Michael Zimmer - Vorticity Martial Arts
The average martial artist may have heard of Eskrima, Arnis, Kali and related Philippine martial arts, but probably associates these terms with stick fighting. This is an over-simplification. These martial arts are best known for their use of sticks of various lengths, but they may use swords, knives, and various exotic primitive weapons. What is not well known is that many of these arts have a sophisticated set of techniques for unarmed combat as well. Balintawak Eskrima is one of the many Philippine martial arts. It comes from the island of Cebu, in the Visayan region of the Philippine Archipelago. It was founded by Grandmaster Venancio (Anciong) Bacon, after he left the Doce Pares Society in the early part of the 20th century.In those days, those wishing to call themselves Eskrimadors were expected to accept all challenges to fight. Duels were short savage affairs, and sometimes one or both participants would be maimed for life. Deaths were not unheard of. The duels were not legal at the time, but in general the authorities seemed to wink at them. In Cebu City, at one time, the Police of Chief was one of the Masters of Balintawak.
Anciong was considered one of the premier duellists of his day, and fought and won over 100 matches. One of the secrets of his success was the use of techniques Jose Villasin called "The One-time Blows". These were trained as a core aspect of Balintawak, and Anciong was a superb master of these and other manoeuvres. These are close quarters techniques, done at what we term "corridas" range. This is essentially the distance at which you can hit readily with your bare hands. The One-time Blows are quintessential "corridas" techniques.
Balintawak uses only a single stick as a weapon, but at any time, the hands and legs may deliver a blow. Like most Philippine martial arts, the strikes and blocks are catalogued by a numbering scheme. These range from 1 through to 12 in Balintawak. The corresponding blocks inherit this numbering scheme. At "corridas" distance, the stick itself is nearly always kept upright for blocking. After blocking, there may be a secondary block done with the left or "guarding hand", on the arm or stick. This is called checking. In the One-time Blows, this guarding hand is used in many creative ways. It is a key distinguishing feature of this set of techniques.
In Balintawak, all of the techniques for unarmed combat are derived from either the defences used for stick against stick, or from the unarmed defences against knife attacks. In this article, I want to demonstrate this within the context of the One-time Blows.
The One-time Blows
The essential idea behind the One-time Blows is that you only have to deliver such a technique once in a confrontation, and it will be all over. Your opponent will be out of commission.
- In comparing the armed and unarmed versions of the techniques, assume the following:
- both attacker and defender have a right leg lead;
- the blow will be delivered with the right arm; and,
- you will sway away from the blow as you block.
Keep in mind that some techniques work best if you are the attacker, and some will be more easily applied if you are the blocker. You can discover this through experimentation.
Viewing the Animations
Animated illustrations are provided to clarify the techniques in this article. In order to view these comfortably, you will need a web browser capable of showing animated GIF files, a fair degree of capacity in your machine, and bandwidth inversely proportional to your degree of patience. As time permits, the technical quality of the animations will be improved. We will buy Richard some shoes. Stan will get a bigger den.The instructor will be made to appear much younger and slimmer.
Initiating the Armed Techniques
- Assume this start for all stick techniques:
- both attacker and defender are holding their weapons in their right hands;
- your partner aims a blow at your left temple with a forehand strike (#1 striking angle); and,
- you block with your stick, using a forehand motion, so that both sticks cross, and are held upright.
Initiating the Unarmed Techniques
- Assume this start for all bare handed techniques:
- your partner strikes at your face with a straight right lead hand blow; and,
- you block with the extended right forearm on the outside of the attacker's arm.
Descriptions of Each One-time Blow
Slap and Slap Again
Using the outside forearm of your stick holding arm, move your opponent's stick holding arm slightly inwards, to expose the elbow of his stick arm.
Slap the elbow joint towards the liver and strike with the butt-end straight at the face (#12 striking angle).
If blocked, slap the blocking hand and repeat blow. If still blocked, trap the stick and repeat the blow.
Here is an alternative way to arrive at the technique.
Start with the initial right handed forearm block. Using the outside forearm of your blocking arm, move your opponent's striking arm slightly inwards, to expose his elbow.
Slap the elbow joint towards the liver and strike with the hand for a #12.
If blocked, slap the blocking hand away and repeat the blow.
Two Handed Strike
Hook the wrist with the butt-end and drive the free-end at the opponent's right temple (#2 striking angle), then reverse and grab the wrist of the checking hand. Pull it down to trap and hit with the butt-end for a #1. Alternatively, finish with a hit with the butt-end as above but grab the back of the head while doing so.
