Straw vs. Waterhoses

It is no secret, that I am the anti-FMA Grandmaster. I respect them. But I disagree with most of them when concerning teaching the art. The proof is in the pudding, and I support my side of the debate with my claim that I will bet my house on ANY of my instructor level students against ANY of theirs.

Sadly, most Grandmasters would never take such a bet, and most of them can’t even name all of their instructor level students. This is not a judgment against teachers with a lot of students. But it is a judgment against the teaching format most of the Grandmasters (and most likely, yours too) use to impart this art. I can understand, that many good teachers have taught so many students that they cannot remember everyone’s name. I have only been teaching for 28 years, and I can’t name all my students, and the largest my enrollment has ever been was 175.

The act of teaching a student from the beginner level through a high level of proficiency is a very intimate one. It is not a business transaction. The way many FMA students are taught are very impersonal. Teachers know nothing about you. Often, they don’t even meet you–especially if the lessons were via distance learning (aka “DVD”). In a seminar, the most contact one might have with a teacher is the occasional correction he might do (that is, if he actually does the correcting instead of one of his helpers), or at the end of the session, when handing out certificates, shaking hands and taking pictures. This is not how one guarantees the skill level of someone you’re teaching. It is a method of imparting the art to the masses, spreading the name of the system–which is supposed to be good for the FMAs in general (if you believe mass marketing is in fact the answer). I strongly disagree. And unlike most guys stating their opinion, I will prove my point in person.

One of the teaching concepts I disagree with is the idea of “Drinking out of a waterhose”, often associated with GM Dan Inosanto. It goes like this:  You have a large group of students of varied levels and experience in one room. You need a way to give the bare-bones beginner something to take home, as well as the Guro-student who is already teaching. How to accomplish this? Without teaching over the heads of the beginner while not boring the advanced guy?

The answer:  You give them so much technique in that session and students take away as much as they remember. You pour it out fast, give multiple variations, concepts, what-if exchanges and updated changes to the stuff they learned last time they came. Those who can drink fast, retain more. Those who cannot, retain what they can. Hmmph. Well, thank God for camcorders and cell phones. At the end of every seminar, there should be at least two or three breaks where the GM dazzles them with a display of choreographed give and take/counter demonstrations, along with the “you-can-do-dis-you-can-do-dat” with a Filipino accent. Ooooo…. Ahhhhh….. How authentic. Makes you feel like a Mindanao warrior. lol

But real skill in the art is not learned this way. Doesn’t matter how much you practice after the seminar is over and the Grandmaster flies home. It shouldn’t even be taught this way. Martial arts is not taught like how academics is taught in the lecture halls–it should be taught like the breakout groups with the professor’s assistants through the week. (Hey I never said I didn’t go to college)  The study groups, where the basics are drilled and questions are asked, and two or three days a week, the same material is introduced and reintroduced, questioned, analyzed and dissected <—- this is where the learning occurs. If you got a hodgepodge of information one week in a session, then often unrelated stuff a few months from now (or worse–next year), you’ll never learn. This is not a cohesive, intensive study of a subject. Instead, it is an introduction that comes in small, barely digested bites. You can’t learn a language in a seminar a few times a year, and you certainly can’t learn a fighting art that will one day save your life on the street this way either.

When teaching, I believe in the immersion method. You come back week after week, drill the same few techniques over and over, hundreds of repetitions per session, thousands of repetitions per month, for years. You live, eat, breathe the art–in the presence of the Master. You sit at his feet for hours at a time to learn what he has to impart with no time constraints. You don’t have many students to compete against for his attention. He learns you like a mentor learns his pupil, like a doctor learns his patient… like a parent learns his child. Your student learns your favorite meals, he knows how you got almost every injury you have, know the origin of the scars on your face and who gave it to you. You know his financial issues, you’ve talked about his marital woes, his fears while walking on the street. You know his habits when he fights, what he’s good at, what he isn’t good at, how he will be beaten, what he specializes in when he is fighting. Your student’s skill is a constant work in progress, like a tree stump you whittle on daily for years, until it looks like a perfect replica of whatever was in your mind. Every mistake he made in fighting, you’ve already erased. Things he can’t do are no longer an issue, because you’ve taught him how to overcome it. I have students who aren’t perfect fighters, but I have taught them how to work around those imperfections. And when I was confident that they will dominate whoever is in front of them, I considered them advanced enough to teach.

This ^^^ my friends, is how you “certify” a Guro. Not through some crash or correspondence course where you wouldn’t bet your reputation on them if asked. Trust me, I’ve heard all the excuses:

  • What about the guys who live out of town?  They need to relocate, travel or find another teacher. You can’t have them all
  • What about the guys whose careers don’t allow them to study full time?  They are not viable candidates to be a martial arts teacher. I am a doctor, but I want to be a lawyer too. Yeah, well I’d like to be a millionaire. Get out my face with that–make a decision
  • The art needs to be spread to as many people as possible.  Says who? McGuro? Next!
  • Not everyone wants to be a great fighter. Then they need to find another occupation

Little Mikey wants to be a doctor, but he has neither the grades to get into medical school, the discipline to finish a program, or lives in a city with a medical school. So what should he do? Well, there are laws against him calling himself a doctor. Unless he is willing to improve his grades, work hard for it, or relocate to a city that has a medical school (and get accepted)–he honestly doesn’t want to be a doctor. I would question any asshole who taps him on the shoulder and finds a way for him to become a “certified” Doctor without doing it the way everyone else did it. Most of your grandmasters have done this with the Filipino Martial Arts.

This is one of the main reasons thekuntawman exists, and why many people dislike me–because I won’t shut up about it. And this is the driving force behind most of the articles on this blog; the Filipino martial arts has become a mass-marketed commodity. It is no longer the deadly fighting art it claims to be, and so many Grandmasters are the reason why.

Martial arts technique is not meant to be drunk through a waterhose, but to be sipped through a drinking straw. It must be absorbed in fully; not to have most of it wasted down your chin. I have 8 leg attacks in my system, and I never teach more than one or two at a time. Students are here to learn completely and absorb my system, not to have me show them something they could memorize and demonstrate to youtube. When they fight, I expect everything in their arsenal to be a knee-jerk reaction or deliberate use of technique in live time. You can’t do this when more is thrown at them than can become a part of their thought process. I believe in this system of teaching, and this is the reason I will always put my guys out as proof of it–and why most “masters” won’t.

Thank you for visiting my blog.



Review: Cold Steel Brooklyn Shorty

In this video I review the Brooklyn Shorty by Cold Steel. Unfortunately, like too many Cold Steel impact weapons, slider_shortyit is too heavy. I have their shillelagh, and although I like the tough, almost indestructible material, it is way too heavy and way too thick at the striking end. Cold Steel is coming out with the “Brooklyn Whopper,” which weighs 48 ounces! This is more than double what a fighting bat should weigh. As a heavy training bat, this is good, but as a defensive weapon it’s way too heavy. Cold Steel is coming out with a walking stick by Steven Seagal which looks amazing. Unfortunately, at 34 ounces, it’s too heavy.

When it comes to impact weapons, speed kills. If the weapon is too heavy you’ll never hit anyone with it, and even if it does land, it’s moving too slowly to create real damage.

3b24b68aa0bb9ede0210456f82c21332I feel this “bat” (club) should be reduced in diameter by a half inch or so. This would reduce the weight, thereby increasing its speed, striking power, and ease of use. And to Cold Steel’s advantage, reduced weight would result in lower shipping and manufacturing costs.


Seminar Season

In March, the Counterpoint Tactical System seminar circuit begins. John Bahr of Durham Tactical in Durham, N.C. will kick off the year with a two day seminar. Seminar topics are panatukan and Cacoy doce pares. Click here or on the picture to learn more.

John Bahr, Master Zach Whitson, and Ken Pratt

If you’re curious about Counterpoint Tactical System, please, stop in at your local CTS school or club. If there are none in your area, you can find Master Zach Whitson’s seminar schedule at the Counterpoint Tactical International’s website. It’s a packed schedule, and it’s gonna be a great year.



Exercise Before Eating

A new study suggests that exercising before you eat, ideally in the morning before breakfast, is more effective than exercising after eating. I’veUse-Your-Fitness-Log-to-Avoid-Exercise-Errors read several sources recommending exercising in a “fasted state.”

One of the common misconceptions is that if you skip a meal or two, or fast for 24 hours, that your body will shut down, causing you to be sluggish and weak. If the body worked like that our ancestors would be dead. Early people in the natural diet did not have the steady access to food in an endless variety, 24/7, as we do today.

One hypothesis is that the body actually revs up in a fasted state. Brad Pilon of Eat-Stop-Eat is the expert on fasting. If you think about it, when primitive man went without food, the body needed to kick things into gear so he could go out and fight for, or chase down food.

The last time I fasted 24 hours I woke up the next morning feeling great. So try a first-thing-in-the-morning workout. You’ll find it also pumps you up to start the day in a better mood.


Semi-Open Carry?

In the video above, a man spotted someone walking into a Wal-Mart with a concealed pistol in a holster under his jacket. The would-be vigilante then jumped the concealed carrier from behind, taking him to the ground. Although the permit holder tried explaining that he had a concealed carry permit, he was held on the ground until the police arrived. At that point, Mr. Vigilante was charged with assault.

This incident highlights the importance of concealed carry. If the permit holder’s gun hadhqdefault been truly concealed, this incident wouldn’t have happened. He may have got a little sloppy and unintentionally flashed his gun.

Consider the case of a permit holder at the store who bends over to get something from the lower shelf, inadvertently revealing his holstered pistol, at which point the lady behind him sees it and screams “GUN!” He is about to draw his gun to confront the armed robber when he realizes the lady is screaming about his gun.

So if you have a permit to carry concealed, make certain it is truly concealed.

This also raises the issue of what to do if you see someone carrying a weapon. It seems to me that anyone in his sixties (the gentleman is 62) carrying a gun in a holster, not appearing agitated (i.e. strolling into the store) is most likely not a robber, killer, or gang banger. If the guy felt the gun carrier was a threat, why didn’t he tackle him in the parking lot? Why wait to tackle him in the crowded entryway? The correct response is not to confront the armed guy, but to contact the manager or phone the police and continue to observe him.


Skill Development

Ryan is learning the first stand up grappling lock flow series in Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS). As part of teaching him, I’ve been researching whatever lock flows I can find on YouTube. The CTS locks are similar to those in a number of other systems; so, I watch those videos in addition to the CTS videos for alternate explanations. It has been an interesting experiment because watching the videos reinforces that the CTS method of instruction is the optimum one for how I learn. The other ways aren’t wrong; the CTS method is just the most efficient method for the way my brain works. While watching, I made the mistake of reading the comments. Is there any more vile place on the internet than YouTube comments? Probably but I don’t want to know where. Anyway, one of the complaints was that standing locks are not realistic. Another, lock flows don’t work in realistic self defense. It seems as if there’s a belief that if something doesn’t work in mixed martial arts (MMA) fights, that it won’t work in so-called ‘true’ self defense. While I have numerous problems with this philosophy, I won’t discuss it today. Today, I want to talk about skill development.

Alejandro disarming Evan

Alejandro disarming Evan

The simplistic view of martial arts is that it is learning how to fight. It’s much more than that. An effective self defense system teaches multiple skill sets that vary from instant, short, medium, and long term availability. An example of instant availability sills would be how to grip a stick or make a fist. Short term availability would be striking skills, combinations, footwork, and ground escapes; medium term would be disarming, locking, throwing, and ground offense. Finally, long term availability would be longevity, relaxation, and the benefits of internal martial arts. To expect that all skills develop at the same pace ignores the motor complexity involved. Part of development is training physical motor control. We are directing our muscles to move in new and unnatural ways. To take a simplistic view of our musculature, there are two basic functions: gross and fine motor control. Gross musculature covers movements like lifting, walking, swinging a stick, etc. Fine motor control directs movements like typing, writing, tying our shoes, etc. It makes sense that gross movement skills, such as punching, can be grasped and used much faster than fine motor examples like locking and disarming.

Friday - Qigong 04

Master Zach Whitson demonstrating internal martial arts practice.

Fine motor skills also use more time to complete than gross motor skills. There are more steps involved requiring more time and energy. Here is an experiment for you. Have one student apply a simple wrist, arm, or shoulder lock to a complying opponent while at the same time, have another student jab a focus mitt. See how many times the student can jab the mitt before the lock is fully applied. My guess is that with the fastest student doing the locks, the jab count will be, at the least, two. The amount of moving parts necessary to complete a lock are greater than necessary to jab someone in the face. Thus, it makes sense that locking is a skill that takes longer to develop.

09-13-14 Seminar 32a

Ground striking drills.

Watching sparring, one could conclude that locks don’t actually work. So, why study them? If we ignore the need to be a well rounded martial artist, there is still a reason to study locks. Not all skills are equal; this is why tactics exist. The jab and the uppercut are not interchangeable techniques; so, why on earth would anyone assume that striking and locking are? Master Zach Whitson, founder of Counterpoint Tactical System, has a saying, “Never disarm someone in their right mind.” In other words, you have to strike before looking for a disarm. You could easily replace the word disarm with lock or throw in that phrase without losing the meaning. If you’re training safely, you’re not knocking each other silly in sparring, which means that openings for locks are sparse. An opponent that can counter with striking increases the difficulty of locking. If you’re sparring safely, you have to find another way to fool your opponent into giving you the time to apply the lock or get punched in the face.

09-13-14 Seminar 12a

Based on mixed martial arts events, it would seem that standing locks don’t actually work either. I mean, the MMA world hasn’t seen a top level champion like Jon Jones using a standing overhook cradle lock to wrench, say, Glover Teixeira’s shoulder during an actual fight. Have they?

From the Fightland article “Jon Jones versus Glover Teixeira: Defanging the Snake” by Jack Slack. This is a must read article.

The real question is are you practicing all of your skills during sparring? Or are you trying to win? Medium and long term skills can be applied during sparring if we are willing to ‘lose’ at sparring. We should cultivate sparring partners that believe sparring is where we experiment. It’s important to have sparring sessions where we can try new skills against resisting opponents who won’t destroy us when we fail. And we will fail. Failure is a part of any development. We have to be able to step outside our comfort zone to grow. We may just learn that different skills require different tactics.


I used locks as an example through this article, but it could apply to any medium or long term skill. Master Whitson in the course of my training has put me in locks when I was resisting. Why? Because he has taken the time to develop that skill. So, have patience. Talk to your instructor about skill development. What in your art fits into the immediate, short, medium, and long term categories? Next, how do your medium and long term skill sets interact with the immediate and short term ones? Not all skills are equal, and some require more practice than others.


Streetfighters vs Ring Fighters

There is an ongoing debate among martial artists, actually between three groups–although there appears to be a debate among just two of them:

  1. Streetfighters. Martial artists who train strictly for streetfighting. They have little interest in, or respect for, tournament fighting of any type. They modify traditional martial arts for the street in the modern world, and believe that martial arts must keep up with the times and changes in technology. Show them a world-class ring fighter, and they will tell you that the street is a different animal because there are no rules, etc… They often see fighting as a life-or-death struggle between murders and the law-abiding citizen–not mutual combat between trained fighters.
  2. Ring Fighters. These martial artists don’t care for any martial arts philosophy that does not involve some form of fighting against other martial artists in organized (or unorganized, lol) events. They range from point fighters, to kick boxers, to Mixed Martial Arts fighters, to guys who participate in backyard brawls and dojo fight nights.
  3. Traditionalists. Those who neither believe in fighting in sport events nor “modernizing” their beloved arts. The art is valid as-is, and if you develop it strongly enough, you should be able to adapt to both the ring or the street. And in doing so, you embrace te actual purpose of the arts:  To live this lifestyle, preserve the tradition, and understand it well enough to use it under a plethora of circumstances.

Each of them have their strengths in this argument. Parties on all sides of the debate also have their misconceptions:

  • fighters must have a way to test technique in real time, against an opponent determined to make that technique fail, to fully understand how that technique works. many who don’t fight never get this lesson
  • there must be the element of the strange opponent–someone unfamiliar, unpredictable and uncooperative
  • all sporting events have rules. the street has no rules…
  • or does it? does mutual combat between two men at the football have some understandings? of course it does. if one pulls out a knife or gun, it IS unexpected. many combatants have self-imposed limits in a fight, because they know that this is a fist fight and not a fight to the death. if one has a child, the other man will not attack him. RULES.
  • but then there are those guys who will ^^^
  • many fighting techniques practiced by traditional martial artists are, in fact, outdated
  • as much as I love sport karate and kick-boxing, the average fighter on the street is NOT going to kick you, and he is most likely not going to throw textbook punches at you… and he is most likely not going to attempt a one or two leg takedown
  • even if 90% of fights go to the ground, don’t 100% of them start standing up?
  • ^^ not necessarily, ask someone who has awaken at 2 am in bed, with an assailant standing over them
  • or a woman who is put in a chokehold from behind by surprise
  • you can’t do most of those grappling moves on a concrete sidewalk
  • or against a guy with a concealed knife

The bottom line is this:  None of the above has all the answers. None of them. Each has credible points in the argument, and if you neglect one or two, your martial arts will be missing some very important information. You cannot treat the full contact arena as preparation for street fighting. You cannot “simulate” a real street fight. You cannot substitute the feel or experience of fighting someone trying to knock you out without (well) fighting someone trying to knock you out.

And if you are training empty hands without some element of fighting and sparring with a knife, stick or club–you darn sure aren’t training to fight a punk on the street. The gang banger, skinhead, or drunk soccer fan you encounter is not going to kickbox with you, he is most likely going to do something “unfair”–pull out a weapon, hit you from behind, jump you with three or four of his buddies. In the world of martial arts and fighting, you must get as much of each school of thought as you can.

So my verdict for who wins the argument–they all do. And you cannot afford to take sides.

Thank you for visiting my blog.


SGM Cacoy’s New Book

Supreme Grandmaster Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete  has released a new book about his Cacoy Doce ParesThe Art of Olisi-Baraw. Aksyon Bisaya covered the book release and aired a small demonstration conducted by Cacoy Doce Pares Grandmaster and Counterpoint Tactical System Founder Zach Whitson and Cacoy Doce Pares Grandmaster John Mac.

