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Arnis, Escrima, Kali, (A-E-K) Pangolisi and Garote are only a small number of the many names that are given to the indigenous stick based, Philippine...

Arnis–Escrima-Kali? (A-E-K) Stick Based?

September 12, 2014

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Russell Balintawak Empty or Livehand – Part 4

February 1, 2015

An edited version of this Article was first published in Rapid Journal within the Philippines in 2007 under the Title of: The Importance of the Empty-Livehand of Arnis/Escrima.

Real Fighting Needs Heart


Why Heart?



Real fighting is a test of nerves and endurance. There is no referee to stop it when it becomes deadly, no time limit to a round where the opponents can sit down safe to think and analyse the opponents style. A real fight must be over as fast as possible with the most energy expended, so as the littlest amount of damage can be done to oneself by the opponent, especially if there is a weapon or weapons involved.


With a barehanded fight, one or both fighters will fight to exhaustion in a very quick time and one will often win not by being the best, but being the most endurable and/or, the luckiest. One can sometimes win because the other guy stopped and lost or losing his nerve, simply ran away, in the fight and/or flight reflex.


This exhaustion however, will not happen in a fight where a lump of wood is being directed towards the head. In hand to hand fighting the head can take and absorb several hits especially with the hands helping, if up guarding the face. A lump of wood/rattan hitting hard to the head? Hands guarding the head in a weapon attack may be able to absorb several blows before they lower leaving the head open. The head may only be able to absorb one full force weapon blow and of course a stab from a knife to the neck/head is commonly fatal.


So you have to stop/grab/clip a weapon or weapon arm so it cannot be redirected or pulled back to strike again.


The Instructor’s Advantage


Bringing us back to the Teaching Method of Balintawak….


The instructor in Balintawak being the instigator, attacker or leader (many schools now use the word “agak” which is a term I had never heard in my thirty something trips through the eighties and nineties until the internet craze) is always ahead of the student, making the student able to be hit by the instructor, especially if the student does not clip.


The student is behind a move and of course does not want to offend the instructor in training or in a demonstration by doing something away from the training moves, as they will never be taught again, be ostracized and never learn the SECRETS of their instructor. This allowance by the student for the instructor in training and a demonstration, usually builds up the instructors reputation. “Look how easily he hits and disarms the other guy.” “He’s the real deal” is often said by adoring, unquestioning, unknowing seekers of their instructors secrets.


The teaching method of Balintawak is: An attacker uses a certain technique/strike. What do you then do, in defence?



When you learn defensive moves well enough, then you are taught to instruct/attack. It is not real fighting or combat but a teaching method. In real fighting each combatant is wanting to attack, with no thought of wanting to wait or of being a student. Sometimes you need to defend but then attack.


If you understand Balintawak well enough, both opponents in a real confrontation will use ALL their attacking and defensive moves. All these moves when learnt from both sides can be combined, pulled apart and recombined for countless variations of attack and defence.


Part 5 coming up….

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