Krishna Godhania is regarded as one of the leading exponents of the Filipino Martial Arts in Europe. He has been practicing the martial arts for more than 20 years. The last 12 years of which have been dedicated to researching and studying the Filipino Martial Arts.
Krishna has traveled to the Philippine Islands – numerous times to study Eskrima/Arnis; the first of these trips was in January 1992. It was during this field trip – that he met Grandmaster Abner Pasa – a leading exponent of the art in the Philippines.
Abner Pasa is the founder of the Balitok Eskrima system and the Chief Instructor of the Warriors Eskrima club in Cebu City. After many years of study with various renowned eskrimadors throughout the Philippine Islands, Pasa organised the Institute of Filipino Martial Arts.
The main aim of the Institute was to analyse and document the lesser-known systems of various masters and grandmasters – thus preserving the various styles of Eskrima/Arnis so that they could be taught to future generations.
Since, Krishna was accepted as a closed-door student by Abner – he was exposed to this vast knowledge. Some of the other teachers he was thus able to learn from were Fortunato “Atong” Garcia (Yaming Arnis), Tanny Campo (Pangamut), Liborio Heyrosa (Balintawak Arnis), Vicente Karin (Doce Pares Eskrima), and Romy Macapagal (Kalis Ilustrisimo).
Krishna lived with these Masters – so that he could experience Eskrima as a way of life. Aside from learning their fighting arts, Krishna interviewed them – thus obtaining scarce details of their teachers and challenge matches.
Krishna teaches the following categories of Eskrima:
Single stick (solo baston), knife (baraw) defense, double stick (doble baston), espada y daga (sword and dagger), pangamut (empty hands), sibat (staff). Training with Krishna is intense but fun; he puts a big emphasis on developing good basics – focusing on two areas – effective striking and defense.
The following describes some of the training methods, which Krishna teaches.
According to Krishna effective striking involves not only hitting with speed and power, but also with pinpoint accuracy.
To develop the power and accuracy with the baston, Krishna recommends using two basic supplementary training aids. The first one is a wooden pole about six (6) inches in diameter and about six (6) feet tall. Its length is wrapped by stripes of rubber fashioned from worn-out automotive tires. It can be fixed or moveable. The other one is a contraption where three (3) golf balls are attached securely to a nylon rope at certain intervals. Elastic rubber stripes are attached to the end of both ropes. The ends of the rubber stripes are secured to a hook, which is used to hang them from the ceiling and the floor.
Training with the post gives you practical experience on how it feels when your strike connects with the target, if the alignment of your hand is incorrect upon impact – your wrist will know about it; if your grip is too loose you will end up disarming yourself. Hitting the post also accelerates the hand-conditioning process, but most importantly – striking the post helps you develop the ability to focus your blows properly, eventually you will develop power in your witik strikes. To maximise the power of your strike endeavor to connect with the tip of the stick – preferably the first three inches.
The three-ball contraption develops a variety of attributes. Firstly, the movement, which arises when you strike the golf balls, forces one to develop hand-eye co-ordination skills, it also, develops your timing. Finally, since the target is small (golf ball), it will ensure that you develop an appreciation for accuracy. After working with these training aids, striking large target points such as a car tire or the heavy bag with the stick becomes rudimentary.
Next, one must develop a sound defence; after which one can develop the counter-strikes. Traditionally, in the Philippines – Eskrimadors would exhibit their skills at local fiestas. A popular attraction was for a local expert in the art to challenge one and all to a friendly match. The object was for the eskrimador to defend and counter-strike without being struck or losing his balance. Such was the skill that, often when balanced on a triangle of coconut halves (bokong) – he rarely lost.
This and other unique training methods are employed to enhance the student’s defensive skills.
The next progression is to learn the disarming techniques. Krishna teaches disarming techniques in three ranges; these are long (larga mano), medio (medium) and corto (close).
Next one is taught, locks (trangkada) and then takedowns using the stick. This then completes the first basic stage of training called Abecedario.
The second stage of training involves two person flow drills. The aim of these is to develop good reflexes, increase hand-eye coordination and develop timing. Some of the flow drills, which Krishna teaches, are Cinco-Cinco, Pakgang, Sombrada, Songkite Florete to name but a few.
The final stage of training is freestyle sparring. This is where the student develops his/her understanding of distance and range, and how to apply strategy and tactics such as feinting and drawing.
Three types of sparring are practiced. The first two are performed full contact. The first is sparring with full armor using rattan sticks, the second is sparring with padded sticks – minimal protection (light headgear only), the final type is called Palakaw – this is controlled freestyle sparring.
Krishna also teaches the knife lessons in a structured progression. First, the various targets on the body are identified using both slash and thrust attacks. Six defences are then taught per angle of attack. From each defence, the student is taught how to counter-attack by disarming, return to sender, arm wrentching/breaking, locking, choking, sweeping or throwing.
Two flow drills are then taught. These are called Pit-Al and Tapi-Tapi. These drills teach you to defend against a more sophisticated knife attack, eventually the student will increase hand speed, develop excellent reflexes and one’s level of sensitivity will be greatly enhanced.
Finally, one engages in knife sparring. This is where the student learns to cope with the chaos and unpredictability of a knife fight. Techniques previously learnt – are applied, but if they are countered – the student is taught to improvise and adapt to the situation.
Double stick training as taught by Krishna, is broken into two areas. These are co-ordination drills – practiced for attribute development, and combat drills – which can be applied in sparring.
The co-ordination drills are practiced from three chambers. These are the open chamber, parallel chamber, and closed chamber. Various movements such as pinke-pinke, amarra, and siniwali are applied from these chambers.
The combat drills – employ such styles as Fraile, Crossada, Redonda, Degaso etc. The difference between these series of movements and the co-ordination drills is that you do not “mirror” your opponent. Therefore, they are performed in a more broken-rhythm, the Cuentada – or countering principle is also introduced within these drills.
Once the drills have been mastered, double stick sparring is practiced.
Krishna also breaks the methods of stick and dagger – into two areas. These are Olisi y Baraw and Espada y Daga. The olisi y baraw techniques assume that the stick is not a substitute for the blade and therefore it can be grabbed. It is within this category that the trapping, locking and throwing techniques are practiced.
The espada y daga techniques are based on swordplay. Therefore the techniques are designed for a longer range. The emphasis is on zoning, accurate parrying or deflecting with the sword and using the dagger for thrusting. Since, the weapons are now edged – the margin for error becomes minimal. Precision of movement becomes vital.
The Pangamut (empty hand) techniques are broken into three areas – these are Sikaran (kicking/kneeing), Panantukan (punching-with the use of elbows), Dumog (standing grappling).
Krishna teaches how to integrate these phases of Pangamut – so that one can flow smoothly from one range to another. The teaching progression is categorised into three phases. The first phase is learn techniques and then apply them on training apparatus, such as the top and bottom ball, heavy bag etc.
The second phase is to apply these techniques against a partner in counter for counter drills. Different strategies are applied such as punching versus grappling etc.
The third phase is to spar. Krishna believes that the intensity level should be progressively increased from 50% to 100%, this allows the student to develop their self-confidence.
The staff (sibat) techniques, which Krishna teaches, are from a number of specialised styles. These are Scienza, Uhido, Taw-Taw and Tapado. Various striking techniques are taught from both a normal and reverse hold. In addition, disarming, locking and throwing techniques are also practiced with the four-foot staff.