Knife for Batangas Style - custom made in the PI
The same reckless curiosity that led to my involvement with Filipino martial arts in the first place took hold of me at that point, and I unobtrusively pulled myself away from the seminar and approached Jay Saludo’s Dad there on the sideline.
“Mister Saludo can I get you anything…some water maybe?”
To this day I can neither forget, nor exactly describe the particular feeling that went through me the first time that “Jay’s Dad” addressed me directly – but it made me wonder if I hadn’t just made a very big mistake in walking up on him like that.
“Don’t call me ‘Mister Saludo’ ka Jeff, just ‘Tito Jun’. Thank you, I’m fine.” [very uncomfortable silence]
“Are you enjoying the seminar Mister…er…I mean Tito Jun?”
“It’s okay. It’s nice to see all you boys together.” [I half expected him to pat me on the head…more very uncomfortable silence]
“Do you also study Kali, Mister…er… Tito Jun?” [I swear it was an innocent question]
Some people can communicate an entire range of thoughts and expressions using only their eyes. Right then, Tito Jun was looking at me as if the most ludicrous, most outlandish, most preposterous, and wrong-headed casual assumption that I could ever consider – even for a minute – was the patently outrageous idea that he practiced Kali or even took the slightest interest in it beyond his son’s involvement.
Did I say something wrong? Whoops. Time to get back to the seminar, I thought.
Before I could slither away back to the main group, his expression softened and he said quietly, in a deadpan voice: “Ka Jeff, I am not a great martial arts Master like he is [pointing to the featured instructor]. I don’t even practice martial arts.” There was the slightest trace of disdain in his voice.
And then: “The way we used a knife where I come from is a lot different.”
I considered that last statement. If a Filipino belonging to the “older generation” just told you that he doesn’t practice or care about ‘martial arts’ yet has his own ‘way’ with a knife – what do you think that might mean? Well…draw your own conclusions. I did, and just like he was reading my mind, Tito Jun slightly nodded as if to confirm that I wasn’t mistaken on that assumption. Then I took a big gamble:
“How…ah…I mean…uh….how do you…uh… do it, Mister…er…Tito Jun?”