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The Filipino Martial Art: Escrima

Originally posted at:

The Filipino Martial Art

Escrima, an ancient martial art of the Philippines that was once banned and is still kept secret by many practitioners, lives on with a Honolulu grandmaster

Wednesday – February 22, 2006
By Lisa Asato

Takahashi’s son Ty Keoni will one day succeed him as grand master
Takahashi’s son Ty Keoni will one day
succeed him as grand master

Tyrone Takahashi, a grand master in the Filipino martial art of escrima, retreats to a solitary corner during class and, facing the wall, performs a knife dance, or “caranza,” using a 26-inch blade. The weapon is fierce, but the movement is graceful, fluid and rhythmic.

“Flowery,” he says, “because the blade is all over you.”

Takahashi, the third generation grand master of Pedoy’s School of Escrima, based in Waipahu with branches in Honolulu and San Diego, says the dance helps him to practice his rhythm and timing. “Usually when we do demonstrations, I do the caranza. I have to keep myself in tune.”

As the state’s year-long Filipino Centennial Celebration continues, Takahashi is expanding his school’s reach in hopes of letting “the people of Hawaii know there is a martial art that exists of the Filipino ancestry.”

Corban Welter, Gilead Spence, Niel Spence and Sarina Girangaya get their first taste of escrima using padded sticks
Corban Welter, Gilead Spence, Niel Spence and
Sarina Girangaya get their first taste of escrima
using padded sticksGreg Leong, Anthony Tanare, Abraham Rosario and Jordan Adaro practice with machetes and sticks under the watchful eye of grandmaster Tyron Takahashi.
Greg Leong, Anthony Tanare, Abraham Rosario
and Jordan Adaro practice with machetes and
sticks under the watchful eye of grandmaster
Tyron Takahashi.

His school is offering for the first time escrima training for children, who use padded sticks. Twelve students showed up at the inaugural class last Tuesday, including Corban Welter of Kapolei, who found the footwork a little tricky, but wants to keep at it; and 10-year-old Sarina Girangaya of Kaneohe, who says she learned how to strike with a stick in two positions. Of her grand master, she says: “He’s great. … He helps us, and if we’re having a hard time he shows us what’s right.”

The school is also organizing in conjunction with the centennial celebration, a full-contact international escrima tournament to be held Oct. 14 and 15 at the Filipino Community Center. Arnis and kali styles of escrima will be included.

“We’re inviting all the schools in the island and in the state of Hawaii,” Takahashi says, estimating there are seven schools statewide. “And also we have schools coming in from the U.S. mainland and from different countries, from the Philippines, Germany, Australia, France. … We’re trying to get everybody to come out and participate.”

Escrima’s history in the Philippines stretches back to 200 A.D. when “Arab traders brought bladed metallic weapons and a fluid style of fighting to the islands,” according to the school’s Website. The art was further influenced by the Chinese, Japanese and Spanish martial arts. Another enduring influence occurred in the 16th Century when Spanish colonists banned escrima as a deadly art. That forced it underground, where it survived disguised in dances.

Takahashi and Glen Spence teach first day students how to pay respect to senior escrima members
Takahashi and Glen Spence teach first day
students how to pay respect to senior escrima

That centuries-old mindset of secrecy has bled into the present. After establishing his school in 1961, it took a decade for Takahashi’s grandfather, Braulio Pedoy, to bring his teachings to the public. And when he did, in the 1970s, he was the first in Hawaii to do so, Takahashi says.

“Even today, a lot of the escrima masters around, they still keep it to themselves,” he says. “So many of them don’t even give it to their families – they die with it. That’s the sad thing because at one time escrima was a dying art. All the masters were dying and the art wasn’t passed down from generation to generation.”

