The Reeker Report
Miyamoto Musashi's Water Book and how it applies to Kalirongan
(Largo Mano) Eskrima
Ronald R. Reekers June 6, 1996
Table of Contents
Acknowledgment (return to Table of contents)
I dedicate this thesis to my students who with their enthusiasm and insatiable desire to learn has inspired me to learn the way of the Martial Artist. I pay my respects to all the Masters and instructors that have molded me along this path. I am thankful for the day when my good friend and Guro, Sam Dungca came to my house with the intention of mutually sharing each others Martial Arts. That day set in motion my passion for Kalirongan Largo Mano Eskrima. It goes without saying that I am indebted to Sensei Arsenio Advincula who is the Master of our system, who's presence and power of conviction radiates in Sam. I would like to thank Dwight Hope for his unending support within my school and Master Al Anderson who's universal knowledge of sparring permeates
through all my Martial Arts. Finally, I owe a lifetime debt to my family, who with their patience and support has seen me through the Way.
Preface (return to Table of contents)
This thesis is about the similarities between Miyamoto Musashi's Ichi School of Sword Fencing and Kalirongan Largo Mano Eskrima. The intent of the paper is not to describe in detail the sword fighting system of Largo Mano, but only how it pertains to Musashi's Water Book. Therefore, the assumption is that whoever reads this thesis already has a fundamental knowledge of Kalirongan. To elaborate about Kalirongan Largo Mano stances, strikes and maneuvers is not in the scope of this text, and would not be practical.
Bridging the gap between the Water Book and Largo Mano was not a difficult one. It is no accident that both systems are similar. For one thing, both systems come from a proud and fierce island people. Both systems were developed under war like conditions, unproven or inferior techniques died on the battlefield. The underling principle behind each technique is to generate enough power to kill the opponent. The lay of the lands are similar. The connection between nature and Martial Arts was inseparable in both systems.
The histories of the two islands are not inseparable either. The unfortunate occupation of the Filipino Islands by Japan, Spain and the United States had given rise to new ways of fighting the enemy. The Filipino people were able to indoctrinated the fighting style of their enemy and use that knowledge to liberate their beloved islands. [In fact, two of Master Arsenio Advincula's instructors, Pete Rado and Tony Navarro, were Filipino scouts during World War II.] Therefore, many aspects of Spanish fencing and Japanese Kenjitsu can be found in Largo Mano.
On a special note, Filipino Martial Arts is currently experiencing a renaissance within the United States. Promoters of this powerful art like Arsenio Advincula, Ramiro Estalilla, Dan Inosanto and many others have shown the American Martial Arts community that without the knowledge of Kali, Eskrima or Arnis de Mano, the Martial Artist will not achieve his whole potential. Because of this, many Martial Artist in the United States cross train in Eskrima. In my opinion, there exist a two edged sword here. In general, Martial Artist of the United States care little about tradition and lineage. Few of us know who our own Great Great Grandfathers are. We are a melting pot. It is part of our culture to bring in other cultures and wash out those things we feel are not to our advantage. We incorporate those things that
we can use and call it our own. Martial Arts is not exempt from this. Therefore, it is up to the instructors to make sure the students understand the history, traditions and lineage of the Art he is teaching. It will also be part of the American experience to attempt to quantify the Martial Art by doing research outside the specific style and adding to it. This paper therefore walks that fine line between tradition and incorporation. It is certainly not my intention to lessen the power of Musachi's Ichi school of sword fencing or Kalirongan's Largo Mano Eskrima, but instead add to them within the framework of the American Martial Arts experience.
THE WATER SCROLLWATER (return to Table of contents)
Musashi used water as a metaphor for his personal strategy of martial arts. He believed that the Martial Arts is as life giving as water. He observed that in the natural world the primary element that keeps the world alive is water; in feudal Japan ones Martial Arts ability was an integral part of life. Like water, if a Martial Artist is stagnated or poisoned then in any combat situation his life is in jeopardy. Another characteristic of water is its ability to bend and weave around heavy objects, but with the a persistence and accumulation of time the objects will begin to move aside, thus creating a channel for which the river can take form and grow. Water can also adapt to any situation. It takes on the form of its surroundings, yet molds it as well. An
Eskrimador must have these qualities if he is to be successful as a Martial Artist. The comparison of water to Martial arts is a wise one.
The purifying nature of water was also used by Musashi in describing his Ichi school (school of swordmanship). In other words, to compare ones Martial Arts system to water is to proclaim the purity of that system. In its most basic form, Musachi's Ichi school of sword fencing and our Kalirongan (Largo Mano) school of Eskrima is to be considered a pure system. Each is based off of simple fundamental attitudes, techniques and spirit of warriorship. We can self identify with our systems without any ambiguity. It is basic and right and as pure as water.
