What Makes Libre Different

Martial arts have spanned the Globe - from various styles such as empty hand combat to knife fighting. In the Philippines, martial arts are often called Arnis, which can also be called as Kali or Escrima. Though this may be confusing, it is said to be an effect of the preservation of the ancient martial arts and that the terms may have differed due to the location, dialect, and type of training that was taught to different individuals through time.

Kali as legends claim, is the mother of martial arts, Arnis and Escrima (also Kalis Ilustrisimo) of the Philippines. Kali is considered as one of the most efficient ways to protect yourself and defeat an opponent. Although history may be confusing, it is generally believed that this martial art originated from tribe warriors defending themselves from invaders. However, Kali was said to be concealed in the form of dances during the Spanish invasion. It was only during World War II when American troops, who were then stationed in the Philippines, were introduced to Filipino martial arts. Then, it reached America - even though the locals were particularly hesitant to make their fighting secrets public.

The style of Kali - which focuses mainly on the smooth transition of fighting with weapons to empty hands - provided the possibility of losing or being without a weapon. Today, the most taught elements of Kali are fighting with weapons, striking, grappling, takedowns/throwing, and biting (which is a more aggressive element).

Libre Fighting Logo

Furthermore, Kali practitioners believe that hand-to-hand combat techniques are similar to that of combat strategies that require weapons, thus advance development of the martial art is implemented. To name a few, below are well-known weapons used in Kali:

  • Solo baston or single stick
  • Double baston or double stick
  • Espada or sword/stick and dagger
  • Rattan, which is a stick about the length of the wielder's arm

Among these weapons, rattan - which people may know as Arnis - is the one that is most commonly used in training. However, regardless of the weapons, the lightning-fast movements and efficient footwork in wielding their weaponry are what Kali practitioners are best known for. This is to achieve their primary goal: to cause a fatal damage to the opponent with or without weapons, as quickly as possible.

This leads this article to a similar martial art that is particularly prevalent today - Libre Fighting. Scott Babb, the founder of Libre, has openly shared during his interview with Vice, that one of his primary influences is the Filipino martial arts, along with Western boxing. With a goal similar to the Philippines' Kali, Libre Fighting spread across the globe with its useful self-defense techniques since 2005.

Libre and It's Origin

Libre is a study of human mortality, as per Scott Babb in an article written by Tom Usher at Vice. He stated that if you are knowledgeable on how to attack the human body, you would realize how fragile it is. With that being said, he then concludes that Libre isn't something that you do to kill people - rather, it is something you need to learn so as to appreciate the value of human life.

Libre was born on 2005, founded by American Scott Babb. The idea was formed from a sudden realization when he was in his 20s. He had a job that took him to grubby places and one afternoon, he was caught up in a blind alley between two people holding baseball bats while he, on the other hand, was carrying an oversized Maglite flashlight and a box cutter. It was during that time that he realized how useless mastering a set of Espada y Daga disarms was to him - it didn't help him through the trouble. He could never entrust his life to it. Thus, Libre was born.

Scott wanted to build a system that is free of politics and dogma, and as such, he named his school 'Libre Fighting Academy'. He actually got the term Libre from the Filipino word 'libre' which means 'free'. Libre is a system based on the following: small knives and a close, constricted quarter that particularly depicts a typical caught-up-in-an-alleyway-with-gangsters-carrying-knives scenario. Additionally, Libre promotes freedom to its practitioners in the sense that these people are encouraged to mold Libre into their own, regardless of what particular skill they do best.

Scott has taught Libre to military people and law enforcers and they have used this occasionally during operations. He also taught civilians in places such as Bosnia, Mexico, Indonesia, and the United Kingdom.

How Libre Works

Libre teaches you how to respond to life-and-death situations that may occur at any time of the day, though hopefully not. Libre does not only focus on your fighting skills, it also aims for you to learn how to control your temper and relax your mind. As ironic as it sounds, Libre does not recommend wielding blades all the time. It is important to understand its role in the human race, and thus, Scott makes sure to only accept people who pass the screen so as to avoid people who have evil intent or, as he calls them, psychos.

Libre is an edged-weapon methodology and it focuses on using blade from particular angles to confront multiple opponents in confined spaces, which leads specialists of this art to what they call 'the blender'. The blender is where confined space sparring takes place, developing the practitioners' aggressive instinct; this particular training forces them to learn how to fight back aggressively. Most times, when a practitioner becomes overwhelmed, the training shifts to a more chaotic training, with multiple opponent exercises, making it very physical. This aims to bridge the gap and further develop the mindset of the practitioners.

