What is Escrima?
Escrima is an armed martial art originated in Philippines. Even though basically stick, double stick, knife, machete, sword, staff, palm stick are used in the system, the practitioner of Escrima (Escrimador) knows the weapon is only a tool to gain an understanding of body mechanics and how to use his/her body as a weapon.
In case of danger, any object around or beside you could transform into a self-defence tool. Keys, cell phone, umbrella, pencil, bottle are just a few examples… Escrima does not only focus on a weapon and teach it. It examines the weapons comparing their advantages-disadvantages, distance and weight; and gives this perspective.
It teaches using conventional and contemporary or countless improvised weapons by the “same principles and concepts”. After a while, the weapon will not have a special meaning to the Escrimador and all of the weapons will be “a whole” with these concepts.
Same principles and concepts are used for empty hand. Filipino Boxing is a crucial part of education.
Filipino Boxing which is an empty hand system and inseperable part of Escrima system teaches the practitioner that the actual weapon is the body itself. Beside all the strikes from Western Boxing it uses kick, knees and elbows. Also hammer fists, the transformation point of weapon strikes to empty hand strikes
Filipino Boxing is a complete empty hand system. Sometimes classes may pass practicing only unarmed. Shadow boxing, sparring, focus pad and heavy-bag trainings are crucial for Filipino Boxing and at our school of proWES we train these workouts.
Escrimador will gradually combine the same techniques with weapons and notice what Filipino Boxing contributes to armed practices and what armed practices contribute to Filipino Boxing.
Escrima follows a training method that brings different weapons and different distances of Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) in the same concepts.
During the basic education, weapons are used as a tool to help understanding the concepts and train body as a weapon.
At our schools, Escrima system is taught by a method constructed on some main concepts. These are simply: “Balance, speed-timing-distance, power, focusing and transition between weapons”. Thus, all the weapons and empty hand system, Filipino Boxing form a whole combining by the same concepts and principles.
The History of Escrima
The history of the Philippines stretches all the way back as far as 900 AD. Examining the history of the Philippines as a nation, it is clear that martial arts have always been an essential part of the Filipino society. Many different cultures and migrants influenced the martial arts of the Philippines, like in many other places.
Settled in about 200 B.C by the Malays, in a first wave of migrations from the Southeast, they brought with them the weapon of the long knife. Although many weapons of different shapes and sizes were brought into the Philippines, the "Kris", a wavy bladed knife from the island of Java, was the first foreign weapon to be transplanted into the Filipino fighting arts.
In 1518, Ferdinand Magellan convinced King Charles I of Spain that the Moluccas, then known as the Spice Islands, could be reached by sailing west. Magellan told the king that the Moluccas belonged to the Spanish side of the demarcation line drawn according to the Treaty of Tordesillas. The King agreed to send an expedition to the Spice Islands under the command of Ferdinand Magellan. On September 20, 1519, the expedition sailed southward across the Atlantic Ocean. Magellan reached the southernmost tip of South America, where he crossed the Pacific Ocean strait, otherwise now known as the Magellan strait. On March of 1521, he finally reached the Marianas. After resting, his men and obtaining provisions, Magellan continued his voyage and, on March 17th, 1521, sighted the mountains of Samar, marking their arrival in the Philippine Archipelago.
On April 28th, Ferdinand Magellan and his men waded ashore in knee high water to do battle with Raja LapuLapu and his men. The methodical historian at his side, Antonio Pigafetta recorded that LapuLapu's men were armed with fire-hardened sticks. In this battle, Magellan was kill by the Chief Raja LapuLapu with a Kampilan by a blow to the leg and then a thrust to the neck.
In 1542 the group of islands was officially named Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Prince Philip who later became King Philip of Spain (Philip II, 1556-1598). An explorer named Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, one of Magellan's predecessors takes credit for giving the place its name.
