Ramiro Estalilla, Sr.

Estalilla 2I’m glad to be able to share this picture of my teacher’s father, Ramiro Estalilla Sr. He is the gentleman in the center in the military/police uniform. The picture was taken in Mindanao, in Cotabato City, I believe. I also believe this picture was taken somewhere in the 1930’s to 1940’s. He was a master of kabaroan, the Ilocano art of fighting with the long stick.

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SFMA Seminar Summary: Part Three

09-13-14 Seminar 15a

The seminar and testing were done, which meant it was time to spar. Alec and I geared up. Master Whitson wanted to see the panantukan sparring first. We did a bit of technique sparring, and then Zach said to free spar. Alec cut loose. He’s a Tasmanian devil when he gets going, and it was a pleasure to spar him. This was, hands down, my best sparring session all year. I went into it nervous. I was not worried about failing at technique or getting hurt; I was unsure of my gas tank. After all, the pekiti largo sparring was after panantukan. Winning, losing, or getting my ass kicked never entered my mind. I just wanted to have fun. I recommend this mindset because it worked. At the end, I was exhausted but thrilled. We both got good shots in. I remember having a few good jabs. Alec had some excellent kicks. Overall, it was a performance we both should be proud of, and I definitely was shown where I could improve.

09-13-14 Seminar 20a

09-13-14 Seminar 12a

09-13-14 Seminar 21a

After a short breather, we switched gloves for the largo single stick sparring. At this point my test was over, but, luckily, I didn’t realize it until the end of largo sparring. We started out with technique sparring, and I tried to feed some training situations to Alec at a higher speed. He did great. Then we went into free sparring, and that was fun. I was working on my thrusting techniques. They need work. During largo sparring, one can get tunnel vision and become only a head hunter. Alec kept a nice balance between targeting the arms and the head. He had good quick entries and exits. The key is to mix tactics and targets. His speed was a little too much for me. I was exhausted. Alec looked like he might have broken a sweat. I’m sure he could have run a marathon at that point, well, at least, a 5k. In the end, I’m proud of my performance. It was another fun sparring session that gave me insight into what I need to work on. Alec is a terror, and I highly recommend some friendly sparring with him if you get the chance.

09-13-14 Seminar 36a

09-13-14 Seminar 19a

09-13-14 Seminar 35a

Once sparring was over, I experienced a huge adrenaline dump. It was done. My gas tank was empty. Master Whitson lined the three of us up – Ryan, me, and Alec. He asked for our take on our test. Both Alec and Ryan answered candidly and accurately. I gave myself an A- because I did better than I expected. Some of the KCP2 names slipped my mind due to nervousness, and I needed clarification on a few things.

09-13-14 Seminar 31a

Master Whitson told us we all passed.

09-13-14 Seminar - Test End 01a

The above picture is my favorite from the seminar. Marshall Horton of Springfield FMA took this and all of the test pictures. This one is hands down the best. It is perfect. Counterpoint Tactical System is a modern martial art that is rooted in traditional martial arts. We, as a system, practice respect. Notice that the respect travels in both directions.

09-13-14 Seminar 38a

Did I mention that I was exhausted at the end?

I said thank you to everybody and, especially, Master Whitson and Mike Miller for their continued guidance. Then it hit me. First degree black is next. Let me repeat that: FIRST DEGREE BLACK BELT IS NEXT! I am one step closer to the goal that I set way back in April of 2010. I am down the home stretch to achieving that goal, but that is a post for another time.

Seminar Group

Seminar Group

Congratulations passed around, and goodbyes are said. The seminar has now ended. It was too short. Time flies too quickly, but Iron Mountain camp is on the horizon. During the drive home, I allowed myself to revel in the day’s success. Sunday began the training for first degree black belt.


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Schedule: Classes Added

We’ve now added a class on Wednesdays as well. The current schedule is:

Monday: 5:15 pm to 6:15 pm

And now, Wednesday: 5:15 pm to 7:00 pm

All skill levels are welcome. The experience level in classes vary from raw beginner to intermediate.

For private training sessions, e-mail us.


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Springfield FMA Seminar Part Two: Testing

On September 13th, Counterpoint Tactical System founder Zach Whitson taught a seminar in Springfield, MO. I covered part one about the seminar material here. At the end of the seminar, three participants tested for rank in Counterpoint Tactical System and Cacoy Doce Pares. The tests covered first and second class brown belt in CTS. One student tested for the first belt - green - in Cacoy Doce Pares under Master Whitson. The testing is discussed further in my blog.

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SFMA Seminar Summary: Part Two

Testing for rank is a time honored martial arts tradition. Even though Counterpoint Tactical System is a modern martial art, we still practice rank testing. It is a way for CTS founder Zach Whitson to recognize a student’s progress. To pass a belt test, the student has to have sufficient skill at the curriculum to move on to the more advanced material. For us in the Midwest, belt testing comes at the end of the seminar. Read part one of the seminar summary here.

09-13-14 Seminar 30a

Master Whitson and Mike Miller – CTS first degree black belt – sat as the testing board. Three of us stood in front of the board that day to attempt the test. Ryan Zimmerman of STL Counterpoint tested for green belt in Cacoy Doce Pares, Alec Helwig of Springfield FMA tested for second class brown belt in CTS, and I tried for first class brown belt in CTS. Usually, Master Whitson conducts the tests simultaneously but was unable to for this seminar. Besides myself, the only other seminar attendee that could work with Ryan on the CDP material was Mike. In CTS, we learn about 90% of the Cacoy Doce Pares curriculum during red belt. Ryan wanted to round out his training with the other 10%, and Mike is studying the CDP curriculum as well. Next, Alec and I were testing over material that only Alec, Mike, and me had trained. I could help Alec with his test, but other than holding pads and sparring, Alec couldn’t help me. The result was that we all tested sequentially.

09-13-14 Seminar 29a

Ryan went first. The Cacoy Doce Pares green belt material adds double stick conditioning from open chamber with the CTS red belt material. Ryan passed his red belt test back in May of this year with ease. Double stick pengke-pengke drills were the new factor for Ryan in this test. He was nervous about them earlier in the day, and we went through them beforehand to work out the jitters. When it came time to hit double stick in front of Master Whitson, the nerves were gone. Ryan and Mike hit the patterns like it was just another class. I watched the pengke-pengke and then went back to preparing for my test. At the end of the curriculum demonstrations, Ryan had to spar Mike, Alec, and me. He sparred three FMA players who have years more experience than him and did very well. I was incredibly proud to see how much he’s progressed. Ryan passed.

09-13-14 Seminar 34a

09-13-14 Seminar 16a

Alec was second. He started by showing the pakal knife twelve attacks. Then, I fed empty hands versus knife level two to Alec. He showed all the taps, some striking, and a few disarms. Alec sailed through it. Empty hands versus pakal involves subtly and sensitivity. Master Whitson got up and fed to experience Alec’s movements. For the third block of the curriculum, Alec showed Pekiti Largo. I fed Alec this huge block of material. In CTS, just because you’ve passed the test, you cannot rest on your laurels. Master Whitson may call on you to assist in the test, and to assist properly, you need to understand the material. This is where teaching the art is so valuable. I haven’t taught the Pekiti largo curriculum, but I tested it just last year and trained it with Alec earlier this summer along with the seminar’s morning session. My goal was to not screw it up for Alec. He looked good with the material. Alec’s studies and training were apparent. He did a fantastic job, and there was no doubt that he passed his test. Sparring was postponed until after my test to allow me to test without being exhausted.

