“...they don’t always see the truth. Speaking of that, speaking of that, speaking of that. Anyway, I got you baby, I got a jewel to drop on you. Get up, get up, get up and try again, know what I mean? All we can do.”
We make the moves that break the rules,
a fool and his money are soon parted, so we take from fools;
if and when you ever fall down, get back up,
drop something, stop frontin’, pick that sh*t back up;
stand for something, or, fall for everything,
wait for the right pitch, or miss with every swing;
in the absence of the truth, bulls**t prevails,
so what they did, f***ed around, and threw truth in jail.
The objective is to keep you blind,
so along with the handcuffs on your arms,
they've got shackles on your mind,
seek and you shall find, accepting failure is the only crime,
fall down eight times, get up nine,
n***a! I told you. Honesty, honesty!
-DMX at the 2012 Hot 97 Rock the Bells roundtable panel discussion
This April marks my 15th year as a direct student of my instructor, and I’m proud to train in Eskrima Combatives FMA and learn from the eskrima he teaches. I tend to think of it as time devoted towards learning self-defense according to the processes shared by our instructor, who for many years, has been trying so hard to propagate the certain truths about eskrima as taught by the innovative, late SGM Cacoy Cañete (RIP), GM Momoy Cañete, the Doce Pares Club fighters of old whom we honor as Nong Momoy’s Orihinal Disciples Eskrima--Depensa Seguidas Group (NMODE--DSG), and the teachings from Nong Mawe Caballero, grandmaster of Eskrima De Campo Uno-Dos-Tres Orihinal. I’ve previously written blog tidbits about my instructor’s story, on how certain eskrimadors and others helped to shape and change his perspective about eskrima, which, in turn, he continues to develop and share with us. We look forward to the culmination of his developments in the form his upcoming book release about his journey in eskrima.
Similarly, my instructor occasionally shares things involving history of eskrima, and like wildfire, they spread across the interwebs and reach people all over the world. To me, he’s something of an authority in the particular history of eskrima that he likes, mainly because he’s researching things that nobody else shares. By my instructor’s example, I believe that we’re training for the truth found within the art, and I’ve seen plenty of people come and go from the group, for whatever reason. Some go away for a while and come back, and acknowledge the massive update in the training. Along with a few others over the years, I’ve been there as his partner when he’s shared knowledge in those infrequent eskrima seminar formats, as well as his regular training sessions. Based on those experiences, I’ve been writing blogs from the perspective of an educational basis - trying to inform the public. I’ve been trying my best to tell the story in the ways of eskrima as I understand them from the many hours of instruction under my instructor in trying to dissect the movement. Not too long ago, somebody had let it be known that a guy that used to train with us is now an authority of San Miguel Eskrima, which is awkward, because he’s from our era of training. That sends the message that he’s attained the knowledge in eskrima on the same levels as our instructor. But how can that really be true? Something must be amiss.
Well, we all talked about it. Some of the seniors of Eskrima Combatives FMA HQ and I met recently and discussed this disturbing series of events which, as it turns out, have been happening for years. I volunteered myself to write about it. Tim and Dennis, my brothers-in-training and seniors to me by many more years, were present when this other guy was making the long drive to the garage to occasionally train. I recall after becoming a regular fixture myself at my instructor’s place of training that at a certain point, this guy stopped coming around and was doing his own thing, following another curriculum, and carrying a name that my instructor doesn’t teach. He wasn't even around and didn't put in the same hours that the rest of us did who stayed under my instructor to learn about why he really does things, not just the drills or the way of it. Like so many of us, Tim and Dennis were shocked when it was revealed that these offenses were taking place. In fact, we’re all a bit dismayed at that. It's like this other guy sold his soul to the fictitious Dark Lord Voldemort. But in all seriousness, I think we’re gonna make it right, because we know where we stand when it comes to the truth. You see, we’re all from the same years and the same era. We do know this other guy.
