Martial arts instructor Joseph Dignam, pictured left, talks to FitNet about his new classes. Find out why Dacayana Eskrima is suitable for participants of all abilities and fitness levels, and why it’s much more than just stick fighting.
Interview With Andrea Slivkova. Photography By Joseph Dignam.
Joseph, tell me about your martial arts journey. When did you start practising and teaching martial arts?
I started about 25 years ago in Karate, then began learning Wing Chun, Tai Chi, Brazilian and traditional JuJutsu for various periods of time, but never truly found a style that I stuck with until I discovered Dacayana Eskrima. Its coaching philosophy was different and it suited me. I assisted my coach for a while, teaching new starters, and passed the Dacayana Authorised Coach grading in 2016. I opened my own class in Hereford in May 2017.
How can people benefit from taking part in your classes?
We do some simple warm up exercises but there are no 100 push-ups, sit-ups and burpees. What students find is that they work up a sweat while learning the Drills, Strikes and Footwork. Their fitness then increases as the intensity of the training goes up. The first few months are spent getting to grips with the basics, and as skill and confidence in their ability increase, so does the intensity, but I also remind people to smile while they train – learning is supposed to be fun too. I want to keep my classes small, no more than 10 per class, to encourage the participants to socialise. Small groups naturally lead people to interact with each other within the group, so the classes are more personal when compared to large groups of people who often only nod to each other and half the time wouldn’t know the name of the person they are training with.
I understand that in your classes there is no pressure to grade. Can you explain?
The classes are not competitive and you are not required to grade. I know of someone who has trained for over 10 years and has never graded, yet their skills are phenomenal. We do put padded gloves and arm guards on for a bit of sparing with padded sticks, so things can get competitive – it helps with speeding up reactions and it also improves confidence in your ability. The focus is on good form and accuracy though, it’s not a free for all.
As an instructor, do you find different people learn in different ways? Do you need to adapt your technique to suit?
People are all different and each of us learn in different ways, both in life and in martial arts. My teacher and mentor GM Jun Dacayana spent time with me adapting parts of the style because of an existing injury I have. He taught me to be mindful of the way people learn and if they are physically unable to perform a technique, then we can modify the technique so it is effective. So in that sense, there is no fixed style of teaching, and my style can be modified to suit people with different needs.
Speaking of different needs, how much fitness is required prior to starting your classes?
No big muscles or a six pack are required, that’s for sure. If you are able to walk and move your arms then you can start training. In fact, as GM Jun demonstrated to me once, you can do a good chunk of the syllabus if you are in a wheelchair or have a physical disability. The system is about good body mechanics, not brute strength to overcome an opponent. As the students learn, their understanding of sensitivity along with stamina will naturally increase.
What should newcomers expect from their first class?
All that’s required for the first class is a pair of trainers, comfortable clothing and a willingness to learn. I offer a free taster class so anyone is more than welcome to have a go. Not all martial arts suit everyone, so a free taster means they have nothing to lose. During the taster class I’ll go through the types of weapons and the basic strikes which are the cornerstone of the Eskrima system.
Finally, what are your plans for the club’s future?
I want to continue my focus on ensuring that my students enjoy training and developing new skills. I am not looking for global domination of the martial arts world! If my Thursday night class remains as full as it is now, I will be starting an additional class for beginners, so that I can keep the class size to no more than eight or 10 new students.
Did You Know?
Eskrima (also known as Arnis) is the martial art of the
Philippines. It uses several weapons which are taught first, before the empty hand – the use of weapons enhances the empty hand skills of the student.
Dacayana Eskrima uses single stick, double stick, knives, stick and knife, sword and dagger, and empty hands techniques, with many other categories of weapons within its modules, so the learning never stops. Eskrima training normally includes a variety of drills that increase speed, improve timing, reflexes and coordination. With the additional element of fun, Eskrima is a diverse and enjoyable martial art suitable for anyone – the focus is on speed and form, not brute strength to attack, defend and counter.
Eskrima is used by many elite military forces worldwide and you can see it in movies such as Taken, Quantum Of Solace, The Book Of Eli and the Bourne movies, as well as in the Arrow series.
Dacayana Eskrima classes and private tuition with Joseph Dignam are available in Hereford. Suitable for adults of all fitness levels.
YOUR FIRST LESSON IS FREE.
Tel: 07870 701 413 ( text only)
Facebook: SSD Eskrima
Founder and editor of FitNet.
Previously gymnastics coach, massage therapist and personal trainer with 20 years of experience. Former gymnast and dancer.