Arnis in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games

Logo of the Southeast Asian Games Federation, the body that oversees the SEA Games. Photo credit.



The Southeast Asian (SEA) Games started in 1959 and since then is held every two years (every odd year).  It’s a multi-sport event and the Philippines first joined in 1977. Currently, eleven countries participate:

  1. Brunei
  2. Cambodia
  3. Indonesia
  4. Laos
  5. Malaysia
  6. Myanmar
  7. Philippines
  8. Singapore
  9. Thailand
  10. Timor-Leste
  11. Vietnam

The Philippines hosted the SEA Games in 1981, 1991 and 2005. In 2019, it will be our fourth time to host.

According to its policy, the host country has the discretion to add any sport (even those that are indigenous to it) provided that at least three countries will be competing in the event.

Photo credit

In 1991, Arnis was included as a Demonstration Sport (a sport played with the main goal of promoting it). It gave the Philippines 14 medals (10 golds, 3 silvers, 1 bronze). But a recent article, reports that it was 16 gold medals.— Note: I don’t know which is correct. I searched the internet for more information but I found none. We sorely lack documentation.

Photo credit

In 2005, Arnis was incorporated as an Official Sport and four countries competed: Philippines, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, and Cambodia. Six gold medals were at stake in Form Competition and Full Contact Sparring. The Philippines won 3 golds (plus 3 silvers) to tie with Vietnam.

2005 Gold Medalists :

  • Men’s Synchronized Anyo : Peter Kelvin Celis, Nathan Ben Dominguez, Glenn Llamador
  • Women’s Synchronized Anyo: Catherine Ballenas, Aireen Parong, Rochelle Quirol
  • Women’s Full Contact Sparring: Anna Joy Fernandez

It would be interesting to know where they are now.

After 2005, Arnis was never played in the SEA games again.

New Developments

Arnis will be played in the SEA Games 2019, if Senator Miguel Zubiri’s wish will come to pass.


Senator Zubiri giving a message at the First National Arnis Congress held on January 12, 2017, in Mandaluyong City, Philippines. Behind him, from left are Hon. William “Butch” Ramirez, Chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC); Hon. Ramon Fernandez, Commissioner, PSC; Atty. Tonisito M.C. Umali, Asst Secretary, Department of Education. Photo by Paco delos Reyes

Senator Zubiri, the author and sponsor of Republic Act 9850, making Arnis the National Martial Art and Sport of the Philippines, said

“It will be a sin for us not to have Arnis in the 2019 SEA Games.”


I say that both excitedly and nervously.

It’s a golden opportunity for us to highlight Arnis. Of course, I wish for Filipino arnisadors to win the championship cleanly and clearly without controversies.

But as of now, with two years to go, I don’t know of any clear strategy yet. What rules are we using? Who will be our officials? Who are our national athletes? Are they being trained and exposed now? Are they supported? Many questions. Many things to iron out.

How devastating it would be if we get whipped by other more prepared countries. We’re the host and Arnis is our national martial art and sport! We have to win!

I’m scared for us…


This article is based on information I found online.

Thank you for taking the time to read the Deadly Dance blog. A greater thank you if you comment and add depth to this post.



Related Articles:

2019 SEA Games/Wikipedia

Zubiri wants Arnis in the 2019 SEA Games/Jean russel David/The Manila Times/January 14, 2017

Fast Facts: Philippines in the SEA Games/Jesson Ramil/Rappler/June 6, 2015

For the 2005 SEA Games complete medal tally, click here.




Sen. Miguel Zubiri’s Message


Sen. Miguel Zubiri, Author and Sponsor of the National Arnis Law (Rep. Act 9850) gave this message during the First National Arnis Congress held at the Red Cross Headquarters Multipurpose Hall, Mandaluyong City, Philippines, on January 12, 2017.

He asked his staff to email this to me and I’m printing it as is.

“My love affair with Arnis started many years ago, when I was a young teenager training in martial arts, fascinated by traditional Chinese and Japanese weaponry. As young boys, we all wanted to be just like Ezekiel Thompson of the movie, “Force Five” played by weapons expert Richard Norton for his expertise in different weapons systems.

Inspired by these icons, I started training with these weapons systems under 9th Dan, Sensie Robert Campbell of the Uechi-Ryu Okinawan Karate while doing my open hands training and kick boxing skills with Master Topher Ricketts of Bakbakan and Sagasa Karate System.

When Master Topher saw that I was interested in weapons, he asked me to try Arnis. My first reaction was “Why?”. All 16 year olds at that time wanted to be like Sho Kusugi from all the Ninja films. But then he told me to trust him about the effectiveness of the Filipino Martial Art. I guess at that time, hindi uso maging Arnisador as it wasn’t as famous as those weapons systems seen in the movies. Unlike today, where we see Tom Cruise or Matt Damon doing FMA on screen, to the delight of all FMA practitioners.

So one afternoon, in 1986, Master Topher introduced me to a short and stocky man in his mid-twenties who had the biggest forearms I had ever seen.

I clearly recall telling him that he had “Popeye arms”, which broke the ice and started a wonderful friendship between student and master. His name was Master Edgar Sulite.

My first lesson from him was a realization of how deadly and effective our Arnis system was in the real world. He would ask me to throw sticks, and even tennis balls at him, while doing the sinawali and to my amazement; it was impossible for me to penetrate his defense.

He would then show Knife fighting techniques and empty hand techniques including takedowns, which were truly effective for real life situations and not just for fancy movie props and entertainment.

I was in love… in love with this martial art and there was no turning back.

I discovered for myself that we had a hidden gem, a secret treasure. A martial art that was so unassuming yet so effective, so complex and yet so simple, so graceful and yet so deadly. But most of all, it was our very own Filipino Martial Art. From then on, I met and trained with other legends like Grand Master Antonio Illustrissimo and GM Tony Diego, under the watchful eye of my adopted father figure Master Rickettes.

It was at this time that I saw how the art and sport grew. I had the opportunity to compete in several national competitions and the honor to represent the Philippins at the First World Arnis Tournament held at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in 1989, under the invitation of the Cañete Family of Doce Pares and WEKAF. I will forever be greatful to them for allowing me to compete in their tournament.

Unfortunately, as the sport grew, so did the intrigues. I have seen for myself how little by little, we have been tearing each other apart rather than staying united. On how groups were starting to feel unwelcome because of certain personalities. Or being deemed “disloyal” for joining certain activities not “sanctioned” by governing bodies.

This should never be the case. I, myself was a victim as well, of this brand of destructive politics in sports. In 1991, I was not allowed to participate in the SEA Games Arnis competition even if I was the reigning National Champion because of the simple reason that I had joined tournaments sponsored by other organizations. Again, this should never happen. I believe that every one of you, your students and your followers, should have the support and encouragement from the government and our national organization to enhance your skills and strengthen your art and style. No jealousy, no discrimination; only support and guidance.

Moving forward, through the efforts of Grand Master Roland Dantes and several Arnisador, I filed SB #3288 and in 2009, we finally passed it as RA 9850.

Unfortunately, GM Roland was never able to see it made into law as he passed away before it was approved. Let us recognize his efforts. Let us give GM Roland Dantes a rousing round of applause for all his efforts to unify our Martial Art and Spots through legislation, and this is what we are recognizing today. Not just the efforts of GM Roland, but of all our Masters and Grand Masters who have gone before us. This gathering today is for all their hopes and dreams that one day, Arnis, Kali and Escrima would be recognized; by our government, by our people, by the world.

The steps that we take today will make sure that no one should be left behind, that no student should be disallowed from joining competitions, that no organization, or school, should be discriminated from financial assistance from government or by the unified organization, and that no Grand Master, past or present, will ever be forgotten.

Today, we are at the crossroads of history my friends. Today, we forget that we are Doce Pares, Kalis Illustrissimo, Modern Arnis, Balintawak, Lightning, Pekiti Tirsia, Bakbakan, Lameco, etc…

Today, we are one in our mission to unite all our styles, all our beliefs, all our dreams, under one unified FMA Organization; promoting inclusivity, chosen democratically and run through constant consultation and guided by our RA 9850, under the guidance and support of the Philippine Sports Commission.

Change has come.

Today, let us make history!

Mabuhay and Arnis, Kali and Escrima.

Mabuhay tayong lahat.”

Master Henry’s inside stories

H espera

Grandmaster Henry Espera talks about his early days, training under Tatang, and more

He lives in Silang, Cavite so I was surprised when I saw him this morning in the park where Master Cris Pasindo and I train (Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City). That’s about 65 kms (40 mi) distance.

He said he was going to meet with someone but came early to get some solo practice.

I was eager to learn more about him, so when he was done, I requested Master Cris to invite him for breakfast. My husband, J-cip, joined us.

For more than two hours, while absent-mindedly eating a Filipino breakfast of tapa (beef jerky), sunny-side up eggs, fried rice, orange juice, and brewed coffee, Master Henry let me inside his fascinating world.


His demeanor was gentle and humble, and he told his stories with fondness. I’m grateful for the privilege.

Early years

  • Born on December 1, 1953 in Sorsogon, Bicol
  • 4th child in a brood of thirteen (yes, 13!)
  • At 7 years old, his father gave Henry his own itak so he could do his daily chore of getting firewood for cooking.
  • At 21 years old, Henry went to Manila and got a job as a laborer at a Gravel and Sand company
  • After a few years he became a jeepney driver plying the Divisoria-Monumento route, driving from 6 PM to 6 AM
  • Every morning, as he went home to Moriones, Tondo, Manila, he would see many people walking towards a certain direction. After some time, he learned that those people were going to Luneta. That’s when he discovered that iconic park.
  • Since then, he would usually cut short his duty, bring back his jeepney to the garage at 3 AM and then by 6 AM he would already be in Luneta, doing some exercises and relaxing.

Training under Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo

Photo credit 
  • Master Henry doesn’t remember exact dates. He knows that he met Tatang in the late 80’s and remembers that he was already training under him when there were airplanes bombing Malacanang “From Luneta, Tatang and I saw the planes but we didn’t know what was happening”.  (Note: I think that’s the 1989 Philippine coup attempt.)
  • They usually met Monday to Saturday, 6-9 AM
  • Robert Morales, also a student of Tatang, once suggested to him not to attend the Sunday trainings anymore since he already was with Tatang Monday to Saturday. So on Sundays, Henry would just sit at the side and watch the group training. “That’s maybe why some are questioning if I really trained under Tatang. But you can ask Maestro Siuox Glaraga. He was then (along with Grandmaster Jose Mena) also in Luneta on weekdays and he saw us.”   
  • Tatang always wore long-sleeves shirt (tucked in), formal pants, and leather shoes.
  • Tatang liked pandesal and coffee.
  • Training would consist of situationers and problem solving.
  • Tatang did not do numbers and counting. He gave no lectures on technique. He’d say, “What if someone hits you like this?” He’d show a move and then you follow him. If you ask him about your move, “Tama ba ito?” (Is this correct?). He’ll answer, “Kung tumama, tama.”  (If it hit, then it’s correct.”) Note: Because of the double meaning of the word “tama”, it sounds more poetic in Tagalog.)
  • Tatang wanted moves to be small but powerful. “Liitan mo lang ang galaw.”  
  • Training was always painful as Tatang did not have qualms of hitting you.
  • In the mid-90’s, Tatang became sick and was confined at the Quezon Institute for about a month. When he got well, he resumed training (although, he was not as strong as before). He continued for about two years more until he died.
  • The morning before his death, Henry still trained with Tatang. Tatang went home at around 9 AM. Around midnight he woke up and talked briefly with his wife. The next morning, he didn’t wake up anymore.
  • It took some time before Tatang was buried. The sad reason: They didn’t have money for burial.
  • Most important lesson from Tatang: Practical fighting.

Training under Alejandro “Andy” Abrian (Moro Moro Orabes Arnis Heneral)

  • Mang Andy worked as a maintenance man in Luneta. He was in charge of the maintenance of the flag poles and saw to it that flag rules were followed.
  • He watched Tatang and Henry practice, and after Tatang left, he would call Henry and comment about their training. He would then teach Henry his own techniques.
  • It was from him that Henry learned a lot. “Matagal nang namatay si Tatang, kasama pa rin ako ni Master Andy.” 

Training under a certain Mang Juan (Automatic Arnis)

  • A friend told Henry that there was very good Arnis Master in Quiapo.
  • They went to meet him and Henry trained under him for about two weeks only. “I already knew the techniques he was teaching so I didn’t see the need to train under him.”

Training under Erning Espinosa (Boxing)

  • In 1992, with already a few years of Arnis training, Henry got into a fist fight versus five men. (They were trying to unjustly tow his jeepney).  Henry eventually chased them away but not before sustaining a lot of cuts and bruises. He went home discouraged and thought “Arnis is not enough to make me win a fight. I have to learn how to grab, hold, and punch also.”
  • Somebody introduced him to a boxing master, Erning Espinosa, based in Balintawak, Quezon City.
  • From him, Henry learned blocks and punches, even trapping, grappling and kicking.
  • He also remembers Master Erning’s favorite siete-siete technique: You make your opponent move forward to attack you… lead him to a corner… and then suddenly move sideways so that you can trap him (forming a “7”, hence the name)

Rapido Realismo Kali

  • Over the years Master Henry developed his own system: Arnis mixed with punches, kicks, grappling, and wrestling.
  • He emphasizes the use of small moves made powerful by footwork, body position, and timing.
  • He differentiates edged from impact weapons.
  • He espouses the repetition of a certain move hundreds or even thousands of time. “Muscle memory is crucial,” he says.
  • He first named his system, Espera Mixed Martial Arts.
  • With the suggestion of his student, Isagani Abon, he later changed it to Rapido Realismo Kali International.
  • He likes to be called Master Henry but his formal title is Punong Guro.

Words of Wisdom

Finally, I asked him for messages he wants to tell others. Here they are:

  • Show humility by being careful with your words. Do not say anything that would provoke.
  • If others insult you, show the strength of your character by keeping your cool.
  • Strive to be a good man. Having martial arts skills is dangerous if you don’t have character.
  • Teach young people to love the country and its national sport, Arnis. If you see an interested young person, teach him well.

Thank you very much Master Henry!

Important Note:

Before our talk, I asked permission if I can write about what he’s going to tell me. He said, “No problem. Go ahead.”

8 pages of notes from the 2 hour talk

After our talk, I said I’m going to write things up and show him before I publish. He said, “No need. You go ahead and publish.”

So here’s my waiver: I’m telling these stories the way I understood them. If I got some information wrong, it’s not Master Henry’s fault, it’s mine.  Please accept my apologies and let me know in the comments below so I can correct things.

Salamat at pugay po.

P. S.  I still have stories about Tatang’s oracion but that will be for another post.

Thank you for taking time to read my blog, The Deadly Dance.


Read more from around the web:

PG Henry Espera / Rapido Realismo Kali

Antonio Ilustrisimo / Kapisanang Mandirigma

Alejandro Abrian / Visayan Arnis Eskrima




















Getting to know some Filipino Martial Arts Maestros


From left: Grandmasters Martin Raganas, Jr., Pepito Robas, Punong Guro Boy Pajo, Grandmasters Henry Espera, Roberto Labaniego, Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim

Most of them are soft-spoken, unassuming, and even slightly shy. If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t realize that you’re in the company of men who have contributed so much to Filipino Martial Arts.

During tournaments,  I sometimes cringe when I see young athletes not paying attention when Maestros speak or do exhibitions. This has to change. We’ve got to learn about our own history.

Knowing and respecting the great men (and women) who were before us help us know ourselves better.

I myself don’t know all of them. So during the latest (14th) Arnis Pasindo tournament, in my amateur-interviewer kind of way and amidst my other duties, I got some basic first hand information.

