Sabre Fencing and Modern Arnis

Discussion in 'Modern Arnis' started by SAL, Oct 24, 2005.

  1. SAL

    SAL Junior Member

    Interesting link. It made for some good brousing. Now if I can just get my wife to let me go on that Cebu tour. An interesting thing I noticed on the statue of Lapu Lapu was the size of the blade he was holding. It looks more like an Arabian scimitar than anything Filipino. He was also holding a shield. This makes me believe that their fighting style back then was different than the modern Filipino blade arts. A huge blade and a shield suggests so.
    Does anyone know if this statue is accurate or the sculptors rendition of history?

  2. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    I would hesitate to trust some romantic paintings/images as gospel on this.

    I don't really know much about the tribal period of FMA, but from what I have seen the blades were large (probably because of crude smithing skills) and shields were used. I don't know what size, shapes or anything like that though.

    In a film called Farewell to the King starring Nick Nolte that has a pretty good tribal fighting scene that looks like a possibly authentic depiction. Though the location is only identified as "Indonesia" I would say there would be some similarities.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2005
  3. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    There were anecdotal references to PI/Euro mixes in the "Flag" book but here is a clear current example of Euro/Western mingling with PI/Asian culture.


    These pirates were not sword wielding marauders. They had guns adopted from contacts with western cultures over time. They were driving pumpboats and not old junk style sailing boats.

    If it is happening now, it was happening before.

    THese type of modern and ancient minglings were about effectiveness and success, so the cultural barriers weren't a major factor for the less noble of adaptions/adoptions when profit/success was the driving motive.

    Pirates have been romantically presented, but they were/are nothing better than sea going gangs.
  4. Batang Sugbu

    Batang Sugbu New Member

    Not even Magellan's chronicler Pigafetta could give a good description of Lapulapu, and I even doubt if he actually saw Lapulapu in the "Battle of Mactan". The monuments of Lapulapu are nothing but an artists idealized impression of Lapulapu - a hunk of a macho hero! I don't the think bureacrats who commissioned the sculptor would be happy to see a monument of a destitute and emaciated portrait of Lapulapu.
    There are however more reliable sources coming out to the fore like the indigenous chronicles Aginid, Bayok sa Atong Tawarik (Glide On, Odes to Our History) discovered by Jovito Abellana that recounts the use of fire hardened canes and hardwood by Lapulapu's men, with specific instruction by the chief himself to strike hard at the steel armors so the resulting dents would render the Spaniards incapacitated. The Aginid, Bayok sa Atong Tawarik was discovered by Abellana's grandfather in the late 20th century. It is about the history of Cebu written in ancient alibata script on pandan leaves. Mr. Abellana died last Oct. 16, 2005 at the age of 97.

    The other monument which I believed is a more accurate depiction can be found at the gate of the Lady of the Rule Cathedral in Lapulapu City where you can find the hero brandishing an alho (rice pounder) a huge wooden club a little bigger than a baseball bat! The shield is called a tameng, that one i think is accurate, but the sword... I don't think the sculptor was very keen on the historical accuracy of the bladed weapons available at that time!
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2005
  5. lhommedieu

    lhommedieu Senior Member


    Hey Sal,

    I went to seminar that you guys hosted at the firehouse a couple of years ago. I went to a seminar taught by Maestro Martinez ( in July and found that Spanish sabre felt pretty good in my untrained hands (thanks to Chris Umbs and the other instructors there who were willing to give me a lot of help). That is to say that I thought that my Filipino martial arts skills would translate pretty well to the sabre, and that sabre technique, particularly military sabre, would dovetail almost exactly to a lot of what we do in San Miguel Eskrima. My experience is therefore similar to yours: I would feel confortable training in European sabre technique and think that it has a lot to offer the Filipino martial artist. The Spanish small sword and rapier used in civilian dueling did not feel as comfortable, due to the fact that both use very small and precise movements for which years of training are required, and the footwork and body mechanic felt completely different. (If you lived in a society in which sword duels were frequently fought, however, I can think of no better martial arts system in which to train.)

    To say that sabre feels comfortable however is not the same as saying that sabre influenced the FMA's (although it would be interesting to find out what the military and civilian dueling culture was like in the Philippines post-1700 to the early 20th century (did it mimic what was going on in Europe?) and whether this had an influence on the FMA's. Would an eskrimador be likely to witness the upper-class owner of a large rural estate practice his swordsmanship in the court yard, for example? Did military officers fight (and train for) duels in public? In other words, was there a sword culture in the 19th century that was different from that of the 17th century, 18th century, etc.?

    My take on the matter is that European fencing techniques influenced FMA's to some extent in a few cases, and virtually to no extent in most cases. The Spanish and their mercenaries won their battles primarily through the use of armor and gunpowder (the lance was also used in the battlefield); the spread of starvation through systematic oppression, the occurance of diseases for which the Filipinos had not yet acquired immunities, and the use of defeated tribes to fight tribes still not yet defeated were also large factors. In this context, a sword fight must have been extremely rare.

