Book Review: Balintawak System of Arnis-Escrima

Discussion in 'Balintawak' started by sandan, Oct 29, 2008.

  1. sandan

    sandan New Member

    Wednesday, October 29, 2008

    By Perry Gil S. Mallari

    A Balintawak style primer

    I first learned about the Balintawak style of escrima through the writings and personal accounts of Filipino martial arts researcher and historian Ned Nepangue, MD, during the late 1990s. One part that I remember well is his expositions on the palakaw, a one-on-one method of instruction unique to the Balintawak style.

    I recently acquired a manual on the Balintawak style entitled The Balintawak System of Arnis-Escrima written by Australian martial artist John Russell and published by Sudlon Publishing. While there are still factions in the local FMA community that frowns on the idea of a foreigner writing about the Philippines’ native fighting arts, I always consider it heartening to see non-Filipinos take interest in Kali, Escrima and Arnis. The whole point of the matter is that if foreigners can appreciate our martial arts, why the majority of our countrymen cannot?

    I consider Russell’s effort in presenting an important Cebuano style of Escrima commendable. One part of the book that proves very interesting is the section that presents the history of the Balintawak style. The author discussed in this part the role of three consummate Cebuano escrimadors in the refinement of the Balintawak style: Teofilo Velez, Jose Villasin and Venancio “Anciong” Bacon, dubbed as the “Mozart of Philippine escrima.”

    Russell in his book also points out succinctly the uniqueness of the one-on-one method of teaching of Balintawak. “One does not stand twenty people in a line and teach them to spin sticks in Balintawak,” he emphasizes. The Australian escrimador explains that this factor is the reason why the Balintawak style is not massed produced.

    Another salient feature of Balintawak that is comprehensively tackled in the book is its counter-to-counter concept of training. Russell explicates the rationale behind this idea with the following words: “Initially, for the beginner, Balintawak can seem to be a very defensive style as the student initially learns to block and then counterattack. When the instructor attacks, the student will learn to defend with a block and counter with a single strike. This is where other styles argue that their systems are better as they learn to counter with multiple strikes. Balintawak is different. Balintawak considers that an opponent will defend effectively against your counter strike and counter your counter.”

    Russell presented the Balintawak techniques in three stages namely basic, intermediate and advance using over 1300 photographs. All in all, The Balintawak System of Arnis-Escrima would prove an interesting read and a valuable reference to practitioners and researchers of the FMA because it provides important historical and technical information on this important style of Cebuano escrima.

    For more information on the book log on to
  2. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

  3. Brian R. VanCise

    Brian R. VanCise Senior Member Supporting Member

    Cool! Arnisador when you get the review done I would be interested in hearing your opinion of the book! [​IMG]
  4. gagimilo

    gagimilo Member

    I got the book few days ago and went through it a couple of times. I really like the presentation in the sense that it is meant to be a training handbook, therefore it really focuses on the technical portion of Balintawak and keeps the historical background information to the minimum. Not that I think knowing your history is a bad thing (far from it), but nowadays it is readily available on the Internet, so the author focused on providing the "meat and potatoes"... It is clearly pointed early on in the book that the main thing that makes Balintawak what it is stems from its training methodology, and in this respect the combination of photos and text is offered in a well balanced proportion, hence giving fair guidelines. The material is divided in three parts: basic, intermediate and advanced, so if you follow/practice it in the chronological order (as laid out in the book) you should have an essential training progression to hold on to.

    Essentially, my only complain would be the format/size of the book. For the money it takes, I guess it might have been printed in a larger size, which in turn migght make some techniques easier to follow from the photos.
    In that regard, it was mentioned once that an electronic PDF version would be offered, and should it ever happen, it could resolve this problem and also make the whole thing less expensive, as the shipping and handling expenses would be effectively skipped.

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