Martial Arts & Combatives - at UrbanCombatives.com
The Mental Edge
The Force Behind Bakbakan - Master Rey Galang
The Power of Semantics Personal Protection Systems (PDF only)
Street 101 Personal Protection Systems (PDF only)
The Mental Edge
How to find the “zone” or “combat peak performance” through imagination,
combined with physical and simulation training
By Darren Laur
As many of you know, I am a big believer in the emotional, psychological, and physical triad to self protection training. Although there are a plethora of instructors out there teaching the physical, very few are utilizing training strategies to help strengthen motor skill performance through the emotional and psychological training methodologies that are currently being used in Brain science, sport psychology, and the science of NLP. This article is not really about the physical, but rather this article is going to discuss the emotional and psychological strategies to increase motor skill performance both in training and real world application. Science has proven that when you are both emotionally and psychologically ready, you will find it much easier to learn essential performance skills, practice those skills to perfection, and perform those skills effectively under demanding conditions.
The Power of Imagination and Emotion:
“Your Images lead your reality, they always have and they always will” Dr Terry Orlick
In his book, “pursuit of Excellence”, Dr Terry Orlick, one of Canada’s leading experts in the area of sport psychology states:
“Imagining in your mind and body the feeling of executing the moves that you need to be successful can help you accomplish those moves in the real world. Positive imagery can also enhance your confidence because you are repeating performance skills in your mind and body with focus and precision, exactly the way you would like to do them”
We have often heard from sport psychologists that utilizing mental imagery, in combination with physical training, can increase motor skill performance, but some critics have stated that mental imagery is nothing more than a “soft science” that cannot be substantiated with “hard science” . For those critics, I want to introduce you to Dr Alvaro Pascual-Leone; Chief of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center of the Harvard Medical School. Dr Pascual-Leone has proven through “hard science” (TMS Brain Mapping) that we can change our brain anatomy simply by using our imagination.
Dr Pascual-Leone conducted a scientific study utilizing two groups of students who had never studied piano, a sequence of notes, showing them which fingers to move and allowing them to hear to notes as they were played. One group was only allowed to sit in front of the key board and mentally practise playing and hearing the notes for two hours a day over a five day period, and the second group was allowed to physically practise the same skills for two hours a day over the same five day period.
The results were amazing, Dr Pascual-Leone found that both groups learned to play the sequence taught by him, and both showed similar brain mapping changes. He also found that mental practise alone produced the same physical changes in the motor system, as actually playing the piece. By the end of the fifth day, the changes in the motor signals to the muscles were the same in both groups, and the imagining players were as accurate as the actual players were on their third day.
Now does this research mean that one can become as competent in a physical skill by mental practise alone ? NO !!!!!!!!! In fact, Dr Pascual-Leone in the above noted research found that the level of improvement at five days in the mental practise group, however substantial, was not as great as in those who did physically practise. BUT of even greater interest for those of us who do teach the emotional and psychological through imagination and emotional training, was what Dr Pascual-Leone found next:
“When the mental practise group finished its mental training and was given a single two hour physical practise session, its overall performance improved to the level of the physical practise group’s performance at five days.”
Dr Pascual-Leone research clearly found that mental practise is an effective way to prepare for learning a physical skill with minimal physical practise. Specific to combatives, if one trains with imagination and emotion and integrates this with gross motor skills that are congruent with what the body will do under Survival Stress Reaction, motor skill performance competency can be greatly increased in a limited amount of time. By combining mental imagery with real movement, you often feel more and this can speed up and enhance the complete learning process. As a student becomes more skilled at feeling imagery, the sensations and emotions associated with the best movements will surface more naturally in one’s imagined performance and real performance.
