Arnis, Eskrima, Kali – these all mean the same thing: Filipino Martial Arts. But what exactly is Filipino Martial Arts and how is it different from other martial arts?
Image from EA Doce Pares , photo by Spiros Politis
1. Filipino Martial Arts is a Multi-Style System
Taekwondo and Karate are empty-hand styles of martial arts, which means that they use focus on punches, blocks and kicks. The Japanese Kendo and European Fencing focuses on sword-fighting. Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) combines a whole range of fighting systems into one martial art.
FMA teaches both armed and unarmed fighting techniques:
Empty-Hand Techniques (Mano-Mano)
Master Erwin of LA Doce Pares teaching empty hand techniques
G Force Martial Arts, image from aboutmyarea.uk
Knife drills, photo by V. Rosario
Master Dave Green (Doce Pares UK),
And of course, Stick-fighting
Stick-fighting drills, photo by V. Rosario
Fighting with staffs (bangkaw), spears, whips and even darts and bows and arrows are also taught by some schools.
2. Filipino Martial Arts is Predominantly Weapons-Based
Most people familiar with martial arts will automatically equate Filipino Martial Arts with stick-fighting. Although this is our most recognizable weapon of choice, we are actually trained to use a variety of weapons. Knives, daggers, swords and sticks are all part of the curriculum.
The first thing they did when I started learning Filipino Martial Arts was put a stick in my hand. On my first day, I learned about the 12 striking angles, and was taught how to twirl the sticks for more impact. But as I progressed to higher levels, I was also taught how to use and defend against knives, daggers and swords.
Because Filipino Martial Arts is predominantly weapons-based, it gives students an edge when it comes to actual fighting. FMA trains students to be mentally and physically prepared to face opponents armed with anything.
3. Filipino Martial Arts is a Practical Art
Filipino martial artists are known for their ability to turn ordinary items into lethal weapons.
In the movie BOURNE IDENTITY, there’s a scene where Jason Bourne battles with an assassin using only a pen. You can watch the short clip below:
In today’s modern world, nobody walks around with katanas, or fencing swords. Knives, guns, even machetes and club-like weapons (bats, steel pipes, etc) are weapons one might encounter on the streets. FMA is a practical art because it teaches students how to translate one fighting form to another. We are taught to understand that weapons are merely an extension of our limbs. The techniques we learn from stick-fighting can easily be translated into knives and daggers and empty hands.
Improvisation is a part of FMA training. We are always encouraged to do a lot of freestyle sparring using both empty-hands and weapons because instructors want us to be able to automatically respond to whatever dangers we might face using whatever skill sets we have learned.
4. Filipino Martial Arts is Used in Hollywood Films and Military/Law Enforcement
Owing to its versatility, Filipino Martial Arts has had global impact in both law enforcement and in the world of Hollywood films.
Below, you’ll find a video of movies which used in FMA in their fight choreography:
I’m not sure if all of these really use FMA, but I’m pretty sure Denzel Washington trained in Eskrima for BOOK OF ELI as well as Aaron Eckhart for I, FRANKENSTEIN.
As for its military application, both the Russian Spetsnatz (Special forces) and the US Army and the Marine Corps actually use FMA in their combat training. Both the US Marine Corp field manual and the US Army field manual actually contains strikes, blocks and knife drills found in many Eskrima classes.
5. Filipino Martial Arts is Constantly Evolving
As previously mentioned, improvisation is a big part of FMA training. Some Filipino Martial Artists are also trained in other forms of martial arts and they adapt their varied background into teaching FMA.
Many Filipino martial artists who form their own schools actually develop their own methods and techniques, so the art is constantly evolving.
Filipino Martial Arts is all these things and so much more. It’s a practical, versatile and deadly martial art with many real life applications, and one that I am blessed to learn.
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