Gunfighting: Interview with Veteran Cop Bob Stasch

Lieutenant Bob Stasch is a veteran of 14 gunfights. We should all sit up and pay attention when someone with this much experience talks about how to survive a gunfight.

Lt. Stasch on leftLt. Stasch on left

In listening to this interview, conducted by self-defense legend Mas Ayoob, I found that his advice is almost always 180 degrees opposite to conventional wisdom. Here are the main takeaways:

Go for head shots instead of center-of-mass shots, especially at very close range, where most gunfights occur.

Practice shooting a 6-inch paper plate. If you can hit the plate, you can hit the head.

Most of his gunfights were under 12 feet.

Train for instinctive, point shooting instead of aimed shooting.

In most instances, your off hand is occupied doing something else –be prepared to shoot one-handed.

Carry a minimum of 2 extra magazines.

Carry a backup weapon in case your gun malfunctions or you’re disarmed.

Lieutenant Stasch likes a lightweight .38 revolver as a backup.

He carries a Sig Sauer P220 in .45 because of the feel in the hand “The key to being a good handgun shooter is to have a weapon that’s an extension of your hand.” D”on’t get the gun that people recommend –get the gun that feels right in your hand. Go to a gun store and pick up every gun with your eyes closed, pick the one that feels like a 6th finger.”


Engineering the Martial Arts

I have spent half of my life studying engineering, and the Filipino martial arts appeal to me because they fit hand in hand with certain engineering concepts. I learned early on in my life that memorization wasn't my strong suit, but if I could learn fundamental principles, then I didn't need to memorize thousands of things. When I found that FMAs operate under the same philosophy, I knew these were the arts for me.

In my latest blog post, Engineering the Martial Arts, I try to show how these concepts apply to my martial art with questions for you to ask yours. I hope you enjoy.


Sign Up for My Newsletter

I’m about to send out my first newsletter, and I want to give everyone a chance to sign up for it. I’m including a link to a new video, my update on the Pop Up Move. Big Stick Combat is a radical new stick system, constantly in the process of development.sample pics 2 005 (400 x 300)

Rather than try to e-mail everyone who bought my e-book to show them the revised technique, it’s easier to share these changes via my newsletter.

My aim is to include solid technique in every newsletter, and not just bombard you with sales pitches. Remember that you can unsubscribe at any time, but my goal is to provide so much good stuff that unsubscribing is the last thing you’d ever want to do.

The subscription form is just to the right of this post, under “Sign Up for My Newsletter.”


Miscellaneous Thoughts


March is almost upon us, and soon, I’ll start advertising for the STL Counterpoint seminar with Counterpoint Tactical System founder Zach Whitson. Mataas Na Guro Whitson will conduct a one day seminar followed by rank testing. Topics are still to be determined. This will be the third annual seminar in the St. Louis area with Master Whitson. In 2013, I brought him in for a seminar, and every year, I get more excited than the year before. It’s a real privilege to be able to do this. My CTS family from Southern Missouri comes up to support my club, and it’s a fun time. This year will be no different.

One of my goals for this year was to lose weight. Since I practice the SMART goal setting techniques, the actual wording of the goal was to lose ten pounds by my birthday, which is early April. Well, I hit that goal last week. Sue and I have been following the Whole 30 philosophy since the end of January. Whole 30, as far as I understand it, is just a stricter version of the paleo diet. I describe as eating foods that you recognize as food. There’s no processed foods and also no meals as shakes. For 30 days, it’s very strict. No alcohol, no tobacco, limited coffee use, etc. Even though almonds are acceptable, almond milk is not unless you make it yourself. The idea is to change your relationship with food. It has been a wonderful 30 days. I feel different on the diet. I haven’t stuck to it perfectly, though. I haven’t cheated with foods; everything we’ve eaten has been acceptable. I’ve had more coffee than the program recommends, and they want you to eat 3 meals per day with no snacking. On days that I go to Title Boxing club, the no snacking rule gets broken. I’ve found that if I eat a banana about 30 – 45 minutes before the workout, I work harder. Because we workout after our day jobs but before dinner, I was already hungry. Working out on an empty stomach, I felt as if I had no energy. The mental motivation was there but my body just didn’t want to work. I also tried the other side as well. I had dinner before my hard workout. Then, I felt too full. I was uncomfortable the whole time, and while I had energy, I was slower because of the larger meal. One banana and maybe some almond butter before a workout is optimal for me. If you’re interested in cutting carbs, this program is a good way to jump start a low carb lifestyle. It’s only 30 days, and there is nothing to buy. Sue got a used copy of their book, It Starts with Food, off Amazon. The only real expense was groceries, which we had to buy anyways.

Even though I hit my target weight, my goal isn’t complete. When I weigh myself on my birthday, that’s when I know that I met my goal. So, I still have a month and a half to go before the goal is complete. But thanks to Sue, Whole 30, and Title Boxing Club, I am feeling great. Now, it’s time to brain storm new goals for the rest of the year!

I was trying to think the other day how long I’ve been working with Team Kali now. It’s not quite a year. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve grown considerably since I began working with Steve. The new members are really doing well. I’m not used to teaching large groups; so, it’s been an adjustment for me. And don’t get me wrong; it’s a good adjustment. I like being able to introduce Counterpoint Tactical System to new people. I’m also having fun working with Steve and getting his perspective on what I teach. I’ve learned a lot about how to convey the art in this time frame. Learning from Steve is good for me because it exposes me to different methodologies. I look at his teachings through my base art, CTS, and what he’s showing me forces me to think deeper about what I’ve learned so far. Back when Steve first invited me to be a part of Team Kali and to teach CTS as a part of the team, I knew it was an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Watching Team Kali and STL Counterpoint grow together, I know I’ve made the right decision.

STL Counterpoint Hoodie

Finally, Ryan surprised me with this hoodie on Saturday. His friend Roger made one for each of us. This makes me very happy. They are very good quality with the front logo embroidered. I started this club a couple years ago with the most selfish of reasons. I wanted training partners in the art of Counterpoint Tactical System. It has definitely grown since those first days. I never gave any thought to having t-shirts, let alone selling them. With my club growing, I may have to reconsider. These hoodies aren’t for sale, but I like seeing my logo on it. Friday night, three quarters of Saturday, and half of Sunday was devoted to finishing up a project for work this week. My training time was limited to only meeting with Ryan on Saturday. My personal study time got pushed to next weekend. It was a stressful weekend, and these hoodies came at the perfect time. Thank you, Roger.


