Attribute Development: The Filipino Way

By Krishna K. Godhania


Some Filipino Eskrimadors believe that teaching empty hand techniques to individuals with weak attributes will result in proficiency of skill but only over the long term. Attributes are the qualities which assist in functionalising techniques, the Filipino concept of using weaponry in the form of training method at the beginning of one’s martial practice develops the student’s attributes early on, this makes the later transition to empty hands considerably easier. Training wilh weaponry over an extended period of time forces one’s neurological systems to operate at a higher level, put simply your reflexes improve tremendously. The popular analogy. which is used to illustrate this, is the sensation of slowness you experience when driving at 40mph after having driven at higher speeds, say 70mph. Forty miles per hour may be fast, but the previous experience of 70 makes it seem slow. This article aims to present same traditional training methods which can be found in the Filipino systems and explain which attributes they develop.

Attribute – Sensitivity

Sensitivity involves devloping one’s ability to feel the opponent’s intentions, various training methods are utilised to develop tactile senstivity – these include the following:


This is the art of controlled close range sparring with the stick. Palakaw develops the use of the alive/checking hand – this controls and monitors the opponent’s weapon hand, in addition it creates openings in the opponent’s defence. The training in restricted to close range so that there is constant cohesion – This forces one to develop one’s level of sensitivity.

Pit Al

This training method is also known as Tapi Tapi among other styles of Eskrima, it involves defending against a knife with the empty hands. The drill develops the student’s ability to defend against and control the opponent’s weapon hand, likewise the feeder develops the use of his alive hand for cleaning the defender’s check so as to open the line for attack with the knife. Initially, the feeder limits his attacks to thrust, later the slash is introduced, when advanced the slash is combined with the thrust. Since one touch of a sharp knife in the right spot usually ends de engagement, the degree of sensitivity called for in the knife training is particularly high. there is no margin to error. When one returns to empty hand training, where solid hits and not mere touches matter, the students discovers that his level of sensitivity has quadrupled.

Attribute – Body Mechanics

This involves utilising the whole of the body when striking, understanding how to use the body as one unit. To develop good body mechanics the Eskrimador utilises varied weapons’ training. Working with weaponry forces one to exaggerate and emphasise body mechanincs, the long blade or the long stick are useful weapons for developing body mechanics, they are used to practice a series of striking combinations known as Amarra.

Attribute – Co-ordination

Good co-ordination can be defined as the ability to perform a movement with efficiency, ease and balance. To develop one’s level of co-ordination, one needs constant repetition of the desired motion. The Filipino martial artist develops this attibute via double stick training (otherwise known as doble armas or sinawali), espada y daga (sword and knife) and the use of focus gloves. The sinawali patterns with the double sticks promote equal development of both arms, espada y daga promote one’s ability to work with weapons of different length. The focus pads develops one’s ability to co-ordinate in order to punch effectively in combination.

Attribute – Flow

Flow can be defined as continuity of movement. In order to flow effectively, one needs a combination of awareness and sensitivity which is ascertained via uninterrupted concentration. The Filipino Eskrimadors are famous for their ability to flow smoothly, this is developed through varios flow drills. Flow drills are performed with the stick, knife or empty hands. In order to flow one has to continously counter the opponent’s attack – this is sometimes termed as sombrada or contra y contra.

Attribute – Rhythm and timing

Rythm deals with faking and changing tempos, whilst timing is the ability to launch an attack at the proper moment. These attributes are developed both with weaponry and the empty hands – via freestyle sparring. Mastery of rhythm and feinting are considered advanced skills, they make the difference – when two opponents of equal technical ability face each other. Eskrimadors – who use feints liberally, are often called Lansidors.


To conclude, there are many other attributes which the Eskrimador trains to develop, these include footwork, speed, power, balance, precision, explosivennes and the understanding of spatial relationships. The priority given to the development of one’s attributes early on in the training gives the martial artist a realistic chance of being functional and effective – when attempting to apply his/her techniques. Published in Martial Arts Illustrated Magazine, October 2002