center of gravity to both legs.  Back stances can be right foot lead, which is the Right Foot Back Stance or it can be left foot lead which is Left Foot Back Stance.  Back stances are used for blocking and backward evasion techniques.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Filipino Martial Art Stances

Stances Overview

Stances, according to Webster dictionary, are a “way of standing or being placed”.  For martial artists, it is not only a way of standing or being place, stances are a way of remaining standing and maintaining balance while moving or on a steady position.  Like a tree that has roots to make it stand firm and steady even when under attack by winds and storm,  solid and correct stances serves as the “root” for martial artists that keeps him standing.  Having the correct stance not only makes the martial artist stable and balanced, it also develops form and enables ease of maneuverability.  Even though Filipino Martial Arts stances are presented in this article, the stances can also be applied to any martial arts that has a standing position.

Stances develops form and power

 Correct form is important for a martial artist to be able to deliver powerful strikes and blocks, however, the foundation of a correct martial arts form is a correct stance.  Training for a proper form starts with the consciousness of the correct stance, body shift and hand placement that will be used for the technique.  It can be considered that correct stance brings about correct form and correct form gives power to every strike and block that is delivered.

Stances maintains stability and balance

 Stances enables the martial artist to maintain stability and balance when doing a particular technique or a sequence of techniques.  By knowing the correct stance, the body weight or center of gravity is perfectly placed to either the front leg (as in the case of forward stances), back leg (as in the case of back stances) or in the middle (as in the case of straddle stances).  Through consistent practice of the techniques with a proper stance,  the martial artist will be able to switch the body weight dynamically thereby avoiding being outbalanced by the opponent.

Stances for maneuverability

  Another purpose of stances is for maneuverability.  Maneuvering or going from one position to another is achieved through a sequence of steps or proper foot placement - that is basically a sequence of stances.  In martial arts, there are many kinds of maneuvers or footwork that includes “striking maneuvers”, “blocking maneuvers” and “evasive maneuvers” just to name a few.  But regardless of the maneuver that will be done, there will always be an initial stance from whence the maneuver will come from and an ending stance where the maneuver will stop.  So knowing which stances to use to maneuver from place to another is as important as the technique itself.

Figure 1: Left Oblique Stance

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

What Eskrima Sticks to use - Eskrima Sticks Concepts Part 3

Just as golf has its set of clubs, fishing has its sets of hooks and baits, so is Eskrima with its set of sticks.  We will now look at the type of Eskrima sticks that are ideal for different kinds of scenarios:

Scenario 1: Eskrima Sticks used in Stretching and Power Generation

It is alway advisable to do stretching before you start any activity that involves muscle movements.  This is to ensure that you avoid injuries and still train for another day.  Aside from static stretches, I also incorporate dynamic stretches by doing flowing strikes to dynamically stretch specific muscle groups that will be used during training. 

To maximize the stretch, I use heavier Eskrima sticks such as Kamagong Sticks or Bahi sticks, due to the weight of the Kamagong stick or Bahi stick and the momentum applied to it, you are forced to go with it instead of against it.  Developing the flow with your weapon makes you one with your weapon.  Once you develop the flow and find the path of least resistance, power will come naturally with every strike you deliver. 

Scenario 2: Eskrima Sticks used in Drills and Techniques Development

Figure 1: Sticks vs Swords Disarming Technique

Drills and techniques development should be one of the core activities done during training session.  Drills like Sinawali, Sumbrada, Numerada, etc...  develops timing, reflex and reaction while techniques development focuses on embelishing or polishing an already known technique.  This can include variating the technique, speeding up that technique, slowing it down, adapting it to other weapons, etc... 

Drills and Techniques needs repetition and repetition and repetition (and one more) repetition to ingrain it to muscles memory. Because of the characteristic of this activity, you dont need heavy sticks to restrain you and immediately tire you. This is why for drilling and techniques the Rattan sticks should be used. 

