Principles of a Good Arnisador
From the book “The Principles of a Good Arnisador”
Author: Punong Lakan Garitony C. Nicolas
“The real Arnisador holds firmly to his sticks until the day he dies.”
A common belief is that to an Arnisador, their sticks represent their very lives. Many instructors tell their students, “If you don’t have your stick, or if you don’t bring it with you to your training, how can you apply the techniques I am going to teach you?”
I would like to emphasize the belief that the stick represents your virtues as a martial artist. In this case, the stick is not a stick, but an extension of oneself. The stick is an extension of the hand, of the spirit. The stick also represents the knowledge that you earn, displaying itself in the way it is wielded.
“The Arnisador and stick are one.”
Like many things in life, a person’s character shows through how they train. In any other sport, the self-discipline that one show while training reflects on the way they behave. A willing student will learn faster, rather than a student that has no particular interest, their movements will be more meticulous, and they will have the proper mindset to progress. No matter the situation, one’s mood will always reflect on the way they train, and perform.
“The Art of the hand is the Art of the cane”
It must be known, that the hand is the source of the force that manipulates the cane. It is the hand that holds the cane, not the cane holds, or leads the hand. Some teachers neglect to inform their students of the fact that empty hand is not the start of arnis training, but it was a development. Every move there is in arnis can be translated from techniques involving the stick, to techniques involving the hand, and vice versa. Likewise, the stick is just an extension of the Arnisador’s body, and has the potential to be as dexterous as a hand.
“If someone throws a handful of rice at a skilled Arnisador, not a single grain can hit him.”
The rice grain used in this manner, while it does not possess the same strength as an analogy involving stones being thrown at the martial artist in question, is far more versatile than mere rock. Throughout the ages one hears how one must be steadfast, like stone, one must be strong as rock, and one must be able to deflect a hail of stones. In arnis, that is not the case. The saying, ‘not a single grain can hit him’ implies a manner of reaction. It is like a typical gauge of the Arnisador’s response, when one throws a handful of rice at an Arnisador, they have an option. They can step to the side and avoid getting hit. They may use a particular move, abaniko or a twirling technique, to deflect the rice thrown. Or they can simply disarm the hand throwing the rice, before grains have a chance to leave the other person’s hand.
Rice is insignificant, and usually overlooked, when undoubtedly; it has an integral role in Philippine culture as a part of the staple diet. Knowing this, rice may represent the knowledge for the art of arnis, as it is consumed, and digested by the people, serving the population.
This being said, the way one cooks their rice, or their theory and methods of training, is essential to the learning of the art. If the rice is cooked too quickly, at too high temperatures, the result is burnt and blackened grains. Similarly, with intense, and rushed training, a practitioner would have learnt and achieved nothing, as the instructor may have run out of things to teach, when the basic movements and techniques had not been perfected in the first place, causing the more difficult movements, (usually the simpler movements strung together in a detailed series) to appear unrefined, and haphazard.
The student may have learned a few interesting techniques, but they would be useless without the proper execution. As well, slow training may be just as detrimental. The student would be likely to stagnate if the pace of their training went too slow, and learning one thing over a long period of time does not constitute as a proper education. The student may grow used to performing the things that they are most comfortable with, and their potential for progress grows less and less, and when learning a technique, it will take longer for the information and skill to take root. When rice is cooked, it is edible, and no matter how long a stone is cooked, it will always remain a stone. It is merely up to the instructor on how they prepare the ‘rice’ for their student, and how the student consumes the knowledge they are offered.
Rice can grow; it can sprout, and produce more grain. It is highly symbolic of a successful martial artist and the new generation willing to learn and grow from one grain of rice, as the knowledge takes root and gives birth to a rise of new martial artist.
“The match and the candle represent the learning of a disciple of Arnis.”
The candle represents the practitioner; the match, the instructor and the light represent the flow of knowledge. The instructor is the catalyst, where he or she will pass information and skill down to their student, as the match, they light the candle.
The light is the knowledge of the honorable sport, as it may flicker, it may burn brightly, or it can gutter, depending on how it is upheld by the practitioner. Like flames, the love for arnis can be extinguished, but it can also be rekindled, and, if given the right instruction, the desire for the art may burn even brighter than it had before.
“The Art of Arnis is like the wind; you can feel it but not necessarily can see it.”
Arnisador must have a strong sense of reality, where they are aware of their surroundings and their situation. It is typically one of the most difficult sayings to explain. The easiest method of explanation would be that it is like love, exhilaration, joy. They are emotions we can feel and understand, we don’t know how they came to be there, or why those feelings were awoken in the first place, but we understand them, and act upon them. It is a motivating force that settles in like a reassuring presence at the back of one’s mind. The arnisador knows they have the skill, and that thought alone provides a peace of mind. The training itself aids relieving one’s stresses, and calming negative emotion. That is why, like the wind, arnis is like love.
“Minimum effort maximum effect.”
It is the simple belief that the fancier movements are not always the most effective. One can subdue, or neutralize an opponent with simple, but effective moves, just as one can diffuse a dire situation with the right words, and the proper course of action, rather than attempting to complicate matters. It is the matter of practicality over flamboyant, impracticality.
“The resilience of a good Arnisador can be likened to a mountain.”
Like a mountain, there are many resources it can provide, but people will cut away the trees, burn the land, and abuse what there is. Yet, even after all the hardship and toil, a mountain will always be a mountain, even without its trees. The life will return, however, the trees and grass will grow, and there will be balance again after a little time.
A good Arnisador is like a mountain, in that he or she will be steadfast in their beliefs. There are many trials and sacrifices one must undergo to succeed, and the path is not always easy. Like everything in life, the things one must strive for are more appreciated than something that is attainable without the challenge. Instructors will. An Arnisador must learn to be resilient, and fight for their beliefs, even if others dispute their style and belief. Instructors lead their students with firmness and determination, so as to be someone their students can trust and learn from, and instructors will become a steadfast teacher that will pass on the honor, and passion for the art.
“A good Arnisador respects their opponents, even during a match.”
A good Arnisador never strikes, or uses his skill in anger, or for his own personal gain. Even in the modern day, an Arnisador should still have a warrior’s honor and a respect for others, martial artist or not. Control is one of the most important facets of martial arts; a little more extra force could mean the difference between unconsciousness, and death. Likewise, one’s mental control is just as important as their physical control. One must learn to ignore mockery or baseless taunts rather than allow their temper to rise, causing one to commit acts that they would later regret.
When one is confident in their ability, they will not be cowed by the mockery of others. Resorting to petty ridicule and reacting to it are what separate a true arnisador from someone who simply knows arnis.
“The best Arnis Instructor is the one who can give wisdom to his student regarding the essence of being a real Arnisador.”
A good instructor will not blind their students in the way of the art. The truth is, there is not ‘best martial art’. The greatness of the art is defined by how well the practitioner applies his skill in life, not their martial skill, but the personal skills and qualities they had learned throughout their course of learning the sport. Being a good arnisador is similar to being a well-rounded individual, one that can find the balance between being humble and being self-depreciating.
There are many self proclaimed Grandmasters and weekend instructors that wont hesitate to lecture about honor, glory, and other virtues found in cheap martial arts movies. The true instructor, the true arnisador keeps their feet on the ground, with their head on their shoulders and keeps a clear view of things as they are, rather than what they would want things to be. All the while, they keep their hearts and minds open for revelation, and anything to improve, or aid them in their path to becoming a good martial artist.