Sunday, October 24, 2010

Batangas Knife Part 1: Meeting "Mr. Saludo"

There were close to 70 seminar participants on the floor of the gym, staggering, and panting like a pack of sled dogs. Probably, no one had expected a ‘warm-up’ of over 1000 knife jabs in double time to lead off the morning. The students who had heeded my admonition not to eat a heavy breakfast were pleased – the others not so much. With that finished, all eyes were fixed on the two people in the center of the floor – the seminar host and the featured instructor- as they commenced a very impressive exposition on a knife drill we were about to practice, which incorporated a number of important points from the jabbing exercise. The pace showed no signs of slowing down, and I wondered how some of these folks were going to make it thru the next 6 hours.

While I was catching my breath, I fell into an old habit that an associate of mine, a retired FBI agent had given me: anytime you’re in a crowd, look for the person who “doesn’t belong”. Not that I’m paranoid, it’s just something I’ve learned to do whenever I’m in a large group people. I did my customary scan. Everyone was winded, but energetic and engaged. Most everybody’s attention was focused intently on the center of the floor, trying to learn this new drill, even the seated observers were taking it in.

…except for one unassuming older Filipino gentleman.

This guy was in fact turned away from the group, slowly pacing the floor with the look of a man whose mind was focused elsewhere. I had actually met him at the previous night’s training session. What stood out in my mind then, was not anything he did, but rather what he didn’t do. We had all been together, the night before, enthusiastically sharing technique after technique from our respective disciplines. It had been like a great Kali ‘jam session’ with each new idea/variation eagerly received by the group. Some people had better ideas than others, but hell…we were all very happy to be together sharing knowledge.

Even then, this gentleman had made such a non-impression on me that I didn’t remember his Christian name, I just remembered him as “Jay Saludo’s Dad.” He hadn’t offered anything that night, other than to be supportive…yet with that same look of bored detachment. Every time our senior teacher would awe us with a new combination, this guy just watched – apparently unmoved. He kind of just stayed out of focus that night. In the background, as it were.

Now at the training facility, with the seminar in full swing and all eyes on the instructor, he seemed to be making a point of not being noticed.

To be continued...

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