Filipino Martial Arts Subdivisions
Today, the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) have earned a very remarkable place in the martial arts world, but because of the multi-faceted nature of the art, they often tend to confuse some, if not many, of their practitioners, and this happens on different levels.
For a start, if a martial art begins with its name, Filipino Martial Arts troubles you from the very first step. Kali, Arnis, Escrima (or Eskrima) are all different terms to name what is more commonly called Filipino Martial Arts (also shortened to FMA).
Then, when you get more into the discipline itself, you discover that there are so many different styles under the same art, not to talk about the different terminologies employed to refer to techniques, moves, and the rest of it (this due to the countless existing dialects the Philippines).
But besides terms and styles, there are some other aspects that can be hard to figure out, like getting a proper understanding of the different segments, or areas, of this extremely heterogeneous art.
The Filipino Martial Arts are best known for their weaponry training - mainly stick fighting and knife fighting - but also for their empty hands (hand-to-hand) aspect of the art. Now, the thing is that even within those two main areas - weaponry and empty hands - some subdivisions exists, and I know that a lot of practitioners out there, be them students or instructors, try their best to define them, especially when it comes to the empty hands area.
A possible, simple subdivision
After all this years of practice and immersion in the world of the Filipino Martial Arts, at some point I came up with my own classification for the main areas and their respective subdivisions of this discipline, so I'd like to share it with my students and of course with any other FMA fellow out there.
Here's what it looks like:
Panandata (weaponry subdivision)
- Double sticks
- Single stick (Solo Baston)
- Stick and knife, or long blade and knife (Espada y Daga)
Pangamut or Suntukan (hand-to-hand subdivision)
- Panantukan (Filipino boxing)
- Sikaran/Pananjakman (Kicking art)
- Hubud (trapping, flowing drills)
- Dumog (grappling area)
- Kunsi (locking)
- Buno (takedowns, sweeping, unbalancing)
- Walis (sweeping)
- Kina Mutai (art of biting, pinching, eye gouging)
As you can see, a first "big" division is here made between weaponry art and hand-to-hand combat. (Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive classification for all of the FIlipino Martial Arts areas, but just the main ones, the ones to which the majority of students and instructors actually devote most of their training time).
So, we got Panandata (or Pananandata), which is the weapons-based aspect of the art, and than we have the Pangamut (or Pangamot), which represents the empty hands - hand-to-hand - part. Somewhere, depending of the geographical area, the term Suntokan is used for describing the Filipino hand-to-hand combat art, but I believe that Pangamut is more common.
Within the Panandata a very simple subdivision is made by the different kinds of weapons (or combination of them). Again, we could identify more subdivisions, such as "double knives" or even "knife to hand", or stick to hand", but to me those are implicitly included in the relative subdivision.
One word of warning needs be spent here to say that this list does not include "all" of the weapons used in FMA. I deliberately left out some of them, like the "Stuff" and the "Pocket Stick", or some flexible weapons such as the "Sarong" or the "Nunchaku" and some sort of singular blades, like the "Karambit" (or Kerambit). My intent here is to provide a "first-level" weapons-arts that are most commonly used in FMA training.
Now, more interesting than the weaponry area and its subdivisions, is the empty hands one, since it's subject to many interpretation and therefor confusion.
First of all, it is a general habit to use the term "Panantukan" to refer to the hand-to-and Filipino style. Nothing wrong with that, actually, except that technically speaking "Panantukan" is only one part of the global empty hands system. (Panantukan gets translated into Filipino Boxing, or "Dirty Boxing" which uses various hand-type strikes, elbows, and limb destruction techniques, commonly called "Gunting").
But when you dig deep into the empty hands portion of the discipline, you discover that there are many other divisions in addition to the Panantukan, as we can see from the above classification, in the the entire hand-to-hand system.
Pananajakman (or Sikaran), for example, is the Kicking art in the system, while Hubud (shorten from "Higot Hubud Lubud") is a division that focus on the trapping range development as well as on different flowing drills needed to implement techniques and attributes into the practice.One other fundamental area is Dumog, which is referred to as "Filipino Grappling", and some argue that the terms "Buno" is the equivalent of "Dumog", but my personal research in this matter brought me to state that Buno indicates more the "sweeping and unbalancing" art than the actual grappling and locks. So in my classification, Buno gets its own place, while "Kunsi", which is the locking art, is incorporated into the Dumog division.