Ban Machetes and Flintlocks?

One New York politician wants a machete ban

“New York state senator Tony Avella (D-Queens) successfully pushed gun control via the SAFE Act in early 2013 and he has now set his sights on machete control. Avella said, “The fact that anyone can purchase this potentially lethal tool is just crazy.”

I have written about gun ownership and believe in it. I think, though, that it is important for martial imagesartists who may not be especially concerned about gun ownership to get into the battle for second amendment rights. People who don’t own guns may not be concerned when a Draconian anti-gun law ironically named “SAFE” gets passed, but the second amendment is increasingly understood as granting the right to possess weapons (including knives and pepper spray) for self-defense. When you as a martial artist defend the second amendment, you are protecting your own right to practice with ceremonial, exotic weapons that are easily hyped by demagogues as “super deadly.” If you want to carry a knife, a staff, a billy club, or whatever weapon you feel you need for self-defense, you need to join the fight for the second amendment.

11579146-Double-Deer-Horn-Knives-Bagua-yue-Ziwu-Yuanyang-tomahawk-for-martical-art-wushu-kungfu-a-battle-axe-used-in-ancient-chinaI’m a member of the NRA. I wasn’t a member until I heard the president malign the group, and I realized I needed to join. I strongly urge you to consider it.

Keep in mind that the next step is to ban other “deadly” weapons, like nunchaku, tonfa, switchblade knives, butterfly knives, etc. The illogical line is always that you don’t need _________. How many items could be banned on that premise? You don’t need Pop Tarts or silk sheets –so ban them, and make criminals out of people who possess them.

The issue is not banning items that aren’t “needed.” The idea is freedom. I don’t need purple clothing or ostrich skin boots, but as a free citizen I make decisions as to what I need or want. It’s a concept called liberty.

But the list of items to be banned always increases, until there are proposals to ban large knives or flintlock-pistolmachetes. Pretty soon everything is illegal, and the result is a farce. Right now a 72 year-old-man is looking at ten years in prison because he had a 300-year-old flintlock, unloaded, in his car. If this man goes to prison will New Jersey be any safer? No one “needs” a 300-year-old flintlock: that is the beauty of living in a supposedly free country –nobody needs Oreos, a collection of porcelain dolls, a 20-foot bass boat, Ugg boots, etc., but we have the freedom and the means to buy things that we enjoy. By the way, in New Jersey, possession of a slingshot is a felony.

Anyone with an IQ, especially those who have lived in a socialist state like California, has to know what happens next. In a state or locality where everything is illegal, and penalties for even the silliest thing like nunchaku are severe, you’re weaponless and defenseless, but there are hordes of heavily-armed thugs running amok and making the streets unsafe.

If your self-defense system is based on the 28-inch stick or the machete, you need to consider how practical that is, and what you will do when these weapons are banned.


Engineering the Martial Arts

Engineering is the application of science to the real world. Physics, mathematics, chemistry, and biology are wonderful fields of study, but they excel at providing concepts and theories. Engineering translates their discoveries into tangible, real world applications. I have spent half of my life studying engineering specifically because it combines mathematics and physics with a tangible product. The principles that engineers use are the same that make Counterpoint Tactical Systems so interesting. CTS is a process oriented art governed by Pareto’s principle that uses margins of safety for maximum caution. Below are the lessons that I’ve pulled from CTS that are applicable to the study of any martial art.

GoalsGoals are important for any project. They provide a target to aim for, but they also can be used to plan out a journey. All of my engineering projects have had goals, and knowing where I was starting and where I was heading meant that I could plan how to get from one to the other. I’ve talked about setting goals before, and I still recommend that approach. You can set big goals or small goals. Your choice.  With big and small targets, engineering teaches that having a set goal will keep you on track, even though that track may twist and turn, the end point is still what you are working for. You may pass through milestones more than once, you may go off on detours, and, sometimes, you may actually regress. That’s okay as long as you don’t give up. Failure only occurs when you quit. Setbacks are not failure; they are part of the journey. Whether you’re designing an airplane or learning a martial art, having a goal should be your first step.

Joel Daugherty and Josh Ryer Playing Espada Y Daga

Joel Daugherty is playing Espada Y Daga for his second degree black belt test. He is assisted by Josh Ryer.

Process is everywhere. Most people – well, normal people – don’t think about it much, though. Why? Because most processes are so ingrained that we don’t even think of them as such. In engineering terms, process is a series of operations that lead to a predicted outcome. Tying your shoes is an example of a process that most people wouldn’t consider one. But when a child learns to tie their shoes, they’re taught a series of operations. Eventually, that series is so ingrained, the child doesn’t consciously think of it but still goes through all the operations. Driving is the same; after years of practicing the skills, drivers don’t think about pushing the gas pedal and switching to the brakes. They do it. CTS’s goal is the same. If a knife comes out, the CTS student taps it without thinking because tapping is a built in operation. As we learn advanced skills, such as knife versus knife, the tapping has been practiced so much that it comes out without prompting. In examining your own martial art, look for skills that become automatic, like punching. How do these skills and processes fit into your overall goal?


While setting your goal, you should examine your processes with that goal in mind. In engineering, this is called aligning your practices with your requirements. For example, if I am designing a hammer and my goal is a lightweight but strong product, my processes need to include weight reduction while maintaining high strength. If my operations can only deal with ceramics and not metals, then I will achieve one of my goals – a lightweight hammer that will have a very short product life. In martial arts terms, if I set a goal to be a point fighting champion and what I’m doing is learning CTS, then my training isn’t helping me towards my goal. CTS is a self defense art that emphasizes techniques and tactics that are illegal in point fighting. So, my goal and reality wouldn’t align. If I set a goal to be a Brazillian Jiu Jitsu black belt but I really want to learn Filipino martial arts, then my goal and my interests are out of sync. In my martial arts journey, I’ve been out of sync with my goal and what I was doing. I had a goal that didn’t line up with the particular curriculum block that I was working. (Kenpo Counterpoint 2, for those interested.) It took a few conversations with Master Zach Whitson before I understood where my problems were, and only after those conversations was I able to make the changes necessary to progress. The above triangle is important. To achieve your goal, all three bubbles must be in alignment. A good question to ask yourself is will your practice get you to where you want to go?

