One of the biggest mistakes you're likely to see in the Philippine martial arts is when a person fights with a knife in one hand and pins his free hand to his chest. Even worse is when the martial artist hides that hand. The Philippine arts teach that the hand is like a knife, so why not use it?With that free hand, you can grab your opponent, pull him or poke him. You can wrap a towel around it and block his knife attack. Take off your leather jacket, wrap it around your left hand and use it as a shield while you attack with your right arm.People also forget about their legs. There's nothing to stop you from slipping in a kick, a knee thrust or a leg-sweep takedown. Just because you cross-train in the Philippine martial arts doesn't mean you have to forget your background in taekwondo, hapkido or jujutsu.
— Julius Melegrito
- To cover all the bases, practice your stick techniques with both hands even if you opt to learn only one-stick moves. Pay particular attention to strengthening your nondominant hand. Doing double-stick drills does that, as well as a number of other things. It also enables you to continue the fight if your dominant hand gets injured.
- Taking that line of thinking to the logical extreme, make sure you also practice shifting from single- or double-stick mode to empty-hand mode in case you're disarmed.
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Escrima Sticks 101: Julius Melegrito's Practical Primer on the
Fighting Arts of the Philippines
- Real fights that involve sticks are very different from stick-fighting matches. On the street, you can hit your attacker with the punyo. Imagine driving the butt of the stick into a person's neck. The hard cross section, combined with the mass of the stick and your swinging arm, can lead to a knockout.
- At a higher level in the Philippine arts, you learn to use your opponent's body to trap his stick. If you and your opponent are at close quarters in competition, often the referee will separate you to ensure that you both have enough space to maneuver. In a real fight, however, not having room to maneuver can be a good thing, especially for police officers facing stick-wielding thugs. Their goal is often to grab the enemy's hand and weapon.
- For traditionalists, grabbing a stick is a big no-no because the stick represents a sword. In reality, however, it's not a sword; it's an impact weapon. On the street, it can take the form of a police baton, a bat or a beer bottle that's about to be smashed over your head.
- There are two schools of thought in the stick arts: The traditional one holds that sticks are for slicing, not hitting. The perception is evolving, however, and more people are teaching that sticks are just as suitable for hitting. It's more practical.
- Fancy twirls are fine, but you should know that twirls come from slashing movements that originally used a blade. If you really want to slice, get a knife or sword and practice your moves. Reserve the stick for hitting. It's an impact weapon.
- Once you've accepted that truth, you'll find that a wide range of objects can serve as substitute sticks. Police officers use batons and clubs. Civilians might pick up a water bottle or a flashlight—items you can carry on an airplane.
- Most improvised impact weapons have essentially the same parts as a kali stick, even if you can't use them exactly the same way. For example, you can use the tip of your car keys like a dulo or a water bottle with its cap on like a punyo.
- One of the forgotten tactics of stick fighting is using your opponent's weapon against him. If a guy is holding a bat near your face, you don't have to trap his hand. You can grab hold of the bat and maneuver it to shield yourself from any punches he launches with his free hand.
- Although the Philippine arts teach that a weapon is an extension of your body, the average attacker takes it one step further: He believes that his weapon is part of his body. He'll do anything to keep it. For him, letting go of the weapon means he loses his advantage. If you know what you're doing, though, his obsession with keeping it can become a disadvantage.
- That's not to say you should immediately give up your weapon if your foe grabs it. Police officers learn a number of weapon-retention techniques for situations in which a suspect grabs their baton.
- However, it pays to keep things in perspective. If an officer is fighting a guy and they're both muscling for control, the cop might want to let go and target the man's face with his fists. The element of surprise might make it easier to take him down and restrain him. Giving your enemy what he wants is sometimes the best way to defeat him.
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.