Filipino martial arts arose out of a need for self-defense across the islands that now make up the Philippines. Not only were there frequent skirmishes among local groups, but the islands as a whole were regular targets for occupation. Martial arts became needed for preservation, and Arnis, in many variations arose from this. Modern Pressure Point Arnis builds on this tradition, particularly Lanada’s style, discussed more below.
Why are pressure points included?
Arnis strikes are most effective when they strike places on the body that translate into the greatest impact. The #1 and #2 strikes, for example, are often aimed at the carotid artery. By being familiar with the body’s vulnerabilities, we can strike more effectively when necessary. This is also an incentive to become more accurate with our strikes.
The fluid shockwave, a unique characteristic of Lanada’s style of Arnis, is intended to transfer the greatest amount of force to a specific point. Choosing the best pressure point dramatically increases the effectiveness of the strike. Pressure points are also valuable in empty hand work, as we can learn to control the movement of others, get out of holds, or simply make the best use of our hands as weapons.
Inclusion of Bushido Zen Kenpo Karate
The bulk of traditional Arnis is most effective at a distance. The in close fighting techniques of Bushido Zen Kenpo Karate, particularly those derived from the Naihanchi kata, serve as an excellent complement to a foundation of Arnis. There are overlaps between the two styles, space such as the common position of having two hands stacked on one side of the body.
The range of weapons
Sticks. The best known of the Arnis weapons, used alone or in pairs
Bo. A long (6 foot) stick, requiring different techniques than the sticks.
Katana. Another reflection of Lanada’s interest in, respect for, and knowledge of Samauri techniques.
Bokken. A wooden version of the sword, useful for training, but with a rich lore a weapon, reflected in the tale of Miyamoto Musashi carving an exceptionally long one out of a wood oar during a boat ride to defeat Sasaki Kojiro.
Sai. Known for defense against sword. Its lineage as a farming implement is disputed.
Tonfa. A stick with a handle, which enables a range of techniques beyond basic sticks.
Sharpshooter. Master Moran’s invention, is easily carried and deployed for self-defense. Many Arnis techniques can be easily implemented with it.
Knives (single and double edged). Often used in conjunction with sticks (espada y daga)
Bolo. A Filipino blade, similar to a machete. Peasants would often craft them from whatever metal was available, including engine blocks. The weapon gained some infamy when an assassin used a bolo to try to kill Filipino first lady Emelda Marcos in 1972.
Being able to wield each weapon well is valuable in and of itself, but more important is the generalized skill set that allows the Arnisidor to wield anything as a weapon. An advanced student of MPPA can, after learning to use a half-dozen weapons well, can pick up virtually anything and wielded formidably as a weapon. The variances in size, weight, and striking angle of the range of weapons used in MPPA make the Arnisidor comfortable with using the “weapon” appropriately. For instance, when wielding an umbrella, an Arnisidor would know to use it in a #5 strike or in a supported block (similar to a sai, along the forearm) where it could be effective without breaking it or rendering it useless.
There are a range of kata in MPPA, only some from a tradition of “pure” Arnis. As with all of these, it is in the repetition (if perhaps never mastery) that we develop mushin, the ability to put them in practice without conscious thought, and bonkai, where we find applications of aspects of the kata. The goal is to learn to fight with the kata – if attacked, an Arnisidor would respond with a move (or moves) from the kata rather than something entirely different. I have found that I know flow with a relatively small number of moves, but that my repertoire increases the more I practice.
Lanada 1. This is deceptively simple, and the basic structure is easily taught to beginners. It contains all 5 of the basic strikes. But the correct angle of the strikes and precise footwork make the kata difficult to master. This is the one I always return to work on my foundational skills and where I continue to find the most bunkai.
Advanced Lanada 1. Still using only the moves in Lanada 1, this introduces greater complexity, with multiple strikes and more complex footwork. It is particularly helpful in working through bonkai related to multiple attackers.
Lanada 2. This introduces multiple strikes into the basic structure of Lanada 1, along with the overhead strike derived from Samurai techniques.
4 corners. This involves 180 degree turns, and similar to Advanced Lanada 1, helps develop bunkai related to defending against multiple attackers.
Advanced 4 corners. This introduces sinawali (whether with two sticks or espada y daga), with some changes in footwork as well.
Espada y daga. All of the Lanada forms can be done with a knife and stick. This changes way we think about the kata, and opens up a host of bonkai, particularly around the use of other weapons in a street application.
Empty hand. All of the Lanada forms can also be done empty hand. This is a great opportunity to think about the appropriate hand configuration for each strike.
Bo #1 (Fuso) – from Matsumoro Shorin-ryu. Used as an introduction to the bo, it includes several variations of strikes/blocks.
Bo #2 from Matsubiashi Shorin-ryu #1. This form starts with a less aggressive opening, and includes more dramatic footwork, including a hook stance and a kneeling position.
