THE HISTORY OF BALINTAWAK ESKRIMA

By Sam Buot, Sr.
 

Eskrima, arnis, kali, kalirogan or garote as it is variously know in a polyglot country like the Philippines, is an art indigenous to the Filipinos. It is not copied, rehashed or borrowed from anything foreign. It was developed. by ancient Filipinos, who fought with rattan sticks, balisong, kris, pinute, kampilan and bolo knives. That was before the advent of gun and European cannons. Its history is imbedded deep way back into the pre-historic Philippines.

ANCIONG BACON (1912 – 1981), FOUNDER OF BALINTAWAK

By John Soriano

Standing at 5 feet, 2 inches tall, and no more than 120 pounds, he was dimunitive in physical stature, a giant in terms of his influence and impact in Filipino Martial Arts history. Venancio "Anciong" Bacon was born in 1912 in Carcar, Cebu.  He started his training at the Labangon Fencing Club, learning the Corto Linear style from Lorenzo "Ensong" Saavedra, his only teacher. In 1933 the Doce Pares Club was established, Anciong Bacon was one of the first twenty-four members. In 1952, fed up with the personal bickering and internal politics of the Doce Pares Club, Bacon left, starting his own club.

The newly formed club began training in the backyard of a watch shop owned by one of Bacon's students. The shop was located on a small side street in Colon, called Balintawak, which eventually became the name of the style.  He was described as lightning fast and surgical with a stick. He had a rare talent to be able to employ varying force to his exact targets on his adversary's body, and exploiting their balance and coordination. 

Bacon was a veteran of a great many death matches in Cebu, but his greatest virtue was his constant desire to improve his art, diligently discovering techniques throughout the years, never ceasing his path. He taught his art to anyone who desired to learn it. The 1950's and 1960's saw the "Golden Age" of eskrima in Cebu - Eskrimadors from various camps tested each other's skills in all out challenges.  These resulted in injuries and sometimes deaths. Some were under honorable circumstances, while others treacherous. Venancio Bacon was ambushed in the dark while walking to his home in Labangon. He killed his assailant in self defense, but he was incarcerated for murder, the judge considered that his martial skills were lethal weapons and should have been used with restraint.

Venancio Bacon was paroled from prison in the mid 1970's.  When he returned to Cebu he continued to check up on students, making sure the quality of Balintawak was up to his standards. He regularly attended training sessions led by Jose Villasin and Teofilo Velez. It was here that Bacon saw the next generation of Balintawak fighters, he was satisfied. A few years after, Venancio Bacon died, leaving a legacy known around the world as BALINTAWAK.

GRANDMASTER BOBBY TABOADA

By John Soriano

As a young student of Balintawak Eskrima, Bobby Taboada made a bold statement to his teachers that one day he would promote the art to the world. Today he is recognized as one of the pioneers and most visible proponent of introducing Balintawak outside of the Philippines. His International Balintawak organization based in Charlotte, North Carolina, is global.

Known for his explosive and powerful brand of eskrima, GM Bobby was a veteran fighter of combat and tournament competition.  He was trained by all the Balintawak masters in the practical aspects of combat fighting, including: Great Grandmaster Anciong Bacon, Grandmaster Jose Villasin, and his primary teacher Grandmaster Teofilo Velez.  GM Bobby's mission is the same as when he left the shores of the Philippines in 1979 - to promote Balintawak Eskrima worldwide.

Having experienced violent and deadly fights and taught the "old school" way, which was often brutal, he emphasizes training safely. GM Bobby conducts training for law enforcement officers,  martial arts instructors (of all styles), and those individuals who he thinks have attained maturity, discipline and the capacity necessary to learn his art. He states,  "in my over 40+ years of experience in martial arts,  I believe the hardest thing to learn is how to defend, the easiest is how to strike, hit, punch or kick."  Based on this philosophy he places primary emphasis on defense and the counter. His advice to students of all martial arts:  "All martial arts have something good to offer, take it, study it, practice it, think about the counter, then it is yours - then one day you will be one of the masters."

Guru John Soriano

By Itsa Shash

Personally trained and certified by system founder Grandmaster Bobby Taboada, Guru John Soriano established Balintawak Seattle in 2008, the first Balintawak school in Washington state. The original group consisted of a few select individuals that trained out of Guru John's garage. Due to his dedication to the art, hard work, and good example there are now Balintawak schools located all along the I-5 corridor throughout Washington. Guru John is the Pacific Northwest Liason to the International Balintawak Organization and an appointed Ambassador for the World Eskrima Balintawak Arnis Federation.

Itsa Shash, Olympia Instructor

Call (253) 313 - 4523 

or email shash_itsa@yahoo.com