Closing the gap

Discussion in 'Balintawak' started by samson818, Nov 16, 2006.

  1. samson818

    samson818 New Member

    Hello all,
    Hope this topic has not been posted before.

    I know Balintawak is known for being an extremely close quarter system, but I am curious how do all you Balintawak practitioners close the gap from a largo mano game?

    Footwork is trained, but, IMHE, it is not overly emphazised.
    Long range is also not a range that is often played in Balintawak.

    Ultimately its up to the practitioner and all systems can work in all ranges, but I would like to know how fellow Balintawakans bridge this gap with a resisting opponent.
  2. JohnJ

    JohnJ Senior Member

    I am by no means a Balintawak representative. Although I did train a few months to experience it and even played against an apparent long time student. From my insight, bridging is not in the repertoire nor is largo play. Rather, they wait for opportunities to arise such as the opponent closing the gap. And that is where they can be overly effective with punyos, punching strikes, lifting & clearing and the controls. The only downfall, is this can all work only if the opponent has the intent to stay there otherwise a boxing style opponent moving in & out can negate the strategies rather easily. I can see Balintawak as an extremely effective close quarter system for self-defense but not in the arena of combat sport stickfighting unless your are fighting in a confined space.
  3. samson818

    samson818 New Member

    Thank you for your insight Guro John.
    Hopefully others fellow FMA'ers will provide their perspective as well.

    I totally agree it is a corto based system, and it is most effective in this range.
    But I cant believe that when the old time Balintawak practitioners fought, they only played in corto range.

    They had to have started somewhere during an engagement, i.e. largo mano.

    I also believe GM Anciong and other senior players sparred and fought against various FMA styles. What was their strategy when they fought peek a boo fighters? Fighters who relied on footwork? Or on power blows?

    If a Balintawak player can answer these questions, then maybe they can compete in sport combatives as well.
  4. JohnJ

    JohnJ Senior Member

    I watched a few players compete in a tournament and they did not fair well or were unable to use any of the art effectively. This is not to say that they cannot but I think the various rules limit their objective.

    In the Juego Todo matches where no helmets were worn, I think they would use a ruse/enganyo and follow with a power strike. Have you ever seen GM Bobby swing? It is a mighty scary demonstration of power.
  5. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons Member

    First imagine two men who have a reason to either be mad or a grudge to settle or for the sake of honor, they are willing to settle it with a fight between to two of them.

    This is Balintawak.

    So it is easy to see why long range and closing the gap are not seen as part of Balintawak as it is not where the action between the two occur.

    Balintawak is an optimized Stick art, so the slashing stikes of a blade to the hands and arms are not the object. The object to to smash an arm or the knock a person out.

    Note: Yes Balintawak concepts and techniques can be used for self-defense and also for and with blades, so there are solutions for these questions as well.

    The closing of the gap. The Balintawak player will use their body mechanics and also their positioning to avoid the outside strikes. (* As in all things this takes practice and proper timing to execute *) One can step in with a committed strike that will force the opponent to block. This will allow one then to begin the stick management found in Balintawak. Obviously the opponent can step back as well, yet as they move you can move as well and the "Tango" begins to maintain the now closer range. So once the closure is made the fight is serious between the two and they stay with in the range to allow for full contact and knock outs.

    So what happens when a Balintawak player meets another person of a different art? As in all things, it depends upon the individual timing and capability of each person at that time.

    If the two people are serious about fighting and not point fighting then the clash will occur. But the question of how does one force it, is a very valid question.

    One can wait for the opponent to enter. This is very boring, but safe as if neither can hit the other then no problem.

    The other is to try to time the swings of the opponent to hit enter as they swing buy, with either a strike to their hand or as with the step I mentioned above to force the opponent to come back and block your incoming strike.

    BTW: This is not much different then what I have seen many of the good long range fighter use, except they just stay on the outside.

    I learned these solutions from Manong Ted Buot.
  6. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons Member


    I have heard this as well, as many of the shots are considerd "illegal" or in poor taste for the standard tournament. Although I personally believe that one can apply their learnings to tournament fighting with some practice of course.

