Fighting with Largo Mano

First let me say that I disagree with the FMA community about the existence of three ranges of Eskrima combat (“close”, “medium”, and “long”). In my opinion, for *fighting*, there are only two ranges–short and long. What many consider to be medium range is my definition of “long” range. I do not acknowledge the FMA community definition of “long” range, because that range is not really a fighting range it is a “safe” range. Sort of like two guys boxing. If they stay so far away from each other that they cannot hit each other, they are not fighting at all.

Next, the styles of fighting known as Largo Mano, Singko Tiros, and Ocho Ocho are essentially the same thing. I have studied all three, and have learned that they are merely terms for a specific way of fighting. Now, each teacher had his own methodology and approach to training and fighting. Yet the tactics and techniques of each style are almost identica. The only difference have been that each teacher claimed ownership of the styles and that they have minor changes to the techniques which identified the system rather than change the use. And example of this would be what is known as the roof block followed by the leg hit (we call it a number 3), performed by the Largo Mano fighter; while the Ocho Ocho fighter would simply use that combination as one side of his Figure 8 motion with the stick. And finally, the Singko Tiros guy has the same combination as a part of his Asterisk or Star-shaped striking pattern.

I am not a fan of teaching my art–not even teaching another master’s art–to strangers, but I would like to share some wisdom from this very effective fighting style with you.

What makes Largo Mano a unique system is that you must control the distance to keep the opponent at a stick’s length. This will prevent him from being able to grab your stick, grab you, or use his hands and feet effectively. Doing this will keep the opponent fighting with his weapons only, and force him to deal with your weapon. Because of this, Largo Mano is more of a power-striking style. Meaning, we do not emphasize the combination as much as we emphasize the destructive ability of the stick. Shorter ranged styles will emphasize the combination as you are setting up your opponent for the finishing blow, while in Largo Mano every strike thrown has the potential to be that blow.

The trick to controlling the distance is three-fold. First, you use footwork that cannot be cut off. This means that rather than using a back-and-forth style of movement, you will chose a semi side-to-side movement. The side-to-side movement is not really left and right, but rather it is like the minute on a clock–you will move to the side but keep your focus on the opponent. This type of movement does two things: it┬ákeeps you at an angle to your opponent and it keeps your opponent from remaining stationary. The angle is an advantage to you because your opponent’s natural ability to defend and block is altered because the strikes do not come at the same angle as if you were standing directly in front of him. Keeping the opponent from being grounded will prevent him from having 100% accuracy and power as he will constantly be off-balance and unfocused.

Second, you must use your free hand to keep the opponent from getting too close. In close range style, the free hand is used to check, trap and grab. But in long range Eskrima you do not have easy access to the opponent’s stick or arm. However, there will be many times in the course of the fight that your opponent will enter your safety zone and will need to be kept away so that your stick remains effective. Basically, the free hand is used to push the opponent as well as clearing the way for your strikes. We do not expect opponents to comply with us by staying at a distance. And due to the unpredictability of combat, you must quickly recognize each instance the opponent is too close and then deal with that occurrence to maintain superior range.

Lastly, you must utilize the strike to keep the opponent from getting too busy. Power striking requires a clear path to the target. The more an opponent moves and attacks, the fewer opportunities will arise for you to be able to take a good powerful strike. There are several ways to use this:

  1. snap the opponent’s hand each time it extends
  2. even when the opponent is too far to hit his body or head, attack his stick with a very powerful strike. This will make him hesitate out of fear for your power
  3. utilize the leg hit to keep him from getting too comfortable in his position
  4. attack his attacks. not just omitting blocks, but use powerful blocks to deal with his attacks

There is a fourth strategy and I will deal with it in greater detail later. And that strategy is to keep the stick off the centerline. When the stick is on the centerline, it is easier to follow and stop. But when the stick is far from the centerline, the opponent finds it difficult to block, check–even see.

Hopefully this article has given you some ideas for your own fighting style. Thank you for visiting my blog.

Banging the Groundhog

Here is a quick and easy strategy for you to try out the next time you train. This technique is a piece of our Singko Tiros style of fighting.

Have you ever seen those carnival games where you have a mallet and you are trying to hit the groundhogs that pop up through holes in a board? No matter how good or quick you think you are, you just can’t seem to win the big Teddy Bear!

This strategy reminds me of that game.

Most Eskrimador are taught to hit the hand. In stickfighting and knife fighting, it makes sense. But like the groundhogs in that game, it doesn’t make sense if the hand you are aiming for is allowed to hit you back. If those groundhogs had a mallet of their own–and they capitalize off your miss when you try to hit them–wouldn’t that game suck?

There are two parts to this strategy, and they are very simple to grasp and understand. The hard part is making the strategy a part of your regular set of fighting skills. Without much explanation, here is the fighting technique:

  • Your hand should never be in one place longer than a couple seconds.
  • Make sure that as you move your hand around, there is no pattern. What I mean is, you do not want the opponent to know where you will put your hand next.
  • Vary the positions of your hand to 6 positions in front of you. Identify those positions, and make them standard places to hold your weapon.
  • As your hand moves from position to position, you can either travel in straight lines, curved down or curved up, or “V” up or “V” down (which is an upside down V movement to the next position)
  • Have strikes planned for each of these positions
  • Have counter-strikes planned for each of these positions (in the event that your opponent attacks you in the position and he misses)
  • When practicing your fighting combinations, notice that your hand will always begin and end in one of the 6 positions. Plan a follow up attack after completing a combination.
  • Finally, learn to stick your hand out like a lure to draw an attack… and then have a counter planned for each type of attack used to take the bait

This is one of the core skills of the Ocho-Ocho system I was taught by my grandfather. It was originally not our technique, but was added to the Singko Tiro style he learned as a young man… the two strategies fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and they blended well. However, if you can find an expert of the Ocho-Ocho style, which is from the Visayas, there is much more to the technique than I am introducing here.

And the two basic parts?

  1. Moving the hand around to make it difficult to hit and drawing the opponent into more traps, and
  2. Developing the ability to put the hand into a striking position–one step ahead of the opponent, who has just been drawn into an unsuccessful attack–and having the ability to hit from any of the six positions.

Today, we talked mostly of the the first part. I would like to do a part II that will discuss the second part of the style.

Thanks for visiting my blog!