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  • Writer's pictureRobert Parkes

Rules of the Game

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

In this blog post, we will address some of the how and why of sparring.

The Importance of Sparring

Sparring is an important part of our Filipino Martial Arts program for anyone who wants to truly develop the skill to wield a stick like a swordsman. It allows you to test your techniques and tactics against a non-cooperative opponent, and develops attributes needed for combat not possible with other forms of training.

Our Philosophy

We believe that engaging in the friendly rivalry of free sparring encourages the development of courage, resourcefulness, resilience, and self-discipline. Healthy competition inculcates a sense of fair play and justice, determination and camaraderie. These qualities help individuals to be winners in life, not just in the combat realm. Eskrimadors learn to overcome and win not only against an opponent, but also themselves, their weaknesses and fears, ultimately realising their full potential. The study and practice of Filipino Martial Arts can help bring balance and harmony to one's life, and taught in an environment of mutual respect, builds a sense of honour, discipline, and purpose.

How to Spar Effectively (Thornton 2018)

  1. NEVER SPAR ROUGH: Don't hit harder than necessary, strike out after you've clearly lost an exchange, or strike parts of the body where you are likely to cause injury, etc. These things won't help your Eskrima grow, and they won't encourage people to train with you.

  2. ALWAYS SPAR HONEST: If you and your opponent agree to spar light, then don't blast out of the box striking them like you are in a major tournament. It's ok to spar light so long as you don't switch gears the moment you find yourself at a disadvantage. Likewise it is ok to spar hard (not rough) if that is what you and your partner have agreed before the bout started, but it's not ok to fight like a madman at one moment and completely give up the next.

General Rules

  • All participants must wear a fencing mask and hockey gloves

  • Chest protection, groin guards and mouthguards optional

  • Additional armour around the joints may be worn for any sparring but are required for rattan stick sparring

  • Padded sticks, pool noodles, latex swords, rubber knives, or thin rattan sticks are used at the agreement of participants and permission of the Instructor in charge of the class

  • Use of the guarding hand is permitted

  • An instructor or senior student must umpire all matches

  • Umpire resets the game if a weapon is dropped

  • Matches should be 2-3 minutes in length (agreed in advance)

  • Players must agree in advance, and inform the umpire, if grappling, takedowns, striking, and/or kicking are permitted

Controlled Sparring

  • Targets are strictly limited (ie. the hands and head; protected areas only; just the hands, etc.)

  • Live stick (rattan stick) sparring should generally be performed under "controlled sparring" conditions

Blade Rules

  • Weapon is treated like a blade (in terms of damage it could do from a scoring hit) even if a stick is used

  • Follow up strikes are permitted within the timing of the "exchange"

  • Reset after a clean scoring hit

  • Clashes (simultaneous contacts) do not score

When sparring with our Blade Rules, points may be scored in different ways:

  • Points are scored for each effective strike (1 point for a limb, 2 points for head or torso)

  • First Blood (First scoring slash or thrust wins)

  • Sudden Death (First player to 3 points wins)

  • Duel (First player to 7 points wins)

  • Nine Lives (Players start with 9 lives, and lose a life for every scoring hit taken; including for every clash)

Stick Rules

  • Weapon is treated like a stick (in terms of damage it could do from a scoring hit)

  • Follow up strikes are permitted within and beyond the timing of the "exchange"

  • Reset only if opponent submits

  • All hits score, including clashes (simultaneous contacts)


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