Masters Tony Diego and Christopher Ricketts in a classic SABAYAN

From the combat tested and proven art of Kali Ilustrisimo is born the knife fighting art of Tulisan. Developed under the watchful and critical eyes of the late Grand Master Antonio Ilustrisimo of Kali Ilustrisimo and the art’s Chief Instructor and Heir, Master Antonio Diego, Tulisan has proven itself a totally realistic, dynamic and practical knife fighting system.

The word Tulisan means “pointed” or “sharp-tipped” as well as “an outlaw”. Tulisan’s emphasis on thrust techniques and the general public’s consensus that knife wielders belong to the less desirable social classes and to the outlaws makes any of these translations appropriate.

The development of multi-level fighting concept and strategy is the emphasis of Tulisan. Realizing and accepting the fact that the most vulnerable moment is during any transition and in the early stage of an attack, a Tulisan practitioner is constantly aware of the traps and pitfalls that lurk at each level of an armed encounter. Honed in maneuvers and drills that prepare against a multitude of variations, Tulisan wallows rather than sinks in the unexpected.

The art of Tulisan emphasizes the basics of knife-handling and blade edge awareness. The popular concepts of triangle footwork , both male and female, are thoroughly ingrained into its foundation drills. The practitioner is cautioned again and again, that the first and foremost action should be evasion with parry and counters only of secondary value. Each of the form and drills build upon each other, reinforcing and cultivating awareness and sensitivity to the nuances of the edge weapon.

Beginning with the basic form of Alas, the novice is introduced to the concept of Tagis-Talim (encounter with the blade). The beginner learns to accept and explore the versatility and limitation of the bladed weapon. Keeping the opponent in constant guard and anticipation by the positioning of the wielded weapon, the Tulisan fighter learns to control and dictate the flow of combat. The on-guard thrust position that is unique to Tulisan is designed to intimidate the opponent and controls the center line of combat. It is also a strategic position from which an attack or parry can be easily and efficiently launched.

The Concept of Tagis-Talim

In espousing the concepts of Tagis-Talim, the knife fighter learns to become both efficient and effective in the use of the blade. The aspirant learns of the advantage, the limitations and the misconceptions between thrust and slash attacks. The enlightened pupil learns of the lethal aftermath that can result from a thrust even with an improperly honed or badly abused weapon. In the same vein, the practitioner discovers the diminished effect of a slash or cut against heavy clothing even when using a well-maintained weapon.

Trained through Sinawali to use both hands for weapons usage and control, the Tulisan fighter’s Bantay-Kamay (guardian or alive hand) assists in parrying and controlling the enemy’s attacks as well as in delivering coup de grace thrusts from the unexpected weapon transfer and switch (Lipat-Palit) technique of Tulisan. Training sessions in Bakbakan Kali always begin with Sinawali or double stick drills. This guarantees that the practitioner is constantly trained and prepared to use any weapon ambidextrously. In the art of Tulisan as well as in Solo Baston, the Bantay-Kamay becomes a vital defensive tool .

In the drills derived from the form Lengua de Fuego, the Tulisan practitioner is immediately absorbed in the nuances of simultaneous parry and counter. Beginning with the initial retreating step from the Maharlika (lit., noble or nobility. An stylized beginning or ending position that is more of a ritualistic nature rather than of any strategic plan or advantage. ) the practitioner retreats into a defensive position to gain distance and to move out of range from a sudden attack, the student learns to parry and deliver a simultaneous counter against an independent or follow-up thrust using the technique of Lagusan (tunnel thrust). In this particular technique, the Tulisan fighter learns to dodge and parry the thrust attack and to control and occupy the center line to win the encounter and survive. First and foremost, however , is to make sure that one is outside or off the line of direct attack. Footwork, along with the requisite hand and body coordination, is practiced as a total strategy rather than separate entities. This prepares the knife fighter to move and defend against any sudden and unexpected attacks or combinations thereof.

From the initial counter attack using the Lagusan technique, the classic thrust and cut technique of (Saksak-Hatak ) flows smoothly as the Tulisan fighter steps forward at an angle and keeps blade and point towards and against the opponent. The advantageous and strategic positioning of the knife’s edge is never lost even when reversing the blade’s direction from a backward to forward motion.

Palis-Tusok technique

Palis-Tusok , a lateral parry and thrust technique first encountered in Alas and subsequently emphasized in Lengua de Fuego and other advanced forms has proven itself many times over in competitions and even in actual confrontations. In executing the Palis, the practitioner has the option of executing a simple parry or a well-positioned and timed hand-cut. Executed with a simple parallel evasive movement, Tulisan practitioners recognize the critical importance of timing and footwork. Combined with the knowledge gleaned from experience and a thorough study and analysis of combat, the Tulisan expert anticipates the targets of opportunity that are exposed after each attack

The Palis-Tusok technique is always executed with the body executing a sideways dodge and parry while delivering a cutting parry against the opponent’s extended weapon arm. Without hesitation , the parrying weapon continuous its circular path and ends in a thrust aimed at the opponent’s neck. A back parry, known as Sima, is used to deflect the opponent’s thrust marginally

away from the body. This nullified attack is then followed back to its source with classic Tulay (bridge) technique, minimizing if not totally eliminating, the possibility of a defense or counter.