STATE OF MIND IN MARTIAL ARTS (return to Table of contents)
Musashi believed that in a state of combat the disposition of the fighter should be normal. Our belief in flowing and maintaining constant balance is akin to this concept. As in Musachi's Ichi school, Kalirongan Eskrima practice is based on the concept of blending and parrying our opponents attack; to become one with our actions. Body and mind work together as a single unit. Musashi also believed that though the fighter's state is normal, his attentiveness is completely focused. The fighter must project a strongheartedness yet be secretive in his attacks. He must show no bias to technique, but flow from one attack and respond with little preconceived plan. In our flowing exercises we are forced to think broadly and practice with absolute control. Our minds
must be in a flowing state of normality, yet focused on the kill.
PHYSICAL BEARING IN MARTIAL ARTS (return to Table of contents)
When Musashi writes about physical bearing he is referring to ones posture and gaze during the moment of combat. A fighter should maintain a straight posture and steady his eyes. In our Eskrima sparring we learn this quite early. If the back is leaning forward then naturally the head will lead as well. The most available cut in any weapon encounter is to the projected extremities like the knees, hands and if exposed, the head. In our sparring sessions we learn to keep our head back, and rely on our ability to rotate about our hip as taught in bamboo and angling drills. The ability to avoid a direct head attack is a matter of life or death. A straight posture and steady eyes is the source to that success.
Another aspect to physical bearing which is of great importance is when a Martial Artist has developed the "condition response" required of a warrior, then that warrior must also walk with that physical bearing at all times. Musashi writes, " It is essential to make your ordinary bearing the bearing you use in Martial Arts, and make the bearing you use in Martial Arts your ordinary bearing." Students are taught to have confidence in their Martial Arts and walk with that confidence at all times.
FOCUS OF THE EYES IN MARTIAL ARTS (return to Table of contents)
In sword fencing, as in stick fighting, ones perception is of less value than ones observation. Musashi believed that to perceive an opponent's attack is weak, where as to observe the attack is strong. The beauty of this concept lies in ones ability to react by observation and not be trapped by a wrongful guess. Eskrimadors are perfectionist in redirecting an attack. The parry-cut-thrust technique in Largo Mano is a perfect example of a redirect attack. As the opponent attacks, the Eskrimador will parry the cut thus exposing the enemy to a draw cut in the alternate direction. The Eskrimador kills his opponent by delivering a thrust to the enemy's neutral point. In order to apply this technique the Eskrimador must focus his eyes on his opponent's attack and
react with his own attack.
Musashi writes that the warriors observation must be broad. He must maximize his peripheral vision. An example of broad vision training can be found within the "Alphabet Techniques". The "D" pattern is taught by "looking" forward, yet "seeing" the baston's side cut with the corners of the eyes. This is particually important when the Eskrimador is being attack by multiple assailants. If the Swordsman focuses only on what goes on in front of him, much like a horse with blinders, he will leave himself open from the sides and back. The Eskrimador can therefore reduce his neutral point by employing a broader vision.
Musashi wants the warrior to see things that are far away, closely and see things that are close far away. He warns the Martial Artist from gazing intently on one spot. The analogy is much like staring at the back of a truck while driving down the road. Pretty soon you find yourself hypnotized. The focus must be broad. This strategy of broad observation also transcends from man to man encounters to large scale military operations. We can use it in the way we focus on our goals or organize our work force. A career can be ruined by not focusing on a broad scale.
GRIPPING THE SWORD (return to Table of contents)
In many sword schools, the student is taught to grip the sword as if you were shaking someone's hand. In this case, the little finger would wrap snugly around the sword and a lighter grip would progress forward to the forefinger. This puts the forefinger in a almost straight and relaxed state. Musashi was no different in his assessment of the sword grip. On the other hand, an Eskrimador is taught to grip the baston with a tight grip along the whole hand. The underlying difference between the two schools of thought are that a Daito (Samurai Sword) is a long razor blade used with two hands and must cut by drawing and a Bolo is a stout sword developed for chopping with one hand. One might conclude then that this section of the Water Book differs greatly from
our Largo Mano style. This is not the case.
Musashi writes that each grip is there as a killing grip. The grip should have no slack and never waiver or flinch. In all cases, the grip must never bind up the Swordsman. In other words, a fixed grip will bring death to the Martial Artist and a fluid grip will bring life. This principle is the underlying principle to any weapon grip and does not differ from Samurai to Eskrimador. The Eskrimador is taught from the beginning that a lose grip will invariably fall victim to a disarm. In Largo Mano we are discouraged from using too many "O" patterns due to the slack required to complete the pattern. We are taught to hit the opponent's hands as a primary disarm, especially when the enemy grip is in a loose state. Though a Largo Mano grip lacks any void, it still does not bind up the Eskrimador while
flowing with the weapon. The parry, cut and thrust patterns are based on the principle of a killing grip that flows. In conclusion, Musashi's principles for the grip agree with the gripping principle found in Largo Mano.
