View Full Version : FMA - eskrima stick fighting

06-08-2009, 09:38 AM
Hi again!

Now for a separate question -- about eskrima with batons. I've been watching vids on youtube, etc, to see how it looks, sounds, and is taught. I'm not a martial artist however, so I'd like to know this:

What is your state of mind as an FMA artist? Would it be similar to other forms of the martial arts? Is it like emptying your mind, finding a rhythm, letting go of control in order to gain it -- things like that?

What are you thinking as you fight or spar? Or are you NOT thinking, but reacting? Do you think in terms of "patterns" like abc or counting when you're doing it?

Putting this into words is really a challenge so far; but I've written one chapter where my MC (female and part-Filipino) spars with her sifu, the Grand Master, brushing up her eskrima skills. Later on, she will kick butt when attacked on the street and in the climactic scene.

Plz only reply if you actually know this type of martial arts practice first-hand or very well. And thanks so much again!

06-09-2009, 01:58 AM
state of mind as an FMA artist? Would it be similar to other forms of the martial arts? Is it like emptying your mind, finding a rhythm, letting go of control in order to gain it -- things like that?

SA: Yes.

Minor elaboration:

Bruce Lee’s cliché seems true enough: my efforts were best when I wasn’t concerned about the outcome, my mind not so much blank as merely open to opportunity, without any fixed and pre-conceived notions about what I would do, specifically. Put another way, the less I allowed worry about how I would take down an opponent or prevent getting clocked by one, the better things turned out for me. Entering a fight with a game plan is okay, and certainly it sometimes worked, but other times it didn’t. Thus you have to be open to opportunity. You may not get a workable choke straight-away, though your arms are wrapped around a guy’s neck, but if in the midst of battle you get a chance to put a wrist lock on him, then take it. The more flexible your array of skills, the better trained you are with them, the more certain they will flow from one to the next, without thought, when you need them.

As to patterns and “abc,” this is certainly a part of the game, and when you recognize an opponent’s reliance on them, you can counter techniques or take advantage of what may be telegraphed to you well before it arrives. Same thing with timing. Guys who always attack on the same beat can be timed and countered either before they attack or with an attack into their own. Fighters who mix up their timing are harder to deal with, so mixed-timing is something that everyone learns.

In fact, my JKD instructor used to beat a set of drums for much of what we did, whether eskrima or silat or other styles, particularly when we started learning flow drills. Parry, follow, check, strike. Four beats on a drum, that last one an authoritative THUMP, during which beat you were to deliver your own authoritative thump.

Something about those eskrima sticks:

The traditional ones are made of rattan, which is light and sturdy, and they make a clack-clack-clack sound when beating together. But here’s a curious thing: get enough of that going on, next thing you know, smells like something is burning. First time I experienced this, the instructor had to explain to all of us curiously sniffing air and sticks that, no, nothing was burning. Twas just the sticks. Get used to it.

And this: until you’ve done it enough to get conditioned to it, your chest muscles will tighten up, right in the middle, and you’ll go around feeling like you’re having the classic chest-tightness heart attack symptom (absent all the other particulars…).

As long as you’re looking around on YouTube for eskrima, look for anything featuring Dan Inosanto.

06-12-2009, 06:56 PM
Sorry it took me a few days to reply; family reunion craziness is going on!

S, what a help! You wrote very clearly and succinctly; I appreciate that.

I'm going to change the 'empy your mind' thing (grasshopper) to be "open to opportunity" instead. That makes much more sense (my mind is dangerously leaky already, I never could understand why anyone would want to 'empty' theirs or other than drugs, how it's even possible heh)

The sensory details of the clack of the sticks and the smell of burning is FANTASTIC. I'll be sure to put them in somewhere, though I don't have her actually fighting with her own sticks at any point. She spars with foam wrapped sticks at first; maybe I'll put in a scene later to show she's improved her skills & they use the real thing.

Maybe in the climax with the villain's son (who represents the villain, who is sick & dying) -- though I can't think of a reason why she'd have the sticks with her -- maybe she grabs one of his and they go to it. It would make that story thread come full-circle,for sure.

Thanks again.

Richard White
06-12-2009, 08:46 PM
While not directly related to escrima (which is gorgeous to watch when two people who know what they're doing are sparring), I see something very similar to what you're describing in Kendo.

The objective is called "Looking at a Far Mountain". In other words, watch your opponent but do not focus on what they're doing. They'll dip the sword, they'll lift a shoulder, they'll tilt a head all to try and influence you into creating a weak spot. You have to observe without staring until you "feel" more than "see" the opening you need to take to score on your opponent.

Also, one of the hardest parts as a beginner is learning not to plan an attack (aka - if I do this, he'll do this and then I'll counter with this) or imagine how things will happen. All that does is make you miss opportunities that are really there and open yourself up to be smacked around. Not unlike a batter who's waiting on a fastball and watches the slow, lazy curve swoop over for strike three, anticipation is deadly in a fight.

