"12 Basics..." Guro Garth Dicker

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.
— Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Who are you and how do you define yourself?

My name is Garth Dicker and I was born and live in Australia, and currently reside in the city of Melbourne in the state of Victoria. I have trained in the martial arts all of my teenage and adult life, which now amounts to over 40 years of training. The martial arts are not my job and they are not a means of income for me, they are both my personal challenge and my escape from modern day stresses and hassles. The fact I have trained so many years does not make me think I know more than others but makes me think I am getting old. I find the question of how do you define yourself as a strange question in the sense that define is very different to describe. If you mean define as in ‘mark out the boundary or limits’ I would like to think my personal boundaries are still expanding and as such I hopefully remain undefined.

If you mean define as in ‘mark out the boundary or limits’ I would like to think my personal boundaries are still expanding and as such I hopefully remain undefined.

How were you exposed to Balintawak?

I first met Bobby in 1990 when he was based in New Zealand and had been invited to run a seminar at my local Karate Dojo in Melbourne, Australia. Bobby was accompanied by his sponsor in New Zealand at the time Peter Ball who he had trained in Balintawak. I had trained in Modern Arnis for quite a few years before I first met Bobby, and despite having trained in the Phillipines many times this seminar with Bobby was the first time I had seen the Balintawak style.


Reflecting now on my first meeting with Bobby there were probably 3 things that stood out to me and are still quite memorable

  1. I remember thinking the Balintawak techniques were not actually very difficult to do. I am not sure if at that time Bobby ran all his seminars according to his syllabus or because our group had a solid background in Arnis Bobby covered more, but we drilled all of Level 1 and the start of Level 2 and most of our group picked it up fairly well in one session. However, remembering the patterns was a very different proposition compared to the speed and power that Bobby could generate with these simple movements. How something fairly simple could be done so well to me that was very impressive.
  2.  I remember the WOW factor when Bobby played with the grouping systems. Coming from a Karate background sparring was an integral part of our training but in Arnis I had previously found the training was either very structured in the sense of drills or completely freestyle in the sense of tournament style. Balintawak play was something else. How Bobby applied disarms and his techniques whilst in stickfighting motion was a very new concept to what I had seen previously in Arnis. Also the sheer speed and controlled power was impressive.
  3. I remember Bobby presented at that time very differently to how I have now come to know him. He was a man of few words and very different in persona to the amicable, smiling “just call me Bobby” that I see today. He carried himself respectfully but he had an aura of don’t mess with me. He at the time in fact reminded me of Tadashi Yamashita the famous US based karate sensei who I had trained with previously. He demanded respect in his actions but had a bad arse don’t get on my wrong side persona. I never would have imagined at that first meeting how good a friendship we would develop over the years.

How long have you studied Balintawak and who was your primary instructor?

Needless to say whilst I was very impressed with my first meeting with Bobby, I was in Australia but he wasn’t, so my Balintawak journey was still in the starting blocks. I didn’t meet Bobby again until he came to Melbourne for a festival to celebrate the 50th birthday of my karate instructor Tino Ceberano. This was in 1992 and a very big event for martial arts in Australia at the time. Many famous martial artists attended from around the world and this is in fact when I believe Bobby first met Irwin Carmichael, who came out as a representative of Remy Presas of Modern Arnis fame who was unable to make the trip.
I remember on that visit going out to a nightclub in Melbourne, which one of our instructors ran, and my Modern Arnis instructor Rodel was there with Bobby and this was the first time I met Bobby socially and that was a lot of fun. Rodel, who is a great guy and loves a beer, forgets he is only the size of a jockey and shouldn’t drink with Aussies, so we all had plenty of laughs!

After the chance meeting of Irwin and Bobby of course Irwin was then instrumental in arranging for Bobby to relocate and settle in the USA. Great for Bobby but of course that meant Bobby was even further away from us in Australia. It then wasn’t until Bobby and Irwin made the original Balintawak tape series that I got hold of and studied that I really commenced my study of Balintawak. So I guess my primary instructors in Balintawak were Bobby and Irwin on a video recorder.

