Monday, October 12, 2009
Batman -- Martial Artist - 04 - Eskrima/Kali/Arnis
Eskrima, Kali, and Arnis are all names for similar styles of Filipino martial arts. They primarily focus on the use of sticks or knives, or the defense against such weapons.
As with many martial arts, the Filipino martial arts’ origins are hard to objectively pin down. Most of the styles were culturally rich and passed from father to son until more recently, when teachers started making money. The cloudiness of the origins is compounded by the fact that stick and knife fighting were not necessarily the practice of scholars, so there are no older written source materials.
Like most martial arts, the origins are likely a mixture of older cultural practices (from places like India, Indonesia, and China) and native developments.
The method by which Eskrima is taught is streamlined and so effective that one can become fairly proficient in a relatively short amount of time. The armed techniques are all very direct and quick, and the unarmed techniques are just as direct and joint locks are heavily utilized. For this reason, Eskrima is taught to various special military forces and intelligence field agencies. The ability to defeat and disarm a knife-wielding opponent is of course a valuable skill to anyone who must defend himself on a regular basis.
Eskrima is practiced with items such as rattan sticks, wooden (now mostly rubber) knife replicas, and various other improvised weapon substitutes. Drills are the most common form of practice, much like forms are used in empty-hand arts. When sparring in Eskrima, the practitioners will don protective gloves and helmet-masks similar to (or the same as) those used in Kendo or fencing.
A lot of the safety features have been added not just as a result of modern thinking, but so as to appeal to people of other cultures. Traditional martial arts as practiced when they come to America or Europe are more watered down, at least in terms of cultural integrity and physical severity. If you go to the Philippines to train in Eskrima, Kali, or Arnis, you will likely suffer many more bruises, lacerations, and even fractures than you would if you went to a school in America.
The popularity of Filipino martial arts in America has been due to both their efficiency and, in large part, the efforts of great martial arts masters like Dan Inosanto (one of Bruce Lee’s top students/training partners).
I incorporate very basic Kali solo drills into my own martial arts practice, and while I’m not so confident as to think that I could face a knife-wielding mugger unarmed, I’m confident in my skills with a stick in my hand.
You can see Filipino martial arts mixed into the fighting styles of fictional characters (using Kali or a similar art adds a realistic proficiency) in such movies as "Daredevil", the Daniel Craig "Bond" films, and the "Bourne" movies.
Would Batman learn and practice Eskrima, Kali, and/or Arnis? Of course he would. Batman would need to be able to effectively disarm knife- and stick-wielding assailants. Bruce traveled the world and spent years in Asia. It’s likely that he would have spent 3 to 12 months in the Philippines learning some of the most efficient fighting /self-defense techniques in the world. Or, at the very least, one Bruce’s many teachers would have covered knife and stick use and defense.
-If you want to learn more about Filipino martial arts, I highly suggest the Kali and Eskrima episodes of Fight Quest and Human Weapon, which you can find on youtube. Also on youtube, you can find plenty of instructional (or at the very least demonstrational) videos from teachers or semi-casual practitioners.