Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Kali De Leon

Many people have asked me: “What is the most valuable thing you’ve taken from your study of Kali De Leon so far?”

That’s an easy answer. I can sum up the most valuable aspect of our involvement in KDL with three words: Ama Guro Jun. I simply cannot say enough about what a rare individual is Ama Guro Jun De Leon. For those who were moved by my previous post “The Heart of a Master” – it was inspired by him. He has a Heart as big as all outdoors, but by no means does he suffer fools. I’ve known him to reject more potential students than most instructors end up teaching. So if your ultimate goal is to study Kali De Leon, your first goal should be to become the kind of person that Ama Guro would accept as a student. People think we’re exclusive, but he’s in a class by himself there.

I can answer that question another way as well. Ama Guro Jun may get angry with me if he deems me to be incorrect, but here it goes. The most common appellative placed after Kali De Leon is not ‘Style’ or ‘System’ but Methodology. That’s very important. On the technical side, Ama Guro’s training methodology is by far one of the best I’ve experienced inside or outside of FMA. I’m convinced that whatever Art you practice, the KDL Methodology of training can make you better at it. Ama Guro’s mastery of range, power, body mechanics, and economy of motion is PhD level – as is his ability to see and develop your highest potential as a student. At our last meeting, he confided to us: “I’m so tough with you guys because I want you all to be the greatest generation of FMA practitioners.”

We were fortunate to have had several opportunities to train with Ama Guro Jun this year. I can see a huge positive difference in my own development, and my students have been transformed. I also had the distinct pleasure of introducing/teaching Silat Melayu at this years annual camp in Toronto.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Pekiti-Tirsia with Mandala Rommel Tortal

A lot of people with a lot of different backgrounds came from a lot of different places to study Pekiti-Tirsia with us this year. It’s been a while since we’ve had this many beginners. It forced us to really nail down a standard curriculum based on what Grand Tuhon Gaje has shared with us since 1999. One of our main goals was to maintain the “unique-ness” of our own Pekiti-Tirsia training – based on the Tri-V and Contra-Tirsia methodologies with the baston and daga. As I’ve said before, some people expect something a little more ‘familiar’ when they come here for Pekiti-Tirsia. We follow the curriculum exactly as it was given to us – for us - by Tuhon, and I’m not one to second-guess him for our training.

In particular, we put a lot of emphasis on codifying and refining our practice of Dumog (grappling), and Pangamut (striking). I have always been in awe of Tuhon Gaje’s hand-to-hand combat. In my opinion, it stands right up there with – and surpasses – even the best of the Southeast Asian, East Asian, and Western “hand systems”. We have been joined this year by practitioners of such diverse arts as: Hsing-I and Tong Bei Kung-fu, Muay Chaiya, Pukulan Betawi, Silat Mustika Kwitang, and Greco-Roman wrestling. Some of these good people had a harsher introduction to our empty-hands than others, but the consensus is the same in the end: "F#$k! I didn't realize you guys could fight without knives!"

There is a misconception that Pekiti-Tirsia Kali is strictly a “weapons system”, and that one needs to supplement it with some other martial art to be ‘complete’. I’m here to tell you that’s not true at all. Dumog and Pangamut may not be the best choice to help you win an MMA contest, but it will give you the perfect, and necessary compliment to your weapons training – for COMBAT – not sports.

The highlight of this year for us in Pekiti-Tirsia was the opportunity to train with our old friend Mandala Rommel Tortal. In our informed opinion, Rommel has the most fluid (virtually seamless) integration of knife-stick-empty hands of anyone next to Tuhon Gaje. He is also a great and very energetic instructor. In our last training session, he indulged my urgent request to go deeper into Pekiti-Tirsia empty hands. It’s been a long time since someone has thrown me around like he did, but it was worth every bruise, strain, and contusion. My advice is to seek him out if you can. I promise he will remove any shadow of a doubt regarding the viability of Pekiti-Tirsia as an empty-hands system.

The good news is that we expect to be seeing a lot more of him right here in the United States. I encourage you all to come out and show your support. My students and I are ready and willing (just next time someone please remember to bring the ibuprofin).

Looking Back: Looking Ahead

Wow, what a year this has been. In all honesty it will damn hard to top this year, but we will try our best to do so in 2011. In the coming posts, I’ll try to summarize just a bit of what we’ve been up to lately.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Guro's Public Service Announcement 2

Behold the terrible scourge that has swept the ranks of FMA practitioners everywhere:

The Balisong!

Up until the early 1980’s, this addictive pastime was all but unknown on our shores. Largely relegated to shadowy people practicing strange disciplines in near-secrecy. Suddenly, every ninja and bad guy in every cheap martial arts movie/tv show was wielding one. You couldn’t even open a martial arts magazine or equipment catalog without being bombarded by page after page of advertisements for the so-called “Butterfly Knife”, or “Ninja Knife”. Soon after, there were books, instructional videos, “collector’s editions” and the new, terrible fad was upon us like a storm.