    As to the power swing this is similiar or the same as what I was saying above as you wait for their swing to go by and then you force a power strike, which means they must block. This gives the Balintawak player the chance to enter and also gain management.
  7. JohnJ

    JohnJ Senior Member

    There are long range stick arts that do not rely on the slashing strikes of a blade. The first to come to mind is Caballero's DeCampo Eskrima where smashing the hand/arm is also an objective. And there are bladed arts that don't rely on only slashing methods. Therefore, a hacking motion is an option and training it can have the same result...a power stroke.

    Stickfighting can be done without points in mind. A Dog Brothers format w/o all the grappling would be a good way to test these theories. A person who has effective footwork and can control range will prevent a clash.
  8. samson818

    samson818 New Member

    Here are some issues within context of bridging that I see not only with Balintawak but with many other close quarters FMA styles.

    1. If you wait for the opponent to engage, you are already one beat behind. I know Balintawak focuses first on defensive training, but eventually you must break out of that arena or else your instincts are to just defend. Does a Balintawak practitioner ever attack first?

    2. Opponents dont always block, and they usually dont allow entry into your comfort zone, in this case, close quarters, for Balintawak. IME, even if you manage to bridge the gap, they will move out of range to prevent you from employing your arsenal. Do you simply utilize forward pressure?

    3. Power swings are pretty difficult to deal with because they can come out in rapid succession in singles, doubles, or triple strike patterns.
    - all with power. As seen in alot of Dog Brother gatherings, many people eat power swings and there is not much blocking going on, IMO. What I do see is alot of evasive footwork and offensive strategy. Aside from the crash and bash, which is also very effective, BTW.
    Have any Balintawak players successfully competed in the DB tournaments, WEKAF, etc?

    In the end, as we all know, its up to the practitioner and not the style, but I am looking for specific training where Balintawak can be used to enhance one's combative skills in sport and reality.
  9. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons Member

    I see this issue with every art. BTW what art do you train?

    I disagree that I am not one beat down. I am still even. It depends upon my timing and actions at the point of contact or near contact.

    Yes Balintawak can strike first. I do. I agree that if one only thinks defensively one can be caught off guard, but if there is a fight one or both want to make contact, not just run around in circles. Track is a much better sport for that.

    I have not gone against the DB team. personally I think anyone who wears armor and then uses it to absorb damage to avoid blocks is not training in a method that is good for when they are without armor. NOTE: The DB team are nice and I have no problems with them and no disrespect is meant. Also feel free to contact me in person if you think I have insulted someone on this. I have no problems exchanging phone numbers via e-mail and the cost can be mine to call you or you can call me with *67 so it is private. I care not.

    The issue of the gap and them running away is an issue with all arts. Heck even in Boxing make the ring bigger and you will see less contact, unless there is a minimum number of punches and or kicks required. We could go back to rounds in the high double digits.

    So explain to me how your art handles this covering the gap and how you make sure that no one runs away from you? I am very curious.

    I have and can use forward pressure, but once contact range is made the game is on, and it is their skill versus mine and if I can play my ame and time it, then I can get them to move and react.

    Power swings are great and with proper body mechanics are easy to do, without using up all your strength. I have played wiht some WEKAF people but once again I did not like the really small canes that my gloves could not close around completely. I prefer canes designed to fit my hands. I also prefer no gloves so I can get the feedback from my hands when I touch your cane. Much harder to do with a glove on. Also the glove gets caught up and the nimbleness of the hand is lost IMHO.

    I do not like helmets as they block vision and sometimes restrict air flow and also allow you to take a head shot which IMHO is bad training.

    A nice pair of Smith and Wesson or some other ANSI safety goggles with a mouth piece and a cup are fine by me. ** I have a blue cross blue shied card and no family to worry about, so my worries are a lot less than other people.

    In sport I cannot help you as the rules will always being changing as well as the required protective equipment. You either get those that do nto want to be hit at all or go for the 1000 hits versus 999 hits of the opponent with no real defense. ** DB team also goes for ground and choke and submission so like I said if you have a problem with anything I say please feel free to contact me.

    Now can this be fun and a great workout? Yes in both cases.

