Yesterday I had the opportunity to experience another outstanding escrimador, grandmaster Bobby Tabimina of Tabimina Balintawak, the last direct protege of founder Anciong Bacon. “Sir Bob”, as his students call him (and he often calls others “Sir ___” as well) is an example “par excellence” of a word I coined awhile back, “intentity”, combining intentionality and intensity.
An imposing presence, he paces back and forth with the restless energy of a tiger, making eye contact with everyone as he moves up and down the line. His teaching methodology is a provocative mixture, ranging from discourse on psychology to physiology while sprinkling in humor to engage his audience, but just as quickly as a summer cloudburst he can rachet up a fierceness that is undeniably impressive.
The core of this teaching is developing the reflexes to handle extreme close range combat. Defense is paramount to surviving, and once basic counters are understood, the training rapidly advances to random non-pattern based counter-for-counter feeds. As students’ reactions improve, the pace and intensity continually increase. This is one-on-one training, because these are skills that can only be “installed” (as he likes to say) under stress, so the skill and control of the instructor are vital components. This, too, is the reason they train with tapered rattan, because the lighter tip reduces impact for the strikes that inevitably occur.
This summer has opened fresh vistas for me, from Ron Lew’s stick lock-flow to Bobby Tabimina’s reflex training (interestingly, both Ron Lew and Bob Tabimina have trained with Cacoy Canete). Humbling though it’s been, there is a refreshing sense of renewal in encountering new puzzles to unlock. Bruce Lee described a punch as a question that asks if you know the answer. Well, the masters at the top of the FMA food chain, especially from the tried-and-true Visayan systems, aren’t just asking questions, they’re presenting curriculums for a PhD in combative science. I may have a long way to go to get there, but I know that the journey will never be boring!