ON FOOTWORK (return to Table of contents)
Musashi writes about complimentary footwork. He says that both feet must work together in a right - left - right - left fashion. The feet should remain steady and avoid stomping. The stride must be normal and natural. In Eskrima we are taught mobility steps which abide by Musashi's footwork requirements. Side stepping is a perfect example of the coordinated movement from right to left and left to right. Some Kali systems will exaggerate this movement by bringing the knees up high to produce a "Chicken Walk". When the Eskrimador is practicing his patterns the stride is generally broad; but, when the Eskrimador goes into the battle the stride is normal, so to provide the maneuverability required under these conditions. Each foot works to compliment
the other while moving through and around the enemy with a steady and normal stride.
FIVE KINDS OF GUARDS (return to Table of contents)
Musachi's five guards are the upper, middle, lower, rightside and leftside. He writes that these guards are to be studied in general terms. To write down these guards as a well defined the exact positioning would be wrong. In essence, the intent of a guard is to kill. Whatever guard presents the warrior with the opportunity to cut down the enemy is a correct guard. In Largo Mano Eskrima we adhere to these concepts. The general guards in Eskrima are broken down in 6 positions; lower, right hip, right shoulder, left shoulder, left hip and middle position. In comparison, the only difference between our system and Musachi's is perhaps the high guard, which Musashi explains as a single guard. In Largo Mano we discern a high guard as right or left shoulder
position. But to describe the guards as a killing guard is true for both systems. The general guideline that govern these positions are similar.
We also agree with the individual assessments of the guards. For example, Musashi describes the upper, middle and lower guards as solid guards, and the right and left guards as fluid guards. All an Eskrimador has to do is go through a session of flowing drills and he will come to the same conclusion. The right and left sides lend themselves to lariats and fenders, which are intended to be used while angling to one side or the other. The more straight attacks lend themselves to umbrellas, where we use a squat, cross or modified forward bow. Musashi called the middle guard "the general" of all guards. The middle guard has centered itself among all other guards, and all other guards follow as a troop follows its commander. Parries and blocks can be generated from the middle with ease, thus making it
THE WAY OF THE LONG SWORD (return to Table of contents)
The way of the long sword in Musashi's terms is the way of calmness. The long sword cannot be wielded quickly like a short sword. To wield the sword hurriedly is called "short sword mincing"; it is ineffective and must be avoided. This is not to say the swing of the long sword is weak. On the contrary, the sword or baston must be swung powerfully with the intent to kill. The force and draw cuts are not quick strokes, but they are the way of the long sword, hence the name Largo Mano, meaning, "Large Hand".
PROCEDURES OF FIVE FORMAL TECHNIQUES (return to Table of contents)
> First Technique
The first technique to Musachi's Ichi school starts with the middle guard, the Sword fighter is standing steady with the tip of the sword pointing at the opponent's face. The preferred sparring position in Largo Mano is also the middle guard. As the enemy (Uki) strikes downward, the warrior (Tori) parries to his right. Uki will then return with an upward strike which Tori hits upwards as well. As Uki returns with a third attack Tori cuts Uki's hands from below. By moving with the opponent Musashi has forced his opponent to attack from an exaggerated upper position, thereby giving the Tori adequate time to cut his enemy. The technique falls within the realms of Largo Mano because whenever the Eskrimador is attacked his objective is to parry the attack by cutting in the direct of the attack and along the enemy's
> Second Technique
The second technique may have more to do with "reading" your opponent. From the upper position the Tori attacks simultaneously with the Uki. If the Tori misses with the first attack he leaves his sword in the downward position instead of returning to its original position. The enemy is killed when he makes the mistake of returning to his original position. In Cinco Tero, our five strike pattern, the no. 1 and 2 cuts of preferred, fall within the category of the second technique. It is essential in both systems to first cut with a force cut and returning with a draw cut. This will reset the Tori so that he may return the attack if need be. If Tori applies only a force cut and no draw cut, then his wasted motion of resetting will prove to be fatal.
The third technique starts from the lower position and cuts upward before the opponent can launch an attack. This falls under the "suspension" attack; the Tori suspect Uki will attack so Tori attacks first. Lower position is considered to be weaker than the upper or middle position, since the Tori must take the initiative by attacking first. The principle would hold true for any weapon system.