Spanish rule in the Philippines lasted until 1898 when Spain was defeated in the Spanish-American war. During this long period of colonization, the Spanish had some important effects on the Filipino culture. Firstly, most of the population was converted to Roman Catholicism with the exception for the Muslim Moros of the Sulu archipelago. Spanish fencing also had a direct effect on the fighting arts of the Philippines, with the introduction of the angles of attack, and the use of Espada y daga (sword and dagger). When the Spanish imposed a ban on the practice of all native fighting arts and the carrying of bladed weapons during their occupation of the islands, the Filipinos were forced to substitute the use of the sword with that of the rattan. In the beginning, the rattan was used to deliver strikes in the same manner as the blade i.e. slashing and thrusting, and the knife or short stick was still held in reserve as a back up weapon in case the opponent closed the distance, typical of its use by the Spanish. It was hardly ever used to block or parry an oncoming strike. However, through time, the Filipinos began to realize that because the stick had different handling qualities, certain lines of attack were open to them that were not available with the sword, for example, the curved and snapping strikes. Once they began to appreciate the combat effectiveness of the stick, the use of the knife also changed and began to be used more aggressively in terms of blocking, parrying, checking, scooping, thrusting and slashing. This in turn led to the creation of "Olisi y baraw", which is the stick and dagger.
Escrima and Arnis are used to refer to the weapon arts of the Philippines today. Kali is actually used outside the Philippines to refer to the same art. The term Eskrima is another wide-ranging term derived from the word Escrima, which is again derived from the Spanish term Esgrima that is the term for fencing. It is also believed to mean to skirmish.
Whatever term is used to describe the Filipino Martial Arts today it is clear that they offer deep and rewarding training for those involved.
Rene Latosa (1951 - 2022)
Rene Latosa's initial exposure to the Filipino martial arts came through his ethnic and cultural environment. As a young child, Rene first witnessed martial arts during celebrations (after the crop season was over), cultural events, and hanging around the Filipino Community Center in Stockton, CA. At this community center he would watch the "Old Timers" amuse themselves by hitting their walking sticks together as if they were sword fighters and applying locks to each other.
As a teenager, many of Rene's friends were studying Judo. He asked his father if he could take Judo or Karate lessons. His father offered to teach his young son "jitsu." He didn't believe his father knew anything about martial arts, so he did not pursue that avenue. His mother recommended taking self-defense classes taught by a long time family friend, Angel Cabales, at the Stockton Escrima Academy.
Rene started his training at the first Escrima Academy established by Angel Cabales and Maximo Sarmiento in his hometown of Stockton, CA. He had the rare opportunity to not only learn from such greats as Angel and Max but world-renowned instructors such as Leo Giron and Dentoy Revilar. He later studied intensively from his own father, Juan Latosa (who had kept his knowledge secret from his son until he felt was ready to learn), several unique and effective Filipino combat fighting systems.
When Rene left the Stockton area he had the opportunity to introduce the Filipino art to various Police SWAT Teams and to the Air Force Security forces in the Virginia area while stationed in the Air Force. Rene was later stationed in Europe where he is the first person to introduce and teach the Filipino martial arts to England and Europe. He eventually authored a book both in English and German, spent three years developing Escrima in England and Europe and eventually headed the largest organization of Escrima practitioners in Europe. Used to multi-tasking, he did this while serving his time in the US Air Force where he played football and was on the boxing team.
Late GM Rene Latosa traveled throughout the world to teach seminars and shared his knowledge with generations and left a great legacy behind.
His original organization was called the Philippine Martial Arts Society began in 1976. Escrima was the initial name used under the flag of the PMAS. The PMAS produced many excellent fighters and world champions but failed to produce well-rounded instructors. Realizing this flaw, Rene developed training methods that are now used to help the student understand the reasoning behind the techniques and the concepts of Escrima. Today, the philosophy behind Rene's Escrima system is very simple; the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. In this system the number of different techniques mastered by an individual does not increase his level of competence; nevertheless, they are tools used to understand, accept, and retain ideas. Techniques are practiced movements until combined with the proper fighting concepts. The goal is to develop a quality Escrimador who can think creatively and react responsively.
Rene's Filipino martial arts system developed and teaches is basically a method of educating students on how to understand ones body in relationship to movement. This system is a blend of the attributes which makes the many different systems of the Filipino martial arts similar. The basic system is based on five concepts – balance, focus, power, speed (timing and distance) and transition. The student must understand these concepts, then apply them to techniques, and adapt them to pre-fight, fight and post-fight situations.
