Who are you? How do you define yourself? What's your story?
My name is Vicente Sanchez Campayo, I am the Taboada Balintawak FQI Representative in Spain. I have been training martial arts since I was 14 years old, and Filipino Martial Arts for over 20 years now. I started taking training FMA seriously with the Instructor Francisco Gomez, from Bothoan Combat System. He also introduced me to Warriors Eskrima of GM Abner Pasa and, more specifically, through his Head representative Krishna Godhania, where I got the third instructor level (J. Kasama Guro).
Aside from that, when I lived in London I had the opportunity to train with Simon Wells from Lapunti Arnis de Abaniko. It was during that time when I met Richard Cotterill and I fell in love with the way he teaches Balintawak and how he makes it work, so I started training regularly with him up until now.
I define myself as a curious and self-learning person. I have travelled a lot during my lifetime, mainly because of my job. I haven’t been lucky, or maybe I have, it depends on your perspective, to have an Instructor or GM nearby, therefore I have always had to travel, train and polish, go back home and give a second thought to the training to comprehend and incorporate new ideas.
Furthermore, I feel very lucky to have met so many Grand Masters, Instructors and, above all, friends and feel proud of keeping in touch with most of them.
How were you exposed to Balintawak?
In 2008, I moved to London and I started looking for Filipino Martial Arts that would suit me in the area I lived in. I found on the internet an instructor in Nottingham of Balintawak Cuentada: Richard Cotterill. It was about three hours away from London, so I wrote to him, we arranged a day, and I decided to take the train to go there. He waited for me in the train station. I remember it clearly, he took me to his house, he treated me like family from the very beginning, then we went to his cabin and started training. We discussed some matters about martial arts. I loved his approach towards them and how he showed and explained the body mechanics to me. That was the beginning of our training and friendship, up until today...
It wasn’t until 2013, in a seminar that Richard Cotterill organized in Spain, that I met GM Bobby Taboada. He was extremely friendly and humble. It was incredible martially speaking and also as a personal experience. We had a lot of fun and quality training which encouraged me even more regarding the learning and training the system.
How long have you studied? Who was your primary instructor?
As I said above, I met Richard Cotterill back in 2008, so I haven’t stopped training Balintawak Combat System since then. At the end of 2011, I moved back to Spain, which was a challenge for me because I wanted create a new group in Spain to promote the art. Those were very harsh times, I had no people to teach, I wanted to bring Richard to train with him and to continue learning/teaching, I remember I started giving private lessons in a small parking garage, renting it by hours. Some time later, I was lucky and I started to meet new people, most of them still training and they helped me out with the group. That was how we created Eskrima-Norte Training-Pack, a name given in resemblance to the “wolf’s pack”, meaning that we are nothing without our brothers and training colleges, looking after one to another. We are together in this learning journey.
That was the very beginning of our group, which started to become bigger and stronger. I feel very proud of the people I have met ever since and that are still supporting to keep the group training and improving every day...
What was the hardest part of learning Balintawak?
The hardest part was to internalise the foundational concepts Richard always highlighted. They are easy to understand, you can see them clearly, but it takes time to make the transition and assimilate them. Once you have done it, everything changes, it makes sense and improves the way you move, power and reaction, empty hands, knife, etc...
Favorite part of Balintawak?
Simplicity and economy of movement are what I love the most. It is not an extensive curriculum, but it goes straight to the point. Also, I love the way GM Bobby established the curriculum. From my point of view, the curriculum resembles a lot to a real stick-fight: you learn how to strike (level-1), how to defend (level-2), and then you add more difficulties (grabbing, pushing, disarming, etc…). In a real fight, that’s the way it works. You don´t see disarms or grabbing often, what you really see in stick fighting is a lot of striking and defending... so, in my opinion, that is why the curriculum gives you a real fighting perspective...
I never wanted to learn one of those so called perfect systems, and Balintawak gives you the chance to keep contributing to it, placing your small brick in the huge wall that represents the system. From my point of view, the system gives you the opportunity to improve yourself as the system itself.
Another thing I would like to highlight is that I have gone to some places and met people to train Balintawak with. The impression I have is that, wherever you go, you can feel the friendship and brotherhood of the people from the group, from Europe to USA. For instance, I have been on my own in USA last September and people treated me as if they have known me for a long time, be it GM Bobby Taboada or the last and newest student that came to the camp. I feel this group is a unique pearl that we have to look after and continue being a good example for any other martial art or everyone else.
Have you/do you study other arts? How have they influenced each other?
Yes, I started doing Taekwondo at the age of 14 years old, after that I tried some other martial arts like Karate, Muay Thai, Jiu-jitsu and I met FMA eventually. I fell in love with it from the very beginning... Since then, I have had the opportunity to train with some of the best instructors and masters of FMA, in my opinion of course, like Francisco J. Gomez, my first instructor and beloved friend, Lazaro Talaya, GM Abner Pasa and Krishna Godhania from Warriors Eskrima and Sayoc Kali, GM Ruben Tansingo from Tapado Arnis, Marc Denny from DBMA, Simon Wells from Lapunti Arnis the Abaniko, and of course with Richard Cotterill and GM Bobby Taboada.
