Balintawak Eskrima – A Philippine Martial Art – Volume 1 – History and Principles

Monday, November 01, 2004

Balintawak Eskrima – A Philippine Martial Art – Volume 1 – History and Principles

by Michael Zimmer – Vorticity Martial Arts



DedicationThis book is dedicated to my teacher, Dom Lopez, and to my former training partners; Mike Puckett and Kerry Hillier.

Balintawak EskrimaThe Philippine Martial Art

Volume 1 – History and Principles

G. Michael Zimmer


British Columbia


Copyright 16 May 1995

Table of ContentsFrontispiece

Title Page


Publishing Information

Table of Contents

List of Figures


PART I: Overview of the Art

Chapter 1: Background on the Art

PART II: The General Principles

Chapter 2: The General Principles

Chapter 3: Blocking and Attacking

Chapter 4: Checking and Trapping

Chapter 5: General Grappling Principles

Chapter 6: General Principles of Disarming

PART III: Summary

Chapter 7: Summary


A Classification of Stance

B Classification of Movement

C Body Motion Form





List of Figures

PrefaceThis is the first volume in a planned series of seven books dealing with the art of Balintawak Eskrima. It is designed primarily to serve as a reference guide to students training in Balintawak. Also, other martial artists who are curious about the Philippine martial arts, and Balintawak in particular, may find that the material is of interest. It attempts to present a comprehensive overview of Balintawak practice at the Victoria Balintawak Eskrima Association. It can not and does not attempt to teach the art. This is only possible through instruction with a qualified instructor. In addition, certain ideas of the author which are not strictly from the Balintawak style have been included.The Organization of the Series

This series gives a survey of the major techniques in the Balintawak style of Eskrima. It is organized a follows:

Volume 1

Historical overview and general principles of the art.

Volumes 2, 3 and 4

A volume for each of three major categories of weapons: stick, knife, and empty hand. Each of these is further broken down into an introduction, followed by one chapter for each of the weapons that might be used by the opponent. Each chapter is further sub- divided into an introductory section followed by sections dealing with closely related techniques. This is followed by a section on special drills, where applicable.

Volume 5

Self-defence Considerations.

Volume 6

Special Topics.

Volume 7

Curriculumn and Assessment System.

AcknowledgementsThe primary source of the ideas in this book was Dr. Dom Lopez of Victoria. My training partners Mike Puckett and Kerry Hillier were also strongly influential. Also, I would like to acknowledge the contributions of several former teachers whose influence was significant: Andre Langelier (Karate); Georges Sylvain (Jiu-Jitsu); Jean Yves Theriault (Full Contact karate) and Richard Ostrofsky (Aikido).

PART I: Overview of the Art

Chapter 1: Background on the ArtBalintawak Eskrima

The Philippine martial art

1.1 Historical overview of the art

Eskrima is a generic term for various styles of martial arts from the Philippines. Few western people have heard of the art of Eskrima but there are over forty major styles. They all feature the use of a rattan stick, wielded like a sword. In Balintawak Eskrima, we call this stick an olise. Many who know only a little about Eskrima think that it is only a stick fighting art. In fact, it is a complete martial art, which includes techniques for stick, knife and empty hand fighting, at all distances.

At the heart of Eskrima lies the skilled use of a short rattan stick. In fact, Eskrima is the Spanish word used for fencing, and is related to the word skirmish. The parent arts to Eskrima used swords, but Eskrima has since evolved, even to the point where it uses many techniques which are not practical with bladed weapons. Still, the use of knives and defense against knife attacks is integral to the art. All the techniques for knife and empty hand fighting are derived from methods of stick fighting.

This style has its recent origins in the region of Cebu city, in the Visayan islands of the Philippine archipelago. Balintawak has an emphasis on in-fighting. The hand techniques resemble, at different times, boxing, Tai Chi, Karate, Jiu-jitsu and Wing Chun. Techniques are taught for stick, knife, and empty hand fighting, at all ranges. Blocking, trapping, disarming, striking, kicking, throwing, and restraining techniques are all practised. Because of the large number of techniques found in the style, learning it can be viewed as an intellectual challenge. Balintawak Eskrima is much more like western boxing than it is like Japanese Karate. The body motion and footwork are closest to boxing in spirit. Despite that, there is an affinity to Karate in that many Karate movements are found in Balintawak Eskrima, in a modified form. They are usually more direct and more subtle in their application. There is also a strong resemblance between Balintawak and Chinese Wing Chun. The blocks and traps are quite similar, but the body motion is much more static in Wing Chun. The art is efficient, in the sense that only a moderate degree of physical conditioning is required to execute the techniques successfully.

This style was taught to the author by Dr. Dom. Lopez of Victoria, British Columbia in Canada. He in turn was trained by Jose Villasin, a lawyer in Cebu city. This occurred in the 1950s in Cebu City, on the island of Cebu, in the Visayan district of the Philippine archipelago. He later took training from Venancio (Anciong) Bacon, the grandmaster of the Balintawak style. Grand master Bacon also taught Jose Villasin, and Modern Arnis grandmaster Remi Presas.


Show a map of the World, and

a detailed inset with Cebu City.

The Balintawak style split from the Doce Pares style in the early 20th century, when grandmaster Bacon and the Canete brothers went in separate directions.

The Balintawak style places a strong emphasis on in-fighting, which is called corridas. Its main feature is an emphasis on entangling or trapping the hands of your opponent. A major aspect of corridas is the

notion of making a smooth transition, flowing, from one motion to the next. This is accomplished by having a well developed visual and tactile sensitivity to the force exerted by your opponent. It imparts a fluid quality to fighting.

