I was reflecting on the dissatisfaction I am experiencing with the state of Filipino martial arts tournaments. There is no secret that I would like to see empty handed fighting divisions in FMA tournament. But I think our Eskrima tournaments can use an overhaul in the way the stick is applied in the sparring division (not to mention a complete BAN on Eskrima “kata”… I just don’t like them!) because one thing I do agree with many of our Eskrima brothers is that our tournaments simply aren’t “real enough” (are any tournaments short of death matches really real enough?). There are a few ways we can modify how our tournaments are arranged.
First, I believe that the weapons we simulate in tournaments should be judged and ruled as whatever those weapons are supposed to be. So in that case, I believe that a hit to the body should count for only 1/4 of a hit to the head or a hit to the forearm or hand. In Eskrima tournaments, we simply don’t award enough for hits to the hand, whereas the hand and forearm are perhaps some of the best targets for stickfighters and knife fighters alike. A hit to the head is something that shouldn’t be necessary to hit 25 – 50 times in order to win a match; three times should count as “game” to an automatic win.
Secondly, if there were bladed divisions, such as Bolo or thrusting sword divisions, we should use the Japanese style of “Ippon Kumite”, meaning that an unanswered, killing blow that is recognized by all judges would automatically count as a win. That would alleviate all the back and forth confusion/trading that modern Eskrima is known for. To be honest, when I competed in the Philippines, we always knew who was winning. When I watch the tournaments today, it is very difficult to score. I actually prefer the point system used by some of the Stockton Eskrima clubs to score their matches. However, I do miss the combination-style hitting that I train to use.
Lastly, focus should be on the landing of strong, clean blows that–in real combat–would incapacitate the opponent. If we did this, we could actually have challenging matches with not just our Eskrima sticks, but allow the use of other weapons, such as the spear, the staff, the knife, and even the Bayonet. (Yes, the Bayonet. Maybe some of you from the province forget that our old men taught this weapon as part of the Eskrima we studied. Some of us are actually embarassed by this weapon, as if the Bayonet made our systems look “country” and unsophisticated. Check out Big Stick Combat’s article on this weapon) Doing this will really raise the esteem and respect of our native arts in the minds of spectators and participants alike.
My inspiration: I read Darrin Cook’s article a few days ago on the bayonet, and thought about a Japanese weapon that is very similar to the Bayonet art I learned as a teenager, the Naginata. When I was a young man, I had the chance to spar with a young lady who had learned this weapon as a girl, and found that the techniques she taught me (after whipping me good) were identical to the Bayonet techniques I learned as a boy. When I searched youtube for something similar, I came across this clip (below) of a Naginata competition, and I realized that this is how I’d like to see the Filipino Martial Arts showcased–in a way that highlights its strengths and allows it to keep its dignity as a fighting art despite being a competition/spectator sport.
Please check it out and see if you agree with me. Thanks for visiting my blog!