CTS is a very organized martial art. There is an overall progression from white belt to black belt. It can be broken down into sub-processes for each belt level and even further for each curriculum block at a belt level. For example, pangamot introduces the beginning students to the CTS training model. Pangamot is a drill of empty hand versus stick. Looking at the drill, I see three major processes in it. The first is learning the concept of empty hand versus stick self defense. This is what most people get out of the drill and is the most important part of this curriculum block. The second is the CTS training process that a drill works best when both partners are learning. More on this in a later post. The final process is learning to react to dynamic situations. Self defense is a  continually changing situation, and set patterns are dangerous. When a student regularly practices dynamic drills, she is more reactive to unpredictable circumstances. What are the learning processes in your art and how do they build towards the full expression of your art?
When evaluating processes, engineer’s rely on the Pareto’s principle. This is more commonly known as the 80/20 law. There are many ways of using this principle. A Six Sigma engineer will use this to find issues. When mapping out ways to make a process more efficient, it’s usually found that by 80 percent of the issues are caused by 20% of the problems. At my previous employer, I worked on a project to reduce noise output from a drive shaft. One of the research methods was to look through customer complaints and warranty notices. It turned out that roughly eight out of every ten complaints were about two issues. Logic dictates that we focus on the two issues, and, not surprisingly, we were able to dramatically lower the noise by looking for root causes associated with those same two issues. The study of the martial arts is the same, and in CTS, Master Whitson has gone through this process for us.  Putting this into practice is much harder than it sounds. It requires a lot of thought and understanding. Again, this is aligning your goals with your practice. I constantly ask myself what techniques work for my body and what techniques come out in play. While I like flying knees, I don’t train them often because my goal is using self defense to escape an attack. A flying knee fails that goal because I’m leaving the ground and therefore unable to run away. So when I train knees, my time is spent on knees to the legs, body, or, when the opponents head is bent over because those build towards my goal, and if you look, 80% of the knees that I use in sparring are to the legs. This is an iterative processes because you have to constantly examine what works for you. Looking at your skill set, what comes out most in sparring? In your list of drills, which ones are the most efficient and which are large efforts for small returns?

Fighters by necessity follow this rule. They are looking for maximum result from minimum effort. For example, the main staple of Muay Thai’s kicks are the teep (jab kick) and the round kick. Younger fighters are taught these first. When you watch padwork, these kicks are practiced ad nauseam.  Some of the greats who have mastered these kicks will possess a larger arsenal. They’ve mastered the 80% kicks and are free to focus on the 20% kicks. BTW, check out other breakdowns by Lawrence Kenshin. Like Jack Slack, he’s another genius at breaking down fights in a way that anyone can learn from.

wpid-sunday-double-knife-24.jpg.jpegEngineers are by nature a cautious group. Dealing with multi-million dollar projects exacerbates a cautious nature. I’m a structural engineer, which means that I make sure the bones of the product won’t break. So, I’m even more cautious that most. My job is to think of the worst possible thing that can happen and make sure the structure can withstand it. We do this by what’s called a margin of safety. If you have a margin of safety greater than zero, you’re structure will hold. Counterpoint Tactical Systems also teaches margins of safety. In the photo above, Master Whitson is tapping Josh Ryer’s knife with the back of his forearm. You can see Zach’s hand under Josh’s arm. By having that extra distance from wrist to tip of fist, Master Whitson has protected himself from subtle changes that Josh could make to get around the tap. The picture above is well lit, but if it were dark and visibility low, that extra amount of space could mean the difference between getting the tap and getting stabbed. The drills we learn have these margins of safety built in. Advanced techniques may have slimmer margins of safety but they are still there. It’s important to look for them. When I’m practicing CTS, I look for techniques and drills where not being perfect doesn’t get me killed. I examine why and see if I can apply what I learned elsewhere. What techniques and drills require you to be perfect to work? What drills can your hand or body positioning be a little off and still work?

Structural engineers must be professionally pessimistic. They have to think the worst outcome will happen frequently while the best possible case will happen rarely. When training weapons, I assume that any time the opponent’s weapon touches me is fatal or a knockout. At the same time, I assume that my strikes will be shrugged off. You can find footage on YouTube of people being stabbed multiple times with only one or two being fatal. But you can’t count on that either. The assumption that your opponent has one punch knockout power while you need thirty or forty punches to achieve the same outcome is the worst case scenario. If you train with that in mind, then any other situation besides that works in your favor. That is what a martial arts margin of safety looks like.


All tools are only effective when used properly. A circular saw is not good for polishing glass. A drill bit is a terrible patch for electrical wires. Engineers have to know their tools to use them effectively. Microsoft Excel is great for calculating but terrible for presentations. For greatest effect, use the correct tool for the correct job. In the martial arts, knowing your tools is essential. What tool applies to what? For example, trying to elbow your opponent in the head when they can just barely touch you with a fully extended front kick is probably using the wrong tool at the wrong time. Knowing which tool is appropriate translates into a study of fighting ranges. Know the range of your tools including weapons. Yes, gun, too; guns extend the distance but not to infinity. By understanding range, you are building a margin of safety. If you are out of range of the tool, it can’t hurt you. Staying out of range comes down to rule number one of self defense: RUN AWAY IF YOU CAN. You can’t get stabbed if your attacker can’t catch you. If you can’t run away, understanding ranges means you know where to be in order to deliver the 20% of your tools that produce 80% of the benefit.

Engineering isn’t a flashy science. Most of the time, it’s downright boring. But its principles can make training more efficient. Counterpoint Tactical System speaks to the engineer in me because it is designed with these principles in mind. What about your martial art speaks to you? And do you apply any of these engineering principles to your own study?


Instant Karma: Drunk vs Ex-Boxer

In this video a loudmouth decides to antagonize an ex-boxer nicknamed “Champ.” To anyone in his right mind, a img_10210_retired-boxer-ends-street-fight-quicklyformer boxer known as “Champ” is a warning flag, like the bright orange color of a toxic frog. As the drunk bumbles over, bystanders urge him to reconsider. Those same bystanders ask Champ to take it easy on the guy.