Here is information about purchasing the book:

To all Eskrimadors and Stick-fighters
The Art of Olisi-Baraw
By Supreme Grandmaster Cacoy Cañete

If interested to purchase it is advisable to find friends who are interested in buying the “Olisi-Baraw” books the cost of the book with Shipping included, is cheaper. Here are the Prices Per Book (Shipping already included):
Note: Shipping from the Philipines is expensive. Price adjusted for shipping.
1 Book = $95.00 (this includes shipping)
2 Books = $60.00 per Book
5 Books = $43.00 per Book
8 to 25 Books= $35.00 per Book

FMA Informative has this information on how to order. Also, check with the Cacoy Doce Pares Headquarters on Facebook.


Real-Life Combat: Stop the Draw!


In the chilling video above we see the moments before a rookie policeman was fatally shot, captured via body cam. The crucial moments occur at 1:07. The cop is close enough that he can grasp the assailant’s left elbow. He should be making contact with this elbow, or better –at the bicep above the elbow. This is an application of Geoff Thompson’s “Fence.”

The cop needs to be very clear at the outset that the guy needs to keep his hands out of his pockets.

The fatal moment is at 1:10. You see the cop raise his left hand in a defensive gesture, maybe to reach for the revolver.

A limitation of martial arts practice is that stylists almost always train with the weapons already drawn, as imagesthough you will spend every waking moment with a stick in your hand, or the weapon just magically materializes the moment you need it. If you do a quick search of “gun disarm,” or you’ve read self-defense books, gun disarm training starts with a gun being held at the defender’s head. That’s how I learned it in Kenju years ago. But what if the attacker’s aim isn’t to hold a gun to your head to rob or intimidate you, but to kill you?

Springfield20You need to train against the draw. The only martial artist I’ve seen train to counter the draw is Guro Pana of Bayani Warrior.

One form of countering the draw is to control the offside arm. The Russian Tie Up, or the 2-on-1, is good. But as martial artists, especially Filipino martial artists, we tend to train weapon side versus weapon side, or right lead versus right lead. Irimi Nage is a powerful entry move that can lead into a takedown or a choke. Instead of practicing irimi nage with the right arm striking or clotheslining the opponent, practice with the left hand. The master of irimi nage is Steven Segal, as seen in the video below. Too often aikido stylists’ version of this throw is flowery, but Segal is violent and explosive.

The 2-on-1 and irimi nage applied to the opponent’s left side, can be used to counter the right hand draw hqdefaultand the San Quentin style knife attack which leads with the left arm. Practice the 2-on-1 against the opponent’s left arm. Once you’ve locked up his arm, you can free your left hand to draw a weapon, which means that you need a weapon accessible to your left hand.


Remembering Bobby.....By Ron Saturno

There was a gem of a man who once lived in Stockton, Ca. and not that very long ago. Loved by many and respected by everyone lucky enough to have had any contact with him: His name was Bobby Antuna.

I thought of him this Saturday when driving by Lindey's Dough nuts. I remembered sitting one day in Lindey's when Bobby happened to come in for some of the localy famous potatoe flour dough nuts.
If you are looking for a Filipino in Stockton and wait long enough they will eventua...lly wander into Lindey's.

I wasn't looking for Bobby that Saturday morning, but was happy to have shared a dough nut ortwo with him over coffee. We sat down for awhile and talked things Escrima. Bobby was taught by the extremely knowledgeable Dentoy Revillar.

Bobby achieved his Master's with Manong Dentoy and honestly, this is quite an achievement. Manong Dentoy trained under all three of the most famous early Master's of Stockton and is considered a treasure within the Stockton Escrima community.

I have never failed to learn something from Manong Dentoy whenever I've been any where near him. He recently underwent major surgery and truly wish him the very best and a quick recovery.

So when I bounced a few questions off of Bobby and asked his thoughts about a few technical questions: I knew that I was in good company to get well thought out answers,because of his being a fellow Escrima Master and the solid Escrima foundation he had recieved under Manong Dentoy.

I clearly remember asking Bobby if Manong Dentoy was upset because of the videos that I've been putting up. He said no, because Manong Dentoy saw that I wasn't putting up any foot work. Nobody knows how hard it is for me not to show foot work in my videos. My feet want to move automatically. Foot work is the cherished secret of Filipino Martial Arts. Moving with purpose in Filipino Martial Arts is the very least understood part of being an Escrimador.

Generally, much of the video coming out of the Philippines shows really good examples of proper foot work. In the U.S. there are many fine Escrimador's using superior foot work, but sometimes foot work lacks because it is being taught in a sterile environment. In the Philippines you may have to use your training on the way home from training.You tend to take shit seriously, when you really may have to use your training.

I think because Stockton is a shit hole, many of the Escrimador's in Stockton pay homage to realistic training. In my upcoming book and video's it will be hard for me to leave out the core foot work of Serrada Escrima. The secret of Escrima is in the foot work.

I will never ever be able to ask Master Antuna any questions ever again, because he sadly passed away way too soon. I will never be able to sit and ever again enjoy a dough nut with Master Antuna.
He was a gentleman and gifted Escrimador: Bobby I salute you and you are not forgotten.


Ground Zero Post from Ron Saturno

Ground Zero.....

I grabbed a 'short' Serrada stick last night to work out with. I was visiting the old Harding Way School where Angel Cabales started Filipino Martial arts on the mainland in 1968. There is 'a lot' of history in that building.

So many famous people have gone through the doors of the Harding Way School that I can only hope that it is never torn down for 'any' reason. If it should ever come up for demolition, it should be lovingly taken apart brick by brick and ...moved to another ...location and reassembled.

I couldn't help it when I was walking around to 'not' feel the energy of the place. Just a few blocks from the Cabales Serrada School Angel Cabales himself rests in a nearby cemetery. History.

I was asked yesterday to sit down in the old school and speak about Serrada Escrima, Angel Cabales and the history of Filipino Martial Arts in Stockton, Ca. Stockton, Ca., is the epicenter, the very ground zero of Filipino Martial Arts in the United States.

The school on Harding way is sacred ground. It is 'the' very center of the epicenter. Serrada Escrima and Angel Cabales cannot be separated from this truth.

When someone asks you how it felt to have been trained by a legend? It's very hard to answer such a question easily. How can you describe your Master's gifted poetry in motion with his weapon? How can you abley describe in words the many fabulous skills of a renowned Master Martial Artist? How can you tell someone how lucky you truly feel to have been trained by such a man?

How can you thank him in words and deeds long after his passing? I owe the man 'is all' that I can truly say and that I do try to push his art in any way that I can. I was placed into a corner last night to display my art on video.

I showed several basic moves last night, with another whole new generation of students standing and sitting nearby watching. I can only hope that in someway I inspired this new generation of students to continue learning the art of Serrada Escrima. It felt good to be back at the ground zero location where it all began.

When Angel Cabales started teaching Escrima at the Harding Way location, there were four Masters that soon started training there as well along with him. Max Sarmiento, Angel Cabales, Gilbert Tenio and Leo Giron were all at one time under the same roof.

All of these men later went on to each become very famous in their own right and deservedly so. To be showing off my Escrima at such a ratified location made me have goose bumps.

To think that so many famous men and women came through the Harding Way location truly humbled me. Richard Bustillo, Dan Inosanto, Dentoy Revillar, Rene Latosa, Mike Inay, Graciela Casillas, Jimmy Tacosa, to name just a few of the many.

It felt good to be back at ground zero last night. It was a blast.

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The Importance of Lineage in Martial Arts

      Let me first tell you how I met GM Dr. Guillermo Lengson .

I was a high school student then when I trained under him at the gym of the Quirino Grandstand (in Luneta, Manila). To me, he was just an ordinary man and the way I saw him was he was not so impressive, like the martial art actors in a movie. He’s not tall; around 5’5 and had a big belly. I even wondered if I can learn something from this guy. But through a matter of faith, submissiveness, hard training and humility, I had learned so much. He even taught me for free.  In return, I do some chores like scrubbing and sweeping the floor of our gym to make it clean for us to use. In other words, don’t just believe what is said.  You have first to try it and experience it for yourself.

      Now, about the term lineage.  A lineage for me is something that is important because it is a gesture of respect and an honour that I trained under this person. A lineage is like family : you can’t  exist without it. It symbolizes that you learned from somebody; a mentor that you submitted to and humbled yourself for the sake of learning.  I acknowledge my lineage with pride because it adds credibility to my ability to perform and teach the craft for the simple reason that there are many charlatans. Pretenders. These are those who claim to be self-taught. My pride in my martial arts lineage is a deep hearted gesture with which I emulate and honour a person who is of great influence and value to my life. I am proud and humbled at the same time to have been one of his many first-generation students. To mention his name is to repay the man with honor and gratitude. True, your martial arts lineage will not assure anyone that you are a good instructor as well. A good instructor will always depend upon the person who learns the craft with passion and dedication; discipline and humility. Recognizing my martial art lineage is a matter of acknowledging my loyalty to the person who has taught and treated me well.

       The martial arts you had learned will always depend upon how you use it; not only in an actual arena but in the way you carry yourself in your everyday life. Martial arts is not just about defending yourself. It is about the principles you have learned in the craft. What you learned and re-learned and continue to propagate through teaching.  In our case, once you’re under the tutelage of GM Dr. “Doc” Lengson, we have what we called a common denominator- a distinct movement that he taught us; principles on how to apply these techniques. The terms like T, 9, 12 and Series (to mention a few), that only a first generation student of his will understand. A lineage is a brotherhood with mutual respect and aspiration.  It is a pride and honor for us to uphold. However, the first thing that I learned from “Doc” Lengson is to finish my College course, for me to make life easier.  Teaching Martial arts as an occupation in the Philippines is not so financially rewarding and will not consistently bring food on the table. And that principle, I continue to teach to my present students. There is also the risk of making martial arts as a “business enterprise” which is something that Doc Lengson (a dentist by profession) detested. For him, teaching and learning martial arts should be primarily a passion borne out of one’s desire to learn and teach with dedication, perseverance and humility. On its own, it should not be used as a stepping stone to enrich oneself at the expense of the art and science of it. Hence, the reason why our technique is something that was never commercially known. Our Blackbanders Fraternity is an organization Doc Lengson created. During our heyday, our group was met with trepidation by the other competing teams. They knew that once we entered a tournament, we were there to win. And we never failed to bring it home. It was something that Doc Lengson engrained in us. He never allowed us to enter competitions just for the sake of joining. And he never let us join unless we were absolutely ready. He instilled upon us to carry our banner with honor. And we always did.                                                                    

         A lineage is not a guarantee for a person that he can be a good or even the best instructor but it is a basis to know where he belongs and is proud enough to say it.  Some people are too proud to admit that they learned from somebody. For whatever selfish reasons, who knows? In the martial arts world there’s a saying that “Somewhere, there’s a person better than you so keep yourself well prepared so that you won’t meet him”.  

    In my martial arts lineage, I am proud to say, the late GM Dr. Guillermo “Doc” B. Lengson, was mine.

GM Sony P. Sy

Palis Sagasa Arnis Pilipino    


There can only be one! Long live Escrima!

Very cool story from

A few days ago I did a live interview for a Filipino Martial Arts based
Internet program. I was happy to do it. There were some questions asked that I dearly wanted to answer. One of the questions was about challenges.

Many of the stories that I can tell would be considered offensive to people closely involved. Another thing is that I follow in my Master' footsteps, regarding challenges. Angel Cabales would speak of challenges, but he "never" gave names

. He would "never" put down any opponent and always credited "luck" as being in his favor. I want to share a story today that hopefully will not open a huge can of worms. But, if the story is listened to closely: It will truly get into the very heart of Filipino Martial Arts. It will hopefully be understood with compassion, admiration and respect.

Manong Angel began hearing about Johnny La Coste being spoken of, as the leading Escrimador in Stockton, Ca. The illustrious Dan Inosanto dearly loved the movements of Johnny La Coste and rightfully so.

Manong Johnny had a certain way of moving which always puzzled me, but I liked them anyway. Manong Johnny was a friend of my father's and until I began learning Escrima had no idea that he was an Escrimador. Honestly, I seldom heard any mention of Filipino Martial Arts. But, war veteran's seldom speak about the battles they were in, in public. And Escrima was very secretive and unknown, during the time of my childhood.

But, due to Guro Dan's heavy public profile and his pushing of Johnny La Coste: The stories of Manong Johnny being a better Escrimador then Manong Angel kept circulating. Manong Angel felt that he was being displaced as Stockton's premier Escrimador. There can be only one.

So Manong Angel went looking for Johnny La Coste and found him very sick. He had found his room and knocked upon his door to gain entrance. The exact exchange of words will forever be lost, but it boils down to:

Hey! They say you are better than me, so let's fight and find out. Now, according to Manong Angel, this total event happened in Manong La Coste's room. So listen closely:

Manong Angel said that Manong La Coste couldn't move very well,
due to his illness. He was speaking to Angel sitting at the edge of his bed. But, Manong La Coste stood up from his bed and said that he wasn't a woman and that he was old and very sick, but that he would fight. If he had to die he wouldn't beg for his life, but die a man.

Manong Angel said that Manong La Coste could hardly stand up, when he was speaking to him. Manong Angel said that he couldn't help but shed tears in admiration for the man he was speaking to. He simply said that no, we don't have any problems and walked out.

This is the heart and soul of Filipino Martial Arts. A true Escrimador spoke to Angel Cabales that day. Old and sick, he would rather be beat down and even die, than bow down to any man.

Angel Cabales teared when he told me this story, many years after the event. He told me this story with deep respect for Johnny La Coste. So it is with a heavy heart that I say: Mabuhay ang Escrima.


Warriors of Righteousness

I’m going to let you know right now, this article, which will read like a manifesto, is going to lose me some fans.

I don’t care. This is my truth, my blog, and like it or not–it will be a truth for you if you are an FMA man as well as your systems’ founders, whether or not they will admit it to you.

I have a Facebook page as well as a “like” page for the blog. Feel free to add me or “Like” the blog…

Something about social media I realize that I dislike greatly… It isn’t polite conversation. It is a place where novices argue with Grandmasters, guys who couldn’t hold your jock strap will challenge a world-class fighter, and people who are cordial with you will talk shit behind your back–except it’s right there for the world to see. When you confront them about it, they will usually lie and deny, smile and shake your hand, and try to act like “it’s just social media”. I have martial artists I tolerate, and some I actually liked and respected, until they went into some racist diatribe about Black kids or Mexicans (newsflash!!! they aren’t all illegal!) or how they’d like to kick President Obama’s Muslim ass. Guys who wear Islamic gear while dancing around campfires and fairground stages and claim their beloved art was created by Muslim Filipinos will fantasize about how we should nuke the region where Islam was born–killing women, children, CHRISTIANS–anything dirty and Arab and undeserving of life. Guys will watch a fight on youtube with three Black kids beating up a White kid and all of a sudden, he is pissed off at all Black people… except, you know, your Black coworkers, Jim Kelly, and the few Black dojo brothers you came up with–but the rest of ‘em? Fuck em, you’re tired of apologizing for slavery and if any thugs who cross your path will meet an unfortunate demise from one of those many blades you pack or that Kerambit you can’t wait to draw. Social media is the place where the one with loose thoughts and careless, reckless fingertips will open it’s ugly mouth and spew the disgusting filth we never knew about you when we were discussing Eskrima and Kali on MartialTalk.

Honestly, I am somewhat glad to find that out about you–but I also wish I never found out.

My grandfather was right. The older I get, the more I would become like him:  withdrawn, private, isolated, and distrusting of even many new students. All this social media has taught me what evil lurks within the private thoughts of men I thought highly of. I saw a guy comment on a video clip of a teenager wearing a sports bra while performing a Kata how he can’t wait till she turned 18. Another guy talked about how Filipinos think they’re better and if it weren’t for the FMAs and the women, he wouldn’t bother with Filipino culture at all. I’ve read where guys I knew 20+ years ago who couldn’t fight are now bragging about kicking butt when they were young. I know a guy who claimed to win a tournament 25 years ago that I won myself. I saw another man tell a story about a fight, and the old friend who actually had that fight commented that “you weren’t there, why are you telling MY story?”  Embarassing.

And now, I am starting to wish this Martial Arts business was not a business at all.

I once advertised my school in the Yellow Pages and local papers and radio ads. I handed out business cards and flyers, wore my school shirt and jacket every day. Today, when a guy asks to study with me, I look him up and down and wonder if he hates Muslims. I almost want to look at their Facebook pages first to see what’s on it before accepting them as a student. On several occasions, I have taught men who were students of another school for a few months, then the students leave and go back to those schools, carrying my basics with them and then become a rival. A story I tell frequently, a student left me, joined a teacher I disliked and taught one of my prized skills to his class mates and is now allowing his skills to rot on a 300+ lb body. He knows private information about me, and has tried to hurt his former younger classmates in a full contact competition years after leaving us. He is now some kind of inheritor of another teacher I know but isn’t doing shit with his skills–and get this: On his website he makes no mention of me. Another guy took a seminar with me in the 90s, called me regularly for years after, and today is selling rank and information on the internet, naming his art “Kuntao”. This mother fucker had ONE seminar with me, and when we had a round-robin sparring, didn’t participate. Anyone who has ever studied with me knows this:  I don’t have an option not to spar in my school. Never had, never will. I fight all Black belt visitors before they touch hands with my guys on fight night, but there are teachers who never fight at all. But they will get on social media and talk about kicking my ass.

I could go on.

But this article is not about social media; it is about the ugliness I have come to know about FMA guys.

Too many of our Guros treat this art as nothing more than drills and fancy demos and side-arts to whatever you offer in your schools. When they speak of philosophy, it is a free-for-all because even the Filipino masters you first got your FMAs from didn’t teach you any. This is why I included a “Philosophy” section in this blog, and wrote a book on FMA philosophy–because I know most of you didn’t get any. If you learned the art without the philosophy, I am here to tell you… you are missing a lot of the art. A WHOLE lot. I recall years ago, seeing a roomful of FMA teachers say that the only thing they were interested in was the fighting skills of the FMA. They did not need to visit the Philippines, understand the culture, learn the history, none of that. At the same time, I was told by a Filipino FMA Guro that foreign students don’t want none of that stuff–that they don’t even want to spar or get trained. He suggested that I simply teach the fighting skills, don’t train or test them, sign the damn documents and take my money and go to the next city. I’m sorry, I wasn’t brought up that way. My art is a family heirloom, not a hustle.

