What is great about the Escrima Concepts system is the opportunity to be graded by Wayne Tappin (4th TG), who came down to London to grade and share his knowledge. Being assessed by such a high TG or outside instructors means that you are graded by someone who will give you an unbiased opinion of your Escrima Concepts progress.
Here’s my play by play account of the session:
You step into the gym. The sounds of sticks echoes through the room. A little burst of adrenaline kicks in. You rotate your right arm, at the shoulder, then rotate again at the left. Skip a little on the spot. Pick up your stick and begin your warm up with some single stick sparring. Give your sparring partner a little head nod. Throw a number 1 strike at their head, they roof block and parry back with a tricky number 4, you attack their attack and move, they attack back and move, and you continue this dance until you hear: “Change partners”. You repeat again and again. Until you hear those words “Let’s begin”.
At this point you find yourself sweating, wondering is it the warm up, is it nerves? You look around to read the rest of the students. Nah they look like ice. They’re ready. I got to be ready too. So we begin.
Wayne calls out the drill. A basic number 1 strike. Easy enough? Yes. But there’s so much from this drill that can be learned. If you’re defending use your roof block. But block in transition, and ensure you land your front foot to take you out of your sparring partner’s power line, but in a position that allows you to be in range to attack and finish the fight.
The next drill is called out, a number 2 strike, a number 3 strike, and so on. Then a stab with a number 1 strike, and a stab with a number 2 strike. Now we add in countering with a butt strike moving backwards and hitting with the stick and finishing with a punch. We go through various drills and disarms to test the different aspects of the Escrima Concepts system.
With each drill there is a small demonstration from Wayne, who breaks it down, and you watch the drill studying every movement. Then you try it. You have a quick glance over at Charlie and Nigel trying to see from body language if you are doing them proud. Occasionally Wayne and the other instructors would walk round tweak a little something, positioning of your body, work on your timing, “don’t let the hit follow your foot, your foot follows the hit”.
About an hour and a half in to the session, your arms are feeling tired, your breathing slightly heavier and Wayne says, “Well done. For all you grading. You have got the grades you all went for”. You feel good and love escrima that little bit more. At this point you get your second wind. Which should see you through the last part of the session. “Fun time” – “Students choice”. We could do anything we wanted. “Knife work!”, someone yells. So there we are a bunch of eager escima students stabbing each other, moving with a lot of energy, hyped from passing our grades. Continuing our escrima education, picking up tips and pointers from instructors, senior students and from each other.
After our certification ceremony we even got the chance to test out some foam competition sticks. And something clicks when you start sparring with them. Everything learned just starts to pour out. Movement becomes more fluid and energized, you start letting go a bit more with power, finding angles and just having a lot of fun.
You leave feeling great. A good work out, training with other students from other organisations, you feel more confident that your escrima is progressing well. But you also remember that there’s more to learn and that the standards you have achieved need to be maintained and improved. “It’s good to be us” is the motto on the certificates we receive, and yes it is. “It’s good to be us”.