While everyone else is watching the tournament, I get insiders’ information from GM Martin Raganas, Jr. (first generation Ilustrisimo student) and Coach Arnold Narzo, current Chief Instructor of Kalis Ilustrisimo Repeticion Orihinal (KIRO)
From left: Grandmasters Maximo Aldave, Lorenzo Magsico, Dr. Richard Gialogo, Grandmasters Jerry dela Cruz, Cris Pasindo, Henry Espera, Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim, Grandmaster Roger del Valle

Maestros Present (Names alphabetically arranged)

  1. Aldave, Maximo (Aikiyoi International Martial Arts)
  2. Buanjug, Eldie (Buanjug Eskrima / Lapunti Arnis de Abanico)
  3. Del Valle, Roger (Magkakaibang Arnis del Valle)*
  4. Dela Cruz, Jeremias “Jerry” (Arnis Cruzada)*
  5. Espera, Henry (Rapido Realismo Kali)*
  6. Ibrahim, Jimmy (Falcon Consolidated Martial Arts)*
  7. Labaniego, Roberto (Eskrima Labaniego)*
  8. Magsico, Lorenzo (Arnis Reform National)*
  9. Raganas, Martin Jr. (Punta Engano)*
  10. Robas, Pepito (Otsotiros Balintawak / Arnis Robas)*
  11. Valleno, Lemio “Romy” (Valleno Arnis Club /LSAI)*

*brief write up below

From left: Grandmasters Lemio “Romy” Valleno, Maximo Aldave, Roger del Valle, Jerry dela Cruz, Henry Espera

Roger del Valle

  • Born on August 8, 1952 in Labangon, Cebu
  • Trained under Crispulo Atillo (Atillo Balintawak) and Filemon “Momoy” Canete (Doce Pares/ San Miguel Eskrima).
  • Founded Magkakaibang Arnis Ka Roger based in Manila
From left: Grandmasters Jerry dela Cruz, Henry Espera; Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim

Jeremias “Jerry” Dela Cruz 

  • Born on April 21, 1947 in Sta. Rita, Pampanga
  • He initially trained in Karate (in Angeles, Pampanga) and in 1965 started training under Remy Presas (Modern Arnis).  He became head instructor and taught in many schools and even in the American Military Bases in Angeles.
  • In 1995, he founded Arnis Cruzada, based in Pasig City.

Henry Espera

  • Born on December 1, 1953 in Sorsogon, Bicol
  • Trained under Antonio Ilustrisimo (1980’s), Alejandro “Andy” Abrian of the Moromoro Orabis Arnis Heneral, and a certain Mang Juan.  GM Espera cannot remember Mang Juan’s surname but remembers that he headed Automatic Arnis based in Quiapo, Manila
  • Founded Rapido Realismo Kali (RRK), based in Manila

Jimmy Ibrahim

  • A Karate Sensei but very supportive of the Filipino Martial Arts
  • Born on November 5, 1953 in Cotabato City
  • Trained in Kuntao (with an “o” he emphasizes), Karate (under Dansalan Usman and then later, under Roberto Gonzales, the Karate King of the Philippine movies), and Silat under a certain Norodin
  • He is now with the Falcon Consolidated Martial Arts (Shotokan Karate)

Roberto Labaniego

  • Born on June 6, 1940 in Mambusao, Capiz
  • First trained by his grandfather on the use of  sibat (Filipino spear), then by his father on Largo Mano, Dumog, and some boxing. He later trained on Espada Y Daga under Benjamin Lema (Lightning Scientific Arnis)
  • For more information, click here.
From left: Grandmasters Pepito Robas, Crisanto Pasindo, Roberto Labaniego

Lorenzo Magsico

  • National Training Director and Founder
  • Arnis Reform National
From left: Grandmasters Martin Raganas, Jr., Pepito Robas, Eldie Buanjug

Martin Raganas, Jr.

  • Born on January 23, 1952 in Estaca, Minglanilla, Cebu
  • His first Arnis instructor was his father, Martin Raganas Sr., who was a member of Cebu’s Doce Pares. He also trained in Boxing, and in Karate where he became a blackbelt. In the mid 70’s, he met Antonio (Tatang) Ilustrisimo and from then on trained with him. His training-mates were Tony Diego, Yuli Romo, and Romy Macapagal. Sometimes the four of them would stay in Tatang’s house in Tondo, Manila. (Trivia: Tatang’s and Tony Diego’s houses were seperated only by a wall.)
  • Founded his own system, Punta Ingano, based in Manila.

Pepito Robas 

  • Born on May 31, 1952 in Hinigaran, Negros Occidental
  • Trained in Balintawak in the 60’s under Arnulfo Mongcal (a student of the Balintawak founder, Venancio Bacon). Then he also trained in Modern Arnis under Roberto Presas, a relative who lived near them in Hinigaran. Roberto is the younger brother of Remy and Ernesto Presas. Roberto then put up his own system, the Hinigaran Arnis de Mano, of which Robas became a head instructor.
  • Founded the Robas Balintawak System, based in Novaliches, Quezon City.
From left: Grandmasters Roberto Labaniego, Lemio “Romy” Valleno, Punong Guro Boy Pajo

Lemio “Romy” Valleno

  • Born on May 17, 1950 in Monreal Masbate
  • Trained in Lightning Scientific Arnis by the founder himself, Benjamin Lema. Later he also trained under Roberto Labaniego (also LSAI).
  • Founded the Valleno Arnis Club (LSAI), based in Makati City.
From left: Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim, Grandmaster Henry Espera, Dr. Richard Gialogo


These two maestros modestly didn’t want to be put in the same category as the above so I’m writing them as a valuable addendum here:

 Richardson Gialogo 

  • Born on January 17, 1974 in Manila
  • Trained in MoroMoro Orabes Heneral, Modern Arnis, Ilustrisimo, Doce Pares, and Pekiti Tirsia
  • Now the Director of the Loyola Schools Physical Education Program (Ateneo de Manila University) and a Senior Lecturer at the College of Human Kinetics (University of the Philippines, Diliman)
Grandmaster Martin Raganas, Jr., Coach Arnold Narzo

Arnold Narzo

  • Born on June 22, 1970 in Tondo, Manila
  • Trained under Antonio “Tatang”Ilustrisimo and then later with Antonio “Tony” Diego. There was a time when he trained simultaneously with both of them.
  • Now Chief Instructor of Kalis Ilustrisimo Repiticion Orihinal (KIRO), based in Manila

This is basic information. Soon, I hope to get more including how long they trained with each master, their philosophy, and some words of wisdom. What else can I ask them? Please give me suggestions.

Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance.


Tournament Report: 14th Arnis Pasindo Invitational Tournament


Grandmaster Crisanto Pasindo (8th from left) with the Tournament Judges and Referees

Arnis Pasindo Invitational Tournament. 5 December 2015. Volleyball Court, Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City, Philippines.

“The expert at anything was once a beginner.” –Helen Hayes

Do you know how it is when the court is full of new athletes who are nervous, but enthusiastic and had little or no expectations on themselves? It’s like a breath of fresh air.

Well, that was the general atmosphere of the 14th Arnis Pasindo Tournament. We had 120 athletes and about a third were first-time competitors. You can actually feel the positive vibe. They were eager and not jaded at all.

Singing “Lupang Hinirang” during the Opening Ceremony

Of course, part of it was because more teams exhibited discipline and sportsmanship, and behaved the way Filipino Martial Artists should.

Over the last 13 tournaments, a number of individuals as well as whole teams, have been disallowed from participating again in any Arnis Pasindo Tournament because they disrupted the games and were disrespectful to officials and other athletes. “This is the only way we can usher in a new generation of Filipino Martial Artists — get rid of the bad and encourage the good,” Master Cris Pasindo said. “Even if that will mean only 50 players, then so be it.”  

Well, even when we had to change the date of this tournament from Sunday to Saturday which prevented many athletes and officials to join because they still had work or classes, we definitely had more than 50, and what a tournament we had!

Opening Ceremony

Master Cris welcomed and thanked everyone for participating. He said, “It’s great to be involved in a sport that also increases your appreciation of your own culture.”

And as he always does, he reminded everyone of the tournament’s objective: to bring Filipino Martial Arts tournaments to a higher level such that someday, it will be included in the Olympics. “We’re not even in the South East Asia  (SEA) Games,” he said. “I’m sad that even if Filipino Martial Arts is our national sport, it’s not one of the sports played in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines  (UAAP) nor the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It’s tragic, but with our united efforts, we will surely make progress.”


Exhibitions by different Grandmasters are always done so that the younger athletes will know that Filipino Martial Arts is not just what we play in tournaments– it also has combat, self defense, and other aspects.

Grandmaster Jerry dela Cruz of Arnis Cruzada  doing a combat exhibition with his team. He was moving so fast that all our photos of him were blurred.
Grandmaster Henry Espera of Rapido Realismo Kali doing a double bolo exhibition
Coach Arnold Narzo and Coach TR Elicano after their rapid fire exhibition of Solo Baston, Dikitan, Punta y Daga, Empty Arms Disarming


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The Elite Team

A Sinawali and Basic Strikes exhibition was also done by the special needs students of Dynamic Thinkers Educational Center who call themselves, The Elite Team. Thanks to their patient coach, Dayang Helen Mae de Leon, the students did “a performance of their lives” and was given a big round of applause afterwards.

Tournament Proper

Anyo and Combat Demonstration Competitions


They’re getting better and better at showing real Filipino Martial Arts moves,” Grandmaster Jerry dela Cruz remarked as he watched the competitors. They better be, because, as usual, moves that were clearly from the other arts like Wushu, Karate, or even from band majorettes and bartenders were scored low.

Point System Sparring


The Arnis Pasindo tournament rules were used and that meant that the players were separated after a hit. There’s no continuous hitting so the fights are cleaner and safer and the scoring clearer.

The elimination rounds  of the Novice Category was a joy to watch. The way they flailed their arms, legs, and bodies were “fresh” moves as only beginners make.  “Whew! This is fierce. Avoiding getting hit is as important as hitting!” exclaimed one after his rounds. Oh yes, dear Novice, you are so right.

The cheering from their teammates was another level. “I don’t remember any of our tournaments having this much fun before,” said one official.

“Having many beginners is good,” Master Cris said. “Everybody starts as beginners and for all we know some of them will FMA Grandmasters in the future. They just need experience and exposure, and our tournaments will give them that.”

Time flew as we watched the rest of the sparring competitions. Athletes were sweaty in their armors with minds and bodies tense with anticipation and strategy. When they finally made their moves and padded sticks hit the armors and made those distinctive whacking sounds, the referees with their hand signals and instructions, and the judges’ red and blue flags going up and down, it was savagely beautiful to watch.


The fights continued into the night, with the last round ending at just before 8 PM.

Meticulously arranging the trophies and medals


Closing and Awarding Ceremony


2nd Runner Up: Fort Bonifacio Blazing Phoenix
First runner up: University of the Philippines Kamao / KAMAO
Overall Champion: Paclibar Bicol Kali

When all the medals and trophies have been awarded, Master Cris Pasindo declared the 14th Arnis Pasindo Tournament close.  He then invited everyone to next year’s tournaments. “Continue to train, become better and better, and let’s see each other again in April, August, and December 2016. Mabuhay!” 










Preparing for our 14th arnis tournament


FB announcement

Tomorrow’s the day of the Arnis Pasindo’s 14th tournament.

Oh wow, is it really the 14th now? I shake my head with amusement and disbelief because we’re a small group and except for Master Cris Pasindo who is a full time Arnis-Eskrima instructor, we are all amateurs with other day jobs.

Organizing a tournament is no easy task I tell you. You have to take care of a  million details. Over the years, we have learned a lot about how to do things.  It’s still difficult but compared to when we first started, it’s much better now.

Here are some behind the scenes stories.


Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City, Philippines

The Venue. Thankfully, we’re based in Quezon City and we have the Quezon Memorial Circle (a 22-hectare public park in the center of the city).

We wanted the basketball court because it’s bigger but we couldn’t afford it so we settled for the Volleyball Court and paid the reservation fee several months back.

Less than three weeks before the date we reserved, we were informed that the former mayor wanted to use all the courts on that day. Hmmp! Of course we didn’t want to move our date because all our invitations have been sent out.  Well… no choice. We realized that that’s the way things are. They needed the court so… we moved.

11/29/15. Master Cris (in brown) with some Arnis Pasindo members and friends on the last meeting and dry run for the 14th tournament.

The Officials. One of the difficulties we always have is estimating how many athletes will participate. That information will determine a lot of things, the most important of which is, how many referees and judges we would need.

In the  last tournament, there were more participants than we expected so the officials worked almost non-stop.  I think it was in the 6th tournament that we had more officials than athletes.

We always encourage people to register early, even giving them the incentive of a discount if they did. But only a few do so.

We usually hold our tournaments on Sundays but since we had to move to Saturday, we don’t know how many will be able to participate tomorrow. So, I think Master Cris made a lineup of twelve referees and judges (we’ll be having two courts).

The Finances: By far the biggest chunk of the expenses go to salaries. With all the hard work they do, you have to at least give the officials and staff fair wages.

Every tournament, we pay around 35 people (judges, referees, table committee members, scorers, timers, armorers) And that’s already lean. Our security marshals, housekeeping, medic, set up and clean up people, are all volunteers.

Aside from the salaries, you have to pay for the venue,  food and drinks for the officials and staff, padded sticks, medals, trophies, certificates, etc, etc.

So far, we have no financial support from any national sports group like Philippine Sports Commission or Arnis Philippines.  Maybe in the future this will change. I hope soon.

A few friends and some local government officials who understand our advocacy of advancing Filipino Martial Arts help us financially and they are very much appreciated.

But most of the expenses are shouldered by our group — small amounts put together and managed well accomplish a lot.

There are many more stories and one of these days, I’ll write about them. But for now, I have to go back to my own preparations for tomorrow. Just like the other Arnis Pasindo members, I will multitask.

  1. Member, Food Committee: Make sure that special guests (Grandmasters), officials, and staff are fed and hydrated.
  2. Member, Documentation Committee: Make a report of the whos and whats of the day.
  3. Medic.

Ok, bye for now.










Father and son in Filipino Martial Arts


One of my training-mates is a father and son tandem, Eli and his 17 year old son, Bot, a college student taking up Civil Engineering.

This morning, after our practice I did a quick interview:

Joy: How did you start in Filipino Martial Arts?

Eli: In college, I joined a martial arts club called Arjuka which stood for Arnis, Judo, Karate, and Aikido.  We would practice three times a week learning the basics of each.

Bot: When I was in first year high school, Arnis was our PE.  I was bored with it because almost all we did was practice Redonda and Sinawali for one hour every week, for 5 months. And for the final exam, we were asked to get a partner and if we were able to make our sticks “contact well”, we passed.  Easy enough, so I passed.  I didn’t enjoy the class.

Joy: Why are you in Filipino Martial Arts now?

Eli: I always wanted to learn Filipino Martial Arts because it’s Filipino and I’m Filipino.  Aside from that, I like it because it’s a system that uses different weapons and that it’s very applicable to real-life fights.

Bot: My dad convinced me (chuckling softly).

Joy: Why did you want your son to learn Filipino Martial Arts?

Eli: When he was in high school, I knew that soon, his school work would require him to stay late in school. I wanted him to learn skills to make him confident when he has to commute home alone. I believe that Filipino Martial Arts could teach him those skills.

Bot: Dad explained the reason why I needed to learn it and then showed me some movies like Game of Death with Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto.  In the Bourne series, Dad said “See, with Filipino Martial Arts, even a ballpen can be deadly.”  That convinced me.

Joy: In high school you were bored with Filipino Martial Arts. How do you feel about it now?

Bot: I enjoy training now. Of course the training is more serious. I have to learn more challenging techniques and I usually go home with sore muscles. But I like it because it helps me be fit and healthy, and teaches me techniques I can use in the streets if ever something bad would happen.

Joy: Do you see yourself staying in Filipino Martial Arts for years to come?

Eli: Yes.

Bot: Most definitely.

Andres Bonifacio movie fight scenes: too dark


I’m Filipino but I don’t care much about our local movies. Sure, I love many things about the Philippines– our people, natural resources, culture, food, clothes, history, music, sports and games, and of course, our martial arts. The movies, however are different. In my mind, many are slapstick, commercialized, and haphazardly done.

