Archive for GM Estalilla

Jeet Kune Do: Getting Down to the Essence

Posted in American Arts, Commentary, Princples and Theory with tags , , , , , , , on December 15, 2010 by bigstickcombat

What Does the Referee Position Have to Do with Jeet Kune Do?

I have talked earlier of wanting to see how GM Dan Inosanto boils down all that he has learned. Some have said that there is too much knowledge, it can’t be done. Indeed, if you look at all of the martial arts information available today, plus the ever-increasing goal of martial artists to be well-rounded in all phases of combat, then it all seems staggering.

That’s why so many styles are a laundry list as long as a Manhattan telephone directory of all of their styles and techniques. But too many styles are useless. There is a point at which too much technique becomes counterproductive.

Sure, it’s great for the owner of the school, because he’s got 15 years of material, and the checks keep rolling in. Student retention is high because there’s always something new, and there are plenty of “advanced,” “secret,” “black belt,” techniques that are being dangled just beyond the student’s nose, which he can get to with just 7 more years of monthly dues, mat fees, membership fees, belt fees, test fees, etc.

My teacher GM Estalilla of Kabaroan, puts it this way. “Suppose the student is going off to battle tomorrow. What would you teach?”

Let us look at the art of freestyle, high school/collegiate wrestling. There are literally hundreds of techniques. How could you sort it all out? How could you teach the essence in just a day or two? (I’m not talking mastery, but an introduction to the essentials, coupled with techniques a student could learn today and use in the parking lot on his way out if attacked.)

First of all, get rid of the referee’s position. In wrestling when the wrestlers go off the mat, they return and one wrestler is on all fours, with the other in a dominant position. We can calculate that the referee’s position is unlikely to happen in real life. Eliminating the referee’s position eliminates dozens of techniques, such as a sitout, switch, standup, etc., and the takedowns of the opponent on all fours.

Someone could argue, “Wait, but what if I get pushed down to all fours and the opponent is above me…” Let’s stick to what is likely. Let’s look for the high percentage moves and train those.

Get rid of pinning moves. On the street, our goal is not pinning. Furthermore, I don’t want to be on the ground. This eliminates the cradle, the tilt, the grapevine, Iowa ride, etc. If need be, I can use a choke or a lock in this position. 

No. I don't want to be on the ground. My goal is not to pin anybody. On the street I don't get points.

Next, look at the remaining wrestling moves. Which ones can be used if I hold a weapon, like a knife? Which ones lead into, or follow up from, a strike? Which would work against an armed opponent?

Which are the most effective? What are the techniques that champion wrestlers master, and use to help them dominate opponents?

With this sort of thinking, I think I can boil wrestling down to about 7 techniques. Am I going to beat a champion wrestler? No. (At least not at wrestling, that’s what the backup blade is for.)

Will everyone agree with me as to the 7 essential techniques? No. But at least we are now thinking about what is vital, what is the essence.

Nobody knows where Bruce Lee was going with Jeet Kune Do and grappling, but I have to think this was where he was headed: How can I strip it down, and strip the extras away, so that I get down to the most powerful, effective, direct, and essential techniques?

Big Stick Combat, Left-Handed

Posted in Technique with tags , , , on November 2, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Reader ‘J’ recently purchased the Big Stick Combat book (available here) and e-mailed me with questions about how the style applies to him, a natural left-hander.

Let me outline the basic strikes, an X pattern, from a left-hander’s perspective.

Left-Handed Dominant High Guard. Left Foot Is Forward.









Most right -handers, particularly if they’ve played baseball, are comfortable with this stance. It is like a right-handed batter, only the shoulders are square to the opponent.

Overight Strike. This Is the Left-Hander’s Power Strike.



This is the number 1, the bread-and-butter of the left hand dominant fighter. The left foot forward allows the fighter to twist and get his hips, plus the torque they provide, into the strike.




Underleft. The Left Foot Is Forward.









Underleft. Once again, right-handers have no problem with this strike. It’s like a homerun hitter’s swing. And the twist of the hips helps power the swing.












