24 March 2017

Incorporating throwing skills into Filipino stick fighting

Throwing occurs in both empty hand and weapons fights. Throwing happens when the fight shifted to grappling range and the bigger and stronger combatant attempts to throw the other to the ground. This combat skill calls for destroying the opponent’s balance, lifting him up in the air and slamming him to the ground. Besides understanding leverage, one must also develop kinesthetic sensitivity or the ability to read the opponent’s intention through body-feel to be able to effectively execute throws. The former is useful in destroying the opponent’s balance while you will rely on the latter to detect if your foe is setting you up for a throw.

In a real fight where there is no safety mat, throwing can inflict serious or lethal injury. Not all Filipino stick fighting systems incorporate throwing techniques. The purpose of this article is to offer general guidelines on how to incorporate throwing techniques into your stick fighting system.

In stick fighting where the stick is the primary weapon, throwing is incidental, meaning you don’t look for it. If an opportunity to throw an opponent presents itself, you just grab the chance. Hence, knowing how to throw an opponent means you have an additional tool at your disposal and more fight options.

Integrating throwing skills into your stick fighting system entails three components: learning how to throw, learning how to survive a throw, and knowing how to fit in these skills into the structure of stick fighting.Some styles of arnis, escrima and kali teach throwing techniques based on grappling systems indigenous to the Philippines like buno and dumog. However, there is considerable number of Filipino masters who’ve had extensive background in Japanese judo and jiu-jitsu and borrowed throwing skills freely from these systems. The best example of the latter is Grand Master Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete of the famed Doce Pares group who created escrido; a combination of escrima and judo. In the same line of thought, the Dog Brothers incorporated Brazilian jiu-jitsu into their method of real contact stick fighting.


Cordillera tribesmen performing a ritual dance. (From Nid Anima’s book The Filipino Martial Arts)


Even if your stick fighting style already has throwing techniques, it is still helpful to cross-train in other systems to deepen your understanding of throwing skills. Depending on your body built, temperament and preferred movement dynamics, there are numerous Eastern and Western systems to choose from.

Judo and jujitsu offer excellent throwing techniques. In sport judo, you purposely look for a throw since it is the most impressive way to score a point. Jujitsu depending on the style has differing emphasis on throwing. Judo evolved from jujitsu.

Olympic wrestling (Greco-Roman and Freestyle) has similarities and differences from judo and jujitsu. The most salient difference perhaps is that the concept of ki or internal power is an integral component of an effective judo and jujitsu technique while Western wrestling relies primarily on muscular strength to accomplish the same purpose.

Also worthy of study are silat and shuai chiao throwing techniques. What I find impressive about silat is its deft ways of destroying an opponent’s balance resulting to effortless execution of throws. Shuai chiao (Chinese fast wrestling) on the other hand seamlessly combined striking and throwing.

If you know how to throw an opponent, you must also know how to survive a throw. In fact, in formal judo and jujitsu study, learning how to break a fall (sutemi waza) precedes the learning of throwing techniques (nage waza). Breaking a fall as its name implies means minimizing the amount of impact that your body absorbs as it hits the ground. The impact dissipates when spread to a larger surface area of the body (flat falls). Another way of neutralizing impact is by turning the body into a ball and literally rolling on the ground after being thrown (rolling fall). While the Japanese perfected sutemi waza, the skill of breaking a fall can be found in both Oriental and Occidental forms of wrestling.

Lastly, you must integrate throwing skills into the stick fighting structure. The primary consideration here is the presence of a weapon. In a pure grappling situation, both of your hands are free to grab and execute a throw but not so in a stick fight.

Instead of being an impediment to the execution of a throw, the stick can be used to facilitate throwing techniques. In a stick fighting environment, the baston or the olisi can be employed as a lever or hook to destroy an opponent’s balance to throw him to the ground. Throws are best applied after you have already inflicted pain on your opponent.

And lastly, since arnis, escrima and kali are combative in orientation, it is best to distinguish the difference between a sport throw and a combat throw. A sport throw done in a competition environment aims for points and domination. A combat throw on the other hand simply intends to injure, to completely shut down an opponent, to end the fight now, simply and unceremoniously.