Rapid Arnis, as both a system and an organisation, means different things to different people. For me though, here's the top five things that I believe define Rapid Arnis at a fundamental level, and are the reasons I continue to teach and practice it to this day:-
1. The "open-door" policy.
This is something that has existed since before I started practising RA back in 2004. Basically, it allows and encourages practitioners to bring in methods and techniques developed externally to RA, and integrate them with the practice and delivery of the system (provided, of course, that they actually have some practical use). Ultimately this means that every Rapid Arnis club has something unique to offer in both the material it covers, and the way that material is delivered, even though they all share a common core syllabus.
2. "Skill is rank."
(nb. A phrase that I nicked from Darren Davies many years ago, who - i think - nicked it from Bram Frank).
In RA, you go for the technical grade that YOU believe you are capable of achieving. Whilst there are certainly guidelines on the grading timeframe, RA is less concerned about time-served, and more concerned with actual performance (ie. knowledge, capability, and delivery). In our group, Ricky Patel stands out as the epitome of this rule, achieving Brown belt (with flying colours) at his first ever grading! The only place this doesn't apply is when going for Senior Blackbelt and the subsequent degrees.
3. Breadth of content.
The core Rapid Arnis syllabus covers a broad range of proficiencies - namely single stick, double stick, dagger, stick and dagger, longstick, empty hand striking, and grappling - all of which practitioners are expected to be able to spar in, as well as display technical prowess in. There are also various additional specialisations (sword, double dagger, karambit, etc) that get taught along the way. Whilst there are obvious pitfalls to having such a broad range of content, it does offer a level of freedom and education that is unrivalled by many other systems.
4. Focus on transitions.
The versatility of having a broad range of knowledge is further supported by developing the mental agility to know when and how to apply knowledge to context, and having the co-ordination to transition seamlessly as required. At intermediate level, problem-solving exercises, dynamic scenarios and objective-based learning really helps to take the focus away from "copy and repeat," and make it more "achieve this outcome."
5. Instructor vetting process.
The Rapid Arnis instructor assessment is probably the most transparent and thorough one I've come across in martial arts. Despite the sound initial premise that the assessment process was based on though, it is only recently that measures have been put in place to ensure consistency in testing, and that specific criteria are met by its representatives. The important thing is that the organisation is continuing to work towards a more ethical and structured approach to managing its ambassadors, and there is an overwhelmingly positive attitude within the organisation when it comes to stamping out loopholes and bad practice. For more information on what the Blackbelt programme entails, have a look at this article.