Category : Escrima

Filipino Martial Arts: Sinawali

As you might have gathered from last Monday’s post on the Basic Eskrima lessons, stick-fighting is the most important (and most recognizable) component of Filipino Martial Arts.

One of the coolest things you’ll learn if you do decide to take up FMA, is the Sinawali, or double-stick fighting techniques. You’ll see it used in TV shows like Arrow and movies such as Mission Impossible 3, Hanna, and I, Frankenstein.

Watch the short clip of Arrow’s Oliver Queen performing Sinawali below:

Sinawali is a set of double stick drills practice by two eskrimadors. Sinawali means “weaving, and the term refers to the intricate weaving patterns created by the sticks during the double-stick drills.

Simple mechanical repetition is at the core of Sinawali drills. These exercises provide eskrimadors with the basic skills to respond to a two-weapon attack, and help them develop form, improve motor skills, and program response time and muscle memory.



Many fundamental Eskrima skills are learned through Sinawali drills, including the following*:

*body positioning and distance relative to an opponent,

rotation of the body and the proper turning radius,

proper elbow positioning while swinging a weapon.

recognition of one’s center of gravity, eye–hand coordination,

target perception and recognition,

 increased ambidexterity,

recognition and performance of rhythmic structures for upper body movement,

muscular developments important to the art, especially, the wrist and forearm regions.

* Reference:


Grandmaster Dong Cuesta and Guro Gary Gabisan demonstrate the basic Sinawali drills below:


Michael Janich has a more extensive post on Sinawali here.

It’s  a thrill to be able to wield two sticks with speed and force. So eventhough the movements are repetitive, I never tire of practicing Sinawali drills.

Filipino Martial Arts is a multi-style system so there are many more components to it than Sinawali. If you do decide to take it up, you’ll learn empty hand techniques, knife techniques,  as well as Filipino-style boxing and many more.

Martial Arts Month is almost over and I thank you for allowing me to combine two of my passions: writing and martial arts.

Though I only covered Filipino Martial Arts, I hope you learned a few things that might help you in some way–whether its by giving you ideas for fight scenes in your novels, or by giving you a few new tricks to defend yourself with.


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So far during this Martial Arts Month, you’ve learned a lot about Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) including:

The History of Filipino Martial Arts

Modern Masters of Filipino Martial Arts

What Exactly is Filipino Martial Arts

Now we get to the juicy part. Today you’ll learn some basics of Doce Pares Eskrima Stick Fighting.



The first thing we’re taught is to show respect to instructors, classmates and opponents alike. There are two types of salutations: the Regular Salutation used during every class, and the Formal Salutation, used in more formal or ritualistic occasions, as a sign of respect for the top ranking masters and grandmasters.

In the video below, Supreme Grandmaster Dionisio Canete shows the formalities and salutations.




Now that you know the salutations, you’ll need to know how to hold the stick. There are four types of grips and holds:

  1. Under Thumb
  2. Side Thumb
  3. Overlapping
  4. Reverse Grip


SGM Dionisio Canete demonstrates the types of grips and holds below:



Holding the stick is one thing, but you’ll also have to learn how to “hold” yourself in a fight. There are 9 Basic Stances in Eskrima.

  1. Natural/ Normal
  2. Attention/Close
  3. Forward
  4. Deep (forward)
  5. Diagonal
  6. Back
  7. Cat
  8. Hook
  9. Straddle


Master Dong Cuesta and his students demonstrate the Basic Stances below:



One of the things that separates Doce Pares from other schools is its focus on twirling. Twirling/Amarra combines speed and accuracy. It allows us to hit our opponents in the same spot several times in a matter of seconds, thereby inflicting maximum damage.

SGM Dionisio Canete demonstrates Amarra/Twirling principles below:



The video below shows the 12 Basic Strikes along with some of the basic defensive blocks and parries.

**note: Despite the misspelled words in the video, the moves are pretty solid.

There are also Basic Defenses to these Strikes. Although the video only shows 7, there are actually 15.



