You're going to get hit.
A lot. See below. It doesn't matter how good you are, you can't block everything. You might be able to block almost everything, but never everything. The key is to know this going in and accept it. In agak it is not uncommon to see the feeder bait to one side only to switch and strike to the opposite side as the person being fed initiates his initial defense. This is where accepting that you are going to get hit comes into play. Those who do not accept this truth will instinctually chase that second strike, a strike that has already hit them, opening them up to be struck again. This brings me to my next life lesson...
Stay in the moment.
Don't chase after what has already come and gone. Not only are you wasting your time on what you cannot change, you are robbing yourself of your ability to deal with what is coming at you right now. Do you see a vicious cycle forming here? I do. People who keep chasing the last strike become easily and quickly overwhelmed, unable to cope. Not a great way to go through a stick fight, or life. One way to do this is to remember my next life lesson...
If it didn't kill you then you still have a chance.
So we are talking about agak here, which of course is different than actual combat. However, if you take a hit and you know you got hit... Congratulations! You're not dead. Gravely injured, maimed, mortally wounded perhaps, but not dead. This means you still have a chance to defend against the next strike, and since we are Balintawak we counter every time we defend. This means, despite being gravely wounded we have the opportunity to change the tides with our next strike.
It's not what you think, it's how you think.
The value of the grouping system doesn't lay in the techniques but in the underlying concepts that they describe and the way they teach us to think. This becomes evident once you near completion of the art, the agak becomes more intense and you realize for the first time that your teacher may have been sand bagging. Your teacher has an answer for everything you do, the techniques of these groupings that work so well. After marinading in the system for a while you realize that this is the result of a real understanding of the concepts behind the groupings, resulting in new expressions of the same ideas. These are the "advanced" techniques of each escrimador. As the escrimador passes these on they become the "semi-advanced" techniques of their students. This was one of the many insightful moves made by Grandmaster Taboada, because he labeled the most progressive techniques "semi advanced" Grandmaster Taboada shifted the focus away from the techniques and onto the principles behind them. He has taught us how to think.
There's a counter to everything.
Balintawak is a progressive art. The goal of Balintawak is to hit the guy in the head. Funny thing about that though, people don't want to get hit in the head and usually try to stop you. Counter 1. Hence we have groupings to deal with these uncooperative people. Counter 2. If they have been training for a while they have probably investigated ways to circumvent the techniques you are trying to execute. Counter 3. Having seen this, you become obsessed with figuring out that thing that guy did that seemed like some kind of Balintawak black magic, eventually giving you a deeper insight into the art and the ability to develop a counter to the counter. Counter 4. Guess what's going to happen when you use that counter in your next exchange... yep, it's turtles all the way down. Just keep going, you don't really have a choice. To quote Benjamin Franklin 'When you are finished changing, you're finished.'
Just to prove my point here are a bunch of pictures of me getting lit up by some of the Guros who fed me during my Level 7 Test. :)
Stay Hungry and keep moving forward my friends!