"12 Basics..." Guro Eugene Nepangue, W.O.T.B.A.G.

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

Prologue:

Master Eugene needs no introduction, but his placement in this series might since he is of the W.O.T.B.A.G. lineage and not a FQI under Grand Master Taboada. While the primary intent of this series is to shed light on the Cuentada Brotherhood established by Grand Master Bobby Taboada by sharing the stories of the Fully Qualified Instructors within, it would be impossible to fully understand this Brotherhood without recognizing the individuals that have come to us from the larger Brotherhood of Balintawak. As we have shared with them, they have shared with us, and we are all better for it. Though their journey in Balintawak didn't start on our shores they have become good friends, even family, and we would like to honor them by sharing their story. Let us all be proud of our lineages but let us all be Brothers in Balintawak.

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

I am Eugene Racaza Nepangue. I am just one of the many FMA practitioners working hard and trying to get better. I started Shorin Ryu Okinawan Karate and Tat Kon Tou when I was in grade school until high school. Tat Kon Tou is a Balintawak/Kung Fu empty hand style founded by Jose “Joe Go” Milan who was also a student of the great Venancio “ Anciong Tigas” Bacon. I have seen eskrima back when I used to watch my older brothers train Balintawak when I was a kid. Then I met one of my brother’s close friend Epifanio “ Yuli” Romo another Tat Kon Tou guy, a Balintawak practitioner and one of the 5 pillars of Kali Ilustrisimo. I was very impressed with his skills and he was the reason why I love to learn eskrima. Unfortunately he was based in Manila 500 plus miles north of Cebu where I’m from. My first Balintawak teacher was Jose “Joe Go” Milan for less than a year because he died of illness. A year later I was introduce to Ramon Franco “Monie” Velez by one of his top student Oliver Mag-uyon. Since then Monie became my friend, mentor and guide of exploring the art of Balintawak eskrima. He is my main Balintawak teacher and he made me what I am now in Balintawak. His teachings help me connect all the training I got from different teachers. He encourages me to explore and be open minded. I was also fortunate to learn from his brothers Chito and Eddie Velez.

Master Eugene and GM Monie Velez

Master Eugene and GM Monie Velez

How were you exposed to Balintawak?

I first saw Balintawak when I was 13 when my older brothers used to train with Ray Mag-uyon. He is the younger brother of WOTBAG’s master Oliver Mag-uyon. I started training Balintawak years after that.

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

I’ve been in to Balintawak for about 20 plus years now. My primary instructor is GM Ramon Franco “ Monie” Velez a very knowledgeable and great teacher. Until now I still ask him any Balintawak question. GM Monie was trained by his father, Teofilo Velez, the same man who trained GM Bobby Taboada. Since coming to the US, I have been fortunate to train with GM Nene, GM Tabmina, Master Zach Taco, and our very own GM Bobby.

Eugene with GM Monie Velez (Center) and GM Bobby Taboada (Right)

Eugene with GM Monie Velez (Center) and GM Bobby Taboada (Right)

What was the hardest part of learning Balintawak?

In my opinion the hardest part of learning Balintawak is body movement. Doing it correctly can minimize hits and give you good position to hit back.

Favorite part of Balintawak?

Reaction is my favorite part of Balintawak.

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

I do study other arts to make my Balintawak better. They expand and deepen my understanding overall.

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

I am an RF(Radio-frequency) engineer. I work in the telecommunication industry. In my job and in Balintawak, every problem has a solution and every move has a counter, the skill is being able to see it.

...every problem has a solution and every move has a counter, the skill is being able to see it.
Master Eugene with just a few of the Legends at the Gathering in 2015

Master Eugene with just a few of the Legends at the Gathering in 2015

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

The main lesson that I want students to learn is the body movement. I remember doing demos and seminars most viewers never appreciate the basic foundation I introduced. Honestly I saw some of them yawn. They are only waiting to see my explosive and slick moves which are the result of good basic body movements.

Eugene being fed by GM Chito Velez (WOTBAG)

Eugene being fed by GM Chito Velez (WOTBAG)

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

Start with the boring basic body movement by learning it, the advanced will be better. We normally do it slow at first to get the correct form and develop timing. In my opinion the deadliest strike is the strike that hits. Timing is everything and everything is no good without any timing. For speed and power it depends on you. Some people have more power than speed or vice-versa if they train. A lightweight boxer can never hit harder than a heavyweight boxer while a heavyweight can never be faster than a lightweight. Strong basic body movement enables you to hit and avoid being hit back.

What does a typical class look like when you teach?

My class is more on a backyard/garage setup. I don’t have a school. I do Balintawak for the love of the art. I only train with friends and tend to avoid politics. I love training and having fun. I tend to focus on whatever it is I feel like working on at that very moment. It is less structured and similar to how I was taught. Each individual have different strengths and weaknesses. Some are stronger, bigger, smaller or quicker than the other by default.

I do Balintawak for the love of the art.

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

I have not yet tested for FQI under GMBT. We did not have a formal system for levels and testing in the Philippines.

Why did you want to become a Fully Qualified Instructor?

I hope someday to test for FQI under GMBT, but I will need to take the time to bring a student from 0-6 in order to satisfy the requirements.

Eugene often partakes in testing at the annual World Camp. Here he is feeding Raul Tabile of the Seattle Crew during his Level 6 test.

Eugene often partakes in testing at the annual World Camp. Here he is feeding Raul Tabile of the Seattle Crew during his Level 6 test.

How did you become connected with GM Bobby Taboada’s Cuentada Balintawak?

When I came to Charlotte North Carolina in 2013 from New York the first thing that came out from my mind was to see GM Bobby. When I told my teacher GM Monie Velez that I was in Charlotte where GM Bobby Taboada is based he so was so glad and told me to see him. I called one of my idols and mentor Master Zack Taco to ask him about GM’s cell number. As soon as I got it I immediately called him. The following day I met him at Hibatchi Buffet just about a mile away from the place I used to stay and the rest was history. I had never met Bobby before but I had heard a lot of stories about him. Back in Cebu I used to watch his old VHS videos from the 90's with Irwin Carmichael and was very impressed with his God given speed and power. GM Bobby is the main person to spread Balintawak around the world and made it big. Without him the art can only be heard in Cebu or a few places abroad. With his effort, Balintawak now is famous and can be seen on the map. More people all over the world have the chance to visit Cebu and look for other Grand masters who are still alive and teaching the art. He is the bearer and face of Balintawak. Without GM Taboada’s effort people could have mistakenly thought that Balintawak is a grocery store, or a laundry place, or maybe a karaoke bar. We, the Balintawak community, are thankful to GM Bobby Taboada. Mabuhay and more power to all Balintawak practitioner regardless of what lineage. We all have the same purpose and that is to preserve and teach the art.

Master Eugene with GM Taboada

Master Eugene with GM Taboada

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

I am known to be friendly and easy to be with. The guy learning and mastering the art of selfies

He isn't kidding. ;)

He isn't kidding. ;)