Archive for Ramiro Estalilla


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.


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.

Christmas -A Reminder of the Spiritual Side of the Art

Posted in Commentary, Masters and History with tags , , , , on December 25, 2009 by bigstickcombat

GM Ramiro Estalilla

GM Estalilla’s father fought against the Japanese in WWII. His unit had two Bibles with them, one in English and the other in Ilocano. They left the Ilocano Bible untouched because it was their first language, but eventually wound up using pages from the English Bible for cigarette papers.

The elder Estalilla had left for battle an agnostic, but returned as a Christian. He explained, “Son, there are no atheists in the foxholes.”

There is a good reason why there should be a spiritual component to the martial arts, and all of my Filipino teachers are devout Christians. GM Maranga said to me one day after training, “Forget about me, forget everything I’ve taught you, but never forget God.”

GM Drigo Maranga

The spiritual component of the art, rather than draw warriors away from reality, in actuality grounds them in reality –that they are human, and therefore mortal.

Too many martial artists use the arts to fuel fantasies, such as fighting bare handed against six men with swords and emerging unscathed.

The fantasy martial artists imagine that they are the world’s deadliest man. I’m reminded of the psychiatrist who had several patients in a mental hospital, each of whom thought he was Jesus. The psychiatrist had the idea that he would put all three into the same room, and that in time they would realize, “Hey, wait a minute, we can’t all be Jesus, I must be delusional.”

The psychiatrist was disappointed when each man told him, “I’m the real Jesus, those other two guys are imposters.” That’s the situation we have today, with hundreds of fantasy martial artists each claiming to be the world’s deadliest.

Not only does the fantasy martial artist need to delude himself about his invulnerability, but also needs to puff himself up above other “lesser” martial artists. The result is a proliferation of outlandish costumes and ever more grandiose titles. Acknowledging the debt he owes to his teacher(s) implies that there is someone greater or better than he is, so he is compelled to invent his own style and to pretend that he never had any teachers, or that he has surpassed those who were practicing the art before he was born.

I’m using the occasion of this holy day of Christmas to point out certain spiritual truths:

We are all human, and therefore mortal

We are not superior to anyone else

Regardless of our skill level, life and death (particularly when

weapons are involved), hangs by the most frail thread

Regardless of our skill level, we can learn from anyone, and anyone is

capable of defeating us in the right circumstances

Life is a fragile and therefore precious thing

In the light of an all powerful God, we are compelled to be humble and to

respect others

God bless you all, and Merry Christmas

Maligayang Pasko (Tagalog)

Naragsak nga Paskua (Ilocano)

Maayong Pasko (Bisaya)

Feliz Navidad

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.