So I blame the Filipino teacher. His ego and his greed created all this crap. He didn’t care if the students drank alcohol, slept with minors and bar girls in Manila, bad mouthed former teachers, sidestepped training and fighting. He just wanted to make his money, and move on to the next city. Too many Grandmasters have trained and certified and endorsed men they had to later disassociate themselves with later, because the guy made a pass at his granddaughter. (Yes, I’m telling the truth)  I had a lightweight argument with a Grandmaster in my school about comments I made on the internet about his business practices and he called me jealous. He told me he had produced almost 200 Guros how many did I have (I only have 6). I told him to name 50 of his. Point made.

The Pinoy FMA grandmaster made acquiring the art easy. He didn’t give a shit if you could fight, just be certified and keep coming back (excuse me–bringing the GM back for more seminars) for more “updated” training to keep the certification. Damn, most of you guys pimped Arnis as a crack whore who still has her beauty. Oh, excuse me–your Kali, or whatever you’re calling it these days… As a result, students are expecting the art quickly, and they really don’t respect the art or why it was created. They barely even pay homage to their teachers and lineages these days, and are quicker to call themselves a Master than you were!

Let’s interject a point right now. Why did the FMAs evolve in the first place? What made these arts come around about 150 years ago? Was it to give Karate schools more income? Was it to go and invade another neighboring country? Was it to defend the shores of the Philippines? Spread religion? To rape and pillage?

Eskrima and the Freedom movement in the Philippines went hand-in-hand. When the Filipino tired of seeing his women raped, his children wish to become less Filipino and more Spaniard–when he tired of being a second class citizen in the country of his birth–he wanted Spain and America OUT of the Philippines. The movement was led on one side by Christianized Filipinos with a Eurocentric education and money, and uneducated, poor Filipinos on the other. The two factions didn’t always see eye-to-eye with each other, sometimes they even despised one another, but they had the same basic goal, which was to see the Filipino a soveriegn nation without the weight of colonial oppression on his neck. He wanted respect. He wanted equality. He wanted to give his family all the same things the western colonizer gave his family. And he wanted to do it with self-determination, without permission, and without limits to his potential. The Spaniard, then the American, then the Japanese, then the American again–sought to prevent that. The Filipino had two things he used as weapons–his mind, which told him what to do–and his courage, which gave him the boldness to fight for what was right, even if he was outnumbered, outgunned, and undertrained.

This, my friends, is true courage, and Eskrima was often the vehicle used to make a slave into a man. Trust me, your internet/seminar Guro ain’t teaching you this. People love to throw around the word courage very loosely and assign it to anyone with a uniform, a badge or a gun. In the Philippines, that isn’t courage, and like I said, your Guro hasn’t taught you shit. Courage is when you are the underdog and you fight anyway, even if it kills you. No offense intended, but if you are armed with the most sophisticated weapons systems, world class hand to hand training, and the backing of the largest armed force on earth–that is NOTHING like the kind of courage it takes to be a poor farmer armed with a bolo going against that guy who has no one in his corner but his wife and children. Courage, my friends, is a 12 year old Palestinian boy armed with a rock standing his ground against four Israelis in a fucking tank. You internet Guros don’t know shit about this kind of courage. You probably have comments floating around the internet about that boy’s heritage being evil and so he deserved his death.

You sound like one of those Spaniards the FMAs was designed to defend against.

A true warrior of righteousness is capable of not lumping bad cops with good cops–something each of you I’m sure can do–but also not lumping that 12 year old Palestinian with Osama bin Laden just because they are both Arab and Muslim. At the same time, a warrior of righteousness can see a Black boy in the projects and not hate him because some other Black boys 20 years ago beat you up in high school. They are not the same, just like that White cop who came to my aid when I was in a car accident is nothing like Timothy McVeigh, just because they are both Caucasian and Christian. Most people of color can do that, but I tell you–looking at my Facebook timeline, many of my “friends” cannot.

I saw an article on Facebook that a friend posted, about a shooting range in Arkansas turning away a South Asian man and his son because his range was a “Muslim-free” range. The man was not Muslim, and he was actually an American… born and raised. Well, a Guro (I defriended so that I wouldn’t say the wrong thing to him) stated that America is a free country and they are a private business and can serve who they want. If you do Filipino arts, then your teacher didn’t teach you jack shit. First of all, if I am correct, America made it illegal to discriminate. Whites-only lunch counters and No-Mexican neighborhoods is supposed to be a thing of the past, correct? Then why is some guy who thinks he is upstanding and righteous supporting this? Is discrimination okay for one group of people but not another? Well don’t let me give you my opinion, I noticed that the new trend is to call people of color “racist”, especially when they point out a discriminatory behavior you are exhibiting…

This art was not created so that the large group could keep the small group in check. It was made to do it the other way around. But too many FMA guys are sitting in the comfort of their majority status, anxiously awaiting the opportunity to exact revenge on some young punk–possibly as pay back for another young punk’s crime years ago–and blaming the whole thing on “fear of his life” or “self-defense”, when the issue is not that you fear getting your wallet taken or you life snuffed out. It’s because deep down inside, you really hate a whole demographic of people–that diseased your forefathers carried that is no longer fashionable or acceptable to suffer from, was bequeathed to you like eye color and flat feet, and the FMA is arming you with the ability to put a hurting on someone less trained, less educated, and of a lower social status.

And no, I am no psychologist. But I know this art and what it was made for, and while you’re regurgitating your thoughts all over social media–you’re showing your hand. And I can tell, it’s a very bad hand.

Let me add this. I don’t expect you to go out and wear a “Black lives matter” tee shirts or do a die in at the Israeli embassy. You don’t have to wear flip flops and pink shirts and join the Pride Parade. But know that as a trained warrior, you should have empathy for those whose struggles you may not fully understand. You may not understand that some Mexican immigrant may have come here for better opportunity he can’t get at home. If your ancestors came here from Italy, Ireland, Germany, or India–someone in your family had suffered the same path he did. It’s just that no one in 1910 was turning penniless immigrants away like they are today. Not everyone has the money to buy a plane ticket, get a visa and come over the way you think they should. There are still people who obey the law, pay taxes, study and finish school and still get turned down for jobs because of the color of their skin. And there are people who drive down the street having committed no crime and will be victimized by a police officer because he reminds that cop of a criminal element. If you can accept injustice anywhere, the world is unjust everywhere. As a martial artist, you don’t necessarily have to go out and fight that. But you should at least be aware of those facts and hate it in your heart. Your Guros may even be suffering those same things. As a warrior, your conscience may be called upon to defend one of these people. My fear is that many of you are waiting to be the one to punish one of those people yourself. As a martial arts teacher, you might be training a gay man who fears being beat up for his lifestyle. You don’t have to believe in his lifestyle, but that man is still someone’s son, someone’s brother, maybe even someone’s father. You can’t be an effective teacher if you hate him deep down. If your religion considers him a sinner–let God sort him out. But as a warrior, you are a protector of the weak, the oppressed, the underdog. Perhaps your Guro only taught you to kill, but hopefully, today I’ve taught you this very basic tenet.

Thank you for visiting my blog.


What We’re Studying This Week

Here are some video examples of what STL Counterpoint is studying this week.

First up, Ryan is working on his Kenpo Counterpoint drills. This video shows one of the drills – Five Swords. These drills are Counter/Re-Counter drills where the student learns to keep countering.

The video below from 2008 Iron Mountain camp covers more than we’re currently studying, but it does give some ideas. We are working single stick attacks and targeting that are building blocks into the Pekiti Largo curriculum. We’re always working the Cacoy striking patterns and maintaining the relaxation in that drill. Finally, my own personal study this week has been on the Pekiti knife drills.


Baseball Bat or Samurai Sword?

A reader asked me if Big Stick Combat can be used with a sword, such as a samurai sword. I’ve mentioned before how n2001-aut1many Filipino styles constantly try to outdo each other by bragging about how they are “blade-based.” I don’t make any claims to being blade-based. My system is based on a stick and a baseball bat.

I do believe I could use a sword if I needed to, and I do believe that BSC is compatible with sword technique. But I’ve come to the conclusion that blades such as swords are not practical for me. Does that mean that my style is better than sword or blade styles? No, not by a long shot. Reader Brian sent me a link to an article where a comedian was attacked by someone with a baseball bat. This is common in the US. When I am in the Philippines, it is common to read about machete attacks.

What makes sense as a martial art is based upon what you encounter in your environment –where you work, the local laws, your day-to-day activities, your physical limitations, and so on. Here in Idaho I can legally walk down the street carrying a samurai sword. I choose not to. I can also legally carry a gun openly. So if I must choose between carrying a gun or a samurai sword, why not carry a gun? In fact, there are far more Idahoans openly carrying guns than samurai swords. And how do you carry a samurai sword or a machete concealed? Skallagrim has shown how the over-the-shoulder sword carry looks cool, but is impractical.

In restrictive jurisdictions, a cane or baseball bat are almost always viable options.

Reader Robert sent me an interesting link to Jigen-ryu

What is interesting is that one Bujutsu scholar, Yoshinori Kono, believes that the samurai didn’t use the contemporary hands-apart grip as practiced in kendo and iaido, but kept their hands together (Can you say “bat grip”?). See the video below at 4:35.

If you think about it, with the hands spread apart, the uppermost hand is pushing. This is slow, and emphasizes hand and arm strength. With both hands together (bat grip) body movement powers the strike.


Dominant FMA

Just a quick note to my readers… We now have a website to advertise my books!  I’ve read all kinds of advice to “monetize” my blog,  but just like my school–I’d rather keep the art as pure as I can and reject the fluff and pomp.  Of course,  I’ll still make references to my books;  after all,  I believe 100% in what I tell my readers.  My focus is still on growing my art only through my school. However,  we can still share art and advice through other mediums.  Last year,  I experimented with teaching seminars… it’s just not my thing.  I value teaching,  and teaching *full time*. Teaching on the run just won’t produce the best students possible. And excuse my bluntness–but my philosophy won’t allow me to investigate a “second-best” form of passing down the art.  Either we do it right,  or we don’t do it at all.

Since starting this blog, I’ve discovered a second mission:   To help other FMA men develop their individual systems towards dominance.  My systems will never get mass-marketed.  It will never have mass appeal.  But perhaps,  without teaching you my art,  I might help guide other Guro towards making their arts and systems dominant,  using my philosophy.

The result are the books I’ve written.  They are a combination of articles from this blog and other writings,  and packaged in small,  easy-to-read books. Yes,  what you get here is free.  But I gotta make an income somehow!

Please visit and share this site.  And check back periodically,  as I do plan to add to the offerings!

Thank you for visiting my blog.


2015: A Year in Preview

Happy 2015

The superstition is that whatever you do on the first day of the New Year dictates how your year will go. If this is true, then I will spend 2015 coughing, barely able to focus, and having low energy levels. I spent New Year’s Day in the midst of a bout of acute bronchitis and sinus issues. Well, I reject this superstition. 2015 will be a great year in my personal, professional, and martial arts life. I’ll be marrying a wonderful woman, celebrating ten years in my dream job, and testing for my first black belt.


My 2014 year in review never got finished. Since my to do list got longer during recovery, let me just say that 2014 was a very good year. From progressing in my martial arts journey, watching my friend and student easily earn rank, joining forces with Team Kali, and, of course, learning from my instructor, last year was the best in my martial arts career. This year will blow that out of the water. It is time to set goals for the year ahead. (Click here to learn about goal setting.) Rather than list out my goals, here is a preview of the martial arts year to come.


STL Counterpoint

STL Counterpoint Logo

This year, Ryan will test for third brown belt, and, potentially, we might have students testing for blue belt. We might even get a Cacoy Doce Pares (CDP) rank test. Master Zach Whitson will visit for our third annual Counterpoint Tactical Systems (CTS) seminar – topics still pending. We’d like to work more with Guro Joe Craig and Apex Training Center as they’ve been kind to me during the initial phases of STL Counterpoint. We have some ideas in the works that I will unveil on the blog and our FaceBook page if they become possible. Finally and most importantly, we will continue to explore Counterpoint Tactical System and Cacoy Doce Pares on our journey to becoming well rounded martial artists.

Ryan, Z, and me 01

Team Kali

Last year, STL Counterpoint was invited to become part of Team Kali. It was an opportunity too good to pass up. In addition to gaining new training partners, teaming up with Team Kali allowed me to experience a fresh view of my martial arts. Steve DiCarlo’s experience and feedback has helped me improve as a martial arts instructor resulting in a win-win proposition that will only get better this year. As such, I plan on helping Team Kali to grow and to promote the Filipino martial arts. Team Kali also has some ideas in work. As 2015 progresses, look for those opportunities here and on Team Kali’s FaceBook page.

Me with Steve DiCarlo of Team Kali



This blog will continue to be updated on a weekly schedule. I also plan to write and submit two articles to martial arts journals for publication. I have one multimedia experiment planned as well about which I’m particularly excited. I also hope to have some articles by guest writers on this blog for a more diverse perspective. As part of writing, research is essential. I currently read a lot of martial arts blogs as research but do not pay attention to the writing styles and patterns as much as I should. This year, that will change. Jack Slack’s Fightland articles are excellent examples of where I would like my martial arts writing to be.



I love teaching Counterpoint Tactical System and Cacoy Doce Pares. Teaching has forced me to look with fresh eyes at the curriculum. I have learned more about the introductory curriculum by teaching than I did when I was studying it. As an instructor, I have a responsibility to my students. To improve, I plan to seek more feedback on my instruction this year. An objective view of where I’m at is important to know where I need to go. Feedback from Alec Helwig and Mike Miller of Springfield FMA pointed a flaw in one area of my instruction. Correcting that forced me to take stock and revamp. It was necessary and important insight that was hard to hear but has changed me for the better. To track these changes, I started a journal about classes this year. The journal will make lesson planning easier because I can see what I have planned and whether that was able to fit the schedule – too much info, too little, too difficult, too easy, too much review, etc. At mid and end of the year, I will post a blog entry about whether the journal was worthwhile or not.

Personal Study

Z and me 02

I left this until last for two reasons: a.) everything written above feeds into my personal study, and b.) this is the year of the black belt for me. I am studying towards a first degree black belt in both CTS and Cacoy Doce Pares. But, first, I’ll talk about what the year holds. The wedding is putting a lot of pressure on my schedule, but I will learn from Master Whitson as often as I can this year. The St. Louis and Springfield seminars along with Iron Mountain camp will not be missed. Hopefully, later in the year once things have calmed down, I can visit Master Whitson and Ms. Dian for training. My friend, Mike Miller, is working on his next CTS rank; I will get down to Springfield to help him as often as I can.


2015 is the year that I work towards my first degree black belt in Counterpoint Tactical Systems. It was a goal that I set for myself a few years ago and then ignored as I focused on each step necessary to get to this goal. It is at once the same as each step before it and yet different. Achieving the first degree black belt in CTS is the culmination of all the goals that I’ve set for my personal study. A post is coming this month about what exactly a black belt and, especially, this black belt mean to me.

Black belt


2015 will be a strong year here in Missouri. My to do list is long and getting longer, which makes me happy. Whether I accomplish all or none of what I’ve listed above, I’ll consider this year to be a success if I can continue to give back to the art that has given so much to me. I hope you all have a great year as well!

Thank You


Revere Your Art, pt II

This article is actually “part two” of a series I am in the process of writing, although I’m releasing this one first.

In part I, I discuss how the art is treated as a “hustle” for those who claim to love–but really don’t–love the art. To sum it up, let me post a series of questions:

  • What is your most precious possession? Is it something you bought? Something you know? A family heirloom? Was it given to you?
  • Assuming we just met, can I have it? I won’t take it forever. I just want it, a part of it. Let me take it/him/her home with me. I’ll bring it back, on your terms even.
  • How much money would you accept to give it to me? Could I, upon meeting you, see/use/keep it, and call it mine?
  • How would you feel, after you DID let me have it or see it–if I turned around and gave it or sold it to someone else? How would you feel if I called it “mine”?

Like I said, most of you really don’t love your art. You’re selling it to any bastard with a buck. You show it for FREE on youtube every chance you get, for what? Notoriety? Likes? Comments? And then you wonder why some asshole just copied it and reposted it or repackaged it. Hell, some of you even gave this jerk a CERTIFICATE! Your Guro might have paid for the art in blood, sweat and tears, but he sure as hell gave it to the guy you’re trashing today for what, a $200 seminar?

Brothers, you have to LOVE this art if you want to earn the right to bash guys like me on the internet.

I see it. Many of you even know me personally. You live near me. We see each other at tournaments. You’ve visited my school. I’ve been to yours. Our students meet sometimes in competitions, if I decide to attend an FMA tournament. But you and I treat our arts completely different from each other, and this is why you talk smack on those sissy FMA groups and smile in my face. And this is why I can insult you and your masters in person and you don’t do shit about it, because in a way–you know I’m right.

But enough about me. Let’s talk FMA. That stuff ^^^ is so “part one”. Lol

If you are teaching the art, you have to revere what you do. Many of us don’t really believe in what we’re doing, so we scan the magazines every month for ads for the next DVD series. We hang out at seminars to see what new moves we can pick up. We troll youtube when students aren’t around looking for cool stuff to introduce to our classes, or circle jerks the next time we are at an FMA event with other teachers. If you believed in what you do, you won’t feel the need to add and update, you just take what you know and make it stronger.

Hang with me… I’m not saying don’t study other arts. What I am saying is believe what you do is strong enough to stand on its own two feet. Hell, I’ve studied a bunch of arts myself. But I respect my teachers enough to keep what they taught be mostly intact (cause really, we all do the art justice by putting our own stamp on our teacher’s teachings), and I try to present the strongest version of it I can. There is a difference between that and adding and mixing and matching. Now, if you’re trying to form a new art, by all means–add away! There’s nothing wrong with that too. Just don’t take your teacher’s art and still call it your teacher’s art when you secretly stole moves and drills from Guro Inosanto’s videos and pass it off as his. Your teacher did his research and tried to give his students the best art he could, don’t dishonor it by passing off someone else’s work as his.

This is why I advocate cross-fighting over cross-training. If you do cross-train, do it to actually learn that art and do it right. Or on the other hand, you learn the other art so that you can learn to beat it. That is more honorable than dabbling in another system (ahem, seminars!) and then adding that art to your resume alongside your own Master’s art that you studied for years! Or worse…. pretending that the stuff you dabbled in was taught to you by your Guro. Because, believe me, you suck at it–and you will be a poor representative of something you really don’t know. (If you want to learn a good way to make your art stronger, check out my books on Amazon.)