The Sima, also known as Pasungkit or Palis-Likod, is a backhanded parry that is used effectively with and against both long and short weapons. A simple and effective parry and maneuver, the technique of Sima gives the defender the opportunity to deliver a parry and a cut or thrust with the same weapon , along the exact same line as the invalidated attack, giving the opponent little or no option for defense

The Techniques of Tulisan

Rey Galang of Tulisan Knife Fighting System

A simple linear Hatak-Talim (a parry or counter that executes a single linear cut) completes the sequence of actions thus far. This is followed by a sequence of Saksak-Hatak (thrust and cut) techniques. The last Saksak-Hatak of the set is executed in the Makata (Poet) fashion. The technique of Makata hides behind its beautiful execution the deadly and lethal precision of its strategy. Incorporating the principles of Praksion (from “fraction”, a concept that espouses being a fraction of a beat ahead of the opponent), this technique slides in-between the opponent’s attack and delivers its deadly counter-attack within the narrow leeway created by the attack.

The technique of Tiklop (lit., to fold) is used to parry a singular, straight thrust. A versatile technique, Tiklop enables the Tulisan knife fighter to assess and reprise with a variety of options against the opponent’s negated attack.

In this particular case, the Tiklop becomes a Dukot-Likod (underhook arm trap) that exposes the opponent’s torso to a well-positioned thrust.

Although not a favorite of Tatang Ilustrisimo, Hawak-Baligtad or reverse knife fighting grip is an option to be learned in order to understand its limitations as well as its covert uses and advantage in combat. In Lengua de Fuego, the Hawak-Baligtad is used to define the perimeters of defense as well as targets of offense. In a herringbone fashion, the areas of defense as well as the opponent’s exposed flank are singled out and defined with unwavering precision.

Using the reverse grip to execute a reverse vertical outward parry, the Hawak-Baligtad’s blade is used in a very speedy and lethal fashion to deliver a deadly cut at the opponent’s exposed neck. The Bantay-Kamay is used to intercept and stop any protective or defensive move of the opponent.

Lengua de Fuego

In the final movements of Lengua de Fuego, the knife grip is changed from reverse grip back to saber grip. This switch , executed hidden from the opponent, restores the weapon’s lost reach while it was held in the reverse grip. This last thrust is executed in an extended Makata (Poet) pose. A pull and cut motion brings the weapon back to its Maharlika starting position.

The breakdown of Lengua de Fuego, or for that matter, any of the forms in the Bakbakan Kali Ilustrisimo curriculum, into manageable and practical drills has long been a signature training method of Bakbakan. The timeless training concepts of Dr. Guillermo Lengson has been and always will be the foundation of the training structure of this elite organization. The blending of the tested, effective and efficient training methods of Dr. Lengson with the awesome repertoire of weapons techniques, concepts and strategies of Grand Master Antonio Ilustrisimo has given Bakbakan its international reputation for weapons expertise.

The technique of Saksak-Hatak (thrust and cut) and its variations best exemplify the concept and principle of Tagis-Talim. Tulisan trains the practitioner in using the knife optimally and effectively. A parry against a thrust is immediately penalized with a simple twist or repositioning of the blade to deliver a reciprocal slash.

Hawak-Baligtad or Pakal

Hawak-Baligtad (reverse grip), also known as Pakal or Susi, is also introduced in Lengua de Fuego. Despite its limited range and diminished versatility, the reverse grip is a deceptive form of weapon handling and can be used to great advantage during combat with Lipat-Palit (transfer and change) strategy. Applied covertly, the opponent’s parry against an anticipated thrust can result in a debilitating cut as the intercepting hand encounters the weapon’s turned-out blade instead of the expected wrist and forearm.

The optimum range for Hawak-Baligtad is in close quarters combat where proximal body contact and veiled shifting thoroughly utilizes the weapon’s lethal potential. Cuts and slashes can be delivered without any pronounced movement or chambering. The weakness of frontal thrusts in the reverse grip is a minor loss and sacrifice compared to the multitude of subtle and covert slashes that can be delivered from a broad range of angles. Tulisan practitioners refrain from delivering overhead and back thrusts in reverse grip as the risks outweigh the advantage of using such techniques.

The development and evolution of the knife fighting art of Tulisan owes much to the constant refinement and testing of its techniques. This is achieved through regular sparring and constant emphasis on the reality of the knife. Once the practitioner becomes skilled in the use of the weapon, the techniques of Kisap-Mata (blink of an eye) are introduced. In this phase, the Tulisan practitioner, now fully aware of the potential as well as the limitation of the knife, is required to fight and defend without a weapon against a skilled and armed training partner. It is at this point that true knife fighting and the dawning of a blade master begins.

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