09-13-14 Seminar 25a

09-13-14 Seminar 27a

My test covered the first class brown belt curriculum. Mike fed the kenpo counterpoint empty hands versus knife drill. During the final part of the drill, I took notes where polish is needed. There is room for improvement, and I look forward to playing more with it in the future. Next was panantukan level two. On the curriculum sheet, Master Whitson listed some combinations to know for the test. I shadow-boxed the combinations and looked silly even though I could do the combinations. I just look silly when I shadowbox. I’m okay with that. We moved from shadowboxing to doing some of the offensive combos and the defensive combinations with focus mitts. Alec held the mitts for me. I looked much better. The difference was enough that Master Whitson even commented on it. Part of looking good on the mitts is having a good partner. Alec and I stepped slowly through each striking pattern once or twice before speeding up. Since he was so good at holding the pads, I was able to relax and just hit the combos. Thanks to Alec for his skills. He made me look good. Then, for the final block of the curriculum, I had to show kenpo counterpoint level two (KCP2), also known as the assault set. Over the past twelve months, I spent most of my training time focusing on this set.

09-13-14 Seminar 33a

09-13-14 Seminar 32a

When I started learning KCP2, it seemed like a huge block of curriculum. There are sixteen sets of movements. KCP1 is a hubud-like drill where the offense and defense flow back and forth between the practitioners; it is a loop that could go on forever if no one chooses to end it. KCP2 has a base drill in it and also contains a number of counters within it, but the spirit of this curriculum is contained in its other name – assaulting. The purpose of this material is to end the fight quickly. I don’t remember who exactly came up with this analogy – possibly Mike Miller, but someone said that KCP1 is a race track on which we keep going around and around; whereas KCP2 are the exit ramps off the track. I was a bit nervous initially learning it. As usual, when I began to understand the material, it shrunk. It contracted in upon itself so that I can get through the whole curriculum very quickly. The sixteen movements all fit together now. KCP2 is much like the whole system of CTS. It starts out looking huge and complex until you begin to understand it or have a lot of experience in it. Then you begin to see that it’s small. It’s movement and rules, tactics and concepts. Even though CTS and KCP2 contract down into a small system, the possibilities become endless. By passing the test, I’ve demonstrated the minimum required knowledge to begin to explore the drill on my own. With each new block of curriculum that I learn in Counterpoint Tactical System, I learn how much more I have to explore. I passed the demonstration portion, but the test was not over. The final part of the first brown test is panantukan sparring.

09-13-14 Seminar 13a

09-13-14 Seminar 17a

Marshall Horton of Springfield FMA took all of the test pictures. He did a phenomenal job. I really appreciate the wonderful pictures that he took. Be sure to come back for part three – sparring – later this week.

09-13-14 Seminar 15a


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Why I Won’t Teach My Friend Tim, part II

This is a continuation of this post, written yesterday. It might be a little wordy, I wrote it after getting home about 1 a.m., and when I’m sleepy I am both cranky and loquacious.

So, back to Tim. No my brother, I won’t teach you. We have been friends for over 25 years, I would loan you money, I’d let you camp out on my couch if you found yourself homeless. But my art? That’s like asking to marry my daughter. We’re close friends, but not close enough. We have more memories and know more of each other than a student walking through my door. You have more money and willing to pay more than a guy walking through my door. Yet, despite all of that, you will betray me as a student (if you would be willing to call yourself such) and for the sake our friendship and my love for my arts–I won’t teach you any more than what you will find on this blog.

Trust me. I tried to bring you over. When you first flirted with the idea of studying the FMAs, you chose to pay seminar clowns for lessons rather than be a training partner to me and possibly learn directly from my grandfather. When we were in our 20s, you wanted to attend a Greek picnic in Philadelphia to chase girls than wait for me to complete my practice on a Saturday morning. When I showed you that you could make an income by fighting, you called my tournaments “pussy” even when my friends could give you major problems at Raymond Wong’s school on Florida Avenue (and Kim’s in Landover, and my cousin’s birthday party… lol)  When I opened my school you wanted to talk me into hosting your teacher for a seminar and got mad when I didn’t. When I took you to the Arbutus Boxing club, you chickened out of sparring with country boys but slammed them in the car on the way to dinner. When I was in DC three years ago, at the Inns of America in Springfield/Alexandria, you watched me spar without participating and even when I showed you why the techniques you demoed were impractical–you still teach them today. 5 months ago, I met a man in Tennessee who says he learned Kuntaw from you.

That’s why.

Yes we are friends. I love you like a brother. But you are not true to the art by MY standard, and as one who considers myself a Master of the art–money and friendship doesn’t mean shit. The art and my integrity as a martial artist comes first and we chase two different goals in this art. You cannot guarantee that my system won’t end up on youtube (which is why I won’t record), that the seminar pussies won’t get my system and techniques, and you cannot commit realistically to the type of training I require to qualify as a recipient of my system. You’re past experience, in a way, disqualified you as a student only because you won’t let go of the bullshit Industry. We are friends as men, but as martial artists we are rivals. I recognize that, you don’t. The fact that it took almost 30 years to take me up on my offer to learn my system is no longer hurtful; the offer expired decades ago. Continue to hold fast to the art you are hoping will one day rival mine. But this art is for my people only, and I do rarely allow my martial arts to intersect with my personal life.

This is for my martial arts friends as well. I can like you, support your efforts (and you know, I don’t participate in shit if I don’t like it)–but asking me to show you or teach you is out of order for a man like me. My desire is for this art to remain unique, superior, dominant, private, and under the same banner that it is under today. It is my version of the knowledge that was bequeathed to me. I travelled thousands and thousands of miles, slept on floors, walked around hungry, broke bones, took stitches, lost marriages, caught the bus for to earn and develop–just as the teachers did who gave it to me. I will not disrespect their selectiveness by putting it out for the martial arts voyeurs to jerk off to in the privacy of their phones and laptops, in seminars and backyard sparring groups in the name of “sharing”. And unlike what most of you love to say:  I do have something to prove. I want to prove that my way is the best and there is only one way, and can only be done personally and truthfully, one opponent at a time. My Eskrima is the Strongest Eskrima. My Kuntaw is the Strongest Kuntaw. My Kung Fu is the Strongest Kung Fu. I will not lend it to a guy who puts his shit out on youtube or for oohs and ahs in circles of other guys looking for another martial arts shortcut at some seminar somewhere. I will put my guys up against anyone’s students of similar rank and experience. You know damned well that you will not–nor will any of those teachers you mentioned to me last time. Don’t believe me? Ask to fight one next time you attend a seminar. I am of that caliber from the community, and I am only interested in men who wish the same.

As always, I say all of this in love and honesty. I put it in an article because you are not my only friend who asks for the same thing. And as always, I am refusing for the same reason. If I were convinced that you were both feet in on my philosophy, maybe. But too many martial artists like you are vested too deeply in the BS to totally let go.

Finally, let me say this. I grew up with my Grandfather, watched him teach students, but he did not allow me to study for years until I agreed to a verbal contract with him at a movie theater (we had just watched a Chuck Norris film), where I could not quit and promised to practice on Saturdays and then as an adult, teach for a living. When I met my teacher Dean Chin, I was 11 years old. It took three visits before he accepted me. When I was a paying student, it took him nearly a year to begin teaching me himself. When I met Bogs Lao, it took a week for him to accept me as well. He made me come to the gym and fight 5 guys before he accepted me (if you’re on my Facebook page, add him, it’s a true story). When I met Ernesto Presas, I had to make three visits to Manila, 3 days at a time before he accepted me personally. The real masters don’t beg for students. They don’t haggle over money or terms and conditions. And they certainly don’t take anyone just because they ask. This is a business, but it is an art first. If you could truly understand where my art came from, you would understand that our friendship was irrelevant in this discussion. Don’t take it personal.

Thank you for visiting my blog.


