In this guide, we placed together with the basic principles of Balintawak Stick Fighting your foundation for reaching a long-term martial arts goal. Highly readable and interactive, this guide will help establish a comprehensive understanding of Balintawak Eskrima and give you the tools needed to advance to the next level.
Here is a complete and proven guide to the salient features of Balintawak Eskrima. It simplifies the whole process of learning once you apply them in your training. These basic principles will become an integral part of a long-term growth that starts at the basic level and continues through the intermediate, advanced, and mastery level.
Your basic Balintawak Eskrima training reveals timely, practical answers to basic questions like:
- What is the right footwork and posture?
- How do Balintawak practitioners handle the weapon?
- What are the basic angles of attack?
- What should I know about the basic angles of defense?
- When is the right time to deliver a counter-strike?
- And much more!
The Stick Fighting Sport Balintawak Arnis Training Guide features pictures that will show you how the basic principles are applied in their actual execution. A video is also added as a lively human dimension to the salient features discussed.
Questions and Answers on relevant issues are also revealed. Checklists at the end of each section review key points that lead you to a step-by-step guide.
What You Need
- Empty Hand. This is the rarest among FMA weapons. The phrase “A weapon is just the extension of the arm” is true when referring to FMA.
- Stick. It is the main weapon in Balintawak Stick Fighting. In the Philippines, it is known as Olisi (Cebuano) or as Baston (Visayan).
- Double stick. They can be utilized in the same way as the single stick. They can also build up all the traits that a single stick can do. In Balintawak Eskrima though, it is only used mainly for exercising the left-hand.
- Single Dagger. This weapon has loads of uses, normally thrusting, hooking and slashing. It can be utilized defensively or offensively in different ways against a variety of weapons.
- Bolo. The Bolo, the secondary weapon of Balintawak, is larger, machete-like, although still single-edged.
- Proper training attire for Balintawak Eskrima includes a pair of rubber shoes, jogging pants, and a t-shirt.
- Wrist, arms, chest, legs, back, neck, body
Basic Level – Balintawak Eskrima
- South-paw boxing posture (applicable to both the right-handed and left-handed practitioners).
- Feet must be shoulder width and length apart.
- The body is at the center of both legs, and the knees are flexed.
- The torso is upright and slightly crouched while the rear heel is raised – for power and flexibility when striking.
- The right leg is at the front at the right lead position, and the heel of the rear leg is slightly raised (this slightly raising of the heel is also called “Quinto”).
- The entire body is relaxed and balanced in a slightly crouched posture.
How to Handle the Weapon
- The stick is held upright with the tip at head level and the bottom or “punyo” at hip level. The weapon hand is, therefore, parallel to the ground, and the weapon is at a straight and vertical angle.
- When on the defensive, bend your knees lower to have better balance and slump the body weight while moving. Such movement is also called “bambooing” because it mimics the movement of the bamboo (kawayan in standard Filipino dialect) when moving with the wind.
- A Backward fade away and sideway body torque motion can also be utilized to augment defensive maneuvers.
- Feet together while the body is standing in a straight position
- The weapon hand is raised and rested on the left breast with the stick angled in slightly slanting position forward.
- Assume southpaw boxing posture (for the right-handed).
- Feet at shoulder width and length apart
- The knees are flexed and body is centered between the legs
- The torso is upright, slightly crouched and the rear heel (sometimes the front heel) is raised – for flexibility, agility, and power when striking
- The whole body is balanced and relaxed in a slight crouch
- At right lead, the right leg is forward while the rear with a raised heel (quinto).
- The stick is held upright – the top at head level and bottom (punyo) at hip level. Thus, the weapon hand is horizontal to the ground while the weapon is vertical at a straight angle.
- bend the knees lower for better balance by slumping the body weight while moving; mimicking the pliant trait of a bamboo (kawayan) which moves with the wind.
- A sideway body torque and backward fadeaway motion may also be used to augment defense maneuvers.
Basic Angles of Attack
- Strike from the position of your stick. Don’t wind up.
