FMA trapping and disarm using sticks
Photo by Brandon Snider

Read Part 1 of “5 Misconceptions About Escrima” here.

Read Part 2 of “5 Misconceptions About Escrima” here.

Read Part 3 of “5 Misconceptions About Escrima” here.

Misconception No. 4: There Are Range Limitation for Sticks

That's incorrect. The main reason for this FMA misconception is that many escrima teachers still teach a blade-based art, and the particular slashing and drawing strikes necessary when using a blade are best done at the long and middle ranges.

The modern stick fighter, however, does not use blade-based attacks. The older stick styles, which imitated blade-type attacks with heavy sticks that were often flattened to resemble blades, depended on powerful strikes using the same motions as with a blade.

More recently, using a stick has meant that attacks have changed to emphasize speed and accuracy over raw power, and the means to execute these types of attacks are available at very close range. Using the wrist to snap and the waist to develop axial torque has replaced arm and shoulder extension as the source of power.

To learn about combat hapkido's approach to weapons, check out this book by John Pellegrini.

At very close range, almost nose-to-nose, a modern fighter can hit any target from low on the right side, across the entire upper body, to low on the left side — a full 360 degrees. Being able to do this requires constant practice to develop the necessary wrist flexibility, and as the range of motion increases, so does the strength of the snap.

The learning process also includes training to generate a great deal of power with little or no room. The same basic principles that apply to the 1-inch punch and 3-inch punch apply to these strikes.

Accuracy is also extremely important to be able to fight effectively at close range. When all the power is focused on the tip of a stick at the point of the snap, it is imperative that the tip hit its target. A snap aimed at the temple that ends up hitting high on the side of the head will not accomplish its intended purpose.

FMA practitioner uses a stick to disarm a man with a knife Photo by Brandon Snider

Another important area of training for close-range stick fighting is to learn how to create space when you need to. This does not involve stepping out or moving away, but works on recognizing the fact that between two bodies, there is a great deal of available space depending on the angle of upper-body lean and the movement of the hips.

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Because of the design of the human body, when we stand toe-to-toe, we can lean away and create as much as three or four feet to execute techniques. If we add slight shifts of the feet, we can see that having enough space for techniques is the least of our worries.

Read Part 5 of "5 Misconceptions About Escrima" here.

About the author: Steven C. Drape has practiced escrima for more than 17 years. He is the U.S. representative of the Institute of Filipino Martial Arts in Cebu, Republic of the Philippines.

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