Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Escrima part 4

Modern history

The Philippines has what is known as a blade culture. Unlike in the West where Medieval and Renaissance combative and self-defense blade arts have gone extinct (having devolved into sport fencing with the advent of firearms),blade fighting in the Philippines is a living art. Local folk in the Philippines are much more likely to carry knives than guns. They are commonly carried as tools by farmers, used by street vendors to prepare coconuts, pineapples, other fruits and meats, and balisongs are cheap to procure in the streets as well as being easily concealed. In fact, in some areas in the countryside, carrying a farming knife like the itak or bolo was a sign that one was making a living because of the nature of work in those areas. In the language of Palau, the term for Filipino is chad ra oles which literally means "people of the knife" because of Filipinos' reputation for carrying knives and using them in fights.

Philippine American War

Americans were first exposed to eskrima during the Philippine-American War in events such as the Balangiga Massacre where most of an American company was hacked to death or seriously injured by bolo-wielding guerillas in Balangiga, Samar or in battles in Mindanao where an American serviceman was decapitated by a Moro warrior even after he emptied his .38 Long Colt caliber revolver into his opponent. That and similar events led to the request and the development of the .45 ACP by Col. John T. Thompson, Louis La Garde and John Browning which had more stopping power.

World War II

During World War II, many Filipinos fought the Japanese hand to hand with their blades as guerilla fighters or as military units under the USAFFE like the Bolo Battalion (now known as the Tabak Division).
Some of the grandmasters who are known to have used their skills in World War II are Antonio Illustrisimo, Leo Guiron, Teodoro Saavedra, brothers Eulogio and Cacoy CaƱete, Timoteo Timor Maranga, Sr, Jesus Bayas and Balbino Tortal.


The arts had no traditional belting or grading systems as they were taught informally. In fact, it was said that to proclaim a student a "master" was considered ridiculous and a virtual death warrant as the individual would become challenged left and right to potentially lethal duels by other eskrimadors looking to make names for themselves. Belt ranking was a recent addition adopted from Japanese arts such as Karate and Judo which had become more popular with Filipinos. They were added in order to give structure to the systems and to be able to compete in attention for students as the Filipino martial arts were at the brink of extinction via obscurity with the general populace by the mid to late 20th century due to urbanization and modernization.
With regards to its spread outside the Philippines, eskrima was brought to Hawaii and California as far back as the 1920s by Filipino migrant workers. Its teaching was kept strictly within Filipino communities until the late 1960s when masters such as Angel Cabales began teaching it to others. Even then, instructors teaching eskrima in the 1960s and 70s were often reprimanded by their elders for publicly teaching a part of their culture that had been preserved through secrecy. In recent years, there has been increased interest in eskrima for its usefulness when defending against knives and other street encounters.
As a result, many systems of eskrima have been modified in varying degrees to make them more marketable to a worldwide audience. Usually this involves increased emphasis on locking, controls, and disarms, focusing mainly on aspects of self-defense. However, most styles follow the philosophy that the best defense is a good offense. Modern training methods tend to de-emphasize careful footwork and low stances, stressing the learning of techniques as opposed to more direct (and often lethal) tactics designed to instantly end an encounter.

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