note --- above is Manong Cody Chilson of FCS, who visited Japan last year with Tuhon Ray Dionaldo.
Carenza - or blade dancing - is an important part of the Filipino Martial Arts. It is often called "The Dance of Death", but can be a great way to improve our daily lives as well.
1) History and Culture
Carenza (also Karenza, Carrenza, etc) has its roots deep in the warrior movements practiced across the Philippines. Until very recently, specific techniques were rarely written down and, unlike traditional Japanese/Chinese/Okinawan/Korean martial arts, kata (forms) have been eschewed in favor of drilling and sparring. As well, since martial arts were forbidden under colonial rule of the Spanish, many training concepts were embedded/hidden in traditional Filipino dancing (Sayaw), just as they are in Indonesian/Malay traditional dances, Thai dances, Vietnamese dances and are even found across the globe in arts like Capoeira's Ginga. Even the well-known Tinikling, of bamboo dance, has important uses as part of training footwork patterns for fighting (note the high-stepping replacement footwork in the video). Carenza is usually done to music and as a general rule they are unscripted, just like shadow boxing.
There are also suggestions that Carenza was used before battle (tribal fights or individual duels), similar to the Maori Hakka, as a way of intimidating the enemy with a show of physical and martial prowess designed to strike fear into enemy ranks and bolster the defenders' courage. These pre-fight displays are common in the animal kingdom as ways of establishing and maintaining social hierarchy and found in human culture across civilizations.
2) Training Uses and Benefits
Carenza is also often considered a form of FMA "Shadowboxing", and as such has many of the same benefits as western shadowboxing. Namely, it improves the look and feel of our flows by adding to our fluency of motion, helping us chain together various movements in order to become smooth and connected. I consider 3 levels of training/visualization in Carenza. Also, akin to skipping rope, good Carenza provides cardio and, when using heavier sticks, strength training for the arms and core. Inclusion of abanico/witik movements helps increase the range of motion of the wrists and adds to their flexibility. Carenza is often done with single stock, but can be practiced with any/every weapon or combination such as Espada / Espada Y Daga, tomahawk, karambit and so on.
Carenza is often done solo, but can be performed with a partner, where both show their flow dance-off style to see which person exhibits the best combination of technical mastery, physicality and intensity.
A) Practicing Basic Movements/Chaining
At its simplest, Carenza is a way to work on basic striking angles and connect them together. Starting with 6 basic angles, adding to 10 angles, and creating random combinations to connect the attacks. Hits can be practiced in broken and full lines with varying tempos. Wrist rolls and changing hands are important parts of the Carenza as well. Other add-ins can then be included such as redondo, abanico, dunga, doble, Amara. Footwork patterns are added as well including male/female triangles, replacements, pivots and the like. We start to change from high line to low line (one or both knees down), which works the legs and reminds us to stay coiled and low when we move. We practice our elastico footwork 1-step and 2-step, exploring how to open and close distance between corto/medio/largo. The live hand can simulate checking/passing/grabbing/striking as part of the flow.
B) Application and Visualization
Intermediate to advanced Carenza includes not only continuous flowing, but also fighting application and visualization. Now, rather than just swinging the stick, we imagine the attacking angles and how to respond to them. We think about ranges (largo, medio, corto) and about principles (passa/contradas) and about positioning (point up/down) and this begins to affect how our body and weapons move. We start to visualize attacking patterns and our responses and chain them together in meaningful combinations, burning these responses into our muscle memory. In two-player Carenza, the goal is to flow off of the opponent's movements, in effect "countering" how they move and vice versa. This is intended to convey to the opponent that "anything you try to do I am ready and can counter you".
C) Intensity and Focus
Carenza is also a good way to practice intensity and focus. Rather than just moving body and weapon together, we can work on the gaze and projection of our aggressive intent. As I have mentioned in other posts, training ourselves to be bold and assertive is not only essential for survival in combat, but for success in other aspects of our lives as well.
Like all of our training, what we put in is basically what we get out. How we move and flow with our weapons and our bodies is in direct correlation to the quality and amount of time we practice. Carenza is a great way to build our skills and should not be ignored as a training method.