Lessons in Serrada and Life

Steve Klement
Arnisador Magazine - London, England
February, 1995


It is evident that a stick is traveling at a high rate of speed toward your head. You know just the same it will meet its target if something is not done within a fraction of a second. But instead of using your natural born instinct to retreat to safety, you rely on your new reflexes and close to the inside. Only a handful of people in the world feel comfortable at this range and at this speed. Pride rises within you as you gradually realize you have finally become one. You are a Serrada player... 

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While growing up in TN. I like most other teenagers my age, became very curious and interested in the martial arts. The only martial art I was even aware of at that time, was Karate. I nearly begged my Mother and Stepfather to let me take lessons at the local Dojo but they didn't favor the idea and simply wanted me to focus on the activity I was already committed to: football. So fate took its course. 

When I turned 16, contact with my father became inevitable and a trip to see him was eventually scheduled. 

In the month of December 1983 I visited my father (Masirib Guro Jeffrey Elliott) in CA by way of TN. It was a long trip by bus and ended up becoming a major turning point in my life. I was 16 when I left on that trip and I hadn't seen my father for approximately 8-10 years. After I got settled in at my fathers place he made arrangements for us to visit his "friend" Mike (Suro Mike Inay). As we pulled in the driveway I had no idea that the man I was about to meet would become one of the most important factors in my life. 

After dinner the two gave me a brief explanation about the martial art that they both practiced, Suro and my father then proceeded to give me a demonstration of Serrada Eskrima. As the words gave way to action and the sticks started to twirl, I quickly realized this was definitely not the kind of martial arts I had seen! I was highly impressed and slightly confused, I had of course never seen anything like it before. At a pause Suro Inay turned to me and asked if I had any questions. Being 16, I sometimes spoke before I thought and I asked "O.K. what if you don't have one of those sticks and someone attacks you with one?" Well, I didn't mean to, but probably asked this question in a disrespectful way. Without hesitation Suro went to his closet full of weapons and returned with a baseball bat, not a foam replica, but a Louisville slugger. He handed it to me and then instructed me to give him my best shot when I felt the urge! At first I didn't think he was serious but after looking in his eyes I knew I was dead wrong. The palms of my hands started to sweat. I sure wasn't accustomed to hitting anyone with a bat or anyone asking me to hit them with a bat for that matter! It just didn't seem right, but it didn't look like I had much of a choice at this point. After a split second of consideration, I figured I couldn't back down so I decided to give it my best shot. I took one last look at Masirib Elliott who gave me a silent go ahead with a nod. I then focused on my target and swung the bat like I had never done before... The end result - bat on one side of the room, me on the other. Not only was I on the floor but also I had no idea how exactly I got there! Between that point of disbelief and the point of getting my pride up off the floor to shake it off, I was sold on Eskrima! 

This was the first of many lessons to come. I, like many others before me mistakenly only saw the weapon aspect of the art during that brief demonstration. Seconds later I had no doubts of the ability of the empty handed Eskrimador, and never would again. 

What makes the Filipino martial arts so quick and precise with the empty hand is a direct result of the countless hours of weapons training they have undergone. Unlike most other martial art systems, the Filipino arts, generally speaking, start the students out with weapons training. The student learns to deal with angles of attack (usually 5 - 12 in most styles) and is given a set number of blocks or "counters" to perform against each of the angles. Later as the student progresses with they're studies, they are introduced to empty hand training and then realize what they have been doing with weapons can 95% of the time be directly translated into complete empty hand techniques. 

With this empty hand approach the student retains all of the movements they have studied with the weapon, thus reinforcing what they have already learned. There is no need to learn a whole new set of counters (blocks) just because they are empty handed. This simple yet highly effective way of training installs reflex within Eskrima students in record time. 

Whether it be stick, knife, hammer, bat, fist or chain the Serrada student can deal with these attacks all in nearly the same manner. The student can then focus more on the angle of attack rather than the technique they need to perform. This gives the Serrada player a significant increase in reaction time; which is exactly what is needed when faced with such an attack. 

In Inayan Eskrima we study several styles of Eskrima but focus on three "core styles" which are Inayan Kadena de Mano, Inayan Serrada, and Inayan Largo Mano. Each is taught in its whole form as a complete style and covers a specifc range: short (Kadena), medium (Serrada), and long (Largo). When the Inayan student reaches the proper level he or she can then understand how each piece fits the greater puzzle and put them together as it fits they're particular way of fighting or expressing the art. 

Each style has its own advantages and is very effective in its own right but might not be the best answer to every fighting situation. For example, a Largo Mano stylist is very adept at long ranges and the use of a long and/or heavy weapon, but what happens if that student is standing in a corner when confronted and has no space to move the way he or she was taught? In this particular scenario, having a good working knowledge of a medium or short-range style would be very beneficial. 

Having 3 ranges at his or her disposal is a great asset to the Inayan student. Whatever situation they might find themselves in, the student can quickly adapt to the surroundings at hand. They can then "flow" easily from range to range and/or style to style, depending on the circumstance, without corrupting their objective. 

The Senior Guro's of the Inayan System of Eskrima were extremely fortunate to learn these great warrior arts from a very talented and sharing instructor, the late Suro Mike Inay. Suro Mike Inay was the founder of the martial art system of Inayan Eskrima. He had dedicated his life to the propagation of the art. At the time of his death on September 27th, 2000 Suro Mike Inay had been spreading the Filipino marital arts for well over 30 years. 

In summary I would like to reemphasize that the Filipino martial arts have a tremendous amount of knowledge to offer. They are "complete" martial art systems that develop many skills for combat, including; the empty hand styles most people are unaware of, to a wide variety of weapons training. Eskrima is most definitely not 'just a stick fighting art" as assumed by many. The difference between surviving an encounter or not may be due to what kind of arsenal a martial art practitioner has to pull from. Having a style or system that teaches different ranges of combat and a full range of weapons including empty hands could be imperative. After all as Suro Mike Inay himself often said, “Spontaneous adaptability is one of the keys to a warriors survival".