The Villasin Balintawak Eskrima Association has been in existence in Victoria British Columbia, Canada since 1979. The chief instructor, Dr. Lopez, named the Association in honour of his instructor. The chief instructor is well qualified to teach and all advanced participants have years of experience in various martial arts, and some have trained in Balintawak since 1982. These people help in the instruction.

Figure: Show a picture of Mike, Michael and Dom.

Any person with a sincere desire to attend practice on a regular basis is a candidate for training. However, we will not accept applicants who do not seem to be of exemplary character. Since this is a combatative art, the possibility of injury always exists. Nevertheless, in well over a decade of operation, there have been no injuries beyond mild sprains and bruises.

By training in Eskrima, you will eventually master a complex, demanding, but effective martial art. Unlike many oriental martial arts, there is no highly stratified ranking system, or formal grading. Assessment of achievement can be made on an informal basis, and feedback on progress is a continual part of the training. Progressive training is undertaken, to lead the student to advance at a natural rate. The art is currently being practised by martial artists in their middle years. The physical effort required is moderate, and age should not normally be a barrier.

Lightweight casual attire and running shoes are required. A lightweight rattan stick may be purchased for a low price at most martial arts stores.

PART II: The General Principles

Chapter 2: The General PrinciplesEskrimadorA person who practices Eskrima is called an Eskrimador. These terms both result from the Spanish influence in the Philippines. Eskrima means fencing in Spanish, and Eskrimador means a fencer.


The basic weapon in Balintawak Eskrima is a stick, called an olise. It is made of rattan, a tough, fibrous vine. Its length should be the same as the distance from the armpit to the fingertips. It is held with about 2″ to 3″ of the butt-end exposed. Because it is very light, it may be moved very rapidly. Because it is made from rattan, it is almost unbreakable.

Role of the weapon in training.

Many Japanese and Chinese martial arts attempt to teach a student to fight without weapons, and move on to weapons only in the later stages of training. As a result, very few people in these arts are able to use their weapons training in sparring. The Philippine martial arts tend to emphasize the use of weapons first, and the use of the empty hand second. As a result, Eskrimadors have more skill in weapons sparring than some other martial artists.

The role of drills in training

A student in Balintawak is trained almost exclusively with two-man drills, under the guidance of a more experienced Eskrimador. The most basic, and the most important drill involves alternate block and defense against the twelve basic blows with the stick. This drill is simply called “1 to 12”. Initially, the strikes are done in a specific pre-arranged order. There are two different roles played, that of junior, and that of senior Eskrimadors. The senior will attempt to teach the junior the proper way to move by using subtle redirecting motions, and by advice. At the same time, the senior will be perfecting his own technique. Initially, the strikes come in a known order, from #1 to 12, but later this order will be varied. If the students are both a bit more advanced, some additional techniques will be added. The junior will not be able to defend against these at first, but his skill will eventually improve. After a while, the strikes will not necessarily be done with the stick; all four extremities may be used. Strikes with the left hand could be made to simulate a finger thrust to the eyes, a punch, a chop to the throat or a hook to the body. In practice these would be represented with a light slap or touch. Because of the tremendous speed with which the exercise is carried out, the student quickly learns not to blink the eyes, timing, speed and distancing.

For obvious reasons, in training we hit the triceps instead of the temple. This is considered to be equivalent to hitting the head. Instead of hitting the groin we hit the lower abdomen, and instead of the knees we hit the thigh or lower leg.

The Twelve Pairs of Balintawak Eskrima

The are twelve angles for attack and twelve corresponding defences in Balintawak Eskrima. Each of the 12 angles of striking correspond to the target areas of the body. This type of approach is common to some other Filipino arts.

Angles #1 and #1 are lateral blows from the

top of the head to the base of the neck.

Angles three and four are lateral blows from

the shoulders to the hips. The main targets

are the shoulders, the elbows, and the hands.

Angle five is a mid-line thrust from below


Angles six and seven are lateral thrusts to the

chest or the armpits.

Angles eight and nine are lateral blows from

the hips to the feet. The target areas are the

knees, shins, ankles, or feet.

Angles #10 and #11 are lateral thrusts to the

eyes or the neck.

Angle #12 is a mid-line blow from above downwards.

These blows can be done with either end of the stick, the left hand or the feet.

The basic training for the twelve angles is done with stick against stick. This provides the basis for all subsequent Balintawak Eskrima techniques, whether done with stick, knife, or unarmed.


Always look at your opponent. If you are a very experienced fighter, look at your opponent’s eyes. Otherwise, look at the chest region. Some fighters prefer to keep their gaze focused at the lead elbow of the opponent, particulary when that arm is holding a weapon. The elbow, and perhaps the shoulder, move more slowly and provide a clue to the movement of the hand. Do not blink, it could result in being hit. Look with both eyes.

Mental States

Pay concentrated attention to your opponent and to your surroundings, but move without thinking or forethought.

Timing and Rhythm

You must know when to execute your technique. This is important, but difficult to teach. Sometimes, an opportunity presents itself only very briefly. With a good sense of timing, you may take advantage of this opportunity. Use the proper rhythm and well placed pauses. The rhythm must be appropriate, but this is subtle and difficult to learn. Don’t rush through your techniques, you will lose balance and power. Sometimes, a fast motion is less effective than a slower motion might be. Some techniques depend on a small pause for their proper functioning. However, more often being slower is not effective at all.