Pedoy, who immigrated to Hawaii in 1924, learned escrima

Abraham Rosario (front) and Anthony Tanare (back) work on perfecting their stick technique
Abraham Rosario (front) and Anthony Tanare (back)
work on perfecting their stick techniqueAbraham Rosario, Jordan Adaro, Anthony Tanare and Greg Leong
Abraham Rosario, Jordan Adaro, Anthony Tanare
and Greg Leong

Student Jackson Welter shakes hands with the grandmaster in a show of teamwork and sportsmanship
Student Jackson Welter shakes hands with the
grandmaster in a show of teamwork and

in the jungles of Leyte from Faustino Ablin, a general in the Philippine Army who fought against the Spanish and then the Americans. At first Pedoy would only teach his son Eduardo, now the batikan, or head of the school; and Takahashi, his grandson. The Pedoy’s School is what Takahashi calls “a lineage art,” meaning only descendants of Pedoy can achieve mastership at the gold, or highest level. The highest level outsiders can attain is master chief in the red, or instructorship, level. So when Takahashi passes on the title of grand master, it will be to his son, Ty Keoni, who is now 20 years old.

Greg Leong, a financial adviser from Kahaluu, says he’s trained at other schools, but is drawn to Pedoy’s School because of the passage of teachings within the family. “Anytime you can find a direct lineage to the art … the bloodline is strong and there’s no change in the style. It’s not watered down,” Leong says. “This style is real.”

Anthony Tanare, who is stationed at Hickam Air Force Base, grew up watching his grandfather practice escrima. Tanare has been taking the class for about two years and says he’s in better shape and has more energy to devote to his family. “It’s addicting,” he says. “I even teach it to my kids … Once a week we do it together as a family, so it’s kind of a thing now.”

It’s also a family affair for new student John Girangaya, whose wife and three children are also first-timers. Girangaya says the workout was tougher than he expected, but that his training in Filipino dance helped.

“It’s like riding a bike,” he says. “I’m familiar with the movement, but it was intense, trying to get that body back into that motion. But once you get into that rhythm, it’ll start to pick up.”

Enrollment for adult and children’s classes is ongoing. Classes are held Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at the Fil-Com Center in Waipahu. For information, call 216-3211, or email:

Filipino martial art goes beyond fighting with sticks

Orginally posted at

Posted on: Friday, July 14, 2006

Filipino martial art goes beyond fighting with sticks

By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer

From left, in front, Richard Kanoho, Emely Kroll and Greg Leong go through escrima drills at the Filipino Community Center in Waipahu. The three are students at Pedoy’s School of Escrima.

Photos by JOAQUIN SIOPACK | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Grandmaster Tyrone J. Takahashi, center, watches over his pupils.

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WHAT: Fighting techniques include hand-to-hand, hand-against-weapon, stick-against-stick, double-stick fighting, dumog (Filipino grappling) and Panantukan (Filipino boxing)

Derobio style has incorporated various styles of fighting within its system, keeping its foundation on its original bladed movements. It emphasizes disarming techniques and defensive behaviors rather than aggressive actions. (Source:

WHERE: Filipino Community Center (94-428 Mokuola St., Waipahu). Classes coming soon in Waipi’o Gentry.

WHEN: Adults—Tuesdays and Thursdays, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Sundays, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Children—Tuesdays, 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sundays, 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

FEE: Adults, $60 a month. Children, $30 a month

INFORMATION: 678-2438 or 216-3211, E-mail, or go to

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WHAT: International Invitational ultimate full contact stickfighting championship presented by Pedoy’s School of Escrima

WHEN: Oct. 14 and 15

WHERE: Filipino Community Center Ballroom, Waipahu

INFORMATION: 678-2438 or 216-3211, E-mail, or go to

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It was nearly lost, banned because of its deadliness. Disguised in dance forms to carry on the tradition, escrima — Filipino martial arts — survived and continues to be taught to new generations.

But 8-year-old Nate Roque likes it because it means fighting with sticks.

“He’s excited about getting ready on that day,” his mother, Marie said. “He gets all of his things together (beforehand).”

Escrima (pronounced eh-scream-ah) specializes in weaponry, usually with one hand holding a bladed weapon or more commonly a stick, and the other hand free. Escrima has 12 basic offensive and defensive movements, designed to disarm an opponent.

“In our school, self-discipline and character development is a top priority,” said Grandmaster Tyrone J. Takahashi, who teaches at Pedoy’s School of Escrima. The school specializes in derobio style, which emphasizes disarming techniques and defensive behaviors rather than aggressive actions, according to its Web site.