Dr Pascual-Leone’s neuroscientific research has proven that imagining an act and doing it are not as different as they sound. TMS brain mapping has found that when people close their eyes and visualize or imagine a simple object such as a clock, the primary visual cortex lights up, just as it would if the subject were actually looking at the clock. These same brain scans have shown that in action and imagination, many of the same parts of the brain are activated. Although some who teach combatives believe that imagination and action are completely different and subject to different rules, science has proven how truly integrated both imagination and action truly are, and that imagining an act engages the same motor and sensory program that are involved in doing it. This is why, in my humble opinion, visualization, or what I call “Combative Based Action Imagery”, can improve combative performance.
Neuroplasticity and Training the Physical:
“it’s about redesigning the brain to learn a new or old motor skill” Dr Norman Doidge
The science surrounding motor skill training in the past ten years has grown by leaps and bounds. What was thought impossible only a decade ago, is now possible today because of what we are learning in the area of “neuroplasticity”, especially when it comes to teaching and learning new motor skills. It was once thought by many in the medical field, that if the brain was damaged through traumatic injury, motor skills lost by such an injury could not be regained. The science of neuroplasticity has proven this belief to be incorrect, which have all kinds of potential implications for us as combative instructors.
As instructors, we want the “trained” response to become the “dominant” response when confronted with a threat stimulus. Traditionally we have accomplished this through physical repetition. I would also suggest that we can enhance the trained and physical response through the power of imagination (as mentioned above) and through simulation training (that I will discuss later).
Training the “physical”, through hands on repetition, creates what a neuroscientist by the name of Dr Merzenich calls a, “topographic order”. In other words, by practising the physical again, again, and again, you are repeating sequences in a fixed order that help to “hard wire” a motor skill. Neuroscience has a phrase for this learning process, “Neurons that fire together wire together.” Through physical hands-on practise we are “hard wiring”, or training the neuronal path between thought and action, to become more and more efficient, thus minimizing time delay between action and reaction. This is important because speed of thought is essential to our survival. Often when confronted by a threat things happen quickly, and if the brain is slow, it can miss important information. This is another reason why the brain has been wired with both a “high road” and “low road” response to specific threat stimuli, something that I have discussed in detail in my article, “The Anatomy of Fear and How It Relates To Survival Skills Training”
So how does this relate to combatives and motor skill enhancement, well neuroscientists, more specifically those who specialize in neuroplasticity , have discovered a number of training principles that we as combative instructors should utilize to increase motor skill performance:
- Training is more effective if the skill closely relates to everyday life: What this means to me is that the stimulus/response training utilized in combatives training should replicate what will reasonably be faced in the real world of the street.
- Training should be done in increments; and work should be concentrated into short time: In neuroscience this type of training is known as “massed practise” which has been found to be more effective than long-term but less frequent training. We see this type of “immersion” training in learning a foreign language. How many of us have taken a language course over years, and have not learned as much as when we went to the country and “immersed” ourselves in the language for a far shorter period. Daily immersion allows us to get massed practise. This is why in combatives training here at the school, we chunk learning into training progressions/ evolutions that are task specific (ie weapons training for a 4 week cycle, multiple opponents for a 4 week cycle, basics for a 4 week cycle)
- Physical training needs to be taxing and systematically improving: In the example above specific to massed practise or immersion training, our time spent with people who don’t speak our native tongue, force us to speak theirs (constraint). Daily immersion allows us to get massed practise. Our accent suggests to others that they may have to use simpler language with us; hence we are incrementally challenged, or shaped. Learned non-use is thwarted, because our survival depends on communication. I believe any instructor who is reading this can easily transition this principle to combatives training.