Principles of speed

At a number of demonstrations, experienced martial artists of other styles have been given a helmet and a stick, and asked to block a Balintawak stick strike. So far, no one, including some very fast black belts have been able to do so. This is not repeated to belittle the abilities of these black belts, but to demonstrate that a Balintawak strike is extraordinarily fast. It takes a great deal of practice in defense against a stick wielded in this fashion before one can even see the stick move prior to being hit. It takes specific techniques to block such a fast blow.

Make blows faster and more deceptive by omitting all hint of a wind up. In order to maximize the speed of the blow in fighting, the wrist is snapped. In fact, most of the power is also generated in this fashion. The use of the shoulder and elbow joints are only for making adjustments in distance. For finishing blows, maximal power is created by appropriate torque from the hip and shoulder joints.


Economical motions are a must. Always look for the most direct trajectory. This may be contrasted with the longer circular trajectories for blocks and strikes found in some other arts. In stepping, we do not practice 270 degree turns as are found in some other martial arts. Cross-stepping, as seen in other styles, is not practiced.


Stay loose and relaxed, in order to make all of your motions explosive. Use muscular explosion for speed. One component of swift motion is the principle of relaxation. A relaxed limb will accelerate faster.

Principles of striking, blocking and throwing with power

There are a number of principles of body dynamics that are used to generate superior power. Perhaps the most important is the principle of twisting for power. All arm motions, whether done with the rear leg or the front leg are done with a strong body twist. This in effect gives lead hand strikes almost as much power as rear hand strikes. Another important component in getting power is making use of gravity by dropping the weight. This may be augmented when stepping by letting the blow fall into the body before the stepping foot has been planted. Additional power may be generated in strikes by leaning into a blow. Lastly, many blows generate extra power through the twisting or snapping of the wrist.

Distance and Range

Although it may not be apparent to the untrained person, controlling the distance between you and your opponent may be the single most important factor in achieving victory. In addition, at different ranges, different dynamics come into play, and different techniques will be appropriate. During an engagement, you may cross through several distinct ranges in one explosive exchange. The following categorization scheme is similiar to a number of others in common use, and should be useful. Distance will be ordered from far away to very close, with five categories.

The first, outside range, is your starting distance. Here, no contact may be made with foot or weapon without first coming closer. You are able to keep your head out of range, and use long-range defense techniques. This is a momentarily safe position. If you come any closer than this, you should be on the offensive.

The second, long distance range, will just allow you to effectively strike your opponent with leg or long weapon, without stepping. You should never stay in this range without going into the attack.

The third, punching range, will allow you to hit your opponent with hand, close kicks, or knife.

The fourth, in- fighting range, is slightly closer. Here you will be able to use elbows, hook punches, uppercuts, disarms, arm leverage type take downs, off- balancing, sweeps, restraining, turning and trapping techniques.

The fifth, grappling range, is the closest. You may use wrestling and judo type take-downs and groundwork. This is the preferred range of the wrestler or the Jiu-jitsu exponent.

Although typically the ground is associated with grappling techniques, it is possible to apply in- fighting techniques on the ground without getting into wrestling holds.

Positioning Yourself

We step to bring the weapons to the appropriate distance for attack or defense. Use the motion of your body in order to position your weapons for effective attack. Use body motion in order to avoid the attacker’s weapons. Thus good footwork is essential. If the footwork is slow, the attack or evasion will be slow and power will not be optimal. In positioning with respect to opponent, you must control the distance. The person who controls the distance controls the fight. Be aware that different techniques are applicable at different ranges. Also, understand just how close you have to be to hit your opponent, and vice-versa.


There must be some way of describing the movements, some co-ordinate system other than #1 to 12. Are eight directions the best way to organize? There are a number of directions for evasion, and these can be categorized in a number of ways. Some people use a clock principle, others use a compass, others use degrees. I have my own system, based on the notion of a “y” shaped pattern. This will be described later. Also, I call the line drawn from your centre to your opponents centre the Axis of Confrontation. The line drawn between your own feet can be called the Major Axis. The line perpendicular to this below the centre can be called the Minor Axis.


Some martial arts place a great emphasis on a variety of rigid stances that supposedly give great balance. The view seems to be that rigid, static positions are the way to keep from falling, and to provide a stable platform for attack and defence. In Balintawak, we believe that this is a mistaken view. Your balance should be maintained dynamically, not statically, so stay loose and mobile. Good balance is obtained not from static stances, but from being able to readjust the base, one’s footing, by appropriate footwork. Balance can easily be recovered by moving the feet to catch up with the centre of gravity.

If a line is drawn between the big toes, and between the heels, and along the outside of the feet, it will enclose an area. This area will be referred to as the base. Its size will determine a person’s static balance. If the legs are separated, the area increases. If the feet are both turned to be at right angles to the line joining the heels, the area will increase. As long as the centre of gravity is not past the edge of the base, the body will not topple. However, notice that the base is never very wide, and that static balance will always be poor from front to back. That is why dynamic balance is always more important. Some styles hold that by putting the long axis diagonal to the line of confrontation, they have increased the width and thus improved the balance. This is not the case. The width is never greater than the length of the feet. The static stance has no balance along its narrow dimension, whether back stance, horse stance or forward stance.


Balintawak does not emphsize formal stances, and in fact there are not any terms for the various stances, but there are a number of key principles. A cardinal rule of stance is to keep both legs flexed for balance, and in order to be able to spring quickly. One heel is always lifted, usually the one with the least weight. It may be either the rear or the front heel which is lifted. This is most often the heel of the rear leg. This facilitates springing and twisting. This is a general principle which in particular facilitates turning. With a twist, the heel which is lifted will often change. It may also help forward explosive motions.

