Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Wing Chun and Arnis/Eskrima/Kali

It's a great source of irritation that some of my fellow Wing Chun students are already training at a local Eskrima club, whereas I don't have any spare time to do that until June.  The club I'm talking about is Warriors Eskrima at Rhyl, North Wales.
To compound my misery, at least one of the class is taking lessons at a Jeet Kune Do class in Wrexham - http://www.scimitarmartialarts.co.uk/

I realised that this actually worries me more than my upcoming grading on Sunday.  The JKD class will include elements of Kali (Danny Inosanto's preferred term for Filipino martial arts), though it is questionable how much Kali it will include.  The Eskrima class will teach more distinctly Filipino martial arts, though I know the instructor has also studied Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (not a concern, because my Wing Chun instructor also studies Five Pattern Hung Kuen).

I should explain some differences in terminology.  Very few people in the Philippines will call their martial arts Kali, though the influence of Danny Inosanto is changing that.  In Manila, and the whole island of Luzon, as far as I know, it is known as Arnis.  In Cebu, they have a tendency to call it Eskrima.

Why am I concerned about other students learning Filipino martial arts?  Well, this goes to my whole motivation for learning Wing Chun.  The grading is not so important because my grade is of secondary importance; my main motivation for learning Wing Chun is for self protection.  Ever since the two were first combined, it has been known that Wing Chun and Arnis/Eskrima go well together as an effective combat art.  I'm more than a little concerned that this knowledge is becoming more widespread.

In every martial arts class, you get the testosterone-fuelled macho idiots.  Contrary to popular belief, it is not always the younger members of a class who feel the need to prove themselves.  When you are learning a martial art for self-protection, the level of skill you may come up against in an opponent is obviously more of a concern.  I was already troubled by the rise in popularity in cage fighting.  Now, let us not get caught up in the argument over whether MMA is more effective in any situation than traditional martial arts.  The point is that, regardless of my beliefs regarding MMA, a trained cage fighter will be more skilled than the average untrained trouble causer.  It is more of a worry, because MMA classes tend to downplay, or totally omit, any philosophical context of what they teach.

Traditional arts like Wing Chun have had centuries to develop.  The Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and other arts which may comprise an MMA class also have a philosophical basis, but this tends to get lost in the bias towards competitiveness engendered in that environment.  Yes, the technical aim of Wing Chun is to incapacitate an opponent, but the philosophical context modifies that aim to a point where we only do what is necessary to assure our safety.  As my instructor has said many times, the only guaranteed method of self-defence is to run faster than an attacker can chase you.  It certainly sidesteps the issue of explaining your actions to a court.

What it all adds up to is that I have to start learning Arnis/Eskrima, even if I just get the basic concepts from a book.  When learning a martial art for self-protection, especially one that is constantly evolving, it is not wise to fall behind.

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