A General View of Serrada Concepts in Lightning Arnis

By Jon Escudero

Serrada is at the core of Lightning Scientific Arnis. It is one word that brings a hundred-million different ideas and patterns and permutations of movement to mind, all seemingly impossible to comprehend except by a great mind or a virtuoso.  Grandmaster and Founder of Lightning Scientific Arnis International, Benjamin Luna Lema was one such genius. He simply called it “working the stick” which can be visualized like a lightning storm playing upon the clouds in the heavens.

Lightning Scientific Arnis embodies the principles of Tercia Serrada Kadenliya y Espada y Daga. In this article, I will only talk about the “Serrada” aspect.

In general, serrada comes from the word cerrado or closed.  Ultimately it is a concept that cannot be defined in any one specific manner.  I’ve spoken to proponents of different styles and have gotten different interpretations. So in the end it boils down to the depth of the understanding of the practitioner.

I’ve sorted it into three definitions with different depths of understanding.

The particular definitions.

First definition – Stance

I usually start explaining serrada by comparing stances and fighting positions, specifically the position of the weapon. In the Filipino Martial Art of Eskrima/Kali/Arnis, this refers to the weapon being chambered across the body on the opposite side of the carrying arm. I’ve stopped looking at advantages versus advantages, instead I look at options and repertoire.  The serrada stance provides many counter-fighting options and entries for disarms and locking techniques.  It makes an excellent bridge from media to corto range.

Second Definition – Position

With this definition we refer to the practitioners position in reference to his opponent. This generally means that the practitioner is at the “outside” of his opponents centerline and is outside the direct line of attack which is usually outside the reach of the opponents dominant arm and support hand.  I usually describe the opponents weapon hand as a door which you want to “close” over the rest of his body, particularly the supporting hand which may hold a weapon.  Closing this “door” and shutting out the secondary weapon by putting it in the way effectively jams the opponent.

Third Definition – Motion

I’ve encountered this definition in conversations with an older generation of masters.  According to them this is the true definition of serrada.  It involves the act of intercepting the attack of the opponent at the instant before he moves thereby jamming his motions and keeping him off-balance.  This is a blanketing action, (think of someone actually throwing a blanket over his opponent), where the weapon and checking hand are used alternately and in tandem to jam the opponents motions simultaneously and redirect and neutralize his opponents position while seeking out vulnerable target areas.

With these three principles in mind let us analyze how it becomes a sophisticated concept and formidable technique in the arsenal of the Filipino Martial Arts.

Fighting “in” serrada may seem a bit strange as it puts the weapon on the left side of the body since most weapon arts put the weapon out in front guarding the centerline or over the right shoulder.   This position specifically guards against the strong positions of the opponents right arm because of the unique orientation of the combatants weapon hands. Serrada allows the fighter to move behind his opponents line of attack by blind-siding and moving the opponents attacking arm and constantly applying pressure in the form of hits and checks to the wrist, elbow and forearm.  It is important to recognize the use of the “alive” hand in checking and redirecting the opponent’s motions.  The alive hand is necessary as it acts as antennae and senses the minute changes in the opponent’s pressure, posture and position.

Serrada is most effective in short bursts of combinations upon contact with an attack ending with a powerful finishing strike.  These combinations when linked together are called kadenilya or “small chain”.  These combinations may vary in terms of finesse, power and leverage.

Serrada may be expressed through different weapon combinations like, baston serrada, baston y daga  serrada, doble baston serrada, espada serrada and espada y daga serrada.end even mano-mano.  Each expression has its unique attributes imparted by the weapon in use.

Baston Serrada is the use of  a stick and the alive hand whose repertoire allows for the crushing power of the stick combined with the trapping, grabbing and disarming abilities of the alive hand.  This way of fighting “works the stick” more and tries to always anticipate and intercept the attack with a strike. This is most effective when fighting in the corto range as it is the most compact form and allows plenty opportunity to “butt” abd lock the opponent and has much flexibility in transitioning between the ranges of fighting as well as the opportunity to hold down the opponent for a finishing blow.

Baston y Daga Serrada places a dagger in the alive hand augmenting in with cutting and piercing qualities.  With this combination, the stick can be used to crush the opponents defenses and create the openings for the dagger thrust and expose vital points of the body to slashes.

Doble Baston Serrada is a very sophisticated form of serrada  because of the combination of  two long weapons of equal length.  Faced with the complexity of chambering the weapons adequately for adequate force production and the ability to create enough space to shift it through the various attack patterns without it snagging.  What is amazing about this particular expression of serrada is the ability to use the paired weapons at corto range. A fighter normally though , doesn’t usually find himself in this position often, it’s usually a position a fighter will find himself in after taking away his opponent’s weapon.

Espada Serrada would be similar to Baston Serrada except for the substitution of the stick with a one-handed sword, changing the action from that of a blunt force weapon to that of the edged weapon which means cutting the opponent on entry.  The alive hand still retains its function of trapping and checking but this time with the intent of opening gaps in the opponent’s defense slash or pierce with the blade.

Espada y Daga Serrada is the use of a one-handed short sword in one hand and a dagger in the supporting hand.  This expression of serrada is a blend of finesse and aggressiveness as both weapons are now cutting weapons with the abilities to slash and pierce.  Espada y Daga Serrada is a more proactive expression because the practitioner can now cut extended or exposed targets from a distance  in addition to cuts and slashes it can do in the short range.

Though the weapon combinations may be different, there are certain key attributes that are at the core of the expressions.

Control of the Distance is of great importance because of the minimum distance necessary to clear  and chamber the weapons for adequate force production but at the same time stay close enough to sense and control and neutralize the opponents movements.  This is a phenomenon similar to the ma ai and zanshin in Japanese Budo.

Control of Centerline.  The centerline is an important factor in serrada because it presents the direct line of attack of  your opponent. Serrada bypasses the centerline by going around and behind the opponent or moving the opponent and manipulating him so that  his centerline is displaced.  The use of paired weapons also affects the centerline especially when the weapons are meant for different ranges of combat.

Control of Weapon.  The type of weapon used also contributes to the quality of the technique.  The weapons attributes directly affect the usable repertoire.  Smashing weapons  like hard sticks require much control and strength.  Swords require much precision for accurate cuts at exposed targets.  Using two long weapons of identical length need control approaching that of true ambidexterity.

Control of Opponent.  There are many ways to control the opponent.  Simplest would be to control him by  wading in with a barrage of strikes. However we should never assume that we are fighting an unskilled and inept opponent but rather that we are facing someone of at least equal, if not superior level who can counter your attacks.  After all, the first strike is just as important as the last.  With that in mind, the method of control would greatly involve the use of the alive hand or the partner weapon to redirect, jam and steal the opponent’s move.

With these qualities in mind, serrada seems to sound more and more complex and cumbersome. As with serious martial artists who devote a considerable amount of time to perfecting their skill, determination is the key. With correct and regular practice we get nearer to the goal understanding and mastery.