I studied Serrada briefly, and the one key idea I got from it was the concept of “tightness” or “compactness.” My first lessons in arnis had me swinging a stick broadly from side to side, making, broad sweeping movements. It looked pretty, but I learned how to pull those strikes and blocks in.
Imagine a box running horizontally at the bottom from hip to hip, and from shoulder to shoulder at the top. Imagine vertical lines on either side from the shoulders to the hips. This is like a strike zone in baseball. The idea is to keep one’s movements in that box, and to keep your elbows tucked in.
Don’t reach out of that box to defend. A tip from GM Maranga is rather than extend the hands and stick to block, you actually “suck in,” bringing them in toward you at the moment of impact.
This concept applies in many martial arts, like boxing, where large, looping punches leave the attacker open. Often the knockout punch in boxing is so compact that it’s nearly invisible. A classic example is Pacquiao’s knockout of Diaz, which I had to view repeatedly to finally be able to see it.
Of course larga mano, is the exact opposite of this concept. The central idea is to expand one’s reach and footwork to cover the greatest possible distance.
One of my ideas with Big Stick Combat is to add the tightness of the box, the feeling of compactness, to the long stick. The idea is to be able to fight effectively and to hit powerfully in very cramped conditions. On yesterday’s video I should point out that I’m not recommending some of the covering motions I demonstrated as blocks. The point is that you may find yourself crowded, and the elbows tucked in, boxer’s guard may just save your butt when there is no chance to block.