Arnis is considered to be the national sports for Martial Arts in the Philippines. Unlike other forms of martial arts in the planet, Arnis uses sticks as its primary weapon and at the same time a form of defense or armor during a fight. It has slowly evolved adapting to the standards of martial arts sports and it continuous to spread all around the world.
The Beginning of Arnis
Arnis came from the Spanish word “arnes” that means armor. During battles in the Prehispanic period when the Spaniards tried to conquer the Philippines, Arnis was used as a battle technique. Since this is a form of defense created by peasants or commoners during the early years, no written record was made to document the story behind Arnis. It continued to grow as Spaniards had adopted the sports, too.
Weapons and Techniques Used during Battles
Arnis is still a form of martial arts that uses skills and strength to fight back. But for beginners, Arnis is first mastered using its common weapons such as the sticks and knives. Students of Arnis Sports are using sticks to learn the basics of Arnis.
For beginners, there will be two sticks or what they locally call as “yantok”or “baston.” The sticks of Arnis are made of rattan – a stem common in Southeast Asian countries. The advantage of using this material is that it is a very lightweight when used but is very durable and hard. The length of the stick varies, but the standard size is 28 inches or 71cm.
Just like fencing, these rattan-made sticks are used for sparring. The goal of this is not to hit your enemy but to use it to develop your skills in sparring and counterstriking. Hitting your sparring partner is just a way of showing respect but in a very light impact on the hitting.
Eskrima is another term for Arnis, and it used edged weapons such as knives or daggers. These types of weapons are known as “baraw.” Other terms for these weapons are bolo or balisong. These are sharp weapons that will immediately wound your enemy. The use of edged weapons are not advisable for beginners, and it is not even practiced to be a part of an Arnis School since it is very dangerous especially to children
Strikes and Hitting Angles
Similar to other martial arts sports, Arnis also applies self-defense strategies and offense. The basic strikes for Arnis are:
San Miguel – it is a type of forehand strike of your right hand. This technique is termed as Angle #1 since this is the common angle attack.
Sinawali – this is commonly used in a two-stick sparring. This is also called the double-stick weaving movement.
Redonda – is a circular type of attack that is continuous on downward-striking and still uses double-stick.
Hakbang – in English is “step”, wherein you will be footwork techniques like pivoting or triangular stepping.
Puño – or fist is striking the enemy using the edge of the stick.
Mano Mano Technique
Students who have mastered the use of sticks can already continue to the higher level of Arnis using a “mano-mano” or what they call an empty-handed weapon. By just using your bare hands, you can apply the skills and techniques you’ve learned back when using the stick weapon.
The hand-to-hand technique already involves kicking, punching, grappling, throwing and locking.
Martial arts expertise is classified according to belt ranks and just like any other type of martial arts; Arnis also has its standard belt rank.
Instead of using different colors of belts, the ranking for Arnis is based on numbers but on local dialect. Beginners will be rank as Isa, followed by Dalawa, Tatlo, Apat, Lima, Anim, Pito, Walo, Siyam, Sampu and Labing-isa. For starters, they will be called as zero-degree which was referred to as probationary.
Belt rank is also gender-based for Filipinos. Men of different ranks will be called as “Lakan” (nobleman) followed by his level – Lakan Isa, while for women, they are termed as “dayang” (lady).
Arnis has been practiced worldwide already where different groups have been formed in different parts of the world. The famous organizations are the International Modern Arnis Federation (IMAF) and World Modern Arnis Alliance (MWAA).