So I was glad that the recent Metro Manila Film Festival  included Andres Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo . If you don’t know yet, Andres Bonifacio was the leader of the Philippine Revolution and especially interesting to us Filipinio Martial Artists, is his fighting prowess. He usually fought holding an itak in one hand and a revolver in the other. Now, that’s impressive!

Andres Bonifacio Monument showing him holding an itak on the right hand and a revolver on the left.

I looked forward to watching the movie because I knew it would be educational (we Filipinos are not experts in our own history) and it would also be a show of support to movie makers who strive to make quality, patriotic films.

And of course, I wanted to see the fights! Later on I found out that the fight scenes were choreographed by Sonny Sison, who did a lot of work in Hollywood.

Well anyway, according to one interview I watched on TV, the movie aimed to present an aspect of Andres Bonifacio’s life not known to many: his love love. Okay, I accept that.  So, I sat through those lovey-dovey parts and waited for the fight scenes.

Well, my reaction? The fight scenes were too few and too dark!

The fights were mostly done in the dark that I had to strain my eyes to catch the details of the moves. There were lots of running, jumping over fires, grunting, and blade against blade sounds.  I saw a lot of powerful, long-range strikes utilizing a lot of our angles.   But disappointingly, that’s about it. It was just too dark to see.

Maybe the director did not want the scenes to be too gory so he made the lighting dim.  But for me, whose main goal was to enjoy the fight scenes, it was a let-down.

The last scene where Bonifacio and his men ran in a large open field, towards the enemies guns and canyons was dramatic but I wonder if they were really that “brave” to face the enemies that way.

My main take home thoughts?

  • Fighters should learn how to fight in darkness or dimly lighted areas. In fact, I agree with my friend Mio that all martial artists should get a stint as a Barangay Tanod to get the feel of how it is to fight in the dark or dimply lighted areas where opponents would suddenly spring out of nowhere.
  • Fighters should do lots of cardiovascular exercises also. In the movie, the revolutionaries would jump over fires and run fast in big open fields carrying their weapons. Now, that would be hard to do if all you train in are weapon techniques, right?

So anyway, thank you for this  intelligent and  high-quality movie. It helped clarify some points in our history.

It’s just sad that this movie did not make a lot in the box office but I hope that it won’t deter movie makers from going this path again. Maybe us Filipinos will shape up and finally learn to appreciate good history films.

I hope so.

Pugay to all!


You can watch the whole movie here. The longest fight scene is at around 1:05

Tsako, Chako, Chaku



Until recently, I’ve never known nanchaku, nanchuks, or even tabak-toyok by any other name than tsako, chako, or chaku. Ask any man on the streets of Manila and more often than not, they’ll identify them as such.

I was surprised to learn that it was a tool used by Filipino farmers. “Really? I’ve always thought that they were weapons, from China!”

Master Cris said that in Davao, they would dry rice grains in the sun for several weeks and then thresh them with tsako.

My friend Eli, an agriculturist working at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,  confirmed it but said that farmers no longer use tsako now. Farmers now have threshing machines or if not, they use the traditional but easier method of “threshing grains with their feet.”

Anyway, he tried to demonstrate how to thresh with tsako but because of my zero farming background, I couldn’t visualize it.

Now here’s serendipity: One day I was in a bookstore leafing through a Tagalog Bible comic book about Gideon, the Mighty Warrior of Israel when I saw an illustration of him threshing grains using what looked like a tsako!

Image Credit: ICI Ministries

You hold one stick and flail the other one against the grains!

I don’t know if it was just a Filipino illustrator’s rendering of the Biblical account, “Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress”. Do you suppose ancient Isrealites had tsako as well?

Anyway, what’s important is I now know more about this farm tool/weapon.

That, I believe, enriches the experience of training with it.





5 Life lessons I learned from my burnout

January 3, 2015 marked my second year in Filipino Martial Arts. Unlike the “I breathe-think-talk-do-FMA-all- day-long” first anniversary,  this one was quiet and reflective. As some of you may know, I got tired of FMA. Some months back, I burned out bad and needed a time away.

And so, rest from FMA I did.

And you know what? Along the way I realized that, just like in everything else in life, taking a break is not bad at all. In fact, it has numerous benefits and I learned some valuable life lessons:

1. The world will continue to revolve even without you.

I’m embarrassed to admit it even to myself, but I had that secret pride in my heart and thought that my group wouldn’t be the same without me:  They’d be lonely when I don’t show up for practice. For sure they’ll miss me.

Who was I kidding? They continued to train and enjoy their sessions!

Aside from training, I was also supportive in tournaments.  I was active in the behind the scenes work like documentation, housekeeping, and food preparation. But since I was taking a break, I didn’t help during the latest tournament our group organized. I did go just to watch. And you know what? They still did well and the tournament was a success.

Note to self: Nobody’s indispensable.

2. Sometimes it takes the insight of others to make you realize a truth 

As a substitute for my FMA training, I signed up for a full marathon and joined a running group. I’m deep into training now and I can honestly say that I do like running. But last night, as hubby and I were having our usual after dinner tea, I was a bit surprised when he said “After your marathon, you should go back to FMA. It’s what you love. You were happier when you were in it.” I was a bit taken aback because he said it so bluntly. Really? Did it really show?

After some speechless moments, and feeling sort of weird and relieved at the same time, I finally declared, “You’re right, I was happier when I was in FMA.”

Sometimes you just need to hear it from others.

3. The saying “different strokes for different folks” is true

I met and talked with different athletes – runners, bikers, triathletes, judokas, fencers, archers, and even a few from other FMA styles. All of them are passionate about their sport. One simple question like “Why do you like your sport?” will lead to a long enumeration of all the good things about it. Sure, FMA is good, and I think it is one of the best martial arts/sports in the world.  But that’s for me. What I like at this point in my life, is the best sport for me. That goes for the others also. We cannot be smug and declare that ours is the best and nothing else.

4.  The right words, said at the right time soothe.

When I told my friends that I was tired of FMA, they did not shake their heads and say, “I knew that would happen…”  Instead they were encouraging and kind:

  • It’s ok. Music has intervals between notes
  • Life is a constant flow
  • Taking physical and mental breaks is good
  • Take your time
  • Fall in love with the long walk
  • Come and spend a few days at my family’s place
  • Rest
  • I also felt the same way, many times in the past

5.  Rest gives you the opportunity to go back to the drawing board

Burning out is a harsh way to learn, and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. But sometimes changes in behavior can only happen with strong shocks to the system. Stepping back gives the opportunity to evaluate habits and attitudes and correct what needs correcting. What comes out will be clearer and better.

And that, my friends, is a good thing.











Private moments before the new year


A quick post to wish all my FMA friends a Happy New Year!

When my brother-in-law, Jon, gifted hubby and I with an overnight stay in this hotel overlooking Manila Bay, we gratefully accepted because we always like to take these last few days of the year to “think about our lives.”

To some it may be corny or silly but we like this period to contemplate about what had been and what could be, close some issues, and celebrate a lot of joys. We do it individually for the most part.

So now, in the quietness (well not really so quiet as TV chef Gordon Ramsay is cooking steak in the background), I look at photos in my ipad then read select entries in my personal journal as well as this blog. So many wonderful moments of 2014 have already slipped my conscious memory and it’s comforting to call them back for a brief visit.

Some things that are negative, I determine to let go. Go away! Good riddance! (I imagine that with a strong whack from my Arnis stick 🙂

Now, as I sip piping hot, almost-burns-my-tongue black tea,  I ask God to bless me with a new dream for 2015: to realize an aspiration, to discover a new strength, to ignite a new passion, to find new friends, to overcome a new challenge.

Before fun-loving Filipinos set off their firecrackers, I am grateful for these private moments. So nice.

The view of  the pool and the harbor from our 6th floor room
The view of the pool and the harbor from our 6th floor room

May the LORD Jesus Christ, whom I believe in and strive to follow, bless all of us as we face 2015.  Peace and joy to all of you, my friends.



I leave you with a photo of our room’s mini bar.


Of course, I had to check out the “weapons” 🙂


I’m looking forward to the resumption of my training this January. Yes, I burned out and took a break (check out I’m tired of FMA) but now, in the words of my sister Sandi, I’m “egzoited.”

Thank you very much for taking time to read The Deadly Dance. See you next year!


The reason why they do it

Hubby recently joined a 50 km (31.25 mi) run and I went as support. Typhoon Hagupit was expected within the day but the organizer declared that it was a “rain or shine” event so a few minutes from their 4 o’clock gunstart on that chilly, windy morning, sixty-three determined ultramarathoners eagerly listened to instructions.


“This is a no-fuss run:  No freebies, no media, no gimmicks. Just plain running.” I watched with amusement when the participants cheered to that. “They must really just love running,” I smiled to myself, admiring their passion. And run they did and at the end, they celebrated well, in their own no-fuss kind of way.

Now that’s how I felt when I went to watch an Arnis tournament recently.

1920050_710502285666709_1695095001_n (1)

The participants competed fiercely such that one lady who passed by asked how much the cash prize was. When I answered that there was none and that the athletes even paid to participate, she slowly nodded her head and said “Ibig sabihin, mahal lang talaga nila ang Arnis.” (“That means that they just really love Arnis.”)

I think she’s right. How else could you explain the effort that the athletes make just to compete? They train, pay to register, and on tournament day, wake up early, commute, lug their own food and drinks, stay until evening. After the winners get simple medals and trophies, everyone packs up for the tiring commute home. Prestige? Bragging rights? Maybe.  But why FMA when it’s so non-mainstream? There are hundreds of other sports to choose from.

I thought about this a lot and the answer I came up with sounds silly and corny but really, it’s love. L-O-V-E. The athletes do it because they love the sport. That’s what makes all the effort meaningful. Awww! 🙂


There is always something there to remind me

“This is not good,” I told myself. “I probably should go back to Filipino Martial Arts training soon.”

You see, I was in a church service tonight, and was only vaguely hearing what the pastor was saying because I was so distracted. First, it was the pen in his shirt pocket.  I thought of the long list of  lethal moves I could do with it. Then his microphone, another long list. And then the mic stand….

I’ve burned out and it’s been almost two months now that I’ve pulled back from FMA training and all other related activities. (Check out my earlier post I’m tired of Filipino Martial Arts.)

During this break, I realized that I can’t completely shut off FMA. Remember that catchy 1960’s song “There is always something there to remind me” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David? It’s true of FMA.

I go to a book store and spot a knife book.



It’s kitchen book alright but that hold can very well be ours. IMG_20141111_160309

I go to a hardware store

IMG_20141112_132131and find walking sticks

IMG_20141112_131139and knives.IMG_20141112_125920And don’t let me get started on the mall’s kitchen section: weapons are just too many to mention!


IMG_20141112_123925I sit at a doctor’s waiting room and get mesmerized by the pens and scissors on the secretary’s table. I eat lunch and remember the farmers’ bolos cutting palay.   I see a flag and think of Lapu-lapu, Andres Bonifacio, and Diego Silang.

There’s really no escaping. FMA is and will always be a part of my life and unless I want to think of lethal moves in church again, I better start getting small doses of FMA soon.

We’ll see what happens.

I’m tired of Filipino Martial Arts

Sometimes, even I find it hard to believe  that less than two years ago, I didn’t care a bit about Filipino Martial Arts. I didn’t care because I knew next to nothing about it. Sure, I knew that Arnis (as Filipino Martial Arts is popularly called here) was the Philippines’ “new” national sport replacing sipa, and that it used sticks as weapons. But that was it.

Now if you let me enumerate all the things I love, FMA would be easily included. It has helped me become fit and healthy and confident. It has introduced me to worlds that I never knew existed before.

FMA made me happy.

But somehow these past few weeks have been different. I seem to have lost the spark. The excitement and hunger diminished and the emotions were no longer raw. Whereas before, I looked forward to every training session, reveled in it, and then went home only to read and watch some more, now even my FMA Facebook remain mostly closed.   I’m bored, uninterested, and tired.

My rational mind labels this weariness as burnout.


:the condition of someone who has become very physically and emotionally tired after doing a job for a long time (Merriam-Webster)

Well, although my case is probably mild, I know that that’s what I have. And because I know the diagnosis, I also know the cure.

I. need. a. break.

That’s why my sticks and blades quietly rest in their cases now.

In the meantime, I rest, run, and do strengthening exercises. Sometimes though,  when I do arm exercises I long for my weapons…

But the longing is not enough to make me take them out of their cases. Not now, not yet.

I’m on vacation.


I’m sure I’ll eventually come back.

But for now,  I rest.



“What’s that, a can opener?”

“No… it’s a… neck opener, haha!”

That was an exchange between two of my arnis friends when I recently showed them my new karambit training knife.

“Well, it’s a neck opener alright… and an eye gouger, tendon cutter,  etc., etc., “ we said with a chuckle as only martial artists would considering the gory scenario.

Anyway, I got interested with karambits because my blogger friend, Fia posted hers. And then during the latest Arnis Pasindo tournament, KAMAO’s combat demonstration used karambits.

So, I ordered one from Grandmaster Rodel Dagooc. I think it’s a bit large for me but Master Cris said it’s fine for training purposes.

Full Length: 7 1/2″ Handle: 4″ Long, 3/4″ Thick Blade: 3″ Long 1/4″ Thick Materials: Aluminum ( Blade ) , Kamagong ( Handle )

Anyway, Master Cris said that karambits are similar to the curved and traditionally bigger blade, the sanggot.

He added that when he was still in Davao, they used the sanggot to harvest coconuts, cut palay, and chop banana tree trunks for pig feed.  The curved blade lessened their wrist fatigue. They usually used the foregrip and did not hook their fingers into the finger ring.  The ring was mainly for the cord they tied to the scabbard on their waist.

Anyway, how did my first day of karambit practice go? Totally enjoyable!

Here I am practicing six different grips.

Karambit grips

It felt familiar yet new. Familiar because it’s a blade and I know blades but it’s new because the curve, the two edges, and the ring allowed different technique applications.

Master Cris added a brief warning:“Be careful with the finger ring. It can prevent you from dropping your karambit but if you don’t watch out, it can also fracture your finger.”


On with my moves…

SLASH! HOOK! PUNCH! JAB! PUNCTURE! CUT! RIP!  The karambit felt like a claw and brought out my animal instincts! Cat woman, Arnis version!


Totally cool, I must say. Oh yeah!! 🙂


Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance. Pugay!

Interesting reads from around the web:


Tournament report: 10th Arnis Pasindo

Sometimes I shake my head and doubt that organizing a tournament is worth the effort because it’s crazy hard! But since Master Cris has the vision to bring Arnis in the Philippines to greater heights (like being included in the Asian games), his passion is rubbing off on all of us in his group.

On August 24, 2014, Sunday, at the Amphitheater of the Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City, Philipines, 142 athletes from fifteen teams competed in three events (Anyo, Combat Demonstration, and Full Contact Sparring). Supporters and also a lot of park-goers watched from morning to evening and that made us happy because that meant more people were exposed to Arnis.

Here are some photos so you can share in our joy 🙂


The tournament was scheduled to start at 8:30AM but as early as 7AM, eager athletes started to arrive.

The earliest team was ARKADO ANTIPOLO. Their Barangay supported them by lending them two vehicles to bring them to the tournament.


KAMAO members are from three popular private schools: Ateneo, Claret, and St. Paul’s. They’re the team which bagged the overall title in the first International Thang-ta Championship in Chongju, Korea in 2013. Read article here.

Students from Concepcion Integrated High School. Some of them also won medals but what struck me most about this group is their courtesy and gratefulness. They smiled, greeted people, and said “thank you” many times. Look at those pleasant faces 🙂

CIS maharlika arnis team

Arnis Pasindo Kids.  11-year old Mark, 4th from left, eventually won the full sparring category in his age group.P1060727A sentimental photo of our old reliable public address system. We hope to upgrade soon.P1060731

Only a few of the officials are veterans, many are beginners. That’s not a problem, according to Master Cris. “Beginners can be trained. What’s important is that they agree with our goal of having clean and clear tournaments.”

The table committee, headed by the very-pregnant but still agile Dayang Rowena Nacario.

