SIKARAN’S OLD TRAINING METHOD
Farming in the Philippines is not an occupation for the faint-hearted or the weak in spirit. Even in this age of space travel and computer technology, farming in the Philippines is still much the same as it was centuries ago. Only the big corporations in the agri-business use mechanized farming. It is still the farmer, relying on his trustworthy beast of burden, who cultivates the land of the small family owned or leased farm. The farmer, using his bare hands does all the physical labor from plowing the fields, to harvesting the crop. Very little has changed in farming since the discovery of the Philippines. To exemplify the labor required in farming, one only has to look at the Banaue rice terraces, where the natives carved the mountainside with their bare hands to create a field that looks like a stairway to heaven. The grandeur that is the Banause rice terraces is considered one of the wonders of the modern world.
A Filipino farmer is a strong, well built, and persevering example of manhood. Due to the very nature of the job, a farmer has the strength and physique that puts to shame those who develop their body in the confines of a gymnasium. Farming involves anaerobic and aerobic physical exertion that gives a farmer over-all fitness.
A farmer’s hands and feet are rough and calloused but strong and tough. From sunrise to sunset, a farmer works the field barefooted and without protection from the elements. Walking the field after it was plowed develops not only strong legs and sturdy feet but also flexible footwork. It also develops a stable center of gravity, enabling the SIKARANista to push, pull, takedown or throw down someone while keeping his own balance. Working in the field gives him a vise-like grip. The callous on his hands and feet can literally peel off anybody’s skin even through clothing. A farmer is naturally groomed to be a formidable fighter.
Even with his natural exercise, to be a good SIKARAN fighter, a farmer engaged in supplemental training. Training was mostly kept secret to ensure advantage during contests. Although austere and harsh, the training was very effective. This training separated the fighter farmer from the ordinary farmer and the Hari from the ordinary SIKARAN fighter.
The most common training in SIKARAN started with hitting banana plants. Hand strikes include hitting with the open hands, the fists, the fingertips, the forearms, and the elbows. Foot techniques included kicking with the knees, the shins, the insteps, the balls of the feet, the edges of the feet, the heels, the soles of the feet and even the toes.
Banana plant was the first choice because it was pliable and less likely to cause injury until such time that the SIKARANista moves to another medium.
From the banana plant, the training progressed to the use of clusters of bamboos tied together with rice stalks or banana fibers in between to absorb the shock at the same time offer a harder surface.
Hitting the trunk of the coconut tree was the last and final toughening training. Sometimes, Talahib (a type of long wild grass normally used for roofs), rice stalks or banana fibers were tied around the trunk of the coconut tree to absorb the impact. However, this practice was considered milksop by some fighters.
The tree was struck in the same method as one will strike a heavy bag. Every part of the hand from the fingertips to the knuckles was used to hit the tree. The forearms and the elbows were trained the same way. The knees and the shin were conditioned in similar fashion. Every part of the foot from the instep, the heel and the toes were trained. What was interesting was how hey hit the tree. The tree was hit not from a stationary position but while moving forward, while moving sideward and even while jumping. Sometimes it was hit from a non-stop clockwise direction and sometimes in a counter-clockwise direction using all the natural weapons such as the hands (both open and close), the elbows, the feet, the shins, the knees, the hips, shoulders and for some even the head for suwag (head-butt) techniques.
The most unique characteristic of the old SIKARAN training was doing “ isang galaw isang libong beses” (one technique one thousand times) until it became a natural reflexive action or what they called “ likas na galaw” (natural movement or reaction). They trained until their techniques were “kasing lakas ng kulog - kasing bilis ng kidlat” (as strong as thunder - as fast as lightning). Somehow, the old masters knew that a fighter always fall back to his level of training.
This type of training explained how some SIKARAN fighters were able to break coconuts with the shin or even down a carabao with a biyakid and hit with equal force from any angle.
To develop speed and timing in blocking and striking, both with the hands and feet, they used the pabitin, a bamboo pole, about 8 feet long tied in the middle and suspended from a tree branch. One end of the pole was kicked or struck while the other end was blocked or also kicked or struck. As the SIKARANista got faster and better, the pole got shorter and shorter.
Another variation of the pabitin was placing a small rock in a piece of cloth fashioned as a bag and suspended from a tree branch. This type of pabitin was used for training in accuracy of a technique rather than power.
When one felt he was fast enough, he tried the pusa (cat) training. Although this training was more of a sideshow, it developed speed and good timing. A cat was thrown up in the air and before it can land, it had to be caught and thrown back up in the air without being bitten, clawed or scratched. This type of training may sound inhumane but it rarely hurt the cat. More often than not, it hurt the practitioner more than it did the cat.
When a SIKARANista had reached this stage of training, it was assumed that he had toughened his hands and feet and sharpened his skill to the point that he was now considered a likely candidate to win twelve “official matches” and eventually be a Hari. This training understandably made a very intimidating, even dangerous fighter.