“Espada y Daga” literally means “sword and dagger”. Espada y Daga is considered to be one of the two “crown jewels” of the Pekiti-Tirsia system (the other being Daga). Like knife-work, there are many intricacies in Espada y Daga that make this part of the system one of the more complex areas of study in the Filipino martial arts. The simultaneous coordination of two weapons–each of a different length and offensive property–is similar to playing chess with the right hand while playing backgammon with the left. There are similarities to European sword play, which may use a rapier with the dominant hand and a parrying dagger with the other hand. This is in part to the Spanish occupation of the Philippines, with influences also coming from Italy. The Filipinos already had an indigenous form of espada y daga, but they adapted some of the theory and pedagogy of the conquistadors. The ability to adapt to and assimilate the techniques of the Spaniards created an effective sword and dagger system…a conglomerate of many sources but truly Filipino in spirit.
Pekiti-Tirsia’s Espada Y Daga curriculum is split into three levels and classified by the knife grip orientation of both combatants. Each level is diveded into Attacks, Disarms, Contradas and Recontras. In level one, the practitioner and the opponent both have their knives in sak-sak (hammer grip). In level two, the practitioner has his knife in pakal (ice-pick grip) and the opponent has his knife in sak-sak. Finally, in level three, both combatants have their knives in pakal.
With the advent of new technologies (in particular, firearms), many wonder where the practicality of learning espada y daga lies. Some consider it an obsolete pursuit, preferring to study single stick or knife for obvious pragmatism. However, within the realm of espada y daga lay the theories for every other aspect of the Pekiti-Tirsia system. The study of espada y daga improves one’s single stick skills by improving the aggressiveness of the alive hand (or free-hand), since the espada y daga knife hand is trained to be more offensive. Espada y daga movements translate nicely into double knife techniques–both in pakal (ice-pick) and sak-sak (hammer) grips. Double knife techniques can also translate into single knife techniques…and many single knife techniques influence the nature of Pekiti-Tirsia empty hand techniques. Although espada y daga studies directly influence the rest of Pekiti-Tirsia weapon curricula, there are other practical applications. Mataas Na Tuhon Leo T. Gaje had demonstrated to law-enforcement personnel how espada y daga theory applies to the simultaneous use of the ASP baton and pepper spray, to the use of the ASP baton and stun gun, and to the use of the ASP baton and handcuffs..among many other applications. In the end, this most classical Filipino art form has it’s roots firmly planted in the reality and history of armed combat.