This Article was first published in Rapid Journal within the Philippines in 2004.
Balintawak’s Fundemental Core
The fundamental core of Grouped Balintawak Arnis as taught by myself in the Close Quarter Combat Institute, is a reactive counter to counter style and is taught virtually and is more effectively learnt one-on-one. Balintawak being a one-on-one teaching system, that is, one instructor, one student, is why Balintawak is not massed produced. This does seem to be a drawback to some, as it does result in a small following but it does have the outcome of a highly skilled class of escrimador. One does not stand twenty people in a line and teach them to spin sticks in Balintawak. There may be several people in a class but each in their turn will receive personal training with the instructor. One fights in this style as he is trained and the training is intended to heighten ones instincts. It drills into the student the ability to form effective fighting habits and allows a student to learn quickly and subconsciously. The student constantly moves and counters an opponents (the instructors) attack or feint, learning contact, speed, distance, timing and tactile response, all through Balintawak’s Grouped Method.
As I always say, “Real fighting is not choreographed and your assailant is not going to be locked in any pattern of attack, so this Grouped method allows the techniques in each group to be torn apart and recombined, to form different combinations of attack and defence”. The attacks will come from some direction however and this is called the “Pattern of Bipedal/Bilateral Motion”. Plainly stated, “The attacks come from one side (the left) or the other (the right). If the attack comes down the imaginary centre line, you simply step to one side or the other”. So the slashing, thrusting and butting of the primary weapon in Arnis/Escrima can be combined and recombined, then struck at different target points and heights. Also the combination of the empty or live hand and the many ways it can be used by grabbing, punching, palming, pushing and pulling, etc. in conjunction with the primary weapon, make countless variations in fighting techniques of attack and defence.
Balintawak is one of the rare martial systems, that can realistically be expected to deal with random acts of violence. In real fighting situations you must learn to protect your vital areas with lightning actions and natural movement, so no moves will work for you unless you are able to use them instinctively, instantly and simultaneously. Each move learnt in Balintawak has an obvious purpose, there are no superfluous movements, with every attack a defence and every defence an attack/counter. Balintawak teaches to constantly block and counterstrike. Never ever, merely block and then block again or not counter with an effective return strike. Learning to always block and counter is the quickest and most effective way of developing instantaneous response.
As the training is designed to ingrain an instinctive reaction, so much so that in a sudden confrontation, one do not become paralyzed by your own thoughts and fears. Split second reaction is fundamental to combat survival and Balintawak constantly drills the student, that timing in every move is the difference between skilled Escrimadores, not simply the techniques that anyone can mimic. When and how a student delivers a technique are more important than the technique itself. Through Balintawak’s tactile training you are enabled to feel instantly the force of your opponent and the holes that can be in their attack and defence. This feeling learnt through proper training, becomes an automatic response, not a cognitive thought.
Balintawak Arnis is one of the last true fighting systems that has not been adapted for sport or entertainment. You do not have to be super fit and can be of any age to train, enabling ordinary individuals to learn this art for self-defence.
Often Arnis/Escrima is relegated to being only weapon work or stick work. Remember the basic principle of Arnis/Escrima: “Most moves are able to be translated into empty hands”. So whether one has sticks or any type of weapon in hand/s, one simply modifies the Balintawak movements that have been taught to defend oneself.