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 another senior student, Miyako Miwa, 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