Archive for kabaroan

Jeet Kune Do: Getting Down to the Essence

Posted in American Arts, Commentary, Princples and Theory with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2010 by bigstickcombat

What Does the Referee Position Have to Do with Jeet Kune Do?

I have talked earlier of wanting to see how GM Dan Inosanto boils down all that he has learned. Some have said that there is too much knowledge, it can’t be done. Indeed, if you look at all of the martial arts information available today, plus the ever-increasing goal of martial artists to be well-rounded in all phases of combat, then it all seems staggering.

That’s why so many styles are a laundry list as long as a Manhattan telephone directory of all of their styles and techniques. But too many styles are useless. There is a point at which too much technique becomes counterproductive.

Sure, it’s great for the owner of the school, because he’s got 15 years of material, and the checks keep rolling in. Student retention is high because there’s always something new, and there are plenty of “advanced,” “secret,” “black belt,” techniques that are being dangled just beyond the student’s nose, which he can get to with just 7 more years of monthly dues, mat fees, membership fees, belt fees, test fees, etc.

My teacher GM Estalilla of Kabaroan, puts it this way. “Suppose the student is going off to battle tomorrow. What would you teach?”

Let us look at the art of freestyle, high school/collegiate wrestling. There are literally hundreds of techniques. How could you sort it all out? How could you teach the essence in just a day or two? (I’m not talking mastery, but an introduction to the essentials, coupled with techniques a student could learn today and use in the parking lot on his way out if attacked.)

First of all, get rid of the referee’s position. In wrestling when the wrestlers go off the mat, they return and one wrestler is on all fours, with the other in a dominant position. We can calculate that the referee’s position is unlikely to happen in real life. Eliminating the referee’s position eliminates dozens of techniques, such as a sitout, switch, standup, etc., and the takedowns of the opponent on all fours.

Someone could argue, “Wait, but what if I get pushed down to all fours and the opponent is above me…” Let’s stick to what is likely. Let’s look for the high percentage moves and train those.

Get rid of pinning moves. On the street, our goal is not pinning. Furthermore, I don’t want to be on the ground. This eliminates the cradle, the tilt, the grapevine, Iowa ride, etc. If need be, I can use a choke or a lock in this position. 

No. I don't want to be on the ground. My goal is not to pin anybody. On the street I don't get points.

Next, look at the remaining wrestling moves. Which ones can be used if I hold a weapon, like a knife? Which ones lead into, or follow up from, a strike? Which would work against an armed opponent?

Which are the most effective? What are the techniques that champion wrestlers master, and use to help them dominate opponents?

With this sort of thinking, I think I can boil wrestling down to about 7 techniques. Am I going to beat a champion wrestler? No. (At least not at wrestling, that’s what the backup blade is for.)

Will everyone agree with me as to the 7 essential techniques? No. But at least we are now thinking about what is vital, what is the essence.

Nobody knows where Bruce Lee was going with Jeet Kune Do and grappling, but I have to think this was where he was headed: How can I strip it down, and strip the extras away, so that I get down to the most powerful, effective, direct, and essential techniques?

Hit Harder in Close with the Big Stick

Posted in American Arts, Technique with tags , , , , , , on October 18, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Once again, do an experiment with me. Get close to the bag (about 2 feet back) and hit it with the staff grip, both palms down, overleft. ["Overleft" is a term of GM Estalilla of Kabaroan describing a strike that comes from 10 or 11 o'clock.] You will find that you feel a stinging in your left palm.

Now try a different strike from the same distance. In this case, your right hand grips the stick or bat at the pommel. The left hand is about a third of the way up, palm up. Now strike overleft. You’ll find that you can hit harder, without the stinging.

Windup for the staff strike. Note How Cramped the Body Is

Staff Strike. See How Awkward the Wrist and Elbow Are.

Windup for the Rap. The Elbows Are In, and the Torso is Covered.

The Rap. The Elbow and Wrist Are in a Natural, Strong Position

The Panabas

Posted in Other Stick Methods, Resources and Product Reviews, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , on September 19, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Check this out from Cold Steel:

Two-Handed Panga Machete from Cold Steel

This webpage also has a video of the machete in action.

