The Filipino Martial Arts: Eskrima, Kali, Arnis

The concepts and skills taught in Eskrima are traditionally simple. Flashy techniques, with little practical battlefield use receive no attention. It is the basics, well trained and understood, that get you successfully through a fight. Experts in the arts might sometimes preform intricate techniques but only those that had survived the test of practicality. This lack of contrivance allowed many to learn the art quickly. Local families or whole villages would be trained in Eskrima to protect themselves against rival villages or foreign invaders. In spite of the simplicity, the Filipino Marital Arts take many years of dedicated practice to fully develop and master. These masters (known respectively as Eskrimadors, Kalistas, Mangangalis, or Arnisadors) were highly respected members of their communities.

Eskrima employs a wide variety of weapons in training and combat. Hardwood sticks approximately are perhaps the most iconic weapon of the arts. Measuring approximately two and a half feet long these were formidable tools. Master Vilibrao was known to choose these short staves over any other tool when engaging in death matches. Whether facing sword, daggers, spear or any combination thereof, Vilibrao would choose his baston (sticks) and won every time. This is a remarkable story and should be considered a testament to his superiority as a fighter rather than the superiority of the tool.

Training in Eskrima one learns angles, and range. These angles could be worked with any of the traditional weapons, baston, daggers, swords, staffs, or even empty hands. This versatility is the foundation of the arts effectiveness. The empty hand training is generally referred to as Panatukan and involves training in grappling, throwing pressure points and locking (Dumag) Traditional training was intense. For example warriors would train on the unstable ground of rice patties, or under huts where they had to stand in grueling deep stances just to have enough room to swing their bastons. These challenging training sessions would prepare them for upcoming battles. One piece of traditional training that is rarely found today is Hilot. A Filipino system of healing and herbal medicine.

The weapon techniques are vital but without a solid stance are all but useless. Footwork and stance training is a fundamental of Eskrima. A good stance will allow for powerful strikes and effective defensive movements. There are several stances worked in the training, some are stronger for offense or for defense and some are transitional positions for switching mode or changing rhythm. To excel in the Filipino Martial Arts it is essential to develop a deep understanding of the various stances, footwork and how to combine them to reach an advantageous position in a fight.