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Siling Labuyo Arnis and Filipino Martial Arts

What is Siling Labuyo Arnis?

A modern hybrid method based in the Filipino Martial Arts. It was developed to counteract a trend of increasingly fancy technique in these arts, rather than the practical, simple, and unadorned fighting methods of the past.

Rather than a set style, Siling Labuyo Arnis (SLA) is more of a training philosophy. The basis of it is ‘alive training’, which has three components: 

Progressive resistance: instead of being totally cooperative, your training partner resists your attempts to punch, kick, jointlock, or what have you, and is likewise trying to apply his or her own technique against your resistance. 

What Does ‘Siling Labuyo Arnis’ Mean?

The siling labuyo is the hottest pepper native to the Philippines, and what we thought was the perfect metaphor for a martial art: lively, fiery, dangerous if approached recklessly, but harmless if left alone.

Arnis is one of several generic names for various martial arts in the Philippines. Literally, it means ‘harness’ and refers to the battle harness (arms and armour) of the warrior. 


Unrehearsed action: practicing rote actions does not promote proper reactions, it just makes a person better at performing those rote actions. Fights are chaotic, and training should reflect that. 

Real time: Many, many techniques just will not work in the available time frame of a real fight because they just take too long to perform. Maybe they will work in demonstration at a lower speed, or against a compliant partner, but in reality some techniques are just too fiddly or complicated. Simply put, training with the same techniques, at the same speed, and with the same power that you would use in a fight, is much better preparation for protecting yourself.

This approach means that overly complex or ‘optimistic’ techniques are winnowed out, in a sort of Darwinian approach. If it doesn’t work in real time, it is discarded. Which brings us to another basic principle of SLA – the willingness to discard a technique or training method that doesn’t work. Tradition is great for things like Thanksgiving Dinner, but for martial arts, there should always be a striving towards improvement. More efficient technique, faster methods of developing skills, better physical health, these are the things that we should be concentrating on.

In the end, many drills will be discarded because they don’t fit within these principles. This should be encouraged, as a few carefully chosen drills will produce better results. Come on now, do you really need to learn and practice 50 different sinawalli patterns? What does it really accomplish, other than to puff up a person’s sense of self-importance – “Look at all the important things I know!” The martial artist becomes a technique collector, rather than a better martial artist. 

And even for drills and training methods that have been adopted, one should be asking, “does this drill do what it is supposed to do?” “Does it need to be modified to accomplish these goals?” “Is there a better way to develop this skill or attribute?” Essentially, we are creating the dune buggy of martial arts – the roof has been cut off, the windows are missing, there’s nothing much more to it but the essentials: engine, chassis and a really loud radio. 

A criticism could be levelled that this means the system is constantly reinventing the wheel. Well, yes it is, but it is being reinvented for the individual, where it really matters. Unless the student can functionalize what he is learning, then the training is worthless. And, the individual will only functionalize a system that works with his unique set of attributes. 

What Weapons Are Taught in Siling Labuyo Arnis?

Typically, Filipino martial arts training revolves around weapon use. For SLA, the training focuses on three areas, stick, knife and empty hand

Other traditional staples of Filipino Martial Arts, like the double sticks, stick and dagger, double daggers, long weapons and flexible weapons make cameo appearances mostly to provide developmental challenge, and contrast to these three core methods. 

Really, it isn’t that likely that you will simultaneously have the bad fortune to be attacked, but the good fortune of having both a stick and a dagger at hand. We recognize the homage to the history of Filipino Martial Arts, the adoption and adaptation of the European method of rapier and dagger, but the basis of SLA is to challenge traditional methods and constantly seek improvement. 


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