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Know Your Place (Why I Won’t Teach My Friend Tim)

Yesterday I visited a friend of mine who is a unspoken pioneer and martial arts hero in the American martial arts community. Most of you have never heard his name, and will probably never hear his name outside of this blog. Not because of his lack of accomplishments–so you might think if you rely on Google, Facebook and Youtube (next to all those crappy magazines we use to read, if they’re still in business)–but because most martial artists are in the industry of martial arts rather than the community where men like him and me exist.

Honestly, outside of this blog, how many of you have ever heard the name “Maurice/Mustafa Gatdula”?  If you were internet saavy in the recent 15 years, you probably know of “thekuntawman”, but because I don’t align with anyone famous, produce books and videos (until recently, that is), or participate in the Adobo Circuit of seminars–if you knew me you called me a “troll” and doubted that I ever knew martial arts. Even with this blog, my books, and the few youtube clips I have out, I am still a nobody in the industry. But don’t be fooled, in the community of martial arts, I’m a big dog. Don’t believe me? Ask my opponents. Outside of my students, the only people who can attest to my martial arts skill are the people I have fought. Are there well known martial artists who can vouch for me? Actors? Champions? Well known masters and grandmasters? Yes. But for some reason, I am ignored in the FMA industry, just as I am in the American Jow Ga industry–in which I am a senior and legitimate Master. Yet that is another article. Anyway, in my presence, you simply cannot ignore me so the local community are well aware of me but act as if I do not matter nor exist in the industry. And there you have the Big Question:  If I was still the unlikeable blunt martial artist with no famous alliances, but then you met me and discovered I was a beast on the floor, would your opinion of my articles change?

I’ll let you sit on that one for a few. But first, a few definitions:

  1. Martial Arts Community:  Guided and led by the knowledgeable AND skilled in the art of fighting.
  2. Martial Arts Industry:  Guided and led by money, business, ego, rank, fame, popularity, alliances and estrangements, clout, aimiability and showmanship.
  3. Martial Arts-like Performance Industry:  Guided and led by the ability to impress in all arts besides actually fighting.

The problem in the arts, especially the Filipino arts, is that we do not understand where we belong and what motivates us. Many of us try to declare ourselves a member of one without realizing that we are totally entrenched in another. Or perhaps we want to belong to one while only being skilled in another. Some of us came up in one, think we still reside there, but raise our students in another. And then you have those of us who pretend to belong to one, visit, take pictures, but in the private dungeons of our minds and insecurities know for a FACT that we are part of the other.

A good example is to look at seminars and tournaments. You will find all three groups at work and the dynamic is very active if you recognize how this world turns… On one hand you have the Industry guy who puts on the tournament. Perhaps at one time he was a fighter, but for business purposes he had to turn his back on what he knows is right for the sake of making that tournament successful. He is different than the die-hard traditionalist who throws what he believes to be the best tournament around despite the fact that he may not break even at the bank. #communityman The Industry guy invites assholes he dislikes and calls it “diplomacy”, which is understandable. But if the assholes lack integrity and are just plain old repulsive, they shouldn’t be there regardless of how many competitiors they bring. Then on the floor, you have Industry competitors, Community competitors (fighters, even if they do forms), and performers–who don’t fight at all but tell their friend they are world champions/real deal/blah blah blah… Now up in the stands you have Community spectators who use to fight or are just sitting out vs Industry spectators who will leave with a stack of business cards and plenty of pictures acting tough for their MyFMA, FMAPulse and Facebook girlfriends.

Damn that was accurate. Kung Fu people don’t snicker; you guys are worse.

Back to the article. So my friend’s name is Frank Landers. In the interest of honoring his wishes to remain an Eskrima Hermit (he is a master of the FMA as well as), a Kenpo Karate Hermit, and a pioneer in the history of the Black American martial arts community. Which is actually pretty funny to say, because Frank is White. See, he is the first White Black Belt instructor of the Black Karate Federation (BKF). His tournament record speaks for itself. His filmography, his TV appearances, his memories, his friends, his students, his FAMOUS students, the remnants of his skill, even his ex-friends–speak to who he was and why I admire him. Those of you who know me personally know that I don’t edify many martial artists, especially those I have never fought. No space here to say why, but understand that I got a very important lesson by seeing in true life the results of everything my teachers taught me about being true to oneself and ones art. If you choose poverty over selling out yourself and your art, then you will gain the world when you are nearing the final chapter of your life (sounds almost religious, huh?). Frank has done exactly that, and while some have done it too and actually lived in poverty, Frank did pretty well for himself. Take care of your art and it will take care of you.

But the article is about a guy named Tim, isn’t it? Sort of. It’s for a guy named Tim, not really about him. Yet it applies to almost every man reading this article as well as most of the FMA men who haven’t read it. Make sure to share this and the second part, where I will get into the meat of the article. I’m about to drop a gem on you.

Frank and I had tea yesterday and chatted for 6 hours, I drank coffee, he drank tea, and his wife educated me on humility and how it pays off eventually (she is an accidental actress whose resume is longer than many aspiring actors) and pays off handsomely. Thought I wasn’t paying attention, huh? Of the topics we talked about were my friend Tim who wants to learn from me, and the reasons why I won’t teach him. More on that later…

Thanks for visiting my blog.


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The Backup Gun

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In the video above Rob Pincus teaches how to transition to a backup gun. If you stuy the vieo, you see how easily he conceals the .38 in his belly band rig.

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Imagine you are a citizen with a concealed carry permit, and the snubby in the belly band is your concealed weapon. If you are jumped on the street, you will still have to fight of an attacker in order to get to that gun. If you are tackled around your waist, you may not be able to raw your gun. This is where an openly carried, fixed blade knife comes in.

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You can use the knife, or even a fighting pen, to create enough space for you to raw your gun. If someone gets a grip on your gun, and the two of you are grappling for control of it (Keep in mind we’re talking of the typical very close range of real-world encounters.), this is where your openly carried knife or tactical pen can give you an advantage.

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SFMA Seminar Summary: Part One

Seminar Group

Seminar Group

In the four and a half years that I’ve studied Counterpoint Tactical System (CTS), my martial arts calendar has featured three main events: the spring seminar with CTS founder Zach Whitson, the Iron Mountain instructors camp, and the fall seminar with Master Whitson. The fall seminar is hosted by Springfield FMA (SFMA) in Springfield, MO, which is our sibling CTS club. Mike Miller, SFMA club leader, brings Master Whitson in for an afternoon advanced class and a Saturday seminar that is open to all skill levels. This was my fourth year traveling down to Springfield for a CTS seminar, and it did not disappoint. We trained mentally as well as physically. I got a deeper understanding of Counterpoint Tactical System and some valuable new methods of training. 09-13-14 Seminar 01a The seminar weekend started with a Friday afternoon advanced class. These advanced classes are offered to a smaller group of students who are experienced in CTS. When Ryan Zimmerman and I arrived, Master Whitson was teaching the single stick thrust curriculum from the Pekiti Largo block of second class brown belt. Alec Helwig, who would test over that curriculum on Saturday, asked a question about a drill in this portion of the curriculum. Zach proceeded to clarify the drill by showing it to us from a different perspective. It was a simple explanation, but the three of us who’ve trained that drill had light bulbs over our heads. We might have even collectively said, “Oh.” Master Whitson gave us some passing drills to deal with high line forehand and backhand thrusts that build off the basics learned in pangamot. 09-13-14 Seminar 03a At this point, Master Whitson took a philosophical turn and began to explain how things fit together. I’ve experienced this lesson before, and it is one of my favorites. This lesson shows how the basic and intermediate skills fit together in the system; so, the lesson covers from white belt up to the first few black belts. No matter how many times I hear this lesson, I learn something new, and I am impressed by how organized the system really is. A student learning blue belt curriculum is also working on their second class brown belt and first degree black belt. It is only apparent during those belts how the curriculum has been preparing us for the advanced material the entire time. However, he didn’t stop there. He spoke about what his ultimate goal for his students is. Master Whitson told us where we are going in CTS. I just started pumping my fist and mentally saying, “Yeeeesssssssss.” 09-13-14 Seminar 02a I thought the afternoon lesson would be Pekiti empty hands versus knife level two – empty hands against pakal (ice pick grip) knife, but instead, it turned out to be Pekiti knife level three, which is pakal versus pakal. Empty hands versus knife level two is in the second class brown curriculum. Pekiti knife level three is currently in the third degree black belt curriculum. The skills from empty hand versus pakal feed right into knife level three. So, as soon as Zach got done explaining how earlier skills build into later ones, he demonstrated it by answering Alec’s empty hands versus pakal questions using the knife level three training method. This multi-level skill building and deep thought into effective teaching that impresses me most about this art. 09-13-14 Seminar 04a The pakal knife lesson started with tying pakal knife to the Cacoy Doce Pares passing drills and then moved on to a knife tapping drill. [In reality, this is a poor way of describing these drills because they are not as separate as that sentence makes it seem.] We covered different tactics with the drill. We worked on relaxing and not fighting the opponent’s force but to flow with it. Then Master Whitson added in locks from standup grappling level one and finished the drill out with some disarms. The final lesson involved some quick attacks/escapes with the knife. It was a productive afternoon that worked the mind as much as the body.

