Learn how to do the 12 basic strikes of Arnis
In this article, you will learn some background information on Arnis, the 7 basic stances, and then the 12 striking techniques in Arnis.
If you are looking to take self defense classes, learning Arnis would be a brilliant choice. Arnis is currently the national martial art and sport of the Philippines. Although the art is defensive in nature rather than offensive, it is one of, if not, the best martial arts for multiple attackers. The moves involved in Arnis are designed to finish the fight in as few moves as possible.
The origin of Arnis Martial arts is from the Philippines. It is also known to some parts of the country as Eskrima and Kali. The objectives of Arnis focus mainly on defending oneself through the use of hand to hand combat, grappling, disarming of weapons, and striking with sticks. Arnis has evolved into more than a hundred variations, developed by different islands and families, and one reason for this number of variations is that the Philippines is an archipelago.
However, all the said styles or variations use a machete, knife, sticks, and empty hand styles such as Filipino boxing and wrestling. The primary weapon used in Arnis is a baton. It is 28 inches in length and can be used as a single weapon or a dual weapon. The stick or baton is considered sacred by Arnis practitioners and is always treated with the utmost care.
To understand how the art had evolved, it would be better to know at least a short history of Arnis. Arnis is a native fighting technique that has continuously evolved over time. This is the fighting art that the Filipinos used when Magellan first stepped foot onto the shores of Mactan, Cebu. During the period that Spain colonized the Philippines, old fencing techniques from Spain influenced the art.
However, during that time, practicing or teaching Arnis was illegal because it is considered a dangerous martial art. Its lethal nature is also what makes it one of the best martial arts to learn for self-defense. Locals would disguise it as a dance so that it would be possible to pass down the fighting art to the next generation. The modern Arnis training program that is widely practiced today, on the other hand, was developed by Remy Presas.
This modern fighting system aims to preserve the older Arnis techniques and make them even more effective by utilizing the moves in a manner that immediately hits the attacker’s vital points. The modern system emphasizes foot stances, hand movements, and vital points that help finish the fight faster.
Believe it or not, Arnis, Kali, and Eskrima are all the same. Eskrima martial arts is the name given to this art in the Visayas region. It came from the Spanish word “Esgrima” which means “fencing”. Over time, they derived another Spanish word from “Esgrima” to describe the art. The word came to be known as “arnes de mano” which means “armor of the hands”. “Arnes de mano” later on became known as “Arnis” which is the term used in Luzon to refer to the art. Kali stick fighting, on the other hand, is the term used for the art in the Mindanao Region.
The most commonly used system internationally is the WEKAF system. It follows a 10-point system similar to that of boxing. Practitioners spar with live Filipino fighting sticks and their bodies are covered with a long padded vest, sleeves, and skirts. In this system, hitting below the thighs is prohibited. WEKAF rules of arnis include a “four-second rule” in which practitioners cannot use the same strike over two times in a row.
The ARPI system was founded before the WEKAF system. The scoring system used by ARPI is like that of fencing. Participants can score points through disarming of weapons, striking the opponent, or forcing them out of the ring. Contrary to WEKAF, it uses padded light rattan sticks instead of live sticks because of the flexibility it provides when attacking. Referees also mark fouls during duels under the ARPI system.
In any martial arts discipline, becoming an expert with the art starts with a proper fighting stance. Arnis has a lot of different fighting stances that each have their own suitable application depending on the circumstance. The following are the seven basic Arnis stances that you should master.
Hold the stick on both sides with 2-3 inches allowance from the edge of the stick. Your feet should be parallel to your shoulder with the toes pointing forward. Keep your knees straight and your body facing forward. Your hands should be on waist level. This stance is used to stand at ease during training and tournament competitions.
Keep the heels close together with your feet forming a 45-degree angle. The waist and body should face forward and the shoulders dropped to the side. Hands should still be kept at waist level. This stance is used to prepare for bowing before a sparring starts.
The foot aligned with your dominant hand should be the foot moving forward. Arnis uses the same concept as fencing with foot stances. If you are right-handed, your right foot should be the one in the front. The knees of your lead foot must be slightly bent with the heel of the back foot a little raised. The back foot should act as a spring for faster mobility.
Contrary to popular belief, your toes should not be pointing forward. For example, if you have your right foot as your lead foot, the toes should point 45-degrees on the left. In the fighting arts, it is crucial to protect your centerline because it is the most vulnerable target in the body. Your left foot and right foot should also be under 3 inches apart. The forward stance is the best fighting stance for frontal striking and blocking techniques.
This stance is the opposite of the forward stance wherein the rear foot moves backward. When moving backward, the recommended distance covered per step is around 6 inches and should not increase over 8 inches. This stance is used in evasion techniques and blocking.
