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24 Strikes of Counter Espada Y Daga

Years ago, when my Arnis teacher Jess taught me his art as taught to him by GM Ernesto Presas he called it Modern Arnis. I recently read an article in the Filipino Martial Arts magazine on Kombatan's 12-Strikes Fighting Method. It showed the 12 strikes that I had learned with a new twist, they are now done with a continuous flow, emphasizing the sub-arts that they came from.

I sent an e-mail to my old teacher about it and he said the we now have Kombatan and Mano-Mano as a combination of weapons and empty hands w/c most of the techniques coming from what I learned as Modern Arnis, and Combat Karate. He then reminded me of the sequence that I learned as 24 strikes as counters to espada y daga.

That's a drill that I have neglected for years, I got out my old notebook from my study with Jess, grabbed a stick, and went out in my yard and brought it back. It came quickly, still in muscle memory from all of the repetitions that I had done when I learned it. How could I have let such a gem lay in a drawer. For the past few years I have been compacting my art and focusing on movement that works both with, and without weapons and have neglected this. My bad, this one is back in my daily practice sessions again.

WARNING: These techniques should be considered to be very dangerous. Poking or striking someone with a stick could cause injury or death. This article is intended for practitioners of Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) that have a competent instructor to give them guidance. Practice, or use this stuff at your own risk.

General Notes

The drill is practiced as one continuous flow with an emphasis on developing speed. I will break it down into it's component parts and you must learn it slowly but don't lose sight of the fact that it is ultimately one fast blur of movement.

I was originally taught that these movements are especially useful against espada y daga where the opponent has both a sword and dagger, and he is changing the focus of long and short rapidly. Rather than focusing on target areas as in most 12 strike systems, the focus is on the strikes and their transitions. It is not a replacement for 12 strike target/angle training, it is a training method for developing speed and flow with combinations appropriate for countering an opponent with sword/baton and a left hand dagger. Espada y dagga is a high art, and to fully appreciate the applications for these strikes requires a knowledge of espada y daga, but the strikes can be learned as part of your solo baston training that takes place before the science of long and short is a mature part of your understanding of your art.

I recommend that you first learn the movements in the clusters that I present before moving on to learn the entire sequence. I also strongly recommend that you do your warm-ups before practicing this drill and that you learn it well with rattan before attempting to progress to heavier weapons. The risk of injuring yourself is very real if you attempt some of these combinations with heavy weapons too soon.

As with all Southeast Asian martial arts, first learn the hand/stick movements without footwork. The strikes have a natural flow between long, medium, and short range but eventually you should incorporate footwork that allows zoning and more pronounced changes between long and short.

NOTE: The illustrations show the path of the tip of the stick from the perspective of the striker (you). The explanation assumes a right handed grip on the stick, reverse everything for left handed practice so that the outside gate remains the outside gate and the inside gate remains inside. In order to simplify the explanation I will use two terms that are not commonly used in FMA; drill and overturn. For those not familiar with the terms the explanation is as follows:

Hold your right hand in front of you with the palm to the left and back of hand to right. Rotate your hand clockwise so the palm turns up and the back of the hand turns down.

Hold your right hand in front of you with the palm to the left and back of hand to right. Rotate your hand counter-clockwise so the palm turns down and the back of the hand turns up.

Movements 1 - 4

Image: Strikes 1 - 4, diagram showing the flow described in the text. STRIKE # 1: Downward strike, as if you were slicing down the center line with a saber.

STRIKE # 2: Transition at the bottom of the strike, drill your hand as it falls so that the tip of the stick circles outward. Let the dip of the stick circle around from low right to high right. Strike from upper right to lower left, with the hand position of a sword slash like the first strike of the crusada X striking pattern.

Note: This transitional twirl will be familiar to anyone who has used nunkchau.

STRIKE # 3: Transition the hand circling upward while drilling to perform a vertical abanico strike where your palm faces upward and the strike would be with the flat of the blade if you had a sword (this technique is for a baton). The emphasis is on speed and abanico is quicker than crusada in this case and is just right for striking your opponent's high thrust with his left handed dagger. It also facilitates the quick follow-up downward strike.

STRIKE # 4: Transition by overturning your hand so the baton makes a cone like circle until the palm is facing left and strike downward as in strike # 1.