According to GM Giron, this weapon (which although it’s billed as African, has counterparts in the Philippines) is the inspiration behind the “kabaroan,” or “new” styles.

This is basically a machete on a stick. Given the weapon’s greater length, new techniques had to be originated to adapt to the weapon. Remember, you adapt to the weapon, you become an extension of the weapon, not vice versa.

This is simply the bladed form of Big Stick Combat. For the person who cannot own a firearm, I don’t see how you could do better than to have one of these for self-defense in the home. If nothing else, the deterrence factor (Do you really want to mess with that blade?) would be formidable.

Styles in the FMA

Posted in Masters and History, Origins, Other Stick Methods with tags , , , , , , , on September 16, 2010 by bigstickcombat

James posts the following, and I thought it was something I should address as a separate post.

“When I first learned about FMA I could not understand how they could call long range a style or Elastico a style, to me all ranges and all strike styles should be within the context of a style and not a style unto themselves. I just believe in being a complete fighter.”


With regard to “styles,” the late GM Giron taught 20 or so of them. GM Giron can be seen holding “the master’s fan”

El Abaniko del Maestro

El Abaniko del Maestro of GM Giron

here. Each rib of the fan is a style in his system. This page also has a full listing of the styles. According to GM Estalilla, the 21st, unwritten style on the back of the fan was kabaroan.

Some of these styles on the master’s fan might be thought of as tactics, many of them based on environmental considerations. For instance, “De Fondo” was designed for times when you can only plant one foot solidly.

I remember meeting guys from one art that did multiple  “styles,” Disalon and Decampo (Literally, “of the parlor” and “of the country.”) among them. Desalon was a tight, close-quarters style designed for indoors. Decampo was a broader style designed for the outdoors.

Another style was “tinulisan” (“to make like a bandit”), which was hit and run. In other words, a thief doesn’t have time to trade blow for blow, because the cops and enraged neighbors are coming, so he’s going to get in a quick hit or two and take off.

Some of the old Filipino stylists knew only one or a couple of “styles,” others might know multiple styles. While our goal is to be proficient at all ranges and in all environments, I try to give people “full faith and credit” for their system.

I’m careful to avoid the snobbery of some people, who if you don’t do single stick, double stick, wrestling, spear, knife, double knife, bow and arrow, empty-hands, rope, nunchaku, staff, etc., then you aren’t a “real” Filipino martial artist and your art is somehow lacking.


Posted in Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Reader Hernan asks about the role of evasion in Big Stick Combat.

The greatest application of evasion with the big stick is the late GM Giron’s larga mano style. In his style the

Larga Mano with the late GM Giron's Son

proponent  maximizes the reach of the long stick by long stances, and stretching out to hit the opponent’s closest target, usually the weapon hand. The larga mano stylist may oppose the attack or blend/merge with it. Correctly applied, the attacker is trying to get at the long stick stylist, but can’t get anywhere close to him, and gets hit as he tries to get near. The lara mano stylist will pop in and tag the opponent, then fade back out of reach (retirada style).

I believe that the larga mano style is best understood in the context of a long, bladed weapon. GM Giron poses with a panabas, a machete mounted on a stick, and GM Somera’s larga mano video features him using a long sword. With a long blade, a hit at a distanvce can create a crippling injury, such as slashing an opponent’s wrist. The long blade cannot be grabbed.

Larga Mano, with Bahala Na Multi-Style

GM Somera. Note the long blade.

With a long stick, though, the same dynamics of the long blade larga mano stylist may not apply. Strikes with the stick may not be incapacitating at long range, and the end of the stick can be grabbed.

Although larga mano is a valid style, I decided against including it in Big Stick Combat, for several reasons:

1) Larga Mano needs space, which may not be available in the city or indoors.

2) A long stick can be grabbed at a time when the larga mano stylist is stretched forward.

3) Larga Mano requires leg flexibility and strength (which makes it great as an exercise), which some people may not have.

4) Larga Mano adds a degree of complexity to a style. I opted for simplicity.

To the extent that I evade, I step out to the right or to the left, in what Filipino stylists call the “female triangle” (V).

GM Estalilla’s concept is not to evade, but to move right into the teeth of an opponent’s attack and merge with him while blasting him in the head. This is audacious, and certainly takes guts to execute it. My concept is typically similar –move directly into an attack, smothering it with overwhelming power.

