Cinco teros (literally “five strikes”) is an old style of arnis-escrima endemic in Northern Luzon particularly in the province of Pangasinan. Despite being renowned in Filipino martial arts (FMA) circles as a battle-tested system, it is not easy to find an authentic cinco teros expert nowadays.
I believe that the reason why cinco teros is not very popular in the FMA mainstream is that it looks too simple at first glance (there are only five strikes in this system hence the name) and lacks the flamboyant appeal of better-known styles of arnis-escrima. Being a simple system though doesn’t mean it lacks potency.
One master who now actively teaches cinco teros in the Philippines is Raysaldo Biagtan. Biagtan, a native of Malabago, Mangaldan, Pangasinan is also a seasoned Muay Thai and mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter. He experienced both training and fighting in Thailand. Biagtan recently competed in the Battlefield X1: Supremacy, a professional Thai boxing tournament in Beijing, China as well as the Universal Reality Combat Championship, the Philippines foremost MMA tournament.
Cinco teros maestro Raysaldo Biagtan
In an interview with fmapulse.com, Biagtan revealed that he learned cinco teros from his late paternal grandfather whom he called Ama [father] Oding Billosillo. Later on he discovered that one of his maternal grandfathers was also a practitioner of the style. “As guerilla fighters, they used cinco teros in World War II to fight the Japanese,” Biagtan narrated, adding, “In Pangasinan during the olden days, we have the “gubadors” or cinco teros warriors.”
He said that the modality of training in cinco teros is exclusively “single stick.”
Biagtan who holds classes in his gym in Cavite province described the four first hits of cinco teros as traveling in an X-pattern and concluded with a thrust in the center. “Strikes one to four are called tirada uno, tirada dos, tirada tres and tirada quatro while the thrust regardless of where it is delivered is called “duyok,” he said. He also called tirada uno, the first strike as “tagang buhat araw,” which connotes a downward blow as if coming from the sun.
While cinco teros is employing only five strikes as it’s foundational techniques, Biagtan said the combination is infinite. His statement agrees with the opinion of the late FMA scholar Pedro Reyes on cinco teros. In his article “The Mystic Circle of Cinco Teros” (Rapid Journal Journal Vol. 12 No. 4 Issue no. 46), which I believe is the most definitive article on the subject Reyes wrote, “Although cinco teros classifies attacks and defenses as coming from five directions, it does not mean that the style has only five techniques of attack and defense. That is like saying that because one can classify human beings into two sexes, male or female, there are only two persons living in the whole world.”
Biagtan said that the techniques of cinco teros translate easily from stick to blade. “Some escrimadors do not care much on what part of the stick they’re hitting with but in cinco teros we play close attention to knuckle alignment and always strike with the stick as if we’re actually using a blade,” he said. Biagtan stated that they work on delivering really forceful strikes with the stick in cinco teros and those same strikes delivered using a blade would be more devastating.
Unlike other FMA styles, there is no elaborate footwork in cinco teros according to Biagtan. “The dynamics of our footwork is more like natural walking,” he said, continuing, “The distance between each foot is roughly shoulder-width apart. It’s neither too close or too wide apart.” Biagtan attested that he only have to make minute adjustment from his cinco teros footwork to his Muay Thai footwork, “In cinco teros it is more flat-footed, in Muay Thai I usually glide on the balls of my feet.”
Save for the oral accounts of his forebears, Biagtan did not provide any historical records on the history of cinco teros. In some articles written about cinco teros it was postulated that Spanish fencing influenced it. Considering that Pangasinan is among the earliest Spanish strongholds in the Philippines, this claim holds a tinge of validity.
Pooling his years of martial arts experience, Biagtan created Biagtan Martial Arts, a synthesis of Muay Thai, cinco teros arnis and dumog (Filipino wrestling). He reveals that in his native dialect “biagtan” means “our life.” Noting its significance, he says, “It’s very appropriate because I am espousing martial art as a way of life.”
Biagtan whose second profession is that of an evangelical Christian pastor believes that the better a martial artist becomes the more humble he should get. Today, he’s teaching martial arts and giving free meals to street children in Cavite. “Martial arts would teach them discipline and keep them away from bad vices,” he said spiritedly. Using the stalk of rice as an illustration he said, “The rice stalk when it’s still green stands straight and proud but once it’s ripe and golden humbly bows.”