Arnis table committee

The OPENING CEREMONY was short and simple: National anthem, opening prayer, message from master Cris, oaths of sportsmanship.


ANYO COMPETITION  I admit that in previous tournaments, there were moments when I got a bit sleepy during the Anyo competition. But not anymore. In this 10th tournament, each team was allowed only two competitors per event so of course, they sent their best. It was really educational to watch because non-FMA moves were not allowed (e.g. wushu jumps, taekwondo kicks, majorette throws, etc.). It was just Arnis. Pure and terrific.


COMBAT DEMONSTRATION. This was an event introduced in this 10th tournament. The goal was to show the real-life applicability of Arnis moves. Only KAMAO fielded competitors but their demonstrations were so impressive that I heard several other athletes say that they’ll train to compete next tournament. Good!



The FULL CONTACT SPARRING COMPETITION was as usual, the crowd favorite.



P1060854We had policemen from Pulis Arnis Akademya and future sailors from the Asian Institute of Maritime studies.

We also had Koreans and they played hard. In the end, though they did not get any medal, they said they were happy to have competed. Such a courteous group.   P1060874


One other benefit of tournaments is the opportunity to get together and talk.

From left: Master Cris Pasindo, GM Jerry dela Cruz, Master Richard Gialogo, Sr. Master Romeo Santos


From left, Master Richard Gialogo, GM Mario Taliedo, GM Samuel Bambit Dulay, Gm Jerry dela Cruz, GM Rodel Dagooc, GM Vic Sanchez


From left, Master Cris Pasindo. Master Ryan Gialogo, GM Jerry dela Cruz, Gm Vic Sanchez


The crowd stayed to watch the heart-stopping finales.


The games finally ended at 7 PM.


First, the grandmasters gave inspirational talks.


Then the announcement of individual winners and then finally, the overall winners:

THIRD PLACE: KAMAO. Coaches Ryan Gialogo and Aloy Diaz.

SECOND PLACE: Pulis Arnis Akademya (PARAK). Coach Ruel GatbontonP1060965

FIRST PLACE: Paclibar Bicol Kali. Coaches Raniel Lorenzo and Jonel dela Cruz

There, 10th tournament, done! It was a great day, playing a great game, and we all look forward to the next one.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mabuhay ang Arnis!

Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance.


A tree fell on my car and gave me an awesome workout

Photo credit: NASA
Typhoon Glenda 2014. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz

The eerie howling of the wind woke me up at around 5 AM. Power was out and although all our windows were shut, it was chilly. “It’s going to be a memorable day,” hubby said (it was his birthday).

The Philippines has around twenty typhoons (tropical cyclones) a year and this year’s seventh, Typhoon Glenda (International name, Rammasun) was one of the worst to ever strike Metro Manila (sustained winds 94 miles/hour with gusts up to 116 miles/hour).

Around 6 AM, the winds intensified and banged our kitchen windows. I kept praying that the glass wouldn’t break. Hubby decided to open the shutters a bit to lessen the pressure but that meant rain entering our kitchen. I was so nervous that I decided to hole up inside our bedroom! There was nothing we could do but wait.

It took another four hours before the howling stopped. Whew!

The aftermath:

Me and my family in various areas of Metro Manila were safe. That’s the most important. I just hoped that when the national reports come in, they wouldn’t be devastating.

Anyway, we looked out to our yard and saw this:

One of the main branches of our decades-old mango tree fell…


and hit my car!

Typhoon Glenda 2014

Hubby’s car which was parked a few feet away was spared, yay!

At first, hubby’s plan was to borrow or buy a power saw to cut all the branches, but then I remembered one training session Master Cris and the rest of  our group had.  They cut tall grass with their itak. So I thought, “With all these trees to be cut,  why not use my Eskrima training? It could turn out to be a terrific workout!”

“Go, ahead,” hubby shrugged when I told him my idea. Did I sense some amused doubt there? 🙂

Anyway, I got some old socks, cut off the ends and used them to cover my arms, just like how master Cris described what they did when he worked in the farms in Davao.

And then I hacked and hacked with all my might!


Our neighbors came to help.




Janet, who grew up in a farm in Tacloban knew how to wield an itak and her strikes were strong and precise. No wonder a lot of farmers are good in Eskrima!


Good thing only my rear bumper was damaged. Hey, how did that branch get UNDER the car?  P1060579

That’s hubby, the birthday boy.P1060571

We were careful not to get bitten by these!


We only had these tools but we accomplished a lot.


It turned out to be a happy, awesome workout for everyone.


The next day, hubby hired five men to finish the clearing up.

All’s well that ends well.

That was an awesome workout, I must say. 🙂

Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance.  Pugay!


To read my post about another terrible typhoon, the worst in modern history, click here. 


Arnis fruit


After our practice recently, Master Cris and I went to the fruit and vegetable stand owned and manned by a fellow arnisador, Johnny.  When we arrived there, Master Cris asked me, “Ma’am nakakita na ba kayo ng bunga ng arnis?” (Ma’am have you seen the fruit of arnis?)

At first I thought he was asking me a profound figurative question and although a bit puzzled, I started to think about how to answer.

Haha! I didn’t have to make the effort afterall, because Master Cris was referring to the literal rattan fruit also known as kalapi.

Yes, I’m a filipino based in the Philippines but I’ve never seen this fruit before. Maybe I just wasn’t aware but I don’t even remember seeing a rattan tree before.

That's Johnny, introducing me to the real fruits of arnis!
Johnny and I, documenting my first time to see a kalapi.

Anyway, from afar they looked like longgan or lychees. Close up, the outer layer looked like scales or snake skin. When you peel it, you’ll see shiny brownish flesh.

rattan fruit, kalapi

The taste? SOUR! Much like a very sour calamansi or tamarind. But after a few seconds, there was a sweet aftertaste and Johnny said that in October when it will really be in season, it will be sweeter.

Ok, that will be worth waiting for. For now, I’ll pass… 🙂



How can we improve the state of FMA in the Philippines? The Grandmasters suggest three ways


Seated, from left.  Roberto Labaniego, Jerry dela Cruz, Rodel Dagooc, Sioux Glaraga, Henry Espera  Standing, from left: Rommel Tortal, Rico Acosta, Samuel Bambit Dulay, Jun Eufracio, Roger Vega, Martin Raganas Jr, Crisanto Pasindo, Dominic Guadiz, Mon Kiathson, Roger del Valle, Mio Cusi, Von Altas
The Unity Photo. Seated, from left: Roberto Labaniego, Jerry dela Cruz, Rodel Dagooc, Sioux Glaraga, Henry Espera. Standing, from left: Rommel Tortal, Rico Acosta, Samuel Bambit Dulay, Jun Eufracio, Roger Vega, Martin Raganas Jr, Crisanto Pasindo, Dominic Guadiz, Mon Kiathson, Roger del Valle, Mio Cusi, Von Altas



In August 2013, seven FMA grandmasters got together for lunch in Manila, Philippines. It was light and informal and there was no agenda except to keep in touch. (To read my article about that, click here.)

Ten months later, they gathered again along with a few more. They met in that same chicken and rice restaurant because it’s in Luneta where most of the grandmasters held their Sunday trainings.

Master Cris Pasindo, the head of our group Arnis Pasindo, was the organizer and he requested his adviser, GM Rodel Dagooc to do the inviting.


Not all who were invited were able to come.

Here’s the list of those who attended, surnames alphabetically arranged.

  1. Maestro Rico Acosta (Kredo Kuntaw Kali)
  2. GM Jeremias dela Cruz (Arnis Cruzada)
  3. GM Rodel Dagooc (Dagooc Arnis System)
  4. GM Samuel Dulay (Modern Arnis Tapi-tapi)
  5. GM Henry Espera (Rapido Realismo Kali)
  6. Maestro Sioux Glaraga (Kalaki Arnis)
  7. GM Mon Kiathson (IACKFP-KMAAP)
  8. GM Bert Labaniego (LSAI/Top Labaniego)
  9. GM Martin Raganas, Jr. (Ilustrisimo)
  10. Tuhon Rommel Tortal (Pekiti-Tirsia Kali)
  11. GM Roger del Valle (del Valle System)
  12. Senior Master Roger Vega (Modern Arnis)
From left, Grand Masters Rodel Dagooc, Bert Labaniego, and Jerry dela Cruz
Uncle and nephew: Maestro Sioux Glaraga and Tuhon  Rommel Tortal
Uncle and nephew: Maestro Sioux Glaraga and Tuhon Rommel Tortal

A few members of the Arnis Pasindo group, Mio, Von, Rowena,  Benjie, Jun, Dom, Mai, Iza, and me, were there to help out.


The plan was for GM Rodel to lead the discussion but maybe he was tired from training that he assigned Master Cris to do it.

So Master Cris stood up and posed a question,

How can we improve the state of FMA in the Philippines?

I thought that the question was broad and profound and I readied my pen to take down notes.

The grandmasters talked somewhat formally but were generous with their ideas. After a while, I realized that they were all saying essentially the same things:

  1. Respect each other. Each style or group has its own strengths and weaknesses.

  2. Agree on a standard so that not just anyone can give or receive a rank.

  3. Think of a plan how to implement the Arnis law. Waiting for the government or the national sports commission to act may be futile.

They then said that someone would spearhead the formation of technical committees so that things can move along. That person or group should have the will and humility to seek what is best and not try to promote their own interests.

That is the billion-dollar question.


I’m scratching my head for the answer.


The grandmasters have given their simple but painfully challenging ideas. I guess it’s up to the younger generation to work on it.

I don’t think I can spearhead anything yet but I’ll support any genuine step. Time to have serious talks…

What are your thoughts on this?


Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance.

Power Breakfast: Overnight oatmeal (no cooking involved!)

My Arnis training starts at 6:30 AM so I’m always on the lookout for easy-to-prepare healthy breakfasts.

Thankfully, I found a lot of ideas from Pinterest and one of the best is this Overnight Oatmeal (sometimes called Refrigerator Oatmeal). Do you know this? When I told my friends about this yesterday, they couldn’t believe that I can eat a no-cook oatmeal. “Just try it and you’ll be a convert,” I said.

Hubby and I eat variations of this at least three times a week and we are hooked!

Want to try it?

Ingredients: (I just eyeball the amounts)


  1. Old fashioned rolled oats (not instant). Sometimes I add a small amount of steel cut oats if I want my breakfast to be chewier
  2. Chia seeds (for protein)
  3. Almond milk (I make sure it’s unsweetened because the sweetened kind has 13 grams of sugar per cup. That’s more than 3 teaspoons of sugar* and of course I don’t like that!)
  4. Fruit (I usually use a banana, mango, or raisins)
  5. Cinnamon (1/4 teaspoon a day is good for blood sugar control)

In the evening, I dump everything (except the cinnamon) in a mason jar, shake shake shake, then refrigerate.


In the morning I just stir, add a dash of cinnamon and if I feel like it, more milk and fruit.


That’s it! I eat about a third before my training and the rest of it after. E-A-S-Y!

Want to try it? 🙂


* 4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon sugar

All that Arnis training and I’m still fat

For more than a year now, I’ve honestly been diligent in my Arnis training. I’ve reaped a lot of benefits like skills, strength and power, optimism, and love for my country. So many good things over the year.

But what really frustrated me was that despite all my exercise, I still gained 14 pounds!  At 5 feet, 4 inches,  I weighed 157 lbs. That’s Body Mass Index (BMI) of 27 (overweight).

WHAT HAPPENED? I think I was so confident that with all my physical exercise, I could just let go of my eating.

I didn’t notice the pounds creep in since my photos didn’t look THAT bad.

Arnis evening training

And then, one day I saw this photo.


That’s me and my friends taking a boat ride in Batangas about six weeks ago (April 18, 2014.) Look at my belly!


Despite all my exercise, I was I’m still fat! Do you know what my waist size at that time was? I’m ashamed to tell you. Let’s just say that it was way way over the safe waist size limit for Asian women which is 31 inches. (for Asian men it’s 37 inches. For non Asians, it’s 35 inches for women, 40 inches for men.) Or more generally, about half of your height.

Oh alright, I’ll tell you. It was 38 inches!!!! Not only does it not look good but fat inside the abdomen (aka visceral fat) is really DANGEROUS because it envelopes and marbles internal organs.

Photo credit

Visceral Fat interferes with insulin, lowers good cholesterol, and increases bad cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fat). It significantly increases the risk of stroke and heart attack.


And we all knew that, right? It’s just that for me, that knowledge did not translate to practice. Mea culpa. 

After a few days of feeling down because of that photo,  I willed myself to be diligent about my nutrition as I was with my training.

Author-journalist Michael Pollan articulately summarizes in seven words, what for me is the best eating rule.

Photo credit
  • Eat food — not food-like substances. That means I’m basically saying goodbye to most processed foods. (But I’m not dogmatic. I can occasionally give myself a treat without guilt. As my 16 year old nephew says, “We need treats for our mental health”. I believe he’s right.)
  • Not too much — portion size is key. Green leafy vegetables–I can eat as much as I want. Starchy vegetables, about 1/4 of my plate. Protein, also about a fourth. Same for grains and fruits.
  • Mostly plants – lean meat is still very much allowed

I don’t like  counting calories and I’m wary of most of the diet programs around.  So I made up my mind to just follow the Healthy Plate recommendation because it’s much easier and more pleasurable to follow.

myplate_magentaAnd thank God, I found this book which really helped me a lot.

download (2)

It’s somewhat revolutionary for me because aside from the usual Eat right, and Exercise, the authors also emphasize the importance of  Faith, Focus, and Friends.

  • Faith- pray to God to help you get healthier
  • Focus- have a clear vision of WHY you want to be healthier
  • Friends- find friends who will support and encourage you in this journey

It’s been great so far. I’ve eaten more greens, leaner meat, and healthy grains. And I’ve tweaked some of my eating habits to get rid of sugary food and drinks.  The best thing: I do not go hungry at all. I feel lighter and stronger in my training.

broken stick3


As of today, I’m 146 lbs (BMI 25,  just a tad away from normal weight) and my waist size is now 35 inches. Just 4 inches to go, yay!   Pretty soon my internal organs will no longer be enveloped and marbled by that disgusting and dangerous visceral fat.

There’s hope that I can still be a healthy Arnisador onto my senior years. That’s what I want!

How about you, is your belly healthy?

Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance.



From around the web:

The Doctors

Dr. Oz 







Arnis stick

Force = Mass x Acceleration. And how nice, it’s also Filipino Martial Arts!

Call me a nerd but I remembered that physics equation when I broke Master Cris’s stick this morning.

We were doing Ocho Defensa Tirada drills and I was giving my all. During the first few strikes, I saw some splinters come out of his stick and then suddenly, it broke and formed a “7”. “Na-siete!” exclaimed the boxers who were practicing near us.

I know that I’m going to break more sticks as I continue training but the first always thrills. Afterall, it just means that I’ve come a long way from my weak strikes 15 months ago. Read my blog post about that here.


Force=Mass x Acceleration

The force you generate is equal to the mass involved in the execution of the technique, multiplied by its acceleration.

For our purposes, mass means body weight. The way I understand it is to have much power, have the right form and technique so you can use as much of your body weight as possible and then strike very fast!

I’m flattering myself: I had good form and technique, and was very fast so I broke my master’s stick.

Well, either that or his stick was already worn and brittle, haha!

What do you think?


Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance. Pugay!

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Baguio’s BenCab museum


A few years ago I thought that I was done with the Philippines’ summer capital. I’ve visited it many times since childhood and although the cool weather was still a pull, Burnham Park, Session Road, Camp John Hay didn’t seem to have that spark for me anymore.  “Been there, done that,” I thought.

But what do you know, hubby and I recently went up there again and surprise surprise, we had a good time! In the middle of summer its temperature was 18C (64F),  (that’s 15C cooler than in Manila), discovered the pineapple-cinnamon bread of Swiss Baker, and visited National Artist Benedicto Cabrera’s museum.

The museum houses BenCab’s own works as well as those of other Filipino masters. It also showcases the Cordillera’s culture and tradition with its collection of granary gods, lime containers, domestic arts and crafts,  and of course, my favorite, weapons!