Relaxing and letting your instincts take over are your best weapons, no matter whether you're holding a sword, a stick or an open fist.

06-12-2009, 10:50 PM
S, what a help! You wrote very clearly and succinctly...

There's a first. :)

Here are a few things I left out.

FMA are often considered “weapons-based” systems of martial arts because students first learn how to fight with sticks and knives before moving on to empty hands. The reason is pretty simple: your objective is to win the fight right now, and utilizing a force-multiplier is the most effective way of doing so. But here's another reason: this method of training is also the fastest way of making students effective against such weapons when they are used against them.

More important, the systematic approach to attack and defense provides students a pretty quick and clear picture of zones of attack and what to do if a weapon enters any of those zones, whether the weapon may be a kick, a punch, a knife, a stick, or an ax. The techniques that one would use with weapons in hand can be applied empty handed, too.

That is, once a practitioner learns zones of attack and defense (five in the simplest system, up to eighteen or a bewildering twenty-four in others, as I recall), he can apply simple or complex techniques within any zone as he acquires increasing degrees of skill. Any attack entering zone one, for instance (from the defender's POV, that would mean an attack coming in high left), can be dealt with in essentially the same fashion, no matter what that attack is.

For example, Attacker swings a stick at Defender's noggin in aforementioned zone 1, D might make a simple unarmed defense by directly blocking that blow not hand-to-stick, but meeting hand with hand. Give D a stick, his defense against the same attack is almost exactly the same, except now he smashes A's hand with his own stick. Give D a knife, and now his defense is to cut A's hand. The basic action remains the same.

All FMA share the concept of “flow,” which simply refers to the student's ability to flow smoothly from technique to technique, range to range, without any interruption in his ability to attack or defend. There are bunches of drills designed to impart this skill, but one of them is sinawalli, a pattern of weaving the movement of two weapons simultaneously. In this fashion, the student gets used to using both hands at the same time. Once again, this skill transfers from the practice of developing flow with two weapons to empty hands, to single stick, to single dagger and so on. Thus, with dagger in hand, a student isn't restricted to weapon-hand-only fighting styles -- as one might find in fencing, for instance -- but may freely employ the “live” hand in attack or defense, all while using the dagger with the other.

So now that I'm no longer succinct, you should also check out the Dog Brothers on YouTube to see what their brand of as-little-padding-as-possible fighting looks like. No one learns quicker what not to do than the unpadded guy who gets cracked across the face or hands with fast-moving stick.

And to echo Richard White's comments, my JKD instructor used to talk about the “thousand yard stare” employed while fighting. With such a gaze you take in the whole picture of your opponent without focusing upon any particular part. If he has a knife in hand, you don't stare at the knife. You are aware of it and respond accordingly, because if you stare at it, you might miss the foot cracking your knee or the live hand raking out your eyes.

In any event, happy writing. And as for whether or not your heroine will have sticks at the ready at the climax, it really doesn't matter to the FMA practitioner, who should be able to pick up any improvised weapon and make use it. (As did Jason Bourne in the first movie, where he stabbed a guy in the arm with a ballpoint pen.)

06-13-2009, 12:32 AM
I've done a bit of Kali. Summonere's description sounds very close to my experience.

One of the hardest things to learn, and to keep on learning, is the sensitivity. In the weapon arts, you can't really muscle your way through a technique by brute force. When your opponent knocks your stick or blade off the line you wanted it to take, you have to flow to the next technique instead of forcing it back, but it all happens so fast that there is literally not enough time for your brain to make a conscious calculation about what the next move should be. You have to rely on the muscle memory from all your drills to tell you When I feel my opponent's stick go here, I go there.

When you hit one of those barred sparring helmets with a hard stick, it makes a really satisfying CLONG! If you're on the receiving end, it sounds like you stuck your head inside a big bell. If you're the one who did the hitting and your opponent is a noob, he usually gets a comical surprised expression.

06-29-2009, 10:07 AM
Sorry I ducked out of the forum and this thread for awhile! Too much going on - good grief.

I appreciate your comments and help, all of you. Last week I went to watch and learn from part of an FMA all-day seminar, taught by a guy who is part-Filipino. He was gracious and helpful, as was his wife. She gave me a look at a woman doing FMA, too, which was so appropo!

He'd work with students awhile, then come sit by me and just talk. About what the fighting meant or how it originated on the islands, ask me what I needed to know. Told me stories, named patterns for me. They even invited me to try it, but physically I just can't.

I learned the "Heaven and Earth" pattern which is beautiful and will end up in my book. I learned that "Filipinos are the only ones who bring knives to a gun fight." That too, is a gem that I want to put into part of the climactic scene! : - )

Of course it only scratched the surface, but sure helped to go & see in person. I've got to edit some details, but amazingly - and from dumb luck - I got the basics close. But nothing like seeing is believing, I guess!

And yes...they said the sticks do smell like they're burning. But they used the real thing, no helmets, etc. Real knives for some students, wood for others. But no foam sticks or protective gear, even for the first-timers.

May have to add some kali descriptions now, too.