Fencing and Balintawak - Taken from Sabre and Modern Arnis

Discussion in 'Balintawak' started by Rich Parsons, Oct 28, 2005.

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  1. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons Member

    Fencing and Balintawak?

    This surprises me.

    Could you please provide some examples?

    Since 1998, I have not seen what I would call fencing, there are thrusts I grant that, but I do not see the fencing, nor do I see the relationship to sabre which is blade versus Balintawak which is stick.


    NOTE: I quoted a post from a another thread and started in here in Balintawak.
  2. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    It isn't a similarity in techique so much as the systemic approach that I saw with Bobby Taboada's Cuentada System. The other thing to remember is that if the fencer/prison story is true, the influence would be something that people that had experience in both Euro fencing and FMA (MA/Balintawak/Doce Pares) might see but wouldn't be something that people would actively teach. FMA is more about tactics and application that tradition so some instructors might not even be aware of such a story. They might just look at a Euro fencer and notice the similarities.

    Bobby also showed the knife to stick/sword connection a few times too. I don't think that the blade is a direct training emphasis, but I think that it is an influence as it is in all FMA that I have had the chance to see.

    I fenced for 2 years off and on in Wash. DC while I was stationed there. Mainly with the saber. The systemic structure was very similar to what I experienced when Bobby had us on the floor one on one and moved us with striking, verbal and contact cues through drills and such. There were movement similitaries in things like the 6 position blocking and the saber parry set that I learned. Also the 'parry and repost' model is similar to the defense and counter model that Bobby used.

    Again, the Fencer/Prison connection was something I came across in my research into Ising Atillo a while ago. I can try to find the exact cite that I got that info from, but I do remember it was on a site for a PI based Balintawak group. I'll have more if I can find it again.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2005
  3. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    Anecdotal at best

    The following quote is from the Doce Pares International Website:

    "The name Doce Pares was adopted in
    reference to the famous twelve bodyguards
    of Emperor Charlemagne of France (AD 768-814).
    these twelve people all top swordsmen were
    known to have fought and killed hundreds of
    enemies in battles. Doce Pares which means
    "Twelve pairs" in spanish, was meant also to
    honor the twelve people who originally planned
    to form the orgnization, and when the
    membership rose to twenty four at the time
    of the inauguration, it indeed became more
    significantly fitting"

    Though it doesn't say outright that there was a French Fencer in the mix, it does connect to the French Prisoner/training partner story as well as the Founder status of the Savaadra's. Since there is also mention of the Spanish languague source of Doce Pares, it could indicate the influence of Spanish culture/Fencing on FMA as well.

    "...And this quote from the same page could indicate why there is no direct mention of 'fencing/euro influence' in Balintawak. Balitawak is one step removed in progression from Doce Pares, so not all the stories/training from all the Doce Pares masters would have trickled down to all the students that studied Doce Pares."

    "All the founding masters had their own set of followers
    and the students who chose not to study and cross-train
    in other styles naturally learned only the particular
    style of his own teacher."

    And this information from the Visayan martial arts cite about the group that the Doce Pares group shot off from. Note the use of 'fencing' in the title. This is a PI based Balintawak website.

    "The 'Doce Pares' is an Escrima/Arnis Martial Arts Club that was founded in Cebu City in January 12, 1932. Originally it was a breakaway group of students and instructors from the 'Labangon Fencing Club' of the 1920's which was influenced heavily by the Saavedra and Cañete families. The original instructors of the Doce Pares taught their own particular families, island's or region's styles of Escrima and their particular interpretation of their own styles."

    and some interesting info on Balintawak influences other than Doce Pares:

    "Venancio was expert in several styles of Escrima, and was also skilled in Boxing, Filipino grappling or ‘Dumog’ and Jui Jitsu, which is referred to by some Filipinos as ‘Combat Judo’."

    Please note that Boxing and 'Combat Judo' were both western influences. THe term 'Combat Judo' was what military personnel were taught as H2H at this time, so the PI use of the term indicates an American/Western influence on Bacon's own martial arts background.

