"12 Basics..." Guro Brian Corey

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

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

I consider myself an ever evolving student of life.  I am constantly open to growth, to change - as a father, husband, friend, teacher, martial artist, and a human being. I try not to define myself - doing so is like trying to impose a static position in life.  It makes people look for reasons to live up to the definition and refuse to change, often to their own detriment.  Just in the past few years, I feel like I've evolved in my political views, my opinions on parenting, and my understanding of people and what motivates us.  My level of understanding of the martial arts has changed several times as well.  I've become more accepting and patient with other's ideas.

My life story may shed some light on the subject; I grew up in a constant state of change.  I moved several times as child.  Had many different friends that came and went.  Been in some tough situations at home and school.  One of my first life lessons was that nothing in life is permanent.  As such, I've had 3 different careers over the years; public school teacher, textile operations manager, and now, martial arts school owner and teacher.

I try not to define myself - doing so is like trying to impose a static position in life. It makes people look for reasons to live up to the definition and refuse to change, often to their own detriment.

How were you exposed to Balintawak?

I first was introduced to Balintawak in 1993 by my Kung Fu instructors, Grandmaster John Stoverand Sifu Kim Crisp.  They had just started getting involved into the Filipino Martial Arts and sharing information and drills from the seminars they attended. During this time, I accompanied my father to one of the first Mixed Martial Arts events that were organized in North Carolina.  We paid $40 to go see this event in Charlotte at the Grady Cole Center.  The fights were horrible.  They were clearly predetermined outcomes, and several of the "fighters" were wearing Luchador style masks.  The fights were clearly faked and rehearsed.  The highlight to the evening was the intermission show, when I watched this hefty looking Filipino with a stick enter the ring with 3 or 4 other more athletic looking fellows.  My father muttered something like, "what is THAT guy gonna do".  Over the next 10 minutes I watched this guy who looked like he had enjoyed too many bowls of rice move with blinding speed and power. He moved these guys around like they were rag dolls and the audience let out several "oohs" and "aahs".  It was then that I made the connection that I was watching the man that my Kung Fu instructors had been describing to me.  I didn't get to watch much more of the event as we were forced to leave - the spectators started rioting over the obvious fraud of this event, and they even stormed the box office to try and take their money back. Fights were breaking out everywhere on the floor around the ring. Police in riot gear were arriving as we made our way out towards the parking lot.  

I then saw GM Taboada at a seminar in Wilmington the following year or so later.  I was 20 years old, and didn't have the maturity and proficiency in the martial arts at the time to truly appreciate and grasp what I was shown.  So, for the next few years, I dabbled in different arts as a supplement to my Kung Fu training. 

In 2001, I moved to Raleigh, NC and started training in Modern Arnis with David Ng and Roland Rivera.  They gave me a very sound base in the movement of the Filipino Martial Arts, and when I eventually moved once again in 2007 (to the Charlotte area), it was David Ng who strongly encouraged me to find GM Taboada to continue my training.  
So, on a cold Saturday morning in February, I made my way to Sweetgrass Ln. to seek out the legendary Grandmaster.  I got a little lost trying to find the house, and ended up being late for the practice.  So, when I walked in, there were 5 or 6 students busily working away, honing their skills.  

An early introduction to the basics in 2001 from GM Taboada

An early introduction to the basics in 2001 from GM Taboada

Grandmaster Bobby greeted me, made some small talk, and then sat down in a chair.  He reached underneath the chair and pulled out a small step stool and motioned for me to sit.  So, now, sitting very close to the floor, and just a foot from this rather intimidating looking man, he narrowed his eyes, leaned forward and asked, "Why are your here"?
He knew that I had done several martial arts, three of them being Filipino styles.  I probably appeared to be a "technique collector".  
I answered by telling him that I just wanted to learn.  That he had impressed me all those years ago and that I finally was in a place to learn from him.   He replied with a stern warning before the training began, "Make sure you don't waste my time".  
Ever since I have been his devoted student, and haven't had one ounce of regret for it.

... he narrowed his eyes, leaned forward and asked, “Why are your here”?

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

I have seriously studied Balintawak since February of 2007.  I was fortunate to have Grandmaster Taboada as my primary instructor.  