Always have your feet roughly parallel. This allows the strongest muscles to participate in springing motions. If the feet are parallel, the heel will lift naturally as the knees bend. Bending one knee more than the other, and rotating, may be the fundamental principle of body motion. If the weight is on the rear leg, with very little weight on the lead leg, the stance is analogous to a cat stance or a short back stance from Karate. If the weight is on the front leg, the stance is analogous to the front stance of Karate. If the weight is in the centre, the stance is equivalent to a short horse stance or perhaps a half front facing stance from Karate. With the basic stances, we have the following varieties: centred, leaning forwards to outside, leaning forward to inside, twisting in cat stance to outside, leaning away in front stance. The basic stance is aligned along the axis of confrontation. The feet are spread apart the distance of a natural stride taken when walking. The body must be relaxed. The feet are 45 degrees to the major axis of the body. There should be a feeling of being ready to take off at 45 degrees like a runner. At a distance, turn sideways to present a narrow target. This can be seen in our on-guard stance where we hide the groin by keeping a sideways stance. At close range, turn to a more frontal position to allow the rear hand to be used. This can be seen in our corridas drills. Hide the head behind the shoulder and the throat behind the chin. The chin should be kept down to protect the throat and jaw. It is a good general rule to keep the elbows low and close to the body and have at least one guarding hand close to your head. The guarding hand is used to block and to check. When in an on-guard position, at a distance, hold the rear hand high and the lead hand low. When within in-fighting range, hold both hands high to protect the head. The alternative position with the lead hand high and the rear hand low is probably not as good.

Weight distribution

Your weight is usually centred between your legs, unless moving and evading. The weight distribution may be altered by the movement of the weight over one foot or the other. Without leaning, we can still move the weight so that it is centred more over one leg than the other, but all leaning involves this motion, as well as differential bending of the legs.


Leaning the body involves inclining the torso so that it is not vertical. This is accomplished by bending at the knees, not by bending the back. (If the back is bent too much, back trouble may eventually result.) With respect to your own body, you may lean backwards, forwards, or sideways, and any of these may be accompanied by some degree of twisting from the feet.


Twisting is a major component of most motions. This describes the amount of rotation of the feet and hips, side to side. This is the key principle for evasion and power. The amount of twist is what differentiates leaning to the side from leaning to the front and from leaning to the rear. Twist into a blow and it will have more power. Never twist so that the feet are both pointing along the same line, and never twist so much that the legs are crossed. This is found in some other martial arts, but not in Balintawak.


This is a term to describe the height of the centre of gravity above the ground, an important variable. We lower and raise the body by bending the knees to change the altitude or level. This gives us our crouching and leaning motions. By bending both legs the same amount, we get a neutral crouch. By bending one knee more than the other, we get a lean. Note that we never kneel because kneeling results in poor mobility and balance.


Slumping is the term for crouching to drop the centre of gravity, accompanied by some combination of twisting, dropping the weight, moving the weight from one leg to the other, leaning by differentially bending the knees, and shifting the weight distributio order to slump you must employ a rapid dropping of the body weight by bending the knees. You may slump with a forward lean, a neutral position, a side lean, a rear lean, or a rear fade.

Slumping is the major method for launching and evading blows. It is used to give power to blocks and blows, to allow low blocks and strikes, to move the body in or out of range, to achieve greater reach, and to provide greater stability. Slump but stay in place to get beneath a blow or to stabilize a block or slump and fade to avoid a rush. Use the slumping motion with all techniques.

Body Shifting

In general, we prefer to combine our blocking with evasive motions. This is essential when attempting to avoid the attack of a very fast or a very strong opponent. There is no universally accepted nomenclature for evasion, but here are some terms which are often employed.

Ducking is a general term for dropping beneath a blow. It is accomplished by bending both knees and slumping forwards a bit. Duck beneath a blow if it is high and arcing.

Bobbing is a term from boxing. It general it seems to mean to duck up and down.

Weaving is also a term from boxing. This seems to mean to duck to the left and right in the same exchange.

Evade blows by slumping. Evasion will be along one of the arms of a “y” shaped pattern. If you evade backwards (called fading away), and then snap back to the attack, you are using a pattern of motion which is similar to bamboo stalks blowing in the wind (called bambooing).

Always move the head first before the body when shifting away from a high attack. If you are dealing with a blow from a stick or club, the ability to move the head first is crucial. Moving the head first is faster and safer.

There is a basic equivalence between slumping forwards and leaning back. It all depends on the amount of twist of the feet. The feet are always parallel, except in leaning back. Lean to the outside or inside for evasion. A leaning backwards stance (cat stance or back stance in other martial arts) is equivalent to a leaning forwards stance (forward or front stance), in most situations. You may see this equivalence when leaning to the outside in a forward, then a cat stance for defence or attack. Also, you can see it for leaning away from the attack or for a long rear leg step to the other side.


We perform all body shifting with very straight forward, natural stepping. Move the leg that is nearest to the direction you wish to move. Do not do any unusual cross-stepping or double stepping or preparatory shuffling. Just step in a natural fashion. It is a good general rule to step with the foot which is closest to the direction in which you wish to move. We do not train any roundabout turning motions which might involve turns greater than 180 degrees, nor do we ever cross-step. There are no techniques which involve turning your back to your opponent, even for a fraction of a second. In general it is safer to move to the outside of your opponent, but this is depedent upon the situation. If you are on the inside, you are at risk from your opponents rear hand, so you must be doubly vigilant. Always use a natural walking or running stride and posture. In order to position yourself with respect to your opponent and to keep your balance, use minor adjusting steps. Do not take two steps in situations where one would be superior. The step is most often only the length of the natural walking stride. Occasionally it will be longer, but the rear foot should always be brought along with it in order to keep a short stance.

