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!


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.

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 🙂






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:

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: earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda approaching Eastern Visayas
Photo credit: earthobservatory.nasa.gov

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: abc.net.au

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: abs-cbnnews.com
One of the victims washed along the shoreline
Photo credit: abs-cbnnews.com

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: abs-cbnnews.com
Steps of a provincial capitol strewn with debris
Photo credit: abs-cbnnews.com

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

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.


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