In this post, Julius Melegrito — who’s on the cover of the April/May 2017 issue of Black Belt, shown below — explains key concepts from the group of styles commonly referred to as the Filipino Martial Arts: escrima, kali and arnis. If you haven’t started your FMA training yet, this will whet your appetite. If you’re a veteran of the stick-fighting and knife-fighting arts, you’ll have your memory jogged even if you don’t learn anything new. — Editor
Classics: “Your whole purpose in classical Filipino stick fighting is to hit your opponent until he’s out of the fight — you don’t mess around with other techniques like traps,” Julius Melegrito says.
Targets: “In practice, you use your stick to hit his stick as close to his gripping hand as you can manage while staying safe, but in a real fight, you’d hit the hand,” Julius Melegrito says. “It usually makes him drop his weapon. Of course, in a fight, an attempt to hit his hand might miss, which is why you practice follow-ups.”
Follow-Up: Melegrito likes to use an empty hand — assuming he’s not holding a second stick — to check the opponent’s hand right after it’s hit. That’s his insurance policy: If the strike doesn’t have the intended effect for whatever reason, Melegrito can prevent the man from bringing the hand back into action. He immediately follows up with a stick strike to the forearm, elbow, face, neck or some other available target.
Simplicity: “You don’t try to grab him or do anything else,” Julius Melegrito says. “You just hit anything that comes at you — be it a hand, a knife or whatever. Whoever hits first usually wins the battle.”
Legs: If the opponent kicks, the same principles apply, Melegrito says. Aim for the foot or ankle, check the leg if necessary and then follow up. Don’t try to trap the leg.
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Schism: “In classical stick fighting, the stick is treated like a sword — which means all strikes are regarded as cuts,” Julius Melegrito says. “If you’re doing the classical arts, you don’t touch the stick because that would be like touching a sharp sword blade. In modern Filipino stick fighting, however, the stick is treated like a stick.”
Modern Approach: “In the modern arts, it’s OK to touch the stick,” he says. “After all, it’s a stick, not a sword. You just treat it as an impact weapon. When the guy swings at you, you intercept his strike with a strike from your stick — aimed at his hand — then you grab his weapon close to his hand if he doesn’t drop it. Grabbing it allows you to use it against him or take it away.”
Options: “Once you grab his stick, move it out of the way if you want to strike,” Julius Melegrito says. “If he holds onto it, his arm will be carried along with the weapon, which will leave his body open for your counterstrike. If he tries to kick, you can maneuver the stick down to block his shin, then hit his body with your stick. Or you can use his stick to lock his arm. At any point, you have the option of switching to the classical approach and just hitting him.”
Disarms: Part of modern stick fighting is separating your opponent from his weapon, Melegrito says. As he already mentioned, you can hit the hand holding the stick with the intention of making him drop it. You also can leverage it out of his hand using a twisting motion. Or you can use your stick to push his stick out of his hand in such a way that it goes flying. This last category of techniques he calls “projectile disarms.”
Warning: “Disarming an attacker is a good concept for self-defense, but before you can disarm him, you have to grab his stick, and to do that safely, you have to understand the angles at which it’s dangerous,” Julius Melegrito says. “Of course, it helps if you ‘soften’ him up with a strike before you try the disarm. Then it’s easier to use leverage to force the stick out of his hand.”
Theory: “In modern stick fighting, the whole idea is if you can hit his hand, you can probably grab his stick, and if you can grab his stick, you can disarm him,” he says. “If it’s a knife, that changes things a little — your survival depends on being …