Eskrima, for example, has great stick and knife fighting. In my opinion, we are the absolute best at it. So why are these guys prancing around in skirts and scarves with fancy blades and fighting with spears and sarong? I swear, I shake my head sometimes. Somebody give me a leg from your grandma’s coffee table, I will beat the holy crap out of one of those guys. Eskrima is valid as an art and doesn’t need to add on a whole bunch of mumbo jumbo, chicken blood and music. If some guy wants to learn to put a mugger in the ICU, that’s where we come in. If you want to put on a skirt and dance around to music-go join a tinikling group. This is a warrior art, not a theater company, let Eskrima keep its dignity.

As far as fighting goes, I said it before I will say it again. Your Eskrima needs nothing but tempering. If your teacher didn’t do much empty hand, go ahead and learn it. Just take what he gave you and make it stronger. Do your numbers. Dissect the system. Go and participate in some matches. Train until your hands bleed and your shoulders pop. Keep hitting until your stick strikes sound like gunshots. Revere what you do as if there were NO other art out there to learn, as if your life depended on it. That’s what the grandmasters did. They might have picked up some things here and there as they traveled through life. More often than not, they most likely found more opponents than friends and training partners, and certainly didn’t go around trying to join every damn martial arts group they could. The FMA guy today is as loyal as a whore girlfriend at a banker’s convention. Your grandmasters and mine may have had one, two or three teachers in a 30 year period. But he endeavored to take the little he knew and sought to make himself unbeatable. Then he tried to prove it to himself as much as he could BEFORE going out to teach it to someone else.

Most of you guys are already recording youtube videos before the ink is dry on your “Guro” certificates. Treat your art as you would your favorite child. Stop giving him up to any idiot with a buck. Stop putting your kid on the internet for other wierdos to see and Faceturbate off of. Don’t let just anyone claim your kid as his own. Your Masters traveled on foot, slept on floors, and missed meals to earn this knowledge–and here you are, teaching the shit in a seminar for $50 bucks to a roomful of guys you don’t know. Revere your master’s art.

Thank you for visiting my blog.



Arnis sparring – ”No wind”

A variation of light sparring with live sticks and no protection. ”No wind” means the speed is kept low, so that the stick shouldn’t make any sound in the air. Filed under: arnis-eskrima, PTG, sparring, video


I apologize for the months of inactivity

Sorry, i have a few things on the backburner, but not very much has given me the kick in the ass to finish writing them

in the meantime, my teacher just put up a new site!

i think he’d want me to plug his site, so i will. he’s got a lot of pretty cool information on the “blog” portion of his site, and it’s definitely worth bookmarking his stuff


Metrodome Helps Fire Victims by James U. Sy Jr.

The management of Metrodome Entertainment Mall with the cooperation of all its tenants and their employees as well as customers pooled their resources together and organized a charity event for the benefit of the 94 households that were affected by the huge fire that hit Purok Katilingban, Brgy 39, Bacolod City last September 2, 2014. The philanthropic work was held on September 5, 2014, 10:30 AM, at the Brgy 39 Gym. The outreach consisted of a feeding program, where arroz caldo, bihon, bread, and juice drinks were given to the affected families; games for the children; and the distribution of 94 packs of relief goods which included clothing, 1 kilo rice, and grocery items. Sponsors of the charity work were CP Tyne Consultancy Management, e-Bingo, Fireworks Bar, Jojo Vito Prints & Pieces, Metro Bazaar tenants, O’Fisher Spa & Wellness Center, Offshore Bar, Philippine Call Center Institute (PCCI), Psalmstre Enterprises, Remnant School, and customers Mark Vargas and John Calumpiano.


BCC Sum-ag Campus Celebrates “Buwan ng Wika” by: James U. Sy Jr.

Mrs. Grace P. Lumawag, the Adviser to the Kapisanang Filipino, chaired the “Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa” (National Language Month) celebration last August 29, 2014 at the Bacolod City College (BCC)-Suma-ag Campus (James U. Sy Jr./CMAS photo). The Bacolod City College (BCC)-Suma-ag Campus successfully celebrated the “Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa” (National Language Month) last August 29, 2014 at its campus grounds. Spearheading the celebration was Filipino and Values Ed Instructress Grace P. Lumawag, the Adviser to the Kapisanang Filipino, with the full support of both the BS Business Administration (BSBA) and BS Industrial Technology (BSIT) departments under their respective Program Coordinators (PC) Felipe F. Chin Jr., CPA, MBA, and Engr. Robert Ildy Lasuay. Ma. Johanna Ann R. Bayoneta, Ph.D., School Administrator, and Elias Alias, Ph.D., Dean of Instructions, graced the event. Later that noon time Teacher’s Education and Office Administration Program Coordinators (PC) Ramie Mabayag and Mario Pao also dropped by. The sections of the campus with Filipino subjects set up booths displaying and selling different products and exhibits and each section had their own representatives who were in barong Tagalog and baro’t saya. The morning competitions included literary and performing arts activities such as Hataw Pinoy, Balagtasan, isahang tinig, dalawahang tinig, talumpati, deklamasyon, poster-slogan making competition, and kompuso. The afternoon festivities featured physical games such as fliptop, kadang-badang, hatakang lubid, luksong tinik, luksong lubid, sakbuhan, patentero, and sipa (tumba patis). The 2014 officers of the Kapisanang Filipino and their members were instrumental in the success of the event as they prepared the logistics and facilitated the events. The current officers, coming from both the BSBA and BSIT departments, are Michael Morales (President), Roland Talafiero (Vice President), Mary Christ Bustamante (Secretary), Jonel Pecha (Treasurer), April Badajos (Auditor), Ronalyn Camillada and Deo Paran (PIO), Ravena Mulyer and Yza Marie Limaco (Business Manager), Ronel Sogilon and Calderon (Sgt.-at-arms), Princess sarah Ampil (Lakambini), Benjamin Marañon (Lakan), and Bhea Rose Magallanes and Ivy Calago (Taga-awit). BCC-Taculing Campus, which houses the Teachers’ Education and Office administration departments, on the other hand celebrated the “Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa” simultaneously with the Nutrition Month last August 22, 2014. Former President Fidel Ramos signed Presidential Proclamation 1041 in 1997, declaring August“Buwan ng Wika.”


De La Cruz, Tizon, “Princess & Prince of the Ocean” by: James U. Sy Jr.

Princess De La Cruz and Mark Allain Tizon, both of Marketing Management 3A, were crowned “Princess & Prince of the Ocean,” beating 21 other couples representing the different year levels and sections during the BS Business Education and BS Industrial Technology Day last September 3, 2014 at the school grounds of Bacolod City College (BCC)-Sum-ag Campus, Bacolod City, as one of the official activities for the institution’s week long 17th Foundation celebration (James U. Sy Jr./CMAS photo). Princess De La Cruz and Mark Allain Tizon, both of Marketing Management 3A, were crowned “Princess & Prince of the Ocean,” beating 21 other couples representing the different year levels and sections during the BS Business Education and BS Industrial Technology Day last September 3, 2014 at the school grounds of Bacolod City College (BCC)-Sum-ag Campus, Bacolod City, as one of the official activities for the institution’s week long 17th Foundation celebration. The duo also swept the competition by snatching the Best in Costume and Best in Presentation. The coronation was the culmination of the morning activities, which started off with a Parade of Ocean Costumes leading to BCC’s Sum-ag Campus. Marvin D. Tugon of Entrep 2C, painted in Avatar-style blue skin and wearing a gold chestplate complete with abs, uttered one of the more favorite lines for the crowd, “Aanhin mo pa ang kalabasa kung crush mo lang naman ang nagpapalinaw ng iyong mata.” Some of those who represented their classes were Julyn Tamayo and Jerymie dela Paz (MM 4A),Dina Mae D. Estraño and Perseus Maquimay (MM 1A),Lezette Amana and Randel Tupas (MM 1B), Mia Janelle Ligeslador and Miku Villaruel (Entrep 1B),Renee Rose de la Paz and Edbert Villas (Entrep 1C), Chris Chen Serie and Jaymar Caudazo (Entrep 1D),Celeste Pastorende and Erick Jacosalem (BSIT 1B), Jenms Ann Ababao and Florie Jhon Edubas (BSIT 1C), Lanie Asupan and Arnold M. Duadores (Entrep 3B), Charyain Palermo and Samie balenario (BSIT ELEX 2), Jane Tamba and Edmond E. Artista (BSIT Civil 2), Mae Oloroso and Ramiro Mina (MM 2A),Ma. Katrina Valery Donato and Marvin D. Tugon (Entrep 2C), April Joie Lagarto and Luel Sahot (BS Entrep 4B), Rhoda Mae Gabales and Alexis Brian de Belen (Entrep 2A),and Jonalex Piadoche and John Bohn Grande (Civil 3), Special guest was former BCC President Dr. Norma M. Juarez-Roque, now a member of the isntitution’s Board of Trustees. Judges were Krisna Gold Bawin, Christine Faramiran, and Jeffren Hur Bibiano Van. The Marketing Management 3A and 3B set up the Marketing Trade Fair at the sides of the competition area, selling different products, mostly food items. The BS Business Education and BS Industrial Technology Day was organized by the different school organizations - Marketring Management Society (MMS) under its President Jeffrey J. Talaman, Junior Philippine Entrepreneurs’ Society (JPES) under its President Jesreal Bancaya, and Society of Industrial Technology Students (JITS) under its President Kriska Joy Theresse Jaunto - with the support of the BS Business Education (BSBE) department under Program Coordinators (PC) Felipe F. Chin Jr., CPA, MBA, and BS Industrial Technology (BSIT) department under Program Coordinators (PC) Engr. Robert Ildy Lasuay.


Uy, Apuyon, Bocario 2nd Place in NOHS Quiz Bee by: James U. Sy Jr.

Joann Dominique S. Uy of Negros Occidental High School (NOHS) with mom, Elsa S. Uy (James U. Sy Jr./CMAS photo). Joann Dominique S. Uy, Donnabell Apuyon, and Adrian Bocario, all of Grade 9 Alastair, placed 2nd in the Quiz Bee last August 29, 2014 at the Audio Visual Room (AVR), Negros Occidental High School (NOHS), Bacolod City. The NOHS Quiz Bee was organized by the Aralpan Department for Grade 7 to 9 and 4th year students. The competition covered history and current events about the school. Uy and Apuyon also Negros Occidental High School (NOHS) and placed in the top 5 of Quiz Bee competition of the 2nd World Youth Day local celebration last August 30, 2014 at the Quadrangle, Riverside College, Bacolod City. About 8-9 schools competed in the said event among them Bacolod City National High School (BCNHS), Medel National High School, and Singcang National High School.


Gimotea Rules COS it’s all PLAY III by: James U. Sy Jr.

Some of the participating cosplayers before the start of the COSPLAY Parade organized and presented by SASinc. Entertainment under Manager Ritchie Vargas recently at the SM City Bacolod Food Court. The event was attended by 39 cosplayers from different schools (James U. Sy Jr./CMAS photo). Bea Alyzza Gimotea, cosplaying as Lightning Farron, was declared the grand winner of the COS it’s all PLAY: Third Encounter, presented by SASinc. Entertainment under Manager Ritchie Vargas, last August 30, 2014 at the Food Court, SM City Bacolod. A total of 11 cosplayers competeted in the said event. Special awards were also given to six other cosplayers, namely Ma. Cristina “Tin-Tin” Aguilar as Lili of Tekken 6, Hercz Drake Arsenio as Optimus Prime, Axel Leopold Olavia as the Birdman, Jiro Yoshimura as Pyramid Head, and Gwenneth Luzuriaga as Tinker Bell. As a prelude to the competition proper, the COSPLAY Parade was held by SASinc. Entertainment last August 17, 2014 also at the Food Court, with the participation of a total of 39 cosplayers portraying different anime, movie, video game, cartoon, superhero, and manga characters and coming from different schools like UNO-R, University of St. La Salle, and St. John’s Institute. Competitors at the COS it’s all PLAY: Third Encounter were given 1-2 minutes to best portray the character they were representing and they were judged on the following criteria: craftsmanship (40%), accuracy of costume (30%), stage portrayal (20%), and audience impact (10%).


International Balintawak Fall Camp

GM Taboada's fall camp will be held October 3-5 in Dallas, North Carolina. The event will be hosted by Ormaza's Family Karate School. The official camp flyer has been posted in our "Events" section.


GM Taboada Seattle Visit - Recap

Thanks again to GM Bobby for visiting Seattle and conducting another outstanding seminar. Kudos to the entire Balintawak Seattle family for contributing to the success of the event. GM Bobby was impressed with the rapid growth we have had since he was last here in 2011, and the quality of our members. A special note of thanks to Guro Patrick Schmitt who flew in from Cleveland to assist GM Bobby and support the event. Some of the pictures have been posted on the website, more will be posted on Facebook as additional pics come in (there were lots of pictures taken, please share). The next event is GM Bobby's International Balintawak World Camp October 3-5 in Charlotte, North Carolina - time to start preparing if you're thinking of attending...


Martial Art Seminar with Grandmaster Brian Jones

We'd like to thank Grandmaster Brian Jones for returning to Hackney, where he introduced Escrima in the 70's, and delivering a brilliant seminar yesterday. It was also great to have Master Ricky Crofts, Master Jay Dobrin & Master John Morgan assist and share their experiences and knowledge.

It was a real pleasure have you all come down and we look forward to seeing you soon.


Escrima Nightclub Self Defence Seminar

Here is a video from our recent Nightclub Self Defence Seminar.

Is your martial art / self defence / combat training effective outside the gym?

Our nightclub / bar seminar gave students an insight into the challenges faced defending your self in a different environment while also trying to protect those you are with. 


Moving On

My Bamboo Spirit Martial Arts website has gone through an overhaul and, quite frankly, it's long overdue. It's still a work in progress. In addition to the overhaul, I have migrated this blog over to the new website.

You can find the blog at:

Please bookmark the new blog address as I will be blogging from this site from this point forward.

Thank you for your support!


Stick sparring variations

At the end of our first outdoor De Campo training of this year, we worked on 2 live stick sparring methods: ”no impact” and ”no wind” - gratitude to Benajmin ”Lonely Dog” Rittiner of DBMA for the idea! Pinoro Training Group, April 2014 Filed under: arnis-eskrima, PTG, video


GM Taboada Seminar June 14 & 15

Seminar update: we have changed locations for our seminar with Grandmaster Taboada. The new location is MKG Seattle:  10714 5th Ave NE,  Seattle, WA  98125

Online registration is now available, please go to the "Seminar Registration" page.


From a private FMA session

Short video from a private training session with Roland, working on Kalye Todo Arnis (short range stick fighting system) and Igmat Baraw Knife Fighting System. Filed under: arnis-eskrima, PTG, video


Misdirection and Attention


The above video is an interesting and fascinating one to watch. Obviously, I watched this from a self defense and martial arts perspective. It raises the interesting issue of how much attention people pay to their surroundings. Going beyond the pickpocket aspect of this video, what I found interesting was Mr. Robbins' description of attention as a limited resource.

I often walk in my neighborhood and, a number of times, I have walked by teenage girls who never noticed me. Why? They were engrossed in their smartphones as they walked by me. Clearly, they would not have been prepared to defend themselves if I didn't have their best interests at heart.

But going beyond the issue of pickpocket victims and potential sexual assault victims, I'm also thinking of my parents, one of whom has dementia and the other is a severe stroke survivor. I'm thinking of the senior demographic in general. While I'm not comfortable in painting this demographic with a broad brushstroke, a large number of seniors appear to be vulnerable due to being easily confused and distracted by potential scammers and criminals who surely know how to play the seniors.

A good way not to become a victim is to pay attention to your surroundings and to the people in your environment.

What are your thoughts on this video?


Our next FREE Urban Escrima Self-Defence Taster Session!

Our next Urban Escrima Self Defence seminar takes place on Tuesday 25th at 7.00pm and Thursday 27th at 6.30pm at London Fields Fitness Studio, London, E8.

This is a fantastic opportunity to try out REAL Self Defence for FREE.

Please contact us on: to book your place!


Blind Sensei Love

Let’s get it straight. We live in a capitalist society, and you’re paying for a service when you sign up for martial arts lessons. But in any other service you’d be looking for quality results- modern martial artists have developed some freaky stockholme syndrome to their teachers. Instead of being critical of the services they pay for, students have developed some sort of blind love for sensei. In doing this, students who normally are owed services for their payment, often feel like they owe their teachers for all they taught, and all they gave back was loving devotion, forgetting the monthly fees entirely.

Let’s go back in time- there was once a Filipino Martial Artist. He had never finished high school (though if I recall correctly, he left school very, very, early), and was working as a chef. Normally, he would have spent his life in poverty, but as luck would have it, he found a student who paid for the teacher’s way out of the country.

For years, this student had become the “number one student” of this martial artist, until the day when a sponsor came and whisked the martial artist alone out of the country, leaving his original sponsor behind. Over time, the former number one student faded from memory, his name only to be heard in passing.

As luck would have it, I have met that number one student’s son. He said something along the lines of, “that guy just got a big head.” And honestly, even that’s something everybody knew.

You know what? It’s just getting goddamn cumbersome tip-toeing around this guy’s name. I could not give a damn about offending him or his slaves.

Bobby Taboada got a big head. He is not an amazing martial artist, he is a lucky one. No matter what anyone tells you about the Philippines back then, there were no deathmatches. Nobody randomly dying in the streets because of a duel. The Philippines are not a lawless country. There are laws, just as much as there are lawmen.

Bobby Taboada is a dishonest businessman. He teaches people a completely different style than he was taught, even though he was taught differently. He teaches his own new style of Balintawak, but the adaptations from the old style are not improvements in the slightest. If it was such a terrible climate in the Philippines at the time, and dangerous to be a martial artist, then why did they have to change it? Well the answer comes in one of Bobby’s videos- to add  “Hollywood” to it, and because the original stuff was “too dangerous.”

Despite that, Bobby Taboada is essentially the word of god in the FMA community.

But how come his students haven’t wised up, that none of them are getting even close to the glory of Taboada?

And the answer is- blind sensei love.

You see, students tend to trust their teachers in most cases, not just martial arts. We trusted in school that 1+1 is 2, and look where that got us. But grown adults still retain this, especially in the foreign atmosphere of a martial arts gym.So when sensei says that when he does this, you do that, you will do that and not anything else, because you haven’t been taught to distrust him.