    In reality, with two committed practitioners of a FMA even one who prefers long range, will continue to stay within a certain range to be able to hit you. This means becuase you are both committed to the conflict engagement will occur. If it is between someone who has room to run, and they are not serious, then in reality you have gotten through an encounter without getting hurt. *** Makes assumption that in reality you will have a stick to go against another person with a stick or stick like weapon. ***
  10. JohnJ

    JohnJ Senior Member

    I am all for little armor but how do you train for full-contact including headstrikes or is sparring done in a controlled manner? Helmets are first and foremost a safety device. They do have limitations but focus and breathing is something that needs to be enhanced or adapted to regardless so they have the place. Also, taking a head shot because your wearing a helmet is never the intent. Evasiveness, footwork, blocks and parries are. And if done effectively can minimize head shots.

    I participated in no armor largo mano and "accidentally" took a hit or two to the head by a simple jab receiving a nice welt. Although I am sure a power stroke or heavier stick would have resulted in something more damaging. At the time were using 31' yantok at 3/5 diameter.

    With all the punyos and punch strikes used in Balintawak play, knockouts are inevitable then. How do you avoid them? Can you post a clip of how you guys spar full-contact. While I find it intriguing, I am also skeptical. I hear people saying they do this and have seen the fights but no one is going full out and ALL the head strikes are controlled.
  11. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    I hate the helmets--all the more so because of my eyeglasses--but I have to agree with JohnJ on this one. But going without them is no solution because then people pull, or avoid using, strikes to the head, which brings the defenses down (like with TKD and its kicking-friendly rules on punching).

    It's worth remembering that a short 50 or 60 years ago, people were dueling Balintawak style, between Balintawak players and with other Eskrima clubs. These were no-armor matches that could result in a KO. So, the method was tested!
  12. samson818

    samson818 New Member

    I apologize Mr. Parsons or to anyone if they felt my posts were an attack on the art of Balintawak. I am not trying to stir the waters, just trying to get an understanding of how other Balintawak practitioners go about their training.

    I actually train in Balintawak and have experienced some of it training methods. I have to agree with Guro John on the topic of full out sparring.
    Usually, IMHE, Balintawak sparring is almost always controlled with the striking limited to the meaty portions of the arms and the legs, for safety purposes of course. And it is usually within a specific range, in this case corto.

    It definitely works, and works effectively at that, but my question and issue is how to get to that range, stay in that range, and how to utilize your tools in that range. Also, what are the progressive training methods to make one capable of accomplishing this?

    I believe this is more of a general combative question rather than a style specific one. Most close range arts such as Wing Chun, corto styles of arnis, JKD, etc. seek to engage in trapping, close range sensitivity, checking.... And again, IMO, many practitioners find it difficult to do so against a resisting opponent, and simply revert to boxing/thai boxing methods because they cannot utilize those skillsets.

    Also, I think all arts can be fully functional in any environment depending on the training methods. For example, Doce Pares, which is often typecast as a WEKAF sport style due to their involvement in the competition, can also be used very effectively in realistic combative encounters. So in the same token, I think Balintawak can compete effectively in tournaments as well as juego todo.

    I think training with gear, as long as you have the proper mindset and a purpose in mind, can only enhance one's training.
    Or maybe I'm just scared of bumps on my forehead. (which I have experienced and it is not easy to explain this at work or school.)
  13. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons Member

    I have no video of me sparring.

    As to your concerns I share them and understand them.

    Yes, it is crazy to take hits to the head.

    The approach is to practice in a slow and controlled manner.

    The speed can increase as one improves but what is more important is that they need to improve their timing.

    As one persons' timing causes someone to be behind or late, they then speed up. This has a tendacy to have things "heat" up and or get away or get out of hand.

    We use control at speed and in time, with placement of the cane about two (2) inches from the opponent's head so there is no arguement about if ti was a shot or if you could slip it.

    I have also played with no helmet with Action Flex and the other padded weapons including the homemade kind. This allows people to go full out and have no problem as it is padded. The problem with the padded canes is that they bend some and this makes people think contact has been made or that it causes a delay in management.

    As to no one taking had shots on purpose I have seen some of the videos of the WEKAF and it looks like they care not for protecting themselves as they are wearing armor.

    I apologize John for the following comment if ti comes across wrong, but if we are ever near each other please let me know and I will work with you or anyone to show how we practice. Not an ego thing here, for I always learn from working with others so this is not me teaching you, but hopefully us working together. I am not untouchable, but I like to think I can give almsot as good as I get. :) So the practice with others is a training event I enjoy.
  14. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons Member


    No problem.