The primary stepping motion of Balintawak Eskrima turns the body 180 degrees with each step. It can be done in a forwards or backwards fashion. It is learned by doing the basic #1 to #12 pairs drill. Get a natural acceleration by leaning in the direction of motion, just as you would when starting to run. If you start to lose your balance, move the foot ahead to regain it.

You may use diagonal steps to flank your opponent. You may employ either a linear or an angular attack. Some motions involve an explosive direct attack, but at other times you might use a diagonal approach, sometimes shifting from one diagonal to the other to confuse the opponent.

Chapter 3: Blocking and AttackingArm MotionThe core position of the classical #12 block may be considered to be the basis for all high blocking or attacking motions. The scissors principle, called gunting, involves moving both hands at once, either with an in-phase (both pushing, both pulling) or an out of phase motion (push- pull). The classical #12 block and counter is done with the arms moving in-phase, in the same direction together. One of the most fundamental ideas of hand motion is that motions usually involve sticking both hands out in front of you, and pulling them both back. This may be varied by changing the phase and the angles. The basic block and counter is accomplished by just sticking both arms out twice.

The core position of the classical number five block may be considered the basis for all low blocking or attacking motions. This is used in various ways.

General Principles of Blocking.There is a general principle that says in effect, don’t let your opponent touch you, or grab you in any way. This prevents grabs and grappling manoeuvres, even if the blow is not hard enough to do you any damage. Face in the direction from which the blow is coming when possible. There is a basic guarding position for long range, which changes as you come closer. At a distance, the rear hand is high and the lead hand is lower. As you close the gap, the hands both come up higher and higher, until at extremely close range, both hands are up by the head. The rear hand (normally the left) is the alive, checking or guarding hand.Keep the stick upright at close range. Only block with the stick down (inverted) for long range #eight and #nine attacks. To block a low attack, just drop the block down. Some styles use a roof or umbrella type block, or a wing block in which the stick is inverted. This is not found in our style. When blocking, you must be prepared to handle a strike from any of the twelve angles of attack. It is vital that you control the distance when blocking. Move the target when blocking by making a simultaneous evasive motion. Block on the outside if possible. Don’t block on the inside against a hook if possible. Directly interpose your block onto the trajectory. Create a shield with your blocking limb and then “hide behind it”. Block with the hand that is closest to the path of the blow. By blocking with what is nearest to the trajectory, your block will get there faster. Move your hand directly to the path of the blow, with no preparation or wind-up. Block from where your limb is. Make your blocks faster and more deceptive by omitting all hint of a wind-up. There are no lateral swiping blocks. Block by moving the hand directly outwards from the body and towards the opponent, not in a sideways or circular fashion.

Be relatively hard, focused, substantial when you block, but be prepared to yield to and deflect a force that is too strong. The eskrima focus is local to the limb; the whole body doesn’t tense up, just the blocking surface. For speed and sensitivity, keep very relaxed until the last moment, and then focus with an appropriate degree of tension. The tension should be relaxed again after the shortest possible interval. Block using the rigid part of the palm, edge of the hand or lower third of the forearm.

Meet the blow half-way, by extending the block towards it. This may be called extension blocking. There are many ways to do this.

If you must deal with a close range attack, compress the arms and the body to block. This may be called compression blocking. There are really only a few ways to do this, with minor variations.

The slap block is always done with the heel of the palm, and followed by wrapping the fingers around the limb. You should hit with the heel of the palm for less resilience. That

When blocking and flinging away the blocked limb, (as in the double strike of the block and hit against the knife), keep a constant pressure after the block and before the push (blast).

There is a slap block technique for striking the hollow below the shoulder, which will jam an attack if done early enough.

Slump to defend high or low, but slump a great deal to defend against a low attack. Drop down (without bending at the waist) to block the low arm or stick strikes at close range. Use your legs to block low kicks at close range.

Blocks are not strikes, so stop the weapon before attacking the arm. Some styles will strike as a block, but given how fast the stick can be, we don’t think that this is a good strategy.

With empty hands, do not bother to attack the arm. Some styles attack the periphery first and then move up to the more vital targets. Attacking the limbs is called de-fanging the snake. Moving up to the central areas from the periphery is called climbing the ladder. We do not do this sort of technique with the empty hand, but will do it after a block with the stick.


The following weapons may be employed by an



We learn to hit with the other weapons by learning to hit with the stick. However, use the left hand to strike even when there is a weapon in the right. Don’t be one-handed.


The knife is treated as a miniature stick. Empty hand

Inverted fist, palm heel or knife edge, regular fist are all used. Blows may be delivered as hooks, back-fists, straight punches, at any of the twelve angles of attack and at any level.

Forearm are weapons used for elbow breaking

Elbows are used as devastating weapons.

Feet and knees may deliver devestating kicks.

The following major categories of attack or counter- attack are found:


Any of these attacks may be done as part of countering or reversing.

Removing the leverage may be part of countering.


Off-balancing may be a prelude to the others.

Checking/Trapping may be a prelude to the others.

Five basic principles of attack/strike

1 Hit first

You may take the strategy of waiting for a committed attack or you may take the initiative. Our preference is to hit first, before your opponent can initiate his own attack, but there are exceptions. When defending against a knife, it is often safer to wait for a committed attack. Always make your initial blow explosively fast, and use a power blow after your opponent has been hit once and distracted or hurt. Strive for un-blockable speed in a strike, at the correct distance (stick or hand).

