Escrima Sticks: A Beginner’s Guide

0 Posted by - July 13, 2023 - Training

The traditional Filipino martial art of Escrima (also known as Arnis or Kali) is built on a combination of open-hand and weapons-based combat techniques. Many of those weapons techniques have been designed to be easily adaptable to whatever a martial artist might have on hand when they need to defend themselves. In theory, almost anything could become an Escrima weapon in the hands of a properly trained martial artist. Everything from swords to scraps of fabric have been effectively used by Escrima practitioners in combat situations. 

But there are a collection of weapons that have been specifically designed and adapted for Escrima. These are the martial arts weapons you’ll most likely be using in modern day training and sparring. The most popular and prominent of these tools are known as Escrima sticks. 

Let’s take a closer look at these Filipino martial arts weapons. 

What are Escrima Sticks?

True to their name, Escrima sticks are small, thin pieces of wood that are used for the purposes of combat and technique training in Escrima. In general, an Escrima stick will be approximately 20”-28” in length, depending on the design and make, narrow in diameter, rounded, and lightweight. Their size and shape makes them easy to use and adaptable to a wide range of close quarters combat situations. 

Escrima sticks are traditionally and most popularly made of rattan. But some models can be made in other lightweight woods like pine and ash. Practice versions of Escrima sticks featuring a hollow plastic core and foam casing are also available for beginners.

Dragon Escrima with Dragon

Where did Escrima Sticks originate?

The exact origins of Escrima sticks aren’t easy to trace. The techniques that would eventually become what we recognize as Escrima or Arnis were developed and practiced by peasants and commoners over 3,000 years ago. Their stories was mostly shared through the oral tradition, so there aren’t many written records of Escrima’s history from the actual people who practiced it. 

But here’s what historians believe happened based on the accounts that have survived significant oppression and been passed down over thousands of years and some outside sources: Filipino peasants developed a range of techniques for open-hand and weapons-based combat and self-defence. Their weapons arsenal included common tools and blades. 

As traders and settlers with their own combat techniques came to the region, local peasants appear to have incorporated some of those influences, including Silat and Chinese martial arts, into their style. Techniques involving short sticks was likely a part of those influences. 

Many historians believe that Escrima sticks gained prominence in Escrima when the Spanish colonizers banned the populace from practicing martial arts with bladed weapons. They even adapted Spanish fencing techniques for use with sticks. (In fact, “Escrima” means fencing in Spanish.)

Foam Practice Escrima

Which martial arts use Escrima Sticks?

While there are many martial arts across the world that use their own variations of staffs and sticks, Escrima sticks are best used specifically for Escrima. With a little creativity, though, you could use your Escrima sticks for casual practice and technique training in other disciplines. 

How do you use Escrima Sticks? 

Escrima sticks can be used individually or in pairs. Common Escrima stick techniques include strikes, blocks, disarming, deflection, and counter techniques. They’re also used in warmups and drills. 

Where else can you find Escrima Sticks?

Not only are Eskrima stick techniques effective, they also happen to look cool. Which makes them a favorite choice for film, television, video games, and comic books. They’re used by prominent characters in movies like Mission Impossible III, Lara Croft Tomb Raider : Cradle of Life, and Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever. They’ve also been featured in TV shows like Daredevil, Arrow and Highlander: The Series and video games like Mortal Kombat, and Call of Duty

Perhaps most famously of all, though, Bruce Lee performed double stick techniques in Enter The Dragon. 

Rattan Escrimas II

The Goods

Rattan Escrimas II: These sticks are made with lightweight yet durable rattan and come in plain and tiger stripe patterns. They’re 3/4″ in diameter and come in 20″, 23″, 26″, and 28″ lengths. Sold individually. $5.95-$11.95 USD.

Foam Practice Escrima: With a hollow plastic core and a 1/4″ foam covering, these 26″ sticks with a 1 1/4″ diameter are perfect for beginners. They come in black, blue, and red and feature a dragon print on the center. Sold individually. $11.95 USD.

Dragon Escrima with Dragon: These Escrima sticks are made of rattan and feature a dragon foil design in the center. Available in 20″ and 26″ lengths and two color schemes. Sold individually. $19.99-$29.99 USD.

ProForce® Ash Wood Escrima: Made of durable, lightweight ash wood and a walnut finish, these Escrima sticks are 26″ long with a 3/4″ diameter. Sold individually. $14.95 USD.

ProForce® Ultimate Escrima: New from ProForce®, this Escrima is made from top quality rattan. The holographic ends with the ProForce® logo are designed to catch the light and turn your competition into a dazzling display of forms and light. It’s 28″ long and 1″ diameter. Sold individually. $25.95 USD.