Dacayana UK

 Titles, Ranks, Grading and a bit of Eskrima History…..




I’m often asked asked about the titles and ranks used in the Dacayana Family system of indigenous Cebuano Martial Arts. Of course most of the use of a grading system in traditional Martial Arts came about came about to satisfy students in the West. 


As a society we love goals and targets and the feeling that we are achieving something positive. Nothing wrong with that of course. As a martial artist I’m sure you realise there is not a level playing field for grades in the UK, different Arts have differing systems with various timescales needed between each grade to attain the next level. We’ve all seen the 12 year old 4th degree at the local McDojo in the newspaper at one end of the spectrum and then there is the 1st Dan Black belt that trains most days and hasn’t bothered grading for 10 years or so!!


Most are are (thankfully) somewhere in the middle. Nothing wrong with the second example of course (in fact there are one or two Dacayana UK & Europe Coaches that have sat for too long at a grade in their original style much lower than their worth ) but those on the Dacayana ladder are encouraged to grade at regular intervals. Grading is a good test of knowledge, keeps you sharp and used properly, is a real aid to learning. 


Of course in the Philippines grading in Eskrima/Arnis wasn't really the done thing… Eskrima/Arnis was a ‘Backyard’ Art you just trained in the family system.  Over time it then progressed to where you were either a Student, a Teacher or a Master. 


Eskrima/Arnis was then later adopted in the West starting in the USA. Dan Inosanto was a foremost mover and shaker of the Art learning it on the West Coast from Indigenous Practitioners and he pioneered the incorporation of the Art into his JKD Concepts vision. He also used the ‘Kali’ label which has become the third term to describe the Arts of the Philippines alongside Eskrima and Arnis. Kali was widely adopted and the Art spread through the USA and came to our shores in the ’80’s through a couple of routes including the Inosanto lineage ‘Kali’. 

The Art grew here and overtime grading systems were adopted, titles widely used and training uniforms grew ever more colourful. 

Actually the original term Kali / Kaliradman and Pagaradm actually derives form the Mindanao region of the Philippines. The terms Eskrima & Arnis originate from the Visayas (including Cebu) and the Luzon area that includes Manila have historically used Arnis de Mano or Panadata to describe the art.


Ok, Firstly let’s have a look at how we, in the Dacayana system handle grades. We have 8 grades to Black Belt 1st Degree, then we move through the Black Belt ranks. 


Initially students can grade every few months and realistically with lots of practise can achieve their 1st degree in 2-4 years. We then align ourselves with a fairly well accepted approach of 2 years between 1st and 2nd degree, 3 years between 2nd and 3rd Degree etc. We do this for two reasons 1/ The material gets more complex the more you study the system and 2/ practitioners need the time to absorb the the system and develop the full flow and body mechanics the system requires to be fluent. 


In our system it really is a case of Black Belt 1st Degree being the beginning! The system is very top heavy and although what you learn at level 1 will always be needed there is so much to learn after 1st Degree it is mind blowing. Each Coach is responsible for guiding and advising their own students on the frequency of grading and getting them ready for the test. We do not like like to fail anyone, not because we are soft but we can’t see the point of testing someone that isn’t ready. In future blogs I will go into more details about how the syllabus is structured and how the weapons categories use the same skill sets and application, also exactly what we study !


So now Ranks… well as I have previously mentioned we have level 1 to 8 where 8 is Black Belt 1st Degree. Each coach / School owner can also choose to assign the Dacayana levels to a belt Colour. This can be very useful for the School owner as if She/he teaches another Art where the students are used to belts and want the same in the Dacayana System. We also have ‘Ranks’ for the Coaches from provisional Coach to Master Coach and four more levels in between. This allows us to have goals both in the study of the system and in the study of Teaching the system which is very important.


Finally titles and methods of address. We do not generally use titles in the training hall. Quite often however methods of address will vary depending on the nature of the school teaching the system. For example a School founded on teaching Tae Kwon Do find it very easy to address Coaches as Ma’am or Sir as they would their TKD Instructors.  Schools with a JKD or Kung Fu foundation are more likely to use ‘Sifu’ and Japanese founded schools with ‘Sensei’. My view is all of these terms are acceptable as Traditionally Eskrima is pretty much devoid of titles and in all our Schools the respect offered through the use of their usual terms is fine by me. I like Titles that are founded in the lineage of the Original Arts. The Japanese Arts for example have them in abundance but there are far fewer in the Filipino Arts than you would be led to believe by looking at Social Media and the MA Press. Sometimes I am astounded by the complexity and range of titles that appear against an FMA practitioner’s name often in a very short space of time and often invented in the UK !! 

Then of course we have the Titles appearing in front of the real names of the people on social media…..my my ….whatever next?


‘till next time from me..... plain old Marcie Harding.