09-13-14 Seminar 10a

Umbrella Drill from Alec Helwig’s 2nd Class Brown Belt Test

Saturday morning opened with Master Whitson teaching us the Pekiti Tirsia salute. Zach holds the rank of Mataas na Guro in Pekiti Tirsia under Tuhon Bill McGrath. Master Whitson started off the morning teaching us the contradas platform from the Pekiti largo curriculum. This platform is the basis for our long range single stick work. It is important to become familiar with the platform before moving on to the other drills in the Pekiti largo curriculum. The other drills build upon the contradas principles and tactics; so, we spent a good portion of the morning drilling the platform. Next, we learned the contradas passing drill. This drill integrates the live hand and footwork to maintain long range. After that, Master Whitson taught the contradas finisher, which is a series of hits that can be added to the end of the long range movements. We ended the morning session with some footwork and umbrella drills. Due to low battery, I have no photographs from the morning session. 09-13-14 Seminar 08a The afternoon session began with panantukan countering drills from the blue belt curriculum. Master Whitson covered the high, mid, and low line defenses for straight and round punches. The panantukan counters are simple, easy to learn movements that are natural. Students picked up on this quickly. Zach then taught the jab-cross parry drill and added a single hook – left or right – to train line recognition. He then added a timing change to make it a four count drill. This material is located in panantukan one from the blue belt curriculum. 09-13-14 Seminar 06a Master Whitson then led the class in leg clearing footwork off the reverse triangle. We worked on checking kicks and kneeing our opponents’ legs. He also showed us how to drill this against multiple opponents. Mike gave it a shot and did well. Zach, then, began to piece together parts of panantukan defensa from the first class brown belt curriculum. (Note: In CTS, the brown belts count down, i.e. first class brown is just under first degree black belt.) Again, this showcased the multi-level teaching that exists in CTS. All the panantukan one elements are the building blocks of panantukan two. The students learned some combinations of panantukan with standup grappling and trapping as well. 09-13-14 Seminar 07a The seminar ended with a question and answer session. There were not many questions but plenty of satisfied faces. I know that I got a lot out of it. Master Whitson and Mike talked with the seminar participants for a bit while those of us who were testing prepared. 09-13-14 Seminar 09a Three of us tested: Ryan Zimmerman of STL Counterpoint for his green belt in Cacoy Doce Pares, Alec Helwig of Springfield FMA for his second class brown, and me, Eric Primm of STL Counterpoint, for my first class brown belt. The test is covered in part two of the summary.

Ryan Zimmerman Sparring with Alec Helwig during his Cacoy Doce Pares Green Belt Test


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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.

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From Gm Art Gonzalez Tenio's Decuerdas " The Bad Boy"

From Art Gonzalez...


 Imagine in your mind. The images of a good person and a bad person.
Appearances and intentions can betray you. When a person appears to be good. But, has bad intentions and is prepared to deceive. You should use your intuition.


Your intuition, “Gut Instinct,” is a strong insight into situations and people. We all have this insight, but many of us do not listen to it. Listen to it.... This could make the difference.
Now let’s reason together in a more serious note.


Imagine a bad person that has gone through martial art training. Knows how you will respond to an assault. Imagine a bad person who trains to deceive. Hence, The Ruffian is a con man. Imagine even worse. You being over confident and not knowing the real game.


Make a day of it. Go to the Circus or Fair. Where this is practiced in a different way. But it’s all the same. The sleight of hand tricks. Where we see or don’t see. Problem one: The hand is faster than the eye. This is used against you in a fight. The card games, the vanishing coin trick, The 3 walnut shells with marble in one of them.This is the art of distraction

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Now go to where they play with your emotions as they put you through the scary tunnels and rides.
Problem number two: Your emotions and your reactions are used against you.
See how the carnies taunt you to play the games. Problem number three: Study, how they taunt you for advantage. Study, how this makes you feel.


The bad person plays these games against you for coin, women or blood. Know that there are more games played to deceive. All acts in the world are preform with imagination. Knowledge is prevention
Imagine a bad training scenario: Where at your school. You are taught to defend against a knife attack. Where you face an opponent and defend against one knife attack in jest. A happy attack, a nice attack. An attack that you see and have all the time in the world to act. Is this Real? What about if you fell into the trap of the con man.


Ask your instructor for realistic urban survival training. My first warning: When you practice a game of chance with a professional Ruffian. Against a man or women that has train to deceive and you don’t know it. A taste of defeat awaits you. Imagine playing with a quarter to see who wins. In the game of Head or Tails. A cheater practices to feel for the smooth side knowing where head is. As he looks at your eyes, he can make it fall on the head or eagle side. He is just waiting for you to call it. This is a set up. You have been weighed and measured in a fight.


Learn to recognize and stop these set ups. An officer goes through an arrest procedure designed for con men or Bad Boy tactics.


My advice: If this is a fact. Prove and action are necessary. Reflect over this. Never stop learning. Keep going to your martial art school for this knowledge. Keep it real. Be safe.
GM Arthur Gonzalez of Tenio's DeCuerdas Escrima and DeCuerdas-Diestro Fighting Systems

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Weekend SFMA Seminar Pictures

Here are some pictures from the weekend seminar. A summary will be posted later this week. More pictures from the seminar are shown on our Facebook page. Thanks to Master Zach Whitson for sharing his knowledge and his continued guidance in the martial arts. Thanks to Michael Miller for his friendship and support of STL Counterpoint.

Seminar Group

Seminar Group

Mike Miller of Springfield FMA and Master Zach Whitson, Founder of Counterpoint Tactical System

Ryan Sparring

Alec Helwig of Springfield FMA and Ryan Zimmerman of STL Counterpoint engaging in corto range sparring from Cacoy Doce Pares

Alec Helwig of Springfield FMA applying Alphabito from Pekiti Largo on Eric Primm of STL Counterpoint

One of my favorite takedowns


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“The Raid 2″ Baseball Bat Man

I’d like to thank reader Chris for sending me the link to this video. I previously reviewed The Raid (http://bigstickcombat.com/posts/movie-review-the-raid-redemption/), and enjoyed it. I’ll break down this fight scene, analyzing the video below, which I have slowed down. I realize that we must keep in mind that this scene is from an action movie intended to entertain, not a self-defense instructional video, so combat considerations are often overlooked for the sake of what is highly visible and dramatic.