Baseball Bat Retention

Posted in American Arts, Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory, Technique, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Check out this video, especially beginning at 3:35 or so, when Master Porter executes several disarms. My point here is not to belittle these disarms, but to show, as GM Estalilla so often says, “For every move, there is a counter, and for every counter there is another counter.”

1)  One counter to the stick disarms (or empty hand disarms, for that matter) of a baseball bat is to drop the butt end of the bat as you squat and drop your weight. An upright stick is on my logo in part because it is inspired by GM Maranga’s teaching, that once your stick is in the upright position, it is very difficult to disarm you. When your stick is in the horizontal position, look out! because you are vulnerable to disarms.  This is another reason not to do horizontal strikes, or at least to be watchful.

2)  Another counter is to let go of the stick with the left hand. In the stick disarm in which the stick is threaded between both arms, letting go with the left hand removes much of the leverage. GM Maranga teaches that at a certain point in a disarm or other stick technique you may find yourself in a locked or arms/hands crossed position –Get out immediately! Once you let go with the left hand, you can strike with it, say a gouge to the opponent’s eyes, and then regrip the bat.

3)  One more counter is to spread the hands apart into rifle/bayonet grip. By sliding the left hand further up the bat you increase your leverage, particularly when coupled with returning your bat to an upright position.

Countering Short Stick Defenses Against the Bat

Posted in Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory, Technique with tags , , , , , on September 2, 2010 by bigstickcombat

First of all, let me say that if I had a short stick, or were unarmed (as James points out), I would do pretty much the same techniques as Master Porter. What I would like to discuss here are counters that the baseball bat proponent can use.

If we look at the counters, we see an assumption that a bat attack consists of

1) Wind Up

2) Swing

3) Recover

4) Swing, etc.

There is also the assumption that the baseball bat wielder has no offense at close range.

Note that in the first technique, the short stick proponent moves in on the wind up. If you have non-telegraphic strikes, there is no wind up for the opponent to close in on. If you properly maintain distance, your opponent must close a considerable distance in order to jam you. The faster your strike, through a lighter weapon (Try 17 ounces) and non-telegraphic, explosive strikes, the harder it is for the opponent to jam you.

The “recover” portion of the bat attack (as in swing, recover, swing, recover) represents the offbeat. Master Porter merges with a horizontal strike and strikes on the offbeat by jamming his opponent at the recovery phase. (I should also point out that merging is a technique prefered by long stick stylist GM Estalilla of Kabaroan.)

But suppose that I strike on the offbeat. Suppose I swing, kick, swing, kick, etc.; the opponent who leaps in on the offbeat must contend with a kick. Or, as I swing I can let go with one hand and hit with that hand, or stiffarm, so this pattern resembles swing, hit/stiffarm, swing, etc.

Furthermore, if I can hit powerfully at close range, I negate jamming techniques. On an opponent in close I can hit with a butt end strike, I can slam, I can go into a fan strike, I can hip check, or I can do an “ankle buster.” The more options I have in close, and the more I develop these options through practice at contact range, the harder it is to shut me down by jamming.

High Guard, contd.

Posted in Princples and Theory, Technique with tags , , , , , , , , on August 23, 2010 by bigstickcombat

I’m glad to see the response generated by my last post. Anyone who agrees with me on everything I say probably isn’t thinking for himself.

Recapping, I believe in the importance of “cover,” of keeping one’s hands up to help protect the head, whether unarmed or armed.

Consider the following:

Middle Guard. Notice how the head is exposed due to the weapon's short length.

Middle Guard with the long stick. I am much more covered by virtue of the stick's length.

Kabaroan Middle Guard

My preferred High Guard Stance. Note how little of the stick is visible.

Traditional Nunchaku Stance

Are there advantages to this stance with the nunchaku? How about other flexible weapons?

Thoughts on Larga Mano

Posted in Masters and History, Other Stick Methods, Technique with tags , , , , , on April 8, 2010 by bigstickcombat

I believe this is Master Labonog performing larga mano.

