by GM Sam Buot
We know not what is in store for the future of the art of Balintawak eskrima. Some styles in the United States have expanded the art to include MMA style fighting with full contact strikes with sticks. Yet, with all kinds of padding, it robs the art of its original essence of graceful stick fighting.
Like literature, painting, dance, and music, eskrima is an art and a science of grace, precision, speed, strength and beauty. I would rather keep it that way. Although clad in violence, martial artists seldom resort to violence. They understand that violence could be deadly and fatal— hardly a price to be paid for an affront, insult or provocation. Besides, the mere study and practice of it are a release of internal aggression and hostility. On the lighter side, most martial artists are henpecked and hectored husbands. They certainly cannot hit or use force and violence against a termagant and shrewish wife. I confess – I cannot and will not hit my wife. Discretion is the better part of valor – walk away. Okay gang: spare me from your wrath!
Eskrima is a great responsibility in the hands of the master. A deadly art should never be taught to irresponsible, violent, ill-tempered brutes, thugs and bullies. Greater care must be taken to keep it from the criminally minded. In the wake of world terrorism, be careful that you are not training future terrorists who would use their skills for evil. This is a late concern for me, seeing the brutality viciousness and callous inhumanity of terrorists. If they are trained with our skills, they will be even more vicious and unmerciful. When starting out to learn, they will come as sheep and be subservient until they don’t need you. Be very vigilant and even suspicious.
Eskrima should be used to defend the oppressed and not to oppress the weak and defenseless. It may be added that in this day of guns, it is never wise to swagger and abuse your skills because guns are great equalizers. It does not take much size, strength or training to be at par with the best martial artist. It is best to be soft-spoken, unpretentious and humble about your skills in martial arts. Also, remember, it is an art and a manly sport—although concomitantly a deadly means of self-preservation. In olden times, it was a means of survival. In some of our streets, it still is, if you are caught in certain places, situations and circumstances that require its use to protect yourself and your family from harm. After all, someone once said, “There are no second places in street fights.” It is not pretty and it is not fair. Thus, some advice, “Do not get into a fight but if you must, hit first and hit hard and get out.” Never underestimate your opponent. The guy with all the tough looking tattoos may not even know how to throw a punch. He may be making up in appearances what he lacks in skill. Beware of that scrawny little fellow; he may be the better trained fighter or resolute killer. It is to be hoped that, you good people, will never be challenged to use your art during these more civilized times. Unfortunately, there are still uncivilized people who roam our streets that may summon its use. This is when you summon your warrior and survivalist instincts.
Today, eskrimadors are bigger, stronger, and multi-talented with black belts and cross training in other martial arts. I find that among my students and I am sure all the Philippine trained eskrimadors will find that true among their own students. We have some secrets and they want to learn it. As I have said, the mark of a true teacher is the desire to develop students that will turn out better than them and develop the art and the skills even farther. My students still cling to Balintawak Eskrima and acknowledge that they are applying my eskrima principles in their fighting and have improved their own art and eskrima with their multi-faceted skills.
Sadly, those with the least knowledge are the most eager ones to try their skills. This is known as the “green belt mentality” that I have addressed earlier. Be careful in working out with people from other arts or other eskrima styles that come to test you. Beware of treachery. Our grandmaster always warned us against the ruthless and treacherous (matrero). Martial artists are, by nature, probably more paranoid than most people are, always defensive against attack and treachery. That is the nature of the art. In working out in your club, guard against hurting your partner. Mutually learn during your workouts. Again, the nature of the beast involves occasional accidents. Do not take things personally. In sparring with outsiders and strangers, be sure to define the nature of the workout. Will it be controlled or full contact fight? Act accordingly! Be on the alert as even in a controlled workout, the situation can quickly turn nasty into heated full contact combat. Do not be treacherous and correspondingly, do not be a victim of treachery.
Eskrima is effective as a self-defense system for the young, women and the elderly. Again, think of eskrima as an art, and then you will enjoy it for its sophistication, grace and techniques rather than for its violence and brutality. Think of it as an exercise that may extend your life a bit. Use it as a form of fellowship and brotherhood among your fellow enthusiasts. Use it to build self-confidence, character, humility, cool-headed calmness and composure in the face of conflict and hostility. My teaching involves responsibility with the use of this skill.
Enjoy your study, be safe and have fun! Remember, it is an art! Also, remember from whom you learned it. Do not steal and hijack techniques and call them your own. I do not care for material reward but I demand respect, gratitude, allegiance and loyalty to the art, to the masters and to your teachers, and that includes me, if I am your teacher.
Global Fellowship of Legends and Grandmasters
Editor’s Note — Among his great efforts at keeping the art of Balintawak alive and well for future generations, GM Buot hosted The Global FMA Fellowship of Grandmasters and Legends occurred Sept. 1-3, 2016 in Mesa, Arizona. GM Sam Buot and students did such a great job of pulling together this momentous event, featuring leading masters and grandmaster from Balintawak and other FMA styles, including: Sam Buot, Bobby Taboada, Nene Gabz, Bobby Tabimina, Ver Villasin, Hilmar Siebert, David Hatch, Tim Hartman, Richard Parsons, Mark Wiley, Michael Giron, Dan Medina, Ron Balicki, Diana Inosanto, Harley Elmore, Oliver Reitz, Wesley Crisostomo, and others. About 100 students studied details of many FMA styles, including: Balintawak, Kalis Ilustrisimo, Serrada Escrima, Derobio Escrima, Giron Eskrima, JKD/Kali, Sayoc Kali, Pinakatay Eskrima, Modern Arnis, and Integrated Eskrima.
Learn the complete history of Balintawak, from its founding to the present day, as well as the 12 angles of attack, blocks, strikes, partner training drills and disarms, in Grandmaster Sam Buot’s comprehensive book Balintawak Eskrima. Get your copy while their still available.