Don’t Add, Synthesize

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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4 Responses to “Don’t Add, Synthesize”

  1. Serrada Escrima also has a largo mano component. It just wasn’t emphasized as much by GM Cabales.

    • Jeff,

      Could you elaborate on this? Maybe you could write on this in a blogpost.

      • As I’ve always understood largo mano, by definition it is the range at which an opponent cannot reach my head with his strike, but I can reach the attacker’s hand. There are techniques within Serrada that fade back to set up this counter. One example, for instance, would be to step back with the left foot towards 7 o’clock as a response to a #1 (right forehand) strike, staying to the outside of the attack. This sets up a couple of possible counter combinations, such as an upward diagonal slash to catch the downward arc of the attack. Options from there could be reversing to a downward slash on the same line to catch the opponent swinging into a backhand strike, or closing to jam and counter in medio range.

        Another move, this time against a #3 strike (horizontal forehand to the mid-section) would be to step back again with the left and let the attack pass through, either striking as it passes or deflecting it downward with a flat “rap” with one’s stick. This move could be employed in either medio or largo range. A more true largo variation of this step could be to twist to the left while stepping back and raising the right knee in that direction, out of the range of the attack, and countering with a “punch” block or strike. This latter move can also be employed against low-line attacks coming from either side. One could then step back down into medio to counter, or alternately step in a way to stay out of that range.

        While Serrada practitioners often use shorter sticks than is common in the FMA, making it harder to achieve true largo distance against a longer weapon, it is possible with extended reach to make these work as such. As with any techniques, footwork and timing are requisite to successfully employ these tactics. It should also be noted that not all Serrada players use extremely short 18-24 inch weapons; in the old days, even Angel Cabales used longer weapons. While even 24 inches are shorter than generic Escrima sticks, consider that many people choke up their grip on longer sticks, which eliminates much of the reach advantage such weapons might provide.

        In the end, it is somewhat of a misconception that Serrada is a close range system. There are tactics for close, medium and long range just as there are in many other styles. Medium range is actually most emphasized as it allows for fast counters, but it must be remembered that Serrada is an espada y daga system, which means maintaining awareness that the opponent could have a knife too, thus making closer distances a calculated risk.

      • Jeff,

        Thanks for sharing that. I agree that choking up on the stick negates any length advantage.

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