A last division is the Kina Mutai, which is the art of biting and pinching and even though it is not often taught into the system, it is still a valuable part of the Filipino empty hands system.
So, there it is, my way of classification (at the moment of this writing), published here to help everybody visualize the main aspects of the Filipino Martial Arts.
But, as already stated, this classification is not exhaustive, and does not represents the entire Filipino Martial Arts universe.
The 12 areas of the Filipino Martial Arts according to Guru Dan Inosanto
I could't write an article about the Filipino Martial Arts subdivisions without mentioning the well known work of classification that Guru Dan Inosanto use to share with us and that is obviously used by many as a steady reference.
According to Dan Inosanto there are 12 areas that embody the Filipino Martial Arts (or maybe more precisely the Lacoste system), and I'd like to publish it here to accompany the rest of the article. This classification looks like this:
- Single Stick (Olisi or Bastone)
- Single Sword
- Single Axe
- Single Cane
- Double Stick (Double Olis or Dubli Bastone)
- Double Sword
- Double Axe
- Stick and Dagger (Olisi-Baraw) or (Bastone y Daga)
- Cane and Dagger
- Sword and Dagger (Espada y Daga)
- Sword and Shield
- Long and Short Stick
- Double Dagger (Baraw-Baraw) or (Dubli Daga)
- Double Short Sticks
- Single Dagger (Baraw-Kamot)
- Single Short Stick
- Palm Stick (Olisi-Palad)
- Double end Dagger
7th Area (Pangamut, Kamot-Kamot or Empty Hands)
- Panantukin (Boxing to include use of the Elbows) Elbows (Sieko)
- Pananjakman or Panantukin and Sikaran (Kicking to include use of Knees and Shin)
- Dumog, Layug, or Buno (Grappling) and Kuntzi (Locking)
- Ankab-Pagkusi also heard kini mutai (Bite and Pinch)
- Sagong Labo or Higot-Hubud-Lubud (“Tying-untying, and blending the two”, trapping range sensitivity exercise)
8th Area (Long Weapons)
- Staff (Sibat)
- Oar (Dula)
- Paddle (Bugsay)
- Spear (Bangkaw)
- Spear and Circular Shield
- Spear and Rectangular Shield
- Spear and Sword/Stick
- Spear and Dagger
- Two Handed Method (Heavy stick, Olisi Dalawang kamot)
- Two Handed Method (Regular stick)
9th (Area Flexible Weapons)
- Sarong (clothing worn in Southern Philippines and Indonesia)
- Belt or Sash
- Whip (Latigo)
- Rope (Lubid)
- Chain (Cadena)
- Scarf, headband, Handkerchief (Panyo)
- Flail (commonly known as the nunchucko) Olisi Toyok or Tobak Toyok
- Stingray Tai
10th Area (Hand thrown weapons, Tapon-Tapon)
- Wooden Splinter
- Coins, Washers
- Stones, Rocks
- Sand, Mud, Dirt
- Pepper, Powder
- Any object that can be thrown
11th Area (Projectile Weapons)
- Bow and Arrow (Pana)
- Blowgun (Sumpit)
- Slingshot (Pana Palad)
- Lantanka (Portable Cannon)
12th Area (Mental, Emotional, Spiritual training)
- Healing Arts
- Health Skills
- Rhythm and Dance
- History, Philosophy and Ethics
As I said, this represent quiet an exhaustive list. Never less, I wanted to suggest my own classification, with just 2 main areas and their subdivisions, because thiose are what we actually train the most in the Filipino martial Arts and I always tend to simplify what can be simplified.
I hope this article is useful for my students and everyone else involved in the training and in the practice of the Filipino Martial Arts, and that will help you to make some sort of order out of the possible confusion that sometimes the wonderful Filipino martial Arts can generate when it comes to identifying the many areas of this art.
Feel free to comment and share your insights on the subject. I'll appreciate any adding to the article.