> Fourth Technique
The warrior begins with a left horizontal guard and cuts the opponent from below with a diagonal cut. This technique requires superior footwork and coordination to execute successfully. The Eskrimador spends many hours practicing the foot work required to make this technique work. In our angling drills, we are taught to step in on either side of our opponent by way of a diagonal pattern. As the Eskrimador angles from one side to the other, he will execute a diagonal cut from below. An example of this can be found in the no. 2 and 3 cuts of preferred. A triangle shape is used as a universal emblem for Filipino Martial Arts and it can be traced back to the footwork and diagonal cuts.
This technique is essentially the opposite of the fourth technique such that the sword is held in a right horizontal guard and the cut is diagonally upward into the enemy. It is to be noted that Musashi did not intend these techniques to be practiced as "detailed" techniques. He writes that the warrior must find his own rhythm and flow with the previous techniques as a guideline. With practice the conditioned response of the Eskrimador will begin to manifest himself with a personal style. The ultimate goal is the ability to call on any techniques by first sensing the mind of the opponent, reacting to the attack and maneuvering to the most advantageous position.
THE TEACHING OF HAVING POSITION WITHOUT A POSITION (return to Table of contents)
Musashi warns about keeping the sword in a fixed position. The position of the sword should always lie in relationship to the opponent. As the opponent redirects, or changes guard, the Swordsman should change his guard according. In Largo Mano there are six defensive positions as described above. As the enemy changes his hand position, so also does the Eskrimador. The Martial Artist will either match the position which is best for parrying or he will position himself opposite his opponent for meets. In any case, the objective in Musachi's school, as well as ours, is to best position oneself to kill the enemy.
Having a position without having a position is a Zen concept. What Musashi is saying here is not think of position but instead, vary position with the clear singular thought of killing his opponent. Many Martial Artist make the mistake of thinking solely on technique or style, and not on killing their opponent. When the mind is singularly focused on killing, the body will follow with no conscience thought and no preconceived hindrance.
STRIKING DOWN AN OPPONENT WITH A SINGLE BEAT (return to Table of contents)
When the Swordsman reaches a position of advantage and his opponent becomes indecisive, he must quickly cut his opponent with no body movement. When one looks at the surface of this technique it appears to be contrary to the Kali philosophy of flow. In Iaido (the Japanese art of drawing the sword) the practitioner is taught to make the cut one singular quick movement were as in Eskrima we are taught to flow from one technique to another. The problem here is that flowing and a quick strike are actual working together in both schools. A singular quick strike will not work unless it flows freely from the body, and without complete unobstructive flow from the mind we cannot have a quick strike. To separate each concept is good for understanding reasons
but impractical for combat.
THE RHYTHM OF THE SECOND SPRING (return to Table of contents)
This technique is reminiscent of our sparring drills, where feinting is used to offset the enemy's timing. As you strike at the opponent and he pulls back or parries, feint a strike to further tense up the enemy. As the enemy begins to relax, kill him without hesitation. Strong powerful strikes are a trademark of Largo Mano. As heavy hitters, the Largo Manoist must unnerve the opponent and execute the cuts to their greatest potential. The rhythm of the second spring is essential to this execution.
STRIKING WITHOUT THOUGHT AND WITHOUT FORM (return to Table of contents)
This technique is used when both swordsman attack each other. In this case, the Martial Artist takes on a offensive body position and strikes with power and speed. The cut is said to generate from space and is completed when it's through the opponent. This technique is the principle of the Kalirongan's "force" cuts. In a spontaneous attack, instead of looking to trap the opponent we are looking to cut the hands off. A force cut is intended to sever the appendages (defang the snake). The cut is instantaneous and without obstruction from the mind, body or spirit.
THE FLOWING WATER STROKE (return to Table of contents)
The Martial Artist and the opponent are toe to toe and the opponent attempts to pull away. At this time the swordsman attacks with a large singular stroke. The water flow stroke is intended to cut down the enemy as rushing water cuts through a mountain. The concept is to drive down from an upper plain. The "C" and "I" cuts are examples of this technique. The forward aggressive motion is called a charge and must be executed when the enemy is indecisive.
THE CHANCE HIT (return to Table of contents)
The chance hit is a high percentage hit. With a single cut the swordsman strikes at the head, hands and feet. The odds are that with such an all encompassing stroke the enemy will be cut. The Cinco Tero Preferred pattern is practice with just this intent. A stroke which crosses across the body has a greater percentage of hitting something that a quick snap cut to a single point. Thus the term, "Preferred". The body is the focus, the chance are the limbs.
THE SPARK HIT (return to Table of contents)
This technique is used when both swords are locked. Musashi writes that without raising the sword, strike your opponent down. This maneuver has more to do with spirit or ki than technical sword skill. Musashi was about six feet tall and muscular. He was an unusually large Japanese man for that time. The spark hit was an example of the power moves Musashi often uses due to his enormous strength. Largo Mano is a power Eskrima system as well; reinforced, plow and thrust cuts are example of some power moves found within the system. The spark hit is therefore applied in Largo Mano when the Eskrimador finds himself locked with his foe. Without being concerned with the object in front of him, the Eskrimador drives through without altering his sword position.