2 Hit high and low both

Do not give your opponent time to recover from the initial suprise. Confuse him by hitting high and then low, or left and then right.

3 Be able to change to a different target

If your blow has been blocked, or is about to be blocked, immediately change into another attack with the same hand. This can be very difficult to defend against if done well.

4 Hit what is nearest to you

Hit the target which is closest to you first. For instance, you may hit the lead hand or foot with the stick.

5 Hit repeatedly

When attacking, keep up the pressure with a continuous barrage of attacks.

Closing the Gap

One aspect of attacking is how to close the gap between you and your opponent without getting hit or losing your physical and psychological balance. There are a number of set techniques. These are detailed elsewhere for each category of weapon.


Keep the whole body very relaxed, with minimal tension in order to generate very fast attacks. Move the hand first before moving the body in order to give a hard-to- block initiating blow. Employ non- telegraphic motion for a strike. Use a minimal amount of motion when attacking. Attacks must be economical, with no wind- up motions in order to achieve optimal speed. Do not wind-up for greater power, it detracts from the quickness of delivery, and the blow is less likely to land.


Do not tense the whole body in an attempt to make the blow more powerful. Make your focus more precise. Our focus is localized to the area of contact. Move your hand in good synchronization with your body for a powerful blow. Follow through on your strikes. Follow through on your blows for power, using torque and a well-timed step. For a power strike use torque and follow through. Use a wrist snap for power in your blows. For example, there is a wrist snap for a throat chop. Use a body twist, drop your weight and lean into your attacks for enhanced speed, reach and power. However, never straighten your arm entirely unless making contact with a blow! You might get your elbow broken. Augment the force, range and speed or your attacks with a slumping motion. Use gravity to assist you. This is apparent when rising then slumping with elbow blows. A twist and slump help with power. Let the energy of your strike go into the opponent, not into the ground. We hit before the lead foot lands. Fall into a strike for power, don’t let the ground absorb your energy.

Effect of blows

The effect of blows is based upon sound principles of western physiology and physics. No occult powers are postulated.


When using the stick, we usually hit to the bony targets. When hitting with the hand, we will often hit to the soft targets. Hit the sensitive targets with a strike. Use the appropriate weapon for a strike.


Accept a weak blow in return for giving a damaging blow.

Multiple Opponents

String the fish for multiple opponents. This means position yourself so that only one opponent can come at you at a time.

Principles of Dealing with ObstaclesSimilarity of attack and defense

The techniques used in offence don’t differ much from the techniques used in defence. When the arms make contact, it doesn’t always matter who initiated the blow, if your technique is good enough. Whenever you block or have a strike met with a block there is an obstacle to further attack. When you make contact on the outside of your opponents arm, there is always an obstacle. When you make contact on the inside, there is often no real obstacle in the way of striking immediately, with or without checking with the other hand.

There are a number of ways of dealing with an arm that is obstructing your attack. They are as follows:

1 Immobilize the limb by trapping or sticking and hit with your free hand or a foot. This would give a standard alternating limb combination.

2 Directly push through the obstacle to deliver a blow. This assumes that you have a big strength advantage and regardless, your force will be attenuated when you strike.

3 Remove the obstacle (with either or both hands) by checking, trapping or turning and then attack along the original line or initiate a direct attack.

4 Flow around the obstacle with the same hand which originally made contact. You may check with the other hand for extra security.

5 If the obstacle is removed by your opponent in an effort to hit you or just to re-chamber, then continue with an attack upon the newly opened line.

The meuistra categories.Principle of Categories of Evasion, Blocking and Hitting

Block, check, hit

The first category of defence involves blocking, then checking with the opposite hand, then countering with the blocking hand. This may be unique to the Filipino arts, and is certainly at the core of Balintawak Eskrima.

Block and hit with same hand

The second category of defence is like the first, but the checking motion is omitted. The hand which blocks then immediately strikes.

Simultaneous block and hit

The third category of defence involves blocking and hitting simultaneously. This is done with both of the limbs obviously. If the same motions are used, but not in a simultaneous fashion, it reduces to the standard block then attack motions of nearly all martial arts. (This latter technique is deliberately not much emphasized in Balintawak Eskrima.)

Evade and hit

The fourth category of defence involves evading and striking, without actually blocking. A check may be done after the evasion in the course of the attack.

Chapter 4: Checking and TrappingPrinciples of in-fighting (Corridas)Corridas (bull-fighting in Spanish) is the Eskrima term for in-fighting. Corridas with sticks is the basic drill for training. Corridas with knife is much more advanced. Corridas with empty hands is practised with the hubad-lubod drill.

Flow is the term used to describe the dynamics of all good Eskrima. It means that you should feel the pressure of your opponents motion and go with it. This is key to the practice of Eskrima. It allows us to avoid traps, and to rapidly change to a different attack after our first is blocked. You flow from one move to the next. Flow is the ability to smoothly switch directions in attack or defence. It may result in hitting high and then low; hitting left and then right; changing your target in mid-flight; hitting more than once; or hitting when you feel a loss of pressure in your opponent’s touch. When blocked, just continue the attack without withdrawing the limb. Use a slightly different trajectory and bore in.

