Friday, June 20, 2014

Sinawali: Getting The Most Out Of it (Part 1)

Sinawali is a drill that many Filipino Martial Arts do at a basic level.  In Modern Arnis (as well as in Kombatan), sinawali is a core drill that is fundamental to what we teach.

So then I says to Mabel, I says...
Brian Johns has a great post about this topic here: Single Sinawali

I'd like to go a little bit more in depth, as I do believe there are some folks out there who view sinawali as little more than patty-cake with sticks. In fact, I have so much to say about it, I had to break it up into two posts.

So... why train sinawali?  There's more to it than you might think.

We slow things down when we're first teaching sinawali, in order to emphasize certain points with our students.


This is the number one correction we make with students doing sinawali - poor targeting.  Take the single sinawali that Brian mentions in his post - the high forehand/low backhand pattern.

That high forehand is what we'd call a #1 strike - an angled strike to the side of the head, neck or shoulder.  The low backhand is what we'd call a #8 strike - an angled strike to the knee.

When doing sinawali, targeting should be on the opponents body - the goal is NOT to strike the other person's stick (what we'd call "chasing the stick").  So in the single sinawali, you deliver a #1 strike to the head and then a #8 strike to the head, targeted properly. Your partner does the same - and you meet in the middle.

Let me reiterate: your goal in sinawali is not to hit each other's sticks, it's to hit each other.  Since your partner is doing the same thing (mirrored) - you meet in the middle.

Knowing more than one sinawali pattern allows for the same benefit for practice of a lot of different strikes.

Another point on targeting - training this properly helps big-time with the problem of students aiming too high.

Most students do not want to accidentally hit their partners (even though we teach this at a medium-to-longer range for safety's sake, initially) so they aim ABOVE their heads.  They will end up doing the same thing when feeding strikes for blocking drills (which makes it doubly hard to learn basic blocking when fed this way).

My head is down here.
Feeding too high makes it much more likely for the feeder to get hit on the hand in sinawali on the high strike and for the other person to get hit on the low backhand strike.  I get hit a by a lot of newbies in exactly this way.

Now, while all of us will join the Purple Knuckles Club eventually, this is a fast and easy track to early membership.

So, done properly, sinawali is an excellent drill to work on targeting.


I probably emphasize chambering more than most. In our school, our class awarded me a Sheriff's Badge over the matter.

Chamber up, Podnah.
I often compare an open chamber (on the shoulder) with two sticks as being identical to the basic "fighting stance" of empty hand fighters - your hands are up, protecting the head, and you are ready to strike or defend.

However, that's not the major reason why I like to chamber (and I do chamber pretty deeply).  You see, in order to hit very hard, I have to strike using large muscle groups, as I am a short, middle aged, somewhat dumpy woman.  In order to do that, I have to chamber my strikes to engage not only my arms and shoulders, but my back (and hips as well, when done properly).

While I am not hitting as hard as I can in sinawali - I'm practicing the mechanic it takes to do so when the time comes.

Another benefit of chambering properly in sinawali is that you practice placing your hand where it needs to be for the next strike.

If the stick is in your right hand, and you know your next strike in this pattern is to be a low backhand strike, you chamber your hand and stick on the left side of the body for the strike.  Over time, you learn if you are chambered (x) way, then strikes (x1) (x2) and so on are available, and strikes (y1) (y2) and so on are less optimal (or impossible) to deliver.

This leads to you putting your hands where you want them to be in order to deliver specific strikes, vs. just doing the sinawali pattern.

Finally, chambering closes open gaps to the midsection and it makes disarming/traps a little more difficult, as your hands are not just out in space for your opponent to take advantage.

As you speed up in sinawali (and other) drills, what happens naturally is that the chambering gets more shallow, in order to speed things up. When you chamber very shallowly, the chambering disappears completely when you get to full speed, and your hands end up hanging out in front of them or to the side.

I'll cover range, footwork, and comfort with weapons in Part 2.