- Emphasize on the economy of motion by striking directly towards the target. Do not twirl the stick or do “amara” moves.
- Once you become proficient with the 12 basic strikes, train on withdrawing the stick immediately after every strike (especially in attacking) to prevent an opponent from controlling your stick.
Stemless strikes in relation to hinge principle
- Use short or stemless strikes. This is more effective and harder to block than extended or stem strikes. The more you stretch your arm out, the more open you become to counter attacks.
- Remember that the area you are protecting should not be open when you deliver the strike. Hence, even when you strike, you must minimize exposure to the area of your body which you ought to protect. This will maintain the balance between offense and defense.
- When striking, do not stop half way but allow your strike to follow through and unleash its power.
- Follow through strikes follow covers a 180 degrees angle.
- Always deliver a strong defense against a strong strike. Assume that all attacks are strong and develop the mindset of always delivering a strong defense.
- Begin your defense at the moment your opponent or training partner begins to strike. This will inhibit the momentum of the attack.
- Block the strike on or before it reaches full impact. Block the strike half-way to its completion.
- Block in a downward cutting motion or “tigbas,” to effectively block or deflect the opponent’s strike.
- In Balintawak Eskrima, Inward and outward blocks are delivered with your stick upright-block directly into the direction of the strike.
Strong and well-delivered strikes can be defended effectively by:
- Using equal or stronger force
- Applying deflection
- Cushioning your block to neutralize the power of the striking
- Using simultaneous offensive and defensive maneuvers in combo strike fashion.
- Using simultaneous offensive and defensive maneuvers in combo strike fashion.
- Not allowing your opponent to control your stick
- Using the torque from your body to deliver powerful counter strikes.
- It is a protocol that your counter strike is delivered from where your stick is positioned after completing a defensive move.
- Counter by hitting the target at the ¾ end of your stick and diagonally at a 45° angle.
Check out this video to get a closer look at the basic strikes, defense and counter:
Basic Agak (Guiding and Controlling
- The attack and defense maneuvers against the counter strikes are being controlled and guided by the attacker’s free hand. The drill is called “agak” or guiding.
- In this drill, the junior partner’s blocks and counter attacks are guided and controlled by the senior partner’s free hand.
- The attacker’s free hand is used skillfully to control, guide, create openings, and intercept or check his partner’s counter-attacks.
- At the intermediate level, the free hand is also utilized for offensive maneuvers like punching, grabbing, pushing and pulling.
Importance of Agak as applied by the attacker and its impact on defender:
- Agak allows the attacker to control, guide, create openings, and intercept or check his partner’s counter-attacks.
Corridas (Randomization Drill)
- Also called “give and take,” is the randomization of the different strikes, defense, and counter strikes.
- At this point, the practitioner will enhance his expertise to counter-attack effectively, attack and defend against the different basic defensive and offensive methods.
- The corridas drills (give and take) display the interplay of footwork in offensive and defensive maneuvers.
- The 12-angle of attacks are randomized to develop accuracy, reflex action, agility, balance, coordination, a fluidity of movement and proper posture.
- After this drill, and once the student gains proficiency in the 12-angle of attacks, he will move on to learn the basic offensive maneuvers on delivering the 12-angle of attacks, blocking and corresponding counter attacks.
- In this drill, the practice partners switch roles from defender or counter-attacker to that of the attacker and vice-versa at any point of the corridas or give-and-take drill. The switching of roles is done spontaneously and in flowing motion without any interruption or pause.
- Balintawak does not advocate any formal forms and patterns of movement.
- Shadow fighting develops and promotes balance, accuracy, concentration, coordination, and endurance. The latter, however, has the value-added qualities since it also develops fluidity and creativity.
- Like boxing, Balintawak shadow fight has no established sets of the pattern. It may adopt the 1-2-3 strikes similar to boxing but it does not apply a long set of combinations or techniques, that are found in formal forms. In essence, it is formless like water.
- It facilitates smooth flow of techniques from one to the next in an unstructured series of moves.
