The snapping backhand horizontal strike
The jab boasts of multiple functions; you can use it to bridge the gap, probe your opponent’s defenses, as a set up for a heavy punch or at times even to score a knockout. The long reach of the jab and its snapping motion makes it preferable to the hook or say, the uppercut for accomplishing the aforementioned tasks.
In stick fighting, the counterpart of the jab is the snapping backhand horizontal strike.
My statement is not based on stylistic preference but on objective estimation. A practical examination of the snapping backhand horizontal strike will reveal its edge over the other strikes in terms of versatility.
The snapping backhand horizontal strike is the pronated segment of the planchada.
The root word of planchada is the Spanish word “plancha” which means flat iron. Planchada is a horizontal striking technique done at waist-level. The technique was coined planchada because it resembles the horizontal movements of the hand while ironing clothes. Done with the right hand, a horizontal slash from right to left at waist level is delivered with the arm supinated (palms up). At the end of the movement, the fighter must pronate his arm (palms down) to deliver the same horizontal strike in the opposite direction – left to right.
The backhand horizontal strike is best used in a snapping manner. This concept is known as “lastico” or rubber band in escrima because of the snapping characteristic of the strike. The late grand master of largo mano escrima, Leo Giron, mentioned in some of his anecdotes how he had used the lastico technique in jungle fighting against the Japanese in World War 2.
The stress point when delivering the snapping backhand horizontal strike is the elbow. It is the hinge. Imagine a door being slammed open and close forcefully by a strong wind and you will get a clear picture of how this technique works.
Though the elbow is the hinge, it is the rotation of the hip that would give this strike real power. This ability separates the novice from the expert. A novice will attempt to put snap to the strike by using his elbow alone while an expert will put more weight behind the blow by coordinating the snapping motion of the elbow with the rotation of his hips.
Though the snapping backhand horizontal strike is not the most powerful strike you can do, it stands as the most versatile. In my opinion, the most important characteristic of this strike is its ability to shoot out like an arrow hence it can exploit openings in the upper, middle and lower parts of an opponent. No other strike with a stick can accomplish this. Yes, thrusts can shoot out in the same manner but not with the same speed and power. Blows that travel in arc like the figure 8 are both fast and powerful but the economy of the recovery is not the same as that of the snapping backhand horizontal strike.
To test the validity of my statement, you can run the other strikes through a test using the following criteria: speed, recovery, economy of motion, ability to penetrate an opening, capacity to be delivered in rapid succession and power.
What would become evident in these tests is that some strikes were able to hit only some of the targets with ease. The snapping backhand horizontal strike in comparison can hit any target on the left or right plane whether high, middle or low.
Choice of weapon
The nature of the snapping backhand horizontal strike as a quick largo mano hit dictates that a long medium weight stick be used. Such a choice will affect the way you would inflict injury. Because it lacks mass and weight, it would be hard to shatter bones with a medium weight stick no matter how hard you swing it. When using the snapping backhand horizontal strike with a medium weight stick, the blow is best aimed at soft tissue targets like the eyes and groin as well as nerve-rich bony areas like the temple, elbows and knees.
Though the snapping backhand horizontal strike is a potent tool, it should be regarded as a means to an end and not the end in itself. Just as a jab is an effective punch, a boxer can’t win a fight by using it solely to the exclusion of other punches. Stick fighting is the same.
This article presents the usefulness and characteristics of the backhand horizontal strike but it never stated that it is the ultimate strike. It is but natural for a martial artist to have preference on certain techniques but it is an entirely different matter to be obsessed with a technique. On the latter, it is good to be reminded of the words of Bruce Lee: “Any technique, however worthy and desirable, becomes a disease when the mind is obsessed with it.”