    Last edited: Oct 28, 2005
  4. Epa

    Epa Member

    As far as direct technique to technique comparison goes, I don't see much of a connection between sabre fencing and balintawak, but I haven't studied either one in depth so there may be things I'm missing. On an abstract level, I do see many common principles.

    1. Both approaches emphasize a linear approach to their footwork and movement, though at different ranges. Sabre fencing tends more towards the long and middle ranges with no use of the alive hand allowed, whereas Balintawak favors close quarters and looks to crash and keep the opponent lined up right in front of them at that close range. This differs from many other weapons systems which focus more on triangular or circular footwork.

    2. Both systems seem to be defensively based. Balintawak's basics seems to be focused on a developed good blocking skills, which leads to the ability to trap and control an opponent's weapon. Sabre fencing enforces the right of way requirements where if person A initiates an attack person B must defend before attacking themselves. This is to prevent the habit of trading blows with a weapon, which is something that is highly emphasized in Balintawak. It's just instead of doing a block and a quick riposte as in fencing, you block, control the opponent's weapon and lock it down to set up your shot.

    So in terms of general strategy there are some definite similarities. As far as the actual application, that is partly due to the fact that the two styles play by different rules and use different weapons. Again, I haven't done a lot of either system so if anyone thinks I'm full of it, let me know.

  5. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    1. Mostly, but not entirely true. In 'Trad' Euro fencing, there is angling and circularity. Competitive fencing is different. The corto range in Euro fencing is not evident in competitive fencing, true, but it is the bread and butter of 'trad fencing' if you ever look at reproductions of old sketches. Even kicks and throws are there.

    2. There is no rule about right of way in saber fencing.
    "If epee is the weapon of patient, defensive strategy, then saber is its polar opposite. In saber, the rules of right of way strongly favor the fencer who attacks first, and a mere graze by the blade against the lamé registers a touch with the scoring machine."
    So the electronic scoring reinforces right of way, but in the event of mutual touch, right of way is not a 'rule' per se. Right of way reinforces initiative and aggressiveness in all fencing weapons.

    Foil is the only one that actually enforces the right of way.

    For newcomers to foil fencing, one of the challenging concepts to grasp is the rule of right-of-way. Right of Way is a theory of armed combat that determines who receives a point when the fencers have both landed hits during the same action. The most basic, and important, precept of right of way is that the fencer who started to attack first will receive the point if they hit valid target.

    A good fencer and a good Balintawak player will bait you to commit to certain lines so that they can expose you in others. It is very much like chess at mock two. Also, Fencing is a balance of defensive and offensive tactics, but it is ultimately offensive since the objective is to cut or thrust your opponent. Balintawak, as taught in the more acceptable social circles of today is 'defensive' because that is how it can be taught to a wider audience. In its early years it was just as 'offensive' in objective. Still today, with the 'head hunting' finishes as the standard, it is stays 'offensive' because at the higher levels, you don't really use a block so much as make contact with the opponents stick to bind it for a moment as you strike at the head.

    I would agree, over time any direct or obvious fencing influence will not be something that shows up in terminology or techinique per se because of different rules.

    * Quotes from USA fencing website
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2005
  6. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons Member

    1) Well, other than tape I have not had the priviledge to see GM Bobby Taboada and how he teaches. I have seen you and others who have worked with him. As to seeing similiarities, I am still having problems seeing it unless I back out far enough to go they both have weapons and both will try to strike or cut as the case may be, the other person.

    2) GM Bobby has shown knife, but like I said in another Balintawak thread here it did not come from Anciong for his Balintawak. The translations can be made and even Manong Ted has made some, so I see them there, but it is not a focus. Balintawak from my understanding and opinion is a stick dueling system when people would settle arguements with a stick. I do not think that time frame will ever be repeated again, yet the optimizations for stick work were made and should be taught for the knowledge and beuaty alone. In the Balintawak I have seen, no middle of the stick strikes or belly strikes which would be made if the stick was actually a blade are taught. I have no problems admitting that GM Bobby may have added in some more techniques or even his instructors to help round or help teach a concept. I just wish credit could go where credit is due.