The knockout is complete and instantaneous. It’s a classic 1-2, jab with the left, straight with the right. This is not an “Ohh, the room is spinning” knockout, but a deep-in-a-coma, looking-for-signs-of-brain-activity-on-the-EEG knockout.

Although the video is tragicomic, on a more serious note it illustrates how people get killed by a punch. It’s not the punch, per se, but the impact when your head hits the concrete sidewalk, brick planter, fender, streetlight base, edge of a stair step, etc. The drunk bounces twice on the sidewalk, and because he’s asleep he can’t raise his hands to defend himself or even flinch to cushion the blow.

One of the stupidest comments I ever heard was an old-style karate school that rationalized the success of Thai boxing and the utter failure of their style in full-contact by saying, “Thai boxing is for the ring: Hop Wung Gar Do Jitsu is for the street.” In the words of Hamlet, “Lay not that flattering unction to your soul.” Or in modern English, “Don’t feed yourself sugary lies.”

Don’t kid yourself that he’s just a boxer who doesn’t know the martial arts, who was never lucky enough to study with Supreme Ultimate Grandmaster Kulafu Jones. He’s just a Golden Gloves champion who can’t even do a spinning back kick. Don’t get smug because that veteran of 23 fights doesn’t even have an orange belt. If you think Cus D’Amato, trainer of Floyd Patterson and Mike Tyson, had students who weren’t as fearsome as black belts in the Moo Duck Swan system, you’re dumb enough to get yourself killed.

Moral of the story: Don’t start trouble. Don’t underestimate people. Respect people’s skills. Or somebody just might spill your malt liquor in very violent fashion.

Think for a moment how this meeting between the drunk and the boxer might have gone down. “Hey, Champ, I hear you’re an ex-boxer. Would you teach me something? I’ll buy you lunch.” Forget that you’re a “badass” or a blue belt. Knowledge begins with humility and respect. If you can be humble enough to admit that you don’t know it all, you might learn something. But if you try to prove yourself, bearing a thin layer of bravado papered over your nagging sense of inadequacy, the result might be tragic.


What I Read: Jack Slack’s Analysis

As part of my study of martial arts, I read a lot. This post continues my What I Read series. This series lists the authors, articles, and blogs that I enjoy reading. Each one is highly recommended.

For this entry, I decided to put up the author who I read the most. Jack Slack, currently, blogs at Vice’s Fightland site and has worked for Bloody Elbow. His own website, Fights Gone By, has more of his writings and books you can buy from him. Most of his articles are dedicated to mixed martial arts (MMA), which makes sense because the UFC has a sponsoring interest in the Fightland website. Mr. Slack’s articles focus on striking, but he doesn’t limit it to only MMA. He’ll also cover boxing, kickboxing, and traditional martial arts. Some articles take a historical look at combatives. as well.

I read Mr. Slack’s articles because they are very high level breakdowns. He excels at technical analysis, and his use of GIFs increase the effectiveness of the articles. In addition, Mr. Slack is a good writer. Not just a good blogger but a good writer as well. He has good pacing and knows the right balance of analysis to exposition. I try to learn how Mr. Slack views striking so I can start applying the same detailed analysis to my own art. Hopefully, by examining my own art closer, I’ll be a better teacher as well.

Below the line, I list some of my favorite articles of his.


Manny Pacquiao: The Man Who Reinvented Boxing is my favorite article so far. I’m not as big a fan of boxing as MMA, but this article made me more interested in the sweet science. It is a technical article on a great fighter. I did more research into Pacquiao after this and am now a fan because of it. This article breaks down his technique and movement in very understandable ways. I recommend this to anyone who is a Pacquiao or a boxing fan. This article really is also when I became a fan of Slack and started reading him regularly.

These GIFs are examples from Jack Slack’s articles. There are many, many more of this quality. Please, click on them to open the article they came from. Again, these are re-blogged from the Vice website.

Jack Slack: How TJ Dillashaw Killed the King is another of my favorites. It breaks down TJ’s impressive underdog victory against Renan Barao. TJ put on a master performance, and I looked forward to Mr. Slack’s article. He pointed out a few things that I didn’t quite get watching the fight in real time.

Not all articles are about sport combatives, though. The Fighting Motive series looks into the history of striking. Fighting Motives: The Kingdom with No Weapons was a great primer for me on Okinawan martial arts. These articles tend to teach me history that I didn’t know I was interested in learning.

Finally, I am looking forward his upcoming series on how to enjoy a fight. I know some people don’t understand how I can watch two adults hurt each other on purpose. Maybe this series will help convey the artistry in the violence in the ring.

I can’t recommend these articles enough. While they aren’t a one-to-one translation to the arts that I study, they have helped me look at my own techniques more closely. They have me thinking deeper about my own martial art.

Who do you recommend to read? Please, let me know in the comments.


Bad habits

Had a great early morning training session with Dan and Janelle working on absolute basics.  I've heard it was Arnold Palmer who said "Practice doesn't make Perfect, perfect practice makes perfect".  It's funny how we all get into habits; little things that throw off our game.  I notice it myself in my daily routine.  I do my warm ups every morning at 4:30 during the week and sometimes, I phone it... in, I admit.  The more I do this, the more I slip, little by little into bad habits.  Blade angle is a good one.  If you don't pay attention, you'll be surprised how fast you can lose the proper blade angle.  Often, I see people going through their warm ups and deliveries with improper blade angle.  This is mostly due to improper posture, foot position and hip engagement.  If you want to test your blade angle, freeze mid delivery and have a friend swap your stick for a training blade.  Also, I notice a lot of follow ups using the base or middle portion of the cutting edge rather than the tip.  Uncle Leo used to remind us to cut with the tip.  This is not only to keep distance, but also to be sure you are cutting soft tissue and not bone.  I will sometimes take one of my real bolos out to the orange tree, pull off some of the ugly fruits and practice cutting.  It's one thing to hack an orange in half but I will try to cut 80% of the way through with the tip, leaving the back of the orange barely connected.  This helps me target with the tip.  Try this at full speed and you will see very quickly how hard it is to control the blade.  For even more fun, I will sometimes suspend  an orange on a string and try to cut it with my daily carry knife.  It always surprises me how little damage I can do to a target that moves away as I hit it.  Flicking, jabbing, snapping hits do more damage to the ligaments in my arm than to the target.  Easy flowing, well practiced and deliberate strikes tend to hit their mark more often and do considerably more damage.  Of course, an orange isn't an attacker.  But, it helps us understand what it is we are trying to gain control over and how our daily practice needs to be disciplined and correct lest we teach ourselves to hit wrong and ineffectively.  Practice hard, practice often and practice like you will fight.  When the time comes, you will fight like you practiced.  GLM