- Physical training should be interesting to engage the motivational circuits in a student’s brain: Focus in physical training is important. Brain science has found that the critical factor that changes the brain when it comes to motor skill learning is “attention”. Attention actually regulates what is allowed to change in the brain, and this is why it is so important in the learning mode that attention be focused, sharp, and serious. Something that I call, “Training in state, with imagination and emotion”
“To have been there before and succeeded without ever having been there – that is the goal of simulation” Dr Terry Orlick
Dr. Orlick has stated that, “simulation training lets you practise your desired performance response, as well as your focusing and refocusing strategies, in circumstances that are as real as you can make them before you take them into a real situation.” The military, and more progressive law enforcement agencies, and even some progressive combative instructors, have been using simulation training to increase motor skill performance in their students. There is no doubt that simulation training can help prepare a student to perform closer to their capacity, and get them ready to meet the challenges that will likely be faced in one’s performance context. Dr Orlick further goes onto say:
“Simulation prepares you for the physical, technical, and mental demands through high quality, high intensity, focused training that replicates the performance demands of real performances or competitions. It helps you prepare mentally for potential distractions so that you are better able to stay focused and get the job done, regardless of the demands of your event of the happenings around you”
Realistic simulation training is also important form a neuroscientific learning perspective. Remember, according to the neuroscientists, Physical training should be interesting to engage the motivational circuits in a student’s brain. Through simulation training, not only do neurons fire faster, but because they were faster, their signals were clearer. Faster neurons were more likely to fire in sync with each other, becoming better team players, wiring together more and forming groups of neurons’ that gave off clearer and more powerful signals (neurons that fire together wire together). This is a critical point in motor skill development in my opinion why ?, because a powerful signal, replicated through realistic scenario based training, has a greater impact on the brain. When we want to remember something we have heard, or see something that we have seen, we must have heard it or seen it clearly, because a memory, according to the neuroscientists, can be only as clear as its original signal. This is another reason why a student, when participating in simulation training, must do so in “state” with imagination and emotion, utilizing all their sensory modalities (sight, sound, touch, smell, taste,etheric).
Realistic simulation training offers 7 tenets to combative learning:
- Change can only occur when the brain is in the mood: Realistic Simulation training if approached in “state” with imagination and emotion places one in the “mood”
- Change strengthens connection between neurons engaged at the same time: The more a student conducts realistic simulation training, the more a student will strengthen the neural muscular pathway of a learned combative motor skill. The “magic” of simulation training is “selectivity”, changing the neural connections selectively that contributes to the desirable rather undesirable attempt.
- Neurons that fire together, wire together: The more a student conducts realistic simulation training, utilizing state with imagination and emotion, and incorporating all sensory modalities, the better the transition of the trained skills will be to the real world.
- Initial motor skill changes are just temporary: Training in simulations needs to be inherently fascinating or novel and be based upon the “probable” rather than “possible”, so that the training experience can become more permanent.
- Brain plasticity is a two-way street, and we can either drive brain change positively or negatively through simulation training: what this means is that there is much more to “functional” simulation training that just throwing on a combatives suit and having a student go hog wild. I have seen so called simulation training run that is doing nothing more than programming a student for failure in the real world.
- Memory is crucial for learning: Realistic simulation gives a student added confidence in knowing that they have the ability to do what needs to be done. Simulation helps the student to believe in themselves and their focus, which is crucial in a performance context. In simulation training, a student’s objective is to reach the point where they can face all kinds of challenges or distractions and still have the confidence in their abilities. A student knows that their capabilities are there, and their best focus is there with them no matter what.
- Motivation is a key factor in learning and brain plasticity. This tenet is directly related to tenet #1. If a student believe that there is very little utility is a skill taught, then motivation is negatively impacted. Realistic simulation training provides the litmus test needed to provide the synergy between motivation and motor skill taught.
I know that some who will read this will say, “Hey what’s the big deal, I’m doing this already”.... I shared this information because I like to provide a scientific basis for why I do what I do, and teach the way that I teach. One of my favorite quotes is:
“Research is to see what everyone else has seen, and think what no one else has thought”
Albert Szent-Gyorgy (Nobelish 1927)
- Seek out those instructors who are qualified to conduct “Combative Based Action Imagery”
- Seek out those instructors who understand the issues surrounding Neuroplasticity and Training the Physical
- Seek out those instructors who are qualified to conduct realistic simulation training
By doing so, you will take your training to a much higher level
Cerebral Food for thought
Read The Mental Edge as PDF.