It begins innocently enough. A student notices one of these implements of obsession placed quietly on a shelf or table in the training hall. Then, like a moth to the flame he’ll invariably say something to the effect of “You know, I’ve always wanted to learn how to use one of those!” and so it begins.

At first, they buy a cheap, crappy model at the local flea market. They bring it to their next lesson and the instructor (like a good dope pusher) will show some basic openings/catches. That’s usually enough to hook them. Next thing you know, they’re buy two and three at a time – in all price ranges. Then they’re accessorizing carrying cases. Then they’re asking for advice on “tightening the pivot pins” and throwing about terms such as “safety handle” and “Batangas Latch vs. Manila Latch”. Oh woe!


You can always tell by the band-aids. The typical addict in the early stages will have at least a few freshly stained band-aids about the palms and fingers. I’ve also learned to check the feet or shoes. Puncture wounds on the lower extremities (from dropping the knife) are common indicators. Eventually, the Balisong addict will develop a nervous, instinctive reflexive reaction of pulling up the foot quickly while manipulating his knife. One hapless addict whom we’ll call “John B” actually placed his stocking’d foot directly underneath a falling balisong, rather than having to deal with his wife’s anger over all the new holes in their freshly sanded hardwood living room floor (I mentioned that it strains relationships).

I’ve seen the best of friends become bitter rivals within weeks as each tries to one-up the other with his balisong flashery. The spirit of sharing and cooperation is all but destroyed: “Hey show me how you did that opening you just did!” “No way. Figure it out yourself.”

Next come…the videos. You receive youtube links via email at odd hours of the night, when normal, healthy people are surfing for smut. Then they text the links to your personal phone in the middle of the day. Imagine my horror as a teacher when one of my students, completely new to the martial arts, suddenly began to post his own balisong videos– showing skill with openings, closings and catches THAT I NEVER EVEN TAUGHT HIM! (evidence of infidelity of a heinous sort).

It can bring out the dark side of even the most upstanding individual. Years ago, a certain student whom we will anonymously refer to “Panday X” innocently gifted me with an old Balisong that his father – a veteran Law Enforcement officer – had previously taken off the street in an act of selfless service to the community. In good faith this Panday X said “I don’t really know anything about this knife Guro, so you please have it.” Only a matter of days later, this same gentleman, after observing me manipulate the balisong uttered the following oath “Gee, now that I see what it can do, I’m sorry I gave it away!” (Hell no I didn’t give it back to him either!)


As with all addictions, it’s best not to even start. Instead of Kali, try martial arts like Jiujitsu or Karate. After all, when have ever seen someone completely obsessed with a bo staff or nunchaku? Or even traditional Kung-fu. A Shaolin Tiger Fork Trident is a great deal less portable than a balisong.

There is also evidence that the balisong can often function as a “gateway drug”, leading to complete obsession with even more exotic blades such as the Kerambit or Badik.

On the positive side, for the spouse, roommate, sibling, etc, of the balisong addict, selecting the perfect gift for Father’s Day, Christmas, and Birthdays just got a whole lot easier. Just realize that by going that route, you have in essence become an enabler.

Finally, the best way to fight this addictive menace is to remove it completely! If you yourself are suffering from Balisong Addiction, or if you are close to one who is, you must immediately gather all balisongs in the vicinity of the hapless abuser, package them neatly, and then contact me at once by private message.

I will gladly provide you with an address for shipping them. Then the nightmare can end.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Guro's Public Service Announcement

I want to speak out about an addiction that I have seen sweep through the ranks of even my own students throughout the past few years. It is an addiction so insidious, so dominating, so all-pervasive that if you allow yourself to indulge – even ONE TIME – you run the risk of acquiring a habit that will most likely consume a good part of your spare time and disposable income, not to mention the inevitable risks to your physical and mental well-being.

I have seen it strain relationships. I have seen it ruin friendships. I have seen it affect work and school. It’s often been glamorized in the media. The poor souls who are caught in its clutches often rationalize that it’s merely “recreational”, but that’s just a smoke screen for the terrible reality…

I have seen it among almost every group of FMA practitioners. I have seen it in Baltimore; I have seen it in Texas; I have seen it in New York; I have seen it in Detroit (of course); and OH YES I have seen it in the Philippines. Even now as I write this, one of my newer students – a bright, young, well-educated man, just married – has embraced the habit. And I realize that I am ultimately responsible.

I will be silent no more. In my next post I will bring this demon to light.

May God protect us.

To be continued...