Note: When learning the sequence I advise practicing the sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, 2, 3, 4, ... as a continuum. You can burn it into muscle memory very quickly since you can get high repetitions in quite quickly with this practice sequence. This is a baton sequence but you can practice it with nunkchau. Be aware the transition from 3 to 4 will be a bit awkward at first (ouch potential) but it will teach you the proper recovery from strike 3 both it you connect with your target, or miss. I am not fond of striking with the flat of a sword as there is potential for breaking it. With the blade, strike # 3 should become sunkiti (a thrust) which will be used latter in the 24 strike sequence. Your practice should be with a baton and a fanning abaniko strike however.

Movements 5 - 7

Image: Strikes 5 - 7, diagram showing the flow described in the text. STRIKE # 5: The sequence of strikes # 5 and 6 are known as banda y banda. The transition from strike # 4 is the same as from # 1 and 2 except that it is much tighter so strike # 5 is thrown fist pointing down (if you had a sword the blade would be down) and palm side of hand facing left. The stick is whipped horizontaly to the left at the height of the belly. It can be tight with mostly wrist action, or more widely with a bit more arm.

STRIKE # 6: Maintain the same position of the hand as the baton is whipped back along the same line striking horizontally to the right at the height of the belly. The target is the hand of your opponent as it crosses vertically when he strikes at you. Obviously you would be using footwork to dodge his strike.

STRIKE # 7: Transition by drilling your hand as the stick makes a small circle before the strike downward across center toward the opponent's knee.

Note: The banda y banda movement can be very stressful on your wrist and forearm, be sure to warm-up before practicing this movement, and learn it with light rattan. Poor warm-up and a heavy baton is a path to a training injury that will set back your training.

Note for nunkchau practitioners: The banda y badna can not be as tight as with the baton. The transition from strike # 5 to 6 requires a "soft" landing wrap around your side if your nick-name isn't Iron Hand, and be sure to keep your left elbow out of the way!

Movements 8 - 11

Image: Strikes 8 - 11, diagram showing the flow described in the text. This sequence was taught to me as figure 3 strikes, in other systems I've heard it called florette (flowers). They are double strikes where the first hits the weapon and the follow-up hits the hand, or the first hits the hand and the follow-up hits head or body.

STRIKE # 8: Transition from strike # 11 by overturning your hand as it circles in a fairly wide arc up and around the left with the stick tip down forming a wing block on your left side. Then drill your hand as if passes the head so the stick travels in a near horizontal plane above your head like a counter clockwise turning helicopter rotor. Strike down left from high right with the hand in the position for a chopping percussive strike if you had a sword. This strike ends in front of you.

STRIKE # 9: Transition by twirling your baton in a cone shape counter clockwise by overturning, then drilling your hand. With a baton the cone should be fairly tight, the most common criticism that I received when learning this strike was that the cone was too open. Strike along the line of strike # 8 but let it slash through to your lower left.

If you are using nunkchau you must raise your hand with this twirl to avoid whacking yourself in the head since you can not force the flailing stick to maintain a cone.

STRIKE # 10: Strikes # 10 and 11 are a figure 3 strike from low left to high right, reversing the path of the figure 3 strike of # 8 and 9. Transition by overturning your hand making a tight circle as you strike up/right.

STRIKE # 11: Transition by bending the wrist as you drill your hand, then circle your hand counter clockwise as you overturn it to strike along the path of strike # 10. Hand leads stick so when the swing reaches high right the tip is still pointed in the direction of your opponent.

Note: You should also teach yourself figure three strikes along the high left/low right line.

Movements 12 - 14

Image: Strikes 12 - 14, diagram showing the flow described in the text. This sequence is much like the opening sequence strikes # 2, 3, and 4, but this time the first two strikes are sungkiti (thrusts).

STRIKE # 12: Transition by returning your hand in a thrusting motion from high right to low left. The strike is a thrust, but it does not just poke, it rips through.

STRIKE # 13: Transition by drilling the hand and around in an arc so the thrust comes from the left as if you were doing an empty handed outward block.

STRIKE # 14: Transition by overturning the hand and strike downward as with strike # 4.