THE CRIMSON FOLIAGE HIT (return to Table of contents)
The crimson foliage cut is used when the Martial Artist dominates the enemy's sword. The hit comes from above and knocks the opponent's sword down, thereby creating an opening for the final cut. The technique is reminiscent of the parry from the no. 4 cut in Cinco Tero Unpreferred. Again Musashi attempts to teach us the greater power of the spirit such that the enemy's weapon become nothing more than an obstacle to the kill. To knock an opponent's sword down takes courage and a higher will to win.
THE BODY INSTEAD OF THE SWORD (return to Table of contents)
Musashi was able to differentiate between the body and the sword. In combat situations the body takes on an offensive posture. In essence, body takes place of the sword, and the sword moves independent of the body. In Eskrima there are a number of strikes and blocks that can be executed from any one position. The position of the Eskrimador is the foundation for these techniques. If the Martial Artist does not establish a good foundation, then any attack or block from that foundation will be week and ineffective. The body posture therefore takes precedence over the strike, and the strike is independent of the body.
STRIKING AND HITTING (return to Table of contents)
There is a definite difference from a hit and a strike in Musashi's way of sword fighting. A strike is a deliberate stroke of the sword. The mind set of such a cut is without ambiguity and with purpose. To feel out an opponent the Martial Artist will employ a hit, its purpose is exploratory. The force, draw and thrust cuts would be considered the striking techniques of Largo Mano, they are deliberate cuts intended on killing the enemy. A hit is more like running into something. Another distinction between striking and hitting is that a hit can be made into a strike, but the opposite is not true. For example, stop cuts are considered hits, they are intended to hit the opponent and redirect the attack in another direction. Therefore, as a stop cut can turns
into a draw cut, a draw cut will not turn into a stop cut.
THE BODY OF THE SHORT ARMED MONKEY (return to Table of contents)
Musashi did not believe in reaching with the sword. The sword fencer pushes his the reflexes in order to avoid reaching. The swordsman practices getting into the opponent by moving his body into the enemy before he has a chance to strike. This technique is used if the Eskrimador was able to avoid the enemy's attack by angling to his outside. This type of techniques is practiced while executing a Running Cut. The technique is completed by scissoring through the enemy, moving to his neutral side and thrusting to Uki's back. The movement behind the scissors gives the block it's power. Trained reflexes and a keen eye are essential to the success of this advance technique.
THE STICKY BODY (return to Table of contents)
On the attack, the Martial Artist will use his body as a weapon as described above. The sticky body is when a sudden rush clashes both bodies together. In Musachi's strategy, the body of the swordsman must stick to the body of the enemy thereby alleviating any room between the foes. The bodies are welded together. Though Largo Mano is intended to avoid close confrontations, there are a variety of techniques taught with the sticky body strategy in mind. For example, the hanger arm trap and the head pull are intended to body weld with the opponent, reverse stance and by drawing the baston back to allow for a thrust to the opponent's heart. Largo Mano plow cut and reinforced cut are intended to be used with full sticky body in order to drive through the
opponent. If the Eskrimador does not take the lesson of sticky body seriously, he will inevitably run to ruin during any clash.
COMPARING HEIGHTS (return to Table of contents)
Musashi writes that when the warrior closes in on the opponent he must extend his legs, waist and neck in order to take the upper position. The strategy is psychological as well as physical. The Martial Artist comes in looking taller and bigger. The Largo Mano practitioner is taught to be a fierce fighter with the intent of overpowering his foe. The extensions of the weapons is an extenuation of the body which cuts into the enemy from a higher place. We close in strongly and dominate the enemy. The mind cannot waiver from the encounter with any since of smallness. To hesitate and cower would be the death of the Eskrimador.
GLUING (return to Table of contents)
Musashi explains that the sword of the Martial Artist must glue itself to the enemy's weapon. By doing this the swordsman can manipulate to foe's weapon to his best advantage. The parry exercises in Cinco Tero patterns are intended to manipulate the opponent's baston thus providing openings for the kill. The swordsman is taught very early that to leave the opponent's weapon unattended will lead to a flowing water stroke or a second spring strike as described above.
THE BODY BLOW (return to Table of contents)
Musashi used this technique when closing in on an opponent's side. Using his power and size he would strike very hard by striking the enemy's chest with his shoulder. The power of the blow would send the opponent wheeling back. Musashi explains that if done precisely you can kill the opponent with this blow. This technique, though not often used in Largo Mano, can be a great asset to the Eskrimadors arsenal. Largo Mano techniques have their basis on evading and attacking, but in a clash with the use of the technique the Eskrimador could drive the opponent back and kill him as he falls back.
