Archive for larga mano


Posted in Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory, Weapons with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 14, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Reader Hernan asks about the role of evasion in Big Stick Combat.

The greatest application of evasion with the big stick is the late GM Giron’s larga mano style. In his style the

Larga Mano with the late GM Giron's Son

proponent  maximizes the reach of the long stick by long stances, and stretching out to hit the opponent’s closest target, usually the weapon hand. The larga mano stylist may oppose the attack or blend/merge with it. Correctly applied, the attacker is trying to get at the long stick stylist, but can’t get anywhere close to him, and gets hit as he tries to get near. The lara mano stylist will pop in and tag the opponent, then fade back out of reach (retirada style).

I believe that the larga mano style is best understood in the context of a long, bladed weapon. GM Giron poses with a panabas, a machete mounted on a stick, and GM Somera’s larga mano video features him using a long sword. With a long blade, a hit at a distanvce can create a crippling injury, such as slashing an opponent’s wrist. The long blade cannot be grabbed.

Larga Mano, with Bahala Na Multi-Style

GM Somera. Note the long blade.

With a long stick, though, the same dynamics of the long blade larga mano stylist may not apply. Strikes with the stick may not be incapacitating at long range, and the end of the stick can be grabbed.

Although larga mano is a valid style, I decided against including it in Big Stick Combat, for several reasons:

1) Larga Mano needs space, which may not be available in the city or indoors.

2) A long stick can be grabbed at a time when the larga mano stylist is stretched forward.

3) Larga Mano requires leg flexibility and strength (which makes it great as an exercise), which some people may not have.

4) Larga Mano adds a degree of complexity to a style. I opted for simplicity.

To the extent that I evade, I step out to the right or to the left, in what Filipino stylists call the “female triangle” (V).

GM Estalilla’s concept is not to evade, but to move right into the teeth of an opponent’s attack and merge with him while blasting him in the head. This is audacious, and certainly takes guts to execute it. My concept is typically similar –move directly into an attack, smothering it with overwhelming power.


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.

Starting Your Own Style

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , , , , on March 23, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Master Joe Tan (left) and GM Vasquez

Kuntawman has another thought-provoking post over at Filipino Fighting Secrets Live.

“Martial artists seem to think that there is something wrong with creating one’s own style, as if every art we have today never had a founder.”

For a long time I have been opposed to starting my own system, primarily because of the abuses, and the proliferation of crap out there.

The first problem is people starting styles without sufficient background. Guys who simply don’t have the training and the background try to create their own styles, and the result is often a travesty. Part of this is the martial arts fantasy trip in which somebody imagines he is the next Bruce Lee, ignoring Bruce Lee’s maniacal training and voracious reading.

I’m reminded of the local escape artist who imagined he was the next Houdini. The reality was that he was totally ignorant of the huge amounts of practice, research, and physical conditioning that made Houdini the success he was. The local guy was a lazy fantasist, who was unaware of just how poor his skills were. He wound up killing himself during a televised escape attempt.

The Masters who have created their own successful styles have paid their dues and devoted years to their craft. The fantasy martial artist has not.

A second problem is additive styles. I have said this before, but some arts just do not go together, like ballet and football. I don’t see how you combine Serrada and Larga Mano. Yes, you can do both, but they are not a coherent whole. GM Giron had a short stick system and a long stick system. The short stick system (with the exception of the abaniko method) was a logical extension, and methodologically consistent with, his larga mano style. I don’t know how you do a long range Serrada style.

When I do espada y daga (stick and knife) or sinawali (two sticks) I am not doing different styles, but wield those weapons in a way that is consistent with the big stick –simplicity, directness, and power.

I saw a guy in one of the martial arts magazines doing a Muay Thai and Tae Kwon Do combination! I’m sorry, but those two styles are mutually exclusive. That you are teaching the two as a combination shows me that you haven’t grasped the essences of the two systems.

Starting a style is not just a matter of being good, but being creative and analytical. GM Vasquez is the most amazing teacher I have ever seen for his ability to analyze a technique, to see counter techniques, and to apply devious principles. He studied under the founder of Tapado, Nono Mamar, but GM Vasquez was able to explain to me how he had modified, adopted and changed techniques, and why those changes were better.

That’s why there are many outstanding professional players who make lousy coaches, and mediocre players who became outstanding coaches. Many people can execute techniques, sometimes very well, but lack the ability to analyze, and to see outside of the box.

For me, the worst reason to start one’s style is the simple wish to be the guy in charge. This really bothers me when guys break off to start their own styles, when there’s nothing different but the name. If you haven’t really added anything to the system or style, then don’t claim your own style.

Next I will talk about good reasons to create one’s style.

Tapado Founder Mamar (left) and Master Joe Tan

Don’t Add, Synthesize

Posted in Masters and History, Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory with tags , , , , , , , , on February 16, 2010 by bigstickcombat

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.

Technique: The Power of Diagonal Strikes

Posted in Other Stick Methods, Princples and Theory, Technique with tags , , , , on December 27, 2009 by bigstickcombat

Diagonal strikes have advantages over horizontal strikes. If one does Cinco Teros (“5 strikes” or “5 shots”) in an X pattern, you have a simple means of outlining the major strikes one may encounter in a fight. GM Giron’s Bahala Na group uses the basic X pattern in long stick larga mano applications. The Portuguese staff art of Jogo do Pau also uses the X pattern.

Using GM Estalilla’s terminology, we can break attacks down to just 5 types of attack:

1) An overhand right blow, or an overight

2) An overhand left blow, or an overleft

3) An underhand right blow, or an underight

4) An underhand left blow, or underleft

5) A thrust

But what about horizontal blows? I believe that the diagonal X pattern teaches more effective strikes.

Depicted above, the horizontal strike is easily blocked by the defender. In fact, he almost has to do nothing.

Here I attack with an underleft strike. Note how it tends to come up under the defender’s guard. While he can block the strike, he has to work at it.

But let’s ask, “Why am I using a stick?”

“Why am I only hitting one-handed?”

Here I am striking at the same underleft angle, but I am using a baseball bat. I am also hitting two-handed.

This is the power swing in baseball. I will talk more about baseball and the martial arts in upcoming posts, but in baseball, too, the power strike is not horizontal, but ascending.

Although I can execute an underleft strike to the knee with a short stick, I must crouch, which places me in a vulnerable position.

With the long stick it is possible to strike with an overleft or underleft to the opponent’s knee, without crouching, and prepared for an immediate follow up.