Let me first say that it is gratifying to see someone use the baseball bat as a weapon, actually applying technique. I originally started training in the long stick method, using a 36-inch stick of a uniform diameter. I thought of a baseball bat as too clunky to be a weapon, but in time I began to see the advantages of a club such as a baseball bat, versus a stick as traditionally used in the Filipino Martial Arts. My conception of the baseball bat, and most people’s, was of the bat as a “go crazy” weapon that was pointless to try to use with some kind of technique, so you just started swinging like crazy to crack skulls. Eventually I realized that almost all of the techniques of the Filipino stick systems can be applied to the baseball bat, and I began to develop a system that was specific to the unique qualities of the bat. (See http://bigstickcombat.com/big-stick-combat-book/)

If we break down this video at the bottom of the page we see several key concepts for the effective use of the baseball bat as a weapon.

the_raid_2_berandal-movie_poster-268x400:03 Not a good start. He begins by bringing up the bat in a complete 180 degree arc, then circling to strike the groin with the butt of the weapon. There is entirely too much wasted motion, which is slow and telegraphic. The beauty of the long stick and particularly the heavier baseball bat is that it forces you to move in straight lines. Always move in straight lines, shortest distance A-B with the big stick.

From the down position with the end of the bat resting on the ground, bring the tip of the bat straight up into the opponent’s groin. If I go from the down position into a butt stroke, I must bring the tip up and around, and as long as that tip is crossing the opponent’s body I ought to be hitting with it, not winding up for a strike. Hitting with the butt end means that you must close, so you always want to hit with the end of the bat if at all possible so as to maintain maximum range. If you hit this guy in the groin with the butt end, he might just latch onto you as he goes down. This is bad in any scenario, but especially in a multiple attacker scenario.

His grip is the standard right over left, which means that there is an adjustment (sliding up) to get into position for the butt. Fight with the left over right.

:08 Assailant 2. I dislike spinning, because it means you must batturn your back at some point. Quick stepping 360 degrees increases the risk of misstep, tripping over your own feet, over an uneven section of the sidewalk, over debris on the ground, etc. Yes, some people in the ring can pull off spinning techniques, but the odds on the street are against it, and the potential downfalls are too great. Don’t spin.

His target is the midsection. Either go for the head, the groin, the knee, or the inner shin. The midsection is too easy to defend.

Following the finishing strike against the first opponent, he is in an overleft position, with the bat over his left shoulder. He should either strike with an overleft or come in low like a golf swing to the opponent’s groin, knee, or shin.

:09 Assailant 3. Here he blocks a punch with the bat. Do not try to block a punch with a bat. GM Estalilla does not do the “defang the snake” hit the hand technique at all. I never really understood why until I recognized that a long stick, and certainly a baseball bat, are slower than a punch or a thrust with a much lighter knife, especially if you are trying to react to that strike or thrust. Every strike of yours must be aimed toward the head. Let us say that I strike his punching hand with my baseball bat and break every single bone in his hand. What if that second hand is coming in (and you should count on it coming in), only this time gripping a knife? After that first strike to his hand, even if it is devastating, I am still recovering, which creates a gap for the second hand.

:10 He hits to the midsection. Stop doing that. What is

Rifle Grip

Rifle Grip

interesting here, and I was curious when I saw a still picture of this, is that he chokes up, so that the one hand is at the base of the butt and the other is halfway up. I call this “rifle grip” and it is important because it enables you to strike effectively at close range. At long range, strike in bat grip: at close range, strike in rifle grip. By sliding your upper left hand up and down the bat, you can fluidly adjust to changes in range while still maintaining a solid grip with the right hand, which never moves.

:11 This is how it’s done. As assailant 3 punches with the right, he swings straight into his face. Fake or no fake, single punch or one-two, the attacker has to contend with a baseball bat screaming toward his face. This is how you crumble an opponent’s offensive attack, not by trying to block every blow.

:20 Backhand finishing blow. Always hit with two hands if at all possible.

:23 Kick to opponent on left. Aim the kick lower. His bat is down. You want to keep the bat up to help defend the head and to enable you to strike powerfully without winding up.

:24 Great form on this thrust to the face. Notice how he extends the shoulder for maximum reach, which also draws and angles his body away from the threat. This technique is more practical and effective than you might think. I prefer to do this thrust two-handed.

:26 Great technique. In close, he strikes with the butt, driving it down into the collar bone. Note how the barrel of the bat helps to shield his head from a punch.

:28 Push kick. Keep it low.

Raid-2-New-Poster:30 His bat is at an overleft position once again, and you can see him swing the bat down in an arc to prepare for his fancy technique. At full speed this move seems to go quickly, but it is still wasted motion, which could mean the difference between blasting someone in the head versus catching a knife to the throat or beer bottle to the face. From the overleft, go directly into a strike. This strike is in a position to merge with the knife being swung in the opponent’s right hand.

:32 No! No! No! You do NOT want to wrestle with the stick, or try to grapple with the opponent. I’ve seen FMA do this neck lever, and while it’s great for demos, seminars, and videos, you don’t want to try this against a resisting opponent. These lever takedown techniques are unrealistic, and even if you can get one against a punching opponent, if he draws a knife or box cutter, you’re screwed. Even if you manage to perform this lock, it’s not incapacitating. You’re still going to have to hit him at some point, so you might as well blast him now. There is one frame where you can see him with the bat down (Keep the bat up!) and his bare hand raised to catch the opponent’s knife hand! The bat must travel in a large circle to come up and get threaded between the assailant’s arm and neck. This technique is way too slow and cumbersome against an opponent who doesn’t have a fractured skull.

The knife-wielding opponent is a grave threat. Maintain distance and strike with bat grip. Don’t aim for the knife hand, but for the head to shut him down.

:37 More hits to the midsection. Stop this. Mid-level horizontal strikes are a bad idea. They are easy to defend, are not as incapacitating as a strike to the head, leave you open (Your hands are down, not up) and are difficult to recover from.

:40 Reverse grip? Purely a movie and seminar technique. You NEVER want to shift from bat grip to reverse grip.

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Footwork Fun

The Filipino Martial Arts have great footwork, and I make sure to include footwork in warmups and cool downs for each class. My latest blog post is musing on how to improve my footwork as I tire.

"Footwork is a mystery to me. As I tire, my footwork declines faster than my arm/hand motions. The obvious answer to this is that I practice the upper body motions more than the lower body. I wonder if fine motor skills..." Click here!

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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%).

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Ben Rothwell Wins

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Ben Rothwell scored an underdog victory last night via a first-round TKO.

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In studying the decisive punch, it appears that Ben led with a left hand that connected, interrupting Alistair Overeem’s left hand, which goes wide, missing its target and sailing past Ben’s ear. (See the bottom video at 30 seconds on.) It’s seems to me that Ben’s right hand is the more economical of the two traveling in a straight line.

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According to this interview, (http://www.bjpenn.com/rothwell-breaks-arm-still-wins-fight/) Ben had already broken his arm by improperly blocking a kick.

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I think the takeaways from this fight are setting up the rear hand with a good jab, and having the determination to gut it out.

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Machete Fighting

If you study this video, I think you see a very practical, realistic system of fighting with the machete.

If we contrast this with Filipino styles, we see that Filipino styles are often squared up and involve the constant use of the live (second) hand. Many Filipino stylists will claim that their stick techniques are really just blade techniques practiced with the stick, but if you really were fighting with blades, you are not going to use the live hand, except in very rare circumstances.

