The use of kicks in escrima, arnis and kali weapons fighting
In escrima, arnis and kali weapons fighting, every limb is used in addition to the stick or knife that the fighter is wielding. A description of juego todo (full contact escrima match using live sticks and without armor) practiced in the Philippines as well as in Filipino farming communities in Hawaii and California during the first half of the last century is included in Dan Inosanto’s book the The Filipino Martial Arts, and it reads, “Escrima stick fighting matches were full-contact bouts without the aid of armor, which resulted in death or permanent injury to the participants. They usually used the stick in the right hand and punched with the left hand. The use of the elbow, knee and head were common at close range combat. Combat grappling-like techniques (standing or on the ground) were applied. These included throws, trips, sweeps, take downs, chokes, strangulation, dislocations and locks on the fingers, wrists, elbows, shoulders, ankles and knees. The feet were used for kicking at the low level.”
Because of their locations, it is but logical that hands are used for hitting the high line area while the feet are utilized for striking the low line area. This article will just focus on the use of kicks in Filipino martial arts weapons fighting. Sipa, sikad and tadyak are Filipino words for kick.
The rationale behind the use of kicks or punches or whatever other weapon you have at your disposal in addition to your stick or knife is simple: the more weapons you have, the more advantage you have over your opponent provided you know how to use them. In the case of using kicks, that means your opponent has an extra pair weapons to worry about attacking his low line.
The universality of the concept of using kicks in weapons combat is evident in this illustration from an ancient fencing manual showing the use of a kicking technique in sword fighting (From the book The Martial Arts of Renaissance Europe by Dr. Sydney Anglo).
Escrima, arnis and kali possess a particular structure and a kick or any other technique will only work effectively if they fit well with that structure. Simple low kicks blend naturally with Filipino weapons fighting than high flamboyant kicks. I have seen some practitioners integrate high kicks into their weapons fighting and while they are impressive to behold, they may not be very practical to use in real combat.
My opinion is based on the fact that in Filipino weapons fighting, the stick or the knife is the primary implement for inflicting damage and everything else is but an auxiliary tool. In weapons fighting, it is easy to understand that human limbs can rarely compete against the hardness of wood and steel.
High kicks are long range tools and are often used for bridging the gap in empty hand combat. But if you employ the same technique in Filipino weapons fighting, you would be in for serious trouble because even the most mediocre of escrimadors know that all he has to do is to meet your kick with the edge or point of his knife to neutralize your attack. This is also the reason why kicking the attacker’s hand holding the knife, taught in some martial arts style as practical self-defense technique, is not at all practical.
In Filipino weapons fighting, kicks come into play when the high line was closed because the two fighters were in a clinch or within medium range. In the clinch range, the best leg techniques to employ are foot stomp to the instep, oblique kick to the knee (the motion for this kick is more like stepping on the knee joint rather than simply pushing outward), low side kick to the shin or knee, as well as knee strike to the sciatic nerve on the outer thigh or to the groin.
The Thai martial art of krabi krabong blended weapons fighting and kicking techniques perfectly. If you’re going to adopt the krabi krabong paradigm, then you can add the front kick and the infamous Thai round kick (best aimed at the sciatic nerve on the outer thigh or at the rib cage) to your repertoire. I have observed that in krabi krabong, the kicks were inserted in between the engagements of weapons often at medium range. The Dog Brothers produced an instructional material on the merging of kali and krabi krabong structures which they dubbed Los Triques (meaning "the three Ks," the initials of the words kali and krabi krabong would produce KKK).
Just like in other techniques of escrima, arnis and kali, learning kicks should begin with the achievement of proper form. Next is the attainment of the attributes that make a technique work like power, speed, accuracy and timing. With these accomplished, you can proceed on inserting kicks when training with your weapons whether solo or with a partner.
Always bear in mind that within the context of Filipino weapons fighting, kicks are just auxiliary tools used to achieve the following objectives: to inflict additional damage, as a distraction so you can score a hit or as a way to disengage and create distance. They are a means to an end rather than the end in itself.