THREE PARRIES (return to Table of contents)
The first of the three parries is as the opponent attacks, the Swordsman will stab his sword towards the enemy's eyes then quickly dash the attacking sword to the side. The second parry is called a "Stabbing Parry". The sword stabs towards the opponents eyes with the intent of clipping the neck. And the third parry make use of the sacrifice hand by parrying the attack then moving in with a punch to the opponent's face.
Looking at the three parries it is easy to converge the two systems of fighting. In the first case, nearly all Largo Mano parries are to the side. This allows the Eskrimador to angle from one side or the other, thus maneuvering to the opponent's neutral side. In the same vain, the tip of the baston is pointing towards the opponents eyes or heart. In the second case, in Largo Mano we have what is called a "Fencer's Parry". The Fencer's Parry comes from the Spaniards who occupied the Philippines for many years. Much like Musashi's Stabbing Parry, the Fencer's Parry deflects off the opponent attack and drives into the enemy by way of a thrusting cut (sak-sak). The targets of a Fencer's Parry is the eyes, neck, heart, abdomen and groin. In the third case, the sacrifice hand is an integral part of
Eskrima. The hand is often used as a block, check, and especially in Largo Mano, a parry. The first day of training for the Eskrimador is the skill of passing. As the Largo Manoist progresses into his intermediate training, we move to passing and attacking with the empty hand. In advance training the Eskrimador learns the Martial Art of Espada y Daga, which employs the used of the long sword and the knife. The knife is used in the same manner as the sacrifice hand with the exception of thrusting. The parallels between Musashi's Ichi school of sword fencing and Largo Mano is astounding.
STABBING THE FACE (return to Table of contents)
At the interval between the opponents strike and the swordsmen's strike, the swordsmen stabs towards the opponents face. In order to avoid the stab the opponent will shrink back. At the instance the opponent moves out of the way the Martial Artist kills the enemy with a decisive blow. The idea is to cause the opponent to cower away, thus giving strength to the Martial Artist. This skill of stabbing the face is a very difficult technique to learn. In Largo Mano we practice our bambooing in order to offset the enemy in the manner. The challenge here to move twice as fast as the opponent. With every shot from the opponent the Martial artist must deliver two shots. Like all these techniques, it must be practiced diligently.
STABBING AT THE HEART (return to Table of contents) Musashi employed this technique when confronted in small corridors. In this case, the swordsmen has no room above or to the sides of him. He must rely on his ability to thrust to the enemy's heart. The tip of the sword must be pointed directly at the opponent's heart and the thrust path must be straight. This is the bread and butter of Largo Mano. In Eskrima it is not so much the amount of blows one executes as it is the "telling blow". This is the decisive blow that kills the opponent. A thrust to the heart is a decisive blow.
THE CRY (return to Table of contents)
The cry is the most natural weapon in a human beings arsenal. In infancy to get attention we cry. The problem lies not in the act of the cry, but the method in which we cry out. Musashi used the force of the cry and its physiological power to give superhuman strength to his attacks, stabbings, or counterblows. In Musashi's way of thinking, the cry begins with the raising of the sword and shouts in the instance of attack. The cry is the inner spirit moving out from the self and projecting through the weapon. The spiritual aspects of this section is too large and complicated for this thesis, but the cry is found throughout all Martial Arts.
THE SLAPPING PARRY (return to Table of contents)
At the instance the blows are exchanged, the Swordsman hits the opponents sword to one side and continues the cut into the enemy. A slapping parry is not a hard hit or a catch or block, but a definite hit to redirect the opponents sword. This type of parry is typical in Largo Mano. The intention is to redirect the attack yet keep the point of the baston towards the assailant. To swipe at the strike is wrong.
Another aspect of the slapping parry, which is prevalent in the Largo Mano system is duel use of the sword as a weapon and a shield. The Eskrimador will cover behind his baston, and deflect the attack. The Martial Artist will return the attack as the opponent's openings reveal themselves. Slapping parries are a perfect example of that philosophy in cover and cut.
STANDING AGAINST MANY OPPONENTS (return to Table of contents)
For the times, Musashi was revolutionary in his approach to swordsmanship. Not having a Master (ronin), Musashi would travel throughout Japan challenging the local Masters to duels to the death. In fact, most of the matches did end in death thus humiliating the Master as well as the school. The school's honor had to be avenged. Due to the unorthodox training method, Musashi was able to develop skills not allowed in a formal or a classical dojo. The necessity to develop methods for fighting multiple assailants was a matter of survival. This is how the Two Sword Method came about. The Samurai of the day had three main weapons; the daito (long sword), the wakisashi (short sword) and the tanto (knife). The two sword method was the use of the daito in one hand
and the wakisashi in the other. This is not to preclude the tanto, in fact it was often used in place of the wakisashi. The Eskrimador will immediately recognize this as Espada y Daga. Espada y Daga is considered to be one of the highest form of Martial Arts within the Filipino fight systems. The employment of the sword and dagger requires great coordinated skill between moving in an out of sword and dagger distance. It would not be practical to go into the multitude of techniques that Largo Mano Espada y Daga has to offer, but it is sufficient to say that Musashi's Two Sword Method does not deviate from Espada y Daga.
