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A martial artist of another style or system is up to reap profound benefits by studying arnis-escrima-kali collectively known as Filipino martial arts (FMA). Through the years I have met people who took up the study of FMA in addition to their original martial arts and profited from it.
The FMA, without being invasive, can be studied to complement other martial arts styles. If a martial artist is already proficient in a particular system, I believe the study of the FMA would augment his knowledge of his original martial art and even improve his understanding of it.
The reason why the FMA is non-invasive even when studied simultaneously with another martial art is that it deals primarily with generic combative principles and concepts rather than stylized forms of fighting.
The best example of this is the basic angles of attacks present in all styles of arnis-escrima-kali. Regardless of weapon, whether stick, knife or empty hands, the angles of attacks remain the same. These concepts are so universal and flexible that they can be interpreted using techniques from other martial arts.
Some purists may be critical of the direction that a number of FMA practitioners are taking specifically the inclusion of techniques and methodologies from other disciplines but I believe it is a natural by-product of something as conceptual as the FMA. It’s not new actually.
The Filipinos of yore did the same thing when they borrowed espada y daga from Spanish sword play. The FMA puts premium on the investigation of universal combative motions hence its study is beneficial to all martial artists regardless of style.
The ability to recognize and understand the interconnecting principles of all martial arts is the mark of a true master. A good case in point is Bruce Lee. Dan Inosanto once wrote that Lee had an immediate liking of escrima because its many principles parallel that of jeet kune do.
He said that Lee could perform escrima even though he had no formal training in it because he already reached that level on his own, meaning, the understanding of the universal principles of combative motions.
Another benefit of FMA training is that it develops important combat attributes like power, speed, kinaesthetic sensitivity and coordination.
Unlike most martial arts, arnis-escrima-kali training begins with weapons and then progresses to empty hands. It is a common premise in FMA that perfection in weaponry skills first would mean perfection in empty hand skills later.
Weaponry training is a great way to build power. Stroking exercises with a heavy stick for instance develops torque. This is similar to why boxers of the olden days chop down trees with an axe during training to develop torque in their punches.
Both hand speed and speed awareness can be developed through FMA training. In weapons based systems like arnis-escrima-kali, the hands are bearing the weight of stick or sword nearly all the time. Take away that weight in empty hand fighting and the result would be greater hand speed.
High-speed knife drills and double stick drills like sinawali can heighten a martial artist’s awareness of motion. It’s like getting used to driving a car at 90 mph then suddenly lowering the speed to 60 mph. The latter is still fast but if you’re used to cruising at 90 mph, it seems to be a lot slower.
Filipino knife drills are excellent for building up kinaesthetic sensitivity. In FMA training, wooden knives are treated as real and any contact with the body is considered critical if not enough to end a fight.
This kind of training demands a very high level of kinaesthetic sensitivity. Again, when one reverted back to empty hand fighting, a practitioner discovers that his kinaesthetic sensitivity has greatly improved.
FMA weaponry training is also a great way to turbo-charge a martial artist’s coordination level. Paul Vunak, a student of Dan Inosanto, in his book “Jeet Kune Do: Its Concepts and Philosophies.” wrote, “The level of coordination that it takes to work sticks, knives, staffs and double sticks and so on is five times greater than anything empty-handed. Since coordination is universal when we return back to empty hand, we are five times more coordinated.”
Being a weapons-oriented system, the most obvious benefit one would get from FMA training is functional skills with the stick and knife. Even with the advent of modern weaponry, skills in impact and bladed weapons never go obsolete. Weapons are great equalizers.
Even if a martial artist is extremely proficient with empty hand techniques, there are combat situations where using a weapon is more appropriate like when one is injured or is overwhelmingly outnumbered.
Ironically, spirituality too can be learned by practicing the ancient weapons of arnis-escrima-kali. Beyond the bravado of wielding sticks and knives lies a deeper meaning.
An epiphany struck me not so long ago that one can learn compassion from implements of destruction. The movements of the stick and blade are beautiful to watch during practice but it is also not hard to imagine the pain and horror they could bring on another human being when used for real.