This strike will feel awkward, but if you practice it on the bag you can hit very powerfully despite the seeming crossed position of the hands.


Nope! It Won’t Work.










This is where most two-handed styles fall apart. This strike is hopelessly crossed up and weak. The left leg is also in the way.

How can we solve this? One solution is simply not to do this strike from the underight.

I think there’s a better way.


Underight for the Left-Hander


Notice the left-hander draws the left foot back and swings low. This strike works, even though it’s one-handed, because it is with the left hander’s dominant (strong) hand, and it comes in low, where the opponent can’t grab it.

By gripping with the strong hand at the pommel, reach is maximized.

If you learn larga mano or ever must fight one-handed, or even just swing one-handed because you’re caught off guard, this is the strike and the grip.


The Left-Handed Low Guard














GM Estalilla prefers this stance. (I feel really awkward posing for the picture, but I hope you get the idea.) It’s good as a ready, but not threatening, stance.



Left-Handed Middle Guard



This is the close-range, in-fighting stance of Big Stick Combat. Once again, I feel like I’m not really modeling the stance as well as I should.


Rapier Thrust from Left-Handed Middle Guard

Hit Harder in Close with the Big Stick

Posted in American Arts, Technique with tags , , , , , , on October 18, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Once again, do an experiment with me. Get close to the bag (about 2 feet back) and hit it with the staff grip, both palms down, overleft. [“Overleft” is a term of GM Estalilla of Kabaroan describing a strike that comes from 10 or 11 o’clock.] You will find that you feel a stinging in your left palm.

Now try a different strike from the same distance. In this case, your right hand grips the stick or bat at the pommel. The left hand is about a third of the way up, palm up. Now strike overleft. You’ll find that you can hit harder, without the stinging.

Windup for the staff strike. Note How Cramped the Body Is

Staff Strike. See How Awkward the Wrist and Elbow Are.

Windup for the Rap. The Elbows Are In, and the Torso is Covered.

The Rap. The Elbow and Wrist Are in a Natural, Strong Position

Styles in the FMA

Posted in Masters and History, Origins, Other Stick Methods with tags , , , , , , , on September 16, 2010 by bigstickcombat

James posts the following, and I thought it was something I should address as a separate post.

“When I first learned about FMA I could not understand how they could call long range a style or Elastico a style, to me all ranges and all strike styles should be within the context of a style and not a style unto themselves. I just believe in being a complete fighter.”


With regard to “styles,” the late GM Giron taught 20 or so of them. GM Giron can be seen holding “the master’s fan”

El Abaniko del Maestro

El Abaniko del Maestro of GM Giron

here. Each rib of the fan is a style in his system. This page also has a full listing of the styles. According to GM Estalilla, the 21st, unwritten style on the back of the fan was kabaroan.

Some of these styles on the master’s fan might be thought of as tactics, many of them based on environmental considerations. For instance, “De Fondo” was designed for times when you can only plant one foot solidly.

I remember meeting guys from one art that did multiple  “styles,” Disalon and Decampo (Literally, “of the parlor” and “of the country.”) among them. Desalon was a tight, close-quarters style designed for indoors. Decampo was a broader style designed for the outdoors.

Another style was “tinulisan” (“to make like a bandit”), which was hit and run. In other words, a thief doesn’t have time to trade blow for blow, because the cops and enraged neighbors are coming, so he’s going to get in a quick hit or two and take off.

Some of the old Filipino stylists knew only one or a couple of “styles,” others might know multiple styles. While our goal is to be proficient at all ranges and in all environments, I try to give people “full faith and credit” for their system.

I’m careful to avoid the snobbery of some people, who if you don’t do single stick, double stick, wrestling, spear, knife, double knife, bow and arrow, empty-hands, rope, nunchaku, staff, etc., then you aren’t a “real” Filipino martial artist and your art is somehow lacking.

