Why Eskrima Should Remain *Armed* (Well-Rounded, pt II)

Before everyone gets their panties in a bunch, please hear me out.

By the way, this article is “part II” of this article, entitled “Does Eskrima Need To Be ‘Well-Rounded?”  Surprisingly, it was well-received. I think maybe folks are starting to really look at what I write about, rather than just take offense to everything. Either that, or the article hadn’t hit the forums yet. 😉

Eskrima is a weapons-based art, we know that. But even most weapons-only arts have empty handed skills for weapons retention and/or disarming of the opponent. I’m okay with this. However there are many weapons arts that are with very little rival, that do not address empty hands at all–like fencing and archery. It does make sense in training for armed conflict, that some time is spent on empty hand skills:

  • Barehanded training builds physical strength, thus builds confidence, aggressiveness and makes the warrior indomitable
  • There will be times the warrior will be unarmed
  • Knowledge of barehanded fighting gives an insight into weapons fighting that can only be gained through hand to hand combat

In my opinion, if your goal for your Eskrima is to train fighters to use a blade or stick for true combat then you should limit how much your art crosses over into the empty hands arena.

  1. The mindset is different from weapons to weaponless.  If you are a fighter who is a stick fighter, but your attention has been balanced between hands and sticks, then in combat you will not be 100% reliant on your weapon. In other words, your stickfighting ability will suffer because you don’t see it as the ultimate means to combat. Too easy to just throw the stick to the side and fight with hands. As a pure stick fighter, you will fight to the death with that stick.
  2. Your attention in training is not focused 100%. In my Eskrima class, my students will skirt the 1,000 stick strike mark every class. Most of the men reading this article are not physically capable of throwing 1,000 strikes with a stick. (Disagree? Step away from the laptop/cell phone and prove me wrong)  If you want to wield your weapon with deadly skill, a thousand strikes should be a cakewalk.
  3. Contrary to the popular expression, the weapon is NOT an extension of the hand. It isn’t. Your hand doesn’t cut. Your hand doesn’t break bones if you smack a forearm or a shin with it. They are apples and oranges, and while you can swing them around the same way, I can swing a turkey sandwich like a knife, but a turkey sandwich and a knife have nothing in common.
  4. ^^^  Oh, wait…. (go ahead, I’ll let you win that point!)
  5. Because of the differences in skills and mentality, teaching hand techniques through Eskrima is a lot like teaching archers how to kick. They are separate, unrelated arts, and used for different purposes. There is only one reason to whip out a knife in a fight, and a style focused on that reason should not stray from that very specific purpose.

As I stated in the previous article, Eskrima is a fantastic, dynamic, aggressive, lethal art. Only if you allow it to be. The hand is a very dangerous weapon as well. However, they are taught in a very specialized manner that is unique to the style and unrelated. Yes, we can bridge the two, but in doing so we must dilute one, the other, or both. For this reason, many of the old Masters held separate systems for their empty hand vs their weapons styles–and many Masters just chose to focus on one or the other. History tells us that the best only did one or the other. Almost none of the old masters in the Philippines was known for his weapons fighting equally as he was for his empty hand. In fact, even with the weapons experts, most Masters were known for either their stick or their knife. Very few were known to use both. There is a good reason for that.

I suspect that most people who agree with me, still will continue practicing their Eskrima as it was taught to them, or as everyone else is teaching it. The question is, why?

Are you truly looking to hone the most lethal fighting skills into one system, or not?

Food for thought. Thanks for visiting my blog.

Author: thekuntawman

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

8 thoughts on “Why Eskrima Should Remain *Armed* (Well-Rounded, pt II)”

  1. Yes ,this is really food for thought. I’m just a beginner in FMA but this post is already rocking some of the “basics” I’ve come to accept. Like point number 3. I have to think about this…

  2. I was going to call this a “new” way of looking at the FMAs, but I have the feeling that this is actually the “OLD” way of looking at the FMAs. Good points…

  3. Just wanted to ad that it’s true, most of the grandmasters did not bother with adding or translating a whole bunch of arts and styles, even empty hand. You’ve got me sold, Guro!

  4. I am very much interested in eskrima, some day I will train harder in it hopefully when my budget would allow it.

    I have a question in my head:
    What if you encounter a BJJ practitioner on a place where you can’t find a weapon to use against him and this man is out to kill you? Shouldn’t there be at least a target skill level even though lower on everything else?

    1. habagat, sorry that I just now notice your question.

      martial artists want to have something they can hide behind that will protect them in ALL cases. the truth is, there isn’t. NO art, no combination of arts, no form of training protects you from everything. in the case when you are a true weapons fighter and you encounter a hands fighter when you have no weapon–you will be crushed. simply as that. now if you dabbled in an empty hand style, will your little limited knowledge of stand up or grappling save you from a man who is an expert at grappling? no, not in a million years.

      the philosophy “learn some grappling in case you meet a grappler” is like saying “learn to greet people in Spanish in case you meet a Mexican”. you might know “hello” “thank you” and “where is the bathroom”, but you will not be able to hang with him in conversation.

      the idea is, never be caught without your weapon. so if a man is a MMA fighter, and he runs into another one with a gun, what can he do?

      the answer is the same–nothing. you’re going to get shot.

      1. Very convincing of why the weapons part of fma should be armed, but what about indigenous fma’s that focus on empty hand? You haven’t really gone through talking about filipino martial arts like suntukan

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