In the side stance, the moving foot is always perpendicular to the ground while the other leg is extended. It should look as if you are going to perform a sidekick. The body should also not be too low and avoid overextending when doing this stance. Overextending will make you vulnerable to an attack with no room for a counter. This stance is usually followed by an oblique stance. The side stance is very effective for strike deflection.
This stance is used when moving left and right. When either the lead or rear foot moves toward the left or right, it is necessary to do complementary steps. The complementary step is a principle that originates from the ancient Samurai art which states that in all fighting arts when one foot moves, the other must immediately follow. If you are moving to the right, the rear foot must immediately follow the direction of movement of the lead foot.
From the ready stance, move one of your feet away from the other foot until the distance is about 2 feet. Your lower legs must be perpendicular to the ground and the toes pointing forward.
Once you have mastered the basic stances of Arnis, you are now ready to learn the 12 basic striking techniques. These techniques are used with the stances. The effectivity of each strike heavily relies on mobility, which is why you must have a strong command of the basic stances before learning the 12 basic striking techniques.
From the forward stance, twist your wrist to an angle of 1 o’clock as you pull your hand towards your shoulders to prepare for a strike. Swing your arm in the 1 o’clock direction in a slashing action while placing the other hand on your chest. The action should be a diagonal downward swing to the left temple of the enemy.
This strike is similar to the left temple strike. The strike movement follows the 11 o’clock angle while the free hand is placed on the chest. This strike is a diagonal downward backhand swing to the right temple of the enemy.
The left torso strike involves the practitioner to extend the lead hand when striking to deliver maximum force. This strike is a diagonal forehand slashing swing towards any part of the body between the shoulder and the hips. When swinging the lead hand, the turning force must initially come from the rear foot, then followed by the hip rotation to make the blow more effective.
Just like the left torso strike, again the practitioner will extend the weapon hand to strike any part of the body on the right side between the shoulder and the hips. The arm movement is a backhand slashing swing.
This strike is a powerful thrust to the solar plexus of the opponent. It can cause fatal damage to the organs within the abdomen area. This move is most helpful when you notice that the opponent is over-committing in his forward foot movement when striking. This is an effective counter against a temple strike, but remember to never stretch out when doing the thrust strike.
The force of the attack should come more from the momentum of the opponent coming forward, and it should be more of a counter. Using it as a casual strike opens up the body to attacks from the opponent.
This strike involves extending the arm in a thrusting motion with the palm facing outward towards the left chest of the opponent.
This strike is similar to the left chest stab, but aim the thrust to the right chest of the opponent. When done right, the opponent’s lungs will be damaged, which will make it hard for him to breathe and even cause death.
This technique involves striking the opponent's lower leg, usually the knee or ankle, to immobilize him. It is necessary to lower your lead leg and strike in a downward diagonal slashing motion to the opponent’s leg with the palm facing upward. In traditional Arnis, the aim of the technique is to just hit any part of the leg.
However, in Modern Arnis and Jeet-Kune-Do, the left leg strike should be aimed 6 inches above the knee where a pressure point exists. When hit correctly, one blow could immobilize the opponent.
This technique is similar to the left leg strike but aims the strike at the right leg of the opponent. The motion of this technique is a diagonal downward backhand swing.
This technique is similar to the left chest stab but with the strike aimed at the left eye socket. The goal of this attack is to take away the opponent’s vision and thus, ending the fight faster.
Just like the left eye poke, this technique takes away the opponent’s vision. However, this technique is aimed at the right eye of the opponent.
This strike is a straight downward overhead swing to the crown of your opponent’s head. This will throw him off balance and could even knock him out after a single strike.
Learning how to defend yourself is essential in today’s time because of the number of people with ill intentions in the streets. Arnis is the best form of martial arts to learn for self-defense against multiple attackers. It is also a great way to discipline your mind and improve your body. The techniques of Arnis are extremely lethal when learned correctly. It is necessary for you to master these 12 striking techniques to become an effective Arnis practitioner.
These moves and basic stances are the basis for most of the advanced techniques. The principles used in Arnis are also the same principles used in most Eastern martial arts. This will make it easier for you to learn other Asian fighting arts.
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Sam Fury is the creator and owner of the Survival Fitness Plan.
He has had a passion for martial arts and outdoor pursuits since he was a young boy growing up in Australia.
As a young adult he joined the military and studied outdoor leadership in college. After that, to further his skills, Sam started traveling to learn from the best in the world in various fields related to the Survival Fitness Plan including various martial arts in China, SE Asia and Brazil, Parkour in Singapore, Surf Life Saving in Australia, and others.
These days, he still enjoys learning new things, traveling and sharing what he has learned via the Survival Fitness Plan.
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