Then of course I couldn’t do it by myself, so I had to start training some of my fellow Karate/Modern Arnis instructors so I had someone to train with, notably Paul Gale, Jim Sakkas and Coiln Bryant in Melbourne Australia. Because I had the video recorder and the tapes I became the instructor. The expression ‘blind leading the blind’ springs to mind however the harder something is to attain sometimes the more you crave it and the harder you work to achieve it!

The next major step in my Balintawak training was when I paid to have Bobby come out to Australia to train our small group for a week. That was in 1997 and after that intensive weeks training Bobby gave us all a certificate ‘Basic Instructor High Level 1” and told us we could teach the basics to others and this was really when Balintawak in Australia started. The certificate meant little to me really but the training meant everything. The next year in 1998, I flew to Charlotte with my good mate Paul Gale for the first time, and that commenced a regular ritual of going to Charlotte to train with Bobby and bringing Bobby back out to Australia.

Grand Master Taboada feeding Guro Dicker

What was the hardest part of learning Balintawak?

Obviously the lack of accessibility to Bobby made it hard to progress as quickly as I would have ideally liked in learning the Balintawak syllabus. There was also the ever present danger of developing bad habits from the lack of correction. But when I reflect now in a somewhat counterintuitive way I think that the difficulty in training with Bobby was maybe not necessarily a bad thing. I know how highly any of us from Australia value any training time with Bobby and how because we know we won’t see him for a while how we want to make the most of any training opportunity with Bobby. Going through the motions at training or having an off day is not an option. After every session with Bobby I write notes, ask questions and attempt to consolidate in my mind what I have learnt. Often easy access reduces the sense of occasion and diminishes the value and intensity of the training. ‘I can learn that next week’ doesn’t apply when you live 16,000 km away from your instructor!

‘I can learn that next week’ doesn’t apply when you live 16,000 km away from your instructor!

I have read the interview with Richard Cotterill from the UK on your site and I must say the similarities with my experiences in distance learning in Balintawak are eerily similar to his. I am yet to meet Richard but for some reason, speaking to Bobby who speaks so highly of him, and reading your interview with him I know we would get on well both in training hard and having a beer and hanging it on each other afterwards.

Favourite part of Balintawak

The beauty of Balintawak to me is how integrative the system is. In most other martial arts I have trained in, the mindset is forget your other training and now we train in this art. In Balintawak the mindset is remember your other training and if you can apply it in Balintawak stick fighting motion that is fantastic and can you teach us how it is done. The Balintawak system continues to evolve and grow by exploring new techniques, hence the requirement in the Fully Qualified Instructor’s Test of a student developing and demonstrating their own 24 techniques in stickfighting motion.

The beauty of Balintawak to me is how integrative the system is.

Have you studied other martial arts and how have they influenced your Balintawak training?

I have trained in a number of martial arts and attended many different martial arts workshops and seminars over the years and in different ways all of these experiences have influenced my approach to Balintawak training and teaching. If I consider martial art systems that I have trained in for at least 5 years, then there are 5, Karate (Goju), Modern Arnis, BJJ (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu), Knife, and Boxing.


Karate:
I commenced training in the martial arts when I was 13 years old. My first experience was with Goju Karate and my instructors were Tino Ceberano and Sal Ebanez who were both ex USA marines who had migrated to Australia in the late 1960’s and both were of Filipino/Hawaiian heritage. (Tino Ceberano’s father was actually an instructor in the Toledo style of Arnis). The Goju Karate system is one of the main Japanese Karate styles renowned for its combination of Hard (“Go”) and Soft (“Ju”) techniques. I achieved my Black Belt when I was 17 years old and I became an instructor at the Australian headquarters dojo in Melbourne. I was fortunate enough to compete at both National and International level in Sport Karate in the 1970’s and 1980’s. After the death of the head of Goju Karate, Gogen Yamaguchi in 1989, the Goju style in Australia started to fragment. My karate instructor, Tino Ceberano, broke away to form his own organisation (called International Goju Karate) and I was graded by him to 4th Dan Renshi rank in 1993. However by this time all of the Karate instructors senior to me had left and whilst I didn’t mind teaching my passion was the training and challenge of learning and I decided to concentrate on the Filipino Arts which I had already commenced.


