Arnis, sometimes referred to as Eskrima or Kali, is a martial art from the Phillipines that differs from most martial arts in that it teaches the use of weapons from the beginning. A rattan stick is typically used, since rattan is a vine that is softer than hardwood (thus easier on the practitioner) and it doesn't break - it gradually frays until it is no longer usable.
Sometimes Arnis is thought of as "just
stickfighting", but there's more to it than that. Historically, weapons
were taught first because Filipino villagers had to be ready to fight neighboring
villages or islands on short notice, and weapons are more efficient in warfare
than empty hands. However, another benefit is that since the stick can move
faster than the hand, working with weapons is a way to gain faster eye-hand
coordination that can then be applied to empty hand techniques. For this reason,
the same basic motions are used whether the person wields a stick, knife, machete,
or is empty handed. Since the motions are so similar, all the repetitions a
student gets in training become practice for a wide variety of attacks.
The student will learn 12 angles of attack and the defenses to them, and the basic defensive movements. Drills will then be taught to develop various attributes necessary for fighting or self defense, whether with a weapon or empty handed. Each rank level will typically add a new movement, blocking, kicking, throwing, and striking technique, and also a new single stick drill and double stick drill. In this way, a large amount of technique can be built up over time without "burning out" on one type of technique. We use padded sticks at first for safety and comfort level (much like learning to swim in the shallow end of a pool). For pre-arranged drills (in which the movements are known) or slow motion drills we use rattan sticks to develop a feel for a real weapon. Even at higher levels, however, we usually use padded sticks whenever the movements are unpredictable, such as sparring. Safety is always a primary concern.