Nate is “more disciplined, he listens more and he’s more alert,” Marie Roque said.

Although he was intimidated at first, he said it was “pretty easy” to learn. Now, the hardest part of class is the duck walk at the end of training.

Takahashi also learned escrima at a young age, taking his first lessons at 5.

“Going through the years, having that positive attitude, over the years it has really taken place in my life,” Takahashi said. “I can see that with the training, it has brought me to different levels with my private life and business life.

“It taught me how to be an effective leader and how to keep the positive values in everything I do. Aside from the teachings, that was one of the main, if not the main things I got from martials arts over the years.”

Takahashi added that it is important to learn the history and the culture of the Philippines, especially because escrima “went underground for 300 years (during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines). It was so deadly they had to ban it. It turned up in forms of Filipino dances. That’s how they hid the art back then.”

Greg Leong, 38, a financial advisor from Kahalu’u, said he likes escrima so much he became a student of its history as well.

“Once you get into it, you like to read about it,” he said.

Leong first learned and participated in escrima in 1991, and joined Pedoy’s School of Escrima in December.

“Unlike any other martial arts, if you have two fighters who have equal skills and equal knowledge, usually the heavier person has the advantage,” Leong said. “In escrima it comes down to the skill of the person, because the stick is the equalizer.”

Takahashi learned escrima from his grandfather, the late Braulio Pedoy.

“It’s a diverse art, where you not only utilize the stick, as people think with escrima,” Takahashi said. “People don’t realize that it has open-hand (no weapon) techniques. In our style, the stick is an extension of the hand.

“It is a very balanced art, where it can be matched up to karate, kung fu, all those disciplines of other ethnic groups. It’s a very effective art.”

He called it a “graceful, passive art.”

Sarah Alegria, an 11-year-old from Waipahu, started taking escrima classes about two months ago. Her father wanted her to learn a form of martial arts for self-defense training, and one day in Mililani, she saw people “fighting with sticks,” and became interested.

“It’s fun, and it’s addicting,” she said.

So addicting, that she takes adult classes along with the children’s classes. She picked it up easily, and although she finds some of the exercises tiring, she’s grown much stronger.

Leong called escrima a “good stress reliever” that gives him a “good natural high.”

“We train hard, and we know we’re going to get exhausted for doing it,” he said. “But we get a high doing it. We look forward to going to class.”

Leong said he likes knowing he can protect himself in almost any situation. Because of the practicality of escrima, “you can walk into any place and pick up a weapon and know how to use it.

“But our master always teaches us to walk away. But once someone hits you, you have the right to defend yourself. It’s all about self-control. Not bragging you know the art. It’s about having the knowledge, but knowing how and when to use it. It should not be used for intimidation.”


Robert Garcia, the chief instructor at the Hawai’i branch of the Bandalan Doce Pares Association, successfully defended his gold medal at the 9th World Escrima Kali Arnis Federation World Championships, July 2 to 8 in Orlando, Fla.
Garcia, a Honolulu resident, won gold in the lightweight single-stick fighting division.

Jdelo Dadulas, of Honolulu, earned a gold medal in the welterweight division of single-stick fighting.

At the World Invitational Tournament in Orlando, which followed the World Championships, Dadulas won a gold in double-stick fighting. Ray Dela Cruz, of Pearl City, won a bronze in the cruiseweight division of single-stick fighting, also at the World Invitational Tournament.

The championships are held every two years. The next competition will be in Cebu, Philippines, in 2008.

Reach Leila Wai at

Out of the Shadows!

Orginally posted at

Out Of The Shadows

You’ve got to earn Mike del Mar’s trust. A master of the Filipino martial art of escrima, a fighting form that combines the use of weapons such as sticks and knives with karate-like chops and thrusts, del Mar knows that each student is a potential lethal weapon.

So he studies each prospective pupil, gets to know them in social settings, gauges whether they are capable of loyalty, respect, discipline.

“I do it because once you give away the knowledge, you can’t take it back,” he says.

He is one of several local masters of escrima who are breaking with a long tradition of secrecy to teach a new generation of Filipinos a part of their culture in order to help preserve it.