The use of rigid focus makes the use of flow impossible. Hit when there is no barrier (when it is removed). Flowing from one motion to the next is basic. Don’t insist on a move. Hit when there is no resistance , let it fly. Go around a block with an elbow strike with the same arm. Don’t let the block stop your continued attack. You can do this in several directions. The corridas drill trains this for the stick, and the hubad lubod trains it for empty hand fighting.

Sticking is the ability to impede the use of your opponent’s limbs and to use the kinaesthetic and tactile senses by maintaining contact with your opponents limbs (without grabbing). Sticking is the key to corridas. Sticking with hands or arms is normal. Sticking with legs is possible but not well developed. Sticking with the stick is possible. Sticking to your opponents limbs is the fundamental principle. Rolling the hand and flipping to grab is an important type of sticking motion. Hand rotation is part of sticking in corridas and hubad lubod. Impede your opponents use of his arms and legs. You may use either your arms or your legs to do so. If you impede only one of his limbs, we call it a check. If you impede both of his arms with one of yours, it is called a trap.

Function of Checking

Mechanical Aspects

Checking is not considered to be trapping in Balintawak, but it achieves many of the same affects. You can apply all of the in-fighting techniques more readily once you have contact. Once you have the contact afforded by checking, you can make use of your kinaesthetic sense to detect attacks. This is very useful, and in conditions of reduced lighting should give a great advantage. You can apply in-fighting more readily, since you have a point of contact (in addition to the block) and may stick to the limb.

You can prevent repeated attacks along the same line, because you have an obstacle in the way, and also you may stick to the attacker. You can follow the attacking limb back along the line of retraction. If it is moved away, you can then exploit the opening which has been left. You can use the check to move the attacking limb away to create an opening. You can trap more readily since you now have contact. You can disrupt the opponent’s balance with a powerful check. You can use the check to severely impede your opponents attempts to block. You can apply an off-balancing technique from the check. A check to a vulnerable spot becomes a blow. By training checking, we also train striking.

Function of Trapping

Mechanical Aspects

You can use a successful trap to totally eliminate your opponents ability to block. Once you have the contact afforded by trapping, you can make use of your kinaesthetic sense to detect attacks. This is very useful, and in conditions of reduced lighting should give a great advantage. You can prevent repeated attacks along the same line, because you have an obstacle in the way, and also you may stick to the attacker. You can disrupt the opponent’s balance with a powerful trap. You can apply an off-balancing technique from the trap.

Psychological Aspects of Checking and Trapping

You can create confusion in your opponent by checking or trapping. You add to the load on his nervous system and cause his overall responses to degrade, sometimes quite severely. His blocks will not be working as anticipated, and the checking action acts as a confusion factor and a distraction. Checking and trapping give additional methods for destroying the attackers game-plan.

Trapping and checking and related issues:

One rule of trapping is that if you see your opponent

cross his arms, that is, you see him make an “X”, you can get an easy trap. You can trap from above down onto his crossed arms, or from below up.

Traps can be done otherwise by pinning your opponents arms underneath one of your forearms, or by pressing on both of his forearms from below.

You can also trap by having one of your opponents arms under your arms, and one above. There are two possibilities here as well.

If you have one of your arms underneath one of your opponents arms, you can do an elbow riding trap. Drive your elbow into his solar plexus on a slightly arced (up then down) trajectory, and at the same time grab his opposite wrist.

If you have one of your arms above one of your opponents forearms, you can do a similar trap to the elbow riding trap, but you must really on sticking to get the trap on both arms at once.

You may trap by grabbing the opponent’s wrist and crossing one of his arms over the other and pushing down and in very strongly. A bit of slumping will help on this.

Although not a true trap, you may grab the wrist and pull out. At the same time you can alternate back- fists from groin to head.

You can grab your opponents head in your arm and strike with an elbow at the same time. The grab should be very close and tight, and should very much immobilize your opponent.

You can initiate a disruptive check by cross-slapping your opponents inner arm at wrist or elbow. At the same time you strike with your other hand to the head. If you carry this move a little farther so that your hand if over both of your opponents arms, it is the basic trap from above.

You can ride your opponents arm down with your elbow and back fist or chop with that same hand.

This is more of a check than a trap.

You can turn your opponent by pushing his upper arm from below and turning. You should then hit with the other hand.

You can turn your opponent by pushing his upper arm from above and pressing into the armpit for a turn. The arm you are turning with should remain in a hooked shape.

You can attack by lifting upper arm and hitting the groin and stepping past at the same time. Whenever you see no obstruction, you should just move in directly with an attack. This works quite well with elbow attacks.

Whenever you feel that there is a lessened pressure, you should just hit directly. If there is a push on your arm, go with it then wrap around and hit. If the push is from below up, arc around and hit low. If the push is from above down, circle around and strike high.

There is an elbow block drill that we practice from time to time. You will stand with your left forearm in elbow block position against your partner’s right forearm. You with pull down his wrist and strike with a back-fist. He will block with an elbow block. He will then do the same to you.

If you hit at your opponent and he does a hard rising forearm block, then continue on in and clip his block under your armpit. Check his other hand, and deliver a back-fist to his groin.

If your hand attack has been blocked, you should continue to attack with the same arm. Just go around

the block and hit with an elbow strike.

After a slap block you may check the rear hand in a figure eight pattern.

