“Sarilhos”, “Formas” and “Séries” in Jogo do Pau Português

Formas, sarilhos and series in jogo do pau

Sarilhos”, “Formas” and “Séries” in Jogo do Pau Português

Sarilhos, Formas and Séries are training methods in the “Jogo do Pau” martial art that to some degree can be compared or described as the “Kata” of the Portuguese traditional martial art.

These exercises are characterized by the absence of one or multiple opponents during the execution of a combination of attacks and defenses, in a predetermined sequence with the objective of perfecting ones technique and learning. These can be done individually or in a synchronized group.

Comparison between “Kata” vs “Sarilhos / Formas” or “Séries”.

Generically in oriental martial arts, the “kata” can be described as a simulation or representation of a sequence of movements, attacks and defenses in an imaginary fight. Each attack should be executed as if intending to hit an opponent, and each defense executed as if the opponent would be hitting us. This description, from a broad perspective fits as a glove to describe “Sarilhos”, “Formas” and “Séries” in Jogo do Pau, however these 3 training methods are a bit more specific both in form and function/ objective.

In “Karaté”, the “Kata” are described as a detailed simulation of combat and movements that is practiced individually or as a team.
In “Judo”, it is said the “Kata ” are a series of fundamental movements used to pass on a specific technique.

(information taken from Wikipédia)

So, what are “Sarilhos”, “Formas” and “Séries” in “Jogo do Pau Português”

Its common for beginners to be somewhat confused in the differences between these 3 exercises. Probably because they are usually tough together, or in sequence. and having some similarities between them, are very different from the normal practical training, both technical and sparring.

All 3 are practiced individually or in teams (synchronized and side by side, as opposed to athlete vs athlete, one attacking the other), and all are usually oriented to perfecting techniques and individual movement without direct confrontation/ contact.

The following points are the usual explanation I try to pass on to my students so they understand the differences:


Technical defense movements trained in sequence in previously determined timings and movements. These represent old defensive techniques destined for specific situations, like removing the “Choupa” cover (long stick with a blade in on end, usually covered with metal casing) while being attacked, transforming the the stick into a “spear”. These are generally considered to be good exercises for improving and athlete’s stick /body coordination, with the advantage that they can be executed individually.


Multiple opponent combat simulations done trough the execution of a fixed sequence of attacks and defenses. Often associated with the northern Portugal schools, that devoted mostly to multiple opponent combat, but these are also part of the techniques present in the Lisbon region that since the School of Master Pedro Ferreira, have combined all the aspects of combat (1 to 1, and 1 to multiple opponents).

There are some “Formas” that when practiced in coordinated/ parallel groups become aesthetically interesting, creating choreographic moments that are often showed in demonstrations, but the main purpose of this coordination between athletes is not demonstration, its the training of the technical execution, in the correct time of the “Forma”.


These were part of the traditional training method of the old masters. They were there “technical program”, matching them to different stages of development by there students trough the combination of defenses and attacks, “sarilhos” and parts of the “formas”, usually practiced 1 to 1 (master to student). We can find this method described in the book of Master Frederico Hopfer “Duas palavras sobre Jogo do pau”  as in the descriptions of “Series de pancadas colligidas pelo Sr. Pedro Augusto da Silva

Today, there use is wider and according to a class room model, meaning 1 master to several students. They mostly work as a simulation of combat against and imaginary opponent trough the execution of a sequence of attacks and defenses, but its still possible to practice them 1 to 1.

These are the most complex exercises of the 3 mentioned, the ones that require more technical knowledge. They include more techniques in larger sequences and more movements in specific technique times.

On the other hand, besides combining all the advantages of the previous exercises, they are also easily identified in demonstrations, because most of the times they are accompanied by music and performed by multiple coordinated athletes, but without interaction between them.

Advantages for training and technical development

These workout, when well applied, at the right time and at the right ages, has many advantages:

In the young and very young, they allow a familiarization with the use of the stick and with the movement of the “Jogo do Pau” without risk of being accidentally hit by other athletes, besides allowing the training in a class model with a larger number of athletes in a safe and organized way .

In the Young / Adult and Senior classes, it also allows the training of technical optimization and handling of the stick, movement, balance and posture, and can be carried out individually or in a class model, with different degrees of exigency depending on the knowledge and development of each athlete .

Often it is a type of training that can be associated with individual training outside (parks, gardens, beaches …), included or not in another type of fitness or leisure activity and performed at low or medium speed. It by excellence an individual training ideal for technical improvement, coordination and balance training that can be performed by all athletes of all ages and is advised at a technical intermediate / advanced level.

Associação de Jogo do Pau de Cascais

These types of training remain part of our technique in Cascais and Stafffighters Clubs, along with competitive training and traditional training with real opponents and wooden sticks, in which the athlete is forced to attack at the opponent’s body and defend those same attacks made by his partner. It is a school dedicated to the actual combat effectiveness, the base and the highest aim of our martial art.

The Sarilhos, Formas and Séries are often associated with a more playful / technical or performance training. In fact, for a Jogo do Pau athlete in our school, this type of training should not be overlooked, because we do not always have the possibility to train against several partners, and when we have it, derived from the different levels and capacities of each athlete, we are not always able to analyze and perfect movement to movement.

For our school, technical improvement is the way we go every day to achieve combat effectiveness, and as such, these 3 tools are an integral part of our “toolbox”, our technique and commitment, with view to the construction of the best “Jogador”.

Ricardo Moura
Author: Ricardo Moura

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