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.











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.











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.

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.

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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

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

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)

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?