FMAT: Book Review: Balintawak System of Arnis-Escrima

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Sep 11, 2006
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Book Review: Balintawak System of Arnis-Escrima
By sandan - 10-29-2008 12:50 AM
Originally Posted at: FMATalk


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

By Perry Gil S. Mallari

A Balintawak style primer

I first learned about the Balintawak style of escrima through the writings and personal accounts of Filipino martial arts researcher and historian Ned Nepangue, MD, during the late 1990s. One part that I remember well is his expositions on the palakaw, a one-on-one method of instruction unique to the Balintawak style.

I recently acquired a manual on the Balintawak style entitled The Balintawak System of Arnis-Escrima written by Australian martial artist John Russell and published by Sudlon Publishing. While there are still factions in the local FMA community that frowns on the idea of a foreigner writing about the Philippines&#8217; native fighting arts, I always consider it heartening to see non-Filipinos take interest in Kali, Escrima and Arnis. The whole point of the matter is that if foreigners can appreciate our martial arts, why the majority of our countrymen cannot?

I consider Russell&#8217;s effort in presenting an important Cebuano style of Escrima commendable. One part of the book that proves very interesting is the section that presents the history of the Balintawak style. The author discussed in this part the role of three consummate Cebuano escrimadors in the refinement of the Balintawak style: Teofilo Velez, Jose Villasin and Venancio &#8220;Anciong&#8221; Bacon, dubbed as the &#8220;Mozart of Philippine escrima.&#8221;

Russell in his book also points out succinctly the uniqueness of the one-on-one method of teaching of Balintawak. &#8220;One does not stand twenty people in a line and teach them to spin sticks in Balintawak,&#8221; he emphasizes. The Australian escrimador explains that this factor is the reason why the Balintawak style is not massed produced.

Another salient feature of Balintawak that is comprehensively tackled in the book is its counter-to-counter concept of training. Russell explicates the rationale behind this idea with the following words: &#8220;Initially, for the beginner, Balintawak can seem to be a very defensive style as the student initially learns to block and then counterattack. When the instructor attacks, the student will learn to defend with a block and counter with a single strike. This is where other styles argue that their systems are better as they learn to counter with multiple strikes. Balintawak is different. Balintawak considers that an opponent will defend effectively against your counter strike and counter your counter.&#8221;

Russell presented the Balintawak techniques in three stages namely basic, intermediate and advance using over 1300 photographs. All in all, The Balintawak System of Arnis-Escrima would prove an interesting read and a valuable reference to practitioners and researchers of the FMA because it provides important historical and technical information on this important style of Cebuano escrima.

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