Tuesday, November 06, 2012

David Black Mastro - Don Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera, Basque stickfighting, Canary Island stickfighting, Spanish esgrima, & Filipino eskrima

Don Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera, Basque stickfighting, Canary Island stickfighting, Spanish esgrima, & Filipino eskrima

By David Black Mastro (aka TrueFightScholar)


Don Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera was a Basque soldier, who was the Governor General of the Philippine Islands from 1635 to 1644. He was a member of the Order of Alcantara, which was a knightly order that had been established in 1154, to fight the Moors. The last independent Master of the Order of Alcantara died in 1494, and after that, the Spanish Crown took over the Order, with the King as Master.

As a Basque, Don Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera had to deal with the ethnic bigotry of the reigning Castillian Spaniards, who often treated many of their loyal subjects from other nationalities (eg., Basque, Neapolitan, Tuscan, Milanese, Sicilian, Filipino, et al) with arrogant contempt. Despite this, Corcuera worked hard to serve the Crown, and his combined Spanish, Pampangan, & Visayan forces were successful against the Moros of Sultan Kudarat.

Eskrimador and FMA researcher/writer Celestino C. Macachor (co-author of the excellent book, Cebuano Eskrima--Beyond the Myth), has an excellent article on Corcuera and the role he may very well have played in the foundation of Filipino eskrima, entitled, "Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera: Prodigy of the Filipino Martial Arts?", which can be found at the Eskrima De Campo site, here:


This article provides fascinating information on Basque stickfighting (makila), which makes use of a five-foot stick, similar to that used in Canary Island stickfighting. Given the fact that Corcuera ultimately became Governor General of the Canary Islands, Machachor suggests that there may be a four-way connection between makila, juego del palo Canario, Spanish esgrima, and Filipino eskrima. His hypothesis makes sense, and the only thing I really disagree with is his reference to "Spanish rapier fencing" (which would suggest the civilian school of the destreza). It seems far more likely that it was a military form of cut-and-thrust fencing, that was the Spanish contribution to FMA. We even know from British reports during the Seven Years War, that some Filipino troops in Spanish service used not the thin-bladed cup-hilt rapier, but the stout-bladed bilbo (a type of cup-hilted broadsword).

Check Macachor's article out.



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