“Secrets” of the Filipino Fighting Arts
Words from a Modern-Day Warrior

Importance of Cadence in Training

Something we don’t see much of in today’s Eskrima class is the use of cadence during training. This is an old-school teaching tool that many think of as only relevant for Karate and Kung Fu classes. If you have ever studied with an old teacher in the Philippines, you may remember teachers calling cadence endlessly while you threw strikes until your hands bled. This practice is probably too boring for many students, but it is key to having superior skill. But I have a theory.

In the format that is used today by many teachers, there will be many students of different levels in the same class slot. So teachers will give one group of a similar level a few techniques to work on, and then another group will have an assignment, and so on. This way, the students will be practicing level-specific material at the same time while the teacher makes his rounds from group to group.

Another, will be to skip the basics training altogether in favor of some practicing that is more entertaining and interesting, like drills or give and take. This practice is also done at the students’ own pace.

The drawback to all of this is that students do not get enough practice with basic strikes, they are not practicing under pressure and because they are moving at their own pace–cannot adapt to the action-determined pace of a fight. Let me explain a little better.

In fighting, you must train your reflexes to react to a stimulus–a missed strike, a newly created opening (like a dropped hand or the opponent glances away) or some other ideal opportunity. When the student moves on his own timing, he is determining when that strike should be thrown. But in a fight, we don’t always get to determine when the best time to attack will be, do we? While there are techniques we can use to force the opponent to move at our pace–we cannot escape the need to be able to move when the opponent gives us the sign. When a teacher makes the student throw an attack or counter by our count, he is actually training the student to react on cue, which is ideal for fighting. Our ability to adapt to outside stimulus will give us the ability to fire on demand. We will develop this skill while sparring. However, using this kind of trigger to fire off our strikes as often as possible exercises our ability to do so.

When using cadence, play with the timing, don’t just arbitrarily call out numbers. A good technique is to vary the frequency that you call them out. Give periodic pauses of varied lengths. Another is to have students move around randomly, and force them to break their pattern by calling your cadence. This is an especially good skill to have, as fighting itself is unpredictable.

I don’t want to give too much information with this post, as this is one of those “proprietary” things for my school. But I hope you will find some value in these tips.

Thanks for visiting my blog. Please look out for my new book (coming soon) entitled “Teaching Philosophy”. I’m sure you’ll like it!

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