Saturday, September 16, 2017

Cross-stepping in Serrada Escrima?

Serrada Escrima, as taught by GM Angel Cabales, emphasizes simple, direct movement. This is especially seen in the footwork, which focuses on linear heel-toe alignment with an opponent’s centerline. Angel eschewed things like cross-steps or twisted body positions, though in fact examples of these can be found within the system. His “punch block” for angle #3 is an example of the latter. Cross-stepping, however, was not formally taught, at least in my experience. However, as with kicking, which Angel used sparingly and with just a couple of simple variants, he would tell students with experience in other systems to use what they knew from there too. While the basic concept taught is to learn to hold your ground with that linear alignment, in fact Angel understood movement, sometimes saying we weren’t born where we stood, so we knew how to move already. In practice, it isn’t always practical or possible to remain directly in front of someone, in their line of fire, and so lateral movement is necessary to find more advantageous positioning. Of course the first technique usually taught is the outside block for angle #1, which involves moving off-line without a cross-step, but are there times when the cross-step is a valid or even necessary option? I would argue yes. For instance, in backpedaling in a circular manner vs. a #2 (high strike to one’s right side), as opposed to the classic technique of facing the attack in place, one has the option to step ito the outside first with the lead right foot, which opens one’s centerline, or with the rear left foot, which will be a cross step. Of course either option is a brief transition, as we typically re-align into the linear centerline alignment. One clear example of cross-stepping from Angel himself, as captured on video, was a powerful #1 slash (high downward diagonal right forehand) while cross-stepping back to the left with the lead right foot. It’s a finishing type power blow, but as Serrada teaches constant vigilance against a persistent opponent, we don’t pose in that posture but continue to step through to re-establish our “spot”. Now on a personal level, given my background from Kenpo, Aikido, and especially Sonny Umpad’s “Visayan Style Corto Kadena”, I will sometimes in free flow carenza (form) utilize more cross-stepping and low stances compared to classic Serrada. Sometimes I’ll use these as well in sparring. After all, Serrada wasn’t designed to fight other Serrada fighters, but to deal with any style, and so I will simulate other methods as a way to give students or training partners a different look, as well as do practice deceptive ways to move in and out of range. Ultimately combat is free-flowing and unpredictable, as Bruce Lee famously preached, and so exploring various methods has value. In this I like to quote the famous artist Pablo Picasso, who said “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.”

Monday, September 11, 2017

Relationship of Serrada's lock position with Wing Chun's chi sao

Many martial artists have at least some glancing knowledge, if even only from YouTube, of Wing Chun’s chi sao exercise where partners face each other and interlock hands, each with one in a palm up position (tan sao) and the other in a downward hooking position (fook sao) … and hopefully I recalled those correctly. The hands are then rotated back and forth between these positions in the basic form of the exercise.

Less well known is the “lock-and-block” position used in Serrada Escrima, and perhaps some other FMA (Filipino Martial Art) systems as well – GM Hortensio Navales’ system from Panay comes to mind. In this position, the main weapon, be it a stick or blade, is in the primary hand, which generally and for this description we’ll assume to be the right. The hand is palm down (pronate), with the weapon basically parallel to the front of the body, pointed at a downward diagonal angle towards the left. In this manner it essentially can cover the torso defensively from about the right armpit to the left hip. The other (left) hand, holding a shorter weapon, generally a knife or dagger (daga), is basically on the same level as the right hand, so that it is above the longer primary weapon, but held back closer to the body, in reserve, and also so as not to impede any upward movement of the primary weapon. The shorter weapon generally points forward towards the opponent, so that the two weapons essentially form an x and y axis, or two sides of a box (your torso being a third side).

Now, take away the weapons, and what you see looks like one position from Wing Chun’s chi sao, with the left in tan sao and the right in fook sao. Conversely, put those weapons in the hands of a Wing Chun practitioner doing that and you pretty much can’t miss the similarity!

Whereas Wing Chun rolls the hands between these positions, Serrada does not …. but it can and sometimes should. Why? The lock-and-block position is designed for the primary weapon to jam and trap the opponent’s arm, allowing the opposite hand to strike targets. That sets up perfectly if you are outside of the right arm, or even inside of the left, but other positions can be trickier and possibly force you to have to cross yourself in less optimal manner. However, using that Wing Chun chi sao roll, we’ve now reversed the position of the weapons, where the short weapon takes on the role of checking while the primary weapon in the right hand does the dirty work.

So which position do we use? The right hand in the lock position, as first described above, is the main and most common position. One of our primary concepts, however, is directness, and so in checking, we try to utilize the hand closest to the limb being checked as it can orient more quickly and efficiently. This means there are times when we’ll need to check with the off-hand, which is where this rolling switch comes into play. GM Angel Cabales utilized this daga checking from time to time, though it wasn’t stressed in the curriculum and he always finished back in the primary position. That being said, we always want to have versatile options that meet the needs of a given situation.