Be careful- ask questions, and expect straightforward answers. Look at what your teacher is doing, and if it differs greatly from what you’re doing, he’s holding something back. And he has absolutely no right to.


Meeting GM Bobby Taboada

On Sunday April 26, 2009, after I arrived at Ike Sepulveda’s house, along with Terence, I was introduced by Ike to GM Bobby Taboada, who received my handshake warmly and with a friendly smile. I said “it’s an honor to meet you.” We all sat down for a delicious brunch served by Ike and his wife, Ina, and lots of conversation with GM Bobby.  How this meeting occurred is an interesting story unto itself.

I moved to the Toronto area from Columbus, Ohio in June of 2007 after marrying my Canadian wife and started teaching classes at the local community centre in Oshawa in February of 2008.  One of my students apparently told Ike Sepulveda, a resident of Ajax, about me.  Sometime in March of 2008,  Ike paid a visit to one of my classes and introduced himself. He brought along his rattan canes in a stick bag.

Ike indicated to me that he trained in Balintawak escrima but did not elaborate further. To the best of my recollection, he watched the first half of class. During a ten minute break in class, he asked if we could “play” and I replied “sure.”  Due to the fact that much of the tapi tapi of Modern Arnis is rooted in Balintawak, I delighted in this opportunity and found a lot of similarities. After we played, I thanked Ike for the opportunity. I said to myself “I really like this man.”  I obtained his e-mail address and we exchanged a few e-mails over the course of the next few months.

In May of 2008, I received an e-mail from Terence who inquired into the Modern Arnis classes I was teaching. I invited him to try it out. Terence became an instant Modern Arnis addict, so much so that we jokingly say that we need to form an “Arnis Anonymous” organization! Terence has introduced me to many aspects of Filipino culture, cuisine, and language.

In February of 2009, Ike paid a surprise visit to my Modern Arnis class where we conversed during a break. During this break, I introduced Ike to Terence. During our conversation, I asked Ike about the Balintawak Convention he attended in Las Vegas in November of 2008. He said that he had a very good time and that the training was quite good. At this time, I had no idea of the Balintawak connections that Ike had.  Indeed, he did not reveal much to myself or Terence. At this meeting, Terence and Ike exchanged e-mail addresses and began corresponding.

I would occasionally ask Terence if he had heard from Ike. It appeared that the correspondence increased over time to the point where Ike admitted to Terence that he was taking a month’s vacation to visit the Philippines and hinted that he was going to “train.” We thought to ourselves, “wow, we’d love to train for a whole month like that.”

One day I dropped by Ike’s Copy Zone shop in Whitby to have business cards and flyers printed. When I entered the shop, Ike saw me and greeted me like a long time friend and welcomed me to the back of the shop where he introduced me to his wife, Ina, and a couple of his employees.  While attending to my needs, he showed me YouTube video clips of Balintawak. I recall that he showed some by GM Nick Elizar and some by GM Nene Gaabucayan. I told Ike that I understood that he was going to the Philippines on a long vacation and he replied in the affirmative. I asked him if he was going to train while over there. With a shy smile, he said “yes.”  I was happy for Ike that he had this opportunity, still not knowing his connections.

After coming back from the Philippines, he revealed to Terence that he had trained with GM Nick Elizar. I was amazed that he had the opportunity to train with an esteemed Balintawak Grandmaster like Nick Elizar. But Ike was to reveal more. In an e-mail to Terence in mid-April, Ike revealed that GM Bobby Taboada was coming to stay at his house on the weekend of April 26th and that Bobby was a personal family friend. Ike further revealed that he was inviting us to meet Bobby on the Sunday of that weekend. Terence informed me of these developments. I said “Whoa, back up, GM Bobby Taboada is a personal family friend of Ike’s?” I then began to learn more about Ike’s interesting background.

Through my training in Modern Arnis, I had heard many stories of GM Presas’ training in Balintawak under Timoteo Maranga, Rondolfo Mongcal, and the revered Grandmaster of Balintawak, Venancio “Anciong” Bacon. I had also heard that Professor Presas and GM  Bobby Taboada were very close friends. So, when Ike revealed that GM Bobby was a family friend and asked if I’d like to come over and meet him,  I said yes as Ike’s house is only a 15 to 20 minute drive from my house.

What I learned was that Ike, his older brother, Butch, Nick Elizar, and Bobby Taboada all had trained under GM Teofilo Velez at the same time. In addition, Ike’s brother, Greg, trains with GM Nene Gaabucayan and GM Ising Atillo in Los Angeles. His brother, Butch Sepulveda, was the founder of the Gold Chapter in Cebu and is also the Treasurer for the World Eskrima Balintawak Arnis Federation (WEBAF, Inc). Ike continues to train under GM Nick Elizar and GM Ising Atillo in Los Angeles. Needless to say, there has been a family history of involvement in the art of Balintawak Arnis for quite some time. It was through this involvement that Ike’s family became friends with GM Nick Elizar, GM Bobby Taboada, GM Nene Gaabucayan as well as the Velez brothers.

At our first meeting, GM Bobby, Terence and I ate a delicious meal and conversed about Filipino Martial Arts, Professor Remy Presas, Balintawak, and a few other topics. Of course, we went out to the garage to train with GM Bobby and had a ball with the session. GM Bobby was not in the area to teach a seminar; I got the impression that it was more of a weekend getaway for him. The training and the conversations made for a grand time. After this meeting, Terence and I said to ourselves “We’ve got to get GM Bobby and Master Chuck Gauss together.”

Both photographs courtesy of Jody Melanson. The second photograph is the post garage workout.

A year later, GM Bobby came back to Toronto to teach a seminar at Sean Tyler’s Raging Tiger dojo. The day before the seminar, Terence and I had the opportunity to meet with GM Bobby once again during a Lechon at Ike’s house. When I approached him, he remembered my name as well as Terence’s right away. I had a hell of a time at his seminar and kept noting the similarities between Balintawak and Modern Arnis. Again, we resolved to set something up between GM Bobby and Master Chuck Gauss. That day (April 26, 2014) is now going to become a reality and it's going to be a great seminar!

I’m looking forward to seeing GM Bobby again in April. The atmosphere at this seminar is going to be pure awesomeness.


GM Bobby Taboada and Master of Tapi Tapi Chuck Gauss Seminar!

An exciting Balintawak/Modern Arnis seminar will be taking place in Pickering (Toronto), Ontario on April 26, 2014 at the Harmony Martial Arts Center. I am quite excited about this pairing of these two phenomenal martial artists, who excel at Filipino Martial Arts.

GM Bobby hails from Cebu City, Cebu where he learned the deadly art of Balintawak escrima under GM Teofilo Velez, GM Villasin and GM Bacon. After mastering this art, he moved to New Zealand and lived there for 12 years, teaching Balintawak. In the mid 1990s, GM Bobby moved to North Carolina where he has resided since, teaching classes and seminars worldwide, being one of the most visible ambassadors of Balintawak.

Master Chuck Gauss was a long time student of Professor Remy Presas. Prior to training with Professor, he was a life long martial artist, beginning at the age of six. He has studied the following arts: Judo, Japanese Jiu Jitsu, Tang Soo Do, Tae Kwon Do, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Small Circle Ju Jitsu, and Modern Arnis. Along with six others, Master Gauss was promoted to the level of Master of Tapi Tapi in December 2000, soon after Professor Presas was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Professor himself declared that the level of Master of Tapi Tapi was the highest level of proficiency in the art of Modern Arnis, having demonstrated the ability to utilize the lightning quick counter for counter fighting strategy integral to Professor’s art.

While these two gentlemen have not met each other, they are connected to each other through Professor Presas. GM Bobby was close friends with Professor Presas and, in fact, Professor was his best man when GM Bobby got married.

This is going to be an exciting joint seminar. Below is a flyer and two video clips of each of them.


A Champion For What?

"This is life! This is what made you! Hundreds of millions of sperms, all equals, all swimming to see which will reach the egg first, and only one will see the sun, the light of the moon, only one can make you! To be born is the biggest victory against the biggest odds in the biggest competition anywhere, ever—ohhhhh, what a champion! But a champion for what? To watch television, drink Coca-Cola and eat McDonald's? No! We must continue with the same effort we achieved by outswimming millions! We must keep proving we are worthy of that victory!"

- Radomir Kovacevic (1954-2006), champion Judoka and coach.

This comes from one of the best pieces of sports journalism that I've ever read. See: American Dream

If you have the time, read the article. Grab a cup of coffee.

For more on Mr. Kovacevic's life, see this Wikipedia article: Radomir Kovacevic

Even more fascinating there is a six part documentary on him on YouTube.

I like watching people who have a sense of purpose in their lives and I have to admit that it drives me crazy to see people be unmotivated, waste their time or go through the motions. You only have limited time on this planet. What are you going to do with your life? To be the best that you can be or waste your time watching tv?  Or be someone who wants something for nothing? Do you want to face challenges or avoid them?

Mr. Kovacevic had a good point. The fact that you were born means that you have been given an opportunity to do with your life as you please. Either you waste it or make something of it. I'd prefer that you live a life of facing challenges. You are going to fail sometimes. But it's all in the effort, isn't it? Why not prove that you are worthy of having been born?  Why not put forth your best effort every single day? I would not want to be on the death bed and say "I wish that I had tried harder or had done this....."


The Old Style and the New Style

After I came home from Sydney, I was really bored. I hadn’t found any students to teach (and still have not) and hadn’t really gotten any practice for a while. I was getting rusty (this blog actually helps me keep a tiny bit of my edge by keeping me thinking about arnis), and I was desperate for just a tiny bit of training. So I went back to my old gym to show off (I am not a good man), and learn what kind of techniques are more prevalent in their arnis, now that I am more experienced to know what’s going on.

It was.. very different. Everything was still pretty much shite, and their empty hand techniques and authority over their weapon following a grab was pretty much non-existent. After we both struggled to get used to what we were doing, he comments that what I was doing was the “old style” and what he was doing was the “new style.”

That never really raised a flag in my mind up til now (because I’ve been struggling to add more content for a while haha)- what is the difference between the old and new styles, and why was such a big incongruency between the styles? To understand, let’s go over the differences between the styles.

In “Old” balintawak, there is a shorter training time (1-2 years), in which you learn attack and defense simultaneously, train active hands, and you learn most of the martial art in a systematically grouped method. However, in “New” balintawak, there is an indeterminate training time, which could take as little as 5 years, and up to never.  The student is taught how to defend in the beginning of his or her training, and progression to attack is very, very slow. Students are not taught how to retain control over their weapon hand, nor how to impede the movements of their opponent’s weapon hand. Finally, although they teach the groups, there is one fundamental difference about the groups they teach- the key concepts are never taught properly, which allow for zero variation of the groups themselves. Supplementing the groups which have now been delegated to a simple kata are THOUSANDS of other moves taught “At random.”

At random is a term describing a different method of teaching- one that’s even older than the “Old” balintawak I have been taught. Essentially, every technique is learned individually, and then practiced repetitively. For instance, if you’re learning a disarm, you would have someone strike at you badly (see: bitchmade), and you would strip them of their weapon. Do that a certain number of times, and then trade roles. Maybe after they’d show you some variations of that same move, but they wouldn’t explain WHY the move worked and WHEN to use it.

But why would the “New” balintawak community go back to the At Random method? It’s actually pretty simple- the grouped method is too efficient.

Let’s head backwards in time- to an Attorney, known as Jose Villasin. This man is a fucking genius- let’s take a moment to appreciate that. He literally invented the grouped system, and its a bloody marvel (I’ve asked like 3 different people from the UK about this article if I was allowed to use UK-ese terminology, they all ok’d me) in its own right. Not only does the student side of a group teach an extremely important concept, but the instructor side does as well. It systemizes multitudes of techniques by its characteristics, so that when faced by an unknown technique, you can simply take note of what its accomplishing, and defending against that. Not only that, but it also teaches you how to mix groups together, as no group only works on one of the core concepts. For instance, group 2 employs its own concepts up until the point where an opening is discovered to progress to group 1, or 5.

However, not very long after the grouped method was discovered, Villasin discovered that it was too effective. Brand new students would be finished training in no time at all, flooding the market with instructors. Rival schools could be finished learning their secrets in a year, maybe two. And so while the Balintawak club kept the grouped method, it removed the most important part for higher levels of the martial art- the teaching of the core concepts. This extended the training time because the students would take a much longer time to truly understand what they were accomplishing, and removed variation from the groups, and the variations were to be taught at-random. 

It’s an infinite shame that the grouped method isn’t given the respect it deserves, but it’s just how it is. “Big name balintawak” has brought back “New” balintawak, and with it has come hordes of instructors that either lack the fundamental understanding that all practitioners need, or instructors that are unwilling to teach correctly.


"Finishing Moves"

No matter what anybody tells you, there is no technique that has no defense. There is no way to guarantee that your weapon is going to meet your opponent’s face, just various techniques to try and get around or destroy his defense. But don’t get me wrong- it’s still a dangerous martial art, but I believe it is so because of its realism- there is more to a technique than its execution, because the followthrough is just as important- every move can fail, so you should learn the countermeasures to every counter measure.

Now you might be thinking- “thats an awful lot to learn, mystery tumblr guy! I don’t have time for this shit!”

And, well, you’re right and wrong. Right because there are countless techniques that fit underneath the arnis spectrum, and wrong because not very many of them are worth learning (lol). There are actually quite a few moves you DONT EVEN NEED defenses to- just realize when they’re spending more effort than they should be, or overstepping their boundaries by doing a stupid move like hitting your knee when you’ve got a strike ready, loaded, and course set for their skull.

As my instructor said, “IT’S NOT FUCKING ROCKET SCIENCE, MATE.”

There is no such thing as a finishing move in arnis, because if you’re doing it right, EVERY move is a finishing move. If you get struck in the head with a big wooden stick, you have just enough time to say “oh fuck” before the second and third strikes come to kill you. Like I said before, every time you get hit in a fight, it reduces your ability to defend yourself. Except for the head. You get hit there, it eliminates your ability to defend yourself, so try not to get hit there.


Kind of late thanks

I’ll just say straight out- I should have given mention to my teacher here a while ago, but I guess I didn’t want to send unneeded attention his way, but now I guess any attention is good attention when you’re running a business.

My teacher is one John Russell of Sydney, New South Wales, and he taught me Balintawak. Pretty cool guy, taught me nearly everything I know, and what I already knew I had to throw out or heavily modify it because it was shit.

anyway, his old site is

and you can (probably) reach him at

His new site is coming up in a few weeks, and I’ll both edit this post and make a new one if it does.


Interview with an Urban Escrima Student - Catherine

Catherine has been with Urban Escrima almost from the beginning, so we are really pleased to be able to see what Catherine thinks of her training and the club.
Please introduce yourself, where are you from and what do you do?
I’m Catherine Webb.  I’m from London (Hackney, to be exact)and for half the year I write novels, and for the other half I’m a theatre lighting designer.

What type of books do you write and are you working on anything at the moment? Do you have a blog or website or something where we can keep up to date with your work?
I write fantasy books, with a bit of other stuff thrown in.  I started writing quite young, so as Catherine Webb I’ve got a series of eight or so children’s books which sort of grew up as I did.  Now I write mostly as Kate Griffin, writing books set in London.  However, at the moment I’m writing something completely different – a detective story, set in 1550s Istanbul. It’s not my usual kettle of fish, but I have a massive soft spot for the Ottoman Empire (doesn’t everyone?) and the 1550s are a fantastic bit of history where the world is at once swashbuckling medieval, and simultaneously full of gunpowder and intellectual turmoil.  I keep a blog  - which has all my information on it.

How long have you been training in Escrima Concepts and what grade are you?
I’ve been training about a year, and I’m level two.

Are you currently training in any other martial arts or have you done anything before?
I did a tiny bit of karate, and a bit of jiu jitsu while at university.  My chief memories of karate was being shouted at, and having to crawl up the stairs to my dormitory room after Friday class, almost physically unable to bend at the knees.  Jiu jitsu was better, but there was a lot of bowing, tumbling and wondering why the person I was supposed to throw bodily to the floor using only my hip and circular movement, had to be six foot five and weigh seventeen stone.

Why did you choose to train in Escrima Concepts? And what do you most enjoy about your training? 
I chose Escrima slightly by accident.  I was feeling very unfit, but knew that if I was going to get more exercise I wanted to learn something useful while doing it.  I also knew I didn’t want to be shouted at by an angry Sensei again.  There was an offer to do classes at the London Fields gym, and I saw Escrima on the list.  After looking it up on the internet, it seemed a lot more interesting than other martial arts I’d tried, so I gave it a go, and have kept on giving it a go ever since!

I think there are two things I like most about training.  The first is that, even within certain techniques, everyone does it in a slightly different way.  I really appreciate this, as it both broadens your options and simultaneously forces you to learn how to read whoever you’re working with. For example, when sparring with one student, over time you come to notice that he’s good with his live hand and always steps through, which in turn forces you to change what you do.  But when sparring with another, you realise that this student always does smaller, tighter moves, and doesn’t necessarily put in his live hand, or only does on certain shots.  It’s such a flexible, friendly environment that you can actually get to think about, not merely what you’re doing, but what everyone else does and how that might affect you – and I really like that.  The other thing I love is the technical nitty gritty; I really enjoy that moment when you suddenly understand how doing something simple, can lead to something devastating.

Are you currently training in any other martial arts or have you done anything before?

I did a tiny bit of karate, and a bit of jiu jitsu while at university.  My chief memories of karate was being shouted at, and having to crawl up the stairs to my dormitory room after Friday class, almost physically unable to bend at the knees.  Jiu jitsu was better, but there was a lot of bowing, tumbling and wondering why the person I was supposed to throw bodily to the floor using only my hip and circular movement, had to be six foot five and weigh seventeen stone.

What do you feel is the most important thing you have learnt in Escrima so far?
Get out of the way!!

What advice would you give to anyone thinking of taking up Escrima Concepts?

When I started, I used half a broom handle to practice getting comfortable with the movements in my living room, as training with any sort of weapon felt really odd for the first few weeks.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions that seem trivial or daft, because they’re really not; and remember that if Nigel says something is ‘kinda… okay’ you can probably be really pleased.

Thanks Catherine!


Just Like Playing the Guitar

Yes, in eskrima both are hands are used, not only that, parts that are also more proximal to the trunk. Just like playing guitar, both hands are used and just like playing the guitar, both hands play different but congruent roles. One is doing the strumming while the other is changing the chords. Think the same way in eskrima, one hand acts differently from the other.