Long spears, a shield, and axes.

Bencab museum
Are you wondering what I’m sweetly saying to hubby?

I was explaining how to cut heads.

Yes, the Igorots, as the people of Cordillera are collectively known, were very skilled warriors and some were headhunters.

So friend, you say you’re good with weapons?

Imagine yourself living in the Cordilleras a long time ago: a tribe is warring with yours. You remember the instructions your trainer gave:

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Using your long spear, wound and pin down your opponent. Then with your shield’s curved bottom, pin down your struggling victim by the neck. Cut his head off with the flat blade of your double-sided ax then skin it using the opposing sharply curved blade.

And when you’re done, put the head in this warrior’s bag, bring it home, and display it like a trophy for all the people to see.


Gruesome, right? But awesome skills.

Well, can you imagine doing it? Can you  imagine throwing a spear with such precision that you can hit an enemy 30-feet away? Can you subdue and pin down a struggling enemy enough to cut its head off?


I can only begin to imagine the serious training it would take. Intense!

Well, anyway, I’m glad headhunting is a thing of the past. We do other things to kill enemies now…

Thank you for taking the time to read The Deadly Dance. Pugay!


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Grandmaster, what’s going to happen to your group when you die?


I’m sorry to be so blunt about it, GM. But death is inevitable and I’m wondering if you’ve ever thought of how your group will be after you passed on.

Death is a taboo subject for many Filipinos but it’s constantly on my mind these days because over the past few months there have been too many deaths in our family: first, my cousin Mauro, 65, then my Uncle Rod, 82 and then my cousin Dante, 76.

And then the other day, an FMA master posted a very insightful Facebook commentary about a controversy in their group: Their grandmaster died and now several people claim that they are the rightful heir. He said, I can’t begin to tell you how many of my martial brethren stress over heir related issues.”

Death is a reality. It’s going to happen whether we accept it or not.


So… what now?

I dare say to all of us: prepare to die.

Those who are prepared to die are most prepared to live. -Anonymous-

Please allow me to share my two cents’ worth:

Prepare your spirit. Think about your beliefs about death and do what you have to do.

Prepare your finances. It’s sad when Grandmasters who have dedicated their lives to FMA die in poverty. I hope I heard wrong but is it true that during the last days of his life, GM Antonio Illustrisimo wandered like a pauper in Luneta and Quiapo? And then when he died, he was buried in an unmarked tomb?  Is that just a cruel rumor? I hope so. Because if it’s true, then it’s really depressing. Please, what can we do to prepare in this aspect?

Prepare your group: First, write down who you are and what you do. A hundred years from now, you and your work will still be accurately remembered if there’s a written record. (This is why, among others, I really appreciate FMA Informative and authors like GM Mark Wiley for the wealth of knowledge they are preserving for all of us.)

Second, I think it’s best for the grooming of  successor(s) to start while a GM is still active because it takes time to mentor. You need energy to make sure that your core values, style, and vision are caught. It’s not cloning but just making sure that what you have worked hard for will not die with you. I’m sure this can be difficult but I think it’s better to stress about it now while you are still around to control egos.

In the end, I join the Psalmist in saying,

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.


What are your thoughts on this? Please share them in the comment section below because now’s a good time as any to talk about death.

I sincerely wish you all well. Pugay!


P.S. Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance 🙂






If I give you an itak, would you know how to open a coconut?


Hubby and I went to Batangas over the weekend and on our way home, one town was having a fiesta so traffic was terrible. Look at the gridlock above.

Anyway, on the roadsides were rows of fruit stands selling bananas, pineapples, and young coconuts (aka buco).

Ahh… buco!  Drink its nutritious, refreshing juice and when you finish,  split it open and eat its white slimy flesh.

Minding the store was an old woman who called her granddaughter to open the buco for us. Out came a shy teen probably not more than 5-ft tall and 90 lbs.


Buco, Itak

She was petite and dainty but watch her effortless skills. She didn’t even look scared at handling such a sharp, deadly weapon. I was totally impressed and entertained!

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.

She makes it look so EASY.

Now, do you think you can do that also?


My (un)gym


The pathway I walk on twice a week

When my friends first learn that I’m into Arnis, one of their questions is where I train. They become a bit confused when I answer “Quezon Memorial Circle” (in case you don’t know yet, it’s a public park in the middle of busy Quezon City, Philippines.)  “I didn’t know that there’s a gym there,” they say.

No, my friends, there’s no gym there. We practice under the trees, smelling the soil and grass, feeling the warm breeze.

World Peace Bell, Quezon Memorial Circle
That’s the dome-covered World Peace Bell and at the right are my classmate Jom (in green pants) and Master Cris (partly hidden). Don’t your think there’s nostalgia in practicing Arnis near a symbol of world peace?

We don’t have mirrors, air conditioning, nor matting.   We don’t have the predictability of a gym’s controlled environment such that sometimes when it rains, we have to wait for it to stop or we transfer to a roofed area.

And training has to start early at around 6:30 AM because the heat can be uncomfortable if we start later.

But I like it.

Yes, really.

Maybe it’s the scenery, open space, and all the vitamin D I get. The air is fresh as fresh can be in the middle of a busy city but with all the oxygen-emitting trees, that could probably be better than air-conditioning.

For health reasons, I use a lot of sunscreen but still I tan and I like it. To me it looks healthier than cosmetically-whitened skin so popular among Filipinas these days. But that’s just me.

Quezon Monument, Quezon City Philippines
The tall structure behind Master Cris is actually a mausoleum containing the remains of Manuel L. Quezon, the second official President of the Philippines and the first of an internationally-recognized independent Philippines, and his wife, First Lady Aurora Quezon. There’s also a museum there.

You see why I so enjoy coming back to my (un)gym? Scenery, open space, Vitamin D, history, and culture, that’s why 🙂

On Sunday mornings, you’ll see a lot of FMA groups practicing there. Come and visit us sometime. 🙂

How about you,where do you train?

Towards being a more realistic arnisador

Two years ago, I was a long distance runner. I ran half- marathons and diligently trained for what I considered to be the ultimate challenge, a full marathon.

In March 2012, I ran the 42.2 kms (26.2 miles)!

My brother Sam looking amused while I burst into tears after receiving my finisher's medal at The Bull Runner Dream Marathon, 18 March 2012 , Nuvali, Laguna Philippines
My brother Sam looking amused while I burst into tears after receiving my finisher’s medal at The Bull Runner Dream Marathon, 18 March 2012 , Nuvali, Laguna, Philippines

But you probably know how it is. You look forward and seriously train for a big challenge and when you achieve it, you lose interest.

After the marathon, our running coach told us to allow our bodies to recover by taking it easy for three weeks. Well, I did that and so much more. I rested for months! Sure, I jogged a few times here and there but was slowly turning into a couch potato until… I found Arnis!

Oh Arnis, where have you been all my life?

I became hooked and now I sincerely think it’s going to be my sport forever. Oh yeah!

But I NEED to run again.

In Arnis, you’re taught how to defend yourself against bad guys but don’t you think it’s important also to know how to escape a hostile environment?

I think so.

I want to learn how to strike then run away, hurt the bad guy(s) then escape! That will make me a more realistic arnisador.

Last Sunday, 16 March 2014,  marked the first step towards that. I joined a 5 km (about 3 mi) run.

With my nephews, minutes before our 5 AM gunstart
More than 12,000 runners ran the different race distances (5km, 10km and 21km)

The atmosphere was very upbeat and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. At the finish line, I truly felt stronger than I did at the starting line.

The running bug has bitten me again.

So, here’s my plan: learn how to escape by running short distances (10 km max) and emphasizing speed training.

Then maybe someday, I can even train in parkour!

Parkour founder, David Belle

Oh okay, maybe not… yet.

For now, I’ll stick with 5 km runs.

ARNIS PLUS SPEED RUNNING. Don’t you think that’s a potent mix?  

Ok gotta run now, Pugay!


David Belle Photo credit

How many Filipino Martial Arts can you name?


Yesterday I can name only eight, with difficulty. Now, 20 easily.

Thanks to my new, big, and heavy coffee table book, The Way of the Warrior: Martial Arts and Fighting Styles from Around the World by Chris Crudelli, 2008.

Reading an overview of the hundreds of martial arts from all over the world and seeing the beautiful, well chosen photos made me feel like an eager student again — I took down notes!

Although I suspect that Crudelli’s list may not be 100% complete, he discussed 20 FMAs and that’s 100% good enough for me.  Afterall, where else can I find such a list?

For that, I’ve decided that this is now one of my favorite martial arts books.

Well, classmates, would you like to look at my notes?

Name and Explanation Date of Origin and Founder Notes
1.    Balintawak Named after a street in Cebu 1950s, Venancio Bacon
  • Motto: economy, elegance, strength, and speed”
  • Influenced by the Doce Pares systems
  • Also known as Balintawak Eskrima
  • Developed from the founder’s experience of fighting death matches
2.   Buno “To throw” or “to kill” in Tagalog Indigenous art, No known founder
  • A wrestling art similar to Dumog (see below)
  • Has throwing techniques with controlled locks, joint manipulations, strikes, ground wrestling, and takedowns
  • Also has weapons like knives, spears, bows and arrows
3.    Dumog “Brawling” in Tagalog Indigenous art, No known founder
  • A wrestling art
  • Often taught alongside Eskrima (see below)
  • Techniques – unbalancing techniques, weight systems, and joint locks many of which can be performed from the clinch position
  •  Somewhat similar to western wrestling and the weight shifting principles of Aikido
  • Head- often used as a lever (“where the head goes, the body follows”)
4.    Escrido Filipino Mixed Martial Art 1980s, Ciriaco Canete
  • Has Eskrima stick, sword, and knife fighting techniques with locks and takedowns commonly found in jujutsu
  • Covers all fighting distances from long- and medium-range, to close quarter and grappling
  • Trains with one or multiple attackers
5.   Eskrima       From “Esgrima”, meaning “Fencing” in Spanish Indigenous art, No known founder
  • Emphasis- weapons based-training followed by empty hand movements
  • Battle-proven techniques
  • Also known as Escrima, Kali, or Arnis
  • Uses any method that might work in a fight like hand and foot strikes,  grappling, throwing, and shoving
  • Common weapons – solo stick, double stick, sword and stick, stick and dagger
  • Some systems specialize in other weapons  like whip, staff, and projectile weapons
  • Footwork generally follows a triangular pattern
6.    Espada y Daga “Sword and dagger” in Spanish 16th Century, No known founder
  • Have roots in Spanish swordsmanship
  • Stronger hand usually holds the longer weapon
  • Weaker hands fends off and stabs with the shorter weapon
  • Footwork is usually geometric
7.    Gokusa   A mix of Kuntao and Balintawak 1960s, Jose “Ju Go” Millan (A student of Anciong Bacon, a well known Filipino stickfighter)
  • Emphasis – shifting body weight and aligning the spine correctly
  • Has 12 strikes and defenses
8.    Jendo “The economical new fist way” in Tagalog 1973, Jonathan Makiling
  • Empty hand techniques plus traditional Filipino weapons like stick and knives
  • Recognized in 1996 as a Filipino Martial Art by the Philippine Sports Commission
  • Central philosophy – “tres energies” or three forces: the forces of normal, the unexpected, and the exceptional
9.    Kadena de Mano“Chain of hand” in Tagalog Indigenous art, No known founder
  • Combines empty hand and knife techniques
  • Most important aspects- combination techniques and reaction flow
  • Usually a series of short, fast movements delivered with both hands and elbow serve as simultaneous blocks and strikes
10. Kali Sikaran Filipino empty hand martial art Indigenous art, No known founder
  • Blends indigenous stickfighting, empty hands techniques with fencing techniques introduced by the Spanish
11. Kombatan Filipino Mixed Martial Art 1970s, Ernesto Presas
  • Largely based on the teachings of the founder’s brother Remy
  • Mixes Eskrima, eclectic elements of judo, karate, jujutsu and Japanese and Filipino weapons systems
  • Also influenced by Espada y Daga, Dumog, Bangkaw, Sinawali and Palit-palit
  • Well known for its double stick techniques
  • Highly organized collection of diverse techniques – stickfighting, knife fighting, grappling, throwing, chokes, holds
12. Kuntaw “Sacred strike” in Tagalog“Kuntaw” is a generic name for hand and foot fighting techniques Indigenous art, No known founder
  • One of the oldest fighting systems in the Philippines
  • Contains a number of open-hand and foot-striking combinations and holds and locks
  • Has a complex system of hitting vital points like nerve centers and sensitive bones
13. Kuntaw Lima-lima “Complete sacred strike” in Tagalog 1950s, Carlos Lanada
  • Also known as Kuntaw Arnis
  • Heavily influenced by kuntaw
  • Uses hands, feet, elbows, stick, and dagger
  • “Lima” (or “five”) – number of weapon forms used by brown belt or higher lever practitioners
  • “Lima lima” means “complete”
  • 25 Basic moves: 5 strikes, 5 thrusts, 5 blocks, 5 disarms, 5 locks
14. Lameco Eskrima  Stick and dagger martial art 1980s, Edgar Sulite
  • Heavily influenced by Eskrima systems taught by Jose Caballero and Antonio Ilustrisimo.
  • Main weapon – “baston“  which varies in length, weight, and thickness, according to the preference of the practitioner
  • Other weapons – stick and dagger, daggers, sword, staff
15. Modern Arnis    Stickfighting art 1960s, Remy Presas
  • A self defense system that is holistic, friendly, and injury free yet still preserved many of the traditional Filipino fighting techniques
  • Emphasis – correct body alignment  and shifting before  striking
  • Has 12 striking techniques
  • Also has the stick and knife training of espada y daga
16. Pangamut “Unarmed fighting” in Tagalog Unknown, No known founder
  • Has grappling, hand strikes, kicks, leg sweeps, foot traps, biting, gouging
  • Sticks, knives, daggers skills taught
  • Teaches weapon techniques with an empty hand
17. Sagasa      “Running over” in Tagalog 20th Century,     Guillermo Lengson (of the Philippine Karate Federation)
  • A kickboxing art
  • Techniques – boxing, arnis weapon fighting, throwing, striking, grappling
  • “Bakbakan” – a subsystem that favors full-contact sparring as primary training method
18. Sikaran      “To kick” in Tagalog Indigenous art, No known founder
  • A kickfighting martial art
  • Resembles karate
  • Predates the arrival of the Spanish
  • Probably developed by farmers
  • Signature move: “biakid” — player pivots his body in a somersault movement, flailing one leg in a vertical arc over his head
  • Two kinds of attack: “panghilo”, a paralyzing blow usually aimed at the thighs, kidneys, chest, knees, or feet
  • “pamatay”, a lethal blow to the neck, head, groin, heart, or spine
19. Suntukan         “Boxing” in Tagalog Unknown, No known founder
  • Involves empty hand, flowing, and striking drills which include chopping maneuvers and close range “chaining” where punches flow naturally in short bursts
20. Yaw-yan  “Dance of death” in Tagalog 1972, Napoleon Fernandez (a well-known kickboxing champion from Quezon Province)
  • An external fighting style (driven by speed and muscle power)
  • Follows many muay thai principles but differs in its downward cutting kicks and its hip-torquing motions
  • Has 40 basic kicks
  • Training usually full contact sparring using elbows, knees and shins
  • Has grappling and throwing techniques
  • Also trains in weapons mainly bolos, machete and balisong (butterfly knife)

Pretty cool, right?

Well, what do you think of this list? Did you know all 20?

Pugay 🙂

Agriculture, Irrigation, and Headhunting

Do you know of a people who are experts in all three? I do.

Recently I went to Baguio, a city in the Cordilleras and look what I found in the market.

A spear…

with waldo
That’s Waldo, the charming, walking encyclopedia of woodcarfts manning one of his family’s stalls

Arnis sticks and…


 … this gruesome thing

HH collage 2

A wood carving of an Igorot headhunter and his defeated foe.

