What are the martial arts that you know of? For sure, you’re familiar with karate, taekwondo, judo, kung fu, and probably muay thai for some. And while martial arts have strong ties to Asian cultures, these are actually practiced and valued by individuals from various ethnic backgrounds globally, hence the growing popularity of other disciplines like Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Krav Maga.
But did you know that there is a specific martial arts style that is innate among Filipinos? In fact, empty-handed fighting has existed in the Philippines since pre-colonial times. Come to think of it, during tribal wars or when hunting, there are times when you lose hold of your weapon; hence, the need to use your strength in a cutthroat close contact fight, like dumog.
What is Dumog? Everything You Need to Know About this Filipino Wrestling Style
If you hail from the Visayas and Mindanao, dumog might be a familiar term to you. Colloquially, this describes people or animals brawling without any exemplary skills. But in Eskrima, dumog refers to wrestling techniques practiced in the Philippines, that involve a relentless and aggressive approach to close combat done in a standing, upright style.
While it’s often associated with grappling, this style of wrestling particularly targets vital areas such as the arms, face, throat, carotids, shoulders, and collarbones to swiftly incapacitate the opponent. This is skillfully done by grabbing, pinching, and striking the vulnerable points to immobilize or weaken the enemy and give ample time for the attacker to continuously strike.
According to some records, precolonial Filipinos used poisons or peppers on their fingertips and applied them to the enemy’s eyes or lips, forcing them to succumb in just a blink as these areas rapidly absorbed the poison down to the bloodstream. In some cases, they also apply these poisons to concealed-bladed weapons to swiftly end things. In short, this technique was originally not meant for sports fighting.
Through time, Filipino fighters have adapted dumog in their practice, not to kill their opponents but to keep them sharp, develop good fighting reflexes, and leverage advantage by targeting the control points or choke points of the body—thereby disrupting the opponent’s balance and bringing them down. Dumog is often done to disable the limbs, target the upper and lower sections of the body, and inflict damage by striking the knees, kicking, locking joints, and breaking fingers and toes.
All of the aforementioned are meticulously done for the wrestler to earn points through strikes, takedowns, and, of course, submission holds. In a country geographically as widespread as the Philippines, this technique has been adopted in many variations, depending on the region, minority practices, and rules implemented. In some parts of the country, dumog also goes by the names of combat judo or bono. As of this writing, dumog competitions typically take place on a regional scale, primarily within the Philippines.While the future of dumog remains to be seen, it is evident that the rich traditions of Filipino martial arts continue to captivate and inspire practitioners within and beyond the vibrant landscapes of the Philippines. The diverse techniques, cultural heritage, and fierce dedication embedded within these martial arts showcase the enduring spirit and resilience of Filipino martial arts practitioners—leaving a lasting impact on the world stage.