Generally speaking, we teach sinawali at a medium range (aka "medio"). This means that if I step forward with a forehand strike to the head, I can hit my opponent's head or body (Modern Arnis/Kombatan are medium to close range arts, generally speaking).
|"WHAM!!" Eat rattan, varmint!|
In order to reach the target, one must be in the proper range. A high forehand strike to the head does no good if it's too far away. It's even more obvious on a low strike, as that's even harder to hit than the head in terms of range, depending on the stance the opponent has.
Sinawali gets a student used to being in the proper range for these strikes very quickly.
Another thing we emphasize with our students learning sinawali is the footwork.
You've seen about a million sinawali videos on YouTube, and one thing you'll notice is that many if not most of them are standing like this:
But another is that for whatever reason, some people just aren't doing the sinawali footwork. Some people are never taught it. Some people are focusing in on the strikes and thus not doing the footwork because of what they are emphasizing. For whatever reason, others start getting the impression that this is how it's done - you stand squared up and strike at each other, similar to what you see in the video above.
This isn't how we teach it, and you shouldn't, either.
We begin by teaching our students to step forward with the same foot as the hand making the initial strike. Thus, in single sinawali (high-low), the initial strike is with the right hand, step forward with the right foot. When you strike with the left hand, step with the left foot, and back and forth.
Once they are good at that, then they start moving around - they do the footwork. Over time, they can move in and out, stepping to the right and left, circling... again, getting all the benefits of high repetition at a good speed.
5) COMFORT WITH WEAPONS
Finally, one reason sinawali is generally taught very early in ones training in Arnis is the need for students to get past their fear of the weapon. Respect is one thing we should all have, but fear is something else.
You cannot do any weapons based art and be afraid of the weapon. You just can't.
|Little did I know that my lifelong dream|
of being a unicorn would be fulfilled.
Look, nobody wants to get hit - or hit someone - with the weapon in a training environment. Yes, it hurts when you get clocked with the stick, or smashed on the hand, or poked in the face. The fear of it happening is instinctive and realistic and honest, and it takes time (and trust) to conquer the fear.
Sinawali is one safe way for students to get used to having sticks coming at them, and to gain confidence that they can block them. There are, of course, other drills for this, but sinawali is a simple introduction to getting used to handling and blocking weapons.
One more thing about the fear of weapons - which is really the fear of getting hurt. Truly, most of the weapons-based injuries I've had (and I've had many) has taught me one thing: the fear of the injury is worse, in many ways, that the injury itself. That's especially true with strikes to the hand - it hurts, but not as bad as you're afraid it will.
So - if you've dropped working on sinawali because you didn't see the purpose, I hope you'll give it a second look. Work on range, work on targeting, work on chambering, work on footwork, and above all, work on getting used to weapons coming at your head.
WAIT: I forgot... one more thing! One more important point, one thing I think has value as much as anything else I've mentioned:
God forbid you have fun, right?