One common and useful attack is to jam the lead hand with your guarding hand and hit at the same


Empty hand in-fighting (practised from hubad lubod)

Slaps } trapping with slap and elbow

Grabbing Wrist and forearm

Grabbing Upper arm

Striking the Chest or the Hollow of the shoulder

Blasting (flinging) the arm away

Principles for trap avoidance/avoidance of being overpowered

countering a grab is part of corridas

Chapter 5: General Grappling PrinciplesGrabbingThe best idea is not to grab. It is slower to grab and strike, and it may be difficult to grab a wrist (large, slippery). Use the basic thumb and two finger grip when grabbing. Sometimes the thumb is not part of the grip but this depends upon the technique. There should be no gaps between your hand and your opponents limb (in a grab, make a fist). When grabbing, don’t try to grab at a specific spot. Make contact with the limb then slide to the grab position. If grabbing, pull, off-balance or hit immediately and in general, don’t grab unless you have a technique to execute which uses a grab. A grab with no follow-up is the mark of the inferior fighter.


Turning is a fundamental technique in corridas and off-balancing. It may be accomplished with numerous grips. It is designed as a prelude to a throw or at the very least to put your opponent into a disadvantageous situation.

Use jerking motions to physically and psychologically off-balance your opponent. This may be done with a push, a pull or a combination of both. This jolting type of push or pull is often associated with the filipino grappling art of dumog, but is a key part of Balintawak eskrima. In some styles, they call this “blasting”. Always use good body dynamics, in particular the slump to make these motions effective.


Throwing is a key part of corridas. There are about 35 throws. They are organized according to the part of the opponent that is gripped, going from hand to head to foot. Throwing is done in all circumstances, after the opponent has been stunned or disoriented. It is usually applied as the last part of the technique, after the assailant has been stunned with a strike to the eyes, throat or groin. When it is applied as the first part of the whole technique, it should be followed with a finishing blow, either a kick or a hand chop to the throat. The throw may be done as an attacking move or a defensive one. One option is to strike first, going low to bring the upper body forward, and high to bring the upper body back.

Another is to block and then throw. Always use a throw that is natural for the hand contact that results and don’t move the hands too much.

Break the balance with a push and a pull. This is normally a scissoring type of motion. Keep the arm at 90 degrees, keeping the elbows close to the body. Use a shift of your weight and natural footwork. Pull with the body, not with the arm. Bend at the waist for some throws. On certain throws, use a forward lean with little body drop (no slump ).


Joint locks are done as part of throwing and restraining. Joint breaking is a more extreme form of joint locking. It is done when in a serious conflict, usually after a block.

Restraining techniques are used to immobilize without injuring. Pins are on the ground restraints, done after a throw. Keep the pressure on, but don’t tire yourself out and cause pain if your opponent tries to get out. Be able to switch to another restraint if you lose your leverage.

Escapes and reversals are required when somehow put into a restraining hold.

Ground fighting is an aspect of grappling which is to be avoided if possible. Avoiding wrestling attacks by warding off opponent with the arms and evasion, slumping, and controlled absorbtion of the force.

Chapter 6: General Principles of DisarmingDisarms are a part of Corridas. Stick disarms are well developed and fairly safe. Knife disarms are much more risky, but so is being attacked with a knife. Gun disarms are incredibly risky, but so is being attacked with a gun.

Use a disarm when you:

have multiple opponents and you don’t have a weapon;

don’t wish to injure your opponent;

see an opportunity for an easy disarm;

see no alternative to being shot.


Use the standard evasive motions and disarm from corridas distance. Block first, disarm when the stick is stilled. Be subtle in your motions. Use minimal hand motion and grab with the closest hand. Hit the hand in real combat. Employ good body torque and use adequate follow through. Stick to your opponents stick hand. The motion must be a push/pull or scissors and must be balanced. Most stick disarms involve in some measure either an inner or outer wrist twist. They all should exert leverage against the thumb or fingers. Make sure that you understand the leverage involved. Once you have the grip you then strip the stick away.


Use the standard evasive motions. Disarm from corridas distance. Block first, disarm when the knife is stilled. Be subtle in your motions. Use minimal hand motion and grab with the closest hand. Use adequate follow through. Stick to your opponents knife hand. With the knife disarms, grip the opponents hand as though catching a ball, leaving no gaps between your hand and his. The motion must be a push/pull or scissors and must be balanced. All knife disarms involve in some measure either an inner or outer wrist twist. They all should exert leverage against the thumb or fingers. Make sure that you understand the leverage involved. Once you have the grip you then milk or knead the knife away. Do not grab the edge of the blade.


Disarm from corridas distance. Use the standard evasive motions, but remember that the weapon is infinitely long as far as you are concerned. You are best to move to the outside. Move the hand first. Be subtle in your motions. Use minimal hand motion and grab with the closest hand. Employ good body torque and use adequate follow through. Stick to your opponents gun hand and keep the muzzle pointing away from you at all times, and also away form bystanders. Grip the opponents hand as though catching a ball, leaving no gaps between your hand and his. The motion must be a push/pull or scissors and must be balanced. All disarms involve in some measure either an inner or outer wrist twist. They all should exert leverage against the thumb or fingers. Make sure that you understand the leverage involved. Once you have the grip you then milk or knead the gun away. Do not put your hand over the muzzle.

Countering a Disarm

In general, you counter an attempted disarm either by depriving your opponent of leverage or by going onto the offence very aggressively.

PART III: Summary

Chapter 7: SummarySummary of what has been learned.


BibliographyRemy Presas’ Book “Modern Arnis”

Ernesto Presas’ Book

Dan Inosanto’s Book “The Filipino Martial Arts”

Romain’s Book “Eskrima Self Defence”

Marinas Book “Arnis Lanada”

Black Belt Magazine – Various Articles

Inside Kung Fu – Various Articles



Prepare this after the book is almost finished.

Index Prepare this as a final stage.

© Vorticity Martial Arts