"12 Basics..." Guro Floyd Yoder

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?  How do you define yourself? What’s your story?

My name is Floyd Yoder.  I am a retired SWAT operator with over 26 years of experience from the Hickory Police Department in Hickory NC.   Currently, I am employed with the North Carolina Department of Justice at the North Carolina Justice Academy where I am the Special Operations Coordinator/Instructor and responsible for the SWAT and Active Shooter program in the State of NC.  Law enforcement has been the passion of my life for over 37 years.  I have retired from active duty on the streets and successfully transitioned into the classroom where I serve as an experienced and passionate instructor/mentor to our law enforcement students and profession.

Furthermore, I am a life-long committed martial artist who has been very fortunate and privileged to train with many accomplished and credible martial artist legends and leaders including Grand Master Bobby Taboada.

I consistently strive to be known as a FQ instructor with an honest and sincere desire to spread my love and respect for the art of Taboada Balintawak to as many people as possible.

How were you exposed to Balintawak?

In 1993, I was teaching a Defensive Tactics Instructor course at the North Carolina Justice Academy.  Master Irwin Carmichael, who is now the sheriff of Mecklenburg County, brought Grand Master Bobby Taboada for a demonstration to our student/instructor class.  Wow!  It was amazing to observe the speed, power, and functionality of Balintawak.  Furthermore, GM Taboada’s passion, knowledge, and confidence were overwhelming.   I began studying with GM Taboada that year.

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

I started training with GM Taboada in 1993 along with his first generation students in Charlotte North Carolina.  George Mandraphilias trained and prepared me for the Completion of Art certification that also allowed him to receive his Full Qualified Instructor certification. GM Taboada was often involved with our private training and constantly showed us the “old school” techniques. I received my Completion of Art certification in 1995.  

I continued training in Balintawak with my students and would visit GM on an infrequent basis, mostly due to my career in law enforcement that involved rotating shifts and various assignments.  Fortunately, I was able to reconnect with GM in early 2013 and train with him on a consistent basis, usually at least one or two Saturdays a month at his house.  GM successfully prepared me for my Full Qualified Instructor testing during the 2016 World Camp seminar.  I remain humbled and privileged for the opportunity to receive not only his training but his passion and love for the art as well as his belief in me.

Guro Floyd Yoder with Grand Master Bobby Taboada, circa 1994 (L) and 2016 (R)

Guro Floyd Yoder with Grand Master Bobby Taboada, circa 1994 (L) and 2016 (R)

What was the hardest part of learning Balintawak?

I have been involved in the martial arts for 45+ years.  At the time I started training with GM Taboada, I was heavily involved in Taekwondo and Hapkido.  Also, I had just received my instructor apprentice certification directly from GM Remy Presas in Modern Arnis.  Modern Arnis has a lot of great material but Balintawak seemed to meet my demands and goals with simplicity.

The footwork challenged me immediately and I can still vividly remember GM Taboada laughing at my long deep stances, especially when he was hitting me and then hitting me again.  GM was always pushing me to move faster and faster, even when learning the technique.  In all of my professions, I take a sufficient amount of time to analyze all aspects in the learning process.  However, GM taught me to learn the technique, movement, and defense quickly and my consequences of being slow. His method increased my speed noticeably in both delivery and reaction and greatly impacted the way I now train and prepare.  

I was able to capitalize on my Balintawak training in speed and cuentada during an incident in my law enforcement profession. On one SWAT mission, our team was tasked with a difficult entry into an unknown layout of the building interior.  As we were breaching the door, things began to go sideways and our element of surprise was comprised.  I was able to make a quick entry and physically control several individuals in a matter of seconds.  I credit the quick action in recognizing and using effective hand techniques and foot movements to neutralize the threat from my direct training in Balintawak.

...I credit the quick action in recognizing and using effective hand techniques and foot movements to neutralize the threat from my direct training in Balintawak.

Favorite part of Balintawak?

I thoroughly enjoy everything about Balintawak, especially the functionality and simplicity of the techniques.  In my profession, our techniques can determine success or failure, life or death.  Therefore, I am committed to teaching techniques that are easy to train, remember, and use while at the same time addressing a threat in an appropriate effective manner.  All too often in the law enforcement profession, we are taught techniques that look good on paper and look great when your opponent attacks you “correctly” in the training environment.  But when placed into a real combat situation, the techniques will likely fail us.  Balintawak is built on basic, sound, reliable, and powerful techniques that provide many advantages in combat, both mentally and physically.