Tuhon McGrath on Knife Tapping

It has been a busy week, and I fell behind on my writing. I introduced Counterpoint Tactical System’s empty hand versus knife level one this week to some of the advanced students. Knife tapping is a lot of fun, but it can be difficult to understand at first. The physical aspects of it are easy to teach, and they require a lot of practice like anything else. It’s the why that has hung up some of my students. To discuss the why, I draw on three primary sources. First, I build the lesson out of everything that Master Zach Whitson has taught me. Next, I look to my experiences learning and teaching this. I find it helps to point out where common obstacles are. Finally, I review the videos below. Master Whitson built empty hands versus knife out of the material he learned from Tuhon Bill McGrath. So, it makes sense to listen to what Tuhon McGrath has to say as well. I’ve learned a lot watching this series, and I recommend them to my students.


Pinoro Arnis L1: Basics of Korto Garote

Pinoro Arnis is NOT a new FMA system, but only the personal and standardized expression of the systems that I officially and proudly represent: Kalye Todo Arnis, De Campo 1-2-3 Original and Igmat Baraw K.F.S. It is the way I understand, practice and teach these systems, not altering in any way their concepts and principles […]


Gatekeepers of the Lineages (Bahala Na, Serrada and Presas)

Some feelings might get hurt on this one.

I decided to tag the four systems in the title of this article (Presas, meaning Remy as well as his brother Ernesto) for a reason:  I know people on several sides of the debates in these systems and have some insight. Because I am not a player in these situations, I decided to classify this article as an “Observation/Insight”, so that no one can shake the “mind-your-own-business” finger at me. It is, however, a little more than an opinion piece. My view of these situations are rooted in the cultures I was raised in from my own grandfather and his martial arts philosophy, my Jow Ga kung fu teacher, and a few others. So I am speaking as one who has my own lineage of martial arts, and understands the philosophy and culture of the arts quite well.

I happen to know several grandmasters of the same system. Is that confusing? The phrase several grandmasters of the same system can confuse a few of us, depending on your definition of “Grandmaster”:

  • The founder of a new system of fighting
  • The oldest, senior, or highest ranking master of a system
  • Your teacher’s teacher–your martial arts grandfather, if you will
  • A level of rank in a system
  • The oldest, senior, or highest ranking master of a system in a geographic area
  • A title one is bestowed by the community or given to onesself

So, which one is valid?

Surely, you jest. Martial arts systems and corporate cultures are as varied as fingerprints in this community. How dare any of us use our own as a standard to judge another man’s culture and practices by? As martial artists, we should be respectful of all. There is room for all of us in this martial culture, and the only walk of life, the only title that really matters, is the one called “Better-than-me”. In this industry, unlike most, every man practicing their art is endeavoring to become more knowledgeable and skilled than every other man calling himself a martial artist. I respect almost all martial artists. However, I do not respect the martial artist who cannot beat me–and does not strive to build his skill until he can beat me. In my opinion, any martial artist who is not training to beat the next guy needs to get out of the business. The business of martial arts has many different angles and specialties–and all of them are involved with self-improvement and self-preseveration.

And despite what you may believe of the martial arts, it actually is about fighting, and the bottom line of martial arts styles is “Can you beat me? Or can I beat you?”

We must toughen our bodies, toughen our minds, toughen our emotions, and strengthen our character. One way that we can do such a thing is to become better men, not just better businessmen and better showmen. Fighting, in this part of the conversation, is irrelevent. When I say that we should become better men, I am referring to a man who is:

  • Truthful
  • Reliable/Keeps his word
  • In pursuit of self-improvement
  • Selfless
  • Kind
  • Righteous
  • Courageous
  • Empathetic

In An-Nawawi’s Forty Hadith, he relates that the Prophet Muhammad (saw) stated that no one is a true believer unless he wants for his brother, what he wants for himself. In other words, a man who is striving for improvement is not a good man, unless he is also striving for his brothers to improve as well. When we apply this wisdom to the martial arts, it is not enough for me as an FMA man to strive to become the best if my skill does not help other FMA men become good as well. If you are a Master or leader in a particular martial arts system, training to become the BEST teacher of that system is good. But it is better if your improved knowledge and skill also benefit the other teachers of your system. I am not suggesting you take your valuable research in the art and share it with the world. On the contrary, you should actually keep those secrets secret. But if you withold that information from your own system brothers, can you actually call yourself a leader of the system? Are you in fact promoting the system if others in your system do not benefit from your research–or are you just promoting yourself?

If a martial arts system’s leader is on the right path, he is not a divider, but a uniter. He does not look to separate himself from his system brothers. Sure, he can have his own school, maybe even his own identity as a member of that martial arts family. But in order to be an effective Master/Grandmaster of that system, he must be looking for a way to bring his wisdom to the rest of the family even if it is only through associating themselves with his work. Martial arts styles are brands. Their uniqueness are trade secrets. You cannot have more CEOs than workers, and some will have to be satisfied promoting the interests of the system as a lower level manager, as a third and fourth man in charge, even as a foot soldier. If everyone in the system is preoccupied with trying to be the admiral and no one wants to man the boiler room, the ship will surely sink. The first step in determining if you have what it takes to be a Grandmaster is first finding out if you love the system more than you love your position in it. You must want this art to become bigger than you, and you cannot love money, recognition, power and influence, or yourself more than your desire to see the art outlive you. And you must be willing to allow a better man to lead, even if he is less skilled, has less time-in-grade or lower ranking than you. Not everyone is qualified to sit in the captain’s chair.