I still have very fond memories of my Karate training. The training was very hard and the standard was very high especially in the early years with great attention to detail. As a teenager because I was tall I trained with the adults and after 12 months training in basics when you achieved green belt rank you joined the coloured belt class with all the seniors. This is when the sparring commenced and many of the guys were not only very talented but quite brutal. In Australia at the time if you turned up to a Karate class and got injured it was your fault for doing something as dangerous as Karate. No one even contemplated that if you injured someone they might sue you! I still remember how I would turn up to training as a skinny teenager and would check which black belts were there and think how I might get the crap beaten out of me that night. Yet I kept turning up and confronting my fears both real and imagined and this in hindsight was a very valuable lesson to me.

In Australia at the time if you turned up to a Karate class and got injured it was your fault for doing something as dangerous as Karate.


The repetition of techniques to gain perfection and reaching a certain standard before any new techniques could be learnt was the Japanese way and I still retain an appreciation of the benefits of this style of training. I also like to sometimes use in my teaching the Japanese style of shadow training. That is rather than being at the front of the class looking at the students all the time, the class follows you and tries to emulate your movements. I find this very useful in teaching body movement and transfer of power position from forehand to backhand sides particularly in refining the grouping systems. Many martial artists when they start training in Balintawak maintain a very upright stance, as in a basic half or deep lunging stance, and don’t appreciate that in Balintawak one always needs to maintain a power position and be ready to deliver a full power strike.

The repetition of techniques to gain perfection and reaching a certain standard before any new techniques could be learnt was the Japanese way and I still retain an appreciation of the benefits of this style of training.


Modern Arnis
I was first exposed to the Filipino Martial Arts in 1984 during a visit to Australia by Remy Presas who ran a series of Modern Arnis seminars at my Karate school. Remy was very impressive and a great showman with plenty of charisma. Having my interest in FMA stimulated by Remy Presas, on a stopover in Manila in 1989, on the way back from a Karate training trip to Japan, I met Rodel Dagooc an instructor in Modern Arnis under Remy Presas. That started my training in Modern Arnis. For the next 8 years I traveled to the Phillipines several times a year to train in Modern Arnis with Rodel. I trained with my good friends Paul Gale and Jim Saakas who have both gone on to be Fully Qualified instructors in Balintawak with Bobby. Rodel would come to our hotel in Manila, we would put on our red and black uniforms and train outside much to the amusement of the Filipino staff. We would do 2 training sessions a day for about 60-70 minutes. This does not sound like much training, but despite us all being very fit, it was so hot and humid and with Rodel it was all about speed and intensity. I remember so much twirling and so many blisters! Rodel was amazing with his speed when twirling and changing hands. He was very structured in how he taught Modern Arnis with an excellent syllabus and the training included double stick, single stick, espada y daga, daga and dos pontos. Rodel was an instructor of high integrity and refused to grade anyone unless they met his high standards. This was unusual in the Phillipines as Arnis instructors are not highly paid and in a poor country any chance to gain some extra cash is hard to refuse.


My training in Modern Arnis emphasised the importance of training both sides of the body. I helped Rodel by writing up his Modern Arnis syllabus in English and this taught me the usefulness of documenting my martial arts training thoughts and lessons in notes. In Balintawak particularly because of my distance from Bobby I need to rely on notes as an aide memoire . It is amazing that I go back to martial arts notes I wrote years ago and it can remind me of a drill I had forgotten or I find something I wrote that now needs correction as my understanding has evolved.

My training in Modern Arnis emphasised the importance of training both sides of the body.

Knife Training
I like most people from an empty hand martial arts background was very interested in how to defend against a knife. I remember constantly asking Rodel about knife defence and he would say you can’t. At the time I couldn’t understand this as surely some knowledge was better than none and felt perhaps he thought I wasn’t ready yet. Whilst in the Philippines I did get to train with various knife instructors, but it was essentially about the Balisong knife and a variety of opening techniques. I found this fun and an interesting aside but really not that practical considering Balisong knives are illegal in Australia.