Hook the wrist with you blocking hand punch with the left for a #12, then reverse and grab the wrist of the checking hand. Pull it done to trap and hit with the right hand for a #12. Alternatively, finish with a hit with the right hand as above but grab the back of the head while doing so.
Hitting the Thumb
Grab the stick tip and pull it down and away from your opponent. At the same time, hit downwards with #3 to the thumb. Then hit with a #12 with the stick to the crown.
This has no real equivalent in unarmed combat.
Grab and Grab Again
Grab the stick or stick arm using the checking hand then hit with a #1. If blocked grab the blocking hand and hit with another #1. Pull very hard on this, and keep your opponent off-balance. Hit high and low to ribs, head, groin, kneecap, or elbow joint. Use a sideways elbow smash, a forearm smash, a backhanded butt-end, or a stick-tip hit. Kick to the either knee at the same time.
Countering this technique is tricky. Never fade back or back up against this one, because it will leave your elbow joint very vulnerable to an attack. You must bend the captured elbow, come in with a forearm block and give a simultaneous eye or groin strike.
Grab the right wrist using the checking hand then hit with a #12 using your right. If blocked grab the blocking hand and hit with another #12. Pull very hard on this, and keep your opponent off-balance. Hit high and low to the ribs, head, groin, kneecap, or elbow joint. Use a sideways elbow smash, a forearm smash, a backhanded to the groin or a blow to the head. Kick to the either knee at the same time.
Bar from Below to Trap and Hit
Block the stick hand with the forearm and trap the checking hand, using the palm of the checking hand.
Block the attackers stick hand with your left forearm. Next, use your left palm to trap the attacker's left hand against his own chest. At the same time, use the forearm of that arm to jam the attacker's right arm. Hit with a back handed stab into the body (#5 striking angle) using the butt-end.
Block the attackers right hand with your left forearm. Next, use your left palm to trap the attacker's left hand against his own chest. At the same time, use the forearm of that arm to jam the attacker's right arm. Hit to the groin with a right rising backfist (#5).
Attack Into the Centerline
Check the stick arm and move outwards slightly from the inside with the checking hand and do a butt-end #12 strike to the head followed by a supported strike with the stick tip downwards to the head (#12) and a kneeing attack to the groin, #5. Move in aggressively for each blow, right down the centerline.
Block a straight right cross to the head with your right hand forearm block. Slip your head back out of the way as you defend. Check the inside of the right punching arm with your left and move it outwards slightly. Do a right leading hand finger jab to the eyes (#12). If you wish, follow this with a left rear hand palm strike to the side of the jaw (#12), while checking the opponent's left hand with your right. Push it against his chest. Grasp his shoulders with both hands and pull down hard to bring yourself tight against the opponent, as you deliver a hidden rising knee kick to the groin (#5).
Jamming and Slicing
Push the opponent's stick toward his own face with the checking hand and strike with a backhanded blow to the kneecap (#9 striking angle).
Push the opponent's punching arm towards his own face with the checking hand and strike with a #9 backfist to the kneecap.
Jamming and Stabbing
Push the opponent's stick towards his own face with your checking hand and strike with a #5 stab to the groin, throat or solar plexus.
Push the opponent's hand with your checking hand and strike with a #5 rising backfist to the groin.
Turning Your Opponent
Push at your opponent's right triceps muscle with your up-turned palm. Push towards his opposite shoulder to turn him. Immediately hit the occipital lobe with a #12 butt-end strike and then throw him down by pushing at the back of the knee with your foot.
Turn at the triceps with palm up and hit the occipital lobe with a #1 elbow strike and throw.
Slap the stick or wrist of your opponent. Come from inside your own stick and from outside of your opponent's stick, using your checking hand. Then give a backhand #2 strike.
Block a straight right punch with the extended right forearm. Slap the attacking wrist from the outside with the left hand, and then give a backhand #2 strike with the right.
Fan Over the Head
Drive the stick holding wrist down between the legs of the opponent. At the same time, step with your left foot so that it is in front of and between your opponent's legs. Move forcefully as though you were giving a shoulder check. Deliver a #2 strike which arcs in front of your own head.
This technique is not practical without a weapon.
Balintawak is an intriguing art. It contains a body of technique which may well be unique to the style. There are many good techniques for infighting to be found in it. Since fights often end up in close quarters, it is worthwhile to investigate that range. As a bonus, all of the techniques can be transferred to unarmed combat with very little modification.
For more information on Balintawak, you may wish to refer to previous issues of Western Canada Martial Arts Magazine (WCMA). In Volume One - Issue Two you will find "Elements of Defence - An Iconoclast's Guide to Self Defence". In Volume One - Issue Three you will find "The Hubad Lubod of Balintawak Eskrima"
The author is available for seminars on this and related topics.