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Dances With Sticks: The Importance of Rhythm in FMA

In every form of martial arts, there are particular attributes that always come into play. Strength, speed and stamina are just a few of the necessary traits. However, in Filipino martial arts, the form contains a number of characteristics many are unaware of, which could be considered its “x-factor.”

Grandmaster Robert Castro, Professor Jay Dizon and Master Joseph Bautista of Eskabo Daan have been asked to breakdown some of the less recognizable fundamentals to the longtime sport.

The core aspect, or skill, to Filipino martial arts is the art rhythm. GM Castro believes timing is what determines whether a fighter will be doing the hitting or being the one getting hit.

“FMA without rhythm is like bread without flour, you can’t make it,” stated Castro. When asked why rhythm is heavily emphasized in his art Castro explained, “Rhythm is very important in FMA because you’re teaching someone to hit in time. You’re also teaching someone to block in time, so if he or she doesn’t block in time, they’re going to get hit.”

Castro believes that through rhythm, an individual is able to learn how his or her own body moves according to what technique is taught. Furthermore, he thinks rhythm not only teaches an individual how to time techniques but also how to adapt to their opponent.

“You have to time your rhythm to the rhythm the opponent is giving you,” said Castro. “It’s give and take, the approach with speed depends on the approach of his speed, you use rhythm to counter rhythm.”

Bautista supported this idea drawing a concept from one of the greatest martial artists. “Much like Bruce Lee said, to be like water, rhythm is water,” he said.

Other than timing and how to adapt, there are other attributes that fall under the category of rhythm. “Speed, timing, these are all parts of rhythm, you can’t separate them; they’re all part of it,” Bautista said.

When asked if rhythm was as important as speed or strength, all three agreed that it was.

“I can be the fastest man in the world but if I got no rhythm, where’s my speed going?” Castro said.

“It’s like what Grandmaster has always told us, you can be the strongest man in the world, you can be the fastest man in the world but without timing or good rhythm you won’t touch anything. You may see lack of defense but you won’t be able to touch it without proper rhythm” Dizon said.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise to some that rhythm is so important in FMA. But in most cases, it’s more of a God-given gift, and one of the hardest things to teach and train a fighter.

“To teach rhythm is very difficult unless the student is wiling to learn because rhythm is based not only with the right side of the mind but with the left side of the mind, the artistic part. So you have to coordinate the two to get to the one,” said Castro.

When asked how to train to obtain rhythm, Castro suggests to “go learn dancing, go learn cha-cha, go learn samba, that way you’ll learn rhythm. That’s one part about rhythm, once you learn to dance, you’ll dance for the rest of your life. The hard part is getting it first.”

Rhythm has and always will be a staple in Filipino culture. It is expressed through art, dance and even our fighting style. Regardless of one’s speed or strength, how well you can adapt to one’s rhythm, and be aware of your own, may be the deciding factor for a happy and healthy life.

Written By: AJ Ruiz of Eskabo Daan

Views: 122

Comment by Marc Lawrence on February 8, 2013 at 1:04pm

In order to be good at Arnis you must have timing, rhythm and fluidity  Each but it self is just spoke in a wheel but together it makes it great. Just like dancing you must have timing to be in sync  you but be able to match the rhythm and be able to be fluid to move in and out of ranges when fighting. Fighting and dancing are much the same, This couple with the understanding that fighting is a lot like a conversation,one must be able to hear the question and then answer it correctly..

Comment by Al S on February 8, 2013 at 7:21pm

In my opinion the attribute of rhythm as described here is not that important. Recognizing an opponent's rhythm is one thing but I don't consider it to be the core aspect of FMA. As far as I am concerned based on my martial art education, the core aspect or the differentiator of FMA is flow. Rhythm is a pattern, flow is not.

Fighting and dancing are not the same. Dancing is cooperative, fighting is not. 

Comment by Alexander Bautista Bayot France on February 17, 2013 at 9:08pm

Good one, Al.  Dirty fighting NOT = Dirty dancing!  (Now, what am I going to tell the wife what I've been doing nights?) You are right of course. In FMA, it is the FLOW. Within the flow are the other factors: timing, distancing, seamless adjustments, etc. I can understand where the others are coming from, however, because there is flow in dance.   


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