Rattan sticks are medium weight, flexible and does not break immediately even with continuous and repetitive striking.  You can also use Rattan sticks when doing tire hitting,  however, I do not recommend using Kamagong sticks or Bahi sticks when hitting the tire because heavy sticks causes strain to the wrist, elbow and shoulders and could lead to permanent if not lasting injuries. Lastly,  you might not want to use Labsika sticks because it is too light and you might feel that you are not holding anything.

Scenario 3: Eskrima Sticks used in Demonstrations

Figure 2: Arnis Demonstration

Most of us do Eskrima demonstrations to showcase what Eskrima is.  Normally we do it in gatherings, events, in tournaments, etc...  Demonstrations requires a different level of performance and showmanship since your audience may or may not be practioners of Eskrima or may have no idea about it at all.  What you want is to deliver a good and engaging demonstration that will make them to appreciate you and your art.  So when I do demonstration,  I use Labsika sticks simply because it is lighter and makes me move freely and faster. Another reason why it would be advantageous to use Labsika sticks over Rattan sticks during demonstrations is because Labsika sticks has many nodes therefore it does not easily break or shatters that can cause splinters to the hands and debris to the eye.

Scenario 4: Eskrima Sticks used in Competitions

During the early days when I was consistently playing for the Polytechnic University of the Philippines as a varsity player, we often played in tournaments organized by NARAPHIL (National Eskrima Association of the Philippines) and Arnis Philippines (ARPHI).  NARAPHIL tournaments are "live" sticks tournaments with
full amour protection from head to shin. During those days, we often used Labsika sticks due to its lightness and sturdiness.  Issues with this is that not all Labsika sticks are created equal. Some are longer, some shorter, some thicker, some thinner, some heavier and some are lighter. Nowadays, there are live
Competition sticks that are same length, same thickness and weighted. This gives each competitor not just equal grounds as far as weight division and reach is concerned but also on the weight of sticks being used.  Another type of competition sticks are those skinned rattan sticks with RED or BLUE colors in the
body of the sticks that is ofcourse being used by either the player on the red corner or the blue corner.

Figure 3: Arnis Philippines Sparring Demonstration

For Arnis Philippines (ARPHI) tournaments Padded sticks are used.  Padded sticks has thin labsika sticks inside and wrapped with foam then covered with either red or blue covering.  Padded sticks provides cushion and absorbs impact.  For this reason, ARPHI tournaments has minimal protection: headgear
and the groin guard for male competitors while headgear, body armour and groin guard is used for female competitor.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Arnis Stick Concepts and Applications Part 2

Parts of the Arnis sticks and its uses

We will now examine the parts of an Arnis stick and compare it with its bladed counterparts such as bolo, parangs or long bladed swords.  Aside from the bladed weapons being pointed at the tip and has sharp edges, there is not much of a difference on how the both long bladed weapons and sticks can be used.  In fact, I always tell my students to visualize the stick as a bladed weapon when practicing both striking and blocking techniques.  Knowing where the cutting side and blunt side of a weapon and applying it to the stick as if it was a bladed weapon will also contribute to develop proper striking and blocking form.

Figure 1: Straight thrust using the head of the stick
1. Arnis Stick Head - the head can be used for thrusting and striking.  Like blades that has a pointed head that can pierce through, the sticks concentrates the force of the thrust to a small area giving it the same piercing effect although it does not really pierce through.   

The stick head is also the ideal part that is used for striking, due to the law of potential energy, when a strike is delivered most of the potential energy is concentrated at the end of the stick (which is the head of the stick) therefore impact is greater as opposed to hitting with the body of the stick.

Figure 2: Stick body used for blocking
2. Arnis Stick Body - for bladed weapons, the body of the sword will be either the edged side, blunt side or flat side. The stick does not possess this kind of characteristics as it is round and blunt.  However, the stick body has many uses this includes blocking. The body is used to block a strike or counter either by clashing against the strike or by deflecting the strike.  The body of the stick can also be used for locking the hands, the elbow and the shoulder, locking using the stick mostly effective when it is leveraged against a joint or a pressure area.   