By Darren Laur
Very recently, due to my line of work, I had the opportunity to speak with a parolee who had just been released from serving 15 years of hard time in some of the toughest maximum-security federal penitentiaries in Canada. In the beginning, we both tested the waters with one another and were more adversarial, much like the mongoose and the Cobra, but as trust and rapport were established, I was able to get some very important insight into how violence inside some of the most violent prisons in Canada is taught, learned and used. This person, who I will call Bob, estimated that he had been involved in approximately 130-150 violent confrontations while inside. Bob has experienced all levels of violence while in our prison system, both armed and unarmed, and has seen death several times. IMO, based upon Bob’s experience with violence, he is a subject matter expert on the topic of real world violence, and as such, has a lot of valuable insight to offer to those of us who are willing to listen; listen and learn I did. I hope you the reader will also glean some information from what it is I am about to share with you.
On The Topic Of Weapons:
On this topic, Bob stated that weapons give one the advantage and as such, anything and everything could, and was, used as a real or improvised weapon. If an inmate could grab something to defend himself with, then one would do so without hesitation. There is no dishonor in this tactic.
The weapon of choice, surprise, surprise, home made edged or pointed weapons (shivs) made from anything and everything including paper and hardened plastic or impact weapons (piping).
When I asked Bob how he would use the shiv, he replied; “using the element of surprise”. More often than not, a stabbing inside the prison was never an advertised event. Bob stated that if the intended “mark” heard that he was being targeted, then the target would make every effort to hit his identified attacker first. According to Bob, this was why “surprise” was a primary tactic used in prison; it gave the attacker the advantage of first strike.
I next asked Bob, if he was going to hit someone with a Shiv, what would be his primary target. I expected to hear; throat, kidney, groin, instead Bob stated; “ under the armpit is the target of choice inside.” This tactic was quite bewildering to me until I asked Bob why. Bob stated that a shiv attack to the throat, kidney, or groin areas were not guaranteed to immediately debilitate/stop an adversary (thus giving the target the ability to fight back), whereas a horizontal strike directly into the armpit would cause an immediate puncture and collapse of a lung which, based upon his personal experience and observations, always caused the victim to buckle (the first thing that came to mind here was the last fight scene from Gladiator the movie when Russell Crowe was stabbed in the side of his rib cage prior to entering the coliseum. Infact when I painted this scene to Bob, he laughed stating “ I saw that movie, in the real world that wound would have immediately collapsed Crowe” ) . From this position, further multiple attacks with the knife to the body could easily take place if needed.
Another interesting piece of information that I found bewildering was that most knife attacks in prisons did not end in death, which Bob stated was “deliberate”. Yes, some attacks were planned assassinations, but most were designed to cause maximum damage, via multiple hits, without causing death to send a message to the intended target. Having said this, Bob further stated that tactics of first strike did not differentiate between the two, what differed was how the fight was finished; assassination vs. message.
On the topic of Knife defence, Bob stated that if an inmate heard he was being targeted, and could not go and hit the attacker first, then several tactics were used:
- Magazines, especially National Geographic, would be bound (usually via shoe laces) to the front, sides, and under the arm pits of the body, at which time a heavy sweater or coat was placed overtop. This was “prison made” body amour which worked very well in protecting one from both puncture and slash attacks
- Hands on self-defence against a shiv attack were simple, direct, and offensive in nature. Bob stated that the most important thing learned and taught was to control the blade/shiv first and then just “pound” the guy to hell.
