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.