1995 John Russell
What the general public and other Martial Artists most often see when sinawali exercises are in progress are rows and rows of Arnis students click-clicking sticks together with a training partner and these people then unfortunately state "I'm never going to use a stick to defend myself" or "I'm not going to have a weapon at hand all the time so why should I take up Arnis."
The point must be made that Arnis/Escrima is foremost an empty hand art and that the sticks are to be considered simple training tools. Some older Filipino Arnisadors/Escrimadors consider the rattan sticks as cheap punching bags and view the movements performed by the Escrimador in sinawali training as simple punching combinations.
Think to yourself of the Sinawalis as teaching combination punching strikes. Firstly starting off with a simple two strike routine and then moving on to three and four strike combinations as the students proficiency increases. The Sinawalis use the front and back of the fists and later elbows can be incorporated in the combinations. Of course the movements can be translated and used as stick, sword, and knife slashing motions but these are just variations of the principle of;
'weapon/s interchangeability and strikes using the same arm movements'.
Some people however misunderstand and consider the exercises as only stick and sword work. They never see or are told to imagine the exercises in an empty hand aspect. The student of Arnis must be shown from an early point in their training, that the movements can be naturally translated or naturally changed to whether you may have or may not have a weapon. i.e. If you have a single weapon you still have two hands, if you have two weapons you still use two hands or your two empty hands can be used by simply using the same movements.
This is what many Arnis exponents have been stating for years but still people from the general public and instructors from empty hand styles are still not recognising the interchangeable movements.
Some instructors of Arnis are unfortunately helping with this misunderstanding.
An aspect of where the Sinawalis are often misused, is when the elementary combinations of drills, routines or exercises are further combined in such a way, so that as many strikes as possible are crammed into the one routine. For an example fourteen different strikes or more will be combined together. So instead of concentrating on the basic low number simple combinations such as the old 1,2 or 1,2,3 you've knocked him out, you will be continually concentrating on intricate routines and trying to remember if whether your next strike is the correct one, in what could be considered an overkill. This tendency to combine as many strikes as possible turns simple punching techniques into complex memory exercises.
This does not mean that I am against memory exercises. Memory exercises are good for training the mind but what I believe should be emphasised foremost in Arnis double stick drills is the simple self defence training, combined with the empty hand principles behind the movements that should be in itself enough of a memory exercise. After all simple self defence should be the main issue.
Moreover some people tend to abanico or fan their sticks excessively using their wrists when executing the exercises and do not pull their sticks back to their body when powering up for another strike. Remember you are doing basic punches and that the hands/arms must be pulled back to power up for the next strike just like the simple basic horse stance punches of Karate, Kung Fu, Tae Kwon Do or Hap Ki Do which are pulled back to the hips and body during training. This is not to say that the abanicos are incorrect Arnis, but they should just be considered simple variations using the stick.
To all the readers out there please consider and understand that Arnis is a complete empty hand system and that when observing or executing the double stick Sinawali exercises to remember that the sticks are to be treated just like punching bags.
comes from the word sawalis. Sawalis refers to the weaving of palm leaf
walls and floors common in the Philippines and South East Asia.The movements
of the arms while practicing the martial Sinawali are said to imitate
1997 John Russell
This misconception is due to several reasons.
One is largely to the number of people that have promoted the impression that Escrima is the fashionable weapon or exotic weapon style of Martial Art to learn. So instructors from empty hand systems that have little or no weapon training have seized on this impression and learnt small amounts of Escrima and then have incorporated their limited knowledge into their schools as simply stickfighting or no style Escrima. When asked about the style you are told "we teach Escrima basics" or "no style, but a combination of styles which we have incorporated as now being our style". Also the immense publicity given to the Batangas or Balisong (the Filipino fan or butterfly knife) being promoted as the trendy weapon, has also led to numerous Karate and Kung Fu schools adding Escrima and Batangas* knife training as a weapon style and merely an extension to their training regimes. The even worse scenario is when instructors from empty hand styles such as Karate/Kung Fu, replace Filipino techniques with foreign techniques, such as with footwork or stances, with Karate/Kung Fu footwork/stances and then purport these training methods as traditional Filipino or better than traditional Filipino.
Also, one main reason I believe that Escrima is represented as an add on or extension, and Escrima empty hand is not taught or in some cases not even learnt properly by these instructors, is because the empty hand aspects of Escrima would conflict with their already established empty hand styles.
Ask yourself a question. When did you last learn the translated emptyhand moves and motions of the stick work at your school? Or did you simply move onto a form of Kickboxing or Karate?
stick is simply a training tool for the empty hand. They are a type of
punching bag and each strike can be punch, chop, tiger claw, etc with
your empty hand. For weapon work, safety is an important factor, so Escrima
is initially taught to beginners only with a stick or sticks but each
strike can be interpreted as either a slash, butt or thrust with a blunt
club or with a bladed weapon.
There has been something wrong with Arnis/Escrima for many years. It has been misconceived, misinterpreted and misidentified for too long by the general public and sometimes by even the people that teach it.
*Batangas is the more recognisable word, that the majority of Filipino's in the Philippines call the fan knife. Balisong while used in the west to describe the knife, is simply taken from one of the many Barrios or Baranguays of the Province of Batangas, in the lower part of the island of Luzon, where the knives are produced and have originated.
are Tagalog words and terms being used in a blanket approach to refer,
demonstrate and most importantly being written in books to describe many
of the Filipino Martial Arts, especially Arnis/Escrima styles that originate
in areas other than the Tagalog speaking areas of Luzon?"
Of course some will say that, because Tagalog is now widely understood in The Philippines, this is the reason why Tagalog terms are used. If the book is totally written in Tagalog for a Filipino audience that is OK, as most Filipino's will understand and to print in the many different languages would be a nightmare and cost prohibitive. But what some are saying is, that it's not OK for books to be written for an audience with English and then Tagalog descriptions of movements etc are used as the representation of non Tagalog styles.