    3) I agree the Traditional Balintawak was and is taught one on one and others may watch. Now GM Bobby may have added in the drills to get more people moving at one time, which is a good technique of teaching. Yet at the Cebu club of GM Anciong, he would teach or Manong Ted would teach, and the rest would watch them with a person. Then up would come the next person and they would work, and so on.

    4) I do not doubt or challenge you comments about the Savaadra's being the lead or GM's of the Labanong Fencing Club, and the follow up club of Doces Pares and the comments of Charlemagna. My point is that those systems in this collective all were good, and there were many good teaches or leaders, yet, GM Anciong had his wooden training knife removed due to bruises and blood from his training partners, and he optimized his single stick techniques. Hence my arguement that if I recognize that GM Anciong changed something and made what he did different enough, that it was recognized as something different then one of the Doces Pares then those that have added to the Balintawak they have learned, should also be given credit for what they have done. I am just argueing for consistancy is all. No disrespect meant to any of those teaching and linage or form or what have you of Balintawak.
  7. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons Member

    Having studied for 7+ years multiple times a week in Balintawak, I would have to agree, even with my limited exposure to fencing and sabre fencing in particular.

    While it may seem that Balintawak in linear in its foot work it is the body mechanics that makes it non linear in aspect. i.e. your shoulders are not square to your opponent.

    Balintawak might seem Defensive at first, and this is because after the student learns the 12 angles, he learns how to block them and counter attack. And from there, the student is taught the back up moves, which gives them the most amount of room to execute their block, and also putting them in position to try to counter. This is a way of emphasizing the body mechanics and also footwork, so that the student does not generate bad habits while attacking and or gets used to giving their weapon away to their opponent for their management. This way once the student knows how to counter, they can concentrate on attacking smartly with properly places baits.

    Eric you are full of it for sure, but "IT" in this case is a desire to learn more. :D
  8. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    All the other stuff aside, I said the same thing in the post that you cut and paste. I made the analogy between Thai cuisine and 'urban arts' of FMA.

    Thai cuisine may have had influences from chinese, japanese...but Thai cooks made it their own when they combined those common materials and ingredients in a unique way.

    Same with FMA. Savaadras made Doce Pares distinct from the 'Fencing club' which was further changed with Bacon and so on down the evolutionary line. I agree that these people are creditted with the uniqueness of curriculum and systemization.

    My point is that the common thread of a fencing influence has survived if you know both well enough to observe the details that are common from an instructional and stylistic perspective.

    Your point about Balintawak and dueling would be why it can share so many similiarities or kept so many of the fencing elements because fencing in its later versions was more of a duelist school than a combatives school as well. It would be reasonable that any benefit that fencing had for euro duelists would also benefit PI duelists.
  9. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    Bobby and Ted had great conversations about commonalities in training and associations from what I understand, so I would bet that you would be very comfortable and welcome at a Bobby Seminar.

    After rereading this first point I wanted to address the lack of observable connection. It isn't in the movement of the body or the range. The 'trad fencing' system and weapon are too long and require more space than the medio/corto ranges of the rattan stick in Balintawak. The similarities is in the training system, the progression of skills and the focus on reactionary speed and tactics in both. That kind of observation can only come from experiencing instruction in both systems. Similarly, Fencing is best learned in a private/small group setting much like Balintawak.

    If there is a local fencing club that you could work in with or at least observe a few times, I think you would recognize some of the things I am mentioning.
  10. arnisador

    arnisador Active Member

    I could see the techniques that are particular to FMA being trained through the European style of organizing a curriculum--much as Traditional Chinese Medicine can now be learned through a Western-style university offering a D.O.M. degree. But, I know too little about either art--Balintawak and sabre--to comment knowledgeably!
  11. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    Exactly my point on that regard. The Euro structure and format of instruction may have been a great codification of some of the skills and focuses that the Savaadra's already had. All the structure did is create an organizational tool to format that knowledge. There are commonalities in movement as well as far as I am concerned, but that could be due to centuries of interaction with western cultures that would include fencing exposure.