“Larga mano” (Or “largo mano”) is a long stick style in which the practitioner stretches out as far as possible to hit the opponent at long range. “Larga mano” is Spanish for “long hand. Perhaps the greatest exponent of larga mano was GM Giron. The larga mano styles are typically from Luzon, in regions like Pampanga and Pangasinan. For example, GM Estalilla is an Ilocano. He and GM Giron sometimes spoke to each other in the Ilocano language.

Generally speaking, stylists from the Ilocano-speaking regions of lowland Luzon tend to use long sticks, larga mano, and cinco teros, or the 5 angle striking pattern. Those from the Visayas (the middle of the country), centered in Cebu, tend to use short sticks and close range techniques.

As I have said before, even though GM Estalilla is a master of the long stick, he doesn’t do larga mano at all. As I began thinking about how I could advance the art of Kabaroan and the long stick, I considered adding larga mano techniques.

Eventually I decided against larga mano techniques for several reasons. I prefer to hit with two hands, and would rather trade greater power for slightly less reach.

Also, because of the greater extension (one’s body is streched forward) and one-handed grip, the wielder is vulnerable if the opponent gets his hand on the stick. As I thought about it, the larga mano style was rooted in a long blade. When swinging a long blade, having an opponent grab the end of the blade is not an issue. Also, a blade can still do tremendous damage even with the longest range strikes to the opponent’s lead hand, for example. See GM Somera’s video on larga mano to learn more about larga mano and to see him wield the long blade.

GM Somera with a larga mano blade

However, as I began training with two-handed strikes in bat grip, in which I am holding the stick like a baseball bat, with the right hand at the pommel and the left hand above it, I saw a use for larga mano.

Let’s try a striking pattern. Start with the stick on the left shoulder, gripping it with both hands at the pommel, left hand above the right. Strike with an “overleft,” using GM Estalilla’s term. (From 10 o’clock diagonally downward to 5 o’clock). Strike an overight, from 2 o’clock diagonally downward toward 7 o’clock. Strike an underleft, coming diagonally upward from 7 o’clock to 2 o’clock.

Now do an underight, moving diagonally upward from 5 o’clock to 10 o’clock. And here you run into problems. If you keep both hands on the bat, your left wrist gets crossed over at an uncomfortable angle. This is a very awkward strike. My solution is to go to larga mano, letting go of the left hand and swinging one-handed with the right. The underight strike is kept low to prevent the opponent from grabbing it. I also perform the strike while moving back and away, drawing the stick back up to my left shoulder, where the left hand regrips it.

Don’t Add, Synthesize

Posted in Masters and History, Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory with tags , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2010 by bigstickcombat

A Successful Combination?

I recently heard an interview of an FMA Guro who talked about using a short stick to be a great close-up fighter, and then getting the long stick to do larga mano.

I’ve seen a combined style art that does larga mano and serrada, I’m assuming with two sets of weapons.

Rather than adding up styles, let me suggest that a better approach is to synthesize. For instance, Combat Eskrima Maranga is a close range Balintawak style using the traditional short stick, but the late GM Timor Maranga realized the style needed a long range component. So Combat Eskrima Maranga incorporates long range techniques with the same stick.

GM Cabales

The Eskrima Kabaroan system under GM Estalilla is a long range art with a big stick, but it also has close range bamboliya techniques with the same stick. GM Estalilla influenced me to incorporate the same concept into Big Stick Combat, a long range system with the ability to flow into short range and out again, all using the same weapon.

I’ve seen several Serrada/Larga Mano “combined” styles. The reason for this is that the late Grandmaster Cabales of Serrada and the late Grandmaster Giron of the Larga Mano style were two great masters and rivals in Stockton, California, which is ground zero with respect to the FMA in America.

The problem as I see it is that the two styles are irreconcilable. They are based on two entirely separate philosophies. It’s like ballet and football: you can do one or the other, but if you try to do them both, I’m afraid that both are going to suffer for it.

The challenge as I see it for martial artists is to synthesize what you have learned. Even though Combat Eskrima Maranga is an extremely close range style, I was able to apply many of its principles to the big stick.

GM Leo Giron

The other challenge is to realize what can’t be synthesized. I cannot synthesize Tae Kwon Do or Tai Chi with Thai Boxing. I cannot synthesize sinawali or Serrada with the big stick. I know better than to try, or to waste my time working on something totally different from my core art.


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