Strictly speaking (writing) for myself, I believe that mobility, footwork and body-shifting needs to be emphasized more in the training of most Modern Arnis students in the United States. If there is one constant that I have observed in my 39 years of training within the Modern Arnis System, it is that most of the practitioners do not demonstrate a mastery of good footwork and body shifting. They typically ‘plant’ their feet, thereby ‘rooting’ themselves in one spot as they practice their striking and/or defending themselves in the various system drills. These people tend to rely heavily on their stick and empty supporting hand in defending themselves against an attack. Many of my fellow Modern Arnis instructors will talk mightily about mobility and movement, but in actual practice they fail to execute the very behaviors that they claim are so integral to their art or instructional formats.
I have found that most of my fellow Modern Arnis instructors, regardless of current ranking, have failed to establish any sort of definitive pattern with regard to triangulation stepping as described by the late Grandmaster Remy A. Presas, in his various books. Without that essential footwork foundation these instructors can not establish any sort of alternate supplemental patterns for evasive footwork to augment the primary evasion triangulation steps that Professor shows in his books, particularly the Ohara Publications version of Modern Arnis (Modern Arnis: The Filipino Art of Stick Fighting. Remy Presas. 1983, p. 26). Merely talking about footwork and mobility is not enough. One actually has to use it in his/her own training sessions and drill it into their students until it is a reflexive habit. If one were to closely examine Modern Arnis stick strikes 5, 6, 7, 10 and 11 it would be readily apparent that these attacks can be evaded and neutralized by merely shifting your body off the line of attack with either a single step and/or rotation of upper body.
The integrated transitional concepts which are inherent within the logical philosophy of blade avoidance in Professor Presas’ system should be readily apparent to anyone who has studied Modern Arnis in depth. The thing that makes the Modern Arnis System so effective, efficient and logical is the built-in economy of motion that establishes the foundation of the system. At the very core of the system is the reality that Modern Arnis was built on the principles of the long Filipino blades, such as the bolo, itak, kris, barong, machete and kampilan among others.
Professor wrote the following statement in his first Modern Arnis book in 1973:
“What should be emphasized, however, is the fact that the cane is only for practice purposes for its basiclly less lethal in nature. For in actual combat, the standard weapon is still the bolo or any bladed weapon which is more stable and convenient for this kind of combat technique.” (Modern Arnis: Philippine Martial Art “Stick Fighting”. Remy Amador Presas, Founder of Modern Arnis. p. 9, 1973.).
There are only a few specific stances or ready positions in Modern Arnis, but learning them is essential before they become a part of your automatic response in a self defense situation. Effective balance and the ability to move swiftly backward and forward to facilitate blocking and striking are the backbone of arnis or any martial art. Stances or ready positions are not static things to be assumed and then maintained throughout practice. The body flows into each appropriate stance as the situation demands. (Remy Presas, p. 21, 1983.).
Professor Presas was not the only FMA system leader or GM who espoused the importance of body shifting, footwork and mobility.
Shifting from one stance to another with agility and strong footwork is an art within itself. This is essential in combat for without it balance and timing will not be correct and failure is assured.” (Arnis Balite: The Filipino Art of Hand, Foot & Stick Fighting; as taught by pundador Manuel M. Aguillon. Steven K. Dowd. Page 4.)
Another FMA system leader who advocates the importance of footwork and evasion was the late GM Leo Giron. GM Giron was one of the masters who helped Guro Dan Inosanto gain his understanding of the FMA. GM Giron was a scout for the Filipino Army which battled the Japanese troops in WWII. His very practical and pragmatic understanding of the importance of evasion is battle-tested in the field of actual combat rather than some theoretical paper constructions of what ‘might be’, ‘could be’ or ‘should be’ considered effective. GM Giron stated:
"To evade is to move out of the path of an incoming blow. This does not require the assistance of a weapon, although for maximum protection an evasion is best done in conjunction with a deflection. Evasion is the most graceful motion in the art of escrima, for this movement reveals the amount of training a player has.” (The Secrets of Giron Arnis Escrima. Antonio E. Somera. P. 52, 2003.).
The late GM Antonio Ilustrisimo, a highly celebrate escrimador from