Rough and Refined, Filipino Style: Sinawali Eskrima


For the past couple of months I’ve been learning about double-stick Sinawali, which is part of a collection of martial arts known as Arnis or Eskrima, which emerged in the Philippines over the course of that country’s long and complex colonial history.

The word “Sinawali” derives from the Kapampangan word “sawali” which refers to woven bamboo matting material.  The intricate weaving motion of Sinawali — traditionally practiced in pairs with hardened rattan wood sticks — is truly remarkable to watch and listen to… and even more remarkable to do and experience directly. Like the mats that the martial art is named after, those who practice Sinawali use a few simple basic motions to create beautiful, elaborate patterns.

Functionally, Sinawali is a great (and fun) way to build strength, speed and dexterity, all while learning about how to deliver and respond to different angles of attack in barehanded and hand-held weapons-based combat, disarming opponents, and so forth.

By practicing Sinawali you develop your body’s intuitive sense of balance and movement… going from Star Wars Kid to becoming Karate Kid.

Yet, Sinawali is so much more than a functional martial art… it is a kind of dancing…  sensual, percussive dance that can only be learned properly with a partner.

Like many things Filipino, Sinawali represents a powerfully beautiful mixture of cross-cultural influences and seemingly contradictory ideas.    Sinawali is both graceful and savage, rough and refined…carefully calculated on the one hand, and fiercely passionate on the other.

Sinawali — a metaphor for high impact collaboration, communication, coaching, and play.

Sinawali Clip Art Woman - The grip is all wrong, that's a judo uniform she's wearing, but her manicure is fabulous

Sinawali Clip Art Woman – Her grip is all wrong, that’s a judo uniform she’s wearing, but hey, let’s be honest, that is one fabulous manicure.

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About danspira

My blog is at: http://danspira.com. My face in real life appears at a higher resolution, although I do feel pixelated sometimes.

Posted on January 20, 2014, in Art, Coaching, Collaboration, Communication Skills, Exercise, Metaphors and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I love Sinawali, but I still suck at doing it.

  2. I love love love the way you poetically and beautifully used contrasts in describing sinawali — graceful yet savage. Rough yet refined. Carefully calculated yet fiercely passionate.

  1. Pingback: (Re)capitulation | Dan Spira

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