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Filipino Martial Arts, Eskrima, and Lines of Attack

I've been training in martial arts since the 1980s and consistently since the '90s. I am a 2nd-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate.

Here you see demonstrated the "Roof Block".

Here you see demonstrated the "Roof Block".

In terms of self-defense, it is valuable to understand the use of a weapon because you may need to defend yourself against a weapon or need to know how to use a weapon. Using a weapon can enhance your empty hand skills too; what can be done with a weapon can also be done empty-handed. Your coordination and dexterity is enhanced even more by having to handle a weapon.

The Filipino martial arts of Eskrima, Kali, and Arnis are to a great extent based in the use of sticks and blades, in addition to training empty hand technique which is cross-referenced to weapon use. For this reason, these arts contain a plethora of knowledge of weapon use, technique, and principles.

So, for our purposes here, we will explore a basic principle of Eskrima, which is lines of attack. In addition to understanding how you can attack with a weapon, lines of attack teach you how to defend against a weapon. Specifically for the purpose of this article, the lines of attack teach how to reasonably predict how someone will attack based on their position after they've attacked. For simplification, we will focus on just four lines of attack, although it should be noted that, in the Filipino arts, the lines of attack vary from system to system. Some martial arts, such as Doce Pares and DeCuerdas (arts I've practiced), have as many as 12 lines of attack, defense, and many more counters, follow up strikes, locks, throws, chokes, and disarms. However, we will be dealing here with (1) a high downward diagonal forehand strike, (2) a high downward diagonal back-hand strike, (3) a mid-section horizontal forehand strike, and (4) a mid-section horizontal back-hand strike.

It should be noted that these strikes can reasonably be predicted because they naturally and logically follow one another. For the opponent to execute any other strike than the one proceeding another in this logical sequence would require him to go out of his way and waste motion. He would fail to use economical motion and telegraph what he is doing. In this case, you would easily see it coming. However, anything can happen. One of the important qualities of learning lines of attack is that it is a useful tool for drilling how to defend against specific attacks, as well as training the brain and body on how to attack and all of the principles involved (for instance, in DeCuerdas Eskrima, baits are included in the lines of attack).

So, in this sequence, you will see how each attack is executed, which attack follows a previous attack, and how a defender can see each attack coming and defend himself.

Eskrima is a weapons-based art that enhances empty-hand techniques by training with a weapon.

Eskrima is a weapons-based art that enhances empty-hand techniques by training with a weapon.

The Roof Block

Below you will see demonstration of "The Roof Block," named as such because its angle is similar to the angle of a roof. The stick is held at a 45 degree angle to block the attack, and the empty hand is used to cover the weapon hand of the opponent to control his movement. Typically, you will move from this position to counter-attack and disarm.

Here you see Jamie attack with the #1 line, a high downward diagonal forehand strike, which Glenn catches with a roof block.

Here you see Jamie attack with the #1 line, a high downward diagonal forehand strike, which Glenn catches with a roof block.

The Wing Block

The next block shown is called a "Wing Block." This block turns the stick to the side to cover the right side of the body from the attack. You still use your empty hand to cover and check the attacker's attempts to strike you.

Jamie is then in a natural position to deliver a back-hand strike.

Jamie is then in a natural position to deliver a back-hand strike.

So, Jamie delivers the #2, a high downward diagonal backhand strike, which Glenn catches with a wing block.

So, Jamie delivers the #2, a high downward diagonal backhand strike, which Glenn catches with a wing block.

The next block shown is against a horizontal strike to the mid-section. The defending stick is held vertically to block the incoming attack. This shows margin for error. Obviously, you would not hold your stick horizontally to block a strike that is on a horizontal line. In this way, you cannot "match" his angle, you must oppose it, as if you are forming a cross. So, when he comes horizontally, you must block with a vertical angle.

Jamie then comes in with the #3, which is a mid-section horizontal forehand strike.

Jamie then comes in with the #3, which is a mid-section horizontal forehand strike.

Finally, as the attack continues to a backhand horizontal strike, the defender uses a vertical block to stop the assault. Notice how the attacks naturally flow, one to the other, making it possible to reasonably predict how the attack will move.

filipino-martial-arts-eskrima-and-lines-of-attack
Jamie is naturally chambered to come back through with a back-hand strike.

Jamie is naturally chambered to come back through with a back-hand strike.

So, Jamie comes back with the #4, a horizontal mid-section back-hand strike.

So, Jamie comes back with the #4, a horizontal mid-section back-hand strike.

So, as stated, the purpose of using lines of attack is to understand how you can attack, understand how the opponent can attack, and to understand follow up strikes. The lines of attack vary from system to system, but they are merely a convenient way to study motion and how to stay steps ahead of an attack.

Example of Angles or Lines of Attack in Eskrima

Quiz

For each question, choose the best answer. The answer key is below.

  1. The purpose of using lines of attack in training is
    • We're bored and need something to do
    • To understand how to attack
    • To understand how to defend
    • To predict follow up moves
    • 2, 3 and 4 are correct
  2. If the opponent throws a forehand strike, he most likely
    • Hasn't had lunch yet
    • Has a bad shoulder
    • will follow up with a backhand strike
    • None of the above
  3. All lines of attck are the same no matter what Eskrima system
    • True
    • Falso
  4. If the opponent throws a backhand strike, he will likely
    • Phone his mom
    • Hurt his knee
    • Spin in a circle
    • follow up with a forehand strike

Answer Key

  1. 2, 3 and 4 are correct
  2. will follow up with a backhand strike
  3. Falso
  4. follow up with a forehand strike

© 2012 Nathan Bernardo

Comments

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on December 13, 2012:

I'm very familiar with the Bay Area, including San Jose, have lots of friends and family there. I will have to look him up.

Brad Masters from Southern California on December 13, 2012:

Nate

You are welcome, he has been doing martial arts for over twenty five years.

Last known area was around San Jose.

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on December 13, 2012:

Cool, ib. Maybe I should look him up, he might be teaching. Bay Area would definitely be a good place to look for this kind of martial art. I know a lot of the best Eskrimadors ended up over here in the US, particularly California. Thanks for the info.

Brad Masters from Southern California on December 13, 2012:

Nate

A friend of my studied under some top ranking masters from there. I have lost track of him but he is in the Bay Area of CA, Mark Harrell.

Nathan Bernardo (author) from California, United States of America on December 13, 2012:

I believe you on that: For one thing, there are many Filipinos in that region, many came there as farm laborers many years ago. I have heard of a lot of Filipino martial arts down in Fresno and Stockton. Thanks for stopping by, reading, and commenting.

Brad Masters from Southern California on December 13, 2012:

Most of the expertise in these arts is found in Central California.

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