I would like to begin this article by saying I believe in the magical power of oracion – I believe in the supernatural as well as the spirit world. My aim in writing this discourse is not to mock this venerated tradition of escrimadors but simply to point out that while the magical component of the oracion is real, in some cases its workings can be explained scientifically.

An oracion is a special prayer, often in Latin used by some Filipino escrimadors to attain invincibility in combat. These fighting men believed that reciting an oracion could give them special abilities in combat like extraordinary courage or strength. In other cases, an oracion could be used to inflict momentary catatonia on an opponent.

Oracion as a form of anchoring

An anchor in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) parlance pertains to any stimulus that is associated with a specific response (I discussed the subject of anchoring lengthily in my FMA Corner article Mental Training and the Filipino Martial Arts). An anchor could happen naturally or could be set up intentionally. It is a powerful mental training tool because it can change a person’s psychological and physiological states fast.

An example of a natural positive anchor manifesting is when you hear your child’s voice calling your name. In an instant, it could change your state; flooding you with pleasant sensations, reconnecting you to that part of you that is nurturing and loving.

Many athletes have used this principle unknowingly. Some believe that wearing a particular jersey or shoes during a game would bring them luck. But in essence, it is just a form of anchoring. The shirt or shoe by themselves do not possess any magical powers but by wearing them, the athlete was able to reconnect to that part of him that is powerful thus improving his performance in a game.

The escrimador uttering an oracion to bring upon him extraordinary courage and strength before combat may just be a form of anchoring.

Even without a magical component involved, an escrimador, by the sheer power of his faith on the oracion may still attain the attributes he desires. And if he experienced even just a single success in the past using his oracion, then he has established a very powerful anchor, which he can trigger at will.

Oracion as hypnosis

There are accounts of escrimadors inflicting catatonia on his opponent just by audibly saying an oracion. Just by hearing his words; his opponent become momentarily immobile – something that is seriously fatal if you’re engaged in mortal combat.

Again, this is attainable with or without supernatural powers involved. In hypnosis, there is what you call “instant induction,” wherein by using the natural workings of the mind, the hypnotist could, on-the-spot, give a person commands and he will obey them.

If you’ve seen on television and the Internet a hypnotist put his subject to sleep in an instant; then you have witnessed instant induction in action.

Timing is of paramount importance to pull-off a successful instant induction. Now, let’s see how this could happen in a scenario wherein two escrimadors are to engage in a fight. The first fighter is expecting a barrage of attack and he’s all set to collide with his opponent head-on.

But instead of rushing in, the second fighter made an odd gesture and mumbled something. The first fighter was surprised at what his opponent did and in a split second his brain scrambled to interpret what is happening. Then he heard the second fighter said, “Don’t move.” He didn’t move and the next thing he knew he got a solid whack on the head. End of fight.

What the second fighter did to pull off the trick was interrupt his foe’s pattern. The first fighter was anticipating an all-out attack from the other man; for that instant, that was the reality he’s living in – his pattern – and the interruption throw him off momentarily.

What happened here is simply exploiting the natural working of the brain using timing. When presented with a sudden and overwhelming stimuli like thunder, a loud explosion or in this case an unexpected gesture and utterance, the brain for a split-second is looking for the next thing to do – and in this slim time frame, you can insert a command and the brain will obey.

The following is an excerpt from the book “Experiencing Hypnosis,” by Milton H. Erickson, M.D. and Ernest L. Rossi, Ph.D., explaining the nature of this momentary trance: “The subjects find themselves responding in an unusual way without knowing why.

Their attention is now directed inward in an intense search for an answer or for some orientation. This inner direction and search is the basic nature of “trance.” Subjects may become so preoccupied in their inner search that the usual sensory-perceptual processes of our normal reality orientation are momentarily suspended.

The subjects may then experience an anesthesia, a lacuna in vision or audition, a time distortion, a deja vu, a sense of disorientation or vertigo, and so on. At this moment the subjects are open for further verbal or nonverbal suggestions that can intensify the inner search (trance) in one direction or another.”