Estilo Macabebe is one of the 20 styles in the Giron system of Escrima. Uncle Leo explained that the name derived from the Macabebe tribe who were known for their double weapon fighting style. It is practiced with two similar length weapons and incorporates both Kob Kob and Sinawali techniques (more about those later). On the surface, defending yourself with two weapons rather than one seems a no brainer. More is better, right? But, the reality is much more complicated than the theory. Most of us are dominant handed on the right or left. Very few of us are truly ambidextrous. Just try doing your basic warm ups with your non-dominant hand and you will see what an inaccurate weapon that hand wields. The first benefit of Macabebe training is that it helps build coordination, strength and technique in that non-dominant hand. The second benefit, which really should be first because of it's primacy, is that you learn not to lose control of the non-dominant weapon and embed it in your forearm. Wielding two 28" razor blades fast enough to dismember during a conflict, you better be hitting your intended target, not yourself. Once mastered, however, the Macabebe style is formidable and difficult to penetrate.
Our primary drill for gaining basic use of the two weapons is called Kob Kob. We start simply with hands apart, a weapon in each hand and exchange simple, direct blows that retract back along the line of initial strike, like beating the outside of a box; right hand only hitting the right side, left hand only the left. In our numbering system, we are delivering a #1 with the right and a #1 with the left; forehand strikes only. This progresses from high to middle to low targeting then we start to get more complicated as we begin throwing x hits. That is a forehand followed by a back hand strike with the right and the left. Once students have that down, we start to mix high strikes with low strikes. Then we advance and retreat with our footwork while mixing all the Kob Kob striking patterns. Kob Kob treats each strike as it's own event. We strike with the left, then we strike with the right.
Sinawali is a term that means "to weave". In it's basic pattern it is a right hand forehand strike followed by a left hand backhand strike followed by another, right hand backhand strike, then reversed to left forehand, right backhand, left backhand. In the "Heaven" version, the weapon tips are up. In the "Standard" version, the second strike on both sides is directed down and in the "Earth" version, all strikes are directed downward. This style requires the practitioner to chamber their weapons while not striking. This chamber is also a shield. The beauty of the Sinawali weave is that it provides very few openings through which an opponent can strike; unlike Kob Kob which leaves the defender's center line open.
Most FMA practitioners have seen Sinawali and many practice this drill with lots of added flourishes and complex routines. But, to master the technique, the student needs to make sure that every movement is intentional and that all strikes are to chosen, not incidental, targets. This is harder than it seems. And, we have to remember that performing a Sinawali drill is not defending yourself with two weapons. Our system emphasizes strong, double weapon blocks followed by Sinawali follow ups. Remember the caveat that the block is only an opening to the follow up. Blocking effectively, finding the most direct and dominant follow up, maintaining initiative dominance and striking to vital, destructive targets while avoiding cutting yourself are all skills you can hone with your Guro during training and are the essence of Macabebe. It looks fancy enough; add to it highly effective striking and positional dominance and Macabebe begins to live up to its formidable reputation.