I remember constantly asking Rodel about knife defence and he would say you can’t.


From my Arnis training, particularly the Dos Pontos, I felt comfortable that I could use a knife should the need arise but still did not feel that I was very skilled with the concept of facing a knife empty handed. It was probably not until many years later when Bobby introduced me to a friend of his that I perhaps started to understand Knife training better. Raffy Pambuan is a FMA instructor based in Orlando Florida who teaches his family style of FMA. The style is called Tulisan Cabellero as the techniques are either deadly (Tulisan) or disabling (Cabellero). I can highly recommend anyone if they get a chance to train or at least do some seminars with Raffy. As well as the knife Raffy is a world class expert in the whip, both horsewhip and bullwhip, quite amazing to see him in action.


My training in knife reinforced to me that you should never underestimate anyone and if someone has a knife they are at a huge advantage against the weaponless. A novice with a knife is at a large advantage even if you have trained in the martial arts for many years and I can’t empahsise this enough. I still shake my head when I see knife defence drills with a straight knife thrust that is blocked with an X block and converted to a wrist lock. WTF I don’t think they have trained with Filipinos!!!

Training in knife defence also reinforced to me the need to keep all self defence techniques as simple as possible and this also applies to Balintawak. With knife defence in particular there is little margin for error so it is too dangerous to muck around trying a fancy reversal or lock, the threat level is extreme and it is not a time to try and show off or try something in a panicked situation for the first time.

In self defence training I emhasise the need to be able to respond at different levels of force, depending on the threat level of a given self defence situation. Response to a knife threat for example requires a very different degree of response than someone just grabbing your clothing. Raffy calls knife fighting a ‘generous art’ you need to give back more than they are trying to give you!

Raffy calls knife fighting a ‘generous art’ you need to give back more than they are trying to give you!

Training in the martial arts should teach a skill set that enables self defence at different levels of aggression. In self defence seminars I teach students to think of the 4 D’s of self Defence response: Detour, Discourage, Disable and Destroy. The ‘Detour’ of course is the most important response, as I tell students if you can avoid a confrontation you win. I always remember a Kanji parchment I received for winning a Karate tournament many years ago, when translated it said “ My fist is strong but I do not use it as I study the way of Goju”.

In self defence seminars I teach students to think of the 4 D’s of self Defence response: Detour, Discourage, Disable and Destroy.

BJJ/MMA
After I saw the first UFC in November 1993 I realised I had very little idea what to do if the fight went to the ground and I decided to start training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. In 1994 I commenced training with John Will, who at the time was Australia’s most experienced grappling coach, and fortunately for me he was based in the regional town of Geelong outside of Melbourne, where I traveled each week for work. John Will was a very experienced martial artist who had a background in a number of martial arts but especially the Indonesian art of Pencak Silat and at that time was teaching what he called Shootfighting. He had set up the main martial arts magazine in Australia (called BLITZ) and one of the big perks was he got to travel the world interviewing and training with the best martial artists. John had already been training in Brazil with the Gracies and with their cousins the Machados in LA. When I started training with John he was a blue belt in BJJ and in 1997 he was one of the first 12 ‘non Brazilians’ in the world to get a BJJ blackbelt. With his journalistic and martial arts background John was very good at teaching and structuring a syllabus. John’s systematic grading system for BJJ was way ahead of its time and John actually wrote if not the first, one of the first textbooks on BJJ (“Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Fundamentals”). I received my Blue belt in BJJ from John in 1997 and I knew lots of finishes, could trash my Karate mates who knew nothing, and I thought all was going along nicely with my ground game. But it was on a training trip to Charlotte to train with Bobby, that Irwin Carmichael introduced me to a friend of his who was a blue belt in BJJ under Rickson Gracie. There was obviously a big difference in the standard of blue belts in the USA compared to Australia at the time as his standard was far superior to mine. I then took off my blue belt and began training in no gi with another BJJ instructor, John Donehue, who had just returned to Australia after training fulltime in the USA for 10 years. John Donehue is one of the very few people ever to have been graded to a Blackbelt in BJJ and a Blackbelt by Gene Le Bell. The training with John Donehue was a serious awakening. The training was all about control and the finishes were a secondary consideration, he could make you tap by just focusing his body weight onto you. The training was great but demanding and as in all sports the more contact the more injuries and unfortunately there was a price to pay and due to advancing years and after multiple knee operations I had to cease BJJ after about 14 years of regular training.