When your grandmasters taught you, they didn’t always communicate their desires for who would be in charge when they passed away. Sometimes, Masters were more focused on teaching. Sometimes, they were more focused on developing a particular student. Sometimes, they intended for the senior/ranking position to go the senior student, his son or daughter, the best fighter, the best businessman, or a favorite student. You won’t always like or understand that decision. The question is, do you want the system to go on–or are you that disgruntled with your Grandmaster that you no longer wish to be affiliated? If you decide to leave and break ties, there is nothing wrong with that. Just don’t drop your Grandmaster’s name to establish your credibility. One great Master of our time, the great Mas Oyama, did just that. He broke away, established his own and actually improved better than even his own masters. And when those masters died, Oyama did not go back to Japan to claim leadership of his master’s systems. He moved on.

Many masters leave behind their legacy to a student who was disliked by his peers. Perhaps that student was not the best fighter, but was a good PR man. Maybe he was a junior student who spent most of his time with the Master in his last days. But when that Master is dead and gone, every student who loved him and loved his system should not discredit one another–especially when concerning leadership or “Grandmastership”. It’s silly. You all want to be Grandmasters? Then so be it. But don’t put down the next guy, especially if you know he put in his time just like you did, and wants to see the system grow–just like you, just like your teacher.

Inheritors of a system are gatekeepers to that system. Many of us are inheritors by birthright. Manong Leo Giron’s son, Michael Giron is such a person. Grandmaster Angel Cabales’ son Vincent Cabales is such a person. GM Ernesto Presas has Jan Jan, GM Remy has Dr. Presas Jr. But other gatekeepers of the same systems are the highest ranking, active students–in Bahala Na’s case, Antonio Somera. In others, a member of the newest generation of students who is outranked by everyone older than him–for example, in Remy Presas’ Modern Arnis it was a group of students he called his MOTT (Masters of Tapi Tapi). Another gatekeeper can be the best of the group, the most active of the group, the ones closest to him before he died. Another one may be the student who keeps the Master’s original organization going after he died, and then after his successor died–like (and he doesn’t call himself Grandmaster, but I’m calling him GM) Joel Juanitas. The system’s members may not call a man Grandmaster, a man may not call himself Grandmaster, but from the strength of his own skill and that of his students may thrust a Master into that leadership role, like Grandmaster-who-doesn’t-use-the title-Grandmaster Darren Tibon. There are masters who left to found there own organizations who come back after certain deaths to stake claims. Other Masters who were around in non-leadership roles, but decided after some time to assume (sometimes by asserting themselves) leadership/Grandmaster roles. And then you have masters who stayed out of the limelight, but get up on stage after being unhappy with the way current leadership is handling business. There is a place for you too, guys. Just don’t try to push anyone off the stage while you’re doing it.

I get it. I am not one who cares to sit in the driver’s seat. In my Jow Ga system, I was the guy who spent the most time in my Master’s presence during his last years on Earth. I learned his personal stuggles, learned things about the system he had not shown other students. But I was the youngest member of the “Sifu” class. I will never be the “Grandmaster” of US Jow Ga. I even stopped teaching Jow Ga for two decades and got back in the spotlight when I saw some things I disliked. With the exception of one Sifu/”Grandmaster” of Jow Ga, you will never hear me discredit any Jow Ga Sifu, and I am satisfied leading from a few rows back. But I love that Kung Fu system like a family member, and this is why I don’t hurt the art or anyone else in pursuit of my goals. You cannot lead a system unless you love your art’s longevity more than you love your own legacy within it.

Like I said, I understand everyone’s position. I didn’t meet my paternal grandfather until I was 11. Only a few years later, I returned to the Philippines until I was an adult, then I came back to the U.S. and enlisted in the service. When I found myself back in DC, he was sick, and I took care of him daily until he died two years later. In his last days, he shared many stories. He gave me memorabilia from his life, gave me names to look up, told me things about my own father that perhaps my Dad might not know. And guess what? The day after my grandfather died, I became the gatekeeper–keeping out cousins who came over to claim Grandaddy’s favorite watch, pictures, suits, his cars. My emotions were out of control. Where were you when Grandpa couldn’t bathe himself? Did you know where he went to high school? Well I have his diploma. Tell me what his favorite meals were.

But I was foolish. Each of my cousins had a separate relationship with my Grandfather. They had their own stories to tell, their own memories, and each of my cousins felt just as connected to him and his lineage as I did. I became close to him in his last two years, but they had decades. I fancied myself his closest and youngest grandson–but to them, I was the foreign grandson with the accent who ate balut. Here we were, thinking that we knew this man better than the other, that we loved him more. This family would have been ripped apart if we did not recognize and respect the other’s own–perhaps selfish–claim to his memory.

To an outsider it may seem strange that a system would have many Grandmasters. Is the true leader of Manong Leo’s Bahala Na Dexter Labonog? Michael Giron? Joel Juanitas?  What about Master Kirk McCune?  Is the Serrada King Cabales or Tibon? This is a valid argument for many, but the truth is that it is one that will never be resolved. The world is big, the FMA world is big. Serrada is in competition with Bahala Na, just as it had been for half a century, and those two arts are in competition with Modern Arnis, Kombatan, even with my own Gatdula Fighting Eskrima. If you get focused too much on the leadership argument, other systems will pass you by. As the adage goes, five fingers make a hand, but if you ball them up tight into a fist, you can strike a mighty blow. With each grandmaster working closely together, they can make water cut a diamond. But working apart, a system can disappear as easily as a mist. Once you recognize everyone’s claim, a system can become even stronger than it was when the Grandmaster walked the Earth.

Thank you for visiting my blog.


Teaching Patiently (Straw vs. Waterhoses pt II)

This message is just as much for my own student-Instructors, as it is for my readers. It is a continuation of this article, entitled “Straw vs. Waterhoses”. When you get a chance, check it out.

An important vitrue in learning the martial arts is, of course, patience. What few know is that patience is equally vital to the transmission of an art for teachers–if not more important. I am no fan of the “waterhose” philosophy to learning and teaching. Rather than drink from an excessively fast flow of information (like a waterhose)–you increase the value and impact of your learning by sipping through a straw. Don’t let most of your learning waste onto the ground because you were unable to retain it all; sip in periodic, ingestible amounts. Drink, absorb, enjoy. Drink, absorb, enjoy. Wash, rinse, repeat.  Do not drink more until you have fully absorbed what you’ve taken in or you’ll just piss it all way. Take your time; the knowledge won’t go away if you’re dedicated and diligent. Better that you know what you know thoroughly and fully, than know what you know barely and can’t do anything more than regurgitate it and spit it out for others to “not-ingest-completely-either”. This is how martial arts gets watered down.