Cebuano Eskrima: Stalking the Elusive Adepts

Cebuano Eskrima: Stalking the Elusive AdeptsI am almost done with the sequel of Cebu Eskrima: Beyond the Myth. I don't know exactly when can I publish this book, since I am running out of budget, but I will finish book, entitled, Cebuano Eskrima: Stalking the Elusive Adepts. But do we need another book on eskrima? I simply do not know,


Write the Correct Words, Tat Kon Tou

Many people try to write things about Joe Go's TatKonTou . . . and almost always they got the spelling wrong. The conventional way to transcribe it is Tat Kon Tou, not Tat Kun Tou or Tat Kun Tao. We are not saying that these people are showcasing their ignorance on the subject, but their blindness of the details. Remember folks it's Tat Kon Tou, even though this Hookien word is popularly written as kun, the correct way to write it, is kon. And it is not tao but tou. If they cannot even spell it correctly, how much more, know things about it?


A Manual on Palakabanate


I took notes on what he was teaching starting February 14, 1989 until the day he died and continued to write down things related to Tat Kon Tou, Gokosha and Palakabanate and collated them all. I had had it in a manuscript first then finally I am able to finish transcribing it in a more readable form, few days ago.
I am codifying it, believing that in the distant future somebody will appreciate the same.
What's next? I don't know. Simply do ot know.


A Book on Sungay

The curriculum of TatKonTou is quite long, so I decided to codify just an excerpt of it, focusing more on the use of the sungay.In this work, I codify and describe the details on the use of sungay. Hopefully I can publish this small book in the near future.


Leadership in a performative way.

A Good Leader is A Good Follower…” These are the words that I value most during my training in the Police Academy. And in my training with the Tabimina System I’ve come to encounter this principle in a performative way.

In the Tabimina System, one must undergo the Healing Stage. It is a must for all practitioners it is where we begin to open new discoveries of our selves under stress. As what Sir Bob would say “Who are you under Stress?”. Next is the Sharpening stage, it is the refinement of skills that are being tested beyond our comfort zone and the question Sir Bob would ask you is  “Are you compose under stress?”. Then as the practitioner improves he/she will begin to train to feed.

Feeding is the avenue where one will discover himself gradually. It is also the key in the understanding the Tabimina System. It is a journey to self discovery. Feeding is the performative way of leading. I began to understand this when i started to Feed. Allow me to pick some views on the book I read written by John C Maxwell about leadership and here it goes:

“The ability to lead is really the collection of skills, nearly all of which can be learned and improved. But if you want lasting improvement then you must undergo the process. In the process it implies the statement  “For as long as a person doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, he isn’t going to grow.””

In this year’s gathering, Sir Bob emphasizes on the two attributes of the feeder. These are the Physical Attributes and the Internal Attributes. The Physical attributes involves the feeder’s physical fitness as well as his skills attained as a feeder and The Internal attributes involves the character of the feeder these encompasses Humility, Obedience, Sacrifice, Patience, and Dedication. Both attributes must level up simultaneously.

My Ciong, before we became feeders we were receivers. And that is the solid foundation of Tabimina System. We must not forget that before we became leaders we were followers. Humility and Patience are one of the virtues we must learn in feeding and so does discipline and obedience  because if we don’t attain these we don’t grow as a feeder. We have to play our role during practice. We are not only feeders but receivers as well.

Everyone has the potential of being a feeder, but it isn’t accomplished overnight. It requires perseverance. It doesn’t develop overnight. It takes a lifetime.

Feeding and Leading have one of the same ingredient and that is SERVICE. Allow me to share some thoughts about Service.  What is Service? Go through such pain and suffering without complaining.  Serve the lowliest and the poorest without counting the cost nor asking any in return. Learn to appreciate the beauty of the common things around you. Glad to be alive but not afraid to die.

And there is a saying that states ” If we wish to be great then we must be a servant of all.” Serving others who follow you really purifies your motives and helps you gain perspective. It  also brings to the surface any impure motives of the followers.

Great Leadership means Great Service. Great Service means Great Sacrifice. If we want to be feeders then start serving others. Continue Feeding and Continue Serving. As what our Great Feeder (I am referring to Sir Bob) would say “I am your servant.” Let’s Feed, Let’s serve. Let’s Lead.…


Promoting Good Health with Corn Corn

K'se Trevor

Black eagle escrimadors supporting - King Corn - Corn Corn with a healthy refuel of KOOLau (PNG COCONUTS) juice Cleveland Markets

Corn Corn

When Escrimadoes thirst, they fuel up with the power of fresh drinking coconuts.

about 2 months ago


Grand Masters of the UFMAC recognizing Master Carlito Bonjoc, long time friend of Maestro Sonny Umpad

Today it was an honor that I was invited and got to witness UFMAC recognizing Grand Master Carlito Bonjoc, long time friend of Maestro Sonny Umpad ! Congrats GM Carlito!

Grand Master Robert Castro also introduced me to all the Grand Masters as one of the lineage holders of Maestro Sonny’s curriculum and promoter of the FMA. I was grateful to be in the room with all the greats of the FMA and honor them as my elders and for paving the path for martial artists like myself to thrive in and share the arts to the world. 


Today Master Carlito Bonjoc of Mata Sa Bagyo martial arts school is recognized by 6 different Grand Masters and Masters including Eskabo Daan Grand Master Robert Castro, Grand Master Michael Giron of Original Bahala Na, Grand Master Max Pallens of Senkoteros, Grand Master Dexter Labonog of Bahala Na Multi-Style, Master Emil Bautista of Kajukenbo Self Defense Institute and Grand Master Alfredo Bandalan of Bandalan Doce Pares of the Unified Filipino Martial Arts Council (UFMAC). Congratulations to warrior and leader, Master Bonjoc for all his contributions to the Martial Arts and Filipino Culture!

UFMAC, is an organization formed by a panel of current Grand Masters from different martial arts systems and their mission is to provide an open forum for the preservation, promotion and unification of the Filipino Martial Arts community. I will share more about this experience and some of my personal take aways soon. I definately wanted to get these images out to show that our culture and our arts are thriving but stay tuned for the specifics of the story. Congratulations again to UFMAC for being organized to promote the culture and our teachers as well as to GM Carlito for all his contributions and hard work! 

Jay Jasper






Brawl Video – Self Defence Lessons

This brawl video shows some good self defence lessons. Chest pushing -> wild punching -> shirt,hair,standup grappling -> ground grappling ie Muay Thai -> Wrestling -> BJJ. But that you don’t want to get stuck grappling – someone else can then come and punch/kick you in the head…

Lot’s of people were hurt, but imagine if improvised weapons (beer bottles, bricks) had been used – even worse… :-( And like most fights, any of them could have just “counted to 10″ and walked away – always the best approach :-)



Knife Flow

Here’s another snippet from our flow. We were just warming up for one of our performances for our beloved brother Eric “E” Fructuoso RIP. As always, random flow and highly improvisational. And a touch of goofing around to keep it lighthearted.  Enjoy!



Violence in Sydney (and Australia)

One of the strongest motivations of students to the martial arts is that of self defence. Indeed, a great deal of effort is expended by many organisations to demonstrate that they are able to provide potential students with the most effective techniques available with which to confront adversaries and defend themselves. It is common wisdom within the martial arts that society is unsafe and time should be expended to learn ways to mitigate the risk of wandering our streets.

It is perhaps worth noting at this point some of the common ways martial arts schools and martial arts teachers promote both the notion that students need self defence training and that they are the best ones to provide this. Some of these techniques are so obvious that they present like embarassing cliches. An obvious one is seen on the covers of local and imported martial arts magazines: photos of fierce looking instructors in the midst of dealing out robust counter attacks to opponents. Sometimes these even feature the whites of the instructor’s eyes a little too prominently.

If we open these same magazines, we often find whole sections devoted to dealing with attacks. In these, various styles and instructors are often profiled. Up to a point, they offer the reader a way to compare various styles. In these, many instructors appear to take great delight in demonstrating how much just retribution they can dish out to their would-be assailants. While not universal, it is useful to note the photographs of attackers in these sections and others: they are often hooded or have partially concealed faces. Where their faces are visible, these are often snarling, aggressive and wide eyed. You won’t find any attackers wearing purple poker dot pants in these, nor will you see any braces, pimples, glasses or poodles. Attackers will almost universally be large, mature, male and wearing street clothes.

I could go on, but you get the point. These types of portrayals serve a particular purpose. They are designed to instill in the minds of potential or actual students a particular perception about the society within which we live. In addition to these devices, a great many martial arts teachers will go a step further (if given the opportunity) and draw your attention to the real examples of violence in our society. They aren’t hard to find. The media eats up stories of violence, particularly when these include the presence of a weapon or there is the opportunity to broadcast frightening images.

In an environment which has been primed via words and images to accept violence as a default condition, it isn’t a big leap to use actual events to confirm these beliefs. This is a classic example of confirmation bias. It is phenomenon that we can readily observe as operating on the group dynamics of many martial arts clubs and groups.

While there is no doubt that Sydney (and indeed Australia) can be unsafe, the above representations and beliefs need some serious challenging. However, in challenging these beliefs, there are a number of significant implications for martial arts training. A lack of desire to confront these implications is likely to reduce the desire of many practitioners to ask some hard questions.

Firstly, we can view ABS statistics on crime and violence in Australia. From the Victims of Assault stats, we can readily observe that the Northern territory is easily the state or territory within which one is most likely to be assaulted. Note that as a resident of NSW, there  is a less than 1% chance over the course of an entire year that you will be assaulted. If we look further at breakdowns of age and gender, it can be seen that after the age of 24, the likelihood of being assaulted decreases significantly (note also that it is more or less split 50/50 male/female).

This isn’t something you see on the front cover of MA mags or in the paid results for Google: “Hey! You’ve got a 1% chance of being assaulted this year! It could happen to you! Come and learn devastating techniques to ensure it doesn’t!”.

Another interesting feature of assaults which doesn’t quite square with the promotional materials of many clubs is the relationship of the victim with their attacker. Again, the mags present the attacker as someone who is anonymous (either that, or the guy defending himself has a lot of friends who like to wear their hoodies low, never make eye contact and drink their espressos in dark corners behind industrial bins). In fact, what the stats say is that while, in the case of male victims, the most common attacker is unknown to them (at 40% of the total), the majority of attackers are known to the victim in some form or another (ie the remaining 60%). The difference between genders is striking also: over 60% of female victims are assaulted by a family member.

Finally, a couple of the big ones: where does the assault occur and was a weapon involved? As can be seen from the stats about weapon use and location of the offense, NSW is the state in Australia where a weapon is least likely to be used in an assault. At just 7.1% of all assaults, the chance of being assaulted with a weapon is getting pretty small. By my calculations, if the overall assault rate is 975 per 100,000 persons, then assaults with a weapon are just 69.225 per 100,000. This means there is just a 0.069225% chance that you will be assaulted with a weapon in NSW in any given year. When you consider also that male victims are assaulted in community areas (ie public spaces) in just 38% of cases and that 64% of female assaults occur in residential locations, then the industrial bins and parking lots so prominent in martial arts magazines and websites start looking very out of place.

The conclusions of this are far reaching. These statistics call into question the legitimacy of the hard core self defence regimes which exist in some clubs and the validity of the motivations of a great many practitioners. This takes nothing away from the genuine concerns many people have for their safety and solace that training in combative and martial arts gives them. However, it does raise serious questions about the legitimacy of any ongoing efforts by martial arts teachers and clubs to frame our society as unsafe. It also raises questions about the role that martial arts teachers and clubs have in challenging these types of beliefs when they are exhibited by students. In the specific case of women’s self defence, it appears significantly more likely that women will find themselves victims of domestic violence than random assaults on the street. This doesn’t seem well reflected in martial arts literature or marketing or the courses offered by many clubs.

Of course, this needs to be done with sensitivity: many students are attracted to the martial arts precisely because they have experienced violence. My own observation is that almost all students of the martial arts begin their training in large part as a result of heightened fears for the personal safety. This is all too often borne out of traumatic past experiences- be those experiences direct or indirect.  Some students continue to experience violence well after taking up martial arts. These fears need to be addressed in a manner which is sensitive to the difficulties being faced by the individual, but which also ultimately result in the individual realising that while we do not live in a non-violent utopia, we are not in any immediate danger. Martial arts training should result in students becoming better adjusted to the realities of our society. One of these realities is that Sydney is not a particularly violent city.


More Burpees and Bulgarian Bag stuff…

Though I am a firm believer that regular skill practice is important; I’m still a proponent of fitness/conditioning as a cornerstone to good martial arts/self defense practice.  The upside to breaking out of the ‘gym rat’ workout mind is that I can work out anytime, anywhere as long as I have enough space to swing a jump rope or a bulgarian bag.

  • 50 Burpees
  • 5 Open spin/Burpees (left and right) x 5 sets
  • 6 Power Snatch/Arm Throw x 6 sets


NAS Competition

Today -sunday the 26th of August 2012 two of our exponents Carl Arganda and Wesley Kaese competed in the Qld National Allstyles Tournament fighting in the continuous sparring and competing on a very high level their efforts were not unnoticed and have fared themselves and the UFSDS /BBEAE club really well - I would like to congratulate them for today :) - WELL DONE! National All Styles August 26 th 2012



I was just thinking of how we all have to prioritize our lives in these busy days. Giving up time in one area of our lives to spend that time with something or someone else.

Understanding that we have commitments to family, friends, employers and ourselves. We tend to be so busy we can lose sight of what is really important.

I do not believe we will be on our deathbeds asking for just one more hour practicing Martial Arts, or another hour at work or another hour at the bar drinking with strangers.

Make sure you have your priorities in order, you may not have the chance to fix it before your life on Earth ends.

Guro Ben


Integrated Training: Fitness/Conditioning and Performance/Conditioning

It’s been a while but I’m back on track after nursing two frustrating injuries back to ‘working’ order.  I’m not 100% yet, but at least I can do some things.

The lemonade I made from this big bag of sour lemons was spending time thinking about how to train in a way that will:

1.  Allow my body to heal while I’m attempting to avoid getting fat, dumb, and lazy.

2.  Maintain some level of performance/skill during recovery/healing.

3. Aid healing/recovery with a little activity.

Believe me when I say my usual tendency is to dive in and tough out the recover, but at 43… my body isn’t as springy as my mind thinks it is so I have to adhere to my own “Train Smart” motto to avoid taking two steps back in the recovery area.

SO… How do I get the most bang out of shortened workouts?

INTEGRATION!   Blending fitness conditioning with performance conditioning so I can do maintenance in both areas with shorter workouts.  Shorter workouts mean less risk of breaking myself again and integrating fitness and performance training means changing motions more frequently and reducing breaking myself through repetitive motions.

I haven’t reinvented the wheel by doing this by any stretch, but it was a good lesson to take out of this injury.  Thinking ‘tactically’ about my workout routines in order to accomplish a clearly defined goal (stay fit, heal, avoid re-injury) was more important than just following a routine or ‘system.’

I had to rethink what it meant to ‘train smart’ in this case.

Here is the full routine that is highlighted in the video:

  • 100 rope swings (single and double)
  • 10 front steps/rope swings
  • 10 back step/rope swings
  • 10 forward ‘triangle’ steps/rope swings
  • 10 backward ‘triangle’ steps/rope swings
  • 10 sidestep/cat stance/rope swings
  • WORK
  • 100 double foot skips
  • 100 running skips
  • 100 ‘Ali shuffle’ skips
  • Repeat the footwork/swings again
  • *repeat the WORK/REST cycle for 3 rounds*

Here’s another application of an INTEGRATED training model for Quarterback training.



We are bringing in local talent to train our students with seminars in Balintawak Eskrima, Tactical Machete / Axe and MARPPIO Modern Arnis.

I want to be able to share information with our Students and Instructors to give them a larger foundation to help them grow in the Martial Arts. Utilizing local Instructors here in Michigan allows them to personally train and have access to these Instructors more readily for their own training when they become Instructors themselves.


Teaching is it’s own art…

Obviously I am partial to all things USMC (Once a Marine… ) but in this case it is also a good example of the difference between

training instructors vs. training ‘martial artists.’

This is a short (and obviously promotional) video on the Instructor Training Program at Quantico, Virginia for the MCMAP (Marine Corps Martial Arts Program).  These ARE NOT ‘martial arts’ students.  They ARE instructor trainees.

What’s the difference?

The focus is not primarily on technical skill, it is on how to teach these skills.  Notice too that there is strong emphasis on role modeling (teaching by example) from personal behavior and historical examples.

Most recreational martial artists are really teachers first and practitioners second.  But, how much ‘teacher training’ have they received or sought on their own?

You can’t teach well if you don’t know what you are teaching, true.  But how many of our fellow ‘martial artists’ (who really are teachers of martial arts) have not spent even half as much time on learning to instruct/coach/mentor as they have on perfecting their technical skill?


The Race that does not Exist

“Imitate me as I Imitate Anciong.” These are the words that Sir Bob said to me in one of the trainings I attended. I started training Tabimina Balintawak since summer of 2006, from then on things became different. From the outlook in life, awareness of the surrounding, enhanced senses, sharpened reflexes, and many more. It is a continuous and endless learning.…There is always something new…

And then, I was caught up in a race which I thought it was. A race wherein I was tempted & I quote “Tempted” to become a better and fiercer fighter. I was tempted to be as Forceful as Master Dag, Swift as Master Flint, Intimidating as Master Chad, Cunning as Sir Jojo, and Great as GM Sir Bob. In short, I was starving for power, pride, and respect until I left myself unchecked that led me crossing the line & disregarding the chain of command. But thanks to Sir Bob for correcting me and leading me away from those temptations & showing me my true path. The timing was perfect.

The Third Gathering of Tabimina Balintawak was an another eye opener for me. A Literally Wide-Eye opener. Why? Because I saw my oldself on both the receivers and some of the feeders who are caught up in a race. And at the back of my mind i was smiling. Brothers and sisters of TB Family, there is no race. Don’t get caught up with it because it doesn’t exist. There will always be greater and better than you are.…and also lesser than you are.…

The 3rd Gathering’s theme was UNITY but there are some who are caught up with that non-existing race which divides the family. I repeat THERE IS NO RACE of who is the best or who is better but there is a ROAD to self-discovery. My Brothers & Sisters let’s harness our UNITY with HUMILITY. Let’s help each other and build up each other not only as an International Organization but also as a FAMILY because that is Tabimina Balintawak is all about.…FAMILY.