We’ve been training long enough with my instructor to know how his explanations and methods of teaching have been touted by this other guy in the public forum over the years, through previous regional demonstrations, posted videos and photo captions, almost being word-for-word in some cases. This chief leads his own students with the thinking that he’s achieved a depth of understanding, which it seems, has been taken repeatedly from my instructor who was merely teaching them in good faith and brotherly-love. Out of pure love for eskrima and the excitement that comes with sharing the knowledge, my instructor allowed them to experience his teachings. These deceitful actions are a direct slap to the face and an insult against my instructor and the rest of us, for he has broken the code of honor and respect, and shows no integrity. I don’t understand why people would go to such great lengths to allow others to insist that they are an authority of eskrima when it wasn’t truly earned. My instructor leads us by example because he teaches us with the best of intentions. After all, he’s experienced in learning the history from the people who were really there, and he has immersed himself in the data collection.
The stolen moments and shallow actions display the type of thinking that it’s okay to exploit my instructor’s eskrima teachings and not give him the duly deserved credit, likely tied to them having some sort of an ego problem, being prideful, and being guilty of narcissism, or even worse - trying to compete against him for monetary's sake. There’s actually a pattern here, if you pay attention to it. In the FMA community, my instructor has publicly been known to research the truth in FMA history around Cebu and other Philippine islands and find links about eskrima. This other guy has tried to clone himself in what he seems to think is the blueprint in an attempt to reinvent himself in my instructor’s likeness. For example, while my instructor has trained under various San Miguel grandmasters, this other guy tried to do that too. But he missed out on experiencing the Doce Pares Orihinals of NMODE--DSG because at the time he was on a different path, stubbornly trying to appeal to the masses with style, and at the same time trying to exploit accessible grandmasters’ methods, with intent, to reverse-engineer my instructor's process. Another example is that my instructor trained in-depth with Nong Mawe Caballero, the grandmaster of Eskrima De Campo Uno-Dos-Tres Orihinal over the mid-2000’s, and this other guy jumped on that bandwagon with something kinda/sorta like that, too, but we’re not really sure what happened with those contemporaries. That situation has long since been avoided publicly, and belongs up in the clouds.
Either way, the process isn't about collecting drills, as is the case so often revealed as you go back and look through the timelines. The cronies under this other guy had already been caught showing off San Miguel Eskrima based on my instructor’s influence and taught in my instructor’s way to others as if to get recognized and legitimized by the public. Now they branched out to the Corto Kurbada, which is fine. These styles aren't just [ours] as I was told at a seminar. Duh, I get that. Anyone can use these names of when looking at it in terms of style. But that isn’t the point. What breaks my heart, is that we know that they're not teaching their oft-collected drills and forms by using words from their own knowledge to explain the meaning of each. They would have already shown that off. Therefore, they must be hard at work studying my instructor’s videos again, trying to find a clue and make sense of what they’re doing. While they received some form of permission or recognition elsewhere as an authority of something in their eskrima, they continue to use my instructor’s research-based terminology, exclusive techniques from the old masters that have passed away who shared such knowledge directly with my instructor, yet, they can only demonstrate the lowest stages of my instructor’s concepts and teaching process. Where is the credit from using even that? Is it really all the same?
You may ask why others from their organization aren’t so die hard about sharing these same interests in eskrima. What we are really discussing has to do with influence. They were never exposed by anybody who was already into these outside influences, as that would show in the movement from training. Realize that everybody else is interested in following the Curriculum. In my personal experience, my instructor’s eskrima that he teaches has a specific appeal that nobody else knows, otherwise it would have already been shared publicly in books, magazines, and the obvious case of social media websites and apps. Furthermore, it's not like they call my instructor up regularly and chat him up about history and the movement - nobody does that - except only friends who are genuine about FMA and direct students. Of course, there are also those who desperately desire for themselves to be recognized as an authority in eskrima. They so desire to be associated with the Cañete name, what they call in some circles the First Family of FMA, and promoting that more recent connection to the first and second generations of Doce Pares by way of recognized union.
