"12 Basics..." Guro Jerome Teague, Applied Eskrima

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.
— Dictonary of Obscure Sorrows

Prologue:

You may have noticed "Applied Eskrima" in the title, that's because Guro Teague holds his rank in the Applied Eskrima system. Jerome has been involved with members of the Taboada Cuentada Brotherhood for a number of years during which he has been incredibly generous with his skill and friendship. In general, Jerome has done a great deal to promote the art of Balintawak through his teaching and seminars, Youtube Channel, and teaching martial arts for film. As they say, a higher tide lifts all boats. He has an incredible story and is doing incredible things. I hope you enjoy learning more about our friend Guro Jerome Teague.

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

My name is Jerome Teague and I am a 35-year-old US Army veteran, college student, martial arts instructor, but most importantly, a lifelong student of the martial arts. I currently teach and reside in Nashville, TN. I was born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania, joined the Army a few days after September 11th, 2001 and served a combat tour in Iraq. My unit, the 2/2 ACR was tasked with overseeing security and infrastructure operations in a Shia suburb of Baghdad called Sadr City from Spring of 2003-Summer of 2004.

Upon returning to the States, I was transferred to the 101st ABN (3rd BCT) serving the last year of my enlistment under Col. Michael Steel in what is considered by some to be one of the toughest units in the regular Army. Upon ending my enlistment in 2005 I moved to Nashville, and that is more or less where my Balintawak story begins.

How were you exposed to Balintawak?

My first exposure to Balintawak was, like many others, internet videos. I had seen videos of the Grandmasters like GM Bobby Taboada, GM Nick Elizar, GM Nene Gaabucayan, and GM Monie Velez. Watching them move was thrilling even though I did not understand what the hell was going on. But the speed, power, precision, and control left a lasting effect on me, so when I had the opportunity to get involved with Virgil Cavada, formerly of the Atillo lineage, I jumped on it.

I had seen videos of the Grandmasters like GM Bobby Taboada, GM Nick Elizar, GM Nene Gaabucayan, and GM Monie Velez. Watching them move was thrilling even though I did not understand what the hell was going on.

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

I have been studying Martial Arts for the last 23 years. I began in Tang Soo Do around 12 and kept up with that through my teens. While in the Army I was exposed to BJJ through the Army combatives program as well as boxing on my Brigade’s boxing team while I was stationed with the 101st ABN.

When I left the Army in 2005, I studied Budo Taijutsu with various instructors in the Southeast as well as studying Shaolin Kung Fu (Ng Lineage) while I was teaching an FMA program at a kwoon here in Nashville. It was during my time in Budo where I first encountered Filipino Martial Arts.

In 2006, Professor Aaron Lee Smith, a Jujitsu instructor with experience in Modern Arnis, moved to the Nashville area from Jacksonville, FL. He came to our Budo group looking for a place to practice and have access to training partners. He and I became fast friends and he got me started in FMA. He taught me all the materials that were part of the curriculum. In hindsight, it was very basic drills for coordination and attribute development, however, it was essential to my initial development and I still use a lot of those materials in my teaching. From there I had the opportunity to practice with various JKD instructors in my area who had a little FMA experience (mostly Inosanto based), but none were truly teaching a complete system, just a little of this and a little of that as is often the case with FMA in the USA. Eventually I was fortunate to meet another instructor in the area, Guro Keith Groves of the Villabrille Largusa Kali system. I spent 2 years with Guro Keith as a student/ training partner. That was my first experience in a complete system of FMA. I really enjoyed it, but overall the style was not a good fit for me. Guro Keith and I are still great friends and I encourage everyone who has the opportunity to train with him to do so!

During my time with Guro Keith I met Virgil Orleans Cavada (Master V) via the internet (sometime in 2010). I had seen some videos of his and was intrigued by the style and he and I became fast friends. I expressed interest in learning the style and he accommodated me by sending me various pieces of the curriculum and made himself available to answer questions and even check my progress over Skype. He is a very generous and good natured man. I was working his materials for about 2 years before I was able to host him in Nashville for a seminar and week of private training. At the point he filled in the gaps in my basics and the following month I visited him in West Covina, CA to test for Module 1 Certification (Completion of Basics). He then encouraged me to begin teaching openly and I have been doing so ever since.

