Lightning Scientific Arnis International

historic9d.jpgLightning Scientific Arnis International is the organization of one of the  Classical Filipino martial arts, established and developed in the Philippines, by Grandmaster Luna Lema in 1937. This is an espada y daga serrada system which puts emphasis on the powerful and swift use of sticks and specializes in the use of stick/sword and knife. 


In 1937, Benjamin Luna Lema also known as "Mang Ben" and a group of 20 Arnisador friends from the town Mambusao in Capiz, worked on developing the best Arnis system. They wanted to create a system for all the Arnis techniques which were passed on to them by their families over the generations for purposes of defense. They traveled in the Island of Panai looking for the best masters to teach them. At certain times they even challenged other Arnisadors in order to friends8.JPGtest their skills and fighting techniques. Their family techniques and knowledge they obtained from their experiences brought about development of Lightning Scientific Arnis. 

The activities of the organization were interrupted when World War 2 reached the Philippines. Everything changed when the Philippines was invaded by the Japanese in 1941 and especially when the Japanese ruined and burnt down Mambusao. Most of the organization members decided to fight the Japanese invaders, they went underground and acted against the invasion. As a result, some of Mang Ben's friends were killed or executed due to their guerilla activities. When the war ended, Mang Ben and his friends who survived had re-built the organization. Mang Ben kept developing the system in Guam, he also trained in Judo, Karate and boxing until he came back to the Philippines in 1957 and kept teaching his systemClassic_LSAI_2_001.JPG

The years had passed and the organization grew and became famous in the Philippines, mostly due to all the fights and competitions the legendary Grandmaster won in. It was told about Mang Ben that he did not loose even in one fight...whether it was in competitions, challenges or street fights. 

The Name 

The name "Lightning" was attributed to Mang Ben since he was fast and strong like lightning. He would close the range swiftly and hit so powerfully that the shock was very much like a lightning strike, and just as surprising. Mang Ben said he chose the name since the stick is very quick and the techniques are unexpected.

ARCHIVE0022.JPG"Scientific" was given because the system was developed, tested and researched in numerous fights. Also, Master Elmer Ibanez held a degree in Human Kinetics and inserted into the system a scientific approach using knowledge of physiology, methodology, anatomy etc...Thus the training was based on scientific principles in order to reach maximum performance.

"Arnis" - Filipino martial art, based on weapons, gradually up to empty hand.

Lightning Scientific Arnis became Lightning scientific Arnis International at 1959, with the help of professor Mayuga Agripino, who registered the organization and added the word International. 

However, this is the name of the organization; the system is actually Tercia Serrada Cadenilla y Espada y Daga.

Tercia - Close Quarters4236_88157346605_713711605_2342335_4790086_n.jpg

Serrada - to close (see full serrada article)

Cadenilla - small chain, from chaining, continuum

Y - and

Espada - Sword (or stick)

Daga - Knife

Which translates into: concepts of close quarters, closing the range with a sequence of chained movements of sword and knife. 

The Systemko.jpg

The meaning of the name is actually the concept behind the system, parrying and moving attacks aside, while getting out of the opponent's range. This move is being done with an endless use of fast and strong strikes, checking and pushing with the empty hand, in order to control the opponent and get him out of balance. The more advance way is to use a knife instead of the empty hand. 

Lightning is known for its power generation techniques, as well as the fast stick work and body movement. Also, the specialization of espada y daga, two weapons of different lengths in each hand. Originally real swords and knives were being used, however today we use sticks and training knives for safety.

The concept of espada y daga does not relate only to weapon, but the whole spectrum of movement.

One can ARCHIVE0043.JPGapply these techniques in single stick, double stick and even empty hand.

Most Arnis, Escrima, Kali systems in the Philippines use wooden tools for training. Some use the wooden stick as a simulator for blade, while certain systems treat the training stick, usually made out of rattan, as a tool with complete different characteristics from the blade. LSAI is such a system which emphasizes the attributes of using the stick as it is, a tool for generating power, not cutting or slashing. The sword practice is being done separately, while matching the movements to the tool's characteristics. 