It’s gruesome alright but it’s part of our past. Other people slashed their enemies bodies with swords or blasted them with guns. The Igorots defended their lives, honor and property by cutting heads,

Waldo said in his matter-of-fact, let’s-accept-it way.

Yes… they cut human heads…with their axes.

Igorot head axes Photo credit:
Igorot head axes
Photo credit:

Oh my. It’s really gruesome– imagine the hacking sound you hear as steel cuts flesh and bone. How many hacks do you think it needs to cut off a head? Yikes!

Look at this vivid description of how Igorots fought, by Albert Ernest Jenks, in his book The Bontoc Igorot” published in 1905.

Men go to war armed with a wooden shield, a steel battle-ax, and one to three steel or wooden spears.

Spears are thrown with greatest accuracy and fatality up to 30 feet. After the spears are discharged the contest, if continued, is at arms’ length with the battle-axes.

Their battles are full of quick, incessant springing motion. There are sudden rushes, retreats, and sneaking flank movements. The body is always in motion.

So intense! I wonder how they trained for those battles.

I think some FMA practitioners still practice spear skills these days. As for the ax, the moves are most likely like those of the itak too.

Anyway, in case you don’t know yet, the Igorots were not only skilled in warfare, they were also  agriculture and irrigation specialists having made the world-famous, Banaue Rice terraces. Experts in farming. Experts in warfare.

But even more than those, what really impressed me about the Igorots is their extraordinary valor, exemplified by what happened in 1942:

In one battle in Bataan during the WW2, an Igorot company of about 125 men was wiped out by Japanese oppressors. To even the score, an American Tank Unit supported by an Igorot infantry was ordered to attack. But the foliage was so thick that the tank drivers couldn’t see so the Igorots climbed on top of the tanks and acted as guides. Over the noise of the battle rose the fierce shouts of the Igorots braving the fact that they were open targets to grenade and gun fires. What valor! In the end, the enemies were destroyed. (Read a newspaper account about that here.)

So impressed was General Douglas MacArthur that in one of the assemblies after that  he said,

I have seen last-ditch stands and innumerable acts of personal heroism that defy description but I have never known an equal of those Igorots riding the tanks. When you tell that story, stand in tribute to those gallant Igorots. (Bonifacio Marines, The 66th infantry and the Igorot Diary).


I never knew that about Igorots.

See, this is another example of how studying FMA makes me appreciate my people more. Thank you FMA.

Pugay, gallant Igorots. I stand in tribute to you.


Read more about Igorots from an Igorot blogger Saria

Friends, look at where this blog brought me

You’ve heard about the online newspaper and magazine FMA Informative and how a few  of my blog posts got included in some of its issues, right? Well, it’s going to be a regular thing now. Really!

FMA Informative Publisher and Chief Editor, Punong Guro Steven Dowd, is here in the Philippines and yesterday my Arnis master, Cris Pasindo and I met him.

If I didn’t know any better, I would have been intimidated by this man who didn’t spend lots of time with “hi-hello” preliminaries, asked direct questions, and gave crisp directions.

First agenda, see some Arnis Pasindo moves. That's Master Cris with his assistant instructor, Lakan Von Altas
First agenda, see some Arnis Pasindo moves.
That’s Master Cris with his assistant instructor, Lakan Von Altas

But I guess that’s why he’s able to face challenges and achieve the difficult. Afterall, it takes a lot of drive and passion to find publishable material. You’ve got to be results-oriented to do that regularly. Imagine the number of people you have to communicate and work with!

Then he asked me if I’d like to be a regular contributor to the newspaper, writing about Filipino martial arts and how it intertwines with our culture.

me and Steven Dowd
Can you see the “oh-so-delighted” look in my eyes?

Knowing me, I got excited right away and said a swooning “Yes!”.  Although I’m feeling a little insecure because I never had any training in writing, I’m grateful for  the trust and opportunity to promote FMA.

OK, what can I offer?

Well, FMA is Filipino and I’m Filipino. I live in its land of origin and can speak Tagalog and Ilonggo,  therefore I have easier access to a lot of FMAers. Most of all, I offer my beginner’s perspective which is still generally unjaded and wide-eyed.

I just hope that I will be able to write well enough…

Anyway, who would have thought that I would be doing this? A little over a year ago I started this tiny blog knowing next to nothing about Arnis . Now I’m writing for one of its most popular newspapers. Hard to believe, but true. Oh, WOW!

Thank you very much FMA informative!

This life is good. Indeed.

P.S. I forgot that I removed my camera’s memory card so I requested hubby (and driver for the day) to use my cellphone to take the photos. Please excuse the off-color.  Hmmm, is this a preview of my life as a newspaper writer? Haha, I hope not! 😀

Report: 8th Arnis Pasindo Tournament (Philippines)

Arnis Pasindo tournament

Oh wow, have you seen the latest issue of FMA Informative? Not yet? Well, check it out my friends because it’s great— I have a photo there, haha.

Seriously, it’s about the tournament our club organized last December. Despite initial setbacks, the tournament turned out really well.

Here’s an excerpt:

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. – Theodore Roosevelt

That’s exactly what the organizers, officials, coaches, and athletes did during the 8th Arnis Pasindo Tournament in Quezon City, Philippines held in December 2013 despite disheartening setbacks (Typhoon Haiyan) and the alleged anomalies in the Philippine Sports Commission.

Master Cris said,

If we wait for things to be ideal before we move, then we may never have a tournament. So let’s just have faith and carry on.

When there’s a will, there’s a way. The tournament pushed through.

The numbers: 36 officials, 8 Grandmasters, 5 Combat Arnis demonstrations, 15 clubs, 135 athletes, 34 categories (8 for Anyo, 26 for Full Contact), 102 medals, 6 trophies.

Standing: Master Cris Pasindo
Seated from left: GM Vicente Sanchez (Kali Arnis International), Roberto Labaniego (Top Labaniego/LSAI), GM Rodel Dagooc (Dagooc Arnis System), GM Tony Vasquez (Dulac Martial Arts), GM Ricardo Saballe, Jr. (Baskapada), GM Mon Kiathson (Arnis Combat Kiathson System).
Not in photo: Grandmaster Frank Aycocho (Aycocho Martial Arts), Mataw Guro Virgo Villareal (Philippine College of Criminology)
Arnis Pasindo tournament
LSAI Bigay Tama (Double vs. Single Baston) Demonstration by Senior Master Romeo Santos and son Guro Ronnel Santos

The Anyo competitions, an audience favorite, came first. Although the younger ones were expectedly a bit awkward, the rhythmic gracefulness of Arnis still shone through.


The older athletes were more agile and dramatic in their execution. Attacks and counterattacks in dance form was a sight to behold and reminded everyone that Arnis is a very beautiful martial art.

1487873_10202488596207060_421168381_o (1)


After lunch came the more intense Labanan (Full Contact Sparring Competitions). That’s when everybody really came alive. Spectators cheered, applauded, and shouted anxious encouragement.


The sound of padded sticks loudly whacking the body protectors, the referees’ precise hand signals, the Tagalog words they use like Handa, laban! (Ready, fight!), Hiwalay! (Separate!), Hinto! (Stop!), Hatol (Decision!), and the mesmerizing movements of the judges’ red and blue flags added to the intensity of the moment. Arnis is such a heart-pounding sport!



In the end, the 8th Arnis Pasindo Tournament gave everyone a great day playing a great sport by just doing what they could, with what they had, where they were. All is good, very good.

Overall Champion: Taguig City University

Congratulations to all. Mabuhay!

Watch out for the 9th Arnis Pasindo Tournament coming in March 2014.


  • This is an excerpt from FMA Informative Issue110.  To read the full report (tournament officials, participating clubs, winners, etc.) please click here. Thank you 🙂
  • The 7th Arnis Pasindo Tournament was FMA Informative Issue 87. Check it out here.

Samples of this blog’s posts that got included in the FMA Informative newspaper:


Photo Credits: Stix Arnis, Mr Joseph Nebrida, and Mr Jamin Lim

My hubby passed out and I’m a suspect

Hubby gave me a scare last week. I really thought he was having a stroke when in the middle of the night he suddenly fell unconscious while peeing. I rushed him to the hospital and after tests and half a day in the Intensive Care Unit, doctors declared that it was just a case of Micturation Syncope (fainting during urination caused by a stimulation of a certain nerve that caused the blood pressure and heart rate to drop). Thank God. Whew!

What’s funny was the next day,  one of his buddies asked him,

Are you sure you didn’t feel a rattan stick on your head before you passed out? Nothing personal, but we have to consider all possibilities, you know. “

LOL! How many husbands get to be asked that??

So funny. 🙂

New Arnis Pasindo Tournament Rules

Things are looking up for Arnis tournaments. At least that’s what we think about the Arnis Pasindo tournaments because…drumroll please… we have NEW tournament rules! Tadah!

We”ll have the first taste of it on our March 9, 2014 tournament. (The other two tournaments will be in August and November 2014.)

Spearheading the change is Master Cris Pasindo, “I learned a lot from organizing and closely observing our past tournaments. I saw what needed to be changed.”

Last Sunday, January 12, there was an orientation and training of officials and coaches about the new rules.

Arnis Pasindo seminar
Master Cris explaining why new rules are necessary

Here’s what he said:

  • To lessen the risk of injury. In our eight tournaments, we brought two players to the hospital, one with scrotal injury and the other, exhaustion. Thankfully, they turned out okay but we don’t want those to ever happen again 
  • To safeguard against cheating
  • To make tournaments more understandable even to those who don’t practice Arnis
  • To lessen scoring confusion
  • To showcase traditional Arnis. We want to encourage athletes to learn Filipino Martial Art without mixing it with other martial arts.

Master Ryan Gialogo, head coach of KAMAO clarifies some points with the Rules Commitee, Dayang Rowena Nacario, Master Cris Pasindo, and Master Francisco Pajo
Master Ryan Gialogo, head coach of KAMAO clarifies some points with the Rules Commitee, Dayang Rowena Nacario, Master Cris Pasindo, and Master Francisco Pajo
No more higher points for head strikes to avoid confusion -- what do you mean by head, just the top? What about ears or face? So new rule: One hit, one point.
No more higher points for head strikes to avoid confusion — what do you mean by head, just the top? What about ears or face? So the new rule: One hit, one point
Grandmaster Rodel Dagooc demonstrates what athletes should develop: techniques with no fancy, wasted moves.
Grandmaster Rodel Dagooc, the adviser and main encourager on these new rules,  demonstrates moves  athletes need to develop. With him is Guro Mon Mirano
Master Cris who’s fluent in Tagalog and Bisaya, probably doesn’t realize that his shirt can have double meaning 🙂
Coach Doyle Bautista of arkado Antipolo shows Anyo moves that will no longer be allowed: throwing and twirling of batons like the majorette, fancy jumps and rolls, etc
Coach Doyle Bautista of Arkado Antipolo shows Anyo moves that will no longer be allowed: throwing and twirling of batons like a majorette, fancy jumps and rolls, etc
Mini tournament to further practice the rules.
Mini tournament to practice the rules
Senior players needed to be reminded that this is just a dry run and strikes should be subdued
Senior players almost forgetting that in a dry run, strikes need not be VERY forceful 🙂
Having fun practicing referee hand signals
Masters Pajo and Teddy Rosales practicing referee hand signals
Graduation photo
Graduation photo

Master Cris has decided that the March 2014 tournament’s participants will be limited to those whose coaches attended the seminar. “We don’t want confusion and disagreements on tournament day. We would respectfully invite the others to join the next tournaments, but for this very first testing of the new rules, we need to keep it small.”

Okay, I accept that.

It’s going to be a lean and mean tournament then.

With the vision of having safer, cleaner, and clearer tournaments, our Arnis world is really looking up.

Very good!


You ask what my role in the seminar was?

I was in charge of registration, documentation, and my favorite, snacks! 

GM Rodel Dagooc signing the certificates
GM Rodel Dagooc signing the certificates


Seminar Venue: Seminar Hall, Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City, Philippines

Here’s proof that balisongs are really addicting

Balisong knives just really fascinate me. The look, the feel, the way they move, and the clicking sound they make when I flip them are just so mesmerizing. I’m such a fan that sometimes I practice flipping even in bed.

This is true-to-life:


No wonder, hubby is always nice to me! 😀


Photo doodled by my sister and fellow blogger,  Sandi. Thank you!

Videos: Balisong flipping by my 13 year old nephew


My nephew RG likes music, gadgets, and soccer but if you want to see his face really light up, talk to him about blades. Short, long, new, old, utility, or weapon, whatever, as long as it’s a blade.

It’s not surprising really. Afterall, he has it in his blood: his grandfather was a military officer, and he has a warrior aunt… ehem.

Uhhh… okay 🙂

Anyway, watch these videos as he shows some of his balisong skills.

1. RG demonstrates how you can take a balisong out from your pocket and use just one hand to open and close it.

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.

2. Since the balisong is now popular all over the world, different styles of flipping have been developed. Here RG, shows what he calls the “Filipino freestyle.”

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.

3. Now, flipping two balisongs.

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.

Pretty cool, right?

Well, someday I’m going to post one of my balisong videos too. Just give me time… 🙂

***Photo credit: wikipedia

Photos: My balisong knives

batangas balisong

I really think that whoever invented the balisong sure was smart. Afterall, you must be a clever person to think of making a knife that can be a useful all-around knife, as well as an effective lethal weapon.

What I like best about it is that you can comfortably carry it in your pocket without hurting yourself but when faced with danger you can quickly draw and open it with just a flip of one hand. (For a video of this, check out this post.)

dulodulo and balisong knives
I included my dulodulo in this pictorial: My small but lethal weapons. Lovely.

The two that I have now are gifts. In the photos below, the smaller balisong is originally my hubby’s. Last year,we spent a weekened in Batangas and he bought it there from a street vendor selling blades: scissors, knives, bolos. Since I wasn’t into FMA yet, I didn’t even look at his wares. Too bad! It would have been so interesting. Well, things have changed so I charmed hubby to give me his balisong and he did. Yay! Well…as if he had a choice 🙂 Thank you, dear hubby!

dulodulo and balisong knives

The bigger one is from my friend, Ferdie.  We were having an out of town seminar when during a break small talk,  I mentioned that I like balisongs and was looking forward to adding to the one hubby gave me.  “Really?” he said and then went to his car, came back, and nonchalantly handed me a balisong,  “I’ve been using this as a utility knife for years but you can have it if you want.” What?? Of course, I want! Wow, what a surprise! Thank you, dear friend!

dulodulo and balisong knives
When in danger and you need your balisong, quickly take it out from your pocket, and feel for the handle WITHOUT the latch. That’s the safe handle. When you flip the balisong the sharp edge will be away from your hand. Genius.

Right now I’m just starting to learn how to flip them.

Be sure to check out my next post: My nephew’s balisong flipping videos.

Do you have these awesome knives too?

Thank you for taking the time to read The Deadly Dance. Pugay!

Arnis tournament expenses

Photo credit: Morguefile

Are you thinking of organizing an Arnis tournament?  Here’s a general view of what you have to pay for.

Advertising Expenses

  • Photography and design works for advertising materials
  • Promotional events
  • Fees for advertisements placed in newspapers and magazines, and on radio, TV, and online

Office Expenses

  • Rent of office space
  • Office supplies
  • Telephone and other utilities
  • Postal expenses


  • Accounting charges
  • Depreciation of assets
  • Taxes and fees

Venue Expenses

  • Venue rental
  • Electrical and audio equipment
  • Banners / signages
  • Tables and chairs
  • Stage
  • Winners’ podium
  • Matting
  • Transportation for equipment
  • Maintenance fees
  • Miscellaneous (tapes, markers, scorers, etc)

Participant Expenses

  • Gear (Helmets, protectors)
  • Padded sticks
  • Medals
  • Trophies
  • Certificates
  • First Aid Kit (wound care, ice packs, bandages, etc.)
  • Medical insurance

Staff Expenses

  • Payroll
    • Director
    • Secretariat
    • Judges and referees
    • Table committee
    • Armorers
    • Timers and scorers
    • Medic
  • Training / Orientation
  • Overtime pay
  • Apparel / Uniforms
  • Food and drinks


  • Honoraria / Gifts for Guests of Honor
  • Tips
  • Photography and video
  • Security

Oh my, this is scary.  No wonder there aren’t a lot of tournaments around.