Note: With nunkchau you may wish to change your hand position during the sungkiti sequence to keep from beating yourself up although in combat you could sunkit and let the flailing stick go where it may, or you may whip the movements to convert them to strikes. It's your hand, don't blame me when you whack it.

Movements 15 - 16

Image: Strikes 15 - 16, diagram showing the flow described in the text. This is another sungkiti sequence like movements # 12 and 13 but rather than ripping in a downward arc at the chest or throat, the figure eight is more shallow and the thrust is to the eyes.

STRIKE # 15: Transition by circling your hand from low right out to the right and up, then in with an overturning motion of the hand. Thrust high with palm down.

STRIKE # 16: Transition by bringing your hand left and back towards yourself, drilling the hand, and keeping the point of the stick pointing towards the opponent's face. Thrust high from the left shoulder with the palm up.

Note: The same caution for sungkiti with nunkchau goes here as for the last sequence.

Movements 17 - 18

Image: Strikes 17 - 18, diagram showing the flow described in the text. STRIKE # 17: Transition once again as with the transition from movement # 3 to 4. Your hand at the end of the thrust is the same as it was after the vertical abanico of strike # 3. Strike straight down as if you were trying to split your opponent into two halves. End the strike with your hand near your right hip and the tip of the stick is pointing toward your opponent.

STRIKE # 18: Transition by returning the hand back toward your opponent. The strike is a thrust towards his abdomen. If he rushes you after defending against your downward strike your thrust should hit his crotch. If he backs away, your thrust should hit his belly or solar plexus.

Note: With nunkchau you may wish to change the thrust of movement # 18 to an upward whip with a clockwise whirling transition to # 19.

Movements 19 - 21

Image: Strikes 19 - 21, diagram showing the flow described in the text. This sequence explores abanico in the horizontal plane.

STRIKE # 19: A common counter to a low thrust is to side-step, or step to the oblique, and strike down and across to beat the thrust down, or sever the arm of the attacker. It is most common to step left as it is easier to throw a powerful strike down and right, plus you are moving away from the left land dagger. The transition from the # 18 low thrust anticipates the counter, or flows with it, by swinging the baton slightly down, and left. The hand drills as the baton is raised up so your hand is just above your head. The path of your hand spirals a bit like a cork-screw while the baton circles clockwise. The strike known as abanico passes over your head like a helicopter blade as you drill your hand to the extreme with your elbow down. If you had a sword the flat of the blade would smack your opponent in the face, or strike his dagger thrust that would be coming over his sword.

STRIKE # 20: Transition by overturning so your whole arm, from the shoulder, wrings itself in the opposite direction and your baton passes over your head like a helicopter blade in the opposite direction. Strike with another abanico with the flat smacking the back/side of his head.

STRIKE # 21: Transition by drilling the hand and circling the tip of your baton so you can strike downward once again.

Note: Nunkchau requires a lot more arm during the horizontal abanico than with a stick. Chucks are a bit harder to use with tactical strikes than for demonstration twirling. Did you remember to wear your protective pads, gloves, headgear, etc.?

Movements 22 - 24

Image: Strikes 22 - 24, diagram showing the flow described in the text. The last pattern is crusada and rompida.

STRIKE # 22: Transition by drilling the hand while raising it to high right. Strike with a slashing motion from high right to low left.

STRIKE # 23: Transition to complete the crusada X pattern by overturning the hand as it circles left and up. Strike by slashing with the hand position for a blade to cut from high left to low right.

STRIKE # 24: The rompida transition is performed by drilling while allowing your hand to continue backwards, then up in a circle the brings your hand up over your head while overturning so it is back to the starting point of strike # 23. Strike with a repeat of strike # 23.

Note: Nunkchau users should feel right at home for these strikes.

Some Final Thoughts

You should have noticed that the dominant strike is a downward strike. This strike is both a very dangerous strike when aimed at you opponents head, and a powerful defense against the deadly thrusts coming from your opponent. Another noteworthy aspect of the sequence is that it's focus on rapid strikes to the central line.

I'll leave it to the reader to determine how the foot work is blended into the strikes. Since you have one weapon, against two with the opponents most powerful weapon in his right hand, footwork that zones left, outside his dominant weapon and away from his left handed dagger is probably the first footwork that you should look for.

Dave Murray - 27 Jun 2001