Another aspect to Musashi's stand against multiple opponents is in which he maneuvered the enemy. Musashi writes to first kill the ones that press forward. These fighters tend to be the leaders of the group and if killed, can often shatter the coherency of the group. Musashi says not to wait, take up an offensive posture thus challenging the assailants confidence in numbers. As the Swordsman attacks, he must swing both swords together, killing all attackers from all sides. As the fight progresses the Martial Arts can force the group into a single line. The Martial Arts accomplishes this by looking for terrain or obstacles that will force the assailants to funnel into the line. When this is done then the Martial Artist can kill each assailant one by one. Musashi says to sweep in powerfully forcing the group to
double up on itself. The swordsman can find a rhythm and beat upon the enemy. The assailants are at the mercy of the Swordsman.
ADVANTAGE IN DUELING (return to Table of contents)
From this chapter on Musashi begins to lecture on the how to master the way of the Water Book. It is a practical and important part of this manuscript. No comparison between Musashi's Ichi School and Largo Mano Eskrima needs to be made. What he says here is universal to all aspects of the Martial Artist's life and spirit.
In the advantage to dueling the Martial Artist must strive to understand the Laws of Martial Arts. That is to say winning. Some have perverted this Laws to meaning winning at all cost, Musashi never says that. Throughout the Book of Five Rings Musashi writes about developing alliances, mastering over self and learning through others and nature. Musashi himself, though self centered as a youth, explained that he did not understand the Laws of Martial Arts till he was in his fifties and had humbled himself before nature and god.
Winning is the process of moving beyond yourself. The strategy of the Martial Artist is therefore practice. The form of practice found in this section of the Water Book is person to person. It must be understood though, simply beating an opponent does not fall under the Laws of Martial Arts. If the Martial Artist does not use the principles put down in the Water Book then he will not be practicing the true way. In the process of winning the Martial Arts must focus on technique described above and never waiver from that strategy.
THE SINGLE STROKE (return to Table of contents)
If the Martial Artist practices as described above then he can gain victory in a single stroke. All aspect of the Swordsman is focused. The mind, body and spirit is totally attuned to the task at hand. Again this aspect of Martial Arts transcend all aspects of ones life. During our day to day struggle, we can take an active roll in maneuvering our problems to our best advantage thereby participating in the true way. Opportunities arise and the person that understands the Laws of Martial Arts will not hesitate to react.
THE STATE OF DIRECT PENETRATION (return to Table of contents)
According to Musashi there are two states in which to achieved the true strategy of Martial Arts. One is to train the body. We call that "Condition Response". It is a physiology aspect of the human body to reproduce movement and gather strength by making and activity "second nature". We practice a technique over and over to the point where little thought is required to execute the move. The second state is to study strategy diligently. By listening to Masters of Martial Arts, and individual research, one can learn the Way.
EPILOGUE (return to Table of contents)
When comparing Musashi's Water Book to the Eskrima style of Kalirongan Largo Mano it is apparent that the underlining philosophies are the same. In essence, the strategy of winning over your opponent with sword in hand is the same. Musashi had broken down the formal attacks to five; upper, lower, right, left and middle. He also segregates the guards in the same manner. Like Largo Mano, he distinguishes the middle guard as the general. In wielding the sword, the Martial Artist must wield with the intent to kill. In Eskrima we call that the "telling bow". In order to master this technique the Martial Artist must sharpen the mind by practicing diligently. This is a truism throughout Martial Arts and throughout life. Practice puts the Swordsman in
tune with his assailant. He discerns the rhythm of his enemy and decisively kills him. Musashi urges the Martial Artist to take up the sword with the moral knowledge of good and bad. Like George Lucas' Star Wars, in truth Martial Arts has a dark force and a righteous force. The swordsman must always be aware of the path he is following. To learn all this is not a easy thing. To become a true Master of strategy the Martial Artist must not hurry through his learning process. He must understand his lessons, take them to heart and move to the next lesson. Musashi uses the proverb, "to walk a 1,000 miles you must take one step at a time". Practice the science of Martial this way; learn to overcome self thereby winning over people of lesser skill, then with practice learn to overcome people with greater skill. It must always
be remembered though, no matter how many people you win over, if it is not done with the use Martial Art science, then it is not the true way. Musashi explains that after the Martial Artist has learned these thing put before him, he can then apply it to larger scale military sciences. Finally, what will require a 1,000 days of practice to learn will take 1,000 days of practice to refine.