But wait. Remember, a lot will depend on what size and how lavish or lean you want your tournament to be.  You can always modify things according to your goals and vision.

So, my friend, if you feel it in your heart that you’re meant to organize one, go on. Be brave.

For those of you who have already organized tournaments, I send my sincere admiration and respect.  You are fearless.


This post may be idealistic for the Arnis world now, but at least we can start the  conversation.

What are your thoughts on this?


I wrote this post after reading the article Race Fees: Where your money goes from a back issue of Runner’s World magazine, (August 2011, pp. 80-83).  To read a shorter online version, click here. It says that participants are actually getting more than their money’s worth because of all the expenses. Race fees alone don’t balance the books so organizers rely on sponsors and donors.

Photo credit: Morguefile

Photos: 8th Arnis Pasindo Tournament

Joseph Nebrida usually shoots Emotion Photos at basketball and volleyball games. This is his first exposure to Arnis.

December 1, 2013, Sunday at the 4th Level, Jackman Plaza, Munoz, Quezon City, Philippines.

135 athletes competed in Anyo (Form) and Labanan (Full Contact Sparring) filling the day with intense competition, youthful energy, and high spirits.

Thanks to the pro bono work of  photographers, Joseph Nebrida, Jamin Lim, Dexter Araquel and Roy Secretario (Stix Arnis ), here are the links to the more than a thousand photos of the 8th Arnis Pasindo tournament.  Enjoy 🙂

Joseph Nebrida

Jamin Lim

Dexter Araquel and Roy Secretario (Stix Arnis)

Date a Filipino Martial Arts girl

HeartDate a Filipino Martial Arts girl. Date a girl who passionately pursues something not because it is popular but because she knows that it is the one for her.

Watch how she trains and admire her determined focus.  See her concentrate during the attacks, blocks, and disarms. Observe her confident posture,  graceful movements, and bask in the fact that this girl is not afraid of pain. She understands that pain is a part of life and knows that most are, thankfully, temporary.

During breaks, let her sip from your water bottle and marvel that in that sweaty, no-make-up moment, she is most beautiful. She is in her element and she glows.

Be her best friend. Smile with her as she appreciates the little things: the rhythmic tapping of her sticks, the meaning of each sinawali strike, and even how the blisters on her hands symbolize discipline. Listen to the 1,001 reasons why she loves Filipino Martial Arts.

Take her to a tournament an hour before it starts. You will see her quiet excitement as she frets over her weapons, her gear, and her planned strategy. You will laugh because she gives so much importance to Filipino Martial Arts as if it were her entire life. But you will know later that it only shows how passionate she can be about something that is important to her.

Hold her jittery hands before her event. She will hope to do a seamless Anyo routine or make all the winning moves in the Full Contact Event. Press her hand against yours and assure her that she’ll be fine. Look deep into her eyes and say that you are already proud of her.

Always remember that although she can very well take care of herself, she is still a girl who will always appreciate your thoughtfulness and care. Be a gentleman. A Filipino Martial Arts girl enjoys being a lady with her man.

When the right time comes, join her in a belt promotion test and then during the celebration dinner, propose. Or invite her to a sparring practice in the afternoon and then at sunset, get down on your knees.

Marry a Filipino Martial Arts girl because you deserve it. You deserve someone who pursues life with passion and enjoys even the mundane, a girl who passionately grips life with the ultimate paradox of Filipino Martial Arts:  strength and beauty.

So when you do find your Filipino Martial Arts girl, love her, hold her close, and never ever let her go.


This post was inspired by:

Many thanks also to my darling hubby for supplying many of the ideas above, my favorite of which is his insightful quote:

Although a Filipino Martial Arts girl can very well take care of herself,  she is still a girl who will always appreciate a man’s thoughtfulness and care.

Related posts:

Carabao horn dulo-dulo

Carabao horn dulo dulo
Unpolished pure carabao horn dulo dulo

Just a review: 

A dulo dulo is one of the weapons in Filipino Martial Arts and it is used to slash or stab an enemy.  It is light, handy, and legal to carry anywhere. 

In Filipino, dulo, means “end” or “tip”. Dulo-dulo translates as “end to end” or “tip to tip” (or sometimes, it can also be loosely translated as “two ends” or “two tips”).

Carabao horn dulo dulo

 So here I have a weapon grabbed in the middle and has a point on each side of the fist.  

Carabao horn dulo dulo
At 5.5 inches, this one fits me but actually, it’s smaller than usual
(I think the usual is about 7 inches)

This was a gift from Rene, one of my classmates in Arnis. His brother who lives in Masbate, Philippines works in a carabao slaughterhouse.  Ohh, sorry about that. But at least, I have a remembrance…

carabao horns
Photo credit:

Do you know what a dulo dulo is? Do you have one?

Philippine Sports Commission, you depress me

And the same goes for you too, Arnis Philippines, Inc. (ARPI). Recent news about the two of you make me want to cry.

First, this is correct, right?

Office of the President

Philippine Sports Commission (PSC)

 National Sports Associations

(For Arnis, it’s Arnis Philippines, Inc. or ARPI)

Batang Pinoy (Philippine Youth Games) is a national grassroots sports program for athletes 15-years old and younger.

And year after year, young athletes train and join regional eliminations with the hope of reaching the finals.

Athletes, including those in Arnis, excited to join the finals.  Photo Credit:
There are many other groups like this all over the Philippines: so excited for the finals.
Photo Credit:

News#1: PSC strikes Arnis off the list of sports in the Batang Pinoy 2013 finals.

Read this letter from PSC to ARPI.

23 October 2013

We regret to inform you that Arnis will not be played in the Batang Pinoy 2013 National Finals….

…your coaches in the Luzon Leg had discipline problem that resulted into the disruption of the conduct of the game (sic)…

…we deemed it best to remove your sport…

And then ARPI wrote a “not so clear” response.

We know that this kind of complaints are not unique to arnis since all sports experience the same kind of incident. ARPI assures that all games are handled professionally in all its activities.

To read those two depressing letters, click here.


ARPI what did you do? Were you so unruly and undisciplined that PSC had the gall to strike you out?

PSC, the words you used in your letter that it’s “best to remove your sport” is heartbreaking and telling of your attitude. Isn’t Arnis our sport? Arnis is as Filipino as anything could be.  If some coaches were undisciplined, why punish the whole sport?

Considering its profound and long-lasting effect, is this your best decision? Really?

And ARPI, what are you doing about it??

To excel in sports, athletes  need to constantly train both body and mind. Competitions get them going. It’s what they thrive on. It’s what makes every sacrifice worthwhile.  Do you know what it’s like for qualified athletes to be stricken out from the finals?

It’s like killing a dream.

News#2:  Senator Pia Cayetano moves to defer the budget of the Philippine Sports Commission; mulls zero allocation for failing to support athletes (November 21, 2013)

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

Here’s a press release from the Senate.:

Senator Pia S. Cayetano  moved to defer consideration of the budget next year of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC), citing its inability to uphold the interest of Philippine sports…

At the same time, Cayetano threatened a ‘zero budget’ allocation and the possible filing of administrative charges against PSC officials for the latter’s failure to supervise and sanction National Sports Associations (NSAs) which prevented some of the country’s outstanding athletes from competing in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

To read more of this press release, click  here.

Tsk, tsk, tsk. PSC, you better explain to the good senator (and us) what you have been doing. We’re waiting.

Meanwhile, my dear fellow Arnisadors, I guess we just have to continue fending for ourselves. Yes, I know that PSC and ARPI are mainly for Sports Arnis and we still have Combat Arnis and our own FMA groups but still, even just a little more support than what we have now would have been better.

My friends, what are your thoughts on this? Tell me. But first, hand  me some tissues…


From around the web:

Video: Mr. Raymond Velayo (ARPI President) talks about ARPI and everything it has done and doing for Arnis in the Philippines.  Watch it but mind your eyebrows!

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.

Following Grandmaster Rodel Dagooc

GM Rodel Dagooc, Cris Pasindo

A friend relates this story: A few years  ago, Grandmaster Rodel “Smoking Sticks” Dagooc had some visitors in his Luneta class and they were requesting him to do a demonstration. GM Rodel instead asked my Arnis Master Cris Pasindo to demonstrate and said, 

Watching him is just like watching me. Pangalawang xerox na, malinaw pa rin! (He’s already a second photocopy but still clear!)

Why second copy? Master Cris was a student of Grandmaster Mon Kiathson who was a student of GM Rodel.

When you think about it, he has a point. Aside from the facial features (many people mistake them to be father and son), their moves are almost the similar. Master Cris is getting there.

Watch Master Rodel do a demonstration  (His part starts at 1:20.  Before him is Senator Miguel Zubiri, a hybrid Ilustrisimo-Lameco stylist and also a student of the late Maestro Edgar Sulite.) 

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here

And this is a video I took of Master Cris doing a demo in one of his tournaments.

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.

Some more videos to watch:

Master Rodel Dagooc

1.  Bay Area FMA /2002

2. Training/ 2011

3. FMA Picnic/ University of the Philippines /2006

Master Cris Pasindo

1. Blocks and disarms / Quezon City, Philippines /2009

2. Exhibition/ 2010

3. Solo demo / 2013. Please excuse the distracting music. Anyway, a friend who watched this video said that Master Cris is “scaringly fast”. I agree.


Thank you to Mr Mio Cusi for most of the information above. Mr Cusi is a former head of The Manila Times Research department. He also studied Arnis under Master Cris but he is now based in Vancouver, Canada.

How about you, who is the biggest influence in your style and technique?

What would you do if Typhoon Haiyan happened to you?

Many would probably be paralyzed by misery, grief, and fear. It’s just too much. Unbelievable.

Typhoon Haiyan/yolanda approaching Eastern Visayas Photo credit:
Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda approaching Eastern Visayas
Photo credit:

What’s heartwarming is millions, including the Filipino Martial Artists, from all over the world acted fast and showed solidarity with us in this dark times.

Eastern Visayas is more than 800 kilometers away from where I am, Manila. On 8 November 2013, Friday, 7 AM, I and two other ladies were enjoying our Arnis class and oblivious of the devastation happening at that very time in another part of our country.

Sure, we knew that there was going to be a “super” typhoon but I guess, as many other Filipinos, we didn’t really feel scared of it because we are used to typhoons. Yolanda was already the 25th to enter the country this year.

That night, the news was sketchy. They said that communication with Tacloban, Samar and several other provinces have been completely cut-off.   Hmmm, we began to worry.

Sustained winds reached 305 kph (190 mph)
Photo credit:

The next morning, you can imagine the shock everyone had when the first TV and radio reports came. Eastern Visayas was wiped out! It was surreal. I didn’t expect it to be THAT BAD.

One of the victims washed along the shoreline Photo credit:
One of the victims washed along the shoreline
Photo credit:

Thousands dead. Thousands and thousands hurt. Homes, airports, bus stations, ports, roads, bridges, gasoline stations, power, water, and communication lines destroyed.  The local governments, almost helpless.

Majority of the local policemen and government workers were not able to report for work, probably victims themselves.

Steps of the Tacloban City Hall strewn with debris Photo credit:
Steps of a provincial capitol strewn with debris
Photo credit:

This is so difficult even for us who are so far away from ground zero. After our initial shock, millions of people from the Philippines and around the world offered to help. Despite the inevitable bad elements here and there, I am awed by the empathy and help. That’s a ray of positivity in this nightmare.

Even the Filipino Martial Arts community from the Philippines and all over the world offered help.  Arnis masters rounded up their clubs to send food, clothing, and money. Many volunteered to repack relief goods. FMA filmmakers sold DVDs and Masters gave seminars, the proceeds of which will all go to Yolanda victims.

Yes, that’s what Filipino Martial Artists do. I’m proud to be part of this generous and caring community.  

Please continue to pray for our country. The road to recovery will be long and difficult. Thank you very much for your show of solidarity with us. Thank you for your love and help.

Photo credit: Richard Macaraeg
Photo credit: Richard Macaraeg

From around the web:

What if Typhoon Haiyan had hit the US? /CNN

Oh yes, Arnis is thriving in Dubai

Dubai is an 8-1/2 hour straight flight from Manila but in that distant place, there are many Filipino Martial Arts enthusiasts. Hooray!

During my month-long stay there, I was delighted to have met two FMAers.

1. Julieto (Lito) Ondangan – Style: Alas Modern Arnis (Alasteros), Philkadi Martial Arts

Hubby, (left), pretending to be a bad guy, with Brother Lito
Hubby, (left), pretending to be a bad guy, with Brother Lito

Aside from visiting my sister and her family, the other reason why hubby and I went to Dubai was because he was invited to give a Christian church seminar.

Anyway, in one of the sessions, hubby casually (and dare I say, proudly) mentioned that I was into FMA and asked if there was anyone else into it. Brother Lito, as we call him, raised his hand. Oh wow, I didn’t expect that!

As soon as the seminar ended, I beelined to Brother Lito and learned that he trained under his father in law, the late Grandmaster Alexander Asperas, founder of Alas Modern Arnis (Alasteros) and Philkadi Martial Arts in Pasig City, Philippines.

Naturally, there had to be some demonstration.  Since we didn’t have sticks, I just asked about street self defense. His answers turned out to be so interesting that soon there was a group of people watching us. Thank you Brother Lito.

I like him because he really knew what to do whatever scenario we presented to him: what if the attacker is armed, what if he grabs you from the back, what if there are two attackers, and more.  What’s impressive is, he clearly explained how to do it in his practical but quiet kind of way. Brother Lito is not active now but I hope he will find the time to practice and train others again.

2. Guro Louie Finuliar Rempillo  Style: Alfonso Kali / LSAI

Assistant Instructor, Art of Power Martial Arts Academy, Al Hana Center, Bur Dubai

Thank you for the Alfonso Kali shirt
Thank you for the Alfonso Kali shirt

Guro Louie saw the Facebook photo of me in Dubai so he contacted me and said that if I wanted to, he could introduce me to some of the Arnis practitioners in Dubai. Of course I wanted to but sad to say, my schedule didn’t permit me to.

I almost lost hope that I would meet any of them, when on our last day, Guro Louie so selflessly gave up his lunch hour to meet me and hubby at the Dubai Mall.Thank you very much!

He was so nice and he gave me a shirt, too.

Alfonso Kali shirt

Guro Louie told me that Arnis is becoming more and more popular in Dubai and even non-Filipinos are into it. At present, the Alfonso Kali group trains in the Art of Power gym in Deira Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. What’s more interesting is they give free self defense training at the Creek Park every Friday morning.

Kids, teens, and adults learn Arnis at Creek Park Dubai. Photo credit: Louie Rempillo Facebook
Kids, teens, and adults learn Arnis at Creek Park Dubai.
Photo credit: Louie Rempillo Facebook

Guro Louie also said that the Balintawak Arnis group gives Arnis training in Safa Park .

That’s great!

Thank you also to:

At present, Guro Alimario trains every Friday afternoon at the Shotokan Karate Institute, al Nadha, Dubai.

What an uplifting thought it is that Arnis is so alive in Dubai. I’m sure that in the other Emirates and countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), it is also. I’m not surprised because, as you know, Arnis is awesome, right? Right.

Are you aware of other FMA groups in that area? Please let us know.

More power to all FMAers.

Thank you for taking the time to read The Deadly Dance. Pugay!

African rungu

“This looks like an interesting lethal weapon” I told myself and began to imagine the many killer strikes I could do with it.

I was in an African Fair in Dubai and of course, anything that looked like a weapon interested me. So I was really surprised that when I inquired about it, the pleasant-faced lady seller answered “It’s a massager.”


She then explained, “You see, Africans travel long distances and we use these for our aching muscles” and showed me how she softly stroked her back with it.


Well, even if it’s a massager, it still looked like a weapon so I bought it. At AED 60 (about USD 16), I must say that it’s a good buy considering that it’s made of really black Kenyan ebony wood.