Thanks to Francisco, I also trained with Marc Denny, from Dog Brothers Martial Arts and I was exposed to “La sociedad de los Guerreros” (Warriors Society) a stick-fighting no-hold-barred matches group in Spain, where we fought in a kind of Dog Brothers way. I guess that influenced a lot my way of training and approach to fight also.
Thanks to that, I can say I am Filipino Martial Arts based student. I have been in FMA for 20 years now, which makes me feel proud of continuing to learn the process.
What is the main lesson you want your students to take from your instruction in Balintawak?
Reality is the main lesson I am always trying to get and teach in my instruction. I do like to test everything we train under stress. From my perspective and philosophy of training there are three main steps in the triangle of learning:
The 1st one is learning the concepts and techniques, the 2nd one is to develop and integrate the concepts you have learned in the first step, making the most of them and being able to apply them under any circumstances and situations, and the last but not least important, is fighting, which is necessary to develop timing and motion with a non cooperative partner, apart from being able to cope with the feeling of pain whilst in fighting.
These three steps are equally important. We cannot forget to work with all of them or else we will not improve our fighting skills nor our understanding of real fighting.
What do you emphasizes with beginners and what do you emphasize with your more advanced students?
Basics are something I emphasise in every lesson, it doesn’t matter the level the student have, that´s why I normally start the class reviewing level one 1-12 angles in control and in power, shadow fighting form and one that is very useful to me if you are trying to get the right body mechanics, basic blocks side to side and high-low-center, so probably that’s what I point out for beginners the most.
On the other hand, I normally try to emphasise the transition from normal training to sparring for the most advance students and how to get to some points by themselves.
What does a typical class look like when you teach?
As I previously said, I usually start with basics and main concepts from level one and I move on depending on the level of the participants in the class.
What I like to do is to divide the class in to three main parts. It usually lasts two consecutive hours, the first forty-five minutes are for basics, the next forty-five are for different aspects like guiding, learning techniques or grouping system, and the third or last part I like for them to play with some free sparring.
As you can see they are based more or less on the three principles I explained on the main lesson I want students to take.
What kind of things were you thinking about when you were developing your 24 techniques?
Well, I tried to keep in mind some of the concepts I have been training before, I was quite in love with the idea of GM Bobby Taboada, thinking that we have to keep exploring the Taboada Balintawak concept of looking always the counter of the technique given to us, and so we keep the Cuentada aim. Considering that, I started to look for my 12 counter techniques against the 12 semi-advanced techniques that GM Bobby developed for level 6, it was my first aim when I began. After that, I took a concept from my background FMA: an instructor has to be able to teach with both hands, the dominant and non-dominant hand, not only working southpaw vs. southpaw. Therefore it is important to know how to make everything work, from southpaw fighter/student against a right-handed fighter/student, keeping the training or curriculum the closet to the original, so I looked for 6 techniques that would work for them, apart from looking for the curriculum and how to make it work.
To finish, I had to look for another 6 techniques, so I went for knife vs. empty hand techniques, trying to find them the closest to reality and with no fancy movements.
In conclusion, I searched techniques where simplicity would be the main aim. Hence they were short, straight to the point and always looking for what would happen in a real fight if I ever found myself in that situation.
Why did you want to become a Fully Qualified Instructor?
This is a funny question, I never aimed for FQI to be honest. In fact the guys close to me know I had always told them I didn’t want to get more than the 6th level. But when you represent a system such as Taboada Balintawak Cuentada in any country, sometimes you are forced to look professional, not only for you, but for your new students and people that approach to learn the system.
So one day, one of my students and friend, Juanma Arias, told me if I didn’t get the level 7th he would never go for the 6th level, he wanted to show me his respect, so I understood I had to go for it in order to make things right.
1 Extra. What are you known for in the Balintawak community?
After all these years… To be honest, I have no clue. I think it always depends on who you ask.For instance, if you ask Richard Cotterill I might be his favorite “GUAPO” hehehehe, or if you ask some people from our brotherhood they might say I am the smiling guy who represents Spain. Finally, if you ask my guys I am their guide who demands effort and technique in every lesson.
All in all, I do not know, but I know what I like to be known for some of the main pillars of life, RESPECT, shown to our Instructors and partners that share our path, LOYALTY, we need to be loyal to those who share their knowledge with us and you understand well when you start teaching people, and FRIENDSHIP, most of the time the important part of training is the people you are training with. We have to be friendly and enjoy our way to develop and enriching ourselves.
To finish this interview, I would like to thank Benjamin and Richmond Balintawak for giving me this opportunity to show people our work in Spain.
Finally I’d like to thank:
My wife for supporting me in everything I do
C.I. Richard Cotterill
GM Bobby Taboada
Guro Francisco J. Gómez (my introducer to Filipino Martial Arts)
Guro Simon Wells
David Leonardo Bárcena
Juan Manuel Arias
Abraham Roqueñi (my training partner)
All my students, instructors and friends from Balintawak family.
Thanks all for your support and friendship.
“From my Heart, you are Welcome and with Respect”