Archive for February, 2010

I Was Surprised

Posted in Princples and Theory, Real Life Combat with tags , , on February 28, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Check out the video of the “ninja street fight” here. Language warning, and the fight doesn’t actually start until about 1:20.

To show how ignorant people are, there is nothing ninja about the guy’s style. I’m guessing it’s Northern Style kung-fu.

To be honest, when Mr. Kung-fu when into his exotic stance, with the hand-waving and back or cat stances, with cross-stepping, I thought he was toast. I admit I thought the guy was a poser who was about to get his butt handed to him. I was wrong.

In my observations of fights at the high school level, I found invariably that there is  a buildup to a fight, which takes up more than minute in this video.

One thing that concerned me was when the guy in black reached behind him (at about :57). To me, this is a warning that he may be drawing something like a knife or a gun, and I would have charged in at that point. You’ve got to get the gun or knife while he’s trying to draw it, not afterward.

I think kudos must also be given to Mr. Kung-fu for his situational awareness. He is carefully scanning the crowd to make certain that none of Black Shorts’ friends are going to blindside him.

Why Did Mr. Kung-Fu Win, and Win Decisively?

  1. The kung-fu guy has great movement. He moves side-to-side and is very elusive. His opponent is already off-balance and now must lean forward to try to connect. On the other hand, the kung-fu fighter kept his balance.

  2. The kung-fu guy has cover. Combined with his side-to-side movement, he guards his head. You can see his left fist shoot up in a covering/blocking gesture. I don’t think he even got hit once, even though both fighters were throwing flurries of punches.

  3. The kung-fu guy landed a haymaker, which dropped his opponent like a sack of potatoes. Again, if I’m not mistaken, the punch is a hung-gar haymaker (See the pic below.), which is delivered in a wide, looping arc. It appears that the point of contact was actually the guy’s inner forearm, which hit Mr. Black Shorts like an axe handle, and dropped him.

  1. Hung Gar Haymaker


The World’s Deadliest Style

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , on February 27, 2010 by bigstickcombat

I found this great post on Filipino Fighting Secrets Live:

We really have gotten desensitized to the actual outcomes of what we do, and cowardice is forcing many of us who have been blessed enough to learn this art to only think of combat as a life or death fight… and the only option is to kill or maim. This is the problem I have with martial artists who shun practice fighting. They are so far away from friendly contests, that they only know one way:  to talk of death and “me-or-you” fights, and since they never practice-fight, if they were ever faced with the choice of a less-than-lethal fight or a killing, they would choose the killing. This is the thing behind so-called “blade experts” and “blademasters” who don’t address a self-defense situation with a neighbor or a challenge match with another teacher. Talk of killing and you might not have to fight. But get forced into a corner, and if you choose to fight, you’ve only prepared for one thing.

We must think of the consequences of our arts should we ever have to use them. Will I go to jail? Will my opponent die or suffer permanent injuries and damage? Could I accidentally kill him? What if I go too far?  What if my student accidentally kills someone or is too immature to discern between actually defending himself or taking a fight to an inappropriate level?  We or someone under us could end up in the “small yard”…

This post reminds me of all “The World’s Deadliest Style/Fighter” types out there. The reality is that killing somebody barehanded is hard, otherwise many of us would be dead by now. All the talk of death strikes and secret killer techniques is a big bluff designed to impress students, to make any potential challengers think twice, and to avoid actually having to apply your techniques in training or competitive fighting because they’re “too deadly.”

I’m reminded of a “Cobra Kai” type chain of schools in California, practicing kung-fu (They were kenpo schools, but since kung-fu was the rage, they were suddenly Chinese schools teaching kung-fu.). The students talked in awed tones of “She foo” as they pronounced it.

Shefoo Billy Bob had so much chi he could make the hair on your head stand on end! Sheefoo Billy Bob once dropped Bruce Lee on the streets of Seattle, in seconds (Poor Bruce never saw what was coming!). Look out for Shefoo Billy Bob’s secret nerve strike that would paralyze your entire arm!

Don't Mess with the Cobra Kai!

I suppose the most diabolical part of it all was that Sheefoo was a deadly, deadly, deadly kung-fu killing machine, even though he appeared to the uneducated eye to be a mere redneck.

But let us say for the sake of argument that you really do have the world’s deadliest fighting style. Let us imagine that every strike hits like a .44 magnum on a cricket. If you carry a knife, you are quite capable of killing, even with zero training.

Now reread the post above. Or consider the case of a former co-worker of mine, whose adult son had a psychiatric disorder. My friend found himself in his house confronting his own son, who was threatening him with a knife in the middle of a psychotic episode. What do you do, kill your own son?

When I taught high school in Fresno I broke up some 13 fights by my count. Again, eye gouging and neck breaking were not acceptable options.

GM Estalilla’s father was called in when two brothers were fighting inside the house –with machetes! Clearly, the goal is not to go in and stop the fight by killing them (assuming it’s that easy, especially if you’re fond of death strikes that don’t need any practice). GM Estalilla’s father was able to break up the fight successfully without anyone getting hurt.