Guro Jerome Teague (R) with Master Virgil Orleans Cavada (L)

Guro Jerome Teague (R) with Master Virgil Orleans Cavada (L)

Currently I am teaching his Applied Eskima throughout the Southeast, but I am constantly looking for new opportunities and challenges to continue my growth as well as the growth of my personal students. Over the last 3 years I have also been working with friends/ mentors Elmann Cabotage and Christos Koutsotasios in the classical Balintawak styles of Arnis Cuentada and Nickelstick respectively. These 2 individuals have been instrumental in my continued growth as an instructor and furthering my knowledge base of the many expressions of Balintawak. I am even planning a teaching/training trip to Greece in September 2016 to do some more in-depth study and sharing with Guro Christos.

Cross training has always been at the core of my martial arts training. Basically you don’t know what you don’t know until you get out there and find out. My continued cross training keeps me motivated, engaged, and has had a positive affect on my teaching abilities and style.

Guro Jerome Teague (Applied Eskrima), Guro Mike Castro (Eskrido), Guro Ellman Cabotage (Taboada Cuentada Balintawak)

Guro Jerome Teague (Applied Eskrima), Guro Mike Castro (Eskrido), Guro Ellman Cabotage (Taboada Cuentada Balintawak)

What was the hardest part of learning Balintawak?

I would say the hardest part of my progress has been being so far removed from any qualified instructors or practitioners to serve as training partners. However, I think that has been the overall contributing factor to any measure of skill that I have developed as an instructor/ practitioner. In my particular circumstances, I have had to train my own training partners and moreover, I have had to train them to be better than me in order to create individuals who can push me to grow and improve. So where a traditional progression would have an individual being led and then learning to feed, I have had to do the opposite, and always backing up to make sure that I have not left any holes in my own training. Sometimes I feel like I have had to work twice as hard to get half as far, but I would not trade the experience for anything, for better or worse it has made me what I am.

Now, with all of the friends I have been so fortunate to make within the community, this is not much of a problem anymore. There are some very skilled and great guys only a few hours away.

In my particular circumstances, I have had to train my own training partners and moreover, I have had to train them to be better than me in order to create individuals who can push me to grow and improve.
Guro Jerome is a gifted teacher and communicator who can teach pretty much anyone.

Guro Jerome is a gifted teacher and communicator who can teach pretty much anyone.

Favorite part of Balintawak?

Most definitely the symbiotic relationship of the feeder to receiver in agak/ palakaw/ padagan. The asymmetrical style of drilling used by the Balintawak systems trumps all other methods that I have encountered. Since the drilling/ practice method is not a strict choreography it is easy to see when a student has it down or is lacking. We are dealing in close quarters responses in real time. The speed with which a student can go from 0 to functionally proficient in this context is quite astounding in comparison to other martial arts. I think this is one of Balintawak’s greatest strengths as a teaching platform. It produces quality practitioners quickly by emphasizing the physical attributes (reflex, dexterity, speed, power) and mental attributes (stress inoculation, focus, decision making) above all else.

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The asymmetrical style of drilling used by the Balintawak systems trumps all other methods that I have encountered.

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

For a time, I put down all the arts that I was training to make my FMA training a primary focus. I have since began integrating all of my previous experience into my practice and teaching at least when the students are functional in their basic defend and counter drilling. Now I am brining in a lot of my kick boxing and joint manipulation skills and blending them into my practice and even teaching it as a stand alone progression. At the end of the day, I do my best to use all the tools at my disposal to make sure my students are getting the best experience and training from me.

Guro Jerome may or may not be a Jedi.

Guro Jerome may or may not be a Jedi.

At the end of the day, I do my best to use all the tools at my disposal to make sure my students are getting the best experience and training from me.


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

 Since separating from the Military in 2005, I have pretty much worked in private security in various capacities. Additionally, I have also been a college student for a majority of that time. Yes, I would say there has been a constant feedback loop of my life influencing my Balintawak and my Balintawak influencing my life. In terms of life, my experiences in the military and security fields have imprinted a certain gravitas to how I teach and practice. I favor simple and direct style without superfluous movements and busy work in my martial arts. That is why Balintawak is a good fit for me. In terms of Balintawak informing my attitude on life, it has taught me that you are never out… there is always a counter, just keep focused and moving until you find it. As I tell my students, you are not finished until you are dead, and you will puke before you pass out and you will pass out before you die, so keep going!

In terms of Balintawak informing my attitude on life, it has taught me that you are never out… there is always a counter, just keep focused and moving until you find it.

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

Due to the nature of the teaching methodology of Balintawak, and how becoming the feeder/ instructor is a mandatory part of the progression, I believe humility, compassion, and a sense of service are at the forefront of what I do. When you step up into a position of leadership or are appointed to one, you are responsible to the individuals who choose to follow you. If you mislead them or abuse them, either willfully or unknowingly, that is on you. It is your job to do your best to help them reach their goals by giving them the tools and training they need to do so. As Archilochus, one of my favorite Greek Philosophers who is often quoted in US Army training doctrine says, “To send the untrained to battle is to throw them away.”