The training was all about control and the finishes were a secondary consideration

The influences I took from my BJJ/MMA training were many but it certainly made me appreciate it is all about the control. Having countless finishing techniques is irrelevant if you can’t place your opponent in a position to execute the techniques, and the same message applies equally to Balintawak and all other martial arts.

Having countless finishing techniques is irrelevant if you can’t place your opponent in a position to execute the techniques, and the same message applies equally to Balintawak and all other martial arts.

The realism of grappling also stays with me and if you tap you know your opponent got the better of you. Always think in Balintawak, especially when applying techniques, would this work in a real world situation. It is important to remember that just as having a roll on the mat is not a real fight in grappling, so is play in Balintawak not a fight. We are training fighting skills with speed and power but also control. In Balintawak during play always think whether you are in a power position to deliver a full power strike if you needed to.

It is important to remember that just as having a roll on the mat is not a real fight in grappling, so is play in Balintawak not a fight.

Another lesson I took from my time training in BJJ/MMA was, just as in Balintawak, much of the training is one on one but relying on training with the same person all the time has limitations. Only having private lessons for example can be a trap because whilst you might learn the syllabus quicker, you also need to consolidate what you learn by training with many different opponents. In Balintawak training there is a strong emphasis on training with ‘different hands’ so you can adjust to big or small, strong or weak, fast or slow, male or female, young or old. This is very central to helping develop the feeling and control especially with the left hand. If you have a small club it is important to take any opportunity to train with other Balintawak clubs if possible, or if you have a visitor training with your club get every student to have a play with them. Of course any chance to attend seminars especially if Bobby is in town should be taken.

Boxing
I never did boxing when I was younger and when I started training in Karate you listened to the senior grades and they all dismissed Boxing as outdated and uncompetitive against Karate, how could someone who can only punch defeat someone who can kick as well as punch? However since injuries had forced me to cease grappling, I needed something else to help with my fitness and to challenge me and so I thought I would try Boxing. Initially I had trouble finding a good trainer as there were plenty of personal trainers teaching ‘boxing’ and ex boxers who would work the pads, but few professional boxing trainers interested in training someone properly unless they wanted to fight. Eventually I found a professional trainer called Gerry Murphy based not far from where I live in Melbourne and how wrong were those that denigrated Boxing to me years ago. I always knew boxers trained hard and were very fit but what I didn’t realise was how much technique and art there is in Boxing. Gerry’s knowledge of Boxing is astounding and his understanding of his art is as good as any Grandmaster I have met in the martial arts. My experience with Boxing reinforced that whilst you of course respect and listen to senior grades they are not always right and sometimes you need to find out things for yourself.

My experience with Boxing reinforced that whilst you of course respect and listen to senior grades they are not always right and sometimes you need to find out things for yourself.

I highly recommend cross training in Boxing to all Balintawak students. The benefits are multiple and it doesn’t mean you have to do full contact sparring in the ring, as this is not for everyone. Boxing drills alone are very beneficial to your Balintawak training. The fitness benefits are obvious but the training in gloves helps develop endurance in your arms for Balintawak. (I would recommend using heavy gloves if possible eg 18oz for men and 14 oz for women). Working on Boxing technique with the weight transfer and hip release to deliver full power punches will help your full power strikes in Balintawak. Interval work in particular is very good for both fitness and hand speed. One good drill is doing 20 minutes on a heavy bag with 10 seconds flat out and 10 seconds rest alternating. You can vary whether you are doing speed ( aim for 60 punches at least in the 10 seconds) or you can do the drill another time working on full power punches ( aim that when you punch the heavy bag that you cause the bottom of the bag to come back towards you on impact). There are apps available that time this drill for you so you can just concentrate on punching.

