Dacayana UK

THE SARONG. By David McGoldrick.

The Sarong is a piece of cloth of various sizes worn in numerous styles by the people of South East Asia (although, not exclusively). The sarong that I got from Marcie was approximately 160 x 70cms (5ft 4 x 2ft 3). In Dacayana Eskrima, we knot the two ends together and wear it around our necks (as a scarf) putting the knotted end through the loop. To analyse the various aspects of the sarong in our style, I will use the acronym SARONG.

S stands for "Secret weapon". The nature of the sarong is that it comes under the category of being a secret weapon. Like a walking stick, it is one of those weapons that are hidden in plain sight. When you have a sarong, everyone sees it, but nobody thinks of it as a weapon, until you use it. Other secret weapons in the Dacayana Eskrima system include the pocket stick and the knife or dagger held in reverse grip. These are considered to be secret because of how easy they are to conceal (until it is too late). But you can carry a sarong anywhere in full view without much question. The consequence of carrying a secret weapon is that you are still likely to be assaulted with direct attacks like grabs, punches and kicks. If I was holding a knife in natural grip, a stick or a bolo, my assailant is likely to change the nature of his attack to more indirect attempts to control my weapon rather than me. Be aware that if the element of surprise has not proven successful, the nature of the attack will probably change.

A is for "Advanced". Nearly all flexible weapons are considered to be advanced. In the Dacayana Eskrima system, the sarong is studied from 4th to 5th degree Black belt. Similarly, nearly all styles I know of that use flexible weapons (such as rope, belt, chain, nunchaku and whip) only teach them to advanced students. This is simply because flexible weapons are hard to use and require a lot of skill to use successfully. The two main ways of using a sarong are what I call "Whip 'em and grip 'em". Neither of these skills are easy and both require a lot of timing, distancing and accuracy. These could understandably be considered to be major disadvantages in a fight. On the up side however, if your opponent did manage to take your sarong from you, they are highly unlikely to be able to use it as well as you. I'm sure we all remember the scene in "Way of the Dragon", when Bruce Lee's opponent tried to use a nunchaku and smacked himself in the face.

R stands for "Range". The sarong is a weapon that comes in to its own at long range and short range, also known as "Snap it and wrap it". There is no doubt that it is not easy to wrap a sarong around a fast moving limb and it is even harder to wrap it around two. As I mentioned, it is definitely an advanced technique. An easier way (but still not easy) is to snap the knotted end at your opponent like a whip. This requires practice in order to be accurate and get the timing and distancing right on a fast approaching opponent. However, it is easier to be accurate with a shorter weapon and if you engage the sarong early enough, you can use it to keep your opponent outside their striking range and dissuade them from attacking. 

O is for "Opportunistic". Let's be realistic. You would not plan to take a sarong to a fight. If I was expecting violence, I would choose another weapon. A sarong is definitely a weapon of opportunity. It's a weapon that you could use if you had no other choice rather than you would use if you had another choice. In this country, you might consider wearing a sarong as a scarf for a couple of months per year (maybe three if you are really sensitive to the cold). This means that for the other ten months, you wouldn't even have it on you. Let us (for the sake of my sanity) ignore the whole issue of "cultural appropriation", on the assumption that we wouldn't even do Martial Arts if we were at all concerned with such judgemental nonsense. Other than that, you are looking at improvised weapons. A belt, towel, rope, chain, tie, dog lead, strap, clothes or even a large handkerchief can all be used in the same way as a sarong. So, I like to think of learning the sarong as the Dacayana Eskrima way of teaching us to use flexible weapons.

N stands for "Non contact". Like the use of all weapons, you can avoid making direct contact with your opponent (or his weapon). One of the simplest and easiest examples of this is to wrap the sarong around your hand and arm to act as a shield by protecting it against cuts from an opponents knife. But there is definitely a different type of energy when we use flexible weapons such as the sarong. If I block a stick with a stick, the vibrations travel down the stick into your hand. This is more obvious with harder wood sticks that are more dense than rattan. Please don't misunderstand. I am not trying to sound all mystical by talking about energy. There is far too much nonsensical rubbish talked about this in the Martial Arts. Most of the confusion could be easily cleared up with a rudimentary understanding of physics. But some people just love woo-woo. 

The basic rule is that a sarong absorbs energy when it loosens and emits energy when it tightens. This is mechanical energy, that can be understood just as easily by basic western science as it can by eastern philosophy. If I hold a sarong tightly it contains elastic potential energy. When it absorbs an impact it loosens and springs back to shape. Try this with a swing punch or a roundhouse kick. Start by having your training partner strike at you softly and block it with the tightened sarong. Now gradually get them to increase to full power. The sarong can absorb everything. You take no impact. The next type of mechanical energy we can look at is kinetic energy. This is energy that comes from movement. When we whip a sarong the speed increases exponentially. As it is going from loose to tight it creates a sonic boom (the "whip crack") as it breaks the speed of sound. It is no wonder that something as soft as a sarong can sting so much. There are some fascinating videos about the science behind whips on YouTube. If I just swing the knot of a sarong (e.g. in a figure 8) at a target, it does hardly any damage, unless I load the knot with a weight. I am not advocating this, I am just saying that there may be unscrupulous people out there who might consider this nefarious course of action. It has obviously never crossed my mind because I am virtuous and good. 

G is for "Grip". The Dacayana Eskrima sarong being knotted into a loop makes it both very easy to grip and to keep hold of. Normally, you would hold the looped end in your  right hand and the knotted end in your left hand. The right either just grabs the loop or you wrap the loop around your wrist and grab it for extra security. The left holds the other end just above the knot and pulls tightly. The knot ensures the sarong doesn't come out of your hand until you want to release it (when whipping). This is a very secure grip and it's therefore difficult for anyone to take your sarong from you. The tight hold works well for defence, providing the elastic potential energy and offence, to deliver kinetic energy. The main drawback of a two handed grip is that once you start wrapping up an opponents arm, you are occupying two of your hands to one of his. This leaves you exposed to being struck with the other hand. Even if you do manage to wrap his second hand, you have now gone to considerable effort just to occupy both of his hands and both of yours. It is important to be aware that you have effectively limited options for both your opponent and yourself.

As usual, this article is based on my knowledge and experience and I always look forward to hearing from people with a differing perspective. Please forgive my simplistic explanation of mechanical energy. I haven't studied physics since I was a child. D