Figure 3: Chocking with the stick body
Another use of the stick body is chocking.  Chocking with the stick can be more effective than chocking with the forehand, this is because the forehand still has a fleshy part while the stick is a hard material that can immediately induce pain when pressed against the neck area. 

Other uses of the stick body can be for throwing and clinching the opponent.

Figure 4: Stick Butting
3. Arnis Stick Butt - the butt of an Arnis stick is an interesting part of the stick, because as small as it is, it can do damage when used effectively. I recommend utmost 2 inches distance from the tip of the butt to the tip of the hands, anymore length will get in the way and lessen your reach. 
Figure 5: Disarming with the stick butt
The butt of the stick can be used in butt strikes which are usually done to eye and face area on the head area, while on the body, the butt strike is delivered in the ribs and solar plexus area.  In the lower body area, butting is usually done to the groin area.  Other uses of the stick butt is to parry or clearing tool, as grabbing or pulling tool, for disarming and to apply pressure to a vital pressure point.

On part 3 of this series, we will be discussing the types of Arnis sticks that can be used for stretching and power generation, for drills and techniques development, and for demonstration and competition.

Monday, 28 February 2011

Kali Sticks Concepts and Application Part 1

Kali Sticks Overview

Arnis, Kali, Eskrima is known for its use of sticks in training aside from long andf short bladed weapons.  In fact, Kali is also called as Stick Fighting Arts because of intensive use of sticks as in offensive and defensive moves and drills. Kali sticks does provide a more safer means of training and some how removes the dangers of fatal injuries if bladed weapons are used. 

Types of Kali Sticks

There are many types of Kali sticks that are available out there, some of which are traditional sticks like Rattan, Labsika and Kamagong sticks, some are alternatives such as Bahi, Tumalin and Giho sticks and some are customized sticks like Competition Sticks and Padded Sticks.  I will discuss the more common ones:

1. Rattan Sticks - is the most commonly used Kali stick.  It is hardened by fire and is usually designed with a spiral burn.  Rattan sticks are very flexible and can bend, in fact, it is used to create native furnitures due to its flexilibity and tenacity.  Rattan sticks also comes in skinned and unskinned variations but I personally like the unskinned one.  Because of the skin, the wear and tear is slower, the weight is a little heavier giving a more compact feel, and lessens splinters.

Figure 1: Rattan Sticks

Because rattan sticks can be fashioned by burning with fire, there are also different kinds of designs that can be burned in the stick.  Famous designs are spiral, ring, leopard spots, tiger stripes, scorpion, etc...

2. Labsika Sticks - are thinner, lighter and sturdier version of the Kali stick. Labsika are thinner in circumference as compared to their rattan sticks counterpart and because of this it is also lighter to hold.  Labsika is also sturdier and does not break easily due to the generous distribution of its nodes which is about 6-8 nodes in one Labsika stick

Figure 2: Labsika Sticks

3. Kamagong Sticks and Bahi Sticks - are heavier and thicker variation of the Kali stick.  Kamagong or Iron wood is a very strong and dense wood. Kamagong sticks are hard to break, reason for calling it as Iron wood, and heavier in weight.  Bahi is another kind of heavy stick and is commonly used in hammer handles.
Figure 3: Kamagong Sticks

4. Competition Sticks and Padded sticks - are Kali sticks that are used in competitions.  Competition sticks are skinned rattan sticks that are measured and weighted for use in competitions, while padded sticks are thin rattan or labsika sticks that are wrapped with foam to cushion the impact of the strike.

Figure 4: Padded Sticks

On Part 2 of this article, we will examine the parts of the Kali sticks and how it corresponds to its bladed weapon counterpart.  We will also discuss the uses and purposes of each part of the Kali Stick.