After a five year apprenticeship under the redoubtable Tito Jun Saludo, I was (unexpectedly) awarded full Instructor status in his personal style some months ago. Even with a high degree a familiarity with this method, I have to confess I am no less intimidated by it today than I was at my first taste five years ago. As one of my students puts it: “Pekiti bladework is scientific, disciplined, and efficient…Barako is just your worst nightmare with a knife.” I’ll second that.
Our training with the Saludos this year focused on some different aspects from times past. Ka Jay spent a great deal of time and effort in codifying the logical footwork pattern to flow with the “template” of 29 basic attacks. One comes to realize that the footwork and body positioning – as counter-intuitive as it is to typical FMA – does as much to hide/assist the delivery of the final lethal angle as the knife-hand itself. So we have been hard-wiring in the footwork.
Tito Jun himself gave us far more than expected during this year’s training. After a demonstrative review of our progress thus far, Tito subjected each student to a full out ‘pressure test’. If he had been using a live blade – or even anything with a sharp point – my whole cadre of senior students would either be dead or out of commission for a long, long time. Following this test came a comprehensive critique of each student’s performance, along with specific directives for improvement. We can’t wait to see what next year’s test will be.
Ever true to his word, Tito never wasted any precious time last year on “trivial” matters like empty-hand striking and grappling. As far as Barako is concerned, it has been –and continues to be – all about the blade!