December 11, 2003
The Last Samurai: Wherein Josh Jabcuga interviews martial arts extraordinaire Guro Jun DeLeon, founder of Kali DeLeon, an extremely effective and precise (read: badass) form of self defense. Bring your ass-kicking boots; things are about to get medieval ‘round here.
Joshua Jabcuga: Guro Jun DeLeon, could you please give me a little insight into your
own martial arts training? Where and when did you first begin your journey into martial arts?
Guro Jun DeLeon: I started my kali training in 1966 in the Philippines with grandmaster
Lamberto Ticsay. Aside from kali, I also have black belts in shotokan karate under
sensei Oscar Datiles, and in shorin ryu under sensei Roland Gonzales, a brown
belt in judo under sensei Marcelo Hernandez, training in muay thai under kru Ed
Advincula and kru Eric Advincula and in wing chun under sifu Stephen Law.
Joshua Jabcuga: Your system, Kali DeLeon is based on your training in the Filipino martial arts, correct?
Guro Jun DeLeon: Yes. It is a system that has evolved and continues to evolve after many years of research and study. Not just about the techniques, but the cultural,
emotional and psychological essence of the Filipino arts.
Joshua Jabcuga: The Filipino arts seem to be both brutally effective and extremely
graceful. Instruction in Kali DeLeon begins with weapon training, unlike many
martial arts styles that teach unarmed tactics first. Because of this, do you think the difficulty level in learning Kali DeLeon is more advanced than an unarmed self defense?
Guro Jun DeLeon: Weapons training is first and foremost in traditional Filipino fighting
arts. This is due to the tribal history that kali has. In some respects, I would have to say that the training in Kali seems more difficult for beginners. This is simply because of the fact that most people just aren't used to holding a weapon while performing drills or
exercises. This obviously changes as they progress in training. However, this doesn't necessarily mean a longer learning curve. The body mechanics in Kali DeLeon are more natural and after a little while more intuitive. Our students don't have to learn stances or style specific ways of movement or even style specific methods of striking or kicking. As well, our students practice drills and applications immediately, whereas in other
systems, they'd have to learn forms or katas and/or auxiliary exercises, like the horse stance, first before being allowed to participate in drills. I think that you'll find, more often than not, that a Kali DeLeon student of 3 months is every bit as advanced or more in skill level as students of other systems or styles.
Joshua Jabcuga: What exactly are the weapons that new students can expect to practice
with, and do the weapons change over the course of one's training?
Guro Jun DeLeon: New students begin with single stick and double stick basics. Over a
period of time, depending on their progress, they move on to the stick and dagger, single knife, double knives, them empty hands. With the more advanced senior students, live blades (machetes/knives) are used in training instead of stick and training knife.
Joshua Jabcuga: Are there any kicking or ground defense tactics taught in Kali DeLeon?
Guro Jun DeLeon: Yes. All aspects of combat are taught. I suppose the only difference is that we teach empty hands and kicking techniques after the student has shown some degree of proficiency with weapons. Because kali is a weapons based art, movements, positions, ranges and angles will spawn from proficiency with the weapon. And since movement and position are universal in kali, training with weapons also trains the empty hand aspects of kali. The punching/boxing aspect is called panantukan. The kicks that
we employ are primarily low kicks - round kick to the knees, straight thrust kick to the groin and abdomen or stomping kick to the side or back of the knee. The limb destruction is called pangamut and lastly the off balancing and ground fighting is known as dumog.
Joshua Jabcuga: There are three general characteristics to your system, "Laging Una,"
the "tik-bang" and the "ligaw." The "laging una" concept is used for long range fighting. In a sentence or two, could you describe "laging una" and for those that may be unfamiliar with self-defense, could you tell them what you consider long range fighting to be technically?
Guro Jun DeLeon: “Laging una” literally means “always first.” First in attacking/countering, positioning and more importantly in out-thinking your opponent. We consider long range to be the distance where we can attack our opponents striking
arm, but not necessarily the rest of his body.
Joshua Jabcuga: According to your website, www.kalideleon.com, the "tik-bang" is for
medium range fighting, the tik-bang being the shield or check and the bang being the attacking. I'm assuming that these are taught with the sticks. How does one apply stick fighting techniques to empty-hand techniques? Are the philosophy and strategy so similar that the weapon techniques you teach can be effective without actually using the weapons?
