Eskrima’s “Third Eye”

There is a concept in Eskrima referred to as the “Third Eye”. While Eskrima and Arnis has become very popular in the last few decades, there was a time when they were difficult to find. Everyone knew someone who knew some Eskrima, but it was rare to find true Masters of Eskrima. Now, I’m not talking about the canned styles we see today that aren’t much different than the stuff they teach in grade school. I am referring to the art of men who spent their lives training the art and had even had a few kills notched into their belts. These men–whom I refer to as the “old timers” because there aren’t many left–were known to have almost superhuman ability and skills. Some were physical skills, some were not.

We hear of old Masters who can pull tumors out of a sick person’s stomachs. Men who can punch holes in the sides of American Jeeps. Masters who can resist being stabbed, whose head were impervious to strikes with a rattan stick, shoot evil spirits into others, and then there is the “third eye”–extra sensory perception, in one or two of its many forms.

The Third Eye (Ikatlong Mata)

My Grandfather was one such man. He use to tell us that he trained a lot at night when everyone was asleep because he believed that this was the time of day when it was most appropriate to kill a man. Daytime fights were usually done out of anger and mostly avoidable. These types of fights were due to one man being drunk, jealous, unreasonable, or some other personality flaw. But at night, the fights you encounter are due to one man attempting to wrong another:  robbery, rape, murder, burglaries, etc. The kind of fighting you will do in the dark will often be one of life-or-death, and are most likely to involve a weapon, a vulnerable member of the family, or some other reason for being in a state of self-preservation. And my grandfather always said that a man wronging another man in the dark is almost always accompanied by a jinn–a spirit. In that case, an evil one. He believed in these jinn, and by training at night, sleeping with a weapon, sleeping lightly–you are broadcasting to the jinn that you are the wrong one to mess with. I could tell you more about them, but let’s stick to the topic of martial arts today.

A man who wrongs another after hours is not going to be talked out of an altercation.

Due to his training at night, my Grandfather had an unusual sense of perception. He could hear or feel you when you were nearby. I tried many times as a boy to sneak behind him to take his walking cane or to put him in a bear hug, and doing so was how I learned my style’s #5 and #6 elbow strikes–the hard way. By training at night, you develop an ability to sense your opponent’s power while fighting him and rely less on vision and more on touch and an energy you can feel. When I was around him, he could tell if I was getting ready to surprise him with an attack and I can tell you, he was always ready.

Do you know who has this ability as well? Wing Chun people. They develop it through Chi Sao, which is a form of in-fighting similar to one we do in Kuntaw. The goal is to be able to fight with the eyes closed or blindfolded, and eventually to fight without making much contact. One can sense from the connection you make when blocking a punch, or when your opponent blocks your punch, what your opponent’s next move will be. I cannot explain it more than that.

This Third Eye is ever-present in Eskrima people who practice knife-fighting with the proper mentality. It is not a block-slap-pass-cut thing, it is a plunge-your-knife-in-your-opponent’s-belly thing. And trust me, when a man is determine to stab you so deep you die, most of the skills you learned in your Eskrima class will not work. You will need a type of skill that cannot be learned through a book or a video, but as the by-product of pressure, fear and training.

How does it come about? The third eye arrives by itself. It develops through mentally preparing for the altercation and putting the heart in fear of another man–by crossing sticks with strangers, my engaging in fights, and throwing so many strikes with intent and malice that when the mind tells the hands to destroy your hands obey. When fighting is so second nature to you, your mind is then free to observe your surroundings and the speed that it communicates with the rest of the body is clearer and faster. When you are nervous or afraid, you cannot think quickly and the mind is so overburdened with thoughts and worries that it misses a lot of what it sees. This is the reason that older fighters, such as Bernard Hopkins, Sugar Ray Leonard, Randy Couture, and Joe Lewis can get in there with younger men who are faster and stronger–and beat them. It is because the skill that they developed from a lifetime of combat–often labeled as “experience”–has set in, allowing an old body to still function. With all its weaknesses and things falling apart and malfunctioning–that Third Eye allows him to see punches before the young man sees them, allows him to land strikes although he is slower, to know what the opponent will do even before the opponent knows himself.

If you have questions because this article is vague, please post them in comments. I tried the best I could to explain this unusual skill, and I will gladly elaborate. Thank you for visiting my blog.