Bibliography (return to Table of contents)
Miyamoto Musashi, Books of Five Rings, (Translation by Thomas Cleary), Shambhala Dragon Editions, Boston & London,1993Other books of interest:A. Westbrook and O. Ratti, Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere, Charles E. Tuttle Company, Rutland, Vermont & Tokyo, Japan, 1970Bruce Lee, Tao of Jeet Kune Do, Ohara Publications, Inc., Santa Clarita, California, 1975Ernesto A. Presas, Arnis Presas Style and Balisong, Ernesto A. Presas, Manila, Philippines, 1988Eiji Yoshikawa, Musashi, Kodansha International, Tokyo, Japan, 1929
About the Author (return to Table of contents)
One morning in 1991, I was struggling my way up a flight of stairs trying to get to my desk. I had spent the previous night practicing Ju Jitsu breakfalls, free style throwing and grappling drills. Everything hurt. As I struggled up the stairs a young Filipino man asked what was wrong. I told him about my difficult workout and his eyes lit up. "I practice Ju Jitsu too!", he exclaimed. "How about we get together and workout?" I told him that I wasn't in the habit of working out with others outside my own dojo but he seemed like a good guy, so why not. The day arrived that Sam Dungca came over and immediately we hit it off. I did a little hand to hand sparring, no harm done, a little bo staff, nice and easy, a little bokken, I'm starting
to feel pretty good about myself, a little stick fighting and POW! I'm dead. Though I had previous training in Eskrima, the blocks - traps and striking patterns I was use to did not work this time. Each attack was parried by Sam. Wham! I'd get hit. Each block I executed was like putting a twig in front of a freight train. At that point I knew it was time to change my approach to Eskrima.
© Ron Reekers, 2000 All rights reserved
I need to state here that my previous training in Eskrima was more of an introductory to the art and not a specialty. When I started working out with Sam, I was in front of a Martial Artist who had dedicated his life to Mastering his style of Eskrima. The concepts that Sam has taught me did not invalidate my previous training, but instead enhanced it. To this day I teach both systems, but the emphasis now is in Kalirongan.
I often read about instructors that have 30 years of experience and Grand Masters with 40 years of experience and fighters with 20 death match wins and I humble myself to them all. I am relatively new to the Way. I was already married, had two children and was making my way through college before I started Martial Arts. The total of my years of Martial Arts training starts in the summer of 1986. I was never a great street fighter. I had about a 50/50 record in over 10 streetfights, and that is not that good. So when my sister, who was already studying Martial Arts, invited me to come to her self defense studio, I accepted. I did not walk in the dojo and instantly realize that this would be a major part of my life. I thought like most people, this will be fun till I get my Black Belt, and then I'm out of here.
I got my Black Belt from the American Colleges of Karate in AAm-Ka-Jitsu in 1990 and I'm still not "out of here". It is now as much of me as my name.
After I met Sam in 1992, I broke away from the American Colleges of Karate though I still keep in touch with my old instructor and Master. Through Sam I was able to meet Parker Linekin. I can say that Parker Linekin is the most comprehensive Martial Artist I have ever met. I studied Tai Chi for a year and American Kung Fu (based off of Ed Parker's Kenpo) for about 9 months. I suddenly had the misfortune of being laid off and had to pick up and move to Los Angeles. For a short time I studied Zendo-ryu (Shotokan) from Sensei Philip Skornia and later I met Sensei Fox, and began studying Danzan Ryu Ju Jitsu. Sensei Fox was instrumental in organizing much of the Ju Jitsu I had already learned but had not quantified. I moved to Huntington Beach in September of 1995 and began studying Shotokan at the Coast Defensive
Arts Center from Sensei Earl Treichel, a student of Fumio Demura. I'm am still a student of Danzan Ryu Ju Jitsu and Shotokan.
While living in Rodondo Beach my roommate was interested in learning Martial Arts, as well as some new friends from work, so in 1994 I started a small school in the back yard where we mostly studied Aiki Jitsu and Ju Jitsu. I continued the school in Huntington Beach and began teaching Largo Mano Eskrima. Sensei Treichel gave me the opportunity to use the dojo for my small group and the school began to grow. I currently teach an adult and a junior self-defense class (American Combat Kumite) and Eskrima with an emphasis on Kalirongan.
I keep walking the path as it lays out before me. As a Martial Artist I expect the unexpected and roll with the punches. What makes a Warrior? How does Martial Arts apply to today's climate? Why do we choose this path? These are all questions I contemplate on and yet have no answers. Maybe in 20 more years of study, I'll be able to know the true way. I take Musashi's words to heart, "Walking a thousand miles must be done one step at a time".