To Sinawali, or Not to Sinawali?
That is the question. Banging sticks, stick-tapping, cross sticks, whatever. To me, they’re nothing more than code words for those “stick guys” who are not interested in really learning how to kick someone’s butt with their sticks.
I grew up without Sinawali. Yeah, I learned what is commonly known as “Heaven and Earth 6 count”, or simply “Double Sinawali” when I was about 9 years old, but my Eskrima training did not involve them. In fact, I did not learn Sinawali from my grandpa until I was 20 years old, after learning 10 Sinawali drills from Ernesto Presas in the Philippines. I came home thirsty for more, and then my Papa taught me the ones he knew, never to repeat them again minus a few conversations when I asked about them. You don’t need them, he use to say. But stupid me, reading the magazines and exchanging ideas with martial artists who mostly couldn’t “hold a stick” to my fighting ability…. I was convinced that “complete” FMA must have them. Why? Well, the experts say that Sinawali drills give you coordination to weave your hand in intricate patterns for fighting. As if you couldn’t learn how to deliver a knockout punch without using Sinawali drills. As if you would never have the speed and timing to stop a punch without them. As if you could never grapple, clinch, take a guy down without them.
Hey, just like forms… the only form you need is perfect form. Likewise, the only punching ability you need is punching ability. The only blocking ability you need is blocking ability. You get it.
If you recall, I understand the saying, that when a martial artist can’t fight, he will spend all his time emphasizing the importance of everything else to distract you from the realization that he can’t fight. So, he’ll talk about how fighting isn’t real fighting. WHAT? That’s right. He will confuse you with theories and demonstrations and explanations about how the MMA guy’s ability won’t “translate” to streetfighting ability. He will give you a very convincing and scientific argument about why Eskrima knife fighting isn’t real knife fighting and will get you killed on the street. He will show you all these demonstrations and lectures about how to stop a punch, how to immobilize an opponent, and basically how dangerous he is without actually fighting. The sad thing is that most martial artists will eat this stuff up. Not just eat it up and believe it, but adopt these ideas and drop his own, and start repeating this stuff to his own students.
Honestly, have you ever really seen Sinawali used in a fight? I’m not just talking about some dude wailing away in padded sparring with a stick in each hand, but someone seriously sparring using Sinawali? I don’t deny that one can use the patterns as striking patterns in fighting–let’s not be stupid–but I’m talking about the way those sticks are swung, but in a serious stickfight? How about Sinawali while empty handed? Of all the things that turn my stomach about commercial, watered-down FMA, empty handed FMA is one of the most embarassing innovations. Even white belts at McDojos are looking at Youtube laughing their pants off, it’s disgusting.
You see, we have gotten so far into making FMAs look exotic and different, that we are now trying to force-fit logic into our FMA in order for everything to tie together (the stick is a knife, is a machete, is the empty hand and everything is preparation for everything else). I’ve even had a well-known Grandmaster (friend) try to convince me that the Sinawali develops staff sparring skill. 😉 But you know me, I’m a “hands-on” kinda guy, and we shut down that argument real quick. But guess what, he is still teaching that garbage in his classes! The bottom line is that Sinawali–the way they are practiced–do nothing for fighting ability. The best fighters in the Philippines do not train them for their fighting ability. Beginners do not need them to learn how to hit or defend. They don’t even do a good job developing forearm, wrist, and hand strength like plain old striking practice does! They don’t “translate” well to empty hand. And if you ever tried to use those techniques against a guy determined to knock your head off your shoulders, well, he’s going to knock your head off your shoulders! The way most of you are taught to practice them, the distance is wrong (sticks usually meet in the middle of you and your opponent, so the distance is unrealistic), you don’t practice with any amount of power (striking power, that is), and once you “get” the rhythm down, it is no longer beneficial for you to practice it other than just having more coordination to do it faster or ad lib your drills. The only benefit I see is that it kills time during class when you don’t have much practical shit to teach. Oh, and some people like to decorate their school with frayed up sticks and the smell of burning rattan… Makes you guys look like you’ve been kicking some ass in there.
The bottom line, Sinawali are a waste of time, and a waste of valuable training space. On top of all that, a waste money from busting up all those $10 sticks.
If you want to learn how to fight–really learn how to fight–hang around; I’ll teach you the secrets….
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