Bo #3. This features even more aggressive footwork, and more complex movements with the bo. I am still struggling with this form.
Sai. This form includes various strikes/blocks with the sai, as well as variation of footwork, including crane.
Naihanchi. The famous karate form, included as described under Bushido Zen Kenpo Karate. A wealth of bunkai and an opportunity to find overlaps with Lanada forms.
These drills are critical to the MPPA training. They help to develop speed, accuracy, and learning to “stick” to an opponent to be able to anticipate the next attack. The repetition of the drills helps to instill mushin, so that the response to an opponent’s strike would be reflexive. The sinawali are integral part of many drills. By developing the ability to weave the sticks (and eventually any combination of sticks, knives, empty hands, or other weapons), we can create formidable semi-hard techniques and strike many times in a short period of time, disorienting attackers and adjusting to their responses. Checking is also an important aspect as we keep in mind possible responses to our planned strikes.
Elements from Samurai techniques
In his formative years, Lanada closely studied the Samurai practice of senior Japanese officers. The influence of this can be seen in his technique and in such moves as the strike coming from over the head directly down in the Lanada 2 form.
Most martial arts hold weapons training off until the student has reached black belt. In Arnis, novices begin with weapons, and empty hand techniques are considered more advanced. There are historical roots to this – the original Filipinos being trained need to be battle ready right away. But there are benefits beyond expeditiousness. The weapons confer a greater sense of self-efficacy.
No wasted movements
No movement should be wasted, not only because it expends energy but also because unnecessary movements create vulnerabilities. Learning not to telegraph strikes (for instance, by drawing back) is critical to successful practice of Arnis, and is difficult to master. The Arnis kata contain these lessons, but it takes many repetitions of them for this to sink in. Similarly, the idea that all movements can serve as both blocks and strikes is a nuance that can take years to see clearly.
Lanada’s fluid shock wave differentiates MPPA from many Arnis style by the inclusion of hard techniques. The hard technique is essential for defeating semi-hard strikes so common in Arnis. Lanada’s success in tournaments, such that he was banned from many, is testament to the effectiveness. Similarly, MPPA’s focus on soft techniques (attaching to the outside of the strike) reflects the ability to defend against hard techniques. In many instances, we practice strikes and kata as all three types, depending on speed, intensity, and application.
Old man style
Many martial arts, particularly as taught in the United States, focus on grueling training and predominantly hard techniques. These can take a toll on anyone’s body, but they are particularly harsh on the aging martial artist. Many such techniques also require speed and muscle strength that few continue to possess in their later years. In contrast, MPAA focuses on learning for a lifetime. While hard techniques are certainly part of the MPAA repertoire, an emphasis on precision as well as semi-hard and soft techniques, enable MPPA Arnisidors to practice the art indefinitely. Indeed, students without use of their legs have trained successfully in MPPA. I fully expect to be a practicing Arnisidor for the rest of my life, and a huge majority of the techniques will remain feasible even when I am relatively infirm. I also expect that the practice will enable me to age more gracefully and remain stronger and sharper longer. In addition to the physical training elements, MPPA is a thinking person’s style. We are always thinking about the application of techniques and kata and repeating things thousands of times. This helps the brain develop robust memories and greater processing power which will endure even in the face of age-related degeneration.
Not a sport
The advent of sport karate in the last century in Japan, and similar trends in tae kwon do, mixed martial arts, and other styles, have led to a norm in many dojos in the United States of training for sparring rather than for street or military uses. In contrast to MPPA, many sport styles forbade the most effective moves. MPAA does not use sparring or tournament presentations as a training technique in order to keep the style focused on the most effective techniques for real-world application. We do knife fight, but there we use weapons that cannot harm others (designed by Grandmaster Moran from karate belts) and protect our eyes so that we can use nearly all of the techniques we learn from kata and drills without risking injuring someone.
A major part of MPPA is the development of stronger bones through conditioning. By properly calibrated, repeated strikes to the bones, they become more to deal with the repeated trauma. This is similar to weight training’s impact on muscles, which regrow stronger after the tears caused by lifting the weights. There are proven health benefits of such conditioning, particularly around increase bone density which reduces the changes of fracture, a major issue as we age. NASA has used bone conditioning to offset the loss of density due to lack of gravity.
For an Arnisidor, conditioned bones are invaluable. For instance, the forearms (the starting point for such conditioning) can be used as sticks, for both striking and blocking.
Adapted from a Japanese style, this breathing technique helps Arnisidors in many ways. As with all meditative breathing, it helps increase focus, managed and even improve mood, improve circulation, lower blood pressure, and ease digestion. But beyond that, the Nogari arm movements and focus on especially deep exhalation and inhalation can increase lung capacity which is helpful for energy level in the short term when needed for bursts and in endurance exercise, as well as in later life, when lung capacity diminishes (another old man aspect of MPPA).Not like Karate and other martial arts that take
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