What You Need to Know About the Philippine Fighting Arts: Part 1

In recent years, the popularity of kali/escrima/arnis has skyrocketed among law-enforcement officers, as well as the general public. Experts believe the reason is threefold: The traditional Philippine systems offer all the benefits of the other Asian martial arts, wielding weapons provides a fine aerobic workout and, taught right, they serve as a functional form of reality-based self-defense. For all the essential facts on the stick styles, we asked Julius Melegrito, a master who runs a chain of schools in Nebraska, to weigh in. Here are some of his observations.


— Editor

  • Most untrained people see a weapon as having one attacking feature. With a little education, however, they learn that all parts of a stick or knife ― the tip, the body and the butt — can be used to attack.
  • Awareness of the versatility of blunt and edged weapons is more common in the Philippines and among those who practice the Philippine arts, but it can be learned quickly by any martial artist.
  • In stick fighting, you learn about the effectiveness of the punyo (butt end of the stick), katawan (body of the stick) and dulo (tip of the stick).

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Escrima Sticks 101: Julius Melegrito's Practical Primer on the
Fighting Arts of the Philippines

  • At close range, use the punyo. It can be devastating for gouging or striking.
  • At midrange, use the katawan. In self-defense, it's best to aim for vulnerable areas such as the neck and face. Police officers are reluctant to inflict serious injury, however, so they might target the body.
  • When they're not allowed to strike, police officers like to place one hand on each end and extend their arms to shove away an attacker. If need be, they can quickly switch from that orientation to a one-hand grip and strike.
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  • At long range, use the tip. It's by far the most devastating part of the weapon. If you smack your opponent with the first three inches of the stick, he'll suffer the most damage because it's the fastest moving part. It's also the part that's nearest to him, which means it's very quick to bring into action.
  • The stick represents an extension of the human hand. So, putting the anatomy of the stick into more familiar terms, you get the following: Using the punyo is like nailing someone with an elbow strike, using the katawan is like chopping someone with a forearm strike and using the dulo is like jabbing your thumb into someone's eye.
  • As lethal as one stick can be, two are even better — assuming that you know how to use them. Because wielding two is tough, most practitioners prefer single-stick techniques. Their reasoning is simple: You'll rarely find yourself in a fight in which you have two sticks or two sticklike objects in your hands.
  • The counterpoint: What if you have one stick and the guy you're fighting has one? If you manage to disarm him, you'll end up with a pair of weapons. What will you do now? Throw one away because you don't know how to use two?
  • To be fair to those one-stick enthusiasts, disarming an opponent can end with him dropping his weapon. You may or may not have an opportunity to pick it up and use it.
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  • The bottom line: You don't need two sticks to fight, but if you have them, you might as well use them. Not doing so is like telling an opponent that you're going to fight with only your right hand and not your left.

About the Author:

Julius Melegrito is the founder of the Philippine Martial Arts Alliance. He operates a chain of schools in Bellevue and Omaha, Nebraska. His 3-DVD stick- and knife-fighting instructional collection, Philippine Fighting Arts, is available now.

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