Studying the martial arts and testing for instructorship can be a lot like the difference between a guy who studies and reads all semester long, a few hours a night for the entire term. When the final exam is given, he is confident. He can relax and watch TV the night before–all of his lessons are burned into his memory. He can apply his knowledge in almost any situtation he finds himself in. There is no jumbled, classical mess in his brain. He understands concepts as fluently as he understands his first language. When the questions are asked, he immediately has access to the answers.

On the other hand, we have the student who did not study and read all semester. We don’t know what he was doing–perhaps reading material from other subjects, skipping ahead into next semester’s curriculum, or just pretending to be a diligent student while looking for a shortcut. Speaking of which–in the few days prior to the final exam, he burns the midnight oil, and crams all the lessons from the entire semester into as many hours he can in a few days. He does this with flash cards, word association memorization techniques, notes scribbled on his hands, visualization–whatever he needs to. The day of the exam, he has memorized the material and can answer any question if you give him a second. During the exam, each question gets answered after he searches his memory for the answer. And guess what? He also passes the exam.

The difference is not just how the second student was able to memorize the same amount of material in 10% of the time. After all, did they both pass the exam? If “passing” is all that mattered to you, then this discussion ends here. The big question is, did both men actually learn the same material? Perhaps years later, the student who crammed can still recite his lessons just as well as one can recite lyrics to a poem. The second difference between both students is that one memorized and the other learned. Learning, my martial arts brothers and sisters, is not the simple hands and feet “reciting” the lessons. It is not in the ability to recall the material and memorizing terms and definitions. “Learning” is in the application. You can “learn” 500 vocabulary words of a foreign language and still do not “speak” that language. You can understand how to conjugate a verb, phonetically pronounce those words in the perfect accent, know male and female nouns… and a three year old child who is a native speaker of that language with 300 words can “speak” and communicate better than you. You have memorized words, phrases and rules of grammar, but the child with a more limited vocabulary speaks this language better than you do. And this is why the Jujitsu Blue Belt student with three years of training can destroy the seminar-certified Black Belt teacher who “knows” the entire curriculum. One has memorized moves while the other understands the moves.

As teachers, we are responsible for the quality of learning that our students experience in our tutelage. If we are impatient in getting them through the curriculum, for whatever reason, the students will know the curriculum without really knowing it. Students must be given material slowly enough to fully grasp it, absorb it, and to think of combat and self defense as though those techniques are the only options he has. Exhaust all the possibility of a technique and its variations before moving on to the next. This is why students choke when fighting and sparring. Too often, a martial arts student can recall counters and defenses, but none come to him naturally and as a reflexive response. The main reason is that we have given the student more in his tool box than his thinking will allow him to use naturally.

Sometimes, we worry about retention, so we rush the student to the next level so they don’t become discouraged or bored. But what will discourage more–not progressing as quickly as he’d like? Or losing a fight because his Black Belt wasn’t really earned?

My grandfather was still teaching me techniques when he died. I was his last student, and one of only three grandchildren who taught since most of my cousins chose other careers and my uncles all died. There was a short period before he passed where I learned quickly before it was too late, and that information is not a part of my curriculum. My grandfather was prepared to let that information go, but I insisted on learning it. I recently began teaching it to my son, and I see the value that I missed because I never absorbed it. My grandpather was 78 teaching it to me, I am 45 and teaching it to my 15 year old boy. Seeing that rushed learning being practiced and absorbed slowly has given me a new appreciation for it.

Must admit though, that I have a selfish reason for promoting this theory:  In learning and developing something slowly, you will be less inclined to just give it away for 100 bucks. As one who reveres the Filipino art, I hate to see our systems sold off in seminars and video. I value this art as I do a family heirloom. Some see the art as a commodity to generate income. When teachers take their time while imparting the art, you allow your students to learn and develop properly and their skill will be three times the skill of one who crashed coursed. Better for all FMA people.

In many systems there are 6, 8, 10, 12, 24, 48, 64 strikes. Regardless of how many, those techniques should be taught only a few at a time. Allow your students to see fighting as if only those few strikes exist. They will see those few strikes as the only options in combat and will mentally fit them in to all situations. Give them plenty of time to experiment with them, develop them into instant weapons when the time comes. When the students have those techniques in their arsenal as second nature–give them a little more. This is teaching patiently. A student with weak wrists and poor coordination will not make good use of half your curriculum. Develop them as they learn. Many teachers are just teaching them. As the proverb goes–do not cast your pearls to swine.

And withold your techniques for those who are really ready for it.

Thank you for visiting my blog. If you like this article, please share! And don’t forget to stop by my books’ page and see what we’re offering!



Key to Victory

Keys to Victory

Professional pianist excels in the art of Filipino stick fighting

Stephan Reed

For Dean Marcellana, the martial arts are more about philosophy than the fight.

For 21 years, Marcellana – also a professional pianist – has practiced the art of Filipino stick fighting, also known as Eskrima and Arnis. This knowledge has allowed him to teach various self-defense classes in his home city of Grandview Heights and walk with a sense of confidence, knowing he can defend himself if necessary.

“My main goal is to promote peace – for yourself, for your family,” he says. “Peace isn’t the absence of conflict, but the ability to cope with conflict. You make situations work for you, whether you’re in the best part of town or the worst. If you’re in a potential altercation with someone, and if you have to go, you go hard. If you can walk away, then you walk away.”

Rhythmic motions and the use of weapons act as a signature for Marcellana’s combat specialty.

“Eskrima is the most logical form of dirty street fighting,” he says. “It’s all about one-upping your opponent and making sure that, if someone comes at you, they’re not going to come back at you again.”

This sentiment is passed on through the lessons he teaches. Instead of going for a knockout blow to an aggressor’s head, he says, target a foundation area, such as the foot or a knee. Keeping distance from an attacker is important, but these target areas can be easily reached when using a household item-turned-weapon, such as a frying pan.

