In order for a martial arts system to attain optimum effectiveness and efficiency, it is important to know the principles behind its technical executions. Discussed below are some of the basic principles, among others, of Balintawak Eskrima:
Image: knife combat exhibition at Leganes IloIlo
Balintawak, being a very fast and dynamic combat art has no stances; so to speak. Its footwork are akin to western boxing. This is in contrast to Karate and some other oriental martial arts, and even other styles of Eskrima. All of them deploy stances while executing their various techniques.
However, Balintawak, being a purely combat art, has to adapt to a fluid or constantly moving posture. Hence, in response to this need to constantly move with fluid speed, it uses a flexible footwork to cope with the constantly changing center of gravity or equilibrium. The corridas drills (give and take) display the interplay of footwork in offensive and defensive maneuvers.
To keep it simple, Balintawak eskrima has six basic footwork used in different combinations, namely: right lead and left lead; rear right and rear left; and oblique right and oblique left lead. The variations of these footwork are done through the integration of dipping, shuffling, bambooing, and combination of spontaneous movements.
Video: Balintawak Corridas | Fast and Strong
The flexible, agile, and stable footwork of Balintawak Eskrima are attributed to the following:
1. It uses short pace; the distance between forward and rear foot at one shoulder width by one shoulder length apart or slightly longer depending on the practitioner’s height. More or less, its footwork would appear to have an equilateral triangular base or posture. Hence, its base is stable on all sides while. This kind of stable footwork also enhances speed.
2. Both knees are slightly bent with the heel of the foot slightly raised to carry the least weight. Normally, when at defensive posture, the heel of the front foot is slightly raised. Then, when switching into the offensive posture, the heel of the rear foot is raised at the impact of the strike.
3. The complimentary interplay of leg, hip, shoulder and arm muscles will create momentum, speed and power. The switching from defensive to offensive posture is further enhanced by the pushing of the rear leg and twisting of the hip, the torque of the waist, and all the way to the tip portion of the cane as it hits the target. The hip muscles react more slowly so remember to twist the hip a split second ahead to obtain maximum muscle synchronization and generate fast and strong blows.
Image: Group Technique Demo by APO and M. Balberde
All attacks or strikes are delivered with an element of surprise. Hence, they must show no hints or wind-ups. The moves or intentions of a Balintawak practitioner must be non-telegraphic. The practitioner should 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 balance between offense and defense.
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Strike directly straight into the target without any circular motions. Circular or flowery strikes are good to look at but it may cost you your precious life in actual combat. The straight line concept of direct striking also allows the eskrimador faster recovery to prepare for subsequent offense or defense maneuvers. Again, deliver your strike from where your weapon is positioned without the slightest indication of intention.
An effective block must be executed fast and strong enough to stop the momentum of the offense, and extended only at a distance necessary to absorb the incoming impact. Never block with your arm extended far out. In a close quarter encounter, defend as if your blocking arm is hinged to your side. As you twist your hip, your blocking arm should go with it. More often than not, block at the center of your weapon to effectively diffuse the impact of the blow. Also, block with the perceived bladed edge of your weapon so that defense is executed with the fore fist instead of a semi-back fist. When blocking, the front side of the body should face 45 degrees to the left side of your rear left and to the right side of your rear right. When blocking against a thrust targeted to upper left side of your body, simultaneously draw your shoulder backwards to evade the incoming thrust strike. This is necessary since a thrust stike travels faster than an arch strike (nos. 1 and 2.)
For a block to catch up with the speed of a strike, it must begin as soon as the strike is initiated. This way, the block will meet the strike about mid-way to the full potential of its power at 50 percent. For very strong strikes, especially those delivered by a heavier cane, an augmented block may be necessary. This is done using the forearm of the free hand to support from behind the block rather than the hand. This allows the free hand to grab the opponent cane upon impact.
Image: Demo by APO and M. Balberde
The importance of speed is best expressed in the following phrases:
“When the opponent cuts you through your skin, cut him through his bone.” Samurai Maxim
A split of a second would spell the difference between life and death in mortal combat. This is the reason why the strikes, counter strikes, and blocks of Balintawak Eskrima generally follow the direction of gravity.
Never sacrifice speed for power. If there is speed, there is power and not the other way around. Speed is an important element of surprise in the technical execution of offense, defense, and counter strikes.
Another way to attain maximum speed is to improve one’s reflexes. This is done by maintaining a calm mind like a pool of still water that reflect its surroundings. But when it ripples, it losses its clear reflection. Reaction should follow immediately upon the recognition of a threat. Stay relaxed but mentally alert like a wild cat hunting for its prey. Move in fast for the kill and tense your muscles with a twist at the point of impact. The harmony of muscle movement enhance speed in motion. The muscles are relaxed immediately after the strike or block or after a series of offense or defense when necessary.
Shorten Your Weapon
Use your weapon up to the limit of its effectiveness. This is what makes the Balintawak Eskrimadors both so adept in both weapons and bare-hands self-defense when hitting with the cane is no longer effective due to limited space between him and his opponent. Use your elbows and knees for close combat. When your opponent blocks your strike, shorten your stick into and elbow strike. Why hit with the stick when a punch is more effective and why punch when an elbow strike is more appropriate and so on. The switching from one weapon to another must be spontaneous and natural.
Video: Balintawak Corridas
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