I had heard of the first tactic (magazine body armor) before, but found Bob’s second tactic (hands on skills) very inspiring due to the fact that this was what I teach as well. I asked Bob why controlling the shiv was so important to him, to which he stated, “ I want to prevent multiple hits to my body because that is what is going to likely kill me.” When I asked Bob why he just did not strike the shiv arm, and then proceed to slam and jam the guy into oblivion (a tactic taught by some RBSD instructors), he laughed and stated, “ have you ever seen what adrenaline and the focused intent to live can do to a guy, they become super human, they feel no pain, you can hit the guy all you want but if you don’t control that shiv, you are going to get hit multiple times, and it’s the multiple hits that will get you killed. This is even more of a reality if the guy is high on speed, coke, or just plain mental” IMO, one of the true golden nuggets of wisdom offered by Bob. Bob further stated that in a knife fight it was extremely important to keep forward momentum and to engage with rage taking the fight to the attacker.
On the Topic Of Empty Hand Self Defence:
Again, Bob stated that the use of weapons was the preferred method of self-defence, but if a weapon was not around, he would attack three primary targets :
- EYES: Bob stated that if someone was blinded, it made it hard to fight effectively. Bob proceeded to show me how he would jam his fingertips into a person’s eyes; very similar to the finger jab taught by myself, Senshido, and some Military Combatives.
- THROAT: Bob stated that this was his favorite target due to the fact that when hit, it almost always caused a gag reflex. Bob demonstrated the two ways he learned inside to attack the throat:
- Web hand strike up and under line of sight
- Open hand chop
- GROIN: Of the three this was Bob’d least favorite, due to effectiveness, but if the target presented itself, he would take it. Bob stated that he would primarily target this area with his shin or tip of boot/shoe. Bob stated that when this one worked, most victims would bend over thus allowing one to easily control the head and body. In fact, we both laughed because it was this technique that allowed me to take immediate control of him.
Other techniques utilized if the physical fight went to grapple/ground were bites, gouges, mouth hooking, and ear rips. On the topic of ear rips, Bob had seen this little beauty work on more than one occasion when rolling around on the ground with someone who he called a “wrestler.” As Bob stated; “Grab an ear and yank down as hard as you can. People immediately begin to panic not because of pain, but because of the large amount of blood that begins to flow about their face.”
The use of bludgeons (piping) was also very common inside prison. Again attacks here did not travel any specific lines of attack. When a body target presented itself, it was hit from anywhere and everywhere. Primary target in most cases was the head and neck. As Bob stated, “ knock the guy out, and the rest is easy” No truer words have been spoken in my opinion.
Bob emphasized that if he had to go hand to hand, it was only to allow him time to transition to a real or improvised weapon, if able, as quickly as possible. Another important golden nugget, and one that is preached by some of the more “credible” RBSD instructors.
Bob also shared with me that many of the traditional martial arts are offered inside our prison system; karate, TKD, Judo, Tai Chi. Bob stated that many who took these arts did so for self discipline, fitness, focus, and stress reduction. When I asked him if he felt these arts helped in any way when it came to real world self-defence, he laughed and stated, “they look pretty and teach people how to dance.” Interesting comment. Bob further went onto say that even those who had black belts resorted to good old fashion dirty fighting when defending themselves on the tier or in the yard. Another interesting observation and comment. “Nothing fancy, just simply brutal is the name of the game inside the Pen.”
One last thing that Bob shared with me in this topic area was that multiple opponents (swarming) were not a real issue in the Canadian prison system. This is not to say that this does not happen, it does, but amongst the prison population this is seen to be a cowardly act. If you are going to go physical one should do so man to man. Many times, those that swarm, become free targets for the rest of the population. Exception to this rule, riots where informers, rapists, and child molesters are targeted by groups
On Mindset For Survival:
Bob stated that if targeted for violence, you either become the “predator or the prey.” , You either “eat or be eaten”, You either “win or loose”, and at times you either “live or die”. Focused aggression, with the intent to live, and to cause as much damage as possible, as quickly as possible, utilizing the element of surprise is the key to survival. Threat of jail, more time, isolation, is impotent to those already doing time. Your goal is survival by any means necessary. There are no rules, and there is no honor amongst thieves as Bob so eloquently stated. You do what you have to do to live and survive. If you get in a beef that goes physical, put them down fast, and put them down hard, so that they don’t get back up right away.
