Eskrima is a martial art that originated in the Philippines and emphasizes weapon-based fighting with knives, sticks and other weapons. It includes hand-to-hand combat, grappling, weapon disarming and joint locks. There are several different styles of Eskrima, each started by a different family. The Doce Pares Eskrima, founded in 1932 by the Canete and Saavedra families, encompasses 12 styles. Today, there are several Doce Pares factions that are headed by different members of the Canete family.

Eskrima dates back centuries in the Philippines, but since it was mainly practiced by the peasant classes, there is no written record. One theory states that the basics were brought to the Philippine islands from ancient India. When the Spanish first landed on the islands, the weapons-based martial art was well developed. The conquistadors could not defeat the natives without firearms.

Knife Fighting

Today, the Philippines still has a blade culture that has been developed to a living art. There is a wide variety of styles for knife fighting that are rooted in fighting on the battlefield. Training for this begins with defense against knife attacks. The techniques are very elaborate with locks, checking and re-directing the opponent’s weapon and disarming, but there are four basic ways that are taught first:

• Single
• Double
• Multiple sliding
• Slicing

Training for advanced students includes knife-to-knife techniques with drills for practical defense, offense and counter techniques. They learn to continuously check the opponent’s weapon hand.

Other blade training includes sword and dagger called Espada y daga. This type of fighting is very sophisticated as well as complicated. The strong hand holds a stick or long blade, and the weak hand holds a knife. The student starts by learning to coordinate the two weapons.

The Stick

Training begins with learning how to use the stick. It is made from rattan and is used as the primary offense. The empty hand is used for defense. Stick training includes moves similar to sword techniques and also uses


Photography by Cristian Bortes

twirling techniques to strengthen the wrist and make it able to move quickly to different positions. The most fundamental drill for stick use is the abesedario. It combines defense and counter-strike techniques and includes seven levels designed for movement and angling with countering and checking in each of these areas.

The double stick technique uses a stick in each hand for offense and defense. The drills are to develop power and coordination of the two sticks. These skills are also used for other types of fighting.

Empty Hands and Grappling

Hand-to-hand combat or Mano Mano uses the same techniques as weapon fighting, but other parts of the body are also trained for combat. The hand punches, but there is also kicking, head butts, knee and elbow strikes. Throws and locks are also used, and one technique only uses one or two fingers for counter-attack. Training begins with sticks and knives, and advances to empty hand training only when the weapon training has been mastered.

The name Doce Pares was influenced by the Spanish in the Philippines. It means Twelve Pairs, which refers to the twelve basic strikes and defenses. Some believe that the name refers to the original twelve members of the Master of the Club. Today, second generation senior Grandmasters continue the Doce Pares tradition and include their own interpretations of Eskrima.

In 1975, the National Arnis Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL) was formed and conducted two open tournaments in 1979. Doce Pares became the champions in each tournament in Masters Division and many other divisions as well. Today, Eskrima is taught in more than 26 countries around the world.