Preparing for our 14th arnis tournament


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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.











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:


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 🙂






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 🙂