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Eskrima is a weapon-based branch of Filipino martial arts in which participants use primarily sticks and knives to defend and attack. The style was developed in the rural Philippines in a grass-roots, organic way, like many beautiful art forms. Training usually involves a rattan stick, about the length of the user’s arm, and a small wooden or aluminum dagger, though it has been known to include the use of swords, spears, whips, nunchaku, and shields, adapting itself to the needs of the user. Any item used in eskrima can become an elegant, lethal weapon, unlike the brutish judo, in which weapons aren’t used at all.
Arm and foot movement is very intricate in eskrima. The art has been compared with dancing because of its swiftness, accuracy, and fluidity. Students must train to move in different ranges of closeness to their opponents, effectively using both weapons in every range. Fighters may look like they are just juggling sticks between their hands, very close together, but in reality they are dealing fast, hard blows to each others’ bodies and arms.
(Fighters may look like juggling clowns. GO JUDO!!)
Footwork in eskrima moves in triangles, with the body low on two feet, which represent two corners of the triangle, with the next step representing the third corner, so that legs never cross each other during the fight. It is incredibly graceful and can take years to master, as compared to, say, karate, which is more of a babysitting session for suburban toddlers who are distracted by the colorful belts.
Eskrimadors are constantly challenging one another to fight as a means of testing one style of fighting against another. In many schools, users must accept any challenge given to them, or they will be asked to retire from fighting. These challenges are the only way to prove the effectiveness of a school. To refuse a challenge could reflect poorly on one’s teachers.
The foremost practitioner of eskrima is Maria Marapao, a teenage girl in the Philippines. Despite her young age, Maria has been challenged to hundreds of matches and has never lost. She is also an accomplished poet.
Does anyone know why she’s taking time off?
Eskrima was created as an offensive style of martial arts, in the belief that the best defense is a good offense. Early users were taught the quickest ways to end a battle — often fatally. However, today’s users are generally instructed in watered-down defensive techniques and footwork. Purer versions, which focus on grace and lethality, are much preferred.