Balintawak is built on basic, sound, reliable, and powerful techniques that provide many advantages in combat, both mentally and physically.

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

As mentioned earlier, I am a life-long martial artist with over 45 years of commitment.  My core arts are Balintawak, Taekwondo, and Hapkido.  Other arts include Krav Maga, Hakko-Ryu Jujitsu, and Brazilian Jujitsu.  When asked about my rankings, I am only a white belt who never, never, ever gave up.  

(Editor's note: While Guro Yoder is too modest to have mentioned this himself, as many of you know, Guro Yoder is more commonly known as Grand Master Yoder. Please note that I am referring to him here as Guro Yoder specifically in the context of Balintawak. The following are just some of the rankings that Guro Yoder's has earned in his lifelong commitment to the journey of martial arts :

  • 10th Dan Saeng Jeon Do Hapki Yu Sool
  • 10th Dan and Chief Operating Officer in Tactical Combatives Division of Rick Jessee Martial Arts
  • 10th Dan Judan Hanshi with Rick Jessee Martial Arts
  • 10th Dan Judan World Traditional Karate Association under GM Victor Moore
  • 8th Dan Taekwon-Do
  • 7th Dan in Chun Moo Kwan Hapkido
  • 7th DanSung Jado
  • 6th Dan Hapkido in Hanminjok Hapkido Association World Kido Federation
  • 4th Dan Naoki Kubota Hakko-Ryu Ju-Jitsu

I don't mention this to embarrass him but to acknowledge and applaud his commitment to his craft, his skill, and the inspiration that he provides to so many people.)

In the law enforcement profession, I have received many tactical instructor certifications in the area of defensive tactics.  I am the senior member of the SCAT (Subject Control Arrest Techniques) committee that determines the defensive tactics curriculum for over 30,000 law enforcement officers in the State of NC.  It is truly a humbling and honored position and opportunity to know that we are responsible for the development and implementation of techniques that can possibly save the lives of our officers while also controlling a resisting suspect.  

Some of my law enforcement defensive tactics instructor certifications include:  SCAT, Defensive Tactics, Krav Maga (Handgun retention, Edged weapon, Ground Defense, Close Combatives, Third Party Protection), S.P.E.A.R. (Tony Blauer system), Basic and Advanced Ground (Carlsen Gracie), and PPCT (Defensive Tactics, Pressure Points, Impact Weapons, Edged Weapon).

Balintawak has provided me with many strong traditional and functional-based techniques to improve all aspects in my diverse training whether it is in area of martial arts or law enforcement.  Speed, power, counter, and confidence in our abilities are essential attributes in any training, program, style, or art.   These are some of the core values in Balintawak training that separates it from other martial arts.

Guro Yoder sharing a drop from the well of his knowledge, here as Grand Master Yoder at the 2016 Grand Budo Summit.

Guro Yoder sharing a drop from the well of his knowledge, here as Grand Master Yoder at the 2016 Grand Budo Summit.

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

As the Special Operations Coordinator, my responsibilities include the development, revision, and implementation of the SWAT and Active Shooter programs.  These programs deal specifically with high-risk situations that demand total focus, confidence, knowledge, and action in decisions involving tense, uncertain, and rapidly evolving dangerous scenarios.  Balintawak has consistently shown me that simplicity along with functionality is the best foundation for any program or course of action.

GM Taboada has conducted numerous demonstrations for our defensive tactics instructor courses since 1993.  Recently, he conducted an intense 3- hour training session in a SWAT Operator course involving several operators from across the State of North Carolina.  GM was able to smoothly transition Balintawak techniques into the mental and physical toolbox of the SWAT Operators.  It was absolutely amazing to watch GM Taboada demonstrate the art of Balintawak to our law enforcement warriors.  We continue to receive outstanding comments not only on his demonstration and abilities, but also what they were able to learn and retain during the training period.

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

I currently teach a Saturday morning class of 10-15 private students with various martial art ranks and styles.  Immediately, after we respectfully bow in and begin our training, you see and feel the strong passion and commitment for learning the art of Balintawak.  Regardless of their rank or style, it is very satisfying to see each student temporarily forget about their martial arts background and commit to Balintawak.  

I often share stories with my students of conversations and training I have had with GM Taboada over the years.  It is extremely important they hear about GM, not only in his successes but also the many incidents of hardship he has experienced and strove to overcome.  His stories create a sense of determination, pride, and drive while creating an attitude of accomplishing anything you desire.  I want our students to understand and believe that they can accomplish virtually anything they are willing to pour their heart and soul into.  It starts in our heart and mind.  

