Archive for Leo Giron


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.


Posted in Videos with tags , , , on April 25, 2010 by bigstickcombat

I have posted a video on the Big Stick Combat You Tube channel to help clarify some questions concerning my style, particularly my stance and the “left-handedness” of it. One note: I don’t why I refer to “staff grip” in the video –I’m demonstrating rifle grip throughout.

There are more videos coming. Feel free to comment or ask any questions.

I was recently viewing the GM Giron video, when I noticed something I hadn’t caught before -I’m in it! At about 50 seconds, GM Estalilla’s student, and my teacher, Guro Ed Planas is speaking with GM Giron. I hadn’t recognized Guro Planas before because his head is turned and you just see the back of his head as he speaks with GM Giron.

I’m the guy in the background in the red sweatpants. (Talk about bit parts!) I recognize the t-shirt as the “Laging Una” shirt that I had made up for demos. The video was from one of our trips to Stockton where we were shown great hospitality by the Bahala Na Club.

Videos: Kelly McCann

Posted in American Arts, Videos with tags , , , on March 27, 2010 by bigstickcombat

Kelly McCann

Former Marine Kelly McCann has a real solid video here. His attack from the arm to the opponent’s lead knee reminds me of GM Giron’s short stick technique, which featured broad sweeping strikes designed to hit both the opponent’s arm and knee.

Also check out these videos:

Handshake Defense

Chin Jab Kelly’s take on the WWII era Fairbairn technique.

Self-Defense “Time Lag” Kelly has real practical advice on more realistic training which anticipates the opponent’s possible counters.

Improvised Weapons There is some real fascinating advice here and improvised weapons you’re probably never thought of.

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.

What Will Your Legacy Be?

Posted in Commentary with tags , , , on December 24, 2009 by bigstickcombat

There was a big name Filipino martial artist, a name you would recognize, I’m sure. I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting him and studying with him. In order to study with him I drove an hour to my teacher Tim Evans’ house, and then we drove another hour and a half to Bakersfield.

Yet once we got to Bakersfield this big name never really taught anything. He had not heard of GM Estalilla, and he was curious about what he taught, so I demonstrated some of Estalilla’s Kabaroan techniques. I hoped that Mr. Big Name might reciprocate by showing me something, but no. And I drove several hours home on the return trip late at night.

I was getting frustrated (I was paying for these lessons.), so I approached Mr. Big Name and told him I felt I was spinning my wheels. Well, in order for me to study with him, I would need to pay several thousand dollars (Keep in mind this was in the early 80’s). I wanted to study with him, but I just didn’t have that kind of money.

Mr. Big Name put on a seminar sponsored by my teacher, and so I drove long distances again and paid yet again for a “seminar” that was a slow motion train wreck, only without the excitement. Mr. Big Name taught us how to twirl a stick and later, after my teacher approached him with everyone’s complaints, admitted that he just made the whole thing up as he went.

It was in the middle of that disastrous pseudo-seminar that the late GM Leo Giron unexpectedly entered with two of his students and put on a demonstration. That was the highlight of that otherwise miserable day.

Years later I heard that Mr. Big Name had died. I was shocked because he was young. As I reflect on my experiences with him, I realize that I learned more from GM Giron, even though I was never a student of his and only met him a few times, than I did from Mr. Big Name’s classes. Hell, I taught Mr. Big Name more than he taught me. How ironic is that?

I’m writing this post because we are in a season symbolized by giving. What are you giving to the art and to others in the art?

I look at Mr. Big Name, and to me his legacy is empty. I am not suggesting that you should teach for free or let yourself be exploited by insincere takers and users. But my memory of Mr. Big Name is of a guy stalling, of someone angling for the big payoff, and willing to collect gas money from you until you were desperate enough to sell your kidney to pay his king’s ransom.

If this judgment seems harsh, that’s the real bitch of dying, in that you can’t change the impression you’ve made and the legacy you’ve created. The minister standing over your coffin is obligated to say nice things about you, even if you’re Jeffrey Dahmer, but the truth is out there, and as you’re lowered into the inky void there’s nothing you can do about it.

I’ve decided that I’m going to give. Sure, I like money, but I want my legacy to be of eskrimador who remember me for have shared something with them, for having given something of value, for having been a friend, and for having a passion for advancing the art.

Tim Evans Sensei

Long, Medium, & Close Range

Posted in Princples and Theory, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on December 16, 2009 by bigstickcombat

I define long range as the distance at which I can hit the opponent’s lead arm or leg. I can also thrust to the head at this distance. One advantage of this range is that the opponent usually can’t use his non-weapon hand.

One disadvantage of this range is that the opponent can bait with a lead weapon hand, drawing me to swing and miss, then close.

Even though my goal is not to hurt the opponent’s hand or knee, but to crush it (keep in mind I am swinging a bat with both hands), such a strike may not be enough to end the fight.

Middle range is where I can hit the opponent in the head with full force. This is my preferred range, and the preferred range of GM Estalilla. This is the range where I can hit with my greatest force, with the aim of obliterating the opponent.

Close range is where the opponent moves within my optimum striking distance. He can typically hit me with both hands at this range. While I have worked to be as efficient as possible with the long stick at close range, close range is the danger zone for me. These are the problems of close range as I see them:

  1. My worst nightmare is someone at close range with a knife. I may not know someone has a knife until I am already cut or stabbed. As long as the knife-wielding opponent is at long or medium range, I have the advantage.
  2. It’s too easy to get hit. The further the opponent is, the greater time you have to detect his attack. At a certain point, he moves within your “reaction range,” where he is closer than the shortest distance that you can detect a strike and react. That means that any strike he launches will land.
  3. At a distance, the opponent can only launch one weapon at a time, but in close he can hit with both hands, kick with both feet, hit with the elbows, the knees, head butt, and even bite! This means that defending against all of these strikes becomes very complex. I believe that a simpler (though sophisticated) system is easier to learn and apply in real life combat.
  4. The more complex the system the longer the learning curve. Long range techniques are relatively simple and straightforward. Short range styles tend to become very complex. The result is more time learning, more time practicing all of the possible contingencies, and more that can break down under stress.
  5. An opponent at close range can easily close to grappling range.

I define grappling range as anytime an opponent has grabbed either me or my stick, so “range” in this sense isn’t so much about distance as it is about the opponent tying me up and putting me in a grappling situation. A grappling opponent with a knife is just as deadly, and even worse than close range, grappling range limits my mobility, which can be disastrous if the are multiple opponents.