Thoughts on Larga Mano

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.

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3 Responses to “Thoughts on Larga Mano”

  1. Hello. Just stumbled on to your superb site.

    First of, I must say that as a Filipino here in the Philippines who happened to have had the good fortune of learning from the “old men” and manongs just like you, from I noticed reading some of the entries here, it is nice to know that, unlike some other foreign students, you acknowledge with great RESPECT as well as discern with DEPTH the teachings that were imparted to you.

    Secondly, the way I was made to understand “largo” wasn’t in terms of length but in terms of SPACE. Thus, largo mano isn’t really an understanding of “long” range but of “full” range. One can technically still be in “largo mano” range even if is is a half-step away.

    • Juan,

      Thanks.

      Could you explain “long” range versus “full” range? It sounds like an interesting concept.

      • Hello again. I’ll try, although I suspect from your background you do have a similar insight, just looking at it from a different angle.

        Outside of semantics, you can still be in “full range” of motion even if you are in in very close quarters because the way to look at it is still to use your body mechanics still to employ the tip/end of the stick to hit with, which all things considered, is the most effective part to impart force with on an impact/percussion weapon.

        Like what my old teacher used to say; “THROW YOUR HAND (your whole body actually) WITH THE (TIP) OF THE STICK!”

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