The Transition From Sticks To Bolos

“You Are Going To Get Cut!”

The Transition from Sticks to Bolos

By Master Carlton Kramer

Derobio Escrima is a complete self defense style. Its foundation is based on bladed weapons. The manner in which the GGM taught the transition between sticks and bolos are minimal. The biggest hurdle is the psychological mentality of the student.

The GGM didn’t want us to push the bolos on the students; he would say “When they are ready, they will ask you to learn the movements of bolo fighting.” He felt that if we rushed the students train with the bolo, most would drop out of class.

I will never forget when I became interested in learning the advanced movements of the bolo in the mid 70s. I asked the GGM if he would teach me the next class. (I was an advanced student at the time, and we were there together in the living room talking story after dinner.) The first words out of the GGM mouth were “You are going to get cut!” Needless to say, I was shocked at those words. I was expecting him to say “Sure, next class I will teach you.” I looked at him and he was so serious that I became flustered. I said something stupid like, “Can’t you teach me in slow motion?” The GGM gave me that look and said “There is no slow motion in advance bolo and I am telling you, you are going to get cut!” Meanwhile The Batikan was behind the GGM smiling and laughing to himself, he was having a good time listening to our conversation. The GGM then explained to me that there is very little transition between the stick and the bolo, and at the next class you can begin learning the advance Derobio  techniques of the bolo.

The next day I called The Batikan and asked him why he was laughing at what happened. He replied, “I was laughing at you. You had such a worried look on your face when my father said you were going to get cut. To me, you are not ready psychologically for advanced bolo fighting. If you play with fire all the time, you are going to get burned, if you practice with bolos all the time and go faster, faster and faster, you are going to get cut. Why do you think the instructors have red shirts?” Eddie laughed, “You wipe the blood on your shirt and you keep practicing, this is the mentally of an Escrimador. If you get cut, so what, it’s nothing, look how many scars the GGM and I have.”

Neither the GGM or the Bakitan would promote a individual to an instructor if the student was afraid of bolos

Although this is an embarrassing story, I tell this so you can understand that the biggest hurdle while moving to bolos is getting over the fear of getting cut and developing the right attitude as The Batikan was trying to explain.  As the GGM use to say to his students, “If you truly believe in the concept that through prayer you can create an invisible shield over your body, then the cuts will not be deep.


Here are pointers in the transition from stick to bolo:

  • In choosing your bolos, get the type of metal that has a very loud bell sound when hit together; these are the best for practicing in class and for demonstrations.
  • Look for bolos that are made of very strong steel and which, under heavy contact, little pieces of metal will not fly off.
  • In Derobio, you want a bolo to be the right length.  Bolo length should be the same length of your arms when fully extended.
  • Ideally, you want a partner to practice the bolo together in class, at home, and in demonstrations. Good bolo partners know when the other gets lost or confused and when to pull out of the action.
  • Make a clean defensive block for each offensive blow, never ever hit the opponent’s bolo twice or grind your bolo against the other.
  • Always be conscious of the cutting edge of the bolo(s); never slap the opponent’s bolo.
  • Your defense should form the sign of the cross for both one bolo and two bolos in Derobio.
  • Timing is everything.  Counting out loud in class helps to ensure that the class moves together as one. Loud counting is a tradition in the Pedoy School of Escrima.
  • Invest in your bolos. It’s so sad when I see students who buy $30,000 trucks and will not even spend $200 on their bolos.
  • Ideally, your training bolos and your chrome bolos for the knife dances should have wooden handles to absorb the sweat in your hands.
  • Don’t be a “jumping bean” while doing defensive bolo techniques. Learn to pivot and give the correct body angles to your opponent.
  • Use your free hand in your defensive moves for all numbers, advance movements of Derobio allow this.
  • Pay your respects and pray before and after each class.
  • Kids love bolo training, but don’t let kids go against kids in advance bolo. Advance bolo training with young students should always be with the instructor.
  • Don’t fool around with bolos. Like the stick, injuries are likely to occur when there is no one leading the class or someone is being silly and is fooling around when class is not in session.
  • In a one bolo knife dance, your bolo should be 3 or 4 inches longer than the bolos you use for your two bolo knife dances.
  • Take care of your bolo(s); for examples never, ever throw them on the ground, this is a sign of disrespect. If the GGM or The Batikan saw a student toss their weapons on the ground, there would be heavy scolding.
  • Don’t leave your bolos laying around in a demonstration; place them in your weapons bag and always keep an eye on them.
  • Practice Sinawalli with two bolos; this is an excellent offensive style, something every student needs to practice when combined with Derobio defense.

Chief Master Gary Largo does 1 for 1 techniques with Chief Peter Schmall, each with 2 bolos

In conclusion, there is very little transition between the offense and defense of the stick and bolo in Derobio Escrima. Once an Escrimador or Escrimadora gets to taste the thrill and excitement of one and two bolos, there is no turning back to practicing with just sticks.


It’s really easy to get over the aspects of getting cut; believe in your style, believe in your instructors, believe in the invisible shield, and develop the bolo fighting mentality of the GGM and Batikan.

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