Archive for GM Giron

Do It Now

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on October 11, 2010 by bigstickcombat

My dad is struggling right now. He just got out of the hospital following a severe reaction to chemotherapy. He’s at the point where standing is an effort, and getting in and out of the bathtub is more than he’s capable of –even with my mom’s help.

I remember GM Giron as an old man. “I want to work out,” he said, “but my body fights me.”

I realize my own mortality. All of us need to come to terms with the fact that someday we will look back wistfully on the days when we could pick up the stick and strike with power. We’ll long for the days when we could “play,” enjoying the challenge of sparring with friends.

I don’t want to look back some day and regret the times that I was “too tired” to get up off the couch. I don’t want to find myself hardly able to stand and think, “If only I’d worked out, I might not be in this shape today.”

I’ve lost all my excuses not to work out. I’m going to exercise and thrill to pounding the bag as hard as I can, and try to master the challenge of controlling the big stick and taking my art to the next level.

Now is the time to do it, before it’s too late.

The Panabas

Posted in Other Stick Methods, Resources and Product Reviews, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , on September 19, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Check this out from Cold Steel:

Two-Handed Panga Machete from Cold Steel

This webpage also has a video of the machete in action.

According to GM Giron, this weapon (which although it’s billed as African, has counterparts in the Philippines) is the inspiration behind the “kabaroan,” or “new” styles.

This is basically a machete on a stick. Given the weapon’s greater length, new techniques had to be originated to adapt to the weapon. Remember, you adapt to the weapon, you become an extension of the weapon, not vice versa.

This is simply the bladed form of Big Stick Combat. For the person who cannot own a firearm, I don’t see how you could do better than to have one of these for self-defense in the home. If nothing else, the deterrence factor (Do you really want to mess with that blade?) would be formidable.

Thoughts on Larga Mano

Posted in Masters and History, Other Stick Methods, Technique with tags , , , , , on April 8, 2010 by bigstickcombat

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.

Plastic Training Bat

Posted in American Arts, Masters and History, Princples and Theory, Weapons with tags , , , on April 5, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Easton Pro Stix Plastic Bat

Lately I have been training with an Easton Pro Stix plastic baseball bat. (Available here, although you should be able to buy it for less.) The salesman at the sporting goods store recommended it, and it’s been a solid bat.

The first guys I ever saw train with plastic bats were GM Giron’s Bahala Na Club (See here.). It allowed them to practice the larga mano drills with a greater degree of safety.

I’ve been using a plastic bat because I don’t want to destroy my punching bag. If you are training indoors, sparring, or doing hitting drills with a partner, a plastic bat allows for a greater margin of safety.

However, I am careful to include practice with heavier weapons, because I believe too many FMA practitioners train with light weapons, while their “fighting sticks” are much heavier. I believe training light but trying to fight heavy can lead to disaster.

I’ve been surprised at the very solid strikes I can land on the bag with a plastic bat, and I have to wonder if it doesn’t hit as hard as a rattan stick. I have considered the plastic bat as an emergency, worst-case weapon. My strategy would be to hit from a distance, and disorient the opponent with blows to the head, and follow through with knee strikes to create more serious damage. This is similar to the fighting strategy of a rolled up newspaper or umbrella.

Stick Art or Blade Art?

Posted in American Arts, Commentary, Masters and History, Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory with tags , , , , on April 4, 2010 by bigstickcombat

It’s a Stick, Not a Sword. Many Filipino martial artists have blade awareness, in which they are able to view a stick like a sword, and intuitively know where the blade edge would be. They also don’t use certain blocking or checking techniques if they can’t be applied to a bladed weapon. For instance, some Filipino stylists won’t grip the stick like a rifle or a staff because you can’t do that with a sword.

Limiting the stick to sword techniques may make sense in the Philippines, where machetes are common, everyday tools. I have been surprised to see Filipinos walking along the road nonchalantly wearing a machete at the hip, or using a machete to chop firewood in downtown Cebu City. However, in the United States you’re far more likely to be attacked by a thug with a baseball bat than a hoodlum with a samurai sword. Treat the long stick (or any stick) as a stick, not a sword.

Before I trained in Modified Tapado with GM Mike Vasquez, I met a Tapado teacher who asked my about my style, Kabaroan. I explained that the root of the style is in sword technique. I know that both GM Estalilla and GM Giron were very much blade aware.

I remember an earlier discussion of what makes an FMA an FMA. I would say that one hallmark shared by most Filipino styles is blade awareness or blade consciousness.

So I was surprised when the Tapado teacher said that you should treat a stick as a stick. At first, I couldn’t wrap my head around what he was saying. But as I thought about it I realized that by embracing the long stick as a stick, I use the techniques that are unique to the weapon. If I treated the stick as a sword, I would limit my techniques, but at the same time I really wouldn’t be wielding the big stick in the most effective manner.

Try wielding the nunchaku as a blade, or understanding the chain in light of stick principles, and you will be lousy with those weapons.

Atienza Eskrima

Posted in Other Stick Methods with tags , , , , , , , on February 4, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Guro Pana's Bayani Warrior Group

I’ve been pleased to make the acquaintance of Guro Michael Pana of Atienza Eskrima, who e-mailed me in response to my Buford Pusser “Walking Tall” post.

At first I was puzzled by the name because I was familiar with Atienza Kali. It turns out that the Atienza group have two systems: Atienza Eskrima, which features the use of sticks, and Atienza Kali, which features the use of blades.

If you visit their site,, you can see them training with baseball bats (See here). So Guro Pana and I were both surprised to see someone else who believes in big sticks (or clubs), of greater length and weight than the typical FMA stick.

Guro Pana’s teacher, Tuhon Carl Atienza, favors longer, heavier weapons also. I was familiar with Atienza Kali because I have seen the video (at 2:45) with Tuhon Carl using the “AK 37,” a thirty-seven inch blade. If you watch that clip, I can tell you it is the real deal. Although it is a blade, Tuhon Carl’s long blade moves just like the big stick in the hands of masters like GM Giron and GM Estalilla. “All my defensive maneuvers are attacks, not blocks,” in Tuhon Atienza’s words.

The big stick, like the AK 37, is elusive. Rather than meet, it merges, so that your strike hits only air, and you’re cut, but you don’t know how. The true long stick is one step ahead of you, so that you’re trying to hit and block, but you’re playing catch up. The big stick is like a ghost that your stick seems to pass through as if it were a shadow.

I was surprised when Guro Pana (a Filipino) told me how Filipinos prefer heavier weapons (i.e. clubs) to the light rattan sticks. In his words, “What many FMA practitioners do not realize is that traditionally, longer and heavier sticks were preferred by Filipino warriors for real-world combat.” This is especially true of those who have seen combat. I have seen masters who train with rattan, but whose combat sticks are much heavier and have handles (like baseball bats and clubs do).