Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Viva Kali De Leon!
We have just returned from yet another awesome seminar! I rarely write seminar reviews for two reasons. First, there are my own time constraints. Second, if you were present at the seminar, you know how it was…if you were not present, you probably don’t need to know. Besides, we have a private forum to discuss things amongst our students. I am going to make an exception in this case however.
On Friday, March 28th, the Detroit Maphilindo Pitbulls crossed the border into Canada where we joined Kuya Doug Marcaida of Rochester Kali and his students in Toronto for an action packed weekend of training with none other than the great and incomparable Guro Jun De Leon.
The fact that we drove for 6 hours in harsh conditions, and arrived after midnight did not dampen anyone’s spirit. As soon as everyone was checked in, sticks, training blades and all manner of exotic weapons were produced on the 6th floor of the Wyndham Hotel as the groups from Rochester, New York and Detroit, Michigan prepared for the challenge ahead. Sometime around 4am we finally decided to eat dinner and rest up for work in the morning.
Bright and early on Saturday, we joined Guro Jun and his capable assistant instructors. The seminar was a tight ship from beginning to end. From the moment we threw the first angle, each segment of the program was tightly regulated. Fluid single stick combinations segued into double stick patterns, culminating in the strategic free-flow drills that are the mainstay of Kali De Leon. At the end of the day, each participant was called up one-by-one to demonstrate their “integration” of the skills learned throughout the seminar. That was the final exam, as it were.
Following the brief rest periods, Guro Jun and his seniors demonstrated the way the drills should look. What has always impressed me about Kali De Leon is that even the intermediate students seem to be on a very high level. Talk is cheap, but seeing is believing. The key is in their training. By the end of the seminar we were exhilarated as well as exhausted.
Sunday morning, Kuya Doug (as tired as any of us) was gracious enough to conduct a Dumog clinic for my students. His lesson expounded upon some of the techniques that Tuhon Gaje covered with us in August. Believe me when I say that not one of us wanted to leave. Finally, after bidding farewell to our brothers from Rochester, we set out on the road back to Michigan.
When we arrived home, we trained again.
Pekiti-Tirsia and Kali De Leon
You may already know that Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr. and Guro Jun De Leon are close compadres. My students and I have always thought of them as two sides of the Kali coin. Tuhon Gaje has the commanding presence of a Field Marshall – Guro Jun is somewhat reserved and soft-spoken. Tuhon Gaje has an incredible flair for promotion, and has gone to great lengths to make his Art available to a large number people all over the world – Guro Jun has gone to equal lengths to keep his hand-picked student base decidedly small.
Even in terms of theory and technique, PTK and KDL seem worlds apart. Pekiti-Tirsia specializes in the subtle body mechanics of extreme close quarter combat – Kali De Leon focuses on devastating power at long range. The signature weapon of Pekiti-Tirsia is the knife – the trademark of Kali De Leon is the double sticks.
There are however, definite similarities. Both Tuhon Gaje and Guro Jun have refined their respective crafts to an elevated (almost dizzying) level. Both Masters cherish Kali and their proud cultural heritage with a burning passion. Both have a wicked sense of humor (often at our expense!) And finally, the end result of dedicated training in both disciplines is the same: a competent, deadly practitioner who possesses a highly refined sense of timing, rhythm, and body mechanics.
Our “Little Secret”
We were first introduced to Guro Jun De Leon about 5 years ago in upstate New York. At that time, he took us through some of the rudimentary elements of his system. Looking back, it was the martial equivalent of rocket science as far as we were concerned. It did however give me a keen insight into the way my own mentor Kuya Doug Marcaida had developed as a Kali practitioner. Kuya Doug’s expression of Pekiti-Tirsia is highly influenced by his training under Guro Jun.
Over the next 5 years we would meet up with him in various locations: Baltimore, Maryland; Buffalo, New York; even while training in the Philippines. Each time, he revealed another small piece of his Art, carefully checking our progress since the last training.
Anyway, at the Brotherhood of the Blade 2006 Gathering in Michigan, Kuya Doug took us through an extensive, tour-de-force teaching block of Kali De Leon drills and theory that left all of us physically and mentally exhausted. At the same time, we took it as the Gauntlet of Challenge. After that seminar, my advanced students and I made an oath to train that material…and train it…and train it…and train it…
In fact, for most of the summer of 2007 a good portion of our closed door advanced classes were devoted to the Kali De Leon drills - for our own development – but also in preparation for our next meeting with Guro Jun.
Part of the Family
Guro Jun is a compassionate and meticulous teacher. He is also brutally honest and you can count on him to give you an honest evaluation if you dare ask. As it happened, we got what I consider to be a stellar compliment following our performance. Guro said directly to me “I have seen some progress with your guys.” That coming from him, I felt like I had climbed Mt. Everest.
So, after careful deliberation by our students, and with the gracious acceptance of Guro Jun we have made the commitment to formally study and support Kali De Leon – not only as a perfect compliment to our Pekiti-Tirsia training – but on it’s own merits as one of the finest systems of Filipino Martial Arts we have seen.
Our thanks first and foremost to our teacher Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje Jr. for his blessing, encouragement and support of our Brotherhood;
Thanks also to my mentor Kuya Doug Marcaida for vouching for my students and giving us a foot-in the-door in so many ways;
Thanks to my senior students, who remain relentlessly committed to our mission and goals
And of course, thanks to Guro Jun De Leon, Guro Rommel, Guro Burton, Rafael and Tucker for the opportunity to be a part of your family.