Here’s an idea: Maybe your role as a martial artist and a warrior isn’t to go around killing people (although it may come down to that), but to help maintain order and to stop or prevent violence.

Poser of the Week

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 26, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Hi-Yahh! Go Power Rangers!

The problem here is not this young lady, but the people who are “teaching” her. The whole image of a cute young lady posing with sticks is reminiscent of Jon Benet Ramsey, where parents are marketing their kids for God only knows what reasons.

Realize it or not, we (especially men) are constantly being sold beauty, in the form of waitresses, and bikini-clad girls on lite beer commercials, or news anchors and singers who could be models. Even in the martial arts you can’t get a break. The message seems to be, seeing an attractive woman –regardless of her talent or lack thereof– should be enough

But let’s look at this young  lady’s stance.

What is the purpose of the lead stick? To protect her kneecap?

Where is her offensive capability? The stick held high overhead resembles the La Canne/Vigny styles, and has their problems.

  1. Stress is placed on the arm. The arm is not at rest, which places tension on it. Bruce Lee’s lead elbow rested at his hip to avoid just this type of needless strain.

  2. Offense is too slow. Rather than move in a straight line, the tip of the stick is swung around 360 degrees. No matter how “fast” the stick moves, it is structurally slow.

  3. "What do you mean, I cut my femoral artery?"

What a Filipino Uniform Looks Like

Posted in Commentary, Masters and History, Origins with tags , , , , on February 25, 2010 by bigstickcombat
GM Carin. Note his "uniform."

GM Carin. Note his "uniform."

As I posted yesterday on GM Carin, I was struck by how his substance –raw, pure, fighting prowess– contrasted with his style, which is typically Filipino. I was thinking, “Gee, where’s his uniform?”

An eskrimador was asking online at the Stick and Knife Fighters Forum for help finding a “Filipino uniform.” The problem is that what he appears to have settled upon as a Filipino uniform is really just a dressed up kimono.

Now one of my teachers dresses in Japanese gi’s, which makes sense for him, because he is a black belt in karate. (In fact, GM Vasquez’a Modified Karate book can be found in every Filipino National Bookstore. One of his students is a high-ranking judo black belt. Out of respect for my teacher, I put on a gi and posed for pictures.

But I have a problem with Filipinos wearing Japanese gi’s, because of the Japanese brutalization of the Philippines in WWII. I know one Filipino gentlemen who as a boy in WWII threw a sharpened stick at a Japanese soldier. He and his friend were caught, and the parents were forced to beat their own children. Unbeknownst to the Japanese, he had padding under his clothes, but his friend did not. He survived, but his friend died from the ordeal.

Now this is not an anti-Japanese screed –I bear no ill-will to the Japanese, and the war is long over. But at least I can say for me (and I’m obviously not Filipino) that Japanese style clothing should not represent a Filipino art. Imagine a Tibetan style training in Chinese uniforms, or black martial artists training in Klansman’s robes.

I think that the wearing of Japanese clothing can also reflect a Filipino “colonial mentality,” in which Filipinos look down upon Filipino things as crude, provincial, and low status, while foreign things are held up as sophisticated, cultured, and high status.

"Filipino" vest.

When I first started training I tried to assemble on my own what I thought was a uniform representative of the Philippines. My guide was Master Dan Inosanto, with what I am calling the “maglalatik” look. (The maglalatik is a Filipino cultural dance with the dancers consisting of guys in short pants and barefooted.)

I had white t-shirts imprinted with “Laging Una” (“Always First”), the insignia of Filipino fighting units of WWII. I’m proud that the uniform was at least historical in that regard, and honored Filipino veterans.

But if you look at how guys really train in the Philippines, there is a shortage of uniforms. Look at Anciong Bacon…where’s his uniform? GM Maranga doesn’t wear uniforms. Look at GM Carin, training in a sleeveless shirt and a pair of shorts.

For me, I had to decide to stay with what I know to be true as an American. I prefer to err on the side of masters such as Carin, Maranga, Bacon, etc. (If I can be so bold as to include myself anywhere near these masters), rather than those with the robes, and sashes, and patches, and rainbow coalition colors, and the click-clacking sinawali, and twenty-step progressions from a single strike.

But if I were to go with a uniform, I might wear a camisa de chino (common in the Philippines), or a shirt that honored Filipino veterans by including their insignia.

Kali, Anyone?

Posted in Commentary, Origins with tags , , on February 24, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Moros of Mindanao

Reader Don posted the following:

I’m glad to find such a recent post on this topic. I’ve seen the same things you and cook are talking about. From my knowledge Giron’s and Cabales’ arts came from regions of Spanish occupation but I still can’t find a Moro (Filipino Muslim ) fighting system use the Kali.

