The Devastation of Eskrima’s #1 Strike
Most styles of Eskrima have as their #1 strike an out to in strike to the temple or a downward strike to the crown, nose or collarbone. Both of these strikes, in my opinion are underrated and can be your best weapon if you treat your Eskrima with respect.
Yes, with respect. See, most FMA people (and this includes most teachers) do not respect the Eskrima Day Number one basic skill enough to practice it. Let me explain:
You pay your money, buy your school T shirt, buy a stick. You’re taught to salute, learn a few Tagalog terms–“Handa, Galang, Magpugay, Suntok, Guro, Isa, Dalawa, Tatlo…”, how to hold the stance, learn a little history, the stick is a machete is a knife, is a hand, blah blah blah… Now here’s strike #1, strike #2, strike #3, strike #4. Now here are a few drills…
Several months later: Here’s drill #15….
Teacher teaches the first strike on the first day of class, and never teaches more than the same basic description unless another new guy joins. There is no in-depth study of the strike. No return to hone, fine-tune, or perfecting. It’s almost as if the #1 was only taught so that you can do the sinawali without getting your hands crossed up… oh wait–you need to practice more sinawali drills before you’re good enough to learn the next one.
And this is why I say your Eskrima was not treated with respect. First of all, two questions:
Can you kill with your #1 strike?
Can you throw a #1 strike that can neither be blocked, evaded, or survived?
They sound like silly questions to someone who neither understands the devastating effects of a fully developed, fully trained and respected #1 strike. First, the #1 strike, depending on how your systems uses it, is a throat slashing, cranium splitting, hand-dismembering weapon. You can cripple a man, end his life, kill a group of men within seconds with that strike your Guro “taught” you in about 2 minutes on your first day of Eskrima practice. Maybe some teachers may have students practice the #1 for a few minutes before teaching the next move. Most often, I have witnessed teachers teach their entire basic striking series within 5 minutes of a students first day! This is clearly someone who doesn’t think very highly of that strike, and those two strikes are often the most practical (or only practical) skills in that teacher’s entire arsenal. Don’t laugh, I’ve seen it, and I know it’s true.
The basic strike must:
- be pack bone-shattering power, whether executed at close quarters or long distance
- be completed in the blink of an eye, whether the fighter is in a fighting stance or in a neutral position
- be accompanied by footwork that is so fast, so accurate, and so explosive–that the opponent can not escape it once you have locked into a target, nor can he be able to counter it
- be capable of breaking the opponent’s arm or stick if he attempts a block
- be delivered from any variety of positions and foot maneuvers
- *be delivered from any hand position*
And let me elaborate on this last item (be delivered from any hand position). It doesn’t matter what you were attempting to do or where your hands are when it is time to deploy this weapon. The Eskrimador, before he should bother with disarms, take downs or tricks–should have thrown his system’s basic strike more than 10,000 full power blows just to achieve adequate skills to move on. I am amazed by how many Eskrimadors are doing “advanced” Eskrima whose wrists and forearms are not strong enough to strike 500 blows without getting blisters. Boxers who are training for competition often will throw 5,000 or more punches in a day’s training, for a fight where he will only be expected to throw 50 – 80 punches per round. In the few seminars I’ve taught, I notice that many Arnisadors find it difficult to throw 100 full power strikes with a basic, first-day, number one strike. Back to my point, once you have developed your Arnis skill to the point that you can deliver 500 strikes with full speed and power, you will be able to accomplish this simple use of the basic strike. And just as I wrote it, a fighter should be able to change positions, stop his motion in an instant and deliver a deadly, wig-splitting, juglar rupturing, neck-breaking basic Arnis strike as soon as he needs it.
I must make this point: Too often, Arnis is practiced as a coordination skill rather than as a destructive power that can cripple or maim–even kill–a man. Too many people value the “drill” or the fanciest disarms, rather than how much damage one can inflict with that little stick of yours. I have noticed the new trend in the Filipino arts is to use your stick to whip up a man, and then forget about the stick to resort to Brazilian Jujitsu when the potential Arnis victim closes the gap and turns it into a wrestling match. Excuse my rudeness, but if you need grappling for your FMA, you have forgotten what these weapons were made for. Develop a strike that hurts, injures and sends men to the hospital, then you won’t have to add other arts to back your Arnis up. Train those stick strikes until you can break bricks with them. And, yes, an Arnis stick can break bricks.
Back to the conversation–we need our strikes to be mastered and perfected so that you can pull the trigger when you need it. The reason a grappler can get past a 28″ stick is because your reflexes and strikes are not developed and accurate enough to stop any man you encounter. Don’t worry if you spar and it get beat; it just means you have more developing to do–not that Eskrima is insufficient. Every old master I’ve met in the Philippines didn’t have fancy drills and disarms. Most didn’t even have names for their techniques and styles. They offer the most simplistic of instructions for Arnis: Develop your hands to be like a hair trigger to a mobile sledge hammer. Develop your feet to become lightning quick so that no man can catch you, and no man can escape you. Be capable of covering 4-5 feet in a split second. Be capable of popping a coconut with your strike.
Then as your opponent is trying to figure you out, and you are trying to figure out your opponent–your eyes are searching for a chink in his armor. The momentary loss of balance, eyes pan down to obstacles on the ground. a quick distraction, a missed attack, a reaction to a successful strike… And then end that fight before your opponent blinks next.
^^ And this is one of the secrets of the masters. Modernize, develop new theories, come up with great ways to showcase the Philippines and our arts. But do not do so at the expense of forgetting the age old wisdom of our great masters who created this arts. I want you to commit that last two paragraphs to memory, because if you only learn your style’s first strike and then follow the advice of these two short paragraphs–it will be all the martial arts you will ever need. Develop your attack to a high, lethal degree–and then develop your reflexes and awareness to know the right time to strike… and no opponent can defeat you.
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