11 Basic Blocks:

  1. Inside Block
  2. Outside Block
  3. Double Block
  4. Semi Double Block
  5. Low or Downward Block
  6. Reverse Low or Reverse Downward Block
  7. Umbrella (payong block)
  8. Augmented or Reinforced
  9. Rising or Roof
  10.  High X Block or Cross Block
  11. Low X Block or Cross Block


4 Basic Parries

  1. Inside Parry
  2. Outside Parry
  3. Low Parry
  4. Reverse Low Parry


And there you have it– the most basic lessons taught in Eskrima. Hopefully it’s given you an idea about what Filipino Martial Arts is about. Next Friday, I’ll talk about some of the more advanced lessons–including some knife drills.



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Doce Pares Martial Art Belt Test & Training Seminar

October 19th-20th was my designated martial arts weekend.

Friday, October 19th marked my second belt test of the year. This time, I tested for a purple belt. If I pass, it means I’m halfway through the basic program already. It also means I’m five levels away from getting a black belt.

This belt test was very special for all of us, as we had Grandmaster Arnulfo “Dong” Cuesta, fly all the way from New Jersey to facilitate our testing. On top of that, we had 8 masters grading our every move!

 Our Torrance Class with Grandmaster Dong Cuesta & the Doce Pares Masters

 I won’t bore you any more grueling details of my almost four hour belt test, but I will give you a little preview of what  I had to do to earn that purple belt.

That’s a video of me coming up with some random stick twirling moves based on what I’ve learned so far.

Doce Pares Group Photo


The next day, October 20th, we had our first ever Doce Pares Training Seminar with Grandmaster Arnulfo “Dong” Cuesta.

Grandmaster Arnulfo “Dong” Cuesta is a 9th degree Black Belt, who was featured in the 2000 TLC Documentary “Martial Arts: The Real Story.”

Myself and Grandmaster Arnulfo Dong Cuesta


His martial arts story is an intriguing one. He learned Eskrima at the age of 13 as a way of escaping life as a gang member. He ended up as a runaway in Pasil, the most dangerous part of Cebu (A southern city in the Philippines). With members of his gang arrested for murder, Dong Cuesta took an offer by Grand Master Cacoy Canete to train in his gym.

He trained in the Doce Pares system with Cacoy’s son Edgar. Though his initial goal was to learn how to defend himself against his old gang,  Dong Cuesta’s dedication to the martial art impressed Grandmaster Momoy. The Grandmaster trained him personally and later on healed him with a healing skill known as oracion when he became very ill.

In 1981, the NARAPHIL (National Arnis Association of the Philippines) hand-picked Grandmaster Dong Cuesta to promote the Doce Pares Multi-Style system in the United States.  Grandmaster Dong Cuesta recalls venturing to the U.S. with a one-way plane ticket and $40 in his pocket.


Grandmaster Dong Cuesta, along with the other eight masters, taught us basic self defense maneuvers, as well as extra material which we don’t usually get to do in class.

Grandmaster Cuesta teaching me some knife fighting techniques

 I had fun with the empty hand techniques and knife drills which Grandmaster Cuesta and the other masters taught us.

Master Erwin Mosqueda teaching me some arm locks

The best thing I learned from the seminar was how to escape a headlock. Now I know what to do if someone grabs me from behind and tries to choke me.

I asked Grandmaster Cuesta how to get out of a headlock. He says the first thing to do is to NOT get in a headlock!

But if I’m already there, I need to make sure my breathing doesn’t get cut off. I need to move my head, so that my chin is resting on the attacker’s arm. Here’s Grandmaster Cuesta explaining how to get out of a headlock.

I also learned another cool way to escape a headlock from Guro Tim Wolchek:

Being able to learn directly from Grandmaster Cuesta and all the other masters was an awesome experience. I’d definitely do it again.

The Doce Pares Family

Being part of a Filipino martial art family means that the day won’t end without some kind of celebration. So to cap off an amazing training seminar, we also had a party to celebrate the 8th year anniversary of the Los Angeles  region group.


As with any Filipino celebration, there was tons of food, pictures and lots of singing.


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