Balintawak Eskrima teaches counters to all forms of blows and attacks of all popular Asian fighting arts. It does not emphasize contortions or acrobatics, although stretching, warming up and cardiovascular conditioning, power strikes, power punches and delivery of blows plus muscle and strength development certainly make good sense. Balintawak Eskrima is not an ostentatious style. The deeper secrets of are hardly displayed nor will it be likely seen in print. Even if displayed, the moves are subtle, inconspicuous and innocuous that it will go unnoticed by even sophisticated and trained martial artists. Even hands-on teaching to trained martial artists requires repeated and detailed instruction and demonstration of the finer points of the moves. Demonstrations of the Balintawak style is sometimes dull, as Bach and Mozart are dull to unsophisticated musicians. That is the reason that some Balintawak seminars are laced, embellished and embroidered with flashy stick twirling by the young masters.
Balintawak Eskrima is meant to inflict serious injury and harm, using all means to inflict maximum harm. It is and it was the fighting art of the streets and the battle fields. It still is a survival tool. It therefore has hardly been promoted as a sport. In the mid to late 1970s, there was an attempt to “civilize” the art to make it safer and more acceptable to the parents of students and acceptable to sports promoters. By then, it lost some of its true essence as a self-defense martial art. In eskrima, strikes considered as foul blows in other sports, are taught, developed and mastered into a science. Strikes, thrusts with the stick, hands and feet to nerve centers and vital points are meant to cause serious injury—more obviously like strikes to the head, knee breaks, elbow breaks and thrust to the eyes, throat and groin hits or groin grab.
To this day, Balintawak is still requires a one-on-one teaching method. That is, if you have to understand the nuances and fine shades of the art. Modern day schools have gone into lining up students and doing basic strikes. This cannot be a substitute for the personalized instruction of the master. This is commercialized teaching. Simple moves are broken down to obtain belts. This is ridiculous. I heard one school giving a white belt for learning strikes 1-6, the next belt for 6-12, etc. We never had belts. We were only as good as our last fight and you had to prove yourself every night at the clubhouse and did not get a pass for past glories and victories.
During club workouts, Anciong Bacon had several students and he had to make the rounds before he could spend valuable time with a student. Often, a student spent training time with his senior students by just the usual palakat with the head instructor or in sparring sessions with fellow students. Anciong would supervise instructions and executions were done correctly. When a student was waiting for an instructor, a student had to listen amid the din of clicking sticks, to what the Grandmaster was teaching other students. A diligent and attentive student could see, pick up and overhear valuable lessons. Therefore, although a student may have spent years at Bacon’s club, he may not have spent that much time in personalized instructions from the Grandmaster. That is not to say that some of his assistant instructors were not proficient. They were excellent. For many years, there was a very strong rivalry between clubs. There were no club visitations, sharing or display of techniques. Everything was held close to the chest. Now things are different.
Even with the most unselfish teacher, personal virtuosity is a perishable commodity that dies with the master when not taught and imparted or set to writing or recorded for posterity. That is the main reason for this attempt to preserve the style and secrets of Balintawak. So much, too much has been lost through secrecy. This feeble attempt is a frail effort to salvage and rescue the genius of Cebu’s great Grandmaster Anciong Bacon and those who came after him. I have spent my life practicing and documenting the Balintawak style. I share it with all who want to learn now, and recorded it in my book, Balintawak Eskrima, published by Mark Wiley’s Tambuli Media.