- It is a critical visualization of one’s imaginary opponent(s)
- Maintain a relaxed composure and tense your muscles only at the point of imaginary impact; either offensive or defensive maneuvers. After each impact, relax your grip so you can act or react faster to the changing situation.
Check out this demo by APO-Balintawak students of combo strikes, shadow fighting and basic sparring:
- Just like the basic defense, only that you’re applying the technique as an attacker blocking a counter strike with both the stick and arm.
- The stick helps neutralize the opposing strike’s force upon impact and assists the arms in blocking it.
- To effectively execute pinky, one must withdraw the stick immediately after delivering an offensive strike to meet the counter-strike of your opponent.
Basic Butting using “Punyo.”
- Also called basic “pokpok” in Visayan, the technique uses the base of the strick as a weapon to strike against vital areas like the fingers to disarm the opponent.
- Instead of delivering a counter-strike after block the opponent’s strike or counter-strike, use the base of the stick to delivering a butting strike on his weapon hand.
- Techniques for taking away the weapon of an armed opponent.
- Disarming can be done with or without the weapon (empty-hand), attacker or defender.
- The practitioner first parries or blocks the attack and executes a disarming technique. The technique should be executed fast for it to work.
- When both combatants attack, the Balintawak Eskrimador will pull back his weapon instead of engaging in a blow to blow fight.
- Half-timing involves drawing the weapon back to defend the approaching strike first before delivering a counter.
Basic Barehands Techniques
- As a general principle, the stick is only the extension of the arm in eskrima. Thus, the Balintawak practitioner is effective in defending and attacking with or without the stick.
- The practitioner executes hand releasing, twisting and locking techniques against an attacker.
Basic Defense Against Knife Attack
- Basic Knife Defense in Balintawak Eskrima follows the principle of DECAD (Deflect – Control – Attack – Disarm).
- You can't play around with the knife because the weapon is capable of cutting or killing you. In a knife attack, you need to control the weapon's hand immediately then distract your attacker by delivering a counter-strike before disarming him.
Group Techniques 1- 5
Group 1 – Clearing and Lifting
- Clearing and lifting prevent your opponents from holding or grabbing or disarming your stick.
- Clearing and lifting enable you to control the opponent and reverse the situation in your favor.
Group 2 – Bobbing and Weaving (Punyo)
- At the very close range, it will be difficult for you to hit your opponent with your stick but you can hit your opponent using the base of the cane.
- Using the base of the stick to hit certain targets of your opponent.
Group 3 – Thrusting (Tochada)
- Thrusting is an essential strike that can penetrate the guard.
- Strike the opponent’s gut, chest and eyes with the tip of the stick.
Group 4 – Snapping (Witik)
- Snap strike (“witik”) is a very fast and effective strike for disorienting and distracting the opponent for the finishing strike. It serves like a jab the prepares the finishing rear strike.
Group 5 – Punching (Sumbag)
- Your human weapon is a very effective weapon at close range.
- Your punches are fast, short and strong
- Your opponent won’t expect you to punch at close range and therefore has the element of surprise.
Defense Against Bolo
- In defending yourself against a bolo attack, you need to close the gap to prevent the opponent from slashing you.
- Moving back could be fatal as you may accidentally stumble upon a rock or an object behind you that may disturb your balance. And even if you manage to move away from the first strike, the second strike may hit you.
- Control the opponent's hand immediately and distract him with a counter move before diarming him.
Points to Remember
- Balintawak Eskrima does not advocate any formal stances but adopts a flexible footwork. Basic footwork is right to lead from attacking position and left rear from a defensive position. The heel of the rear foot is slightly raised in the ready or attacking position while the heel of the front foot is slightly raised when assuming a defensive position.
- In handling the weapon, the weapon hand should be parallel to the ground, and the weapon should be at a straight and vertical angle.
- Always strike directly from the position of your stick: do not twirl or wind up.
- Use the torque principle to generate powerful strikes and counter strikes.
- Begin your defense at the same moment the attacking strike is delivered and block it half-way to absolve its power.
- Never let your opponent control your stick.