What is Balintawak Eskrima?
Balintawak is a Filipino martial arts developed by Grandmaster Venancio ‘Anciong’ Bacon in late 1940s. Named after a small street in Cebu City, Philippines, in which the first Balintawak Club was organized at the watch shop of one of his student named Eduardo Baculi. It is a combat system that enhances the physical and psychological attributes of an individual, by immersing them in real time combat situations.
Balintawak was created to preserve the combative nature of arnis, which Anciong felt at that time was dissipating. With numerous styles of arnis emerging, the other styles were leaning towards the traditional method wherein various forms, dances and offensive aspect of arnis, was more emphasized. Whereas, Balintawak emphasizes a strong defense and admonishes any known foul blows conceivable, with the sole purpose of finishing the fight in a matter of split second.
Balintawak uses a single stick training approach to install the motor skills required to efficiently defend against live resisting opponent. The stick is just a training tool. Its primary purpose is to bring out the necessary attributes required to successfully defend against incoming threats without thought or what we call zero mind. Once these attributes are developed and enhanced, the individual can maneuver his body with ease regardless of his stature and body structure with fluidity and economy of motion. The individual can easily transition from bare hands or anything in between with any force multiplier that he can acquire in any given situation.
Balintawak acknowledges the strength in other arts, therefore automatically assumes that the adversary is a skilled fighter. With this in mind, the ‘agak’ framework was developed by Anciong to enhance the defense of an individual.
What is agak?
Balintawak recognizes that a strong defense is necessary to mitigate incoming threats effectively. Since day 1, the student will learn the 12 basic strikes and the 12 basic defense and will be placed in harm’s way. Then the student will be attacked in random in various speed, timing and intent but in a controlled manner leading to what we call ‘agak’. The term ‘agak’ is a Visayan word, which literally means ‘to carry’. This what makes Balintawak unique to other styles of Filipino Martial Arts. With this framework, the feeder through one on one training, guides and installs motor skills one at a time. The ‘agak’ framework exposes the individual to a series of attack, which equates to scenarios in real life combat situations that the individual has to overcome with strong defense and a devastating counter attack.
Since the assumption of a Balintawak fighter is that the opponent is a skilled fighter, the feeder and/or stimulus assume this role. By simulating a real time fight scenario, the feeder is able to project the necessary threat level and carefully analyzes the defense of the student. The feeder will guide the student to strengthen his defense in order to create a productive reaction.
The Realm of Defense
Most martial arts, practices by increasing their speed, power, timing, balance, posture, etc., in the realm of offense. Whereas Balintawak practices these traits, in the realm of defense. But this concept is oftentimes misunderstood. Balintawak, although the defense is emphasized, has a built in offense. There is no block without a counter offense. Unknowingly the student’s offense is slowly built up, while installing the proper defense. The fact that the feeder is attacking the student in random, shows that Balintawak by nature is in fact an offensive art as well.
Why strong defense?
The core teaching of Balintawak is all about survival. When we talk about survival, one’s aim must be the preservation of life in any means necessary. But in order to defend properly, one must be able to control what we call normal human basic instincts, which are often detrimental in real time combat. In order for you to defend properly, one must have the eyes to see the line of the attacks and be able to exploit the openings.
Balintawak addresses this issue by reshaping these normal human basic instinct by continuously exposing the students to what is unknown. Taking into consideration of the ability of the normal human being to adapt once these unknown have been experienced. Through this, the student is able to experience a real time combat situation repeatedly and is able to make the necessary adjustment by delivering a productive reaction and controlling his adrenaline.
Systems of Instruction
Currently, there are two types of systems of instruction in Balintawak namely the grouping system and the random system.
Unable to replicate the nuances of Anciong Bacon’s random system, Atty. Jose Villasin developed and optimized the grouping system with the help of his friend and student Teofilo Velez in an effort to create a curriculum and used this method to teach their students. After the 12 basic strikes and defenses, the students are then taught the 5 groupings. Once the 5 groupings have been mastered, the student learns the more advance movements, which includes butting, disarming, sweeping, tripping, elbows, knees, hitting points, etc. Then proceeds to what we call “Cuentada.” Cuenta means to count or to calculate. These are the “what ifs” and the calculated risks that occurs during combat situations.
The random system of Anciong Bacon, as the name denotes, does not use any groups. It emphasizes motor skills installation, meaning each movement is installed one by one in random order. This method has no pattern and no memorization involved, and is therefore unpredictable. Since the primary goal of Anciong Bacon’s teaching method is to achieve zero mind, Cuentada does not exist. Instead, zero mind state works hand in hand to what we call the heightened consciousness which forsees the possible outcome of a fight.