The Argentine Dueling Art of Esgrima Criolla

Discussion in 'Knife Arts' started by geezer, Nov 6, 2015.

  1. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    I came across this while responding to another thread ...gaucho dueling with long knives (facones) and ponchos. The facon was for the gaucho an all purpose survival tool, like a bowie was to the North American cowboy. But there was also a specific tradition of dueling for honor, apparently emphasizing slashes to the face. The loser might survive, but he ...er literally lost face.

    Anyway as a Westerner who helped on my Papa's ranch growing up and a practitioner of Escrima Filipina, I find this Argentine cowboy Esgrima Criolla fascinating. Like the PCE escrima I teach, the Spanish and indigenous roots are immediately evident. Take a look:


     
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  2. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    Curious as to why the demo participants were in a weapon side back lead vs the old photos in the beginning and the end with the participants engaged with the weapon side forward... especially utilizing a shorter blade.
     
  3. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    Watching some more clips posted by different groups, it looks like this (poncho/shield side forward, weapon side back) is the most common approach. My guess is that the old photos are showing fighters posing in a starting position with crossed knives sort of like boxers touching gloves at the beginning of a bout.

    As far as the shorter vs. longer knives go, I would think that you'd favor holding the shorter blade in close to your body even more than the long blades. Those old-style facones were 20 inches or longer. With that length you can begin to use the blade defensively, parrying like a sword. Not so easy with a short blade. In either case, with no large hilt, knuckle-guard, etc. to protect the hand, I can see why they would lead with the "shield" side. That poncho can block, deflect, blind an opponent, conceal the attack, even wrap and trap the blade or arm. Pretty useful.

    BTW that method of fighting is quite old in Europe. In my brief foray into HEMA, I discovered that rapier and cape was a common and effective style. There are similar techniques in FMA, Silat, etc. I even met a Chinese restaurant owner/part time kung fu teacher who showed me some stuff with kitchen knife and wet dish-towel that he picked up in Hong Kong kitchens. If you dipped the dish towel in boiling water or soup it became especially nasty.
     
  4. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    The original video didn't show any changing of the lead but I would think there would be in order to keep the body at range to the opponent's blade when attacking yet having the shielding action of the poncho forward to defend the blade attacks and again keeping the body away from the attacks. Keeping the weapon side back when attacking brings the body much closer to the opponent vs weapon side forward. Interesting.
     
  5. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    I too would expect to see a passing step, and blade side leading at times as well. On the other hand "keeping the weapon side back" as you put it, doesn't make as much difference if you are keeping the torso and shoulders square to the opponent rather than bladed or angled.

    A bladed/angled upper body is typical of swordplay without shield, dagger, baston, etc. for protection. On the other hand, when you do have a shield, or other object that shares some of a shield's offensive and defensive functions, you often see a squared upper body which allows both arms to come into play more equally. Check out the body and leg positioning in the following clip of sword and buckler:



    In empty hand fighting, you can see a similar line of thinking in WC. Unlike the bladed JKD position, we chunners fight square to our opponent's center (regardless of which leg is leading) to use both hands simultaneously. This contrasts with using single stick or blade in Escrima. Then I fight with the body more bladed, with "power side forward".
     

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