I believe humility, compassion, and a sense of service are at the forefront of what I do. When you step up into a position of leadership or are appointed to one, you are responsible to the individuals who choose to follow you.
Left to Right: Andrea Lacopini, Jerome Teague, Virgil Cavada, Eric Butler, and Scott Soifer

Left to Right: Andrea Lacopini, Jerome Teague, Virgil Cavada, Eric Butler, and Scott Soifer

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

For my beginners I emphasis body mechanics and reflex development. Once I see that they are performing their mechanics properly, I will gradually increase the speed and pressure in our drilling. I have been told by a few students that I have an ability to take them right to the point of breaking down and keep there with just the right amount of pressure. I never really thought about it until it was pointed out to me. But since identifying that, that is my primary goal with each student. To take them just shy of their breaking point and keep them operating on the edge. Not too hot, not too cold, but just right.

When my student’s begin to lead in Agak, I try to instill that same ability to read the student so they can be the best training partner to their juniors. Some of the things that I notice with the novices range from very large cues to slightly subtler ones. Obviously with new students, when we begin to drill them, the urge to back up is natural. Next when I am able to keep them from backing up with foot movement, they will inevitably try to do it by leaning back. In this case I try to enforce an upright or slightly forward leaning posture. I will tolerate some backwards lean as long as it is for a purpose and it is corrected quickly (no one ever won a fight on their heels). As for smaller cues, I often see irregular blinking (usually in response to the cracking of the sticks), structural breaks in grip and off hand position. Lastly, and perhaps the subtlest of all, is various forms of displacement behaviors (nervous laughter, lack of focus etc.). These are the usual indicators that a beginning student is over stressed, overloaded, and not in a learning mode anymore. It is a fine line between being an intense instructor versus a bully.

For my advanced students I emphasize a functional integration of all their materials into a random play. Meaning that the role of feeder receiver should diminish and they should be playing and reacting in real time without many set parameters. This is something that I will let them do only after I am satisfied with their maturity and physical/ emotional control. And overall, the fundamental aspect of problem solving while hitting hard, hitting fast, and not getting hit!

For my advanced students I emphasize a functional integration of all their materials into a random play. Meaning that the role of feeder receiver should diminish and they should be playing and reacting in real time without many set parameters.


What does a typical class look like when you teach?

Typically, my classes are small, about 5 students or less. Speaking in regard to Balintawak, what we do and how we do it is not for everyone. I have started to realize that within the last 2 years. There are plenty of people who get into martial arts as an activity/ hobby and that is fine. But as most of the experienced Balintawak players know, we have a high attrition rate, because there is no room for half stepping in what we do. You are 100% in or you are out.  So people who seek us out looking to get into FMA for the tacticool/ knife fighter image or for the fancy contrived style of choreography that abounds in other systems usually do not stay.

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

When coming up with any new materials, functionality and practicality are the primary focus. I always uphold a standard of no more than 3 movements to get the job done. I also try not to rely much on contrived responses or compliancy from my practice partners. If I can nail the technique or movement in random play with a non compliant partner, I keep it. If not, I discard it.

Guro Jerome sharing his knife curriculum with the Armed Forces

Guro Jerome sharing his knife curriculum with the Armed Forces

When coming up with any new materials, functionality and practicality are the primary focus. I always uphold a standard of no more than 3 movements to get the job done.

Why did you want to become a Fully Qualified Instructor?

I can not speak to this point the same as your other contributors because I am not a Taboada Arnis Cuentada instructor and I know this question has very specific connotations to the members of GM Bobby’s organization. But I can say that as a person, I do not like to leave things unfinished. However, in the strict terms of studying the art, I think it is very important to get the whole picture before forming any sort of conclusions. As GM Bobby says, you can study as many systems or styles as you want, but make sure you finish.

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

HAHA… I am not sure. We may need to take a poll! But if I had to venture a guess, it would probably be my teaching and presentation style as well as my presence on social media. Much of what I do in social media has been to promote and share the art. In my teaching and presentations, I strive to be as clear, concise, and informative as possible while maintaining a laid back and entertaining atmosphere. I have found through my experiences in other martial arts as well as the military that when individuals are stressed out, nervous, or pre-occupied with putting on heirs, the ability to process, learn, and absorb new information is the first thing that suffers.