Still at it in 2015.

Still at it in 2015.

What was the hardest part of learning Balintawak?

When I started Balintawak, I had close to 20 years of training in traditional martial arts.  Stances in most traditional martial arts emphasize putting more weight on one foot than the other.  This is also seen in the triangle footwork of most Filipino martial arts.  So, the center-balanced, tight stepping, pivoting footwork of Balintawak was the hardest thing for me to overcome.  I had to overcome 20 years of programming to be able to move like a Balintawak player.  

Favorite part of Balintawak?

As far as the curriculum goes, without a doubt, its the pushing and pulling applications of the art. The use of the empty hand to manipulate your opponent and assist in setting up a power strike or other technique.  In general, I love the camaraderie of students of this art.  Whenever we have a seminar or gathering, it feels like a big family reunion and I always look forward to the next one.  We can fully attribute this to the energy, atmosphere, and expectations that Bobby brings to this group.

In general, I love the camaraderie of students of this art. Whenever we have a seminar or gathering, it feels like a big family reunion and I always look forward to the next one.

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

Since I was 12 years old, I have been a student of a couple different Kung Fu styles, Preying Mantis, Wing Chun, and 5 Animal styles.  I have also studied Modern Arnis for many years, as well as Filipino Combat Systems (FCS Kali).  I also became involved with Military combatives and Krav Maga.  


I'm not sure how much these styles influence my Balintawak - when I study a martial art, I try to "empty my cup" and start fresh, eliminate prior bias and influence so that I can immerse myself in the art for awhile.  However, I can say that Balintawak has influenced my expression of the other arts. My movement has become tighter, more efficient.   Most notably, the heavy emphasis on the teacher-student relationship has permeated into how I teach the other styles.  I have been fortunate to have GM Taboada as a mentor, and I have learned so much about how to teach students effectively, that it is only natural that these lessons would follow me wherever I go.

Pipo being a REALLY good sport.

Pipo being a REALLY good sport.

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

Nowadays, my day job is living my dream - owning and teaching at my martial arts studio in Indian Trail, NC. The successful completion of my FQI test in 2010 gave me the boost in confidence and initiative to launch my own school.  It has been one of the best decisions (and gambles) that I have ever decided to undertake for myself and my family.   I also still do some limited consulting to the textile industry when the need arises.

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

That although our curriculum is narrow, it is VERY deep.  Requirements for Levels 1 through 7 can fit on a single sheet of paper.  However, the application of that material can keep you busy for the rest of your life.  So, when my students are acting like they need something "new", I show them a different way to apply what they have been getting bored with, and send them back to practice.

... although our curriculum is narrow, it is VERY deep.

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

Beginners must have emphasis on the basics.  Without a good proficiency of Levels 1 and 2, they will always have a weakness, and it will show itself when they try to do more advanced techniques.  Advanced students should try to work towards clean movement, and picking up on the subtleties of the art, like when to block a strike with just the stick versus the stick and hand together while applying a disarm or technique.  

What does a typical class look like when you teach?  

Small, fairly informal, and social.  We talk some, laugh some, and train a lot.  Their is an atmosphere of mutual respect.  

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

My techniques are like a nod to the various arts I have studied.  You can see the Trankada and Palis-Palis of Modern Arnis in them, as well as knife application and stick grappling from FCS, to trapping techniques of Kung Fu.  The majority of my techniques however, were inspired by watching my teacher in action and how he can use his "live hand" to manipulate the body and set someone up for the full power strikes.  

Why did you want to become a Fully Qualified Instructor?

To me, becoming an FQI is a necessary step in your growth.  When you teach others Balintawak (or anything else for that matter), you begin to understand it at a completely different level.  Anyone that has done the Completion of the Art test should not take the word "Completion" too seriously - there is still so much more to learn, and teaching others opens that door for you.

When you teach others Balintawak (or anything else for that matter), you begin to understand it at a completely different level.
The reason running shoes were invented.

The reason running shoes were invented.

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

Do we ever know?  There is usually a gap between what we perceive others think of us and how they actually see us.  I hope they just see me as a loyal student, a caring friend, and a proficient Balintawak player.  Oh yeah, and for my crude sense of humor.