Note that the practitioners in the video are in a side stance to maximize reach. At this long distance you can’t use the second hand even if you wanted to. You can try to square up against an opponent in the fencing stance, but he will have a clear reach advantage.
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These techniques may seem too simple, but if you study the ACT videos, you can see the grandmaster dominate
opponents, scoring on them clearly without being touched. If your style of bolo fighting is more complex than this, then maybe you’re making fighting methodologies too complicated. Maybe you’re in a system where someone comes up with clever, cool-looking techniques that you could never apply in a real-world confrontation. For example, observe that no combatant is even capable of using the live hand. No combatant is ever in a position to even try to wrap up via a snake or vine an opponent’s weapon hand.

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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.

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Sparring with Friends

Some random thoughts today…

I have made the case often with my martial arts friends, that while sparring with friends and training mates is good–nothing beats the old fashioned fighting competition, regardless of what type of fighting you do.

Few martial artists will agree with me. Most who do agree with me, are already competition fighters or have been in their past and they already enjoy the benefits of doing so. There are several reasons why some loathe competition fighting, and why some prefer to stick to dojos and back yards and garages.

  • You almost never fight a stranger with the same intensity level that you would a friend/training mate. Sure, there are some who can mix it up in garages and back yards a la “Fight Club” style. But most of you who are searching for the truth simply won’t do it. Maybe you might hit hard, but there is the absence of aggression and intent that you would have with a stranger. Plus, you already know that at the end of the fight–you go home as friends. <— And that does not exist when you’re fighting 100 miles away from home.
  • You need variety. Your partner fights one way. If you’re lucky enough to have 10 opponents in your private circle, that’s good, but then you are only exposed to those ten types of fighting styles, strengths and weaknesses. If you meet with the same guys week after week, you will eventually adapt and improve based on the limited access to learning you have. There are an infinite number of fighting styles out there to learn from and experience–and you will never gain that learning if you don’t venture out from your backyard to encounter them.
  • There are too many rules. You betcha there are. And I’m willing to bet you’re not eye-gouging, kicking nuts, ripping arms out the socket in your backyard either, are you? Those rules are for safety, and although it isn’t a real streetfight–neither are those pillow fights you’re having in the garage. Let’s be real… “Too many rules” is a cop-out for guys who don’t fight on the street. I have known many streetfighters, and they don’t turn down fights under any circumstances.
  • I can’t use all my techniques. No you can’t. And that’s one of the great things about it–you can focus on a few skills and ability with those things to a high degree. You will learn to use those few skills that are legal against a high number of opponents and their skills, and really develop your knowledge of those limited techniques to a high degree. In the back yard, your hand isn’t forced–and limited like they’d be with a referee between you.
  • I’m afraid. <— Said no martial artist, ever. This is perhaps the number one reason that keeps martial artists from fighting. If you never face that nervousness, you’d never be able to focus in a real fight. Competition fighting gives you the ability to harness your fear of fighting and confrontation, and manhandle it, and ram your foot up its behind. We all know that butterflies accompany fighting in front of a crowd. They may never really go away. But as you face it more, it won’t paralyze you like it will for the inexperienced guy. I don’t care how long you’ve been training in the martial arts–if you haven’t fought many opponents (by “many”, I mean 50+), you aren’t very experienced. See what I’ve said already about having a variety of opponents and its benefits…
  • Fighting smart. What does that mean, you ask? “Fighting smart” refers to thinking quickly, the ability to size up an opponent right away and choose the right strategy and techniques to beat him–even if you don’t have many techniques in your arsenal. Boxing doesn’t always lose to jiu jitsu, Muay Thai doesn’t always beat Tae Kwon Do… There are skills and strategies within every style and every opponent that will enable him to defeat an opponent–regardless of skill level and type of art you study. Fighting many opponents will give you the ability to figure out within a few seconds what can be done to accomplish this. It isn’t a matter of knowing every art under the sun; it is knowing how your art and skill set can be applied and adapted to the situation in front of you, and to do it quickly. Few in the art can do this.
  • Speaking of quickly… The ability to think quick leads to the ability to react quickly. Fighting in competition, when there are only 3 minutes and 3 points to establish superiority, will enable you to do what your mind tells it to do as soon as you need to do it. Your reflexes will be faster. Your counters and evasions will be instantaneous. Your attacks will be nontelegraphic. You will be able to time your opponents to stop him or catch him at will. It’s more than simply “working hard”, as many martial artists like to say. You need more than just working out hard; you need to refine your skills under pressure, under a variety of opponents, under a plethora of circumstances and venues. All of this will give you the ability to appear “fast”, because when most opponents are trying to figure out what you’re doing–and some opponents are thinking about what to do next–you’ve already done it.
  • Who’s the Master?  As the saying goes, a man who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. Most people skipping the competition element of the martial arts in favor of training with friends often are also skipping classroom time. I have seen mediocre students who were actually good beginners (“good for a beginner”) lead groups and pull students away from their Masters. While this guy’s claim to fame is that he whips on his friends in the backyard, and even teaches them–he has no one teaching him. The result is that you have beginners teaching beginners, or beginners exchanging with each other. Think of novices trying to lead themselves to martial arts expertise. Maybe one or two guys are actually training somewhere. But they are all novices. No one is leading the pack out of their ignorance, and there is no element of win/lose or pass/fail, and they never know if their training is working or it’s in vain. In the competition floor guess who the Master is? The Master is the experience you get, the bitter feeling of losing a fight, the admiration of seeing those who are light years ahead of you skill wise, and the goals you have of one day being the few who go home knowing that he literally licked every man in the room.

Even if you have no teacher–the ring is the best place to learn next to the street; the ring is the university and your opponents are the professors. To those guys, the backyard is nothing more than a playground. Get yourself some training partners to count the reps and touch gloves. But when you’re ready to test yourself and really see where you stand–you have to get out and put your learning on the line against another guy determined to make you look bad.

If you like our articles, please see our Amazon page and check out my book entitled “Philosophy”. Thank you for visiting my blog.


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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...

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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.





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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. 




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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!

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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

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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.

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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

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Misdirection and Attention

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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?

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Lessons from the Tim Waid Experience

This is sure to be a controversial article, although it does not intend to be one.

I have written a few articles about severing familial relationships within the martial arts–the Filipino Martial Arts, in particular. And let’s put this out up front. I strongly disagree with teachers awarding rank and then taking it away–even the passive-aggressive, labeling of one’s rank invalid or “outdated”. Matter of fact, I dislike this practice and consider it spineless, dishonest and cowardly. I’ll say this to any Master’s face, any Grandmaster’s face, or any of their lackeys.

And, yes, any student who sticks by a Master who does this is a lackey.

Now don’t get me wrong. I myself have disowned a student for bad behavior. I do it frequently. I expel, I suspend privileges, I set them free, I sever the relationship. But as one who takes immense pride in what I teach and the skill my students achieve under me–I would be a FOOL to say “this man studied from me for 5/10/20 years and doesn’t know what he’s doing.”  If I trained a man that long and then say he sucks, what does that say about the quality of my teaching? Sure, relationships sour. Even relationships among siblings or classmates, or worse, teachers and parents–can go wrong. But can you imagine a man saying to the child he once held in the palm of his hand, “You are not mine, you’re not a REAL member of this family–in fact, change your name.”  It’s crazy, and only the Creator of the Universe can take away someone’s knowledge and lineage. Who do you think you are?

Someone needs a reality check. I’m waiting for a former student to say to his rank-revoking Master, “Fuck you, and if you think I suck, come and TAKE my certificate from me…”  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

If you would like to get a glimpse of what I’ve said about this subject, please see this article. I devoted it to one GM in particular, but I was making a statement about all who engage in this very hurtful practice.

