ARNIS - THE PHILIPPINE NATIONAL MARTIAL ART & SPORT
In the years when the Philippines was a colony of Spain, the Filipinos – the ‘Indios’ – were banned from carrying blades. Our resourceful patriots carried rattan sticks, in lieu of a bolo, to use it as a training instrument to familiarise themselves with the proper use of the bolo. Soon the art of fighting with sticks was developed.
Recent action movies have used Filipino Martial Arts in their fight choreography and have brought Filipino Martial Arts into popularity. Arnis/Escrima/Kali as it is now known around the world, have been used around the Philippine islands well before the Spaniards arrived. FMA employs training that allows the stick to be interchangeable with a blade.
FMA training can also be used empty-handed, and also allows everyday items like cars keys or pens or even a rolled up newspaper to be turned into lethal weapons.
Balintawak Arnis was created by Venancio ‘Anciong’ Bacon in the 50’s. He eliminated “buwak-buwak” or fancy flowery movements from his style, and focused on training to do a counter-strike immediately after blocking the technique. He taught his style to close friends. A couple of those were Teofilo Velez and Ver Villasin. Ver Villasin later broke down the techniques into groupings to make it easier to teach students.
Balintawak Arnis didn’t have a belt grading system so effectively; the grouping of the system can be classed as a grading level.
“We are a small group. There are currently eight regular practitioners who train as often as their work load allows. The training is intense in a sense that the new learner has to control the stick,” explains Mitchell Badelles, a senior student cum assistant trainer at the NNG Balintawak Arnis. Their group is headed by Oscar Mistula.
“One of the controls is to stop the counter-strike strike an inch away from the head. Another is to learn the footwork, which is to walk normally as if one was walking on the footpath.”
The Sydney arnis practitioners trace their training school to the original Balintawak Arnis (Balintawak Eskrima) started in the early 1950’s by Venancio “Anciong” Bacon. In their discipline, the theory is that the stick is an extension of the arm and that the body can only move in so many ways.
Anciong’s style was known to be a “cuentada” (counting) system. This means that the martial art involves calculating and like maths, precise. Balintawak can be like a dance – elegant, balanced, and sometimes baffling.
Balintawak Arnis practitioners, in their early days, were taught to be fighters. Part of the knowledge imparted to them was psychological warfare even ignoring pain when hit. Training meant a lot of sacrifice so much so that it was shunned by some because it was considered to be a brutal way of learning a martial art.
Contrary to what many may think, Balintawak actually focuses on learning defense rather than offense.
“Balintawak can be said to be a passive-aggressive defensive martial art. The onset of training is on how to defend rather than attack,” says Mitchell who started studying martial arts at the age of 13. He has become a disciple of arnis because of its emphasis on self-control and discipline in both mind and body.
In a sense, we needed to learn how to control ourselves knowing that we had the knowledge to hurt somebody else, but choose not to. It is only to be used as a last resort – violence to be avoided first and foremost.”
Traditional training involves one-on-one training. Mitchell and other senior students, Miyako and Andre, assist with training.
Training days Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays at Surry Hills is headed by Oscar firstname.lastname@example.org
NNG Balintawak Western Sydney Friday afternoon training sessions are by arrangement. Please contact Mitchell email@example.com for training after work hours.
written by Titus Filio & Mitchell Badelles
(NNG) BALINTAWAK IN AUSTRALIA
Balintawak is a stick based Filipino Martial Art based on a short sword, approximately 28 inches (700mm) long. The stick is similar in length to the Viking Langseax (29 inches), Roman Gladiator’s Gladius (26-28 inches), the Filipino Ginunting (26 inches), and the Greek Hoplite’s Xiphos (24 inches). The length of the weapons is based on close proximity fighting.
From other people’s written history, we know that in the early 1500’s, Lapu-Lapu of Mactan, with his tribe, had to be up close to Magellan and his armoured soldiers to inflict deadly results.
In 1762 during the early British Occupation, Gabriela Silang from Abra, The Cordilleras, led the locals against Spanish troops. Filipinos know her to be armed mainly with a bolo.
In 1896 Andrew Bonifacio along with the KKK Compatriots fought the Spanish mainly with bolos and sharpened bamboo poles and sticks.
In the early 1900’s, about 50 men of Balangiga, Samar, armed only with their wit and farm bolos, attacked the American Colonial Garrison and succeeded to defeat about 78 soldiers, killing 48 and wounding 22. About 25 Samarenyos were killed and about 25 were wounded.
During World War 2, The US Armed Forces had a fully Filipino Regiment called the Bolo Battalion. Fast track to now, the Tabak Division of The Philippine Army is the primary infantry unit, and specializes in anti-guerrilla warfare.
