In the discipline of this system, Sparring is defined as a Practice Fighting between two equally competent practitioners of the art in a give and take exchange of defensive and offensive maneuvers; employing all applicable techniques of the art.
The following and the main objectives of Balintawak Eskrima sparring:
1. To enhance speed and accuracy of reflex action. Both of these qualities complement each other.
2. To develop balance and coordination of the different movements and parts of the body; the human weapon.
3. To become familiar with the dynamic situation, simulating Real Combat.
4. To develop quickness and accuracy of perception in relation to the principle of Mushin.
5. To cultivate good judgement in the application of appropriate techniques at the right timing and proper distance.
THE BUILDING PHASE
At the basic level, the novice starts with the block-and-counter drills against the 12-angle of attacks delivered by his Senior partner. The 12-angle of attacks are then randomized to develop accuracy, reflex action, agility, balance, coordination, 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. 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.
Once the student attains proficiency in “agak,” he then proceeds to switch of roles or “palusot” drill. In this drill, the practice partners switch roles from defender or counter-attacker to that of an 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.
THE STRENGTHENING PHASE
Once this foundation has been established, the Balintawak practitioner can then proceed to the intermediate level. In this level, the basic maneuvers and movements are strengthened through the integration of group techniques. This is similar to pre-arranged sparring only that the movements are spontaneous and flowing. Role switching is also practiced in this drill.
The corridas drills of the different group techniques will further enhance the skills of the practitioner on the various qualities mentioned earlier in the objectives of sparring. In this stage, the practitioner will develop his skills to effectively attack, defend, and counterattack against the various offensive and defensive techniques.
Once the practitioner becomes proficient with the corridas and group techniques, he will then be taught on how to switch roles from defender to attacker and vice versa. This is done in a smooth transition without pre-arrangements between partners.
THE SHARPENING PHASE
In this phase, the practitioner is being sharpened just like a machete blade. He is now ready to enter into the threshold of the Balintawak Eskrima counter-to-counter and re-counter method of in-fighting in the advanced level. In this phase, the group techniques will be applied and analyzed thoroughly in the perspective of an attacker and a defender.
Each role player will look for strategies in trying to counter and re-counter the various situations presented by each group techniques.
The objective here is to counter and re-counter each offensive or defensive maneuvers until one of the partners can no longer re-counter. This calls for creative and analytical thinking of both partners. Many of the solutions come from thinking outside the box.
In this system, all attacks can be blocked and all counter attacks have its corresponding re-counter attacks.
Fighting techniques of other styles are also being studied and analyzed according to their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats vis-a-vis the Balintawak Eskrima System.
The APO-Balintawak at this phase also integrates the combo strikes adopted from CASASAI, courtesy of GM Melicio Balberde. These combo strikes developed by the old masters of Panay are noted for their simultaneous offense and defense techniques in one strike or series of strikes.
Video: Never Before Seen Balintawak Eskrima Sparring at Long Range
THE INSTINCTIVE ACTION PHASE
An Eskrimador who has reached the stage of instinctive action has developed his sixth sense. At this stage, he has complete control of his emotions and feelings. He exudes with calmness and detachment even in the midst of deadly combat. This state is also akin to what the Japanese calls “mushin,” which means “let your mind flow.” Bruce Lee explained this state in the following words; “…it is when you act with unconscious awareness, you just act… it just happens.”
This state goes beyond what we call “cuentada” or to anticipate the intentions of one’s opponent. The “cuentada” is developed through “hikap” or feeling. This is when you establish contact with your partner at close quarter sparring. The slight physical contact with your hands will help you anticipate your partner’s intentions through feeling.
The half-timing drill in Balintawak Eskrima also develops instinctive reflex. This was how GM Tinong Ibanez won over his opponent in a death match which was held during one of the town fiesta in Cebu. After blocking the strike of his Punta y daga opponent, he could have delivered a counter strike. Instead, he blocked the follow-up daga thrust by delivering a snap strike to the dagger hand of his opponent.
His opponent was immediately disarmed by the impact of the strike. Master Ibanes then immediately followed up with at least two combo strikes to the opponent’s head. These strikes sent his opponent sprawling on the ground. The fight was immediately stopped. This was the last deathmatch sanctioned by GM Anciong Bacon. This put an end to the question as to which Eskrima style is the best.
As you get used to sparring, you will gradually develop instinctive action. This is better known as muscle memory. In this stage, you will be able to block, counter and re-counter, and even attack without conscious thinking. This is what is called mushin. This is responding to an action without thinking. It just blocks incoming attacks, hits with the hand, and wields the weapon.
Video: Balintawak Eskrima Sparring at Close Range
UNMASKING THE REAL BEAUTY OF BALINTAWAK ESKRIMA
The beauty of this system is not the finger-pointing to the moon. Its beauty goes beyond that. This system has only one focus and that is combat or preparing for the real thing. Hence, each phase of training builds up for the kill; so to speak. The ultimate aim is to be able to effectively and efficiently defend oneself in a real combat situation.
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