For most martial arts, a fearful reputation is an invaluable promotional tool. But for escrima it has been something of a curse.

The Spanish colonizers of the Philippines so feared escrima, also known as kali, arnis, or by its alternate spelling eskrima, that they banned it. It went underground where it became a dark secret, notorious for the “death matches” that settled disputes between proponents of competing styles.

It came to Hawaii with the plantation workers but couldn’t shake the old reputation. A bloody 1948 public match in Honolulu between two noted masters so appalled authorities that a ban on such bouts quickly followed.

Kali, an early form of escrima, grew out of the frequent warfare between the peoples of the Philippines. Deadly attacks could descend on villages without warning, so kali largely skipped the ritual and empty-handed forms of combat characteristic of other martial arts and got right to teaching one how to wield a stick, a spear, a wooden sword or whatever else was at hand.

A chieftain named Lapulapu is said to have used kali to slay the explorer Magellan during a skirmish near Cebu in 1521.

But the later Spanish ban and the Philippines’ island geography caused the art to splinter into a confusing array of subtly different styles. A desire to protect the secrets of each “school” caused different masters to restrict instruction. Disputes over which school was best — fed by a healthy dose of Filipino machismo — were settled in bloody and often deadly duels.

This secretive legacy carried over into its introduction to Hawaii and the Mainland, primarily around Stockton, Calif., home of a large Filipino immigrant community. By the early 1970s escrima was in danger of suffocating itself in the United States, so several masters in Hawaii and California began teaching it openly in hopes of keeping it alive.

But the old ways die hard.

Much of the escrima still taught in Hawaii is passed on behind closed doors or, in keeping with tradition, in secluded outdoor areas on moonlit nights. Many oppose the new openness. As a result, escrima remains an enigma to many.

Eric Padilla, an instructor with the Hawaii Filipino Martial Arts School, conducted an informal survey of about 100 Filipinos not long ago, asking what they knew about escrima. The vast majority knew nothing.

Donald Mendoza of the Tobosa school says he searched for years for an instructor before finding late master Raymond Tobosa through a chance encounter in the 1980s. Other students tell similar stories of long, frustrating searches for a guro or master.

“It’s been dying out as many of the old masters pass away, so we’re feeling some pressure now to pass it on ourselves,” says Padilla.

“We need to get Filipinos to come together to perpetuate this art. If the Japanese and Chinese can do it for their martial arts, why can’t we?”

There are signs of hope.

A group of local schools including del Mar’s, the Tobosa school, and the Escrima Academy of Hawaii run by del Mar’s wife, Joey, have joined forces in a loose alliance in recent years to promote the art, staging a full-contact tournament each year. The next is set for July 27.

The competition is a far cry from the death matches of the past. Heavy protective gear is worn, moves such as blows to the neck or knee are outlawed and, when swords or knives are used, their edges are heavily blunted.

“We’ve had to water escrima down to keep it alive,” says Mendoza, who remembers Tobosa turning off the lights as his pupils drilled with long knives in close quarters, a tactic aimed at sharpening their senses and technique.

“You can’t do that kind of thing today. Nowadays the emphasis is on safety.”

The experience has been invaluable in providing a structured, competitive outlet for students, del Mar says. The alliance, which also has a Web site, has even taken students to California in recent years, where they have fared well against fighters up there.

Pat Amantiad, head guro of the Hawaii Filipino Martial Arts School, another member of the alliance, says a new generation of more open-minded instructors bodes well for the art. He nods at Padilla as the stout Gulf War veteran leads his class, which has several non-Filipino students, through a series of lethal-looking knife thrusts at the Beretania Community Center.

Demonstrating how an escrima-trained woman might use something as simple as a pair of keys to ward off an attacker, Amantiad also sees escrima as a potential force for good. He dreams that the cultural pride it could engender might help improve crime-bedeviled places like Kalihi and other areas where Filipinos are concentrated.

Either way, he says he and others are determined to keep escrima out in the open to ensure that this unique slice of Filipino culture gets a steady supply of nourishing sunlight.

“There are some here in Hawaii who think escrima should still be practiced only in secret, by a full moon,” he says. “I have to explain to them that this is not like the old days. “We can’t afford to hide anymore.”