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.

“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.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

Author: thekuntawman

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

9 thoughts on “The Devastation of Eskrima’s #1 Strike”

  1. If you had to recommend just one DVD, or set of DVDs, to someone who otherwise cannot find decent teachers in his area (meaning me), which would you recommend?

    It seems the vast majority go against what you are saying and I can see where they’ve gone wrong.

    1. lol actually I’ve never watched any FMA tape all the way through. I did like the dog brothers video. I also have the Bahad Zubu DVD which I plan to review, but I haven’t finished watching it. That whole group are fighters so you might like it too. Those guys actually fight in boxing tournaments, putting there FMA empty hand money where there mouths is 🙂

      1. Thanks.

        it might be an idea – as you have the required knowledge – to review a few DVDs for us. Maybe even highlight what’s good about certain DVDs and what’s not.

  2. You talk a lot but if I can’t see it I won’t believe it.

    “Develop your hands to be like a hair trigger to a mobile sledge hammer.”

    Really? Your simile to a gun — which the average bullet travels 2,500 feet per second — is a bit overboard. If you’re close-in fighting with all its chaos do you really think that’s possible? At any second your arm could be immobile do to various factors or any good target is out of reach.

    “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.”

    No one can catch or escape you? The fastest human so far — Usain Bolt — can run 28 miles per hour or about 41 feet per second. The fastest a human can accelerate is about 32 feet per second. And that is ONLY for professional athletes that train nothing other than running/sprinting AND while leaning forward.

    Either you’re saying these things as a philosophy to follow or you’re delusional. Don’t get me wrong — PTK is what I study and real FMA is, in my opinion, the best fighting system(s) in the world — but like you’ve ranted a lot about it has to fit the real world.

    1. Excellent comment, thank you. I would like to give you the short answer here, then dedicate an article to explain better. If you would like me to mention you may I know your initials or nickname? I prefer to name the inspiration of my articles when possible.

      Here is the short answer: Yes those things are possible. I suspect you are either new to the arts or you have not done a lot of fighting to believe what I say. The FMA is full of cliches and limitations because too often, those masters teaching the arts has never been a dominant fighter.

      When I say “dominant” fighter, I mean a guy who dominates because he is so much faster, powerful, agile, wiser, and accurate than 90% of the martial artists (even expert martial artists) that most people have never encountered another guy like him. The cream of the crop, the best of the best. Very few people has even met a guy like him, and even fewer have never fought one. I am reminded of a saying, that if you think it can be done–then with hard work you can do it. And I f you think it cannot be done, even with hard work you’ll never be able to do it. This level of power and speed is possible, but only for those who work for it. I can tell you this, until you change your philosophy, you will never be this kind of dominant fighter. I have worked on this and accomplished it, so I know it’s possible and I have students who achieve it.

      You get what you work for an honestly, most FMA people do not train for dominance, they train casually. And this is why there foot works are not provable skills, their power is limited by there natural strength, and there speed is not much different than the average man.

      For an example of a fighter who is hard to catch, look at Floyd Mayweather. For an extremely powerful fighter, look at the old George Foreman. For a very accurate fighter, Thomas Hearns. For a very wise fighter, Bernard Hopkins.

      These things are not just possible, they are being done by very real people–but only a very small number of them.

      Please subscribe and I will have something up in a week with better explanations

    2. I have a question: do you have a gun?

      How many people do you know have a gun?

      Too many people go online and keep going on about how much better a gun is at keeping you safe. But, the fact is, no gun will keep you safe if you don’t carry one.

      On the other hand, you always have your arms legs with you. And it’s better to train those things you have with you all the time.

      Will you always win?

      No. Of course.

      But at least you give yourself a better chance by training.

      Also, there are people who have guns but have no idea how to use on.

      In a real situation, even a gun can be useless if your brain freezes.

    3. “The fastest human so far — Usain Bolt — can run 28 miles per hour or about 41 feet per second”

      There’s a big difference between a sprinter who runs in a straight line to in a race and a martial artist who trains to fight. The types of movement are completely different.

      I can guarantee you Bolt’s foot-work would do him no good in a fight, other than to run away.

  3. I never comment on a blog but your advice is too true and excellent. I have learned this lesson the hard way in martial arts and life. It is better to master 1 simple move and know it from 10000 angles than to know 10000 things from one angle. The basic number one strike is mirrored in a million practical moves from swinging a hammer to a nail, chopping wood with a machete or axe, to clearing brush with a machete, to using a tool in a garden, etc. So mastering that move is to master basic practical physical respects a well. Most importantly the simplicity allows for a necessary empty mindedness where even a basic student can hold his/her own against a far more experienced opponent while living a balanced life simply by mastering the commitment to a basic strike. One of my disillusionments with the martial arts “schools” is the emphasis of quantity over quality while also ignoring the necessary wholism inherent within the simple.

    garden, t

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