This student gave you his LIFE for years at a time, placed all his trust and faith in self preservation in the art you are teaching, placed his family’s safety in your words and your imagination (cause all of our arts are rooted somewhat in our imagination)–and you invalidate all of that by telling him his learning was a waste of time? WTF. If the student and you fell out, expel him. But your art is now his, leave him be. No need to slander him, ruin his reputation, render him unable to feed himself and his family. Asshole.

I have long admired the Pekiti Tirsia system, going all the way back to the PT Arnis days, when GM Leo Gaje and his uncle Nene Tortal were still together. I admired them. I admired Master Gaje all the way back in the NYC days. You may not know this, but 1/3 of my Eskrima knowledge is in a style my Grandfather called “pikiti”. Is it related to the Tortal family’s style? Probably, but what I do only closely resembles their style. I have been friends with an early endorsed PT Master, Greg Alland, going back some 30 years. I’ve sought his advice, his input and even sparred with him. I like the system, but not the mystique they keep, and damn sure not the politics and business model.

Back to Master Waid. I don’t know him, but I have seen him around for 20+ years. He’s very good. He has a great reputation among not just his students but other Masters, both friends and rivals. From here, it looks like he lent PTK the foundation to their semi-military look. You have to give a man credit. Not everything good in a system filters from the top down, and you must give credit its due. PTK has undergone several facelifts and Tim Waid was there for the “Commando” phase, and he was damn good at it. So what happened?

I’ll tell you what happened.

The funny thing about FMA guys, they are so quick to show off what the hell they know and what they can do, you can research anyone and their ability online now. I judge people 99% on fighting ability, not demonstration skill. But people rarely put fighting skill into video clips, so we must rely on what we know of fighting, and see from someone’s movement if they can throw down or not. Most of you reading this blog don’t have as good an eye for that shit, so you probably think Tony Jaa is a great fighter, and think Steven Segal is all fluff. So this next statement may not hold true for you… But as a fighter, in my opinion, I have yet to see any PTK guy in recent times (besides some of the guys from the 70s/80s–but that’s not recent) who look like they can throw down the way Mr. Waid can. If you are offended by this statement, go find Mr. Waid and record yourself kicking his ass–or come to California and kick mine–and we can address your hurt feelings over lunch. In my opinion, Tim Waid was one of the best instructors around and it probably made him some enemies. He did what he does, and few others–possibly even GM Gaje himself–could do it better. He’s not the chicken-blood kind of guy. He doesn’t wear skirts and dance around to Kulintang music. He isn’t fast talking. He probably doesn’t have a model’s portfolio. He isn’t going to win any “Poging Pinoy” contests. He doesn’t talk about 8 generations back, secret techniques, or original anything. But if you want to learn to put a man in the grave–or stop a man trying to put YOU in the grave–my guess is, he’s the one you wanna go see.  I would think that many attendees would arrive for training and only want to learn from him. Having someone like that won’t hurt the money. It doesn’t take away from the system, as long as this person is loyal. But it may hurt the ego. So they probably come to learn from Waid.  Recording a fantastied reality show about the arts and you need ratings to go up? See someone else. See, he had the military credentials, the actual experience doing this stuff, and the background and skill at teaching it. If he wanted to, he could take his education, go off on his own and start his own stuff and rename the art, disown his teachers and classmates, declare himself the best and make a living doing his shit on his own.

But he didn’t. That’s all you need to know.

And now he doesn’t have a valid, “approved” PTK credentials. Ho hum. It’s not like anyone who learns from him ever asked to see his creds.

When it was over, people flocked to the internet to slam his name or defend it, or just sit by and jerk off to the melee that ensued concerning his relationship with Pekiti Tirsia. I can tell you this:  I have yet to see ONE WORD of critique or anger from Master Waid or his crew.

And that’s all you need to know.

My friends, conflict can be good for business. But it’s bad for you, your respect, and the confidence people have in you and your character. Take the high road, no matter what is thrown at you, and always, always–let your skill speak for itself.

Knowledge and skill are not an objects you can demand back when you are having menstrual moments. If it comes down to it, regardless of what happened between you, end the relationship, but keep your dignity. This is what separates the martial artists from the side showmen.

One last thing:  Sometimes, when you’re the best of your generation, others around you who aren’t so good will want to dim your light (or throw shade over it) because they are concerned that no one will notice them–or see how bright their light is. This is why many of your teachers never tell you about who the best fighters in their youth were, nor do they introduce you to them. If you look at 99% of martial arts resumes out there, you will rarely see classmates discussed in those histories. As if the lineage only contained themselves and their teachers. Because to them, that’s all that mattered. And sometimes, sadly, your worst competition will be your own teacher. Of course, this is only my opinion.

Thank you for visiting my blog.

If you like this article or any other articles on my blog, please look up my books on Amazon and get a copy!


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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: info@urbanescrima.com to book your place!


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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.

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Lessons from Middle School Wrestling

A little personal information on me. I’ve been married 7 times, and have three kids with two of those wives. My oldest son, Abdul Khaliq (we call him Kali), lives with me full time.

Recently, he and my daughter (she isn’t competing because she broke her ankle) have been on a wrestling kick and my son is his team’s most prolific winner.  I would like to tell you a little about my observations about middle school wrestling, and what lessons the martial artist can learn from it. 

If you don’t know anything about the sport of wrestling–real wrestling, not the pro-kind (my grandfather use to refer to WWF as “American Hand to Hand Combat”) that is–you should know that the training is extremely arduous, perhaps more than anything most martial artists would ever experience. It is a sport where the fat kid can reign supreme, if he learns to use his natural strength to his advantage. It is rarely given the credit it deserves by parents who know little about it; often, nonathletic children are often pushed towards this activity because parents don’t realize how much physicality is required to “play” it. Put your kid in one season of wrestling, you’re almost guaranteed to end the school year with a kid who cannot be bullied. It takes discipline, pain tolerance, and great courage to participate in. And one of the things I absolutely love about school wrestling:  No kid rides the bench. That’s right, every kid participates, regardless of how talented he is and how popular he is. The more he wins, the more fights he has. And the kid who doesn’t win that often starts off the day with the same number of fights as the kids who win. Kids get in top shape when they wrestle. They develop their little-man physiques in a short amount of time. Finally, the thing I love most:  They know, regardless of your size or fitness level, if you don’t know how to do it–they will cream you on the mat.

I remember a time when the martial arts used to be like that.

As a young man, I wrestled with a group of wrestlers who went to the local colleges. I developed my appreciation for this sport without being fortunate enough to be on a college team. But I did train with them, and learned the drills (cringe), exercises and techniques. Every session included actual scrimmages, and I always went home with a hands-on level of understanding of what I learned that day. I appreciated it, because I wasn’t “cross-training”… I was simply learning to wrestle. Years later when I studied Judo and BJJ, I did the same by training informally and sparring as part of that training. This is the same approach I took to learning to box–not just by picking up pieces and skills, but my just starting from the ground up and learning how to actually do it. In my opinion, this is the only way to learn an art. All else is just skimming the surface.

