Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Atillo Balintawak - Saavedra Eskrima Successors; My Observations and Comments

      This essay is a re-posting that was originally published in the FMA Informative #108 that was released on Saturday, January 25, 2014.  I have added the revised and updated linear charts for Professor Remy Amador Presas and myself .  I understand that there will be some people who object to my charts, but I challenge them to do their own research, cite sources and show us where we are in error.  Until they can document their objections there is nothing that they can say that has any merit or that anyone should consider as being relevant.

Jerome Barber, Ed. D.

Atillo Balintawak - Saavedra Eskrima Successors; My Observations and Comments

                On July 10, 2013, GM Crispulo Atillo posted a notice on his FB site announcing his official listing of the Atillo Balintawak Eskrima, Masters, Disciples and Successors-Disciples.  That notice was duly reported in the FMA informative, Volume 12, Number 8, on page 17.  I’m not going to repost the notice here but I would like to comment on several things related to the notice because in my opinion GM Atillo did a very smart thing publicly naming those people who he wants to see carry on the Atillo Balintawak –Saavedra Eskrima tradition in the future after he passes on. 

Historically there is usually a very large, nasty and ugly intra-system fight among the top students after a GM has passed away.  Sometimes the fights have included family members battling amongst themselves and with some non-family members of the organization.  Everyone will claim that they are the best qualified people to take over the leadership responsibilities of the system while their opponents are phonies and under-qualified status seekers.   These fights are never pretty, they drag on for many years and splinter groups are formed with each claiming to be the only true lineage of the art.  I watched from the sidelines as this very thing happened in Modern Arnis after the illness and passing of the late Professor Remy Presas.  The bickering was very disturbing to watch and worse yet was the fact that I knew some of the people participating in the fight.  I refused to get involved or support any of the participants. 

GM Atillo’s listing of Masters, Disciples and Successor-Disciples is a wonderful gift to all of us who have trained with him and learned from him. Those people named on the list are clearly legitimate heirs and the next generation of Atillo-Saavedra Balintawak Eskrima leaders.  He clearly states that the list members are the only legitimate proponents of his system and all others are acting on their own and without his official sanctioned endorsement.  This endorsement is better than being named in a will because it allows everyone who is interested to ask GM Atillo directly why someone was left off the list.  It eliminates the shill argument that the endorsements are misleading or falsely contrived by someone other than the GM.  If only Professor Presas had compiled a similar document and made the listing public prior to falling ill in 2000. 

I want to congratulate everyone named on the GM Atillo’s list.  In addition I also want to especially recognize three (3) people on the list who I know personally, GM Tom Bolden, Master Peter Vargas and Master Douglas Pierre.  All three of these men are personal friends and associates of mine who I have known and trained with for the past 24 years.  Given the fact that these men are being acknowledged by GM Atillo with the highest honor of being listed asSuccessors-Disciples, speaks volumes regarding their martial arts skills, personal dedication and integrity. 

The fact that I am referencing these three men should not be construed as a slam against the other people named to the same position by GM Atillo.  It is simply that I do not know any of the others personally and have not trained with them in the past therefore I can comment on them from my own personal perspective as a martial artists and teacher.

The Successor-Disciple award recognition is doubly impressive to me because of the fact that GM Bolden and Master Vargas is a teacher-student pairing.  This is as far as I can recall in my 35 year career in martial arts the first time that I have seen or heard of a teacher-student pair being promoted at the same time and within the same organization.  I also want to point out that GM Bolden, GM Pierre and Master Vargas, are the only Modern Arnis trained people on GM Atillo’s successor listing.  This is quite significant because most of the so-called Modern Arnis leaders in the post-Remy Presas era that began in 2001 after the passing of the system founder and GM have studiously avoided acknowledging or working with these three men.  These three men have been characterized as minor or marginal players in the Modern Arnis world, in spite of the fact that GM Bolden and GM Pierre were instrumental in building a following for the late Professor Presas in the Mid-Hudson and NYC regions respectively. In fact it was GM Bolden who first brought the art and Professor to the eastern side of NYS and along the Hudson River Valley between Albany and NYC in the mid 1980's. 

