-By Tom Skoglind
January 2002
The fighting arts of the Philippine islands are widely recognized and respected for their effective stick and blade fighting systems. Perhaps lesser known, but no less formidable, the Filipino combat arts offer many different complete and equally effective empty hand systems ranging from kicking and boxing to grappling. One such system is Inayan Kadena de Mano. The empty hand aspect of an effective knife fighting system, Kadena de Mano practitioners are noted for their speed and ability to flow from technique to technique.
OverviewTomS copy
Literally translated as “chain of the hand” Kadena de Mano is the family art of the late Grandmaster Max Sarmiento. After coming to the United States and settling in the agricultural community of Stockton, California, the college educated Sarmiento became a prominent member of the large Filipino community. At this time, practitioners of Eskrima and Arnis closely guarded their art from outsiders and trained only in private, often under the cover of night.
It was Sarmiento who approached another local eskrimador, Angel Cabales with a proposition that would profoundly impact martial arts in America. Together they opened the doors of the first school to publicly teach the Filipino martial arts to those seeking the knowledge. The rest, as they say, is history.
Before these secrets were widely taught to the public, however, one man benefited from private instruction with these great teachers. Gaining introduction to Sarmiento through a family friend, Mangisursuro Mike Inay trained with these Grandmasters in their homes and backyards. Eventually founding his own system comprised of many complete styles, Grandmaster Inay dedicated his life to the propagation of Eskrima. He honed and refined the Kadena de Mano style into a well structured, highly sought after art that would be passed along to martial artists and law enforcement personnel around the globe.
Concept Forms Content
While encompassing an infinite array of techniques, the power of Inayan Kadena de Mano lies in the theory behind those techniques. The simple, yet effective concepts, which are the base of Inayan Kadena de Mano today, have proven themselves time and again under the rigors of actual confrontation.
The basic core curriculum of Kadena de Mano, as taught by the Guros of Inayan Systems International (ISI), consists of twenty-one individual drills and thirty-six basic counters, which embody the principles and philosophy of the style. These basics form the foundation and provide building blocks, which can be used by the student to construct a simple solid defense or an elaborate structure. Beyond the basics are countless combinations, variations and permutations, which eventually lead to that elusive realm of free-flowing spontaneous technique.
Though some of the most basic concepts will be addressed, bear in mind that this is by no means a complete or definitive list. Compiling such a list would be a daunting task, to say the least, and would fill several volumes. The focus here is on empty hand technique, but Inayan Kadena de Mano is a blade art above all else. Every concept applies to, and in most cases comes directly from, the knife. The same can be said for the basic drill structure. If there is an empty-handed drill or technique, there is also a blade-oriented translation. In some cases, specific mechanics may need to be adjusted from one application to the other, but the underlying concept will always be the same.
De-fang the Snake
This is one of the most basic concepts of Inayan Kadena de Mano. It follows the theory that without its fangs to use as weapons, an otherwise deadly snake is rendered virtually harmless. Similarly, an assailant without his arms or legs to use as weapons poses little threat. When attacked, rather than block the attack and counter to the body or head, an Eskrimador may choose to directly attack the incoming limb. To make this both safe and effective, a combination of timing, sensitivity and precision is crucial. By eliminating the traditional block/counter mindset and “feeling” what the opponent’s energy is doing, any weapon an opponent attacks with provides the defender with new targets for an immediate counter attack. This drastically disrupts the opponents rhythm, and can help create even more openings in a stunned opponent. With all such techniques, continued follow-up techniques may be employed until the threat has been successfully neutralized.
Economy of Motion
One of the primary components of this concept is the closest hand principle. In essence, it holds that whether one chooses to intercept, attack, or employ a limb destruction, the initial engagement should always be generated by the tool that is closest to the intended target at that time. This is why it is vitally important to train ambidexterity under a wide variety of scenarios. It is impossible to foresee how you will be standing, what your relative position will be to your attacker, what weapon he will use, or any of the other innumerable variables that will enter into the equation of your encounter. It is crucial to develop a comfort level with using your body in as many ways as possible, so that when the time comes you can react naturally and confidently with the closest, most efficient weapon.
Another component of economy of motion is the use of direct attack. Acknowledging that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, the most efficient way for a defense or attack to get from point A to point B is along that line. Primarily, this means that the motion starts immediately from wherever the tool of choice is located. For example, if one needs to punch his opponent, the attack will be launched directly from wherever his hand happens to be at that time. There is no cocking, chambering or telegraphing of any type. The milliseconds spent on wasted movement could mean the difference between life or death, especially when facing an edged weapon.
By employing this theory, one can unleash a continuous barrage of attacks, thereby overwhelming an opponent. Even if an opponent blocks, the Inayan Eskrimador will remove the obstruction and continue forward, never pulling back, constantly charging in with an unrelenting series of fists, elbows, knees and any other weapon at his disposal.
Since this method sometimes leaves very little distance for an attack to travel, power must be generated through proper body mechanics. By using the whole body in unison, great power can be developed within a very limited space. Both heavy bag work and focus mitt training with a good partner can help to dramatically improve efficiency and power generation.
The “live hand” is another important tool in Inayan Kadena de Mano. During a confrontation, if at any time one is not actively using their hands, they should be kept at the ready. Generally floating around the upper chest or head area, or placed in between yourself and an opponent’s weapon, the live hand is poised and easily deployed whether it be to attack or defend.
Get Down
Beyond the standing and striking scenarios, Inayan Eskrima contains a comprehensive grappling and groundfighting curriculum. Many times, an initial standing confrontation will lead to some sort of grappling scenario. As with all other aspects of Inayan Eskrima, the ISI curriculum begins with a set of standard drills used to reinforce the basic principals and techniques of the grappling. Perhaps the most important of these drills are the “lock flows”. What begins as a simple series of locks eventually grows into the interactive lock “flow”. These drills begin with a striking attack, which segues into locking. Once inside, one student applies a lock, and the other student immediately reverses the lock or escapes and applies a counter-lock, which is also countered, and so on. The basic drills revolve around pre-arranged locks and counters, but as with everything else, spontaneous flow is the ultimate goal. In free-flow grappling, practitioners apply the locks and reversals of their choice until one taps out or is unable to continue. The sensitivity and kinesthetic awareness developed in the basic drills are what allow the student to eventually create in the midst of combat and perform the proper technique based on feel rather than conscious thought.
It’s All About Speed 
While this only scratches the surface of the myriad principals within Inayan Kadena de Mano, the underlying goal for all of these is to ultimately develop speed, power, sensitivity and flow.
Many people marvel at the seemingly impossible hand speed of the Inayan Kadena de Mano practitioner. While there are those rare individuals who do naturally possess incredible physical speed, anyone can drastically reduce their response times and increase their effective speed by utilizing the principle within Inayan Kadena de Mano. As with anything worth doing, it takes hard work and a lot of practice, but the return on investment is outstanding. Mangisursuro Inay used to say, “When I teach you the weapon [knife], the hands are a gift.” What a generous gift, indeed.