And lastly.….let’s Imitate Sir Bob as He imitated GGM Anciong. Allow me to expound it. We just have to Imitate Sir Bob and not BE LIKE Sir Bob because there is only ONE Sir Bob.…

There is No Race .….only a Journey to the road to Self-Discovery.…Keep on Playing with those who Imitate Sir Bob…



Balintawak Eskrima Enhances Speed and Pace

The importance of pace and speed is best indicated in the subsequent phrases: "When the opponent cuts you through the skin, cut him through the bone." Samurai Saying A fragment of a second would mean the difference between life or death in an actual mortal combat. This is the reason why the attacks, counter attacks, and defensive moves of Balintawak Eskrima go with gravity.


Balintawak Eskrima Defense and Footwork

In Balintawak Eskrima, an efficient block is actually executed quick and sufficiently strong to stop the actual momentum from the offense, as well as extended limited to a range necessary to soak up the inbound impact. By no means block together with your arm prolonged far out.


Inner Tube + Duct Tape + Flat Rope + Play Sand = DIY Bulgarian Bag Fun

This is my DIY (Do It Yourself) “Bulgarian Bag

After tripping over this exercise tool and watching some videos of how it is used, I thought it was a pretty nice way of getting a challenging workout… but the ‘real’ ones that Ivan Ivanov created are a bit pricey to test drive.

But, thanks to youtube, I found some DIY tutorials to cut the price from $211 – $155 (Leather costs more than canvas) down to about $30.00.

It is ugly, but like my camera equipment, its a tool for getting ‘pretty’ results not to look pretty.

Cut the inner tube, fill with sand, roll the ends toward the inside of the arc (better handles), and zip tie them closed.  Then duct tape the ends tight for grips.  I added the flat rope loops for some of the spinning exercises and to vary the hand positions for triceps/bicep exercises.  Mine came out to be around 39 pounds at first, but was too heavy to start with so I reduced the heft to about 30 pounds (between the 26 pound “medium” and the 37 pound “large” bags Mr. Ivanov sells) which is probably still a touch heavy, but my pride won’t let me go any lighter.

The variations on bulgarian bag exercises are endless, but this is a series of simple (but definitely not easy) exercises that I started with:

5 Rounds of:

10 “open spins” (full circle rotations to the left for 10, then right for 10)

10 push ups (which I varied with ‘frog’ push ups and ‘climber’ push ups)

5 Rounds of:

“Snatch Jumps” (execute a classic ‘snatch/clean’ motion’ with the bag landing – GENTLY – on your shoulders then jump/throw it back to the start position)

10 Repetitions of the TacArnis Concept Footwork patterns.

I shot the video on on my deck for better light and more room (because my wife likes nice things in her house to stay nice) – please don’t think I’m all hardcore/Rocky IV about this stuff.  It was 30 degrees and the deck was a little slick.  I have enough room for this routine in my basement and the floor is much safer there.

There is a learning curve to using the Bulgarian Bag, but I know that applying the “Form, Power, Focus, Speed” training concept from the Kenpo/FMA blend that is the foundation of TacArnis, this will be a fun/challenging addition to my fitness program but also develop kinesthetic awareness that translates to TacArnis training as well as overall health/fitness.

I strongly suggest ensuring you have enough room and a safe space to exercise in with something like Bulgarian bags or any exercise routine for that matter.


Burpees, Body Weight, and Bands

In a previous post I mentioned “Instructional Alignment” is a fancy way of saying that TacArnis uses the same concepts to instruct that students will apply as tactics.  This goes for our conditioning/fitness component as well. The conceptual lesson of “FLOW” is challenged when we combining conditioning exercises with TacArnis strikes/drills – creating ‘gut check’ experience.  As a drill “FLOW” is a basic drill in FMA to teach the more important idea of “FLOW” as a state of mind – KEEP GOING!  Even when you are tired, stressed, scared or injured.  KEEP GOING!  Taking concepts out of the physical drills and recognizing them as Concepts/Ideas means remember that they can be applied in other ways – and that is the bigger lesson.

I know I’ll catch flak from FMA/Martial arts purists out there, but the goal of TacArnis is not to teach “FMA” as “FMA.” It is to USE “FMA” and other martial skills (and ‘non martial art skills’) in order to “Train Smart” for self defense success.  The concept of “FLOW” as a state of mind is as important (if not more so) than mastering a drill that is meant as a primer for basic physical skills.

  • Burpees (0:08 to 0:29):  I have to confess that I have a love/hate relationship with the Burpee exercise, but it’s like one of the best whole body exercises you can do, so I do it.  For this workout we did the following:
    • 1o burpees w/4 punch combo (Jab/Cross, hook/hook) Tom punching
    • 1o burpees w/4 punch combo (Jab/Cross, hook/hook) Paul punching
    • 10 burpees w/single and double siniwali
    • 1o burpees w/bob and weave defense and 4 punch combo (Jab/Cross, hook/hook) Tom punching
    • 1o burpees w/bob and weave defense and 4 punch combo (Jab/Cross, hook/hook) Paul punching
    • Total 50 burpees per person.
    • NOTE:  You can give the ‘focus mitt guy/gal’ a longer rest by having them not burpee if needed BUT it will add time to the overall goal of 50 burpees (or whatever total number you are shooting for).
  • Body weight (0:30 to 0:36):
    • 10 body weight/partner squat lifts combined with bob and weave defensive movement Tom lifts
    • 10 body weight/partner squat lifts combined with bob and weave defensive movement Paul lifts
  • Bands (0:37 to 0:39): SOLO
    • 2 x :60 intervals continuous motion w/the band wrapped around your chest or waist to ‘punch it out’ – Tom
    • 2 x :60 interval continuous motion w/band wrapped around your chest or waist to ‘punch it out’ – Paul
  • Bands (0:40 to 0:52)
    • 2 x :30 intervals continuous motion with partner hold (use the stick to save your hands) stick and empty hand – Tom
    • 2 x :30 intervals continuous motion with partner hold (use the stick to save your hands) stick and empty hand – Paul


So What Makes a Martial Art Work? The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (Part 2 of 2)

“An error does not become truth by reason of multiplied propagation, nor does truth become error because nobody sees it.”
Mohandas K. Gandhi
Political activist and spiritual leader

In part one of this essay, we had established that each encounter is situational and that one of the biggest challenges to proper execution of any move in the martial arts is to pull it off accurately in real time. Attributes like timing, speed, balance, range, strength, body movement and angles of attack are universal and are used to achieve different effects in different arts. The key is taking these attributes and harnessing them via an effective system to train a student to develop productive and positive skills. The aim of every system should be to enable students to develop appropriate responses and learn to execute moves in real time. Easier said than done.

In part two of this essay, I shall discuss what I believe are traits and characteristics of effective martial arts and teaching systems and how Tabimina Balintawak exhibits these traits. Much has already been written about how the system works and training progresses so I will only be highlighting certain aspects of the training. During the course of this essay, I will make references to practices I have observed in other arts. Please note that I do not mean to discredit any art nor do I mean any disrespect. Rather I seek to use a wider base of examples so that learning and discussion can be more meaningful. I would invite all readers to keep an open mind and give this essay a fair reading before making judgment. Now that all the formalities are out of the way, let us begin our discussion in earnest about what works in a martial art.

1. Attacks must be random and dynamic
Here is a hard truth: many martial arts and martial artists do not train for the “what ifs”. What if my opponent moves or blocks? What if I miss? What if he does not go down? What if my disarm goes awry? Many systems have students practice using compliant opponents i.e. students allow themselves to be used as dummies in order to for their partner to practice and learn. For example, to practice a throw, one student may allow another student to move in and execute a throw without resisting. The attacker gets to practice his throw and the defender gets to practice protecting himself when being thrown. (Guess who has more fun.) Many weapon arts also have one attacker strike and then “freeze” so the defender can practice a block and execute a counter-attack. This can be followed by more strikes, disarms and/or a takedown. It may be hard to make out but this “freezing” does take place quite a bit. At higher levels the “freeze” may be very minute because advanced students move faster and can take advantage of this gap but it is still there.

Right now many are probably going to say, “Hang on! Isn’t that the whole point of training? To get so fast that we can recognize opportunities to attack and execute our moves?” I agree completely but I am of the view that this kind of training is incomplete. Before the flaming begins, please note that in and of itself, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this freezing. Sometimes, this is needed to allow a student to practice and achieve a greater degree of finesse. However, if this is the only way to practice, then something is lacking because everything is still cognitive and ultimately students are trained using memory and anticipation which is completely different from reaction. Both sides know their roles (i.e. who is attacking and who is defending) and what is coming (i.e. who is going to end up on the ground). So the outcome has more or less been determined. This is why there is a lack of randomness and few are trained for the “what ifs”. What if a student is non-compliant and resists? What if I don’t want to be disarmed and keep up my attacks? What if my partner panics and swings wildly at me? Can all of us effectively handle a non-compliant partner?

Tabimina Balintawak, on the other hand, is completely random. From day one (and this is typical for any new student), we spend about 15–30 minutes on the 12 basic strikes and counters and from there it is all random. There is no set way in which the feeder or attacker will come at us and where, when or how he will strike next. As the training progresses, the student or defender learns a greater variety of moves and counterattacks so his repertoire is widened and the attacker himself cannot always predict how the defender will counter-attack. At the highest levels, the distinction between attacker and defender is blurred since all moves are non-choreographed and both sides have no clue anticipation what is coming next. It is completely situational and both must react based on what happens at that point in time. Who gets hit, disarmed and/or thrown off balance is really up in the air. By engaging in the process of agak (or play as we love to call it), we are training for all the “what ifs” because we actually execute them and test ourselves and our opponents. If we never train for the “what ifs” then we can never discover the truth of what happens for ourselves.

2. There must be a strong element of defense
Looking at the human race, it amazes me how we have made it this far. From birth, we are completely defenseless and totally reliant on a caregiver for the first few years of our lives. Animals have to learn to move by themselves within hours of being born or risk being eaten. We learn to walk after a year or so. Some animals are immediately left on their own the moment they are born but manage to survive. Granted we have a fantastic brain which does make up for it in later years (although some people I have met make me want to believe otherwise), we are completely vulnerable for the first part of our lives. When provoked, we can instinctively lash out by punching, kicking, slapping, biting, pulling and shoving. However, we do not seem to have any instinctive defense against punching, kicking, slapping, biting, pulling and shoving. Animals, on the other hand, have survival mechanisms and are not defenseless. When chasing a zebra, lions have to be extremely careful of their prey’s powerful hind legs for a kick can seriously hurt them. I am pretty sure zebras do not sign up for classes to learn how to kick.

This leads me to ask what defense mechanisms do we instinctively have? For the life of me I cannot think of any other than running or hitting back and even the latter does not seem effective against a skilled or armed opponent. This strongly suggests to me that as human beings, we have lost our defensive capabilities and must re-learn them. Too many arts focus on strikes but pay little attention to defense; believing that “the best defense is a good offense.” I believe that the best defense is a good defense. Before the objections come flooding in, I would also like readers to consider the previous point above about randomness in attacks. If one can successfully fend off truly random attacks then one has a strong defense.

Right from the outset, Tabimina Balintawak focuses on developing a strong defense as our most fundamental tenet. Again, attacks are random and students are trained to react appropriately. It is through such practice that students develop their own sense of timing and good body mechanics. The key to strong defense in Balintawak is good body movement — not the weapon. If our defense is completely dependent on our weapon, then we are virtually naked without it. On the other hand, our body is our greatest weapon and ultimately that is what we are training; the stick is only a training tool for the body and this ensures that we are never truly defenseless. We have a saying when we play: “My defense is my problem. Your defense is your problem.” So in short, there cannot be a truly strong defense without genuinely random attacks.

3. There must be stress
Many arts allow for students to practice when there is little stress. The result is that many are unprepared for the adrenaline dump that kicks in during high-stress situations like sparring, fighting and ambushes. Many may now ask, “Isn’t the whole point of sparring to get students to put everything together and practice their attack and defense?” I would answer “yes” and “no” to that question. “Yes” because sparring is supposed to do that but “no” because it does not always managed to do so.

I have come to learn that true skills can only be installed and accessed under stress. When we are under stress in an adrenal situation, when we are tired, fatigued and desperate, our body will react the way it knows best and this is when we show who and what we really are. Think about it – if one normally train and practice under safe and sanitized environment, and everything he does are systematic and planned? What would likely be his instinctive response when fists are flying and $#!* hits the fan, fine motor skills or wild haymakers?

However, all is not lost. Some people do learn to deal with it over time and get better with more sparring. They get more confident and more adept. But that still leaves us with 2 common problems.

Firstly, what about those who give up because they do not want all that sparring? Let’s face it — sparring often hurts. At some point or other, we have to ask ourselves if all this sparring is worth it if we get more banged up from it than from actual fights and ambushes. The easy option is to give up. Some may say, “Too bad. He’s weak and can’t hack it.” I disagree with this response and shall explain why shortly.

The second problem is that no matter what, sparring will have 3 R’s present that can limit an art’s true effectiveness: Rounds, Rules and Referees. These 3 things will ensure that at the end of the day, no one gets hurt too badly and everyone lives to spar another day. For those who still believe their arts’ sparring is effective in all scenarios, I would like to invite you to do a Google search on “London Prize Fighting”. Not to take away anything from anyone but the things these men did to one another were so brutal that it would make many professional fighters today consider a career change if they were asked to fight like that.

Tabimina Balintawak offers a solution to both problems. All attacks used in this system are on the right spot and students are taught to defend accordingly. We emphasize accuracy of strikes and accurate defense. What is the difference between this and close-quarters point-sparring? 2 things — range and stress. Because Tabimina Balintawak is so close, there is a real sense of danger that is presented to the student at all times. It is the job of the feeder to constantly challenge the student by pushing him to the brink of jeopardy and then getting him to move and react to defend himself. The result is that students are never truly comfortable and it is under these stress-filled conditions that skills are imparted and installed. Also, there is progressive stress. As the student progresses, the attacks come faster, harder and are far more difficult to counter. This ensures that students are constantly challenged. So what you will see from the outside is sticks flying and bodies moving with no damage or injuries to either party. This solves the problems of discouraged and damaged students.

4. There must be continual learning
In general, I do not like belts, ranks, grades, titles or certificates within the martial arts. The reason is because I feel it is too easy to get comfortable. Our instincts teach us to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Having the entire class stop what they are doing and greet you when you walk in is very flattering. Being called “Master” wherever you go is very pleasing. Walking around with a black belt is something many are proud of. Again, in and of themselves, there is nothing wrong with any of this. The problem comes when this stops us from learning anymore because we think we have “arrived”. In reference to my friend Josh Walker’s earlier article, we think we have learned all there is to learn and stop getting “IT” anymore because it is too easy to stop learning and just enjoy the position we are in. To me, all of these accolades are mental traps and must be handled carefully. That is why the only belt I care about is the one that holds my pants up.

In Tabimina Balintawak, there are no belts or ranks. In order to understand where we are and who we are up against, we simply play. It is a performative art. We seek to be able to perform under stress so belts hold little meaning for us. Learning should be ongoing and limitless. From discussions with my Balintawak instructors, we have all come to agree that learning is endless. Even the most adept at the art are constantly learning new things about themselves, new things about their students, problems they had not previously encountered or new solutions to old problems. As cliché as this may sound, it really is a journey and not a destination. There must be growth and evolution.

On a personal level, I have come to see that the finishing line keeps moving further and further away from me. I know I am progressing but with each step forward, I realize that there is so much more to learn. I now believe I will never learn all there is to learn but I sure am going to enjoy trying. On a larger level, many arts I see are facing a difficult choice — change and adapt to today’s context or maintain their course in line with tradition and purity. There is nothing wrong with either choice and I have no views about it either way but I do have 2 concerns.

My first concern is when instructors from arts with a long tradition and lineage insist that everything they have to teach is still applicable and useful in today’s context. Remember that many arts were developed for specific contexts in mind and these contexts may not be the same today. It is thus vital to be clear exactly what we are training for — combat, fighting, self-defense, sport, competition, performance or health — because the teachings and objectives are not the same all across the board. My second concern is with arts that insist they have all the answers and have no need to grow and learn. I think it would be useful to be truly honest about the limitations (where applicable) of every art. Consider the situations we find ourselves in everyday — the clothes we wear, the places we frequent, the people we associate with and the things we carry with us. Is this commensurate with the things we do in the context of our training?

I must acknowledge that all these ideas are not entirely my own but I do hold them to be true. They have come from a combination of my past observations, discussions with friends and experts, research from books and the Internet and teachings from my instructors. Isaac Newton put it best when he said, “If I have seen a little further, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.” Credit must be given to those to have worked long and hard to seek and understand these truths and who have dedicated their time to sharing it with others. Again, I am not claiming that Tabimina Balintawak is the “most effective”, “the deadliest” or “the best” — only that it works. I would like to invite all readers to examine and reflect upon their own training and systems in light of the criteria above. Does your training involve all or only some of these traits? If your training involves all these traits, then congratulations — you are learning something wonderful and genuine and I encourage you to apply yourself to it wholeheartedly. To those who may feel that something is missing, I encourage you to examine exactly what is missing and to seek to understand what really works and what does not. At the end of the day, we are all responsible for for our own education. If we are not progressing at the pace we should be, then I think it is necessary to examine why. I do not expect all readers to agree with everything that I have put forth but I do hope that I have helped to shed a little light on a subject which so many people feel so passionately about. To round off, if there is only one thing I could share with you, it would be this:

Train the way you fight and fight the way you train.

Stay safe and keep playing!

About the author:
Marcus Poon is a middle school teacher in Singapore teaching Social Studies. He is married to his job (the beautiful woman who sleeps next to his snoring form every night might have something to add but this is his blog, not hers) and is an avid student of the martial arts. He also likes pizza and for people to send him money. (Hey that mortgage isn’t going to pay itself.)


Translation of Weapons Training to Empty Hand Training

A lot of people ask me about the translation of weapons training to empty hand training in Arnis. Many people are drawn to the style by the promise that a practitioner can learn how to use a particular weapon and then apply the same movements to other different weapons and empty hand training. I have a few thoughts about this topic, and a few principles which should be borne in mind. These centre upon the fundamental differences between weapons and between weapons and empty hands.