The MoTTs (Masters of Tapi-Tapi) and the WMAA (World Modern Arnis Alliance) leaderships were adamant that anyone not associated with their respective groups were not and should not be considered as Modern Arnis Players.  The heads of the aforementioned groups would not recognize the rank certificates issued by Professor Presas and insisted that everyone who joined their organization would have to be re-tested under the new organizational rules and standards.  These same leaders, through their own students/associates were also quite critical of Master Peter Vargas because he had not trained directly with the late Professor.  That standard is very interesting because if one applies it across the board to everyone some of their own students in 2001 and beyond could not be considered authentic Modern Arnis students because those people had never had the opportunity to train under Professor Presas at a seminar or camp.  I have been criticized for bring up the re-testing rule of both the MoTTs and WMAA, but since I spoke with Dr. Randy  Schea, Mr. Jeffery Delaney (MoTTs) and Mr. Timothy Hartman (WMAA) personally and through e-mail exchanges, there is no doubt in my mind about their positions in 2002 on the matter of rank recognition.  Their current associates can decry my statements as loudly and often as they wish, none of those people were part of my conversations with these three men in 2002.  If these organizations have subsequently changed leaders and/or policies that is fine with me and I am not making an argument that nothing has changed since 2002.

There is also the matter a good number of Modern Arnis and Balintawak Eskrima people in the USA are not willing to recognize GM Crispulo Atillo as a senior Balintawak practicitioner whose credentials go back to 1953 when joined the newly formed Balintawak Self Defense Club as a charter member.  The BSDC was founded  in Cebu City, Philippines by Venancio Bacon, Delfin Lopez and Vincente Atillo with Bacon serving as the lead instructor and Atty. Eulalio Causing as club president. (Cebuano Eskrima,  Neprangue & Macachor,  p.167).

   The BSDC was the first group to utilize the word “Balintawak” in its club name wnd the first spin-off from the BSDC was the Balintawak International Self defense Club led by GM Jose Villasin and GM Teofilo Velez in 1957.  GM Crispulo formed the “Ogok Gang” in 1957, which consisted of a number of younger Balintawak stylists from the BSDC and in 1975 GM Atillo founded the Philippine Arnis Confederation.   (Cebuano Eskrima, p. 170).   He later changed the organizational name to the World Balintawak Arnis-Eskrima Association after Marcos era of martial law ended in the Philippines.

 GM Atillo is among the last of the people who knew the Saavedra's, Lorenzo and Doring, personally.  His art is the closest thing that we have to the original Saavedra Eskrima System, which is also known more popularly as "Balintawak Eskrima".  Couple that fact with the reality that Crispulo Atillo assisted his father, GM Vincente Atillo, with teaching the art of Balintawak to a future Balintawak GM Arnulfo Mongcol, who in turn was Professor Remy Presas’ first Balintawak instructor.  This is a significant set of connections because the Saavedras were the instructors of GM Bacon, GM Lopez, GM Timeteo Maranga and GM Vincente Atillo and all four men trained under GM Teodoro “Doring” Saavedra prior to WWII at the Doce Pares Club in Cebu City.  Some of the training sessions took place at the Atillo home and the younger Crispulo Atillo knew all of people mentioned in this paragraph and witnessed their training sessions at his home.  He formally began his eskrima training under his father Vincente Atillo at the age of 14.  He was trained in the Saavedra system of eskrima and credits his father as his instructor.  GM Atillo maintains that there is no real difference between Saavedra Eskrima and Balintawak Eskrima  other than the name used.  After training with GM Bobby Taboada for 4 years in the Toevel’s Balintawak system, plus viewing a number of Balintawak people on YouTube such as Nick Elizar, Bob Silver Tabimina and Henry Jayme, I have to agree with him on this point.  The differences are not significant and they all can easily be identified as Balintawak people.

The Atillo’s taught GM Anfulo  Mongcol, who in turn served as Professor Remy Presas' first Balintawak instructor.  Afterwards, the young Remy Presas was passed along to GM Timeteo Maranga for further training.  GM Maranga was a classmate of GM Vincente Atillo, GM Bacon and GM Delfin Lopez under the Saavedra's.  The network couldn't be any tighter and we must keep in mind that Balintawak forms one (1) aspect of the five (5) arnis methods that are at the root of Modern Arnis.  These five roots as mentioned by Professor Presas in some interviews are Balintawak, figure 8 striking, banda y banda striking, palis-palis method and crossada method.  The latter two methods are espada y daga styles of mid to long range fighting and were taught to Professor by his grandfather, Leon B. Presas, who was Professor’s first arnis/eskrima instructor at the age of 6. 

Based on the information cited above, I will re-write my own lineage chart to reflect the newest information that I have found regarding the roots and lineage of Professor Remy Presas through my immediate Modern Arnis and Kenpo Instructor, Sifu Donald F. Zanghi to myself and beyond to the students who earned their black belts and instructional certifications under me.

GM Tom Bolden, Master Douglas Pierre and Master Peter Vargas have been training with the man who indirectly helped to establish part of the foundation for Modern Arnis.  They have been acknowledged and accepted by GM Crispulo Atillo as highly skilled practitioners of the Atillo-Saavedra connection to Modern Arnis.  I am extremely happy for them and wish each of them even greater success in the future.


