Live Hand Path: In-depth Analysis on Teovel's Balintawak


Yellow Belt
Jul 12, 2006
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toronto, Ontario, Canada
Live Hand Path: In-depth Analysis on Teovel's Balintawak

The following is write-up I submitted to the Editor of the Rapid Journal (the only martial art journal we have in the Philippines today.) This also a part of the forthcoming book, The Live Hand Path: An In-Depth Analysis of Teovel Balintawak Eskrima.

The use of the Live Hand (the hand without the weapon) is a very important part of eskrima, especially for those who are into the corto systems like the Balintawak. Those who are into the largo systems dont give too much importance on the use of the Live Hand (also called, checking hand), simply because they engage from a relatively farther distance, almost like the modern sport fencing with saber, foil an epee.

The knowledge of the Live Hand makes translation of stick techniques to empty hands fighting easier, making eskrima readily applicable in many impromptu life and death conditions.

The Live Hand includes the fingers and the proximal parts to include the shoulder, so that gouging, forearm bar application, elbowing and shoulder push are included.

A Live Hand technique is never delivered in a telegraphic way so that the receiver can anticipate or intercept it. It is fully coordinated and clouded with other variables; the other hand (with the weapon), unpredictable footwork, shifting body weight, irregular tempo, body displacement, feints (and possibly, abrasive body odor too). So very unlikely the opponent can see it coming or being applied. The Live Hand is truly the more dangerous and unpredictable hand.

The Live Hand (usually the left hand) is always coordinated with the Weapon Hand (usually the right hand, because majority are right-handed). The coordination between the hands is so natural and fluid. This is also true with the footwork. Just like while walking; while one arm moves forward the opposite arm swings backward or once one foot steps forward the contralateral arm also swings forward. Coordination between both Live Hand and Weapon wielding Hand, doesnt mean that both hands have to keep the same tempo and rhythm, meaning, while the Weaponwielding Hand is moving to a direction, the Live Hand has already moved twice the number of times.

In most corto stylists, the Live Hand moves faster than the WeaponWielding hand. The Live Hand should move relatively faster and in a relatively broken rhythm, because it is supposed to be its role to anticipate or intercept opponents follow-through technique, from an appropriate safe distance. (It is not the Live Hand role to block, the incoming strike from a distance.)

In addition to the aforementioned applications of the Live Hand, is its use as a sensor. Meaning, it must be sensitive enough to detect or discern any subtle moves of the opponent. It must be sensitive as to pressure, distance, timing, direction of the delivered strikes, balance, strength and even intention. It must be sensitive enough to adhere and follow the retreating opponent or to yield the incoming force.

The Live Hand can be used as a reference to hit a target in a closer range.The entire Live Hand is used as a sensory tool, i.e. from the more proximal part of the arm, the elbow, to the distal parts like the fingers. By light touching and rolling, both the flexor and the extensor aspects of the forearm and wrist, discern the subtlest movements.

Theres no tangible explanation to the unusual degree of sensitivity developed by a few eskrima adepts; their seemingly acquired ability to read their opponents minds, other than the Live Hand.

The Live Hand is also used to guide the stick to an intended target in cases wherein the wielding hand is tapped or immobilized. In cases like these, the Live Hand pushes the stick to an intended target while the other hand is still handling the other end. Or in some cases, the stick is switched to the Live Hand.

When the stick is grabbed, for example, the Live Hand auto automatically catch the middle third of the stick, and both hands is twisted, pressed down, pulled then followed by thrusting the exposed part of the opponents anatomy. In some cases, the Live Hand, also helps stabilize a forward thrust like the strike angles # 5, 6, 7, 10and 11.

In almost all occasions, the Live Hand, acts as the second gate, thus a secondary line of defense. So it is positioned, almost always, just behind the weapon-wielding hand (acting as the first gate). One may face the opponent squarely, but the concept of the first and second gate must be in mind and in application.

In effect when all the maneuvers are translated to empty-handed fighting; the hands follow their respective roles.

The Live Hand must not positioned carelessly, because it can be an easy target of the opponents weapon and can be acted upon by the opponents weapon or opponents Live Hand as well.

The practice of the dagger in punta y daga, is actually a simulation training for the Live Hand. Exercises like the double stick sinawali or amara helps in the coordination between the Weapon Hand and the Live Hand. So when performing this exercise one should remember that coordination is the reason for doing.

Although a good and functional Live Hand moves a bit faster than the weapon-wielding hand. The Live Hand moves in full coordination with the other hand but it does not block the opponents stick first. The Live Hand is the weapon used by a corto stylist in a closed-quarter engagement where striking using the olisi, is no longer desirable or possible.

Without the Live Hand, no corto stylist would dare to fight in a short range, that is why it so rare to find a one-armed corto stylist.All the subtle techniques mentioned above are appreciated only by those eskrimadores who prefer to engage in short range.

For long distance fighters, on the other hand, the concept and application of the Live Hand is almost always redundant or improbable. Lastly, the use of the Live Hand is not limited to the corto stick fighting stylists or monopolized by them, in fact many Filipino knife fighting styles (like Baraw Sugbo), are also using the Live Hand.
Posted by nednep

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