    There is no magic technique that will make a person stand still for you. If they have room to run and the desire they will.
  15. JohnJ

    JohnJ Senior Member

    Yes, I see the logical progression. I realize Manong Ted's Balintawak differs from GM Bobby's. However, would you consider the grouping a fair analogy? I notice that they begin at a slow pace starting with Sangga at Patama or strike and block/counter and progress to re-counters, lifting and clearing, controlling, utilizing the capacity of the stick, disarms etc. to simulate a skirmish. Manong Sam used to say it was like dancing with the footwork as he would attack and I would have to defend with compliment footwork.

    Again, I use the example of grouping. And can see where speed, timing such as half beats can place a player at an advantage and obviously creat openings.

    So there is a sense of control then. And it is up to the integrity of the players to acknowledge a hit. I understand but would like to know if stopping the strike can be counter productive from developing your strokes since a follow through and mechanics are somewhat limited?

    I too have played trhe same but with Smakstiks. Actionflex do tend to overly bend and blocks and parries can lose effectiveness. I like this type of play cause while you won't be severely hurt, you will develop a greater sense of awareness as the sticks whiz past you head. Not to mention a good slap in the face. I would suggest goggles at the very least. I was caught in the eye and for a split second was distracted.

    I was at one time a pretty avid competitor in WEKAF but like you saw a disregard for good defense. Guys would literally chase each other around with their witiks and u-patterns and care only to score a point or worse, absorb one :) I do however, believe there are WEKAF players that would do very well in a Dog Brothers format but simply choose not to take it to that level.

    Absolutely! I enjoy exchanging with fellow Eskrimadors. In fact, I encourage my guys to play against everyone so I have a tendency to visit other schools so they do not become stagnant. It is truely a great way to develop your fighting skills. Anyttime you are in Maryland, please do give me a shout and we can take turns sharing.
  16. Robert Klampfer

    Robert Klampfer New Member

    They're "eating" strikes from rattan sticks. Of course the strikes hurt but, there's practically no danger of a strike from a rattan stick, even to the head, being fatal. (Thrusts to the throat being an exception) Replace the rattan with hardwood and people wouldn't be so eager to be hit; especially on the head.

    There's not much blocking going on because there's not much incentive to block. I've watched while matches were allowed to continue even after a person had received a blow to the head that clearly would have been a knockout or fatal blow if delivered with a hardwood stick. But, because it's rattan, some people soak it up and continue on.

    However, it's unrealistic to use hardwood in a sporting competition. Marc Denny will be the first to tell you that DBMA matches aren't fights to the finish. There are certain artificialities that have to be introduced in order to allow for at least a marginal amount of safety - headgear, gloves, knee guards, etc.

    To my knowledge, no. WEKAF safety gear and rules certainly aren't conducive to Balintawak. You can't grab with those gloves on, you can't weave your head with that helmet on, and there's certainly no chance of scoring a knockout through that astronaut helmet!

  17. yomitche

    yomitche New Member

    I realize that this thread has been quiet for a while, but think it has an enduring relevance.

    I agree with comments made up this point that note many stick fights are almost completely devoid of blocks. I have observed only a few blocking styles which are effective in aggressive confrontations, one of which is the Balintawak style of blocking. "Exotic" blocks, though well intentioned and perhaps more appropriate for bladed confrontation, simply don't seem to apply in most engagements that move as quickly as a stick fight or tournament.

    Furthermore, I agree that protective gear increases the artificiality of the engagements. I guess the challenge is to find a happy medium between "real" fighting and the need to preserve our health so we can continue to earn a living beyond our martial arts training.

    Finally, the perennial question is the debate between largo's ability to keep a corto stylist at bay with long range techniques and corto's ability to penetrate largo's bubble. As some FMA stylists have revealed (such as the Dog Brothers), once inside the largo stylist's comfort zone, a corto stylist runs the risk of allowing a stick fight to turn into a grappling match.

    I guess I don't have a definitive answer to this question, and continue to wrestle with the ideas presented here too. It is fun, however, to seek the opportunities to learn more about this issues by training with other stylists and challenging each other in our training sessions by introducing new ideas during in house sparring.

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