What is ambidexterity? In Modern Arnis, it is the ability to perform techniques with either hand. Every student of mine strives to learn techniques, whether it be cane, knife, or stick with both the right and left hand. The late Professor Remy Presas heavily emphasized this concept. Professor Presas was a natural lefty, and he often told us that this was his ace in the hole. Why? Very few stick fighters in the Philippines knew how to counter left-handed opponents.
Below is a demonstration of ambidexterity favored by Modern Arnis players. My instructors, the Masters of Tapi Tapi, talk about this all the time!
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You’ll notice that I demonstrated the right hand and left-hand techniques separately. Then I combined both sequences into one. Nice flow eh? 🙂
Why train both hands?
(1) From a developmental perspective, I believe that it’s imperative to train both hands. Professor Presas often asked, “what happens if your right hand is incapacitated?” His point was that training the left hand should be an essential part of one’s training regimen. So if your right hand is injured, one can fall back onto the left hand. Aside from the redundancy built into proficiency with both hands, I also believe in balancing both sides of the body.
Below is Master of Tapi Tapi Chuck Gauss demonstrating the left-hand version of Abanico Corto. I must note that Master Chuck is a righty, but after many years of training, his left hand is devastating. Having trained with him and been on the receiving end of his techniques, I would venture to say that one should fear his left hand more than his right. There is no doubt in my mind that Master Chuck is doing precisely what Professor Presas would have done.
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(2) More flexibility in techniques. If you know how to play with either the right or left techniques, you have a lot more options against an opponent. That opponent would have to defend against both the right and the left hand. As Professor liked to point out, once he switched to his left hand, his opponents often did not know how to fight him.
Go back to the video of Master Chuck. Now, think about defending against both his left-hand AND right-hand version of abanico corto, palis palis, stick locking, switching hands, thrusting, posturing, hitting, crossada and many other techniques. Now you’re defending against an astounding number of techniques and not know what he’s going to do. Believe me; it’s a challenge! It’s mind-boggling.
I remember Professor Presas driving on me at a seminar in 1999. He switched hands a couple of times. Defending against him was very difficult. To counter him was nearly impossible.
(3) Lastly, learning how to play with both hands will increase your defensive capabilities.
How so? Knowing how to counter right-handed fighters is one thing. However, if you do not know how to fight a left-handed opponent, you’re in trouble!
Watch professional boxing or UFC. Some of the toughest fighters are southpaws. Many boxers spend six weeks preparing for fights against southpaws. For many, it’s a whole different ball game fighting southpaws instead of an orthodox fighter. Likewise, if you train consistently against one who is reasonably ambidextrous, you will develop defenses and counters against a left-handed player.
In summary, training both hands makes a lot of sense and will expand the toolbox for you. Being a natural righty, I can tell you that it’s challenging to work on the left hand. But it’s a lot of fun as well. It’s worth it!
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