Does Eskrima Need to Be “Well-Rounded”?

I don’t think so. Here’s why.

Eskrima is, what it is–and that is a weapons fighting art. We do what we do, and we don’t do all that other stuff. I believe that someone who tries to learn everything else, aka the “Perpetual Student”, is on a never-ending, foolish endeavor. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for learning new things. I enjoy reading, I like to learn foreign languages, I exchange with many martial artists, and sometimes I even learn their styles. But I am a Kuntaw/Eskrima/Jow Ga man, and I will never be anything more than that. I “know” (by most of you folks’ definition) more than 12 styles, but I would be a fool to call myself an expert in all of them. Most importantly, it would be dishonest and irresponsible for me to teach those styles. Someone who joined my school because I’ve done a little Aikido would be very disappointed at the limited knowledge I have in the system, and I have studied more Aikido than many of you who teach it as an add-on from some seminars you attended at the camps and gatherings. The martial arts teacher must be a leader in the art he is teaching. Do it right or don’t do it at all. If he has only scraped the surface of the art, he has no darn business teaching it, regardless of who signed the certificate.

Back to the subject, Arnis/Eskrima are weapon-based arts. Do we dabble into empty hand skills? Sure we do. Do we do it well enough to offer a replacement curriculum for Karate/Kung Fu/Muay Thai/Jujitsu/etc.?  I don’t care what your Guro told you–if you didn’t come up in some other system, you’re fooling yourself. We’ve already battled and challenged and accepted challenges for my opinions on “Empty Handed FMA” so let’s not get into that one again… Now if you’ve trained in Kyukushinkai for 10 years and you decided to teach that curriculum alongside your Eskrima, more power to you. But to drop your stick and start playing pattycake with your guys and telling them this stuff is going to help you defeat a boxer, that’s just plain old wrong.

I believe that there is a better use of your time… If you have no desire to join at the ground floor of some qualified teacher’s empty hand curriculum and dedicate 5 – 10 years of study and development… And that is to focus on making your weapons art an unbeatable weapons art. One that a jujitsu man wouldn’t want to mess with. One that a Kendo expert would fall victim to. One that one of these prison-based knifers would become walking hamburger meat if they encountered you. Trust me, using a weapon is so much harder than knowing some drills and “what-if” scenarios performed on-cue. Weapons fighting is serious business. It is the ultimate of fighting skills–we specialize in the terrible event where you may die or have to make the decision to take someone’s life. There is no “kicking someone’s ass” with a knife, this is a win all or lose all skill. Ditto that for serious stickfighting. The Filipino art, if you’re doing it right, is for those who are preparing for combat against a man (or men) who are looking to permanently injure or kill you, to take your wife as his hostage or sex-slave, to invade your home and take everything you’ve worked and lived for, to instill nightmares in your children’s lives for the rest of their lives. And you want to waste time learning some tricks at a weekend camp? Really?

Understand that sport Eskrima is a good test of your reflexes, stamina and speed. But there is a higher level in this art which happens to be the purpose these arts exist. We have engaged in the game of “Oh-I-know-how-to-do-that-too” and like a cordless mic, you’ve wandered so far from the source, you emit a weaker frequency. In other words, your Eskrima, if you get away from it’s original philosophy and purpose is no longer “Eskrima”. Just like that Wing Chun you’re trying to pass off as Sinawali-without-a-stick.

Let the guys with weak foundation in the art keep adding to what they know by supplementing with crash, one-day courses. If you truly want to elevate your Filipino FMA, you will deal in the business of killing and keep yourself and family from getting killed. Be a trauma doctor with that stick:  Have the ability to choose to take a life or not take a life. This is not a skill you can learn, but one you develop after you have learned. If you spend all your time trying to learn and add more “stuff” to what you do, you’ll never develop that ability.

Finally, like I said, there is nothing wrong with learning empty hand arts to expertise. If you want to do it, do the arts and your student justice by properly learning it–not trying to find some short cut and then pass it off as mastery or expertise. Learn it, develop it, and live it. Then teach it. There is no shame in saying you are a weapons expert, and if they want to fight empty handed you can refer them to someone. You don’t see Baseball players feeling incomplete because they can’t dunk a ball…

Just some thoughts. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

6 thoughts on “Does Eskrima Need to Be “Well-Rounded”?”

  1. If a teacher of Arnis is well rounded in the principles and mechanics of Arnis then they should be able to hold their own against any other system of fighting. This is because they know their abilities and weaknesses. The most important thought is not to fight the other guys on his home court but fight him on your home court were you are strong and he is weak.

    1. agreed! there is so much to learn about the styles we already do–how they work, where they are open, how they can be use to fight different styles–that we have to stop learning about our own style to chase many other skills…

  2. The problem about having FMA being a weapons art only is that your assuming you have you have every access or at least have a weapon with you. That is a very dangerous assumption considering that you can’t bring a weapon, especially if its something you can’t carry with you like a stick especially to an area that restricts knives and other weapons. Most effective arts are unarmed, most un–effective arts are armed because most conflicts in combat are empty handed.

    A good example for my above explainable would be krav maga which uses unarmed to deal with most situatoins

    Its not a matter of whether FMA should remain armed but if FMA should remain effective, In mma, people don’t just use grappling alone or just striking alone, they do both, although that one person is usually better at using one than the other.

    1. hi sorry it took so long to answer. there are many styles of kuntaw now. and many of those did not come from the muslim areas of the PI. there is a debate about the “Filipino-ization” of foreign arts into philippine culture, but because some of these kuntaw styles are base in karate and not original FMAs, some people dont consider them Filipino arts. I disagree though. like Filipino recipes that came from china, is things like lumpia and pancit *not* Filipino foods? i say they are. 😉 and the same goes for our fighting arts.

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