the art of
One of the interesting aspects of the previous entry concerns the observation by Anders Ericcson in his landmark research paper is that one of the keys to obtaining expertise in a given field is to engage in one on one instruction rather than group instruction.
This has particular relevance in the martial arts. One of the more intriguing aspects of Balintawak arnis is their particular emphasis on one on one training wherein a student trains with a senior student. The role of the senior student is to raise the bar so as to stay beyond the reach of the student and elevating that student’s performance.
An excerpt from the chapter on Balintawak from the book entitled “Warrior Arts of the Philippines:”
The basic core of Balintawak training is a reactive counter to counter style which is more effectively learned one on one. The student is taught offensive and defensive techniques with the instructor acting as a coach to guide the student through his moves from the very basic to the advanced. In the latter stages of the student’s training, a level or plateau will be reached where the student and the instructor will give and take all the techniques of the style……..
After learning the basic offensive and defensive techniques,the Balintawak student is, from day one, placed in harm’s way. The instructor delivers random and continuous attacks/strikes, generally at a speed just beyond his(her) current ability to defend against, thereby pushing the student to develop past established comfortable limits. The student’s mission and required mindset is simple: to defend and counter the attacks.
The result is an instructor led training framework called agak that immerses the student in a dynamic state of attack and counters that must be overcome. This free flowing engagement programs and conditions the student to respond instinctively to random attacks with vigilant and proper offensive and defensive techniques executed smoothly and systematically. Speed, power and economy of movement are emphasized.
As the student improves in this counter to counter play, the attacks become stronger, faster and more complex, progressively challenging and raising the bar to extend and push the student’s skill level. At all times the instructor guides the student, from the most basic to the more advanced techniques. Eventually, the student’s defense, timing, speed, body mechanics and techniques improve to a level where he is able to meet and overcome his instructor’s attacks. However, as the student improves, the training level correspondingly escalates. The higher the skill level of the instructor,the farther the student can go.
A good Balintawak instructor constantly keeps the student in a state of jeopardy, challenging, and at the same time encouraging the student to match and respond to the instructor’s varying intensity and escalating skill level. At the highest levels. the distinction between the instructor and student diminishes as they engage both in attack and defense with equal vigor and skill. This is the principle behind the name cuentada.

Given that the Balintawak training methodology places much emphasis on personal one on one training and given that Professor Presas did a great deal of one on one training with the Masters of Tapi Tapi, it is no wonder that Professor was incredible as well as folks like Master Ken Smith and Master Chuck Gauss. I have experienced much one on one training with Master Chuck Gauss and can testify to the effectiveness of this type of training as opposed to group instruction.

With that in mind, I have slowly incorporated private training as an element of the Modern Arnis program here in Oshawa for two reasons.
•First, I would be constantly training and thus sharpen my skills. Just look at Professor Presas who continued to improve over the years as a result of constant training. 
•Secondly, the private training would serve to enhance the student’s skill level as well.  I have observed that whenever I corrected someone’s technique by working with them, I noticed immediate improvement than if I had merely coached them verbally from the sidelines. 

An example of one on one training by GM Tabimina and a student.


One thought on “One on One Instruction

  • April 9, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    I think just as importantly as the emphasis on one on one training, is an equal emphasis on random attacks. Balintawak is infamous for it’s barrage of random attacks and anything goes style (as the video clip shows). Instinctively reacting to an attack, as opposed to predetermined movements or a chain of techniques could save your skin one day.



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