At times, I get a little bummed with some of this so-called representation on the internets, particularly with the way that recent fanboys, students of this other guy portray and perpetrate San Miguel Eskrima. The words they use don’t actually come from the family and elders they are so humbled to represent. Again, they actually come from my instructor. I immediately know it when I see quick clips of made-up drills and forms by this other guy showing a clear influence of ideas taken from old footage of my instructor from previous, smaller seminars and people he’s already experienced. Whenever a new video pops out, the first question in my mind is ‘What did they go and take from my instructor this week?’ Again, that’s the power of influence.
The students of this other guy have no clue what’s going on. They proclaim, “Oh, great class, Master!” But how can that be a great class if it’s the other style? They never show themselves doing the other style on video. Are they not proud of that other style that they wear the belts for? It couldn’t be in the style of the late-SGM Cacoy, for they have no clue about that despite promoting the hashtag #cortokurbadaorihinal, another cheap publicity stunt which insults the honor and legacy of SGM Cacoy Cañete. So what, then, does it take to really be an authority? The habitual trend of inviting grandmasters from Cebu to come here and then exploit them for their drills and notoriety, only to toss them aside when there’s nothing left to take is deeply insulting towards them too, to say the least.
When I see this other guy and and company proudly highlight action shots of themselves doing dos armas drills like 4-open, 4-closed, 6-closed, I immediately know where they got it from. When I see them put out a posting about dakup a.k.a. the seizing hand - I immediately know whom they got that idea from, too. When I see them on video doing the stick and dagger drills of Doce Pares Club fighter and teacher Nong Urbano ‘Banoy’ Borja (RIP), I know exactly whom they got it from. When they proudly use the words of Nong Banoy, like “The truth is in the movement,” (which isn’t even the exact translated phrase, yet these ding-dongs keep promoting it) I know who they took that from, too. Make no mistake - I didn’t hesitate to put them on blast when I caught them taking liberties with my instructor’s hard work and good intentions - and that usually follows with some piece of fanmail garbage in my Inbox. Why? Because I told the truth about something, that makes me the bad guy? F-that.
I’ve seen all sorts of things put up by this other guy. I know it’s not theirs - it’s my instructor’s. When I think about it, I have to ask myself why masters of martial arts would try to screw their own students over like that, and instantly, words like ego or narcissism, or jockeying to be an authority jump out at me. This betrayal is getting even more bold, as if nobody is going to do anything about it. The biggest insult of all is that the students are giving credit to someone else! After doing a simple Google search of words related to the eskrima that I’ve learned over the years, I suddenly realized that these clowns are still taking so many liberties. For example, a student of this other guy was directly quoting SGM Cacoy’s private conversation in the international airport with my instructor and not even mentioning him by name! Neither this other guy nor his student were even present for that moment in the 1990’s, and yet they proudly throw up the words of the late-SGM Cacoy saying “Best to test.” Weak. They even did a video of the double stick drills that my instructor showed in their training garage, and used my instructor’s words “It's like boxing, fast striking” to describe it. LOL! WTF!? Fakers! Not once did they mention in the captions where it came from. Again, it leads back to that mentality that it’s okay to take my instructor’s material and paint the picture on social media that it’s cool and exclusive to them and their teachings. They propagate the claims of gaining knowledge from the elders and at the same time insult my teacher who originally showed it to them. In my line of work, I would call that misrepresentation and plagiarism.