Guro Jun DeLeon: This is the sound and rhythm produced by your weapon in counter offense. "Tik" is the check and "bang" is the attack. This half beat rhythm is also used
in countering with empty hand techniques. The concept creates a situation, when
your opponent attacks, whereby there would be no chance for your assailant to counter or 'check' your response. Timing is the key. The concept is the same in empty hands and medium range stick countering. The only difference is the range that you're in. To simplify my answer, you could say that the 'tik' is similar to parrying an oncoming strike, and the 'bang' is the counterstrike. As in boxing.
Joshua Jabcuga: The third characteristic of Kali DeLeon is the "ligaw" or "flow."
The "ligaw" is meant to train students to adapt instantly to any attack, which
can be multiple consecutive strikes from various angles. What would be
one or two key components to mastering the "ligaw."
Guro Jun DeLeon: Relaxing and breaking free from the rigidity or stereotyping of training. The biggest issue in any combative or competitive situation is the
psychological aspect. The anxiety and arousal level increases, and to some, this is
where the psychology begins to impede the physical and technical training. So
what we try to do is to simulate that situation when doing 'ligaw drills." The
practitioner has to be able to use the technical aspects he/she has learned in
training and use it creatively, based on their natural movements as a
human being. If you look at my top students, they all move differently from
each other and from me. Each one moves according to what they feel is
comfortable - within the boundaries of the training principles.
Joshua Jabcuga: I'd imagine that the strategies that Kali DeLeon teaches would be
especially useful for law enforcement officials. Do you have many police officers or others of that type taking classes from you?
Guro Jun DeLeon: You know, the situation regarding assaults are changing from the typical shoving, punching and kicking. Most assaults now are committed with the
use of a weapon - a stick, knife or any object that you can hold. We have
trained and continue to train law enforcement and correctional services personnel.
They found the training relevant and dynamic. I have also traveled to the Philippines for Operation Balikatan where I was invited to train both Philippine and American marines, as well as other Special Forces in hand-to-hand combat. Lets just say that I helped open their eyes as to what does and does not work in real edged weapons combat.
Joshua Jabcuga: You've studied martial arts for many, many years. Although the
fundamentals of an effective discipline seem to remain the same, like
strong tree roots, do you think that martial arts have seen a lot of change over
the last 10-15 years in particular, most notably because of groups like the
Ultimate Fighting Championships?
Guro Jun DeLeon: Yes, most definitely. I think that martial arts is opening up and
evolving. People are more analytical, questioning why. Well, at least some
practitioners. I have a great deal of respect for these athletes who train and compete in
such events. It's a shame that they don't get the same notoriety as sports
such as boxing. Especially on the professional level. One thing to remember is that UFC, shootwrestling, WCC, etc are still sports. They are combative, but still sports. Sports have rules. The purity of martial arts is survival. In survival, if you are confined
by rules, then you will act according to those rules. However, if you need to bite or scratch somebody's eyes to survive - you better do it. Of course, in society, you'll have to deal with the consequences afterwards. Self-preservation without any rules. Kali DeLeon still has its roots in the traditional tribal aspect. So I have to uphold the training mindset when training my seniors. Of course, with beginners, I have to change that
attitude. My philosophy is that a kali practitioner should know the extremes of combat, covering all potentials. That way, at least they know their potential so that if a fight escalates, he/she will be able to adapt to a more intense scenario. If I limit my students, either technically or psychologically, then they will be limited, and the probability of injury increases.
Joshua Jabcuga: What has been the greatest reward for you as a martial artist?
Guro Jun DeLeon: Like every martial arts teacher, my rewards have been to see and prove that my system works, my students excel and demonstrate a high caliber of skill
and performance in the Filipino Martial Arts. My greatest reward would be to produce students better than me. That's how I know the art of Kali DeLeon will be preserved and continue beyond me.
Joshua Jabcuga: Since we have readers all over the world who may not live near one of
your schools, is there something you could recommend to them if they're interested in training in Kali DeLeon, maybe a similar style?
Guro Jun DeLeon: I think it is important for people to forget their egos and open their
eyes. They should go and see for themselves what is available in their area. Every
system has its good and bad points. They should look for a good teacher who can produce good students.
Joshua Jabcuga: Thanks very much for your time and cooperation, Guro.
All photos courtesy of http://www.kalideleon.com/instructors.html.
Read Squib Central every Thursday, written by Joshua Jabcuga, exclusively at www.moviepoopshoot.com. Even though the writer has had extensive training in the martial arts, he still gets bullied by his big brother (although his brother has the aid of handcuffs and a nightstick).
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