LSAI first and foremost is a fighting system, thus there are fighting strategies which are the core of the system

Developing and keeping to the techniques - Each move mush have a purpose2991_resize.jpg

Closing - In short range fighting, one must close the attacks of the opponent from the outside, and not to stay "inside".

Trapping - Trapping the attack limbs of the rival, even for a second so that he would not be able to keep attacking.

Finishing/ending - A number of sequenced strikes, if the attack was blocked or stopped - one must continue with another attack.

Proper foot work for the technique - especially while going out of range.

Keeping and Breaking the rhythm - Partnered drills teach flow and rhythm, but one must know how to keep it and also how to break it.

A stick is not a blade - Using your weapon characteristics and using its full potential for maximizing its advantages.  


LSAI being a traditional system, holds a vast repertoire of techniques, with the use of the different tools: Single stick, double stick, espada y daga, swords, empty hand and even self defense tools such as: dulo dulo, tactical baton and more.

Here is explanation about some of the drills and the learned material. 


A set of 13 strikes teaching the different targets of the rival and the proper attack for each area, while executing proper movement in order to maximize the power generation. 


12 patterns of attack developed by Mang Ben. The combinations teach systems of chained attacks are form a base to the system's techniques. 

12 BLOCKS (LESKAS - Master Elmer Ybanez addition)

Mang Ben did not develop blocks, but supported counter attacks. Master Elmer widened Mang Ben's techniques and formed them to a set of blocks. 

STRIKE COMBINATIONS (LESKAS - Master Elmer Ybanez addition)

1-7 single stick combinations

8-16 double stick combinations 

Literally it means sword and dagger. Espada y Daga is generally a middle range to close range Fighting art that uses two weapons of different lengths. It is a technique of arnis where the practitioner uses a long weapon, usually a sword, and a short weapon, a dagger to attack or defend. The long weapons role is usually to cut or slice an opponent while the dagger can be thrust into any openings created by the sword. When the dagger hand is empty it is used to "check" and redirect the opponent's attack, this is what is called the "live" hand. What makes Espada y Daga Special is that its use of two weapons of differing lengths creates a unique unpredictable rhythm of movement that makes it indeed very formidable.

This drill focuses on the long to medium range of the art. Usually, the exponent has one weapon while the opponent had two. The exponent learns how to check the opponent's attack, using both his or her weapon hand and the empty hand.


This is training where the Arnisador uses two weapons to practice thrusting, cutting and slashing techniques against a simulated attack. The weapons used is usually a stick and a dagger or a bolo and a dagger. Note the use of the Spanish-derived term serrada. Serrada literally means to close; therefore the exponent closes the opponent's attack, making it impossible for him (or her) to continue. For drill purposes, the opponent must therefore continue the attack from another angle. This drill, when performed at full speed, trains the exponent in the various angles of attack and defense he or she may expect to encounter.

This is an attack and defense training. It consists of an attacker whose role is to deliver consecutive strikes from multiple angles which will test the defenders ability to counter and counter-attack. This training may be performed using a variety of weapons and configurations. 1 stick vs. 1 stick, 2 versus 1, or stick and dagger versus 1 and 2 sticks versus 2 sticks. This variety enables the practitioners to be accustomed to a variety of angles and speeds.

This training is a combination of bigay-tama and Espada y Daga. Attacks and defenses are performed at various angles and at varying speeds, utilizing the patterns learned in Espada y Daga, with the force and speed of bigay-tama. This is introduced when the exponent is already familiar with bigay-tama and Espada y Daga. What makes this drill more difficult is that the range at which it is performed is much closer than the first two.


This training is a counter-for-counter drill. It teaches the exponent what to do if the counter to an attack is somehow reversed. Like Espada y Daga bigay tama, it is a close-range drill but is more free flowing.