The Libre Principles

The practitioners of Libre also follow specific principles that helps keep them aligned with the system. They are vital to the practitioners because these principles are strictly implemented within Libre Fighting.

  1. For practitioners, it is important to understand that the main goal of Libre is to attack. It does not consider countering or moving around the opponent's defense, rather tearing through the opponent's defense to attack.
  2. Another point that practitioners should keep in mind is that strategy should involve reading the opponent's stance, guard, and position - then eventually exploit it. This goes back to the statement above; Libre does not play around the opponent's defense, rather, it utilizes favorable footwork, feints, and line-of-sight to break through the opponent's defense.
  3. Defense, on the other hand, is practiced through utilizing footwork to control distance, evade, bait, and counter the opponent. And though blocks or parries may be of use, it is rare in Libre.
  4. In Libre, it is important for the practitioners to realize that it is not about 'dueling' but 'fighting'. Libre does not intend to pick at its opponent, rather to rip them apart in the fastest and most violent way a Libre practitioner can. The faster the fight ends, the better.
  5. Libre doesn't limit its practices to 'techniques'. What's good about Libre is that they do not stop learning and exploring the best ways to get some advantage. For instance, improvising their weaponry by utilizing whatever's within reach such as (a) using clothing, either the practitioner's or the opponent's, to choke, blind, or distract the opponent; (b) spitting, hair pulling, biting, pinching, or even head butting; and (c) smashing the opponent's skull to a table, wall, or curb.
  6. What practitioners should be aware of is that Libre is not geared towards heavier agricultural blades, but the use of common folding knife that one can simply carry on the streets instead. This is another reason why attacking and reinforced slashes are being given emphasis only on vital or crippling areas of the human body. This is simply because the smaller blade is not capable of causing huge damage to the opponent unlike agricultural blades. As such, it is also important to ensure that every strike should do as much damage as possible for the practitioner to prevail.
  7. Libre, unlike other martial arts, is meant to grow. While there are already different techniques incorporated in Libre, it grows and further extends to whatever fighting style the practitioner carries. The thing is, Libre is meant to be developed and molded by the practitioners and not the other way. Otherwise, it wouldn't grow. That being said, practitioners are encouraged to make Libre their own - and use whatever they know about it to prevail against the opponents.

The Libre Knife

Libre practitioners use a specific knife which the founder, Scott Babb and master knife maker, Eric Kramer, both designed; it is called the Libre Fighter Knife.

Knife MKII
Knife MKII - 2

The Libre Practitioner

Libre would not be Libre if not for Scott Babb. But what made Libre "Libre"? With all the above stated, you may have wondered what made Libre go this far globally.

The thing is, Scott Babb did train himself and Libre practitioners tremendously, with a word that meant everything to them - sacrifice. It was not easy, but it was what it should take for them to master the martial arts. So what does this world truly mean for Libre, and in general, martial arts?

  1. Attendance

    According to Scott, it is important to never miss a class. This means that no one is exempt even if they are not feeling well, are tired, stressed, have errands, a trip with the family, or even when you're having a fight with your wife/husband. In every class day, it is vital to make it through the door above everything else.

  2. Boundaries

    This may be the hardest part, but to Libre, it is what it takes to master the skill: let everyone know that your training time should be untouchable. And by everyone, this includes your boss, friends, relatives, and your family. These people whom you love dearly may resent you and what you do - but still, let them know.

  3. Physical Pain

    One should know that training comes with bruises, sprains, pulled muscles, split lips, or more serious injuries. Regardless of how hard it is to walk, pick yourself up, move, and get going. That's what makes martial arts, martial arts - the pain of training hard. However, all of these will be rewarding in the future.

  4. Mental Aspect

    Like soldiers, martial arts affect the mind of a practitioner tremendously. While most people find it easy to stop thinking about the martial art that they are training in when they are not practicing, that is not the case for Libre practitioners. Instead, they end up thinking about it day by day, immersing themselves in the art fully.

For some, this seems too much but, in truth, one wouldn't know its impact and importance until they become a part of Libre. Regardless, these sacrifices will be useful if ever a practitioner faces a situation where the skills they learned can be put to test, most especially now that the world is becoming more and more violent.

Key Takeaway

Libre is not only for those who aspire to be martial artists or those who want to be an MMA fighter. Libre is for those who are being bullied, picked on in the streets, those who are being abused, and, above all, those who want to protect themselves from people who intends or will intend to inflict harm on them. While it may be different from the traditional martial arts, training with Libre for self-defense is very practical, realistic, and useful especially if you come across a situation where you need to draw a knife to protect yourself.

If you want to learn more about Libre Fighting Philippines, click here.