Jerome Barber, Ed. D.,                                                                                                                                     Grand Master, Datu & Principal Teacher                                                                                           Independent Escrima-Kenpo-Arnis Associates  


Modern Arnis Lineage Chart of Founder/GM Remy Amador Presas

 Leon B. Presas /                                                                                                                                                Traditional Arnis: Palis-palis, Crossada, Banda y Banda, Figure 8,


                    |                                  Arnulfo Mongcol – Balintawak Instructor

                    |                                                 |

                    |                                  Timeteo Maranga – Balintawak Master

                    |                                                 |

                    |                                  Venancio Bacon – Balintawak GM

                    |                                                 |                                         

       Remy Amador Presas – Founder, Grand Master, Professor,

           Modern Arnis – International Modern Arnis Federation

Palis-palis, Crossada, Banda y Banda, Figure 8, Flow, Up & Down, Abanico,                                 Rompida, Espada y Daga, Stick & Sword Disarming, Trapping Hands, Redonda, Single/Double/Reverse Sinawali, 12 Zone Striking, 12 Zone Striking Defense


Saavedra Eskrima and Balintawak Eskrima Lineage to Modern Arnis

Lorenzo Saavedra – Founder


        Teodoro (Doring) Saavedra – Master Instructor

                |                                   |                                     

Venancio Bacon  -  Timeteo Maranga  -  Vincente Atillo (Balintawak)

                |                                    |                                      |               

                |                                    |                        Crispulo Atillo

                |                                    |               (Saavedra & Balintawak)

               |                                    |                                       |                                                                                         

               |                                    |                        Arnulfo Mongcal

               |                                    |                     Balintawak Instructor

               |                                    |                                      /

Remy Amador Presas – Founder, Grand Master, Professor,

    Modern Arnis – International Modern Arnis Federation

Palis-palis, Crossada, Banda y Banda, Figure 8, Flow, Up & Down,  Abanico, Rompida, Espada y Daga, Stick & Sword Disarming,  Trapping Hands, Redonda, Single/Double/Reverse Sinawali, 12 Zone Striking, 12 Zone Striking Defense


Martial Arts Lineage of Dr. Jerome Barber

Modern Arnis Lineage:

            Remy Amador Presas,  Founder & GM -  Modern Arnis                            

                                    |                              |

              Donald F. Zanghi       Vincente Sanchez



                     Jerome Barber, Ed. D.                                                                                                    

             GM, Datu & Principal Teacher,  

     Independent Escrima Kenpo Arnis Associates

Kenpo Karate Lineage:

Hoon Chow 

(Hung Gar)         James Mitose

          |                   (Kosho Ryu Kenpo)

           |                             |

William K. S. Chow (Chinese Kenpo)


Adriano Emperado (Chinese Kenpo, Eskrima, Kajukenbo)

        |                                                             |

Marino Tiwanak                                Edmund Parker, Sr.

(Kajukenbo, CHA-3 Kenpo)     (Chinese Kenpo, American Kenpo)

       |                                                                        |

Florentino Pancipanci                                Al & Jim Tracy

(CHA-3 Kenpo, Pancipanci Eskrima)    (Tracy System of Kenpo)

|                                                                          /                            |

Tom Bolden                           Ernest McPeek              Donald F. Zanghi

(CHA-3 Kenpo)             (Tracy System Kenpo)     (Tracy System Kenpo)

(Pancipanci Eskrima)                            |                         (Modern Arnis)           

(Modern Arnis)                                        |                                  |



                       Jerome Barber, Ed. D.,

               GM, Datu & Principal Teacher,

      Independent Escrima Kenpo Arnis Associates                                     


       |                                      |                                    |                                   |                              

Tim Kashino - Richard Curren - Tom Verga - Paul R. Martin - Kenneth Q. Boehm

Debra S. Moore - Keith Roosa - James “Buddy” Antonio - Frank Heinan

Kathleen Geiger - Mary Altair - Keri Marotti – Frankie Heinan – Stephanie Heinan

Michael Zelli      (Certified IEKA Black Belt Instructors)

Additional Martial Arts Influences for Dr. Jerome Barber:

Bram Frank, Billy Bryant, Dan Donzella, Bobby Taboada, Abundio Baet,                                                       Eddie Lastra, Ric Jornales, Roberto Torres, John Kovacs, David Battaglia,                                             Ernie Delts, Dan Carr

Posted By Jerome Barber, Ed. D. to SE Asian Martial Arts at 1/28/2014 04:06:00 PM

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