MINDSET, is where Bob placed the heaviest emphasis on physical survival. As Bob stated, “ the most feared and NEVER targeted are those that are seen to be the craziest and will do anything, and I mean anything, to survive”
I couldn’t help but compare what I was hearing from Bob to the roman gladiators of the past; prisoners taught to fight out of the need for survival and in some cases entertainment. Thus the reason for the title of this posting, “Gladiator School”.
Never in a million years did I ever think that our interaction together would have lead to Bob sharing the above noted information. Two adversaries, with a common link, self-protection and survival. Curiosities lead to exploration, and exploration lead to knowledge. As I have always said, knowledge and the understanding and application of that knowledge is power.
When it comes to “Real World” violence, Bob has been there and done that. He shared with me a world that many cannot even begin to understand or comprehend, but yet it is an “in your face” reality that many self-defence/RBSD instructors do not want to comprehend or understand due to ignorance or willful blindness. Now the question is:
“IS YOUR TRAINING BEST PREPAIRING YOU TO FACE THIS MODERN GLADIATOR GIVEN THE ABOVE NOTED INFORMATION !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
Just for clarification on attacks with the shiv to the armpit:, there were two main tactics that ‘Bob” stated were taught and utilized:
Due to the fact that most shankings took place utilizing the element of surprise, they would approach the mark from the rear or side, and then with the hand not holding the shiv, they grabbed their target by the wrist, quickly lifted it and then proceeded to impale under the armpit.
· If it was a face to face encounter where the element of surprise was not used, primary tactic would be to quickly shoot for the mark’s leg and lift it with forward drive, this would usually cause the victim to grab onto the attacker with both hands for balance, thus opening up the armpit for attack. (this was similar in description to Pentecost, but different in the target attacked)
If the above two tactics failed, they would just penetrate to grapple range and start pumping any target of opportunity.
Having seen my fair share of prison shivs, most are designed to impale/thrust rather than slash. This “might” also explain why getting into the chest cavity is so easily done. I too was a big believer that the ribs offered some protection against bladed attacks until I went to a few autopsies and watch the pathologist do their thing. There is no doubt that the ribs do offer some protection from a “slashing” cut with a knife, but against a committed weighted strike with impaling type of weapon , penetration is easily acquired in most cases.
On the issue of the number of fights that “Bob” stated that he was involved in, there was no doubt in my interview with him that “ego” did play a small role. I had some concerns over his numbers too, but after checking with some friends who work within the correctional system here in Canada, they were not surprised by Bob’s numbers. In the end, only “Bob” knows the real numbers, but given who he is and what he has done, I don’t think there is a lot of deviation.
The purpose of the posting was to provided readers with a perspective on violence from another “experts” point of view. “Bob” is a skilled predator who survived life on the inside, and was willing to share some of his thoughts, be they slightly tainted or exaggerated, on the issue of violence and self-protection from his point of view. What I got from the interview was:
Bob, and other predators like him, are “asymmetrical” thinkers and fighters who utilize the elements of, simplicity, surprise, speed, and violence of action to their advantage. Those who teach or participate in the RBSD field should take note and acid test what they do against the tactics and skills mentioned by BOB.
Strength and Honor
Read Gladiator School as PDF.
The Force Behind Bakbakan - Master Rey Galang
By Jim Winterbottom
Born in the heart of Manila's Chinatown, Master Rey Galang was exposed at an early age to the Chinese operas and legends of warriors and heroes that spawned and nurtured his love and interest in the martial arts. Having lost his father at an early age, Master Rey's early pursuit of the martial arts was nurtured and encouraged by his uncles. Stemming from a family with a tradition and history of military and police career officers and Filipino-Chinese bloodlines, the discipline and demands of martial arts training became natural for him. Master Rey attributes his exposure to the martial arts, specifically Filipino and Chinese disciplines, to his family.