In my professional life, I currently work as a public school teacher of adults with disabilities. As a public employee, I’ve had to go through the necessary requirements to do this type of work, including completing a teacher credential program, earn different State certifications and authorizations, and go through a standard background screening process. While it’s in my nature to help others improve their own lives, I still had to prove my character, my education, and my worth to different government agencies in order to be allowed to share my passion in the classroom and community settings. I’m always educating myself, trying to practice what I preach to others. The point here is that while I am officially trained and certified to be a specific type of teacher - I am not the authority of the educational field - there is always room for improvement and professional growth. If you’re still reading, this is my way of telling you that I’m "keeping it real" about myself and sharing some of my background. That’s why I look at things differently. I’m an idealist in some ways, and will side with the truth when a situation presents itself that seeks to alter the history of eskrima systems that we hold dearly to us.
It hurts us to see things turn out this way. What we’re really seeing is a pattern of disguised insults at our instructor. Quite frankly, I’m sick and tired of it, and I think it needs to stop. Luckily, I’ve encountered artifacts, or rather, data, that will surely put these repeated offenses towards my instructor to rest. So, how can this other guy who was, at one point, a student of my instructor now be considered something like his equal over the span of 15 years? Ho brah, that’s weird to me, to the max. I can’t even begin to fathom why somebody would actually try to do that. My instructor doesn't believe in belts, and for that, some people accuse him of being stubborn. But if we look at the math in years spent training, and the background and whom this other guy earned ranks and authority from instead, it just doesn’t make sense to go through with the charade of being anywhere near our instructor’s years of dedication to the truth in the art. To me, it feels like a stab in the back, or maybe even worse, a stab through the heart.
They say that experience is the best teacher. I’ve been a student of my instructor for long enough to know that when I see something that is exclusive to this group called Eskrima Combatives FMA, like signature words and expressions, specific quotes, and drills that are shared with us, it makes me ill to see them taken and copied. Yeah, they say that imitation is the best form of flattery, but they also say that honesty is the best policy. You know, I’ve been trying to look past the claims by this other guy, even to the point of trying to look at things from an outside perspective, from a point of view other than my own. However, I simply cannot accept that this other guy’s material comes from elders that his student is claiming on social media. It actually makes me mad, maybe even pissed off.
Sure, certain highlighted Cebuanos promoting eskrima in recent times can get a visa and come visit the United States from the Philippines for two or three months and teach their methods. This other guy is allowing others to falsely claim that their information comes from these visiting elders from Cebu, Philippines, and will allow the public to believe that, except that those men, while skilled in their style and methods, don’t really speak English. This other guy and company are not fluent in Cebuano. There is a serious disconnect due to the language barrier. At best, these grandmasters can only show their eskrima, and correct the forms of things, teach the counts in the sets, and show stages of drills. It feels like another slap to the face to insist to others that this other guy acquired high-level knowledge in eskrima this way.
The reality is that we know he encountered the explanations and the ideas on how to understand eskrima from our instructor. Sadly, this other guy must be confused. Maybe there’s nothing else to teach. He must have ran out of standard drilling and forms material to show his students. He can’t dazzle people with his own style. “Great class” his students might exclaim. But he’s plagiarizing my instructor, and the students are too ignorant about eskrima to know that. When the public reads my blog, they’re gonna scream “Oh, sh*t! Who are they talking about?” People will wonder. For sure, this other guy, he’s gonna know.
“Giving credit where credit is due” is a slogan burned into the end of occasionally released videos containing footage from my instructor’s personal collection of eskrimadors or from his own archives on eskrima-related things that he’s taught to others. I’ve gotta hand it to my instructor, that he’s pretty good about updating historical information related to eskrima and maintaining a wealth of notes and artifacts, what he calls the data. I find it offensive that there certain people who take liberties with the data he’s shared with them, and in turn we see them share that same hard work, ideas, and research with their own students and not give my instructor credit. To me, that type of thinking is completely screwed up in the head, one of several perversions found in teaching the martial arts, regardless of the style or organization. Social media in some ways is both good and bad, and depending on which sites you’re on, you may already know about the kind of enthusiasm that fans share for a particular martial arts style, organization, or notable figure.
