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 When I began training in the Chinese arts many years ago I learned many forms but when it was time to spar whether it was with or without protective gear, the forms went out the window and the participants resorted to a form of kickboxing.  For years I wondered what the point was in learning forms if while fighting, the forms had no bearing on the fight.  Likewise, when we train eskrima for years and learn drill after drill, why is it that when it comes time to spar, the participants throw everything out the window regarding their style of eskrima?

 Any thoughts?



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Some but not all reasons to throw everything out the window (in no particular rank of order):

1. Padding

2. Lack of confidence

3. Lack of mastery of skills

4. False encouragement

5. Too many drills, not enough concept

6. Poor instruction

Finally, "Sport" Eskrima" - in over 40 years I was never taught, I never thought of eskrima as a "sport"

Very interesting and to the point. Thanks for your input Al S.

Good is not a sport... but Leo would send the guys to tournament to see how our style fared against other styles!

Great question...

Depending on the rules of the competition... a lot of the rules are for safety reasons and some of the concepts are for endurance I think. When you play only for offense you will develop some bad habits.  You need to be able to apply offense & defense equally...

I think you basic concepts of your art should come out in a fight or why teach something or practice something and you cannot apply it at full speed or it goes out the window when you need it?

that's my opinion.

I have been told by more than a few  escrimadors ... that the Giron players train like they fight.

Hello Terry,
I know protective gear is good for limiting injuries but do you think that practitioners rely on the padding too much and become over daring?

I would think some styles may... we use it so that we can try the technigue safely to see if it works and to develop the attributes  speed, timing power, distance etc to pull it off when we need it. It is a training aid like anything else.

But to answer the question about wither the padding makes you more daring...of difinately would be more cautious if it was a blade or hardwood. but the padding is a tool to increase your awareness of what will happen if your timing and distance is not correct. But if you are hit coming in, during , or after it lets you know you have more to work to do.... don't accept the fact you will be hit also.. the aim is to cut/hit him and not get hit/cut back. So you need to work on strategy timing, distance, power, defense and use the pads for what they were meant for... to train at full speed and be able to go to work the next day!

Not so you can blast each other and see who has the most endurance.... anyway that's my opinion


Another great topic.  I referee a lot of tournaments so I get a front row seat to this phenomenon.  I think a lot of it comes down to what Al says; the rules, the pads, poor instruction.  The best technique is almost always displayed by the players who practice that technique frequently and consistently.  As a former fencer and boxer, I can tell you that those two sports have a training regimen that puts the drilled techniques into the ring or on the strip at almost every practice.  Our fencing lessons used to consist of a series of drills based on a particular technique and then practice bouts.  In boxing, we would do bag drills and mitt drills followed by light sparring so those skills could be directly applied.  The other important aspect of this is that both fencing and boxing drills are not far from their practical application.  There are no fancy disarm drills and complex footwork.  Mostly it's basics; parries, counter parries, feints, lunges, footwork combinations, slips, punch combinations, bob and weave.  Of course, as students progress in skill, more complexity is layered in.  Here is the point, though.  Virtually everyone I ever trained with in these two sports expected this to be the case...lots of fundamentals, little flash.  I find most of my Escrima students, however, don't want to do three hours of footwork every week. They want the complex, fancy stuff.  Let's face it, it sells.  Complex entry techniques progressing to disarms, tie ups and grappling; overly flashy and impractical ticky tack back and forth, stick to stick without practical application does not adequately prepare students to compete in a tournament setting but it sure is sexy.  Granted, tournaments are not the streets but it is the closest we can come to hitting full force, full speed and trying to implement our techniques "for real".  I am looking to change my teaching to include more sparring to bring it in line with my fencing training so that when my students show up to a tournament, they can show our art, not just flail around the ring.  Thanks again for the insightful questions.  GLM

good stuff!

I agree with Terry, "good stuff". I also agree that there are many benefits to using protective gear if used to enhance training.  In the early to mid 90's my group in Germany experimented with full contact sparring with heavy sticks but even with the protective gear we suffered many injuries thankfully none serious. When I met my most recent eskrima teacher, he explained to us that we could improve our skill if we trained without protective gear and focused on accuracy and control. 

 Training has to be multifaceted in that varied training methods for speed, power, accuracy, timing and strategy should be approached from all angles.  My concern with sport eskrima is that finely skilled movements will be sacrificed for gross ones with opponents more or less engaging in elaborate pillow fights with soft sticks and armor. 

 Finally, I believe that the proof is in the pudding... If I'm teaching others the valuable art of Eskrima, I have to put my money where my mouth is and show my students that not only do we train with style but we also fight with it and it works!

Thanks again for your replies,


We don't really spar full contact without many injuries would occur.  But most of our other training is done for accuracy, power, speed and intent... we of course make sure you are ready to practice at full speed before we test you on it!

But I like that " put my money where my mouth is and show my students that not only do we train with style but we also fight with it and it works!"

Most graduates of our system are pretty confident that when the sh*t come down they will be able to hold there own.

Great blog I hope you get more opinions!

"that finely skilled movements will be sacrificed for gross ones with opponents more or less engaging in elaborate pillow fights with soft sticks and armor".  Oh so true!  I have seen way too much of this.  That makes me laugh.  Thanks Zach.


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