Baseball Bat Retention

Posted in American Arts, Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory, Technique, Videos with tags , , , , , , , , , , on September 7, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Check out this video, especially beginning at 3:35 or so, when Master Porter executes several disarms. My point here is not to belittle these disarms, but to show, as GM Estalilla so often says, “For every move, there is a counter, and for every counter there is another counter.”

1)  One counter to the stick disarms (or empty hand disarms, for that matter) of a baseball bat is to drop the butt end of the bat as you squat and drop your weight. An upright stick is on my logo in part because it is inspired by GM Maranga’s teaching, that once your stick is in the upright position, it is very difficult to disarm you. When your stick is in the horizontal position, look out! because you are vulnerable to disarms.  This is another reason not to do horizontal strikes, or at least to be watchful.

2)  Another counter is to let go of the stick with the left hand. In the stick disarm in which the stick is threaded between both arms, letting go with the left hand removes much of the leverage. GM Maranga teaches that at a certain point in a disarm or other stick technique you may find yourself in a locked or arms/hands crossed position –Get out immediately! Once you let go with the left hand, you can strike with it, say a gouge to the opponent’s eyes, and then regrip the bat.

3)  One more counter is to spread the hands apart into rifle/bayonet grip. By sliding the left hand further up the bat you increase your leverage, particularly when coupled with returning your bat to an upright position.

Countering Short Stick Defenses Against the Bat

Posted in Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory, Technique with tags , , , , , on September 2, 2010 by bigstickcombat

First of all, let me say that if I had a short stick, or were unarmed (as James points out), I would do pretty much the same techniques as Master Porter. What I would like to discuss here are counters that the baseball bat proponent can use.

If we look at the counters, we see an assumption that a bat attack consists of

1) Wind Up

2) Swing

3) Recover

4) Swing, etc.

There is also the assumption that the baseball bat wielder has no offense at close range.

Note that in the first technique, the short stick proponent moves in on the wind up. If you have non-telegraphic strikes, there is no wind up for the opponent to close in on. If you properly maintain distance, your opponent must close a considerable distance in order to jam you. The faster your strike, through a lighter weapon (Try 17 ounces) and non-telegraphic, explosive strikes, the harder it is for the opponent to jam you.

The “recover” portion of the bat attack (as in swing, recover, swing, recover) represents the offbeat. Master Porter merges with a horizontal strike and strikes on the offbeat by jamming his opponent at the recovery phase. (I should also point out that merging is a technique prefered by long stick stylist GM Estalilla of Kabaroan.)

But suppose that I strike on the offbeat. Suppose I swing, kick, swing, kick, etc.; the opponent who leaps in on the offbeat must contend with a kick. Or, as I swing I can let go with one hand and hit with that hand, or stiffarm, so this pattern resembles swing, hit/stiffarm, swing, etc.

Furthermore, if I can hit powerfully at close range, I negate jamming techniques. On an opponent in close I can hit with a butt end strike, I can slam, I can go into a fan strike, I can hip check, or I can do an “ankle buster.” The more options I have in close, and the more I develop these options through practice at contact range, the harder it is to shut me down by jamming.

Baston vs. Baseball Bat

Posted in Other Stick Methods, Technique, Videos, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , on August 31, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Check out the following video, featuring Master Shaun Porter of Lightning Scientific Arnis. Master Porter  prefaces

Short Stick vs. Baseball Bat

his demo by stating how baseball bats have become the weapon of choice for street thugs in the UK.

His counters to the bat are:

1) Jam with live hand and thrust to body

2) Jam/block with stick

3) Hit the bat and merge with the swing while stepping back, then move in.

4) Hit the hand while stepping back and evading the weapon.

Note also the disarms at 3:25.

Master Porter makes a couple of points that remind me of GM Estalila’s teachings. Hitting the hand is not the easy solution you think it is. In medium range momentum will carry the bat into your hand, or body, head. At long range if you hit the hand and the opponent loses his grip, you are facing a potential projectile in the form of a baseball bat.

I’m interested in your feedback on these techniques.