1. Empty hand training is bilateral; weapons training is unilateral.

While it is important to consider that we are naturally right or left handed, there is no inherent difference between our two hands. Both may be used almost equally as well for almost any function- grabbing, striking, pushing, pulling, manipulating, deflecting, catching, etc. This is in contrast to using a weapon. In single handed weapon training (ie blade, baton, stick), the weapon hand takes on distinctly different advantages and disadvantages when compared to the live hand. This necessitates that the weapon hand be used for some things and the live hand (empty-hand) for other things. there may be some cross over, but this is limited when compared to two empty hands. Even with double weapon training, one hand tends to be dominant.

2. Empty hand strikes tend to be linear; weapon strikes tend to be circular.

While this oversimplifies things a little, I think it is fair to assume that for generating power and striking targets, weapons training tends to involve more circular strikes than comparable open hand training. Forward and reverse knife techniques, single stick training and short sword all hold approximately true with regard to this in comparison to open hand. This isn’t to say both can’t be used for linear and circular strikes, simply that there is a preference depending on whether a weapon is being used or not.

3. Empty hand fighting requires relatively more stability from the feet than weapons training.

Another oversimplification. However, consider how most short and medium length weapons (blade, baton, stick, short-staff, single-handed sword, machete) are used. Spears, naginatas, long poles and other long heavy weapons are likely exceptions to this, but they do not translate to open hand and are another debate entirely. As an attacker, it is possible to deliver very powerful attacks with a weapon while standing on one foot. This is not the case for empty hand work. There are exceptions and situations can be designed or manipulated which demonstrate otherwise, but this holds true in general.

There are of course other points of difference too. However, the point of this is simply to answer the question Does Arnis weapons training translate to empty hand training? My answer is Yes, it does. But (there is always a but), all other things being equal, a specialised style is superior to a generalised style. That is to say, while translating a stick fighting style to an empty hand application will give you a solid (basic) empty hand system (as is the case in Balintawak Arnis), you can’t escape that the movements were originally intended for usage with a stick. You will have to adjust the empty hand version at least a little. And, to make it really good, you will have to adjust it a lot. At this point, it may not look much like the original stick fighting style.

And, this is what we tend to see in the FMA: as techniques from a specific weapon are applied to a broader range of weapons or open hand they are either changed to be more specific to the new weapon or they are retained as is and do the job, but not quite as well as a dedicated system (though with far less effort and time expended to acquire specific skills).


My Second Seminar with Master Steve Tappin

Escrima Concepts Seminar September 2011I was kind of surprised to notice that about 3 years have gone by since my first encounter with Master Steve Tappin, the founder of the Escrima Concepts style, a complete fighting system that teaches weapon based attack and defences to start with and the explores what happens when you have no weapon available.

One of  my main purpose of attending a martial arts seminar is to have the opportunity of learning, usually new things, from a master or instructor that is usually not available for local tuitions, and share with a few others his/her expertise in a session that is normally longer that the average class. However last Sunday I was particularly lucky; I attended, together with 3 other CARISMA members, a seminar organised by my friends at the Cambridge Kung Fu and I was pleased to find out that just 13 people, including us, were taking part to the event.  The real luck was having Master Tappin in person taking care directly of us for a generous amount of time and really ensuring we would get a great training.

Master Tappin’s teaching style is very clear and effective and he always manages to simply explain the essence of why one thing should be done in a certain way and shows it directly, helped by his expert son Wayne.  It’s shocking to see a man who had a broken back and an injured knee, somebody who struggles to stand and limps visibly but then, when demonstrating a technique, moves with the speed and the grace of the great martial artist he really is.

Weapons are tricky to handle and they open a complete new dimension about what should and should not be done while fighting.  While I don’t feel my skill level has grown substantially I can acknowledge I learnt a lot of useful concepts and by repeating and rehearsing the moves my skill will improve over time.

Whether you have experience in weapon based training or, like me, passionate and curious about exploring a new art I would definitely suggest to join one of Master Tappin’s seminar at your earliest convenience.

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Testing in August.


Well I was very impressed with the latest test results for the 6 students/Instructors this past Saturday. Impressed because of the improvement made by them and the fact that the majority of the training was done by Guro Kathleen and Guro Allen to get the students ready for this test.

It demonstrates the hard work of both the testors and Instructors to commit themselves to the training.

Dr. Presas is coming in a couple of weeks and we all look forward to his teaching and sharing. We always have a great time, even if we are sore for a couple of days afterwards.

Everyone is welcome to this years Seminar with Dr. Presas no matter what skill level you are, beginner or advanced, you will learn something new!

Until next time,


Guro Ben



New Info


Gerry Tablada and Rich Mitrak will be testing for Likha Apat is today at 1pm.

September 10 and 11, 2011, Mataas na Guro Dr. Remy P. Presas will be here for our annual MARPPIO Seminar in Michigan. Everyone one is welcome regardless of experience.

We will be having a Staff meeting shortly to discuss events, curriculum, student information and the next testing board.

We are adding "Modern Combatives Training " as a seperate curriculum and certification for our Staff and Students.

This will be a complete course on Self-defense and Personal Protection. The course will cover all aspects of hand to hand combat, to include knife, gun, multiple attackers and scenario / environmental training to cover car jackings, hostage taking / kidnapping, womans self-defense, etc.

This will be an ongoing and evolving curriculum to address modern personal protection issues.

Until next time,


Guro Ben


So What Makes a Martial Art Work? Taking a Long Hard Look into the Nature of Martial Arts (Part 1 of 2)

“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”
Galileo Galilei
Italian astronomer, physicist, mathematician and philosopher

There is a great deal of debate within the martial arts community over which system or systems are “most effective”, “the deadliest” or “the best” and also which fighter is the “most effective”, “the deadliest” or “the best”. Perhaps there is no clear cut answer because it seems to be a chicken-and-egg situation. A good fighter can be good because of his natural talent and take a system and make it work. Alternatively, a good system can bring out the best in an individual and thus make him a good fighter. Of course, these are not the only scenarios — it could be a combination of other factors and not every art is based in the same context so it is not fair to say “Fighter A from System X is definitely better than Fighter B from System Y.” Ultimately, this blog does not seek to argue whether the fighter or the system is more important (partly because I have no clue how to answer it). Instead, this blog will focus on one part of the equation — the system and how it can make a student a better martial artist.

In the first part of this essay, I will seek to delve into the nature of martial arts and fighting and examine the unique nature of each encounter. In the second part, I will examine exactly what makes any martial art effective and how Tabimina Balintawak exhibits these traits and features. Before we proceed, please let me state that I am not claiming that Tabimina Balintawak is the “most effective”, “the deadliest” or “the best”. I believe that every art has something to offer — it is only whether we as students of the martial arts have truly understood our discipline’s teachings. What I am saying is that Tabimina Balintawak can work.

Looking at the previous sentence, I would imagine that more discerning readers would want to clarify this statement. By saying that Tabimina Balintawak “works”, exactly what do I mean by that? Is it an effective art when it comes to fighting? Is the training pedagogically sound as a method of instruction? Can the system and its teachings be replicated, passed on and used to enhance a student’s skills? I would answer “yes” to all these questions. I firmly believe that in order to be effective in enhancing a student’s skills and understanding, an effective martial arts system must exhibit certain traits and later on I will seek to illustrate how Tabimina Balintawak uses these traits to help its students grow.

Now let us first examine the nature of martial arts and fighting. There are certain attributes that are universal when it comes to martial arts and fighting — timing, speed, balance, range, strength, body movement and angles of attack. Physics, Geometry, Biology and Biomechanics all come together in a harmonious display of skill and butt-kicking. I believe every martial art is just an interpretation and expression of these attributes. From my observations, all techniques, applications, strikes, throws, kicks, locks, and takedowns are just examples of how these attributes are used. So long as you are acting from a position of strength (i.e. you are balanced and well-positioned to strike or defend) and your opponent is acting from a position of weakness (i.e. he is off-balance and poorly-positioned to strike or defend), then just about any technique can be successfully applied.

Before I go on further, let me further clarify something that I believe to be a universal truth — every encounter is situational and contextual. It is hard to effectively pull off any maneuver when both attacker and defender are both well-balanced and prepared. Instead, we should recognize that certain moves will only work at that point in time. For example, it is hard to successfully execute a strike, weapon disarm, throw or takedown on a prepared defender. The key to successfully pulling it off is to diminish his ability to defend or retaliate first and then execute the move. Going straight in for the move without doing so (or going in naked, as a dear friend of mine likes to call it) is a sure way to make your own life difficult. It is similar to using the jab in boxing. The jab is a great way to distract your opponent and throw him off his game. While unlikely to knock him out, it is a great set-up for a power punch. The key word here is “set-up”. You must first set your opponent up by stunning him, pulling him off balance, moving off-line or just plain distracting him. Then, at that point in time will you be most likely to successfully pull off your move. If you are not fast enough to execute the move then or if your opponent is fast enough to recover, then the window of opportunity has passed and both must look for or create the next opportunity. This is why every fight is situational — techniques do not always work because every situation is different. No two fights will ever be identical because no two fighters and no two scenarios will ever be identical.

Sadly, too many martial artists are either unaware of or reluctant to acknowledge this truth. Some days you can get it right and some days your opponent is able to defend himself. Too many people then fall into the trap of becoming armchair fighters and internet warriors. “If he does that then I would do this …”, “If he goes there then I’ll snap his neck by doing this …”, “Yes, you could do that but then you haven’t considered this killer blow from below …”, “But then you’d be open to my killer-spinning-jump-three-quarter-pike-twist-flying kick”. Basically most of such arguments take the form of “If I were there then I would have done this …”. The problem is that we were not there. If we were in that situation, could we have recognized what was happening and pulled off an effective counter at that point in time? If we can, then good — we have achieved something. If not, then there is no point discussing what could have, should have and/or would have followed. If it is just plain talk, then anyone from a 10 year-old Ninja Turtle wannabe to his 80 year-old arthritic grandfather with hip problems can be a grandmaster/tuhon/guro/pak/dato/sifu/sensei. Look at the comments on any martial arts video on YouTube or on any martial arts forum. How many people actually consider the unique context of each encounter when posting? How many have shown a clear understanding of the universal attributes listed at the beginning of this paragraph? How many comments look like they came from pre-pubescent boys who know nothing about martial arts other than what they see from “Street Fighter” and Jackie Chan movies? You know the ones — they usually take the form of “You suck and your system sucks. Go and die.” (I swear I saw that in a forum once.) The discussion quickly degenerates and profanity normally follows from multiple parties. I understand this may be very jarring to many people out there but consider this — can we always pull off all our moves all of the time? Why or why not? Now would be a good time to take a long hard look at ourselves and be honest in our reflection. This is the crux of it all — can we pull off whatever we talk about in real time?

The lengthy and long-winded paragraphs above have been an attempt to offer some insight into why martial arts may not work all of the time or more accurately, why we as martial artists cannot perform all the time. This still leaves us with our original question in the title — all other things being equal, what makes any martial art work? How can one tell whether a system is effective or not? So far we have established that each encounter is unique and reacting appropriately in real time is far more difficult than discussing techniques. So how can we learn to recognize attacks and then react appropriately? That is where a good system comes in to teach us how to respond correctly and that will be explored in the second part of this essay.

About the author:
Marcus Poon is a middle school teacher in Singapore teaching Social Studies. He is married to his job (the beautiful woman who sleeps next to his snoring every night might have something to add but this is his blog, not hers) and is an avid student of martial arts. He also likes pizza and for people to send him money. (Hey, that mortgage isn’t going to pay itself.)


The Pitfall of Anticipation

In Balintawak, a student is placed in harm’s way from day 1.  Since Balintawak is defense oriented martial arts, the student is taught how to defend and counter appropriately and efficiently.  The student is then exposed to the 12 basic strikes and learns 12 basic defense and counter.  The 12 basic strikes will then be given in random to develop the student’s reaction and eschewing anticipation.  The students are then subjected to scenarios of attacks, equivalent to a simulation of a real fight and are taught to defend and counter appropriately, thus making a counter to counter play.  We call this motor-skills installation in Tabimina Balintawak.  The installation takes place in our nervous system, not necessarily in our brain. To elaborate further, imagine yourself unknowingly touching something that is hot like a pot, or an oven, or your car being in the sun in the middle of the day.  The reaction time pulling your skin away from something that’s hot is so fast; your brain is late in analyzing that it is in fact hot.  That’s because a human being perceives the stimuli based upon our senses, before reasoning.  In this instance, our sensory receptors perceived pain, before our brain can analyze what type or reason of pain it is; i.e. hot.  But if you anticipate touching an object, but you don’t even know if it’s really hot, and yet you thought that it is hot, your reaction time is slower because it causes hesitation, and mainly because the brain was involved.  You assumed something that is not.

Tabimina Balintawak emphasizes a strong defense as taught by Great Grandmaster Venancio ‘Anciong’ Bacon, and enforces zero mind, because MEMORIZATION can lead to ANTICIPATION.  How many times have we experienced this in life, when we say the word “I thought?” Meaning, we we’re anticipating something that didn’t arrive.  Now put this in your martial arts training, how many times you failed to respond, and caused your reflexes and movement to deteriorate, because the movement that you memorized, the one you anticipated, did not emanate. Now put this in a fight scene, where life and death matters, can you still say the word “I thought?”  One false response to an incoming attack could cost you your life and the life of your loved ones.  So it is essential that we traverse into a path, where the choices we make will not breed any regrets, hesitations and insecurities.

Once the brain is involved in defending, the reaction time is magnitude slower.  This is what normally runs through your head, “If he punch me here, I’ll do this, or if he kicks me here I’ll do that. What if he blocks my strikes? What if, this and that?”  The eyes will interpret what it sees, then your brain is analyzing the data through a process of deduction, and then back to your limbs.  And although the transmission of signals via our neurotransmitters to the neurons is fast, it is still not enough to cope with the incoming threat. This is mainly because there are other factors that come into play such as psychological and emotional state e.g. fear, panic, agitation, distraught.  You may be able to defend the incoming strikes, but with bad posture and detrimental reaction, and the technique that you pictured in your brain will never materialize.  You will miss your opportunity to counter attack mainly because you are trying to fend off the attacker and figuring out what to do next.

A lot of martial artist nowadays also performs numerous drills.  When you are doing something unfamiliar, they often ask, “What kind of drill is that?” Drills are series of patterned movements, to develop a student’s sensitivity, speed, timing, accuracy and rhythm.  Because the drills are memorized, unknowingly the brain picks up these patterns and in turn converts it to anticipation.  To prove my point, perform a drill and right in between the drill, do an attack that is not part of the drill and it must be performed without the defenders consent.   The questions that arise are, “Was he able to block the attack?  If so, how was his composure?  Was his reaction productive or detrimental?”  The second time you perform the drill, the student will now anticipate the unknown factor.  His movement will then deteriorate, in short erratic.  Sir Bob has always mentioned, “Anything that is unknown, you will get hit.”  So what Tabimina Balintawak does best is exposing you to what is unknown and learning how to deal with it precisely and efficiently.

This is where the folly of memorized pattern lies.  It is efficient to a certain level, but at the same time it develops what we call, false sense of security.  Anticipation can create a lot of defensive holes.  And the sad part is most people don’t even realize that they have defensive holes, which makes them vulnerable to a skilled fighter.



What Weapons Does Balintawak Arnis Use?

Balintawak Arnis is a single stick system. It has evolved from a short sword system (or systems). In its current iteration, it focuses on single stick applications at close range. However, contained within the system, there are applications, sets and drills for a wide variety of other weapons including forward and reverse short bladed weapons, short sword or machete, and any other rigid, short or medium length, hand-held weapon which is weighted or edged. The majority of applications can also be used without a weapon (ie applied to empty hand).
The grouped Balintawak Arnis stick fighting system is divided into a number of sections and each of these can be applied to a variety of weapons as follows:

12 Basic Strikes of Balintawak Arnis

On the attacking side, the 12 basic strikes can be readily applied to almost any short or medium length weapon held in a forward position. Many of the strikes can also be applied to a short weapon held in the reverse position and to empty hand. Similarly, on the defending side, almost all defences can be applied to short and medium weapons held in the forward position.

Group 1: Vertical blocks and freeing your stick

Group one teaches the feeder side how to block and the receiver side how to destroy blocks. Group one Balintawak Arnis techniques can be applied to single stick, short and medium length edged weapons and, in some cases, short weapons held in the reverse position.

Group 2: Striking and defending the butt

Group two teaches the feeder side how to use the butt of the weapon to strike and how to use the live hand to attack. The receiver side learns to defend butt attacks and attacks from the live hand. Group two Balintawak Arnis techniques can be readily applied to short weapons held in the reverse position as well as single stick, and medium bladed weapons held in the forward position. Group two can also be readily applied to empty hand techniques.

Group 3: Fencing and applications to the sword

Group three teaches defences against thrusting attacks, particularly those with an edged or pointed medium length weapon. There are few (if any) applications to empty hand, short weapons or weapons  held in the reverse position in this group.

Group 4: Abanicos

Group teaches a variety of defences to atypical attacks and abanicos. Some of sequences in group four are applicable only to medium range striking or edged weapons. However, others may be applied readily to empty hand defences and short weapon held in the forward position.

Group 5: Disarming your opponent

Group five teaches disarms and defences to disarms. The techniques contained within group five may be applied to single stick as well as short and medium length weapons held in the forward position, or short weapons held in the reverse position.
One interesting thing about Balintawak is that it is not a requirement that you fight with the same or even a similar weapon as your opponent. With the large overlap of techniques and application of these between different types of weapons and open hand, one is able to use the Balintawak Arnis system with or against a wide variety of different types of weapons or open hand.


Training Day at Five Dock, Sydney

Recently Scott Brailey and John Russel organised a training day at Five Dock. The following are some shots taken from training on the day.

Group 1: lift and strike

Group 1: lift and strike

Feeder side (left) about to block receiver side’s (right) counter after lifting to free their stick.

Two-handed sword application from Quebec Kali

Two-handed sword application from Quebec Kali

Quebec Kali, taught alongside Balintawak Arnis, can be applied to a variety of weapons (single and double stick or sword, stick and blade, staff or two-handed sword).
The application of the two-handed sword is being practiced here.

Balintawak Arnis Stickfighting Training

Balintawak Arnis Stickfighting Training

NOTE: If anyone would like a photo of themselves removed from here or the Flickr side bar, then just let me know :).