Guro Yoder with some of his students

Guro Yoder with some of his students

I want our students to understand and believe that they can accomplish virtually anything they are willing to pour their heart and soul into. It starts in our heart and mind.

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

I teach the way I was personally taught by GM Taboada.  Our beginner students start with learning the proper way to bow and show respect to each other.  Not just the physical movements but the concept and respect behind it.  Furthermore, they are taught to respect the stick and potential harm if used in an inappropriate and unsafe manner.  Once this has been accomplished and I feel that the student is sincere and committed, we begin teaching level one and place huge emphasis on controlling the stick but most importantly controlling themselves.   
Our advance students start with level one and progress to their last level and/or material.  We focus on our students not “going through the motions” but demonstrating improvement in control, ability, speed, power, and attitude.  We don’t believe in the “bullying” theory.  This type of training has detrimental effects on the student’s mindset and physical ability but also shows disrespect to Balintawak and all of our family practitioners.  We believe in challenging our students in methods of pushing their abilities to the next level.  However, this is carefully implemented once we feel they can perform it safely and correctly.  Stress inoculation is extremely important and allows us to create an environment that replicates or mimics an actual combat situation.  By challenging the student with mental and physical stimuli during training, we can effectively prepare them for a situation involving use of force for self-protection.  We must always “Train the way we fight and fight the way we train.”

What does a typical class look like when you teach?

Discipline and focus is the fuel that drives our students to success.  I teach the concept of “Violence of Action” which is an essential mindset in the tactical profession.  Violence of action is using your mental and physical resources to complete your goal of establishing quick aggression and total dominance over your threat.  Unfortunately, many martial arts have great intentions and phenomenal physical skills but are often lacking in the violence of action mindset that often results in their defeat.  Balintawak utilizes speed, power, and flexibility while delivered in a goal-oriented manner that quickly physically overwhelms your opponent but most importantly mentally devastates them.   

I teach the concept of “Violence of Action” which is an essential mindset in the tactical profession... using your mental and physical resources to complete your goal of establishing quick aggression and total dominance over your threat.

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

I designed my 24 techniques to be 100 percent functional, simple, and related to situations in law enforcement situations.  I developed 12 from the left side and 12 from the right side in order to better balance a response from either side.

I carefully considered each technique and spent numerous hours developing, revising, and finally polishing it into the final product.  Careful consideration was given to the ease of application and simplicity of execution while ending in a position of control of the situation.  GM mentioned a student in New Zealand who implemented his handgun into his techniques.  I incorporated the handgun into a few of the 24 techniques and discovered some value that could be researched and better defined in the future.  Overall, I felt comfortable with my 24 techniques because it allowed me to express myself more openly in Balintawak.  

Guro Floyd Yoder (L) and Guro Terence Baranda Dayot (R) receive their FQI status at the 2016 East Coast Gathering from GM Taboada (C)

Guro Floyd Yoder (L) and Guro Terence Baranda Dayot (R) receive their FQI status at the 2016 East Coast Gathering from GM Taboada (C)

Why did you want to become a Fully Qualified Instructor?

I see the Full Qualified Instructor as signifying to GM Taboada that I am now ready to begin training.  If we continue to imitate our instructors and mentors in a blind allegiance, we are only doing what they do.  But by being able to take that privileged knowledge gifted to us by our instructors and add our personal techniques, it is not only a signal to them that we have learned well but most importantly show them the well-deserved respect for them as our teacher and our ability to be both a student and instructor.  In order to be a teacher, you must first and always be a student.

What are you known for in the Balintawak community?

I consistently strive to be known as a FQ instructor with an honest and sincere desire to spread my love and respect for the art of Taboada Balintawak to as many people as possible.  Frequently, I am approached by martial artists of different ranks and styles inquiring about Balintawak.  Once I am provided an opportunity to demonstrate the beauty and effectiveness of the stick, they are impressed and want to start studying Balintawak immediately.

Regardless of your martial arts background, experience, goals, or passion, I want everyone to understand the strength of Balintawak and practicality of its functional-based techniques in our ever changing dynamic society that can also create dangerous situations for us.  Furthermore, anyone with a sincere determination can learn our art and incorporate it into their way of life as so eloquently accomplished by GM Bobby Taboada.   I want to share my sincere appreciation to all of my Balintawak family for their support, training, and motivation.  However, I would like to send GM Taboada a very special thank you.  Thank you.