I’ve read an Illustrisimo book where the current grand master refutes Kali and it should be corrected kalis Illustrisimo reflecting the blade (kalis) . As for the Indonesia and Malaysia argument, everyone calls it [pencak] silat over there. And silat is also weapon based that do address long weapons at certain level of training. so I advise people not to assume one empty hand and the other is weapon. Also look for the general meaning of silat, escrima,and arnis. They all reference “fighting” in some way, simple as that.

Kali always gets this romanticized story to validate it.

The money quote is here: “I still can’t find a Moro (Filipino Muslim ) fighting system use the [term] Kali.”

And I’d be willing to bet money, Don, that you never will. As Nepangue and others point out, every single arnista of renown is either Visayan (with the vast majority of those from Cebu), or Ilocano (Ilocos and Pampanga regions). Anyone in Mindanao who practices arnis is typically a transplant from the Visayas.

And the Illustrisimo clan, noted for the use of the term kali, are Cebuanos.

Once again, I am NOT saying that kali practitioners are no good, nor am I saying that you don’t have a right to call your art kali. What I am saying is that kali is not necessarily better than arnis or eskrima as practiced in other parts of the Philippines, and that there is no indigenous Muslim art called kali.

I will take any Visayan or Ilocano practitioner of the FMA over any indigenous Mindanao art practitioner, any day.

GM Inting Carin

Posted in Masters and History, Origins, Real Life Combat with tags , , , on February 24, 2010 by bigstickcombat

GM Carin

Credit must be given to GM Inting Carin, who served honorably in the Philippines resistance against the Japanese. He also participated in the Doce Pares vs. Balintawak grudge matches.

If you’re ever tempted to glamorize combat, especially knife fighting, read the following account of a melee in Cebu City Mabolo district, which is not far from the SM Mall.

Way of the Warrior Carin has had to apply his self-defense skills on numerous occasions in day-to-day life. The following incident was documented on the BBC’s “Way of the Warrior” episode on eskrima. While attending a fiesta in the Mabolo district of Cebu, Carin noticed that a friend was being overrun by four men. After noticing one of the men drawing a knife and then preparing to stab his friend from behind, Carin instinctively parried the knife thrust and followed up with a kick to throw the attacker off balance.

Carin’s intervention forced the attackers to concentrate their energy on him. The mass attack was fast and furious; subsequently, Carin did not know how many he was facing. Suddenly, Inting was smashed on the skull with a wooden chair, which sent him to the floor. As he lay on the ground bleeding profusely, one of the attackers sat on top of him and delivered finishing knife thrusts. Carin was stabbed twice in the abdomen and received two extremely deep wounds. He finally disarmed his assailant and countered with a fatal thrust into the armpit of his attacker.”

Regardless of your style or affiliations, GM Carin is a long, long way from the flashy gi and sinawali twirling stylists. He’s a master who has put his butt on the line and seen real combat (particularly really nasty combat) firsthand.

Note the knife scar.

How Stick Fighting Masters Dominate

Posted in Masters and History, Origins, Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory with tags , , , on February 23, 2010 by bigstickcombat

GM Carin

Grandmaster Maranga of Combat Eskrima Maranga shared with me the secret of how all of the big name masters in Cebu dominate their opponents whether sparring, in tournaments, or if challenged: They grab the opponent’s stick and whale on him. Most stick fighters have no defense against this simple technique. Sure, there are counters to stick grabbing, but they are hard to apply when you’re getting repeatedly hit in the head with a stick.

It was GM Maranga’s father, the late GM Timor Maranga, who recognized just how common the grab-and-hit technique was, how effective it was, and how nobody could counter it. So GM Timor Maranga developed a series of realistic, practical techniques to counter grab-and-hit.

Once Timor Maranga was in a stick fighting tournament when an opponent irritated him by grabbing his stick. “Stop holding my stick!” he growled. His opponent continued grabbing, so Timor freed his stick and slammed his opponent with a fist to the face. The only problem was that his opponent was wearing a metal basket-style face guard, which cut up Timor’s knuckles. Although Timor was willing to continue the fight, it was stopped because of his injury.

The Late GM Timor Maranga

How to Stop Grab-and-Hit

The counter to someone who grabs your stick is to get your other hand on the stick. Once you get both hands on the stick, it now becomes two hands against one, and you have the advantage.

The problem is that while you are trying to get your live hand onto the stick, the opponent is striking you. You cannot at the same time use your live hand to defend against stick strikes and to regain control of your stick. You are now in a bind: If you try to free your stick, you get hit in the head, but if you try to defend your head, your empty hand is ineffective, and you still get hit, plus you have lost control of your stick.

Every arnis style teaches to counter grab-and-hit by getting the live hand onto the stick. The problem is that it doesn’t work. A key innovation of Maranga style is always to have the live hand near the stick. When the opponent grabs your stick, your live hand is already there, not at your chest.

Lessons for the Big Stick

One big advantage of gripping the long stick with both hands is that you are always prepared to defend against disarm attempts. While other styles futilely try to get the other hand on the stick while getting hit, if you have a two-handed grip your other hand is already on the stick.

When you grip the big stick in bat grip, you always have the advantage, whether the opponent grabs with one hand or both.