I do advise with Boxing that if you are going to a Boxing gym you need to be very discerning with how the gym is run and who the head trainer is. I strongly advise you downplay any other martial arts experience that you might have, be very cautious about getting in the ring to spar early on and leave your ego at the door.

Day job and if occupational concepts have interacted with Balintawak concepts?

I am a medical doctor so really there are no direct correlations between my occupation and my Balintawak training. Certainly training in martial arts is a great mental release from treating patients and the rigors of modern living. My background in research, having a PhD in medicine as well as my medical degree, certainly help me in being analytical and writing up training notes and consolidating what Bobby has taught me into a structure that I can use to teach beyond the Basic Syllabus.

The main lesson you want to impart on Balintawak students?

The main lesson is the ‘secret technique’ of sweat, the more you sweat the more you improve. Not having to rely on Balintawak teaching for an income I don’t care if students get bored and I don’t care if they never come back. If they train with me all I care about is that they have a good attitude and train hard and I know if they do those 2 things and listen to me they will improve.

Guro Dicker looks on as Grand Master Taboada test his student, Guro Monique Brasher, during her FQI Test in 2009.
The main lesson is the ‘secret technique’ of sweat, the more you sweat the more you improve.

What do you emphasise with beginners versus advanced students?

Beginners need to learn the Basics and with beginners they need repetition to develop muscle memory. There are no shortcuts or secret drills, there is simply a right and wrong way to do basics and some students will take longer to pick up the basics than others so will need more drilling. With beginners the two hardest things to develop are the necessary body movement for power position and applying intensity to each technique. I emphasise for body movement to always think from the position you are in if you can deliver a full power strike, and for intensity I emphasise to beginners the need to think of each block as though it is a strike. The other common mistake that prevents full power being generated is too much wrist rotation with loss of what Bobby calls the ‘axe position’. Always think when you are delivering a full power strike that you are impacting a piece of wood with an axe. In shadow fighting constantly think before you deliver a strike ‘am I in a power position?’ and as you deliver the strike think ‘would I be impacting with a solid wrist position as in chopping wood?’.

Beginners need to learn the Basics and with beginners they need repetition to develop muscle memory. There are no shortcuts or secret drills, there is simply a right and wrong way to do basics

Advanced students need to realise how much there is still to learn. I would only really regard students as ‘advanced’ if they have passed the Fully Qualified test and then the first thing I emphasise is that they are really only advanced students in the Basic Syllabus. In Australia after Fully Qualified I start to teach from the Intermediate Syllabus, but still emphasise the need to constantly review and refine the Basic syllabus. In the Intermediate syllabus the emphasis is on Variations and Counters to the Basic Syllabus. For example Level 4 of the Intermediate Syllabus covers Counters to Basic Pushing and Pulling, Variations to Pushing and Pulling, Counters to Basic Butting, Variations to Basic Butting, Grabbing and Releasing of Hand and Cane.

Advanced students need to realise how much there is still to learn.

What format does a typical Balintawak class you teach take?

Always I start with the Basics and then the Grouping systems no matter who I am teaching. Rotating the class in the Blocks and Counters and Grouping Systems is important to train the different hands concept. The format then varies with who I am teaching and what the focus is. If I am preparing someone for say Completion I will drill repeatedly the Basic Syllabus until I am happy. I don’t care if they get bored, get it right then we move on. If I am training a group of Fully Qualified Instructors then I see my role as refining and polishing techniques. They already know the Basic Syllabus and finer points of the Basic Syllabus are explored for example the control with the left hand. Then I might also cover parts of the Intermediate and Advanced Syllabuses.

