Discussion in 'Filipino Martial Arts' started by Obake, Nov 13, 2015.
Its amusing that the OP is on a "Ninja Kick" looking for anything out there having a association with it
Ninja were assassins with a job to do. There were assassins in every organized culture. Assassination is not limited to martial art skill
I did read the article that Botta posted. And, while it's a good article, I don't think it's enough to completely discount the idea of influence on Filipino eskrima. Their rejection of the idea seems to be based mostly on the dissimilarities between one and the other. As though there's no difference between "influence" and "duplication." Because one doesn't look fairly precisely like the other, people are trying to make connections that aren't there. I don't think I buy that.
The Spanish occupied the Philippines from about 1521 to about 1898. That's a huge period of time marked by a fair amount of armed conflict. We would have to accept that, in all that time and through all that combative interaction, there was no influence. No observation and adoption, despite the fundamental fact that both were using bladed weapons. Yes, those weapons were markedly different. But that accounts for the observable differences in technique. It doesn't nullify the possibility of influence. Technical performance is going to be influenced by lots of things. The tools available, the terrain, previous training, AND experiences with opponents. But with those other influences in the mix, it's hardly surprising that Filipino eskrima doesn't precisely recreate Spanish fencing.
I'm no history expert, but common sense dictates that, to faithfully recreate the physical technique, you'd need the same tools. Rapiers, for instance. But weren't the Filipinos involved in a resistance effort? Carrying around rapiers would be like wearing a sticker that read "I just bumped off a few of your lads and then took their stuff." Instead, the Filipinos used implements that, as is so often the case with a resistance, looked innocent enough. Knives and axes that could pass for working tools rather than weapons.
To my mind, the same logic holds for the author's point that the Filipinos would likely have coveted steel armour or a cannon much more. Sure, a cannon would have come in handy. Along with a bunch more cannons, the means by which to move them, and a place to hide them. "Do us a favour and don't look into that tree line. We certainly haven't got the two cannons we've managed to secure hidden there or anything. No sir."
The author talked about something called "diffusionism." I think he was referring to a tendency to see similarities in language and then lend (too much) meaning to them. But come off it. The Spanish word is "esgrima." It's used to describe sword fighting. The Filipino word is "eskrima." It's used to describe sword and stick (as a stand in for a sword) fighting. That's not "lending meaning to a similarity." That's the same word filtered through two different alphabets. Same with "arnis de mano." That's straight Spanish. And the way that a people decide to describe a thing does carry meaning. People don't simply adopt a term at random. They adopt it because they believe the term has bearing on a thing they're attempting to describe. Yes, it's an approximation, but again "influence" isn't the same as "duplication."
Along those lines, if the Filipinos didn't perceive any influence, why adopt the term "espada y daga" at all? It's not as though they didn't have other words for "sword" and "dagger." Choices mean something. And we're not talking about individual choices. We're talking about choices that end up being taken up by large groups of people.
The swords. There are longer blades in Filipino martial arts. They aren't all short and hacky. Some, like the aptly named "espada," are longer and straighter. "Kampilan" aren't short either. Neither could be mistaken for a tool, mind you. So that's one thing to bear in mind. The weapons that we often associate with Filipino martial arts today (and when I say "we," I'm describing many FMA practitioners, though I've met a fair few who specialize in more "classical" weaponry like the swords described above) are the ones that one might associate with a resistance. The ones that could be taken as tools. Or the ones that use a stand in for the weapon (the stick). Or, in time, the ones that focus on a weapon that remains viable in times and places where a large blade isn't (again, the stick, but this time AS a stick).
I'm no expert in HEMA. But I've done a bit of fencing over the years. And I see plenty of similarities. As a teaching method, for instance, fencing uses the concept of angles. "Anything coming from this line can be addressed on this line." Etc. FMA does the same thing (generally known as "the 12 angles" though the specific angles change from one school or style to another). Historical fencing uses circular footwork. It's not unheard of in FMA either. In my first school, circular footwork was known as "palakaw." It's not as well advertised as triangular footwork. But, again, there are other influences to take into account. Perhaps the terrain at work didn't favour circular footwork. Perhaps that footwork didn't gel with prior training. Perhaps they simply liked the triangular footwork better. They don't have to accept the Spanish approach wholesale. Filipino martial arts have long had a reputation for adopting various techniques and adapting them to their specific needs.
In my (albeit brief) fencing career, I saw and practiced sabre techniques like the roof block (found in FMA) and what they call "palis palis" or "sweeping" in Modern Arnis. Yes, the point that martial artists might independently come up with similar techniques stands to reason. Their first loyalty is to the reality of the fights they're getting into. And if a technique is a sound solution to an attack in one case, it will be in a similar case across the globe. But when a technique appears in a system practiced by a group that occupies the lands of another group for 300 years, and then you find that technique in the fighting styles of that other group, not calling that "influence" seems a bit disingenuous. Maybe it was there all along. But unless you can absolutely establish that fact, saying there was no influence seems like discounting something out of hand.
They're different. That's clear. They drew from different sources at different times using different weapons to be applied in different settings. All of those functional considerations will shape form. No question. But is that sufficient to discount influence all together? Personally, I don't think so.
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