The difference lies in the fact that at least my instructor publicly explains where any of it comes from. That’s what I mean about giving recognition. I recently interviewed my instructor about these issues and he stated, “I worked for it. I give credit where credit is due. I don’t lie, it is what it is. If I research that, it’s what I found. I never put Master. I never took a title. I tell them to take it away. Those of us who know my instructor, know that he doesn’t take titles seriously, and believes that labels are easily given. He said, “I am what I am. If I’m knowledgeable, I earned it.” On the subject of screwing people over in martial arts, he said, “I never try to con anyone. If I sell something, I have knowledge. If I give a belt, it’s because, One - they’re loyal, and, Two - they’re trying to understand what I’m talking about. I don’t pretend, [or] claim this or that. I only try to be a historian. I never put eskrimador, because I know what that really means.”
Regardless of being American-born or raised in America, we are still Filipino by ethnicity and culture as shared through our parents. Getting closer to the history of our eskrima lineage through my instructor's research encourages us to have more of an appreciation for the beauty and culture of the Philippines. This other guy hasn’t conducted any historical research with the same intensity, passion, and accuracy, or shown the same dedication by putting in work over so many years to attain the knowledge. To me, their intent is so clear. Sadly, taking their short path in martial arts makes the Doce Pares look thin with no substance, and actually invalidates the art, because these crappy people are trying to jockey for a rank and recognize others who would also try to run a game on people that believe they’re training in something useful. In fact, my instructor predicted all of this stuff ten years ago - all of this nonsense - the claims that it’s all the same, the bickering between the factions in their system, the desperation to be recognized, the battle for control, and the arrogance of these copycats being the best, among many other things. We are witnesses to that prediction. He could literally smell the truth about all of these people and more. I’m not kidding. It was only a matter of time, really, before things all played out accordingly. My instructor always said he’d have the last laugh! Ha-ha-ha!
Keeping our intentions positive, we need to be strong and even more vigilant as we continue to share the truth about eskrima. We treat each other like family over there at my instructor’s place of training, give respect to his wife and her siblings and all their kids. We even spend time together outside of training, at family parties, chatting on the phone, connecting through social media, and going out together. We are a part of our eskrima community, and we aren’t going to stand by silently while the takers take from my instructor. We create palaces and prisons for ourselves. How we get better, stronger, and knowledgeable, how we increase our abilities and skills is through our training. We are so fortunate to have my instructor explain eskrima - it is all about the exclusivity of that explanation, and what it could lead to - that’s what we have. By showing the proof in the videos of those unchecked offenses throughout the years, we can hope to move onward and upward towards forgiveness without bitterness. The truth shall set you free!
So what’s the takeaway from all of this? The thing is, I'm not insinuating anything, I'm telling the truth. This is coming from my personal experience. Like a whistleblower, I’m blowing the whistle on some wrongdoings about the institution of teaching eskrima with historical accuracy, which I choose to ascribe myself. My instructor leads by example and gives respect to all of the elders that he’s experienced from the Golden Age of Cebuano Eskrima and whom they came from. This other guy revealing what he knows about eskrima may be sincere in liking the art. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean he’s being truthful about where it came from since I know that my instructor is the true link to where that particular knowledge originates. It’s all about having the credentials, and in the absence of possessing that, at least giving proper credit to others. If we continue to let this other guy and his people abuse my instructor’s words so boldly and unapologetically, their claims and half-truths will become the new accepted truth in the mainstream about the Doce Pares. It’s more than just simply crying about a stolen technique, or who has original San Miguel Eskrima, or us being the best, as my fans have asserted. Rather, this shadowy movement, which seeks to alter the historical accuracy about the systems, hide the actual lack of knowledge in the way it’s currently being taught, and not clarifying whom these ideas truly come from is really about an agenda of greed and feeding the ego. In fact, my instructor prohibited me from talking about this for many years, LOL! Ha-ha-ha! As they say, the struggle is real, and they won't say anything, because the truth hurts them.
This is my blog, a collection of thoughts on my journey in eskrima.