The general public has been unaware of Master Rey's contribution to the organizations of Bakbakan, Lameco and Kali Ilustrisimo. He is the driving force and co-founder of the Bakbakan organization, the other being Master Christopher Ricketts. Master Rey officially named and registered the organization Bakbakan and also created its famous "double phoenix" or sabong (cockfight) symbol and "Matira Matibay" (Best of the Best) motto and logo. The first international exposure of Masters Antonio Diego, Christopher Ricketts and Edgar Sulite was with Master Rey's 1986 groundbreaking project "Masters of Arnis" which featured these three as well as himself on a promotion and instructional tour in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne in Australia. From this early beginning, the public became aware of the arts of Kali Ilustrisimo and Lameco as well as of the Bakbakan organization.
It was also at this time that Master Rey focused on making Bakbakan the organization into which it has developed. He standardized its ranking, certification and the classification of its arts. From the skills and knowledge gleaned from Bakbakan's collective strength, the separate arts of Tulisan, Hagibis and Sagasa were born. As part of his effort to continuously improve and enhance the training methods and regimen of Bakbakan, the desire to create a scientific and progressive training method for the art of Kali Ilustrisimo resulted in its spawning a separate and distinct art now known as Bakbakan Kali (Ilustrisimo).
Identical in principles to its parent art, the art of Bakbakan Kali is different in its methodology, progression and training. Master Rey developed a progressive and structured curriculum that has proven so effective that many of Bakbakan's relatively new students can face-off and win in tournaments against opponents of many years experience. This has been consistently proven many times over through the years.
In a visit to the Philippines to train and compete with their counterparts, Bakbakan Kali disciples were surprised and pleased to find that they could keep up and hold their own against their more experienced Philippine brothers-in arms. This was a further proof of the value of the training methods developed for Bakbakan Kali. Always emphasizing the need for realism in training, Master Rey puts a high priority on training that develops reflex and realistic application of techniques. He shuns drill "patterns" judging them of little merit which only build false confidence. Never one to dismiss a good technique because of its origin, he will meticulously analyze it to discover or develop a method of training that will process the technique into a conditioned reflex.
As the official designated heir of the knife fighting aspect of Kali Ilustrisimo - Master Rey developed it into its present form - the art of Tulisan. Among the handful of senior students of the legendary Grandmaster Antonio Ilustrisimo, Master Rey's Tulisan reigns supreme in knife-fighting tournaments. His latest changes to tournament rules in knife fighting will further improve this aspect of the Filipino martial arts. Because of his disdain for the lack of reality in some of the practices in tournaments, he is constantly seeking for ways to put realism and practicality back on track. It is this unselfish passion for perfection that has endeared Master Rey not only to his students but even to his colleagues in the Filipino martial arts.
His research into the unarmed combat arts of Asia and the Philippines has resulted in the integrated throwing and grappling art known as Hagibis. Master Rey holds ranks in the arts of karate, jiu-jitsu, judo and aikido. Despite the fact that he holds a high respect for the popular Brazilian form of jiu-jitsu, Master Rey nevertheless warns students that street encounters are rarely unarmed and one-on-one. Although throwing and grappling are practiced and part of Hagibis, the intent is to eliminate each opponent as quickly as possible by injury or otherwise and be prepared to defend against other attackers in an ensuing melee. Notwithstanding this, Master Rey still enjoys getting on the mat with his students and partakes in the benefit of what he calls "proof and discovery" journeys. He explains this simply as showing proof that a technique is truly learned and the discovery of things to do and not to do.
