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A Taste That Satisfies - Part One
​By L.S.Madahar.


The martial arts of the Philippines are as exotic as the Filipino islands themselves. With their breath-taking landscapes, beautiful beaches and Filipino food which has a taste that is out of this world. In the perpetration of they food the Philippines have the unusual  (for southeast Asia) influence of Spain, Japan, India, and China and, of course more recently, the United States. With as wide a influence as this, it’s little wonder they come up with such mouth watering dishes as the Paksiw  - a sour dish of fish simmered with shrimps, bitter melon, aubergine, ginger, chillies and vinegar or the Abodo dish - pieces of chicken and pork marinated in a mixture of vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and then fried. Very much like, their fighting arts which have also been influenced by Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Spanish and of course with their own unique contribution that guarantees, you a taste that satisfies.

Like any good recipe let’s start with the ingredients.

The Main Ingredients

There are four main ingredients within the Filipino martial arts.

First, there is the weapons section. This is the trademark of the Filipino martial arts and without a doubt the most popular, in many cases a beginner’s introduction into the world of Filipino martial arts. Here weapon against weapon, is thought and practiced in both a defensive and offensive manner usually a standard 26” rattan stick. Martial artist from other styles/systems generally come into the Filipino martial arts for this section, many stay and enjoy the different flavours, and for others it is an acquired taste.

This section can be further divided into a total of four sub-sections.

1.      The matching weapons - in this matching weapons sub section the practice of single stick against single stick, single knife against single knife, double sticks against double sticks, single sword to single sword and so on takes place. Here you experience the different ranges (explained below) the Filipino martial art have to offer.   

2.      The un-matching weapons - in this un-matching weapons sub section, it’s the single stick against single knife, sword against knife, nuncanku against knife, double sticks against double nuncanku, and so on. In this section you develop the attribute of spatial awareness; it will help you to instinctively keep the correct distance in sparring of all categories. You will also gain an understanding of the weapons characteristics the advantages and disadvantages, as well as they strengths and weaknesses.

3.       Single to double weapons - the single weapon to double weapons section.

      In this section single stick against double sticks, single knife against double knives, single sword against double swords, single pocket stick against double pocket sticks and so on. This will help you, the person with a single weapon, to develop a new level of skill. Performing the art skilfully under pressure, because if you can cope against two weapons with your one, then you will stand a better chance on equal terms.

4.       The un-matching weapons single to double weapons section - Finally, there is the un-matching weapons, single weapon against double section, same as the pervious section, except that weapons are not the same as your opponents/training partners.  Here the un-matching concept and the single to double concept from the previous two sections are combined.

            The single weapon (stick, sword, knife, etc) against two bare hands also comes under the same concept of single weapon against double weapons and leads us in to the next (second) main ingredients.

           Concepts and principles more often than not do over lap one another, acting as a chain link and keeping the art together.

Second, there is the very practical weapon against empty hands section. In this section the person are the weapons plays the offensive part and the person without the weapons defends him/herself using empty hands only.

The section cover the complete empty/bare – hands self – protection against weapons, by conducting unarmed defences, strikes, disarms, restrains, locking and take downs against various weapons. I prefer to use the self – protection term instead of the self- defence, because “you don’t wait for your attacker to attack you, and then block and hit”. It’s to late. You assess and analyse the situation, if a threat represents itself, then it is always better to hit first.” Sense action is always faster then reaction; with this you will have a better chance of success. This cannot be truer, when faced against weapons.

The concepts and principals learned in the above section are, useful to anyone in a self – protection situation as many attacks that take place, involving a weapon of some sort.

Third, it’s the empty -hands against weapons section, in this section the empty hands play the offensive role and the weapons play the defensive role. The weapons are used as a self – protection tool. This is a little usual as it is usually the armed person considered as the aggressor, however this may occur when the unarmed offender is stronger, more aggressive and their attributes are far greater then the defenders. Generally, the people that carry a weapon, as an equaliser for self -protection, are the officials (police, army, security) and it is the officers from these occupations, which will benefit from this section.