DISARMING (stick-to-stick & empty hand)
Disarming techniques are taught to the exponent at an advanced stage of training. Stick versus stick disarms focus on removing an opponent's weapon using one's own, and in some cases, using both against the now-helpless opponent. Empty-hand disarms allow an unarmed exponent to close in on a weapon-wielding opponent (to prevent him or her from using the weapon), strip the opponent's weapon (s) from him or her, and end the encounter with a throw or joint-lock.

This is the sport version of arnis. Rules for tournament arnis may vary, but in general, there are two types of tournaments. In one, the players wear padded armor, headgear and gloves and use live sticks when competing. In the other, the opponents wear padded headgear but no armor. Instead, they fight with padded sticks.

Empty-hand techniques
Empty-hand techniques in LSAI arnis are derived from the movements in Espada y Daga, the core style of LSAI. The exponent parries and checks the opponent's attack and delivers his or her own counters. These may consist of punches, empty-hand strikes, elbow strikes, joint locks and throws. The ability to flow from movement to movement, already developed in Espada y Daga, should be clearly seen at this stage. Again, this is an advanced training method. 

LSAI TodayImg2126.JPG

A heavy burden had struck LSAI when Mang Ben passed away on January 5 2003, and so did Master Elmer Ybanez, a year later. In order to keep the tradition, in 2005 the members of the organization had met and already on the first meeting have decided on the establishment of the masters assembly, which will meet each month in order to make decisions regarding organization matters. It was agreed that the new Grandmaster that will function as the head of the organization will be he son of Mang Ben, Joseph Luna Jr. however since he resides in the USA, his representative and organization supervisor will be his sister, Patty Jen Caballero. Master Jon Escudero was offered to act as the secretary general, by GM Ronald Dantes, and the offer was accepted.

Ever since, the masters are meeting each month in order to document and share the knowledge they have Img0971.JPGreceived from Mang Ben, and also to keep the activities and promotions of the LSAI legacy.

The flagship of the organization is the annual "Lema Cup", each year to commemorate Mang Ben's birthday. This is a competition to the different LSAI clubs, which supports the sharing and cooperation between the different groups and students of Mang Ben. 

Following is a list of students to whom Mang Ben had granted master's rank during his many years of teaching:

1.        Leopoldo Alcotora

2.        Armando Arroyo

3.        Reynaldo Arroyo

4.        Nicolas Basig

5.        Romeo Cheng

6.        Damian Cruz

7.        Simeon Cruz

8.        Romeo de Leon

9.        Manolo del Rosario

10.     Nathan Ben Dominguez

11.     Jon Escudero

12.     Arnold Esparcia

13.     Rizalino Estacio

14.     Rodolfo Ibardolasa

15.     Felipe P. Jocano Jr.

16.     Herman A. Licanto

17.     Luis Luna

18.     Agripino E. Mayuga

19.     Carlito A. Ondillo

20.     Alex Ortinero

21.     Jimmy Paclibar

22.     Pio Paclibar

23.     Shaun Porter

24.     Joey Quiriones

25.     Ronald Ramirez

26.     Proceso T. Rodriguez

27.     Jess Royo Sr.

28.     Vicente R. Sanchez

29.     Romeo A. Santos

30.     Enrique Tansipek

31.     Lito Torrefranca

32.     Romeo Valleno

33.     Romeo Valenzuela

34.     LSAI Family.jpg"Boy" Villeno

35.     Juanito Villeno

36.     Elmer Ybañez

These teachers have either formed their own clubs under lightning, or that they teach privately. 

LSAI keeps growing, not only in different places in the Philippines (such as branches in Los Banos, Davao in Mindanao, Laguna, Capiz and more...) But today there are established branches in the world: Kilat Senjata in Singapore, Shaun Porter in the UK, LESKAS and LSAI in the United States, Germany and now even Israel!  

For links to LSAI clubs click here 

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