Guro Dino from Kapisanang Mandirigma reflects on teaching Eskrima at the Non-Profit organizations in Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles.

Guro Dino from Kapisanang Mandirigma reflects on teaching Eskrima at the Non-Profit organizations in Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles.
When our teacher Punong Guro Edgar Sulite passed away, the group wanted to honor his work but in the least commercial way possible. We weren’t sure how we could do it…and looking back I am not sure why we wanted to do it that way. One day after one of our countless demos around the city, Aki from PWC approached me to do a history workshop at Glendale City College. Afterwards she asked if I would like to use the art to help at risk to kids to gangs violence and drug use. My first reaction was “are you sure?” I was thinking we are kind of a rough bunch and we are wielding sticks, knives and swords and were more like a gang ourselves. I didn’t think it was exactly appropriate at the time. I was reminded that the Rampart district (where the movie “Training Day” was set) had the highest murder rate in the city at the time and was kind of rough itself with numerous hyper violent gangs such as MS13 and 18th St. claiming the area as their turf. Thus I half heartedly accepted. Anyway, to cut a long story short – our recruiter was right. We had a surprisingly high success rate with the youth. Just a few minor glitches like gunshot wounds, knife fights, comas and molotov cocktails on roofs…but thats another story.From what I can gather, most of the rougher kids changed their ways….after maybe a little backyard method persuasion techniques. Two things were very effective. 1.Military style drilling, rules and lots of push ups for the whole class if someone was out of line – Guro Bud was an expert at this method. 2. Lots and lots of sparring. Be it Eskrima, Grappling, Kickboxing etc. If they were very bad they would have to spar everyone in class ending with me. It was truly a transformative and effective method…but probably illegal in several states…lol. Some parents told us their kids grades had gone up. Another parent told us that a school teacher said to her that her son was “The most moral student in the school” (since joining the program)…still makes me laugh.

We had an amazing experience doing volunteer work with those great Non-Profit Community organization like SIPA, PWC and FilAm ARTS. The at risk youth positive diversion program from gangs and drugs we taught from 1997 to 2004 was a big learning experience for us all. I am proud that when government funding was low or disappeared, we didn’t let it stop us. Instead myself, Guro Arnold A. Noche and Guro Bud Balani Jr. offered adult classes at the centers at an affordable rate and used the proceeds to assist in funding the youth programs. One of the adult students even got Asics to sponsor us for a semester and we got some cases of their wrestling shoes. It was a grand adventure that took us far and wide. What more could you ask for, help a few kids out, teach a few adults some culture and still train in the art you love. All that was missing was a small paycheck for the Eskrima staff…lol.

It’s funny to think that all those non-martial artist participants who went through the program where forced to learn our Eskrima lineage and history. They were exposed to Lameco and the teacher in our lineage such as GM Ilustrisimo and his 5 Pillars (GM Tony Diego, GM Yuli Romo, GM Rey Galang, GM Christopher Ricketts and PG Edgar Sulite), GM Caballero and various other arts over the years.

Our first guest instructor at the program was none other than the legendary Grandmaster Doc Lengson – which was an incredible honor for me. Not only was GM Dr. Guillermo B. “Doc” Lengson one of Master Ricketts teachers. He was also the one who advised GM Presas to add “Modern” to Arnis. GM Lenson also advised PG Sulite to use the title” Punong Guro”. Punong Guro was the first to use this term in the Martial Arts, all others since were somehow inspired by his usage. GM Lengson was the first to feature FMA on Philippine TV. One of the TV shows had a 14 year old Master Ricketts representing Sagasa Kickboxing fighting a seasoned professional boxer. With another legend GM Roland Dantes as a judge.

Other guest instructors at our program included GM Taboada, GM Gaabucayan, GM Manaois, GM Olavides, Guro Ariel Mosses, Guro Hans Tan and half of Lameco SOG. What a journey. Maybe this is why the kids responded.


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Some items of recognition for our volunteer work back in the days of seemingly limitless energy.
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