The television and the newspaper coverage is full of weapons related offences, indicating that a large number of ordinary members of the public are also in a habit of carrying a weapon of some sort, this is usually due to a lack of physical ability to protect themselves, or simply just lack of confidence. In all cases it is against the law to carry any kind of an offensive weapon, but it is a chance they are willing to take. Probably in the belief, that “It is better to be judged by twelve members of the jury, then to be carried by six at their own funeral. Then there are the troublemakers, whom carry them and use them for no just cause.

Note: I would like to point out, that I do not encourage anyone to carry weapons in a public places or any other place. I am just representing an important section/part of the art. Which would be very use full to some security departments if the law allows them to carry a nightstick or some thing similar in nature. Since the Police have been issued with a side handle baton and telescopic sticks, training in an art such as this would certainly be of benefit to them.

The defences/blocks are not quite the same as the weapons against the weapons sections. One of the main adjustments is to make greater use of angulations and hit the attacking limbs (De – fang the snake), rather then block. You will find many power kicks and punches will get through the stick blocks. Your advantage is to keep your weapons distance and stop your opponent in closing the gap. Another important point, here is that because your opponent is trying his utmost best to get into his closer range, you need to step back as you deliver your strike. Instead of taking a step forward as you normally would, the stakes are even higher in above section (second), for example the knife versus the stick.   

Fourth, and final section is the all to often-neglected empty hands against empty hands section – in this section the empty hands are thought and practiced in offensive and defensive skills and are developed to a functional state of the art.

The empty hands ingredients have a wealth of sub ingredients; they cover all the necessary ranges (see below) and tools needed for the job. The sub ingredients of kicking have the obvious kicking skills, kneeing skills, foot trapping skills and takedowns using the lower limbs (legs, knees, shins, hip and the feet) of the body.

With the upper limbs (hands, elbows, forearms, fingers, shoulders, head and even the teeth) of body, there is the punching skills, elbow skills, trapping skills, head butting skills locking skills, grappling skills, takedowns and even biting and pinching.

The targets of these developed skills/tools are the opponent’s entire body without any exceptions. It evolved from a will to serve and as yet is not a sport, and probably never will be. It is nice to see an art in its pure state and hopefully it will gain popularity and still keep its purity in the future as it has done in the past.   

 Empty hands can be divided into two categories. The first being the western boxing type of empty hands (square on) were everything goes and the second is more related to the self – protection (reaction based) against weapons and empty hand attack. 

 In the Filipino martial arts all offensive and defensive techniques and skills are perfected on both sides of the body and with this in mind, they are trained from the left lead as well as the right lead. Then the applications are applied on the, left-to-left leads, right-to-right leads, left-to right leads, right-to-left leads and against multiple opponents. In the right to left and left to right lead you will experience, that many things have changed or they need to be adjusted. Plus, it is good training for the left hand or the less co-ordinated side, as it is going against your partner’s good side.

 The Traditional ranges

There are the three basic ranges within the Filipino martial arts, regardless of weather the techniques are with weapons or empty hands.  The Largo mano is the long-range longest range, the Medio is the middle range and Corto is the close range.

With in the basic three ranges there is the outer and the inner of these ranges. Which make them as follows:

1.      Largo mano/Cabesdario (long range outside) – the opponent cannot reach your head, yet your weapon can reach his striking/attacking limb.

In the unarmed version, the opponent’s foot (his longest tool/weapon) cannot reach your body, yet your counter attack can reach his ankle or knee.

2.      Fraile (long range inside) – the opponent can reach your head. With angulations/zoning your weapon is in a position to counter the opponents striking/attacking limb.

In the unarmed version the opponent’s foot (his longest reach) can reach your body. With angulations/zoning that can counter attack the opponent’s kicking leg.

3.      Tabon (close range outside) – You are close enough to trap the opponents weapon hand and strike his head with your own.

In the unarmed version, you are close enough to trap his lead arm and simultaneously reach his head with your own strike.

4.      Punio/Punyo (close range inside) – You are close enough to trap his weapon hand and deliver a strike with the butt or puno/punyo of you of your own weapon.