The first time I walked into the gym with my son (he won Silver, by the way), I immediately took in the atmosphere. I wasn’t in a packed gym full of soccer parents and squealing 12 year olds:  I was in stadium full of child warriors. Despite their lack of chin/chest hairs, these kids oozed testosterone and toughness. Little skinny nerds and tall overweight donut eaters alike, in their onesies, all vying for the medal in their respective weight classes. To us, they were skinny kids and fat kids. To themselves, these boys walked as if they had 20 lbs of new muscle packed onto their frames because of how they felt. Yes, every boy in this sport feels strong and muscular. It is a byproduct of the training, and due to the two hours of daily, grueling practice–they show up every Saturday at 5 a.m. to travel to a strange school feeling like this is the day I go home with the gold. They come with sore muscles, sprains, pulls, bruises and bent fingers–but they do it every weekend, swearing to beat that kid who pinned them last week. To some parents who chat on cell phones and sip Starbuck’s while their children get psyched up for today’s matches, this is just an intramural sport. To me, they are raising a future warrior who may one day be a mugger’s nightmare, if they stick with it. Sure, they’re middle schoolers. You still see iPads, tablets and kids playing tag. But when it’s show time the warriors show up, and win or lose–they go home with one or more notches on their belt, a few fights wiser, a little bit tougher than they were earlier that morning. I have seen kids who looked like bookworms tear into muscular kids who look like they could be bullies. I’ve seen overweight children let out a 300-style roar after pinning football players. One of my son’s team mates–a girl–told me about a Samoan boy she eventually beat that day, “I hate wrestling him because he’s so strong, but he’s in my weight class.” I asked why that was, and she told me “People think he’s going to win because he’s buff, but I’m a better wrestler.” This girl is about 5’8″ and is obese. In most schools, she might be bullied and teased about it. But in this sport, she is the Queen of Mean, and even the muscular kids get taken down.

The environment of the wrestling tournament is what I think the Martial Arts tournament should be. Former wrestling Dads giving advice to their 8th graders imparting wisdom from old master to pupil. Charged up Moms screaming at 7th graders to “GET HIM!!!”  Analytic 14 year olds discussing why that last kid lost, and what he would do if in their shoes. All around you, kids whose bodies have been molded by their coaches are not just daydreaming about one day becoming a great MMA fighter–but are actually gaining experience on the path to becoming one.  There are no pretenders in a singlet, unlike the many pretenders wearing a Gi and sporting tabs on a belt. In the wrestling tournament, there are no flashy kids. No fancy uniforms disguising mediocre skill. No one is intimidated by bulging biceps. No one is underestimating the kid with the scrawny chest or the pot belly. Hell in the wrestling tournament, there are boys who fight for their lives against GIRLS. Skill is the great equalizer, because here, skill truly is rank. Take note, 8th degree grandmasters-of-your-own-styles…

The martial arts Guro/Sensei/Sifu/Sabumnim could learn a lot from these lessons as well. In the wrestling “practice”, there are no celebrity coaches. Coaches do not give themselves or each other rank and titles like we do. They are simply “Coach _____”. Their worth as a coach is solely gauged by one thing–the success of their pupils, and they gear each practice towards making sure their boys and girls outdo the next guy’s wrestlers next week. And there is a sense of urgency; a “test” is given every week, and whatever caused the fail last week must be identified, drilled and corrected by the following week.

That last paragraph, by the way, was pure martial arts teaching GOLD. Cut and paste, share to your Facebook walls. Frame it, because if you don’t get anything out of today’s article–that last paragraph should redefine your approach to teaching the martial arts.

Matter of fact, it was so good, I’m going to end this article here. Read it, re-read it, and re-read it again. Thanks for visiting my blog.


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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.

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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.





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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....."


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A dream come true

On January 18th (exactly on my birthday), I had the chance to make a dream come true: to meet and train with a man I admire and respect deeply, one of the highest authorities in stick fighting - both as fighter and as teacher – the legendary Benjamin ”Lonely Dog” Rittiner of the Dog Brothers. […]

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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.

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"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.

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Blast from the past – first FMA Seminar in Romania

Back in 2007, my respected instructor and friend Cat Necula (UK) held the first seminar of Filipino Martial Arts in Iasi, Romania. He presenting a full-contact stickfighting system he was studying  and teaching at the time and I had the honor to assist him. Filed under: arnis-eskrima, events, video

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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 http://www.visayanmartialarts.com/

and you can (probably) reach him at vma@visayanmartialarts.com

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.

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Sparring

A lot of people put a crapload of weight on sparring. And I don’t blame them- it’s a great way to learn real-world applications to the stuff you learn. However, adding weapons to the mix as an arnisador can be pretty fucking tricky- even a rattan stick could easily cause serious harm, and rubber knives can gouge eyes. So what to do?

Well, first of all, you need EQUIPMENT. A kendo helmet that protects your neck would be nice, and prob padding all around. a good approach on how NOT to do this would be like any Dog Brothers’ video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTKqYkvmdkU

Here’s a typical dog brothers video- while they are learning a lot of practical things (except in a few aspects, but we’ll get into that), they aren’t wearing NEARLY enough padding. Let’s get real- you’re learning martial arts because you want to protect your body, not destroy it for an adrenaline high. Yes, you learn a lot. But you won’t be able to perform the shit you learn after numerous compound fractures.

On the other hand, there’s also wearing TOO MUCH padding and getting reliant on that stuff. Though it isn’t wearing too much padding that really fucks you, its the shift in mentality when you don it.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vt2Ac7CwWQQ

Great example there- while they’re careful for the first strike or two of the engagement, they pretty much ignore defense and just *let* the other guy strike him on the head - which is okay, if you spend all of your waking hours with a kendo helmet, but bad in pretty much all other cases. 

You should always treat a practice weapon as a real weapon. A practice knife is a knife that can kill you, because even if it doesn’t hurt in practice, in real life it will kill. A spar with sticks and padding is a fight with sticks and without padding- be wary of every attack your opponent makes, and remember that every time you get hit, your ability to defend yourself decreases. And treat practice sticks with proper respect- they’re weapons in their own right, even though they’re not the blades they may represent.

Back to the Dog Brothers’ video- note around 1:40 that the guy in the black takes down the guy in the grey- the guy in the grey very quickly produces a knife during the grapple and repeatedly stabs the other guy in the neck. What astonished me during this is that the guy in the black continued the grapple, even after that had happened. It shows a pretty big disrespect for weapons- never grapple someone on the street, because anyone could be carrying a weapon (especially at a dog brothers meetup lmao).

All in all, just remember that when you spar, you’re mentally preparing yourself to use what you’re learning in the real world- don’t beat yourself and handicap yourself, and don’t act like you can shrug off those full force swings to your forehead and keep going.

I’m tired, writing like shit, and only desperately hammered out a post because i remembered this shit existed. ask me questions about shit if anything isnt clear

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Video Highlight of the FMA Seminar in Romania

Just a few images from the 2 days Filipino Martial Arts seminar that we had in Bucharest on the 9th and 10th of November. Day 1: two modules of Kalye Todo Arnis (this was actually the fourth intensive seminar for progressive study of the system in Bucharest). Day 2: one module of De Campo 1-2-3 […]

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Fall Camp was Outstanding!

Thank you to all the Balintawak Seattle members who travelled cross country to Charlotte, NC, for GM Taboada's International Balintawak Fall Camp. Congrats to the following on successfully passing their respective level requirements:

Azeem McDaniel, Level 6
Josh Faram, Level 6
Raul Tabile, Level 5
Shahid McDaniel, Level 3
Sarafine Apadolo, Level 2
Jeff Pearce, Level 2
Bo McClune, Level 1

This was the largest contingent we have had participate in camp - you represented Balintawak Seattle well!

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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 -www.kategriffin.net  - 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!

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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.

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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,

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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?

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A Manual on Palakabanate

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.

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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.

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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.…

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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

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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. 

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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

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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 :-)

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=mMv27u0JIUs

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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!

 


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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.


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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

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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

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Commitment

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

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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:

  • WARM UP
  • 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
  • REST SWINGS
  • 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.


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Seminars

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.

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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?


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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…

HAPPY BIRTHDAY SIR BOB.….

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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

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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
1869–1948

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.)

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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).


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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.

Kumusta,

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,

Salamat!

Guro Ben

 

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New Info

Kumusta,

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,

Salamat,

Guro Ben

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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
1564–1642

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.)

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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.

 

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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.

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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 :).


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Apache