When I train beginners I tend to be fairly rigid and strict and always am emphasising the need for intensity with lots of repetition. With advanced students I am much more relaxed and the training is more interactive and we explore applications and counters. Sometimes to emphasise form I will train in very slow movement almost like Tai Chi. Sometimes to emphasise intensity I will drill Full Power strikes in various contexts. There is really no set format for Balintawak and no typical class. Apart from the Basic syllabus, different things need to be addressed at different times, sometimes it is consolidation of basics, sometimes it is the introduction of new techniques and drills. Sometimes after the Basics in a more advanced class I might ask the class if there is anything they want to work on and then I will start on that but invariably that will morph into something else that they need to work on. I will sometimes try and be creative and try some new drills that I have thought of but never tried and sometimes they work out and other times they don’t. In an advanced setting I might ask a student to show one of their techniques and then we drill that, then I will look at how it might be improved or variations to it and then perhaps what is the counter. But to answer your question again, my classes are mostly basics with variations and counters. It is not really about new content all the time it is primarily about how well you understand and can perform what you already know.

Guro Dicker looks on as Grand Master Taboada instructs during his visit in 2009

What kind of concepts did you consider with your 24 techniques?

In developing techniques I always think of practicality ie would it actually work on someone who was not my training partner. The primary concept to applying any technique is the control of your opponent. If you control them there are many different technique options that you can apply from any particular position. The secondary concept is which technique to finish with and this depends on your skill base. If for example you have great high kicks show these off, if you are a grappler take them down for the ground and pound. The techniques are to help the Balintawak system evolve so if you have other martial arts skills demonstrate these in Stickfighting motion. For students with no past martial arts experience then it is often helpful to think of keeping techniques as simple as possible with the emphasis on the follow up with the full power strikes. The other concept to remember in techniques is to think of the “what if” and to remember you have an opponent who can also potentially strike you and counter your techniques. In this regard the use of off balancing techniques, as in the Pushing and Pulling, are particularly useful to lead into the full power strikes.

The techniques are to help the Balintawak system evolve so if you have other martial arts skills demonstrate these in Stickfighting motion.

Why did you want to become a Fully Qualified Instructor?

I had no burning desire to become a Fully Qualified Instructor. Bobby simply said you are ready to become a Fully Qualified Instructor and I said if that’s what you want. I guess my motivation might have been different if martial arts instruction was my full time job and Balintawak was another income stream I was going to add to my syllabus and accreditation was hence important.

Gradings to me are simply a goal to help focus training and can be useful as a test of performance under pressure. I have been lucky enough to train with instructors who do not grade students easily and demand a high standard. In particular Rodel in Modern Arnis and John Donehue in BJJ were very demanding. In my early days in Karate the standard was very high and achieving a Black Belt was a huge sense of achievement. In my later days of Karate training it was commonplace for the higher Dan gradings to be done in private and high grades were given without anyone seeing the instructors demonstrate their skills. Closed door private gradings are to me meaningless. I like the way Bobby encourages family and friends to watch gradings and even ask questions of the student at the end of the test, there is no secrecy, if you are good at something you should be proud to show your skill not just your certificate. I also like the way Bobby has other instructors sign certificates at gradings so there can be no dispute later whether that student had reached the required standard.

I like the way Bobby encourages family and friends to watch gradings and even ask questions of the student at the end of the test, there is no secrecy, if you are good at something you should be proud to show your skill not just your certificate. I also like the way Bobby has other instructors sign certificates at gradings so there can be no dispute later whether that student had reached the required standard.

When I conduct gradings my premise is that I am there to help the student demonstrate what they know as well as possible and I have no hesitation in giving them chances to correct an unintended error by repeating a technique. There do need to be non negotiables in gradings such as not swearing and dropping the cane, and certainly if there is a bad attitude as in hitting other students excessively to show how good they are or students simply cannot remember the syllabus on the day I have no hesitation in failing them. If a fragile ego stops them coping with this, so be it and goodbye. There has to be the fear of failure or otherwise it is not a test but a ceremony. If a student doesn’t pass a test it is important to give positive feedback on what they need to do to pass next time and also not charging them a grading fee for retesting for the same grade is a good practice as it takes the cost issue out of the discussion.

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

Loyalty to Bobby is the start and end of it to me. Bobby is my Balintawak instructor and if I structure how I teach differently that is an evolution of what Bobby has taught me.