Exploring the Indian connections of the Filipino Martial Arts Part 2

By | 2018-05-08T00:19:02+00:00 December 22nd, 2012|FMA Corner|

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This article is a continuation of my FMA corner story titled Exploring the Indian connections of the Filipino Martial Arts published on April 21, 2011.

I was inspired to continue investigating on the Indian connection of the FMA after watching an interview of Steve Maxwell, a fitness guru and the first person certified to teach Gracie Jiu-Jitsu in the USA. Maxwell is enthusiastic on the connection between yoga and martial arts. In the interview conducted by Jason C. Brown, Maxwell said, “A lot of people don’t understand that everything started in India. I mean the yogi rishis that were meditating and coming up with this amazing knowledge; they predate the Egyptian culture by 1700 years – they predate Chinese culture by 1500 years. Everything came from India and then went up…It’s the heart of everything we know… Even the Gracies talked about how their jiu-jitsu system started in India.”

As I’ve mentioned in my previous article on this subject, there is so much evidence at hand to postulate that the core of the FMA could be Indian in origin. Indian influence is prevalent not only in the Philippines but in the rest of Asia.

The materials in this article are based on the wealth of information found in The Encyclopedia of Indian Physical Culture edited by D.C. Mujumdar and published in 1950.

Just like in the FMA, stick fighting in Indian physical culture is a preparation for the use of bladed weapons. The three training modalities I’ve read in the book that I believe has strong connection to the FMA are stick and shield, single stick, double-stick and dagger training.

Stick and shield

“In order to train persons in sword fight some common moves, cuts etc. must be pre-organized and practice therein should be given, so that the performers will be able to show their valor and skill in actual sword fight. Hence Fari-Gadka (shield and stick) is devised and practiced by players.”

The equipment for fari-gadka are a shield made of leather, nine inches in diameter and a leather-covered stick, 36 inches-long (similar in length to those use in largo mano arnis-escrima).

Pre-arranged two-man practice in fari-gadka is called ghai. The first lesson in this training phase is the five strikes namely Tamacha (cut on the left ear), Kamar (cut on the waist), Cheer (cut between the legs), Sheer (cut on the head) and Bahera (cut on the right ear). Reading this, I cannot help but notice its similarity to the cinco teros (five strikes), which is the simplest numbering system in arnis-escrima.

In the second version of the ghai, two more strikes are added namely Palat (cut on the right ankle) and Kadak (cut on the right knee).

Single stick

Except for the absence of the shield, the manner of striking in single stick training is the same as that of fari-gadka. The size of the stick employed is 28 inches to 36 inches and about ¾ inch in diameter, again, very similar to those used in arnis-escrima.

Without the buckler, the player must now rely solely on his stick for defense and offense. “Strikes are to be blocked by stick only.” The latter passage describes passive defense that stands in sharp contrast to the offensive strategy employed in arnis-escrima that advocates hitting the hand that is holding the weapon rather than doing a weapon-to-weapon block.


Double-stick training mimics closer the movements of fari-gadka because the second stick can now serve the function of the shield.

Just like in arnis-escrima, ambidexterity is highly desired to excel in Indian double-stick fighting, “Specific practice that is required to be attended to in this sport is that sometimes blows can be struck by both the sticks at the same time. Herein both the practices—by the right hand and by the left hand are absolutely essential to defend oneself from the blows of the adversary.”

Salami is the term for two-man drills in both single and double-stick training.

Dagger training

The book presented a particular method of dagger training based on 32 anatomical targets. In the accompanying illustration, it was said that the 32 vulnerable points are for thrusts. There was no mention on the use of slashes, which is an integral element in Filipino knife fighting. Remember that the primary principle of Filipino knife fighting is, “For every thrust there is a slash and for every slash there is a thrust.”

It was also mentioned that the different thrust and counters are practiced sitting, standing and lying. The drills were usually pre-arranged, “Hence special movement, tricks etc., are generally planned to maintain the skill and efficiency in the use of these weapons. The limbs of the body must be also trained to undergo particular moves so that they will enable the soldiers to defeat their opponents, without themselves being exhausted.”

Another notable element in the practice of this particular method of Indian dagger fighting is that disarming is encouraged, “The fighter is declared to have won when he is successful in snatching away the dagger from the hands of the opponent and is in a position to injure him with the same dagger.”