Eskrima uses the same concept as the bayonet fighting method utilized by the US Marines. Bayonet fighting is based from Boxing so that soldiers can learn one style and apply that to empty hand or a bayonet. In Eskrima we use the same movements whether we are empty handed or holding one or two weapons, whether it's a stick, knife, tactical baton, Tomahawk, Nunchaku, or some improvised weapon.
What makes Eskrima unique is that even if you are a beginner, from day one you will begin with weapons. Right from the beginning, you will start with single and double sticks.
Originally the sticks were designed to be for practice, simulating a short sword. Overtime the Filipino warriors discovered that the sticks were formidable weapons themselves.
Single stick work is more technical at a higher level, but double stick work will help you become ambidextrous. Don't think that in real life you will never find/have two sticks, therefore double stick skills are unrealistic. Double stick is important because in real life combat we fight with both arms.
The sticks are the most generic shape and size for a weapon. The idea is that we train with this generic stick so that we can apply these skills, to whatever we find and choose to use as an improvised weapon. In other words if I have a hammer in one hand, and a wrench in another, I should be ready for combat.
The length of the sticks exaggerate the moves making them easier to learn. The knife on the other hand is short making your moves more compact, which makes the intricate and subtle motions harder to learn. That is why the knife skill is considered advanced. So we don't normally start off with the knife, we start with the sticks and then progress to the training knife.
After learning single and double stick, the single and double training knife is added to the practice. We also begin empty hand work. Empty hand work consists of finger jabbing, slapping, palm strikes, chops, hammer fists, and punching. This kind of versatility helps you get ready for the various smaller improvised weapons you will start to use, such as a Kubotan, tactical flashlight, pen, and cup. You should start to incorporate practice with various improvised weapons. Improvised weapons are the things that you can find around you in your daily life that normally aren't used as weapons.
After that we begin to practice with a short sword to get use to the blade. In modern times I like to replace the short sword with a machete. After working with a longer bladed weapon, we can then add the knife. So mastering the knife has been the ultimate goal for me because I followed this natural progression.
People ask me how to defend against a knife attack. The Eskrima method is to first learn how to use the knife. Once you understand the major and minor attacks, only then can you begin to mount some kind of defensive plan. If you don't understand the knife, then every knife attack will always seem 100% deadly all the time and you won't be able to do anything.
So, in order to learn how to defend against the knife, we must first learn how to use the knife. In order to learn how to use the knife, in Eskrima we first learn the sticks.
Even though we practice empty hand skills in Eskrima, in a real life crisis situation, the idea is to use a weapon, whether it's improvised or a weapon you carry. The only time you wouldn't use a weapon is when the situation is not that serious, or you didn't have time to get to a weapon.