    The most influence to be found would probably be in the central Vasayas where the Spanish had the longest influence. For example, see my post in the Misc. Stick Arts forum below ("Doce Pares Lineage") for a discussion of the "Espada y Daga" drills of San Miguel Eskrima and why these kinds of drills simply do not occur in other arts (eg. Pekiti Tirsia Kali). I'll close by saying however that one of the techniques that I learned in Pekiti Tirsia appears exactly the same as one I saw demonstrated at Maestro Martinez' seminar - it's certainly an interesting world.


    Steve Lamade
  6. SAL

    SAL Junior Member

    Hay Steve
    I'm glad you remembered the seminar. I think you were visiting family in my neck of the woods during that time. Next time you're here give me a holler.
    One point I should make in my reference to the sabre is that I am referring to the training sabre that is used in competition. Their weight is much closer to that of a stick as compared to military sabres. I have a few military sabres and there's no way I'm moving them around at the speed of a stick. This may have some bearing on this discussion.

  7. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    If you look at the Sombrada drill at the most basic levels, it is very easy to see the cavalry sabre in it.

    If you orient the tip of the sabre toward your opponent instead of the standard Umbrella, you have the classic sabre high guard (blade up, tip pointed at opponents eyes).

    I can see how it would work. Doesn't mean that the heavier weapon was a conscious influence, but remember too that GM RP was from Negros and the Nigrito (sp?) Bolo was a common weapon. It isn't all that light either.
  8. Luis Fernández

    Luis Fernández New Member

    There were spanish rapier (ropera) and dagger (vizcaina) methods long before Carranza.
    He founded his school trying to make a difference from the "la destreza común". A method with long tradition and widely extended.

    Sorry for my english
  9. lhommedieu

    lhommedieu Senior Member


    It's interesting to note that in Cebuano Eskrima: Beyond the Myth the authors make their case that European soldiers who had retired into the priesthood had a hand in training Cebuano townspeople how to defend themselves against marauding tribes and pirates. Add to that mix what I said in my last post about whatever the Filipinos may have picked up from watching soldiers practice in the garrisons and civilian traditions of European swordsmanship that were brought over to the Philippines.

    If you trace Modern Arnis back through Balintawak and then back further to its roots in what the Saavedras were teaching, then it is not hard to see how sabre could fit into the picture. Keep in mind though that a typical pinute gets to be about 33" at its longest, and sabres are generally 39" to 45" or so. My feeling now some 18 months after my last post is that I should learn sabre at some point and see how its structure fits into an art with a weapon that's significantly shorter. I'm also still interested in learning sabre qua sabre.


  10. spencer

    spencer New Member

    Good stuff ! Have you tried Electric Rapier and Dagger Fencing yet ?
    Its a "not yet recognized"form of competitive combat ,that is reasonably "safe" as opposed to real Rapier and Dagger Fencing.
    Details on request.
  11. spencer

    spencer New Member

    Good stuff ! Have you tried Electric Rapier and Dagger Fencing yet ?
    Its a "not yet recognized"form of competitive combat ,that is reasonably "safe" as opposed to real Rapier and Dagger Fencing.
    Details on request.
  12. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Member

    The historical stuff is being well covered by people smarter than me. But I wanted to mention one thing. I also did Western fencing after arnis (Doce Pares, though I currently train with a Modern Arnis group). I trained briefly with a very informal fencing/SCA club in college. And then more formally a couple of years ago with a fencing club here in Alexandria.

    I did sabre when I was in college. Precisely for the reasons you suggested. That sabre, with its slashing and thrusting, was the closest approximation for the stickwork I'd already done. And it gave me a great appreciation for the differences between stick and blade. (And the similarities, given that my arnis worked wonders, even if I did break ever rule on footwork that they laid out for me on a regular basis. As SCA guys, they didn't mind and appreciated seeing a different approach.)

    But I did want to point out that, while the sabre has slashing, its targeting is limited to above the waist. Whereas epee is legal anywhere, which fits in with arnis in important ways as well. So I don't think sabre is the only logical choice.

    With the more formal fencing class I took recently, we were limited to foil. Which, I think, helped in a different way. By being forced to concentrate on thrusting attacks, controlling the range (since stepping off the line isn't allowed, you're doing much of your offense and defense by controlling distance), and timing, I think those things improved in my arnis in a way that they didn't when I was just allowed to do arnis with a sabre in my hand.

    In other words, doing arnis allows you to succeed in sabre fencing. But bear in mind that concentrating on certain facets of fencing will also pay dividends on improving those aspects in your arnis. I'm much more cognizant of the opportunities for thrusting in arnis now. And I think other people (who don't have fencing experience) struggle more with defending those lines as well.

    Just a thought. While we're talking about cross pollination and all.



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