The Stockton Escrima Academy
Rene Latosa's first visit to the Stockton Escrima Academy was in early 1968. Rene was greeted by Angel Cabales, holding a cigarette in one hand and a rattan stick in the other. Angel, having known Rene since he was a small kid, told him to grab a stick and Angel proceeded to demonstrated a quick technique. From this point forward, Rene was hooked and he continued to study and eventually taught at the Academy for over five years.
At the Stockton Escrima Academy in 1968, “formal training” did not exist. The method of teaching employed at the academy was strictly on a teacher to student basis. Rene remembers the ambiance at the academy was very casual, Angel was just “Angel.” For all the students at the academy, the title “Grandmaster” was inherently Angels, and his alone. To Rene’s advantage, during his first five months of training, he was the only one of three students who showed up for lessons. Rene’s initial training, with a ratio of four instructors to one student- Angel Cabales, Max Sarmiento, Leo Giron, and Dentoy Revilar- provided plenty of diversity in styles. These four individuals played a definite role in shaping the basic format of the Escrima Concepts system; however, his greatest influence was his father.
During those early days at the academy, Angel did not have student certificates or rankings. They did not exist. You were an instructor when Angel said you were (Rene did receive an advance instructors certification from Angel and another one from Max Sarmiento, the only one ever given by Max in Cadena de Mano. Angel always said that certificates, belts, and titles meant nothing without the ability to back it up.
The Ancestors of modern day Escrima
Angel Cabales did not realize how many people he had influenced during his life. As one of Rene's first instructor, part of his legacy and influence continued to live on in the the Escrima system developed by Rene.
Angel Cabales liked to teach each person individually. This is the way he was taught. He did not believe that a student could learn effectively in a group environment. Angel was a sincere instructor; he showed genuine interest in all his student's progress. He sacrificed his evenings, after working long and hard days at the farms. His drive was the pleasure of teaching. It was Angel's striving and rebellious attitude that inspired Rene. Angel, saddled with the pressure of the community and his peers not to open the art to non-Filipinos, persisted anyway. The Filipino community feared the possibilities of exploitation.
Maximo Sarmiento was Angel's partner in the Stockton Escrima Academy; he was the person responsible for persuading Angel to open the school. Max was proficient in various aspects of the Filipino arts. His specialty was knife fighting, single and double; and Cadena de Mano, empty hands. Rene spent long hours training both at the school and privately with Max. Rene achieved the only certification in Cadena de Mano as well as Serrada by the late Maximo Sarmiento. Max Sarmiento's style is evident in the compact and power structure of his Escrima.
Dentoy Revilar was Angels most senior student. Dentoy taught Rene multiple hitting, speed, and body positioning. Dentoy was a brilliant role model for all the students at the Academy. While watching Dentoy's workouts, Rene realized that the concept of focus was a major tool of the Filipino arts. Dentoy was effective, smooth, quick and focused. This is a mandatory concept in the Rene's Escrima system.
Leo Giron influence was more than exposing Rene to the Largo Mano system. Leo demonstrated that the length and the size of the weapon and the ability to work off line were an important and essential phase of the Filipino martial arts. His real life experiences and combative attitude toward what he practiced made his system a prime role model.
THE FAMILY SYSTEM
Rene's Great Grandfather, Esteben, was a well-known outlaw and a feared Escrimador. As the story has it, he possessed the Anting-Anting, "the symbol of the supernatural" coupled with his martial arts skills made him an invincible man. As a young boy of seven years, Juan Latosa, Rene's father was the only person his outlaw grandfather Esteben would allow near him. Esteben saw a future Escrimador in the brave eyes of his young grandson Juan. He tried to teach him the finer points of fighting but Juan was too young. One day as Esteben, lay sick in bed dying, he asked his grandson to take the Anting-Anting protruding from his mouth. Even as a young boy, Juan sensed that this object had evil attached to it and refused to take it. Esteben smiled at Juan's wise decision and felt assured that his courageous grandson would be a successful fighter without the Anting-Anting. In his weaken state Esteben left for the mountains never to be seen or heard from again.