In the unarmed version you are close enough to trap your opponents rear hand.

5.      Tabi tabi/Cisco (lateral infighting range) – In the lateral range you position your self to the opponents side, through some or all of the above ranges and take advantage his poor positioning by leverage and ranching. 

In the unarmed version, as with the weapons this is not a stationary range. You move to the side of the opponent and take advantage of his poor positioning by leverage, ranching or up rooting your opponent.

6.      Lacud/La gound (rear infighting range) – This like the above Tabi tabi range is not a stationary range, you move through the above ranges to get to the rear of you’re your opponent.  This is probably the best position, because the opponent is almost completely at your mercy. 

The unarmed version is the same as the weapons version.

Traditionally in most cases the fights would finish in the Largo mano range, and they (the fights) would last just 2-3 seconds and the best man would live to tell the tale. The older generation of the Filipino masters have a saying that “every three sounds one man is down”, to emphasize the importance and the effectiveness of the largo mano range.

 The remaining five ranges can be classed as the back up ranges, but not limited too. Acting as a kind of, “what if scenario”, for example you may screw up plan A. If this happens, you can fork out into two avenues. One is to panic like a headless chicken and make it light work for your opponent or you can stay clam and collected, and move into plan B, C, D, E, or F,  (the remaining five ranges) and control the situation and the opponent or opponents like a true expert. As the above ranges are not merely back up to the Largo Mano range, they are also very successfully applied if the action starts at close range and each are as important as the other. If all else is equal, a fighter that controls his range or ranges has the edge, weather you’re into the striking arts, into the grappling arts, ground fighting or into the weapons arts.

Any of the fighters from the above disciplines can survive/defeat the other if they can stay in the range or ranges were they are king. In fact, the different disciplines are just different ranges of the big picture. If there’s going to be a secret for controlling the ranges, then it has to be in the footwork.

      I’m sure we all remember the scene from an old classic, “The magnificent seven” were the character played by James Coburn (a knife man) is obliged into a knife versus gun fight. In true Hollywood style he throws his knife at the gunman and kills him dead, while the gunman barley got his gun out. He never had a chance.

I guess that’s Hollywood.

In the real world the knife man who won his fight in the movie. Could have finished the job, without the dramatic effect and the risk of losing his knife in the process.  

       There was an enlightening experiment conducted in an instructional video “Surviving Edged weapons”, by various experts from the Filipino martial arts (Dan Inosanto, Leo Gaje junior) for the American law enforcement. The experiment aimed to find out at what range/distance was the gunmen (police officer) were safe from the knife man (generally the villain). In various situations, such as asking for I.D, the knife was drawn and each time the officer received multiple stabs and slashes. At times, even when the gun was drawn, the officer under pressure was unable to aim and fire his gun in time.

      In the second experiment, it was from a square off position, at a range of one foot with the handgun in the policeman’s holster in a standard manner. The knife man had the knife hidden back pocket. At the signal given the knife man had his knife in the officers torso (all safety precautions were taken) and the officer didn’t even have the time to reach his holster, let alone draw and fire. That was stage one of the experiment.

      In the following stages, the distance was increased by one foot at a time. Each time it was the knife man, lounging in with his knife and getting the better of the officer. At fifteen feet the officer was able to draw and fire his gun twice, but in the process he, himself received a number of stabs and slashes. Surprisingly the distance had to be increased by another six feet to a total of twenty-one feet for an alert officer to draw, aim, and side step as he fires the gun.

“The truth definitely is, stranger than fiction”.  


As I promised to expand on the answers on the last two articles, here in the first part of a two part article I have kept my promise, by giving an in-depth explanation on the Kali ~ Eskrima ranges and related areas. I hope this has been of some help. In the following months, I will take an in-depth look at the footwork, defence, strikes and the traditional Kali categories.

 If you have any questions on this subject, feel free to call me I am always open to questions.

From January 2001 I will be holding instructor courses in Coventry, I am also available for group instruction, and one to one instruction. Give me a call on mobile 07834 767 487. Or E-mail

A Taste That Satisfies - Part one

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