I’ve been meaning to try to share some training insights from an Eskrima student’s perspective, in much the same way as I have been doing for the AFT classes taught here at NWFA in Portland. I hope that sharing some of my thoughts might help you in your own Eskrima Practice, or better yet, give you a reason to give Eskrima a try, because I truly believe it is an amazing martial art.
I’ve been studying the various forms of the Filipino martial arts here at NWFA under the tutelage of Professor Jeff for about six years now, along with Thai and Western Boxing. It can be a challenge to keep up with things, as my busy schedule prevents me from training as much as I would like to (like many of you, I have a full time day job, a young child, evening classes, personal projects, and married life to juggle at the same time). The most important thing is to be patient. Trust that it will come! Do not become frustrated, take things slowly and simply and have fun trying something new.
The Eskrima classes are taught Monday and Thursday nights, and Sunday early afternoons each week. Thursday night classes some times build up an audience of Thai/Western Boxing students watching, as that class comes right afterwards.
On one such night Nick, a fellow AFT student, asked me if the Filipino arts had its origins in dance, like Capoeira of Brazil. I was surprised at this question, knowing something about the history from which the art evolved in the Philippines. But I could see how he could come to this conclusion, seeing how comfortable and fluid Professor Jeff and his more advanced students are with the sticks.
Stick fighting emerged from brutal necessity in an island where walking from point A to point B could get you killed. In the form of a simple rattan stick, the island itself provided a readily available resource that could enhance an individual’s ability to defend him or herself significantly. At most the rattan stick weighs about 2 lbs, and it’s hard to imagine how something so light and unsubstantial can become a deadly weapon. While it is true that eskrimadors can deliver disabling, bone breaking strikes with blinding speed and accuracy, it is also true that they can use the stick to control and restrain, and therefore effectively diffuse potentially dangerous situations without inflicting debilitating harm. Ironically, it becomes a weapon of peace.
And maybe that’s why I find the Filipino martial arts to be so fascinating: that something so simple and innocuous as a rattan stick could enhance a person’s ability to protect him or herself so effectively.
It is very difficult to describe through words Eskrima techniques. You really need to be shown, and then you really need to practice in order to memorize and learn them. And by memorize, I mean the kind of memory that comes from repetition of movement from your muscles and nervous system, like from playing a musical instrument.
But it isn’t as difficult as learning a musical instrument.
The martial movements of the Filipino arts are remarkable in how naturally one action flows into another, and into another, and into another, whether weapons based or open handed. The other way in which the Filipino arts are unique (and remarkable) are how similar weapons techniques are to each other (single stick to double stick, single stick to knife, stick and knife to double stick), and to open hand techniques. The principles and techniques are portable regardless of which tools you favor: open hands or weapons, which makes for a remarkably efficient and effective martial system.