In 1944 during the Japanese occupation of Leyte. Captain Nieves Fernandez operating in the area South of Tacloban, with more than 200 kills, was the only known Filipina guerrilla who hunted and killed Japanese with a bolo. She was also a school teacher.
It was after World War 2 that Balintawak Escrima, as headed by Venancio “Anciong” Bacon, came into prominence. Anciong Bacon was one of the original 12 Pairs of the famed Doce Pares Club, which was headed by the Cañete Family and the Saavedra Family. Bacon, Master of espada y daga (sword and knife), was feared during training, with some complaining that they got hurt with the daga, so the other Masters asked him to stop training with the daga. So, Anciong Bacon’s single stick technique was forced into creation.
Anciong favoured a direct style of training, utilising only the simplest and most effective blocks and counters. The other Masters disagreed with his method of teaching so he left the group with some following him. This core group started training at the rear of a Barber Shop on Balintawak Street, off Colon St, the heart of the business district of Cebu.
Initially, the grouping system now used to spread Balintawak Escrima did not exist. One was given a stick and had to defend a strike in the best way they knew. If you failed, you were then shown a way to defend it. The original students experienced pain as part of their training. No protective gear was used. One had to learn to be good, so protective gear would not be needed. Techniques were taught at a random basis. The testing or grading certificates were non-existent. If you could defend at a certain level, that was it. You were at that level. It wasn’t until GM Ver Villasin broke down the techniques into Groups or levels that the spread of Balintawak became rapid.
Gm Nonato “Nene” Neri Gaabucayan was trained in the Grouping Method of Training. He trained with all the current Senior Grand Masters. The Grouped techniques make it easier to teach anyone by building platforms, or levels of skills. It would be then up to the student as to how much training he or she wants to get involved with. With regular, daily training, the forms can easily be completely learned in 6 months. The idea of Balintawak is to make it your own, by learning as much as you can from Balintawak, and any other technique you may have already learned. Balintawak is mainly a defensive art. The concept is that the opponent is a trained attacker, and the student must learn to defend first and foremost.
The Grouped Methods of Learning how to defend are:
Basics 1: Agak (Cuddle or Cradle)
The 12 basic blocks and counters are introduced. Footing, form, and stances are also taught.
Basics 2: Pak-gang (clash)
Pak-gang is the literal transliteration of the sound of the sticks on impact. This is the beginning of learning how to control power and strength. This section of training is also the bit where the student gets used to impact and sound and pressure of close quarter fighting. The student learns to focus; learns not to close the eyes; learns to use peripheral vision.
Group 1: Basic Lifting & Clearing
Basic touch/feeling sensitivity is taught. This prepares the student how to react if somebody holds the hand or stick. Everything starts slow to learn accuracy. This is mixed in with the Agak and Pakgang. Pressure on the student is increased by changing the timing of the blows and the weight of the impact.
Group 2: Basic Butting, Slashing, and Power Blows
The student learns to move his body, and how to block and control and counter an attack using the butt end of the weapon. Minute changes to the attack are introduced to increase the student’s sensitivity to feel and increase peripheral vision awareness. Pressure on the student is increased by changing the timing of the blows, altering the distance from the student, and the weight of the impact.
Group 3: Basic Stabs/Thrusts to the Left and Right and the Centreline of the body
The student peripheral vision awareness is increased. Their body is taught to angle away or with the stab. All previously learned techniques are included with the attacks. Pressure is increased. The student learns to keep their distance.
Group 4: Basic Multiple Attacks
The student learns to defend against a burst of blows to the left and the right side of their body. The attacks can be focused just on one side or the other, or a combination of both, and including the previously learned techniques. At this stage, the student’s peripheral vision is more heightened, and the student by now has already learned to gauge distance.
Group 5: Punches/Stabs
At this group level, the instructor attacks with the left hand. The student learns to defend against a stab or a punch to the face, the chest, the abdomen. Attacks will include all previous groupings.
Level 1: Push and Pull
Level 2: How to deliver multiple blows using the stick
includes learning how to pitik/witik (timed strike)
Level 3: How to sweep or kick while controlling the student
Level 4: How to disarm/snatch the stick away from the student
Level 5: Group 1 Feeding
Level 6: Group 2 Feeding
Level 7: Group 3 Feeding
Level 8: Group 4 Feeding
Level 9: Group 5 Feeding
After all the above lessons, the student is prepared to feed – to learn how to instruct. This is really learning how to be an attacker.
Depending on how the student is performing, and depending on whether the instructor feels that the student has learned sufficient skill, the different levels may be introduced. Depending on the instructor, other strikes, including the use of elbows, may be introduced.
Mitchell Badelles 24.07.2018