When Cebuano Eskrima: Beyond the Myth was published in 2007, it made ripples throughout the Filipino martial arts (FMA) community after it challenged long-held beliefs about the origins of FMA. Now its co-author Celestino Macachor is questioning the efficacy of commonly taught FMA training methods with the introduction of his Sugbo Largo Mano.
The 60-year-old Cebuano who has been training FMA since 1999 describes Sugbo Largo Mano as a blend of the FMA system of grandmasters Jose de Caballero and Ireneo Olavides called De Campo JDC-IO and various largo mano styles he picked up in Southwest Cebu. Macachor is a former JDC-IO stylist under the tutelage of Olavides.
Sugbo Largo Mano focuses on speed, distancing, and hitting accuracy, but not so much on power and “senseless” drills, which, he said, only teaches synchronization. He said the system still adheres to the basic principles of JDC-IO, though differing in methodology.
There are three combat ranges in FMA that include largo (long-range), medio (medium-range), and corto (close-range). As its name suggests, Macachor’s system is primarily for long-range fighting.
“A lot of the corto stuff in the Internet is useless,” he said in an interview with FIGHT Times, pointing out practitioners performing disarms that involve stick grabbing maneuvers and convoluted techniques that give students a false sense of security and invincibility.
Macachor said as far back as 2005, he and his former mentor, Olavides, tested disarming techniques on each other as non-cooperative opponents. He said that even with reduced striking speed, disarms, which are an integral part of FMA curriculum, have a small percentage of being successful.
The main strategy of Sugbo Largo Mano is to control distance. “If you can’t reach me, you can’t hit me,” Macachor said. “If you can control space you can control the fight.” Practitioners are taught to attack any part of the anatomy of the opponent that gets too close.
Real, full-contact sparring is essential to their training, according to Macachor. Peripheral vision is also emphasized, and exercises like target hitting are drilled to develop hitting accuracy and speed. “There is one exercise where I just do random shots,” he said.
Macachor said he also picked up “finer movements” from his mentor’s response on certain situations. “During a photo shoot in Dapitan for a Rapid Journal article, I also observed techniques Olavides did during an impromptu exchange with Ruel Tubang. These were basically instinctive moves that [Olavides] doesn’t teach,” Macachor said. “I took note of them because I felt they could work for me.”
Sugbo Largo Mano has no belt rankings. According to him, progress will depend on the student. He said students who have fast twitch muscle fibers would have an advantage owing to their ability to release sudden bursts of energy, while those who are muscle bound may find it hard to deliver the necessary speed and intensity.
“One more thing I’d like to do in order to up the ante in FMA training is to include the pain factor in sparring, and, hopefully, competition,” he said. “The World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation and Arnis Philippines, Inc. competitions are pillow fights.”