    A good link for over view: http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Eskrima
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2005
  12. Epa

    Epa Member


    Throughout your posts, you make an interesting case for the commonalities between European fencing (be it Spanish or French) and the arts derived from the teachings of the Saavedra family (Doce Pares/Balintawak). One thing I'm not sure about is whether you are making a historical claim or are comparing two martial arts as you have seen them. When you say:

    Are you saying that the Saavedras actually implemented the Euro structure and teaching format when they were teaching in the Labangon Fencing Club/Original Doce Pares?


    Are you referring to the more recent standardization of FMA that you were talking about in earlier posts, like with Bobby Taboada's modifications on the older teaching methods.

    I'm just not sure exactly which point your trying to make.

  13. Cruentus

    Cruentus Tactician

    3 things...

    #1. Noy Anciong was never a boxer. That is false information as far as I know.

    #2. European fencing does not appear to have influenced Balintawak in the way that it is being compared here. I train in traditional Balintawak the same way as it was taught by Anciong, and I have an accomplished fencer that trains with my group. He competed and won in college, and was a college coach for fencing. He knows a lot about the historical aspects as well as the sport aspects. Although I do not teach Balintawak even though I could (because if one wants to learn it they can go to my teacher), but the stickwork we train is heavily Balintawak influenced. I have never heard him make a comparison with what he has seen of Balintawak and his background - and in fact he often talks about how different the stickwork is then what he is used too. I am confident that there is no historical connection that has been documented and proven. I can ask him in better detail, but I am pretty sure that we will find no substancial connection.

    #3. As far as Filipino and European combat systems go, generally speaking I am sure there was an influence, as cultures cannot collide without influencing each other is some way. But by the time the Saavadre's were teaching, the combat systems would have evolved, making any European influence unrecognizable at that point. What they were training for was a much different game as well, verses what Filipino's were training in the mid-1500's.

    Lastly, it is O.K. to make conjectures and hypothesis in these matters, and discuss them over the internet. If your going to make an outright claim, however, you have to provide credable evidence that proves your claim. Without that, you are really just spreading misconceptions about the arts.

    Paul Janulis
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2005
  14. G22

    G22 -== Banned ==-

    Isnt the common FMA belief that the locals picked up fencing from the Spanish...
  15. Christopher Umbs

    Christopher Umbs New Member

    Check out my post on Modern Arnis to see my feelings about that question.

  16. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons Member

    Paul, I never said you never said the above. I never implied you did not. OK? I made a statement of my own.

    Yes, but not everyone is doing this. Those that added in the grouped, to help with the teaching, and even the similiar teaching techniques you mentione between GM Bobby and and fencing should be credited to GM Bobby as they are not there from what I have seen by other instructors.

    I agree that fencing has survived, but I do not see it in Balintawak. Now one fo the instructors in the lineage you have seen inbetween GM Anciong and GM Bobby may have added the Fencing influence in, and this is my point, this person should be known, to avoid the confusion later. His proper respect for how he changed the teaching method shoudl be recognized. Like I said, I recognize it for GM Remy, so why not for others.

    Once you step past the Dueling aspect I do not see any similarities between Balantawak and Fencing. Between other FMA's and Fencing yes, but not Balintawak.
  17. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons Member

    Paul, I never implied that "Bobby and Ted" had anythign but good conversations. I know others might have years ago, but I was not directly involved, so do not comment now.

    As to seeing people, I have seen most (* those I can find and or are public *), of the Modern Arnis Family in NA and Europe. I have not seen those of the PI yet.

    As to Balintawak, it is on my list and has always been on my list to see some of the others out there. Just time and priorities have prevented it in the last couple of years. Given my personal demeanor and actions, I believe I would be able to go see anyone, and I would not and do not expect any problems, from my side or from anything I have said. Questions asked, to clarify or to get a better understanding, but no game playing.

