"12 Basics..." Guro Bob Sullen

sonder
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Guro Bob Sullen has trained many forms of FMA for many years, all of which are tied to Balintawak in some way. The way a person plays is often a reflection of who they are. When you play with Guro Sullen you can see his many influences as you trace the movement of his stick but what you feel is pure power focused through a true understanding of the stick. He is at once straightforward and overwhelming with a clear goal from which he will not be dissuaded, which he executes with the elegance that only a true craftsman can.   

Who are you? How do you define yourself? What's your story?

My family is my foundation and my life.  My wife practices Balintawak with me.  I have two step children, who I helped raise and love as my own.  I am a skilled carpenter, mechanic, plumber and electrician with my own business. I am an avid outdoorsman, who likes to hunt, fish and camp.  I consider myself a highly skilled practitioner of Arnis.  Most importantly, I endeavor to be a trustworthy and loyal person with regard to my relationships with family, friends and colleagues.

How were you exposed to Balintawak?

I was exposed to Balintawak by Grand Master Remy Presas at the time he was staying with me in the early 1990’s.   I was his assistant (a/k/a “Dummy”) at his Martial Arts Camps, where I was subsequently introduced to Grand Master Bobby Taboada.

How long have you studied? Who was your primary instructor?

After studying several different Martial Arts, I started studying Balintawak in 1996.  Grandmaster Bobby Taboada was and is my primary instructor and I consistently train with Chief Master Zac Taco, who Bobby introduced me to in 1996.  I currently hold the rank of Full Qualified Instructor under Grandmaster Taboada and am a Full Fledged Instructor of WOTBAG.  I have trained with many practitioners of Balintawak.

Guro Bob Sullen playing with Grandmaster Bobby Taboada

Guro Bob Sullen playing with Grandmaster Bobby Taboada

What was the hardest part of learning Balintawak?

Learning how to strike was and remains the hardest part of Balintawak.  I feel I’m still improving and working on my striking and will always be working toward perfecting the strike (my life’s journey).

Favorite part of Balintawak?

My favorite part of Balintawak is the Stick Play because the Grouping System builds incredible reflexes, timing and speed.  I also enjoy the camaraderie of the Balintawak Brotherhood.

Chief Master Zac Taco (WOTBAG), Guro Bob Sullen, Chief Master Monie Velez (WOTBAG)

Chief Master Zac Taco (WOTBAG), Guro Bob Sullen, Chief Master Monie Velez (WOTBAG)

Have you/do you study other arts? How have they influenced each other?

My early background in Tae Kwon Do and Kick Boxing helped assist my training with regard to my punching and kicking techniques.  Training in Modern Arnis for years flowed perfectly into my eventual expanded training with Balintawak, including assisting me with locking, throwing, flow and consistent movement.  Balintawak took my training to a higher level with speed, power and mobility.

Balintawak took my training to a higher level with speed, power and mobility.

What's your day job? Have there been any concepts from that profession that have informed your Balintawak or vice versa?

I am a business owner with a contracting, renovation and plumbing company.  My background in Martial Arts has assisted me in many ways.  It helps to keep my body and mind fit.  My job criteria, day to day activities and interaction with customers have all benefitted from my Martial Arts Training.  I enjoy training people in Balintawak and also showing them that through hard work and consistency, you can achieve your life goals.

What is the main lesson you want your students to take from your instruction in Balintawak?

We are all the same, no matter who or what your situation.  Through hard, consistent work, you can achieve any of your goals in life.  Focus, endurance, pride, respect and courage are critical to achieve a higher level of training.  You also must help each other rise up in training and in life.  These are qualities that I strive to achieve and by that example, I want to relay to my students.

What do you emphasizes with beginners and what do you emphasizes with your more advanced students?

For the Beginner Student, I constantly emphasize the 12 Basic Strikes.  You must strike properly for any advanced technique to be effective.  I try to make training a serious yet enjoyable experience.  Showing students what they can achieve through the sometimes “boring” repetition, is a way to keep the Beginner Student enthusiastic about continuing their training.  I therefore, mix the repetitive training with techniques showing the student how to implement their new found knowledge.

For the Advanced Student, the sky is the limit!  There is no better feeling than seeing your student start to understand the concepts you are showing them and implement them into their training.  The greatest honor an instructor can accomplish is to see a student use the knowledge you give them and include their own personal techniques.  It is at this point that the student “feels” the striking in their Mind, Body and Heart.

Bob Teaching_639x960.jpg
There is no better feeling than seeing your student start to understand the concepts you are showing them and implement them into their training.

What does a typical class look like when you teach?

My typical class differs depending on the skill level, the length of the class and the amount of students.  Private lessons are based on individualized skills and requirements.  It is important to keep a larger class structured, while maintaining their interests with a continuous flow of activity and adding a bit of fun.  A longer seminar can include many more techniques.  In order to advance this “Gift” of knowledge that instructors have given me, I constantly try to make each of my Students see their progress and feel good about it.  This is how Balintawak will continue to grow.

What kind of things were you thinking about when you were developing your 24 techniques?

It was very important to me to include all forms of my training into my 24 techniques so they would be individualized to my personality, ability and strengths.  I wanted effectiveness, efficiency and, of course, Grandmaster Bobby Taboada’s approval.  My friend and instructor, Zac Taco, my wife, Jackie, and my students, Neil Trapani and Chuck Hines helped me tremendously in this journey.

Why did you want to become a Fully Qualified Instructor?

From the moment I started training with Grandmaster Bobby Taboada, I admired him as a Martial Artist and a man.  I wanted to be a part of this organization which is united through respect for each other.  There are no ego issues.  It is good people all working together for their love of Balintawak and the man who treats us all as family.  I truly love and appreciate Grandmaster Bobby and all of the members.  I am very proud to be one of Grandmaster Bobby Taboada’s Fully Qualified Instructors since April 25, 1998.

1 Extra. What are you known for in the Balintawak community?

I would have to say that I am known for my loyalty to this organization and my style which includes a combination of Modern Arnis, Cuentada Balintawak and WOTBAG. I would hope that my legacy is that I am a good instructor, loyal friend and am an honest, trustworthy and hardworking person.

I would like to thank Full Qualified Instructor Benjamin Winn for placing on record these informative biographies of Grand Master Bobby Taboada’s Full Qualified Instructors.  With men like him, this organization will continue to grow.  Thank you, Brother.