Eskrima (Filipino Martial Arts)

Eskrima or Escrima refers to the Filipino Martial Arts or FMA. The sport involves combat, which implements the use of sticks and swords. Other common terms for the ancient form of combat include Arnis de Mano or Kali.

History of Eskrima

Though known to be centuries old in origin, the exact date of introduction remains unknown. The term was used generically to describe the combat methods of common village people. The people defended themselves using primitive weaponry against other villages or foreign invaders. Fighting styles were often unique to each village. As the people had no written form of language, tradition and technique were passed from one generation to the next through oral communication and instruction.

Styles also began differing when villagers were exposed to the influences of Malaysians, Indonesians, Spaniards and Chinese. The Indonesian and Chinese techniques being the most recent developments. Not unlike the ancient combat techniques used in Asian countries, the practice of Eskrima was restricted to and passed onto Filipinos only. This changed in the 1960s when Grandmaster Angel Cabales introduced the arts to U.S. students.

Considered an effective and typically easy skill to learn, the U.S. military provides instruction in Eskrima to all recruits. Branches of the service known to specialize in the art include the Army Special Forces, Delta Force and the Navy SEALS.


The difference between Eskrima and other martial arts is the immediate introduction to weaponry. Students must master the art of using various weapons before advancing to hand-to-hand combat. This method is viewed as successful because the arms, legs and torso must demonstrate the same movements with or without a weapon, which is referred to as muscle memory.

The most common type of weapon used for training purposes is the rattan stick. Students generally use a stick that measures the length of an arm. However, once skilled in the arts, athletes often have personal preferences and sticks may range anywhere from 6 to 96 inches in length. Many forms of the sport use two weapons, one long and one short. The combination of weapons may involve two sticks of varying lengths or a stick and a knife or sword. Other weapons used in combat include nunchaku, spears, shields and whips.

Doce Pares Eskrima

Historically, various villages created their own unique style of fighting and adopted the influences of foreigners as they saw fit.doce pares eskrima Today, there are more than two dozen styles of Eskrima, which includes Doce Pares. The style was officially established in 1932 by a group of 12 masters that included Eulogio Canete, Lorenzo Saavedra and Teodoro Saavedra. Soon after its inception, the group had 24 members and adopted the name Doce Pares, which translates from the Spanish to mean “12 pairs.”

While the system is comprised of many styles accepted by the founding fathers, instruction in the style continues to vary depending on individual instructors or masters. The main components of what is known as the “multi-style” system include:

  • Corto-close range
  • Corto Linear-linear striking or a blade type of striking
  • Corto Kurbada-which uses a wrist-twisting or snap-wrist motion
  • Corto Orihinal-low, bent knees with a wide stance

The styles also incorporate short, medium or long sticks, double sticks and open hand fighting techniques. Fighters additionally master the various kicks, punches, immobilization locks and take downs of the style.