A common question asked during a Balintawak examination is "Why did you choose Balintawak." The first time this question was posed to me I was only about a year into my training and it was after a typical class. As you are about to realize I probably over think things, but I hold the words of Socrates dear, "The un-examined life is not worth living." I didn't have an answer that I was ready to give that night, in fact it took me over a year to write the first draft of this, and 5 years later I am still editing. On the eve of my level 7 test I thought I should finally put this out there. I realize that this isn't the kind of answer that was expected but I wanted people to have a deeper understanding of the power of Balintawak and why I train.
There are 2 sets of reasons why I train Balintawak: Pragmatic and Philosophical. Pragmatically speaking, it was there. It's a lackluster answer but it's honest. However, when you think about the probability of it being there it becomes a little more interesting. On the face of that probability it seems odd that the personal style of a single Filipino escrimador ended up in central Virginia. After all, it's not the first place you would look if you were tasked with finding such a thing. However, our world is governed by cause and effect and when you consider the infinite set of variables, the vast majority of which neither I nor anyone else has no control over, that are tied together in a causal chain which led Balintawak and I to the same place at the same time, it becomes special. It also becomes inevitable, in the way that 1+1=2, there could have been no other outcome. If even a single variable was changed the result could have easily been a reality in which I was never exposed to Balintawak, nor Balintawak to me. However, exposure to something is not enough reason to take it up, even when history has conspired to introduce you. Once exposed there must be a deeper connection to develop the relationship.
Philosophically, things are a little more complex, though not particularly complicated. Ultimately it is about Authenticity and honesty of being. Bear with me, I'm going to try to tie this all together in a moment, starting with the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Heidegger had this idea of "Geworfenheit" which translates roughly as "throwness". That is to say, we arrive in this world in the middle of something that is already in progress. We have no control over the rules, or where we are born in the world, or at what point in history, we have absolutely no control over anything. We are simply "thrown" into existence and the most we can do is to hit the ground running.
A fundamental part of this "thrown" condition is language. Based on where and when we are thrown the language we inherit from the overlays a basic framework on our existence, shaping our conception of truth based on the values of that framework. If language contained a fundamental truth then it wouldn't matter where or when you were thrown, there would be one language that you would instinctually understand the way you understand heat and I would not have had to explain "Geworfenheit".
Language necessitates specificity, which necessitates division. Existence is too big to discuss or ponder without breaking it into manageable parts. We do this by drawing artificial boundaries around a series of phenomena and giving that collection a signifier, a word, as a method of shorthand. By using language we stop dealing with existence and immerse ourselves in the shorthand, occupying a hollow simulation. "Truth" may be alluded to but it can never be found within the simulation. To try to find "Truth" through language is a vain pursuit. To find "Truth" we cannot divide existence or separate ourselves from it, we must return to existence in its incomprehensible scope and embrace our roles as participants. To quote another German philosopher, Jurgen Habermas, "In the project of enlightenment there are only participants." This gets at another of Heiddeger's concepts, the "Authentic Self". The ability to define one's self without being dictated to by the language of the "Others".
So how do I define myself without language? How do I participate directly? How do I find my "Authentic Self"? I take direction from Aristotle when he says, "We are what we do repeatedly (excellence therefore is a habit)" and Karl Marx who suggest that our essence as a person is defined by how we participate in the world. To find my Authentic self I must move past language, un-define myself, and simply... Be.
In this regard I am fortunate to have been exposed to it Balintawak. Balintawak is authentic in that it has no form, it is like existence in that it is bigger than what can be defined through language. Though it exist as a signifier it is strictly phenomenological, existing only in the process of being, and it must be experienced to be understood. Just as Balintawak provides me with a method of existing I give Balintawak form, I bring it into existence through my very being. I am Balintawak, and it is me. This is the power of Balintawak and why I train.
But wait, there's more! There is a larger and more poetic series of connections and relationships that are established through the practice of Balintawak which are banally refer to as "lineage". By removing the arbitrary boundaries between phenomena the expansive unity of existence comes into focus. We begin to see how the relationship of every object to one another becomes a single unified landscape of existence; an infinite and unbroken chain across time and space. Everywhere, everything is in a process of becoming but never in a state of being. Everything is a threshold, a connection. Existence itself is a threshold. Through the being of Balintawak I directly connect to objects, people, places, traditions, realities that I would not otherwise have access to in a more traditional sense. Through my movements, I am able to remake time and space in a way that unites me with my teachers and their teachers, Jemar Carcellar, Bobby Taboada, Teofilo Velez, Anciong Bacon, the Philippines, anyone and everyone who ever has or ever will think to "Be" and call that way of being Balintawak. We all come together in a single point in time and space through the threshold of Balintawak to form the brotherhood. This is the power of Balintawak and why I train.