Juan Latosa, Rene's father, was a well-respected fighter within the province of Capiz, and in the city of Mambusao. Rene's father was the eldest in his family. As a teenager, relatives reintroduced Juan to the Filipino martial arts. With his interest sparked, Juan asked his mother for money to study in Manila. His mother's perception of study meant academics; whereas, Juan's interpretation was to proceed to the mountains to study Escrima. For over a year he studied in a secret camp where his training extended to weapons of different sizes, shapes (kampilan, staffs, ropes, double swords, etc.), and ending with a weapon completely out of character, the Japanese samurai sword. When he returned to his village, he continued to season his skills in actual fights and by practicing with different vendors and travelers who had martial arts skills. In his village, he was the best; it did not hurt him too much that his athletic skills were at his highest level (Philippine Olympic Track Team).
He departed the Philippines in the 1920s for America seeking fortune, adventure, and a better life. On the ship to America, he confronted a Japanese Bo master because he was causing trouble and bothering the other Filipino passengers. Juan asked him to stop; consequently, the situation escalated to a death match. With the stage set, the match began with stick against staff. The fight ensued with Juan rendering the opponent down and defenseless. Being a death match, the opponent requested that he finish the job; Juan refused. His opponent had to live with the humility and loss of face for the rest of the voyage.
Uncle Pedro was a wonderful source of training and stories. He told Rene fascinating stories of his brother Juan's temperament, fights, and reputation in the Philippines. Pedro learned Escrima from Rene's father. The training he received was for survival rather than learning for learning's sake.
Rene Latosa (Go to the pervious tab to read about GM Rene Latosa)
You will see the "Escrima Grading System" in proWES below:
Frequently Asked Questions
Should I bring an Escrima Stick by me for the First Lesson?
No. We always have extra sticks and equipments for new beginners at our schools.
Why are we practicing with weapons? I do not carry a stick with me everytime I am out.
Defending with a weapon against an unarmed attacker always means a very big advantage, of course. Stick at Escrima represents long and sharp weapons like machete and bolo. Stick, could be replaced with an object without having to consider its shape or distance. Namely, you do not expertise on stick or knife, you can transform every object you handle improvisingly.
There are countless prospective weapons almost everytime and everywhere. Pencil, eyeglasses, bottle, cell phone, keys are just a few examples to be mentioned now... Escrima could be customized for any object you grab and could be carrying any moment. Besides these, you can apply the same principles with empty hand. Filipino Boxing is an important part of training.
You mean, Escrima does not Only Deal with Weapons?
Yes. The system hosts a complete empty hand system called “Filipino Boxing” using punches, kicks, knees and elbows. It uses the same body moves and could be coordinated with weapons.
Is a Class Only Specific to a Weapon Available?
No. We are teaching body mechanics and how to use any weapon or a casual object equally effectively instead of focusing on a weapon. Thus, all of the weapons will be the same to use and become complete after a while.
What should I expect about your lessons and schools?
You will be cheered asking questions to perceive better. Knowing what you learned and why, and understanding principles behind workouts or techniques and formulae are crucial. You should evaluate your progress observing your own situtation, not any others’, and you will be able to develop friendships that could everlast.
Am I Supposed to Already Have Any Martial Arts Background?
Absolutely no. It is not a necessity for beginning, albeit useful for some kinds of situations.
Should I Be Fit and Ready For Beginning Lessons?
No. Required condition level will be provided gradually and progressively at the lessons. Although fitness is not our primary aim, the student attending the lessons steadily will notice the change on his/her shape and muscular condition. Besides all, martial arts are also entertaining and perfect exercises mentally at least as much as physically.
When you begin a lesson, your instructor will keep the level suitable for your condition level. You will notice the considerable change on your condition and power as the time goes by. We even have students who achieved their weight-loss goals attending the classes steadily.
We would like to remind again that this is not a fitness, aerobic or gymnastic class. Being fit and getting good shape is deeply related to both your physical activity and sticking with healthy eating. What we want to emphasize here is practicing martial arts can give you the boost and motivation to keep a fitness lifestyle and eat a healthy diet as you go further practicing it.
What Should I Wear for my First Lesson?
You can join the lesson wearing plain white and unimprinted t-shirt, dark (black, dark blue), sportswear pants (or shorts) and clean-soled sports shoes.
Are proWES Uniforms Available so that I can Wear at the Lessons?
Yes. However, this is not a rule! But our uniforms are available for students demanding for highly affordable prices.
Can I join a Free Trial Lesson?
Yes, for sure! You can join as an audience or attend a lesson at any of our schools and ask your question to our instructors. Please get in touch with the instructor near your region from our “schools” section. Good luck!
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