Espada y Daga Revisited

Let's See, I'll Just Cross Myself Up Here and...

Master Gatdula has a great post on espada y daga over at Filipino Fighting Secrets Live. What I like about this post is that it got me thinking. I’ve been mulling over the ideas in the blogpost, and I may eventually change my mind, but it’s made me examine what I’m doing and what makes sense.

I think the FMA is in danger of stagnating, as people repeat the same techniques, make the same assumptions, and train in the same unrealistic ways. The FMA is also in danger of becoming a caricature of itself, with outlandish costumes, exotic titles, and showcase weapons.

Master Gatdula’s points in italics are followed by my thinking

  • Spend more time practicing attacks than defenses. This is a WEAPON, not a shield!

Agreed. If you go on defense against a guy with two weapons, you’re in trouble.

  • Drop the silly knife while you’re at it. It’s your weak hand–develop it as a multi-use weapon. If it’s holding on to a knife, you have just eliminated any possibility of grappling with your opponent. You can’t grab him, you can’t full him, you can’t hold him.

This is the view of all of the Cebuano masters, that the fighter is better off with a free hand than with a second weapon. Since I am not a grappler, and prefer to hit over grappling, I prefer a second weapon or a two-handed weapon.

  • And nine times out of ten, you will probably never have a knife in your hand at the same time as a stick. You’d probably be more likely to be fighting with light sabers.

If you carry a knife on you, and carry a stick, a stick-and-knife scenario is not that far fetched. One of the few times in my life when it almost came down to real combat I had a stick and a knife. I would agree, though, that a stick-and-knife versus stick-and-knife scenario is extremely unlikely. You might as well plan on maneuvering your opponent into the path of a falling meteorite.

  • I doubt that you’ll have many reasons to kill a man. If you ever found yourself in a situation to fight to the death, drop the stick, put the knife in your strong hand, and gut your opponent quick.

I carried a knife for years, but you really need to think through the implications. Are you prepared to kill somebody? What are you going to do when there is a fight, but using a knife is not warranted?

Here Master Gatdula is raising the interesting strategy of abandoning the stick and focusing on using the knife. The reasoning is solid to me. I think the reason why this is a valid strategy is that the typical short stick lacks stopping power.

  • If you have subdued an opponent while you have sticks in your hands (you and your opponent) and you haven’t taken your opponent out by the time he knifes you in the belly, you’re going to die. Practice running-before-you-bleed-to-death technique. You aren’t going to catch your opponent’s blade with your stick.

This is sound advice. A knife is dangerous, and can get you killed. A stick-and-knife scenario is no less dangerous.

I Just Can't Get Enough of Crossing Myself Up!

  • Try this reliable, old trusty fighting strategy:  Stick and move. Attack your opponent, and then move.

The problem here is the “lock and block” training method. Master Gatdula mentions it earlier in the post. In lock and block, the feeder throws a stick strike, and freezes in a solid stance. You (or Grand Tahong Bukowski) do an eighteen move sequence. The feeder now throws a thrust with the knife, and freezes in a solid stance. You do another twenty strikes.

In real life those two strikes with the stick and dagger will come in like a 1-2 boxing combination, ba-bap! Your first move had better not be to block. You need to shut down the guy with the knife immediately. A good way to do that is to be mobile, move to the opponent’s outside, and either strike at long range or take him out with a head shot.

But I see these guys who want to move right into the teeth of a stick and knife attack and try to block, counter, block, counter, etc. In my view that’s insane. By staying mobile and out of range, you are able to confront just one weapon at a time.


2 Responses to “Espada y Daga Revisited”

  1. Excellent article, as usual. I agree completely with using footwork, mobility, etc. in lieu of a direct frontal assault when dealing with a weapon. Reminds me of the WWI bayonet charges directly into machine gun fire…valiant but not too bright. I was taught to attack and feint at angles and to try and get past the opponent while hitting. We called it “zoning” outside while throwing an anatomically correct shot of our own.

  2. “You (or Grand Tahong Bukowski) do an eighteen move sequence. The feeder now throws a thrust with the knife, and freezes in a solid stance. You do another twenty strikes.”

    This is sweet! “Grand Tahong Bukowski,” LOL! I am loving this! Again, I strongly agree with this one! In reality, we can only give “a counter beat” which means we might have the chance to steal one beat or 1:2 not 1:20. Some teachers out there mislead their students by the way how they demonstrate the techniques like the above mentioned “Grand Tahong Bukowski!”

    Thanks a lot for your “make sense” article! It is hard to find one now a days!


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