Welcome to DragonArnis.co.uk

Dragon Arnis was founded by Punong Guro John James and his senior students based on the many years of training and experience in the martial arts of the Philippines. In addition to its Filipino heritage Dragon Arnis is influenced strongly by and integrated with Kung Fu, Silat and Western Boxing.

With over 30 years experience in martial arts John, along with his senior students, have developed a comprehensive martial arts system with the syllabus incorporating arnis, panantukan, dumog, Kung Fu, and Silat. The foundation of the system is Arnis – a Filipino martial art emphasizing the use of sticks, knives, other bladed weapons, dulo-dulo, flexible and improvised weapons and combinations of weapons. In particular use of one weapon versus another is explored with the principle that “stick seeks bone; blade seeks flesh”.

The Dragon Arnis instructors have trained with many of the leading teachers of Arnis over many years. These include (though not in any particular order) Grandmaster Prudencio “Ondo” Caburnay (Lapunti Arnis de Abanico), Master John Mac (under Supreme Grandmaster Ciriaco “Cacoy” Canete’s Doce Pares), Supreme Grandmaster Diony Canete (Doce Pares Multistyle), Grandmaster Nick Elizar (Nickelstick Escrima, previously of Teovel’s Balintawak Group), Grandmaster Oliver Bersabal (Arnis Koredas Obra Mano), Tuhon Pat O’Malley (Rapid Arnis International) and Grandmaster John Harvey (Kapatiran Arnis) with whom John trained for over 16 years.

Enjoy the site and hopefully we will train together soon!



Classes: Tuesday & Wednesday

Where: Backwell Leisure Centre, Farleigh Rd, Backwell, Bristol BS48 3PB
When: 8.00-9.30pm
Cost: Juniors £5 Adults £6
Instructor: John James

All levels welcome

We have a relaxed and open teaching approach which hopefully allows students and instructors to develop at their own pace and their own style. Each student and each instructor brings an unique outlook and knowledge to the system – helping it to grow and evolve – without this we stand still. We are open to training in other styles and welcome practitioners of other styles equally.

The emphasis of Dragon Arnis has always been to translate technical aspects of traditional drills into applicable combat situations. A drill might have an apparently impractical skill set until someone can explain its place in the scheme – often they are there to increase coordination, flow, timing or to provide a framework on which other elements are added. In neurological terms we try and utilise the SAID principle – specific adaptation to imposed demand – which basically means your body and mind adapt only if put under pressure. A simple drill once learnt has to be stretched and changed to create other patterns of movement and results so the practitioner won’t be left with only one response to an attack. This is one of the main paradigms for Dragon Arnis – specific activity yields the greatest results.

Using the various sparring formats and innovative drills to constantly test ourselves and various techniques has always been beneficial to advancement. With 11 WEKAF & GSBA World Champions coming through the club over the years along with numerous British and European Champions and 4 British Limited Armour Champions – it must be working!


Punong Guro John James

Dragon Arnis Head Instructor

Starting in 1975 with Judo and Wado Ryu Karate, John soon found a life-long interest in martial arts. In 1979 his training began in Feng Shou Kung Fu under Master Mike Hart and Grandmaster Prof. Chee Soo, John was a 2nd Tengi (2nd degree Black Belt grade) in Feng Shou Kung Fu under Grandmaster Prof. Chee Soo and taught the art in London, Swansea, Coventry, and Bristol.

In 1993 after looking for many years for an art that was more centred around the use of and defence from weapons that weren’t highly traditional John was lucky enough to meet up with an old friend Suba Miah. Suba was also his senior in Feng Shou when he trained in Swansea in the 1970’s. He introduced John to some drills with the solo and double baston which immediately caught his interest and when he returned to London he set about tracking down an instructor to help fill the gaps he knew were present in his training. It took a year to find the right instructor and right style – Rapid Arnis under Tuhon Pat O’Malley in London, and Grandmaster John Harvey in Luton. With the intention of just learning and training and not wishing to grade or compete John began his Arnis journey. Then he became hooked on the simple yet intricate drills and the beauty of the movement and techniques so evident in Filipino Martial Arts which people often associate with just single and double stick but is actually one of the most complete arts today. So he started grading and then got talked into competing and hasn’t looked back.

Since moving to Bristol in 1996 John has taught Arnis. After winning several British titles he was selected for his first international competition in Galway, the 1999 WEKAF European Championships. Here he took Gold at double stick and Bronze in single after losing to a truly great fighter from Italy in the semi-final. It was the loss that spurred him on to greater achievements and to emulate and ultimately counter the style of the Italian. On the back of this success the GB coaches selected John to be Captain at the WEKAF World Championships in Cebu in 2000. This was a big step up as a fighter to be on the world stage and in the home of the art, but to captain the GB team was a true honour. The fighting as always was hard but the conditions were harder. However, by the end of it John had the World Title he had dreamed of and a Bronze medal too. More importantly for him was how well the GB Team and his own students from Bristol did, the latter bringing back 3 Golds, 2 Silvers and a Bronze – and there were only three of them! This was the start of the winning Bristol Team.

John ‘The Sniper’ James is known for his technical fighting ability in both WEKAF style and limited armour fighting, having won the latter title 3 times, and no-rule fights some of which were in the caged arena. He has always tried to analyse other fighters’ styles with a view to always having another method of fighting to counter any opponent. A lot of fighters have just one or two ways they can actually fight when under pressure – this leads to predictability and the downfall of many competitors as well as a bad way to fight in reality situations. With so many incredible practitioners from the Philippines and Britain as well as other countries on the world circuit we have an amazing resource to try and emulate and then counter. After all, learning starts with copying.

John is Chief Instructor, 6th Degree Black Belt, and Head of the Dragon Arnis System and continues to train with other instructors and Grandmasters from various styles and systems. Continual learning is the only way to stop us becoming static in our development and that of our systems – something John learnt early on from his instructors. He is currently learning Bruneian Silat from Guru Maul Mornie of Silat Suffian Bela Diri and looking forward to training with Grandmaster Ondo Caburnay, Grandmaster Oliver Bersibal and Master John Mac again soon.

Summary of Achievements

  • Winner of WEKAF European under 80kg Veterans Single and Double Stick in Terracina, Italy (2007)
  • Winner of British Low Armour Tournament Middleweight (2002, 2003 and 2005)
  • Winner WEKAF World Championships Double Stick, Middleweight and third place in Single Stick Middleweight (2000)
  • Winner of WEKAF European Middleweight Double Stick in Galway, bronze in Single Stick Middleweight (1999)
  • Winner of WEKAF European Middleweight Double Stick in Bristol, bronze in Single Stick Middleweight (2001)
  • About 20 British Titles in Single and Double Stick
  • Acting-President of WEKAF (2004-2006) due to the untimely and tragic passing of the elected president Guro Arif Shaikh
  • Vice-President of WEKAF (2002-2004)
  • Captain of the British Team (2000) and Vice-Captain (2001)
  • Director of WEKAF-GB (2000-2002; 2008-2010)
  • Vice-Director of WEKAF-GB (2007-2008)
  • Coach to the Bristol squad – winners of over 100 British Titles, 24 European Titles, 12 World Titles in WEKAF & GSBA competitions and 4 Limited Armour Champions

John is currently Chief Instructor and Head of the Dragon Arnis System and head coach to the GSBA Great Britain Stickfighting Team.

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