His organizational and instructional skill has become so well known in the Filipino martial arts community that many have sought his assistance. Included among these is Lameco Eskrima's late Punong-Guro Edgar Sulite who sought Master Rey's support and advice in developing the final structure of the Lameco Eskrima organization. He assisted in designing and naming Lameco's grade and rank levels as well as the requirements for each category. He also designed the Lameco training "passport" booklet intended to keep track of a student's workshop and seminar attendance leading to certification credits. The Lameco instructor ring is also one of Master Rey's designs and it was at PG Sulite's request that permission was granted for Lameco to additionally use Bakbakan's logo and "Matira Matibay" motto on its ring. Master Rey also designed and edited Lameco Eskrima's newsletter "Vortex" of which he was one of its major contributors. He is also in the second highest ranked (5th Degree) group of Lameco Eskrima instructors certified by PG Edgar Sulite, the highest, outside of PG Sulite himself, being held by only one person, Master Christopher Ricketts of Bakbakan International (Philippines).
Ever proud of his warrior heritage, Master Rey's research into his province's (Pampanga) legacy of Sinawali - the art of the twin blade, led him to many discoveries that he has shared in his book "Complete Sinawali". Recognized and named by his peers in the Philippines as the developer and founder of the present form of Sinawali, Master Rey is proud to have preserved and enhanced this long neglected and misunderstood art. Proof of his love for this art can be found and enjoyed in the many Sinawali forms he has developed to preserve the history, culture and techniques of this fascinating and powerful legacy. He never fails to point out that many of the Espada y Daga techniques are actually gleaned from and practiced in Sinawali. In addition, he states that the legendary Placido Yambao, whose superior sword and dagger techniques are documented in the rare book "Mga Karunungan sa Larong Arnis" (Classic Arnis), hails from the province of Pampanga, the birthplace of Sinawali. Another obscure fact is that Joaquin Galang of the Magtanggol Sporting Club, a family member, awarded Placido Yambao's instructorship diploma.
Many students preparing for competition find it a rewarding experience to spar with Master Rey. He points out the weaknesses and strength of their strategy and repertoire and assists them in overcoming the flaws in their techniques or strategy. Whether it is weapons or unarmed sparring, Master Rey will make time to help a student "discover" his fighting ability. Sparring with students whose ages could be that of his own grown children, he gives his best to yield the best from his pupils.
Nonetheless, Master Rey is not always that liberal in sharing his wealth of information and knowledge. Occasionally he has been known to pretend lack of knowledge, skill and interest to avoid teaching an individual he feels does not deserve to share the legacy. An astute judge of character, he has been proven many times correct in judging the selfish motives of an overeager candidate. By the same token, once a student has won his trust and confidence, the wealth of knowledge shared is limited only by the student's own capacity to learn. Always learning and studying, he claims that sparring with his students keeps him on his toes as well as enables him to harvest their individual discoveries.
Acceptance into the Bakbakan membership is intentionally spread over a period of time in such a way that the wannabes are weeded out without any restrictive requirements. The interval between apprenticeship into associate status and the final full-fledged membership is customized to automatically discard those that are looking for easy and fast recognition and to extract the committed and dedicated practitioner.
Recent years have seen Master Rey focusing on promoting and raising the standard of Filipino martial arts in general. His now celebrated annual tournaments have truly become "a Gathering of Warriors". Held three times a year, the tournaments have appealing names such us "Masters of the Blade" - held in the first quarter of each year; "Guardians of the Legacy" - held around the middle of the year; and "A Gathering of Warriors" - held before the last quarter of the year. Master Rey personally runs these tournaments, keeping track of each match as well as keeping a record of each participant's track record regardless of style or school. He also maintains the web site where tournament participants can view their records and are kept informed of forthcoming events.
Until the opening of the Lodi gym a few years ago, the Bakbakan group was a "closed door " group to outsiders - you needed to know someone in Bakbakan, and only by personal introduction and a screening period were you admitted into the brotherhood. This is a little relaxed now; admission is open to the public. However, the beauty of belonging to this brotherhood is that the screening process still exists in order to ensure that students are pure in their intent and free from egos. I have never met a more dedicated group of martial artists whose sole goal is self-perfection and the propagation of their art using Master Rey as their guide.
Read The Force Behind Bakbakan - Master Rey Galang as PDF.