“Even if (the attacker is), hypothetically, on something, like bath salts, you can take out the foundation,” Marcellana says. “It may not be felt, but the person will not be able to come at you. I was taught that 12 pounds of force per square inch is enough to knock the knee out of place. I don’t know the complete accuracy of that, but you can easily take out a knee.”

While his knowledge of self-defense is great, his ability to avoid physical confrontation is even greater.

“Honestly, I’ve never been in a serious physical altercation, and I hope it stays that way,” Marcellana says. “Things can go wrong within seconds during a fight. I’ve had students who work in the prison system and law enforcement agencies. They have stories in which they had to resort to physical combat, and they couldn’t risk pulling out a firearm.”

Throughout his career, Marcellana has won competitions at the Arnold Sports Festival as well as at the Battle of Columbus, part of the World Martial Arts Games, but he insists those accolades can be deceiving.

“Everyone has their medals and trophies,” he says. “You have to separate sport and real life. My grandmaster, one of the deadliest people I know, was only 5’3” and was a decorated war veteran. He never won a tournament. All his battle was legitimate. He had to take lives to save his own in World War II.”

A trophy room full of medals becomes empty if you cannot defend yourself in real-life scenarios, he says.

“An award is just a piece of hardware,” Marcellana says. “It doesn’t define who you are or what you’re capable of. Just because you won a fight doesn’t mean you’re going to come out and survive some severe situations. There’s the game, and then there’s life.”

The combat specialist respects both the philosophies of the fighting style and its history.

During the Spanish occupation of the Filipino islands, the conquistadors were met with a resistance movement by the native people. The Spanish called the unfamiliar way of fighting “Eskrima,” meaning “skirmish.”

“During the Spanish Inquisition, they tried to ban the martial arts,” Marcellana says. “The invaders burned the books. They didn’t want (the natives) to have a connection to their past identity. But then the Filipino natives made up these dances that were actually combat training. And they had costumes with elaborate designs; that was their alphabet. They were disguising literature for the martial arts.”

His piano-playing career started when he was 9 living in Delano, Calif., while his Eskrima endeavors began after his undergraduate years at the University of the Pacific Conservatory of Music in Stockton, Calif.  

“I knew there was a large martial arts community there,” Marcellana says. “At the time, I was taking a classical Chinese/Japanese style of fighting that translates to ‘the hand of the beautiful spirit.’ My sensei said, ‘Dean, you’re Filipino. Have you talked to any of the other Filipinos here?’ That was my introduction.”

The one-two punch of physical motion and music keeps Marcellana’s spirits high. When one area is neglected, he feels the effects throughout other parts of his life.

“The two go hand in hand,” he says. “If I feel physically relaxed, it’s easier for me to create. If something is raining down on me or affecting me emotionally, I feel tight physically. I’m not able to be as free or as loose while sparring or teaching.”

A freelance musician, Marcellana primarily performs on the piano and keyboard solo and in groups. He attended the Boston Conservatory, where he met his now-wife, Jennifer, who is a Grandview native. The couple have two children.

“I truly want to teach my family to grow and learn,” he says. “I want them to find their own way to empowerment.”

Dean Marcellana teaches Filipino martial arts at Columbus Health Works on West Fifth Avenue. For private self-defense or Eskrima classes, email

Stephan Reed is a contributing writer. Feedback welcome at gbishop@cityscenemediagroup.


Stick fighting seminar with ”Lonely Dog” of DBMA

Once again I was offered one of the best possibilities to spend my birthday: a stick fighting seminar in Vienna, on January 17 and 18, with an elite instructor and fighter - Benjamin ”Lonely Dog” Rittiner, the living legend, the Chief Instructor for Europe of Dog Brothers Martial Arts. Single stick basics, power generating, efficient […]


Straw vs. Waterhoses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for visiting my blog.



Streetfighters vs Ring Fighters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for visiting my blog.


Warriors of Righteousness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I could go on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you for visiting my blog.


Arnis sparring – ”No wind”

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


I apologize for the months of inactivity

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

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

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


Metrodome Helps Fire Victims by James U. Sy Jr.

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


International Balintawak Fall Camp

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


GM Taboada Seattle Visit - Recap

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


Martial Art Seminar with Grandmaster Brian Jones

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

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


Escrima Nightclub Self Defence Seminar

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

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

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


Moving On

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

You can find the blog at:

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

Thank you for your support!


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.


Misdirection and Attention


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

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

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

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

What are your thoughts on this video?


Our next FREE Urban Escrima Self-Defence Taster Session!

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

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

Please contact us on: to book your place!


Blind Sensei Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the answer is- blind sensei love.

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

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


Meeting GM Bobby Taboada

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


A Champion For What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Old Style and the New Style

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


"Finishing Moves"

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

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

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

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

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


Kind of late thanks

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

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

anyway, his old site is

and you can (probably) reach him at

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


Interview with an Urban Escrima Student - Catherine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Catherine!


Just Like Playing the Guitar

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


Cebuano Eskrima: Stalking the Elusive Adepts

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


Write the Correct Words, Tat Kon Tou

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


A Manual on Palakabanate


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


A Book on Sungay

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


Leadership in a performative way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Promoting Good Health with Corn Corn

K'se Trevor

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

Corn Corn

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

about 2 months ago


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

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

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


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

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

Jay Jasper






Brawl Video – Self Defence Lessons

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

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



Knife Flow

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



More Burpees and Bulgarian Bag stuff…

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

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


NAS Competition

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



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

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

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

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

Guro Ben


Integrated Training: Fitness/Conditioning and Performance/Conditioning

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

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

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

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

3. Aid healing/recovery with a little activity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


Teaching is it’s own art…

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

training instructors vs. training ‘martial artists.’

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

What’s the difference?

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

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

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


The Race that does not Exist

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

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

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

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

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

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



Balintawak Eskrima Enhances Speed and Pace

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


Balintawak Eskrima Defense and Footwork

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 Rounds of:

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

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

5 Rounds of:

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

10 Repetitions of the TacArnis Concept Footwork patterns.

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

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

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


Burpees, Body Weight, and Bands

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe and keep playing!

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


My Second Seminar with Master Steve Tappin

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

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

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

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

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

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Testing in August.


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

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

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

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

Until next time,


Guro Ben



New Info


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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time,


Guro Ben


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Pitfall of Anticipation

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

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

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

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

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