Taking up the Cane: Basic Skills in Arnis

basic skills in arnis

Modern Arnis is a powerful stick fighting art from the Philippines. The hallmark of this amazing style is the fluid stick and empty hand techniques that make practitioners so fast and effective. Hopefully this article will start to give you the basic skills in Arnis to start working towards the speed and fluidity to call yourself a modern arnis practitioner.

Firstly, I don’t recommend training a martial art without the supervision of a proper instructor.

See the advanced Arnistechniquehere:

The Weapon

When you go to an arnis club, you will find a weapons rack full of rattan canes (a type of grass that grows in the pacific area) wrapped in colorful electric tape to prevent the materials from fraying and falling all over the ground. The canes range from 24-28 inches and vary in width 7/8th-1.5 inch.

One of the major reasons that rattan has been one of the staples of arnis/eskrima/kali is that these canes are easily found and cultivated in the environment. So for you this means that you should start with whatever is available to you (wood, steel, pvc, etc…).

Basic Skill in Arnis - Sticks

The sticks used in arnis.

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Where to start

Starting Arnis is like growing up. We start with learning to stand.

  • Assume a natural stance with feet one shoulder width apart and feet on a 45 degree angle.
  • Knees should be slightly bent and you should grip your cane on opposite sides, palms down, and resting comfortably in front of you.
  • After standing you want to practice moving forward and backward with the cane in your hands.
  • Bring the weapon up to your chest like you are being held up (Charged position).

Striking before blocking

You need to be as effective as possible as quick as possible so you start with striking before blocking. The first strike is a thrust. You step forward and strike out and back with the middle of the cane while still holding both ends. Your motion is similar to when you push with both hands. Target the head, ribs, knees, etc… The step is to step so that your side is facing the target, keep your grip on the cane and strike with the same side forward.

Once you get the hang of thrusting strikes, we will move on to angled strikes. From the charged position step forward and strike with a hooking fashion with the same side corner of the cane (like doing a hook punch with a stick in your hands). Aim at temples, ribs, face, kidneys (There are NO wrong targets).

All of the strikes up to this point have been with both hands on the cane so the next strike is meant to introduce you to the can moving in one hand while moving to a new distance. You are going to start in the charged position and using the tension of the rear hand you are going to snap the cane out to the target and back. (This is the way to introduce you to strikes 1, 2 and 10, 11 of modern arnis).

That should be enough strikes to get you started and to start to condition you to controlling the cane and to distancing with the weapon.

Stop, and Block

Start from the charge position and strike out in a similar fashion to the first attack you are going to block in a stop sign (octagon) fashion starting high and moving in a clockwise fashion. You can block in any direction with one of the angles for the stop sign. You want to strongly thrust out to ensure that you are canceling the force of the attack. Aim the middle of your cane at the attacking strike to ensure that you don’t have to worry about having your hand struck.

The best place to block is as close to their hand as possible to avoid the most dangerous part of the cane. Step forward as you intercept the strike and keep your arms bent to absorb the strike.

Continuing education

These are some basic skills in Arnis. If you really want to learn more about modern arnis, then you should go out and find a licensed martial arts instructor in your area. The strikes and blocks here are great ways to pick up your new cane and practice modern arnis.

Everything above will make you able to hit the ground running. Hopefully these tips and techniques will help you to get comfortable with your new weapon, distancing, and impact. If you want to continue your introduction into modern arnis then you can start with the 12 strike pattern.

This pattern gives you all of the strikes for modern arnis is a well designed pattern that you can repeat like any form. You can also train this pattern with a partner by practicing the blocks against the strikes. There is no end to the engagements you can create from these patterns.

Robert Sterling
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Teaching, Friendly, Young, Passion. Always wanna go up & down. Hey, you gotta live, do you?  

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