At home, Google informed me about my purchase.

A rungu is a wooden throwing baton used by African tribal warriors for hunting and warfare. See, I was right afterall!

Rungus are typically 18-20 inches long with a slim shaft and a ball at the end
Rungus are typically 18-20 inches in length with a long narrow shaft for handle and a heavy knob at the end


What’s interesting is,the lady seller was right: it’s also a massager and now, some spas offer African Rungu massages. She just either did not know it or just did not tell me that it’s also a weapon.

Photo credit:
Photo credit:

Oh, whatever. I’m just pleased that my Arnisador mind can already spot a weapon and now I have another one to add to my collection.

Imagine doing the Arnis strikes with this. Oh wow!

Good life!


Here’s a video of some Kenyan men having an informal spear and rungu throwing competition. Rungu throwing starts at about 1:00

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.

Socks and other things Arnis

Photo credit:

Warm greetings from Dubai, UAE!  I’m here with hubby and mom for a much awaited month-long visit to my sister and her family.

Before I left Manila, I knew that there was little chance that I could do Arnis here and I felt bad about it.  Upon arriving here and amidst the hustle and bustle, I didn’t think of Arnis…for two days.

On the third day, I started to mope around missing my sticks. I tried to do empty hand exercises and they were nice but I missed the feel of those weapons in my hands. I missed doing the sinawalis, redondas, and strikes. I missed hearing those marvelous sounds they make when they slice through the air and strike each other. Most of all, I craved for that after-session muscle ache they always give me… Divine.


I became so cheesy that I sent this thought across the globe to my sticks:

images (2)
Quote by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Photo by


Then I saw my 12-year old nephew and 8-year old niece playfully hitting each other with their socks. A lightbulb suddenly lit in my brain! Of course! How could I forget? Ordinary items can be improvised weapons. In Arnis I can use ANYTHING and EVERYTHING as weapons. That’s one of the reasons why I adore Arnis!

Oh yes, yes, yes.

Thank you for that most amazing reminder. It cements my belief that Arnis is so relevant and workable.

So I borrowed the socks. They felt like short whips and getting hit with them were also painful. Arnis also has whips and it was good that I somehow got to try how they moved. Oh, the feel of having weapons, delicious! Then I also got a knife and a fork, and then keys. Weapons were everywhere!

After a while, I saw something wonderful… my nephew’s drum sticks!


THANK GOD, I have sticks!

Sure drum sticks only measure 15 inches but still, they’re sticks and they’re fantastic.

So here’s my obligatory Dubai tourist photo. The Burj al Arab with me… and my sticks.

Marhaba (Hello)

I’m happy now.

I hope everything is well with you too, my friends.



Interesting read:

The Filipino whip  Latigo / Bill Lowery/  FMA Informative Magazine, 2013 

Look: My first FMA books

After that tantrum in my last post where I lamented the scarcity of Arnis books in its land of origin, let me share with you my meager but very valuable collection.

1. Modern Arnis: Philippine Martial Art “Stick Fighting” 

by Remy Amador Presas  (Philippine Copyright 1974)

162 pages


This book is a good foundational read. Even though the paper is dark and rough making reading somewhat hard, I appreciate it that the basics were explained in simple language and accompanied by full illustrations.  Considering the fact that cameras were not digital yet, I salute the enormous effort invested in making this book. Every single movement was described. I also like it that Grandmaster Presas took the time to explain the necessity of moral values.

2. The Practical Art of Eskrima 

by Remy Amador Presas (Philippine Copyright 1994)

248 pages


In many ways, this book is like the first one above–  both deal with the basics and provide full illustrations. But there are more advance techniques like knife defense, women’s self defense, and police techniques reminding everyone that FMA is one of the world’s most practical martial arts.

3. Sikaran. The Fighting Art of the Filipino Farmer

by Emmanuel del Espiritu Santo Querubin (Philippine Copyright 2009)

268 pages


This is a well written, intelligent, and articulate book and I finished it in one sitting! Printed on high-quality paper the book is easy on the eyes. My favorite part is The History of the Filipino Fighting Arts  spanning six delicious pages! But really, each page is full of interesting information. I also like it that there are many photos and that they included a very useful glossary of Filipino terms and weapons.  I highly recommend this book.

To read about the fascinating things I learned from this book click here.

4. 100 Filipino Martial Artists

by Garitony C. Nicolas (Philippine Copyright 2013)

This has proven to be a useful book for me although, with due respect, I think it could use some more editing and proofreading.  Anyway, when I’m on Facebook and someone suddenly pops up to chat and I remember that he is one of the persons featured in the book, I refer to it for some background information about my FB friend. So nice.

5. The Way of the Warrior. The Paradox of the Martial Arts

by Howard Reid and Michael Croucher (Copyright 1983, Great Britain)

240 pages

P1060445The paradox of the martial arts — studying a lethaI skill can make us peacemakers. This is a well-researched, insightful, conversational yet so informative book. I had many attitude changes after reading it — changes that would help me become a better person in and outside the martial arts world.

After reading this book’s chapter about the almost unknown martial art of Kalaripayit, India,  I also developed a more positive attitude about the fact that Arnis is not so popular. The “secretiveness” somehow brings a sense of exclusivity and worth.

The book devotes a special section for Arnis, mainly discussing Doce Pares and Cocoy Canete.

Cacoy Canete, shows a back-hand striking motion

6. Mastering Eskrima Disarms 

by Mark V. Wiley (Copyright 2009 & 2013)

241 pages


This is my newest acquisition and it’s special because I got it personally from GM Wiley himself.

Several Grandmasters met with GM Wiley. My master GM Pasindo went and I came along  to watch.
Several Grandmasters, including my master Cris Pasindo, met with GM Wiley. I came along to watch their exhibitions.

I sometimes worry that there isn’t enough written documentation of FMA techniques and they will just die with the masters. Now, a new instructional book with lots of photos and written descriptions lessens that anxiety.  I appreciate it that it does not deal with just one style but more than 30 FMA styles. This is an intelligent and very credible reference book.  I’m glad it’s in my collection.


So friends, these are my precious books so far. There will be more, I know.

How about you? What’s in your collection?


Thank you to fellow blogger Rick Vagas for showing his books. Both of us wish we had more.  FMA Books / Better Living Personal Development and Martial Arts

Where, oh where, are the Arnis books?

Look at this masterpiece that greets you at Fully Booked in Bonifacio Global City.

Fully Booked Display
A floor to ceiling book art
Did you notice? They’re books. So beautiful

Like a child in a candy store, all my senses perk up when I’m in a bookstore. I just love being in the company of pages and pages of wisdom, knowledge, adventure, drama, etc, etc.

A few weeks ago, hubby and I went and he gave me the whole afternoon to scour the goods.

I went straight to the martial arts section.

Two big shelves of martial arts books! Yay!
Two big shelves of martial arts books! Yay!

Now, look for Arnis books.

No Arnis book here
No Arnis book here
None here either
None here either
Not even one here
Not even one here


Previously, I also checked several branches of National Bookstore and Powerbooks and they carried only three– GM Presas’s Modern Arnis and Practical Eskrima; and Emmanuel Querubin’s Sikaran!

Krav Maga, Aikido, and Karate books overflow in shelves but where are the ones about my beloved Arnis? In But I want them in bookstores! I want them to be as accessible as the other books!!!


I’m ready to have a tantrum!!!

Excuse me.

Chicken, rice, coffee, and Grandmasters

Arnis Grandmasters
From left: GMs Jimmy Ibrahim, Martin Raganas, Jr., Francisco “Boy” Pajo, Henry Espera, Inocencio “Sioux” Glaraga, Roberto Labaniego, Vicente Sanchez

What do you get when you put Arnis Grandmasters together? Well…, a lot of Arnis talk, of course! (I’m corny!)

Anyway, that’s exactly what happened last Sunday, 25 August 2013. Grandmasters who held classes in Luneta were invited to a simple lunch get together.

With the help of some friends, our group’s Master, Cris Pasindo, organized the no-fuss event as a small token of appreciation of the efforts of older Grandmasters.

“They were among the ones who really worked hard for Arnis,” Master Cris said.

He couldn’t invite everyone, of course.  “When we receive more blessings we’ll have more of these,” Master Cris said. For this particular event, seven Grandmasters came and that’s more than good enough!

  1. Jimmy Ibrahim (Founder, Falcon Martial Arts)
  2. Martin Raganas, Jr. (A first generation student of the legendary Antonio Ilustrisimo)
  3. Francisco “Boy” Pajo — (Veteran Arnis tournament official)
  4. Henry Espera (Founder, Rapido Realismo Kali)
  5. Inocencio “Sioux” Glaraga (Founder, Kalaki Arkanis)
  6. Roberto “Bert” Labaniego (Founder, Top Labaniego Arnis Club)
  7. Vicente Sanchez (Founder, Kali Arnis International)

What did they do?

They enjoyed piping hot tamarind soup, ice-cold coke, Filipino-style chicken barbeque, and lots of rice. (The yellow thing on the rice is chicken oil. Not so healthy but oh so delicious!)


They were given a simple gift of black shirts with the generic Philiipine flag and ARNIS logo, so that they can wear them in other events.  (See photos above and below.)

You know, this group of Grandmasters were really fun to be with. They had lots of animated conversations about their earlier days. Lots of laughter there.

Talk became a bit quieter when the topic became the current situation of Arnis in the Philippines. “Learn from the mistakes of your elders. Do not be distracted by too much politics,” they said.

What I liked best was when they discussed different techniques.

“Redonda is the backbone move of arnis”

“Whatever the style, strikes #1 and #5 are always the same.”

And then at coffee time,  they demonstrated some of their favorite moves.

Gm Labaniego showing some Lightning moves to Master Cris
Gm Labaniego showing some Lightning moves to Master Cris

At 3PM, some had to leave but some moved to a nearby McDonalds to have more coffee and conversation.

Beside Master Sioux: Sgt Tolentino Diaz and Guro Mon Mirano
Punong Guro Pajo, What are you saying that Master Cris finds so funny?
Punong Guro Pajo, what are you saying that Master Cris finds so funny?

Of course I had some photo ops. I had a few only because I was shy 🙂

With Master Sioux, so far the most interesting arnis personality I've met. FMA's walking encyclopedia. Eccentric. Unique.
With Master Sioux, so far the most interesting arnis personality I’ve met. FMA’s walking encyclopedia. Eccentric. Unique.
With GMs Ibrahim and Esperas. It would have been a really good warriors' photo had there been no bottles of soy sauce and vinegar in the background, haha!
With GMs Ibrahim and Espera. It would have been a really good warriors’ photo had there been no bottles of soy sauce and vinegar in the background, haha!
with GM Sanchez and his beautiful ind us wife Cora (she has flawless skin, I tell you!) Standing behind us are   my always funny classmate Richard and his son Jude and of course master Sioux
with GM Sanchez and his beautiful wife Cora (she has flawless skin, I tell you!) Standing behind us: my always funny classmate Richard, his son Jude and of course, Master Sioux
with GM Labaniego who always had a ready warm smile and a low voice like a DJ's
with GM Labaniego who always had a ready warm smile, and has a low voice like a DJ’s

A good afternoon with good friends. The older Grandmasters should have more of these.

We’ll see. As the blessings come…

Pugay, Grandmasters. Thank you for all your hardwork for Arnis.

Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance.


Related posts:

Do you know this Maestro?

Photo taken on 10 August 2013 in Luneta, Manila, Philippines
Photo taken on 10 August 2013 in Luneta, Manila, Philippines

“Pugay, Maestro,” we said to a man with fair skin, long wavy hair,  bushy silver beard, wearing an oversize jacket, piles of necklaces and bracelets, and carrying several canes bound together.

I’ve seen some photos of him on Facebook but the first time I saw him in person was a few Sundays ago when our Arnis Master Cris Pasindo brought our group to Rizal Park. Part of the outing’s goal was to meet different grandmasters. (See that post here.)

The Maestro’s get-up was something I don’t usually see among Filipino Martial Artists or anyone for that matter.  The first words that entered my mind: Weird.  Odd.

So I was a bit taken aback when he spoke. One could immediately tell that he was highly-educated. I was impressed right away. Within minutes our group was chuckling at his wit and caught up with what he was saying.

When I asked permission if I could write about him in this blog he said yes, with one condition:

“Spell my name right: S-I-O-U-X.”

Okay I will, Maestro Sioux.

Maestro Inocencio "Sioux" Glaraga

The above photo is actually posed. In reality, about ten of us were gathered around him, much like an informal classroom.

Oh, if I only knew how to take down notes like a news reporter! I’m sure I would have gotten more information. Anyway, here are a few of the points I got. The way I write makes it look serious but Master Sioux was warm, conversational, and witty. Not preachy at all.

About him: (He wasn’t in the mood to talk about himself so this is all I got)

Inocencio Y. Glaraga a.k.a. Maestro Alibatar EMS a.k.a. Maestro Sioux

  • Academic degrees: B.Crim, A.B., B.S. Ed (Major in PE), M.S. Crim
  • Was a certified NBI, Police, and Military Instructor
  • Native of Negros Occidental, Western Visayas, Philippines
  • prefers to be called Maestro because he says that’s what he is, a teacher
  • he plans to go back to teaching FMA soon but only instructors’ level

His thoughts:

  • Who are we to claim that this art is ours?  What we know, we also got from others
  • Be very careful and always acknowledge those who taught you
  • You cannot mix virtues with vices
  • If you are not disciplined yourself, you have no business teaching discipline to your students
  • Guard your tongue. Do not let a temporary irritation bring permanent damage
  • If you are a master, live as a master. It is the duty of the student to care for his master
  • Build character early on. A skilled practitioner without values is very dangerous
  • You cannot be a teacher unless you remain a student
  • Teaching is learning
  • Practice diligently until the moves come naturally to you, like a reflex. Muscle memory is important because in battle, you don’t have the luxury of time to think
  • Cross studies broaden a student’s horizon. But this is how you should go about it: Learn the fundamentals from your own master first. Then when your master says you are ready, you can go and get cross studies

Sure, there were times when Master Sioux made “weird” statements like a certain mysterious Maestro Sto. Nino teaching him and that one time when he healed an injured Arnis player with a dab of his saliva.

I REALLY don’t subscribe to those things and that’s one part of FMA I don’t want to participate in so I was very conscious and careful. But thankfully, those statements were few and far apart .

And here’s the reason why I think he’s one of FMAs gems: He has a profound knowledge of the Filipino Martial Arts. Ask him anything and he knows the answer: history, personalities, styles, etc. He’s like a walking encyclopedia.

Of all the things he said, this is my favorite:

For twelve years I along with several others tried to unify Filipino Martial Artists but we failed. Now, I think the younger Grandmasters have learned from the mistakes of their elders. So, there’s hope.

In the end, I ask these questions:

“Do you know this Maestro? Have you talked to him lately?” Maybe you can join me in getting to know him…again.  I’m sure we can all benefit from FMA’s walking encyclopedia. And if you’re one of those who appreciate him, maybe you can let him know now. I think even maestros need a pat on the back sometimes.

“Is he weird?” Maybe the better term is eccentric. And mostly only in attire. What he really is, is an enthusiastic teacher who wishes Filipino Martial Artists to be united for their own good.

Maestro S-i-o-u-x, you’re my kind of Maestro. I look forward to seeing you again.



Thank you for taing time to read The Deadly Dance.


Interesting reads from around the web:


1. Maestro Sioux doing a demo with Grandmaster Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.

2. In this video, you can hear Maestro Sioux’s voice explaining the salient points of the Ilustrisimo style while Tatang Illustrisimo demonstrates his moves before his young apprentice now GM Tony Diego, who many call the legitimate heir of Kali Ilustrisimo. Click here.  

3. Again, Maestro Sioux’s voice in this video explaining the movements of Lightning Scientific Arnis as demonstrated by two late Grandmasters–Ben Lema (the founder) and Elmer Ybanez (the worthy apprentice). Click here.


Thank you to Mr. Mio Cusi for telling me about these videos.