Escrima - The Filipino Martial Art
- Author George Royal
- Published December 3, 2005
- Word count 500
Escrima is a popular Filipino martial art dating back to the
1500s, during the colonization of the Philippine Islands by the
Spanish. Escrima is a very simplified but practical form of
combat technique originally designed as a self-defense tool.
Escrima is also known by many other names such as Eskrima,
Arnis, Arnis de Mano, Kali and FMA (Filipino Martial Art).
Because of its effectiveness, Escrima is also taught
extensively in many Special Forces including the Navy Seals and
Army Special Forces.
Many believe that Escrima or Filipino Martial Art originated
from Chinese influenced Indonesian fighting tactics such as Kun
Tao, Chuan Fa and Tai Chi double stick forms. Others believe the
Escrima art form to be wholly developed by the Filipino people.
However, the most plausible explanation seems to be rooted in
the history of the Spanish colonization.
When the Spanish occupied the Philippine Islands, a form of art
similar to Escrima had already existed but was only
recreational. However, this art began to develop into a more
martial discipline when the Spanish prohibited indigenous
Filipino weapons such as the Bolo (machete), daggers and
fighting sticks in the 1700s. It remained a clandestine art
until the Americans took over in 1898. From then on, the
Filipino Martial Art started to gain recognition and
In the West, Escrima was introduced and popularized by Filipino
immigrants after the Second World War, particularly in the
American states of Hawaii and California.
Weapons and Footwork in Escrima:
Unlike other forms of martial arts, the primary tool to learn
the basic concepts of Escrima is focus on weaponry, which is
followed by empty-hand techniques. The Rattan stick is the most
common weapon used in Escrima training, which includes hand and
head protection when sparring. Other weapons include burned and
hardened stick made of hardwood, such as Molave or Kamagong
(ebony). Modern versions may be made out of aluminum, other
metals, or high-impact plastics. The Nunchaku (also known as
Kung Fu sticks or Double sticks) weapon was popularized by
actor Bruce Lee, an avid practitioner of Escrima.
Each range - the distance between opponents - in Escrima has
its own characteristics and footwork techniques. Good footwork
enables efficient control of these ranges. The footwork is
demonstrated in terms of triangles with two feet occupying two
corners of the triangle and the step to the third corner. The
shape and size of the triangle is dependant on the particular
- Escrima is mixture of hard (like Karate) and soft (like Tai
Chi Ch’uan) styles.
- Escrima is taught on ideal street-fighting settings without
the need for uniforms.
- Restraining techniques are not focused on but rather on
offensive, combat styles.
- There are no official rankings in Escrima except for titles
to recognize seniority of instructors.
- Most of the power in Escrima is derived from body movement
and economy of motion, rather than strength.
- Escrima is a complete martial art, focusing on weaponry and
- Escrima provides effective training in sparring against
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