Eskrima Students Learn to Defend

Barbara Womack
Knoxville News Sentinel
April, 2002

An ancient but little-known method of martial arts is gaining new recognition in light of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America.

Eskrima teaches how to ward off an attacker, with or without a weapon, regardless of the size of either combatant. It was developed in the Philippines more than five centuries ago.

"9-11 made our students realize they could have defended against the box cutters", said Steve Klement, an Eskrima instructor.

Klement says there is a major difference between Eskrima and other forms of self-defense, such as Karate.

"In Karate, you typically learn to defend yourself empty-handed in the early stages of learning. The whole philosophy of Eskrima is that you are going to war; so you are going to use a weapon rather than allow your opponent to use it," Klement says.

"We feel it is very practical. And it is also a beautiful art."

He said students learn more than just the physical techniques.

"They learn the culture and the methods behind it. You are going to get the feeling of a philosophy and not just how to fight."

The Filipinos, Klement says, created Eskrima, which means to skirmish. When their country was occupied by the Spanish, the natives were not permitted to practice their art so they hid it in dance.

He said in modern times one can use a baseball bat or a broomstick, or whatever may be handy to defend yourself.

"It's based on angles. We can all be divided up into angles. The angles are the same whether using weapons in attacking or defending."

"Once you learn the elements, it goes to muscle memory. Your body automatically adjusts to it."

"That's better than learned memory. We don't have to know it. It just happens. It is great for women because size is not a factor."

Neither is age. Some students are in their 60s, Klement said. He said there are exceptions, but usually youths are not accepted to become students until age 16.

Student applications are accepted at any time. A representative of the Inayan School of Eskrima can be reached at:  (865) 599-1005.