    Hence my previous comments that the person who added in the connections in the teaching style should be credited and respected for their actions.

    Nearest fencing club(s) meet so irregular, and I have tried over the years, and when I have had the chance to work with people, either the instructor moves me from the beginners, because of my FMA experieince in Modern Arnis, or takes me aside, and asks about how I would do something. This is ok, if I am teaching him and he is teaching me and this is our agreement, but when I am paying for lessons, and come in with an empty slate ready, and I teach, it is frustrating. I did have a nice experience with some Oakland SCA people, and I was asked and did teach one person stick & Knife and also Sword & Knife, also double short sword. The problem there was that their rules about weapons, and weapon size, a two handed sword would always "Drive through the smaller weapon", The concept of parry, and or timing the strike to be past you and then moving in and checking was to complex for their rule set. Not enough people were doing the lighter weapons at the time to have competitions. It was fun, but did not last long.
  18. Rich Parsons

    Rich Parsons Member


    From what I have seen, the answer is that in Balintawak, per GM Anciong and Manong Ted, is no. Manong Ted tells a story about asking GM Anciong about sinawalis, and GM Anciong states that he does not know them and has never known them. I believe that Paul M's influence into Balintawak is per GM Bobby and in this lineage there may be similarities between the teching of Balintawak and Fencing. And as Paul stated, not the techniques per say but the approach.
  19. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    1. Based on my research that includes Bacon Bios from Balitawak groups in PI (Visayan martial arts) via the internet, the boxer information is verified. I would think that it would be disproved long ago in PI by PI residence if it was wrong.

    2. I am comparing Balitawaks instructional style to that of Euro Fencing at the time it was introduced to the Savaadra's (i.e. Mentor/Mentee, Maestro and Student - like it would have been taught one on one in a prison cell for example). Of course it will look different technically because of the difference in rules, weapon, tactical goals....but there is a reasonable commonallity in what each art focuses on as skills and abilities as well as the pedagogical format that is used to move students to the mastery levels. It is a conceptual relationship not a technical relationship. Since PI arts really weren't about preserving lineage, the Euro influence may not even be common knowledge to anyone after the Doce Pares clubs.

    3. The Euro/PI mix I am referring to would have been around the turn of the 19th to the 20th centuries.

    4. Unfortunately, as you have said many times, PI tradition isn't in the business of 'credibility' so much as skill speaking for itself. So, even in the face of credible evidence (Remy's legitimate system inheritance for example) PI'ers and Modern Arnisadors will still disagree on what it legitimate. Even interview information can fall into question if the only basis for 'proof' is that someone never mentioned it. That only means that it was never mentioned.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2005
  20. loki09789

    loki09789 -== Banned ==-

    1. Rich, safely assume that we are big boys and don't need to waste time with the disclaimers. I was only saying that Ted and Bobby are on good terms and anyone associated with Ted would be recieved like a family member.

    2&3. I have my own wish list as well.

    4. I am giving credit to the person that introduced the influence when I cite the Savaadras. It was one of their interactions with a Euro Fencer that is what I am referring to in the beginning.

    I respect that the FMA in general and possibly the Doce, Balintawak, Modern Arnis lineage in particular has absorbed something that proved useful and did not reject it simply because of differenced in culture or perspectives. That is what makes FMA's unique to other arts. Artistically FMA'ers should adapt, absorb and personalize through an open mind and see through differences in culture, perspective or politics. It takes a strong art and person to be willing to do that. FMA promotes and rewards that strength with skill and growth.

    5. Fencing clubs aren't easy to find. SCA (locally) is a good place to get a taste of historical fencing, but the main focus isn't accuracy to tradition and historical fencing as it is in USING fencing to create an idealistic vision of what was.

    It is a shame that your exposure is so limited. I think someone already mentioned how fun it can be when you get to use your FMA skills in a new way...really messes with the fencer's heads when you do it too. The exposure to fencing also wakes up the brain to other than FMA attack types as well. It's all training in the end.
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2005
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