BBC Interviews Grand Master Bobby Taboada
October 17, 2007
Introduction Compiled by: Teresa Martinez-Sepulveda
October 7, 2007 - Bisaya Bulletin is proud to herald the feats of a Cebuano "bogoy-tigas" odyssey from fighting the streets of Cebu as a means of survival to reaching the shores of New Zealand , Europe , the United States and bringing international acclaim to the Filipino martial art of Arnis.
Pigafetta,in his journals, speaks of the superior form of fighting skills of Lapu-lapu and his warriors used to subdue Magellan with pointed sticks hardened by fire. The Spanish called such skill, "eskrima" (skirmish ). As a strategy to enforce the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, escrima was outlawed but the techniques did not disappear. Escrima was preserved in secret in the form of mocked battles staged in religious play known as moro-moro. The blade fighting form and footwork were identical to those used in escrima. Plays featured filipinos in "arnes" - the medieval armor/ harness. Arnes later evolved to be called present day Arnis. These secret and deadly fighting skills were preserved thru time, barely written but practiced and handed down and expressed in many forms and disciplines thoughout the Philippine islands.
As a young boy and living in poverty, Bobby Taboada was introduced to eskrima by his father, Sergio Taboada. He boxed for 6 years and learned karate and kung-fu as well. At the age of 12, he left home and lived with Grandmaster Teofilo Velez, who taught him eskrima like an adopted son. At this opportune time, he learned the secrets of eskrima from other Cebuano Grandmasters, Jose Villacin and the great grand old Master Venancio Bacon who founded the Balintawak Eskrima.. This form of escrima was named after the street in Cebu City where the first Balintawak club was founded. Training was often brutal, difficult, demanding, violent, and deadly. Escrima was not yet a sport "governed by safety rules". Fighting was fought to the finish until one surrendered or died.
Bobby got his first break when his escrima was "discovered" by a martial artist wanting his impressive skills to be taught in a school in New Zealand. Penniless and with barely a command of the English language to start, he has evolved to make Eskrima-Balintawak place it's mark on the international scene of martial arts. Presently he resides in Charlotte, North Carolina USA where he established the Balintawak International Headquarters. Multi-awarded and a Hall Famer, he teaches law enforcement officers, martial arts instructors, black belts and advanced students from all styles of martial arts.
BBC interview with Bobby Toboada:
BT: Thank you for giving me a chance to be featured in your website. I am more than happy to answer your questions.
BBC: What is the biggest challenge in your profession?
BT: The biggest challenge of my profession started when I left Cebu for New Zealand in 1980 with only 45 centavos in my pocket on invitation of a student friend from New Zealand to teach Arnis in his fitness gym in Tauranga NZ. I travelled alone and for the first time in my life rode an airplane! While I was in the plane, I was beginning to worry and get scared because I don't know how to speak English. I finished 6th grade elementary school only. I consider Balintawak Escrima or Arnis Stick Fighting knowledge as my career so how am I going to teach it without speaking english. I made a promise to my late grandmasters to promote the art of Balintawak Escrima Arnis worldwide. That was the biggest challenge to me. But I did it through perseverance, determination and a lot of hard work. I only wish my Grandmasters were still alive today watching me promote the art worldwide.
BBC: Can you name a few of your famous clients?
BT: I taught Vicent Calloway, a Tony Awardee who recorded and made famous the song, "I Wanna Be Rich"; Graciella Casillas Boggs, the undefeated female champion of kick boxing, Irwin Carmichael, Deputy Sheriff in Charlotte, North Carolina who is known throughout the state for his self-defense seminars. I have students who are Medical Doctors, Pilots, Director of Corporate Security, Police Officers, and of other different backgrounds.
BBC: What is your biggest achievement or award in your profession?
BT: I have received numerous awards. The World Head of Family Sokeship Council International Hall of Fame has given me the following awards:
Best Demonstration, Best Teacher
Grand Master of the Year
Golden Life Achievement Award
I also received in 1977 the "Grand Master of the Year" award from the Martial Arts Trianing Institute, one of the top 200 Martial Arts School in the U.S.
BBC: What message can you give to those who aspire to learn arnis?
BT: My advice to people who wants to practice the Pilipino Martial Arts is, find the instructor that is willing to share their knowledge and you are welcome to their hearts, and the most is friendly.
For a list of notable arnis masters and disciplines:
Excerpts on Bobby Toboada :
In the year 2000, he was inducted into the World Head Council of Family Sokiship's International Hall of Fame and was awarded the title of Millenium Grand Master . In 2002, that same organization honored him with the title of Distinguished Grand Master .
Through hard lessons of the past, Grand Master Taboada realized that very little concern was placed on safety of the student while learning. He has resolved to teach his own students with a minimal risk of injury, which has led him to develop the traditional art of cuentada into a less punishing, yet powerful and effective system of training. Grand Master Taboada believes that it's easy to offensively strike, punch or kick somebody, but it's a lot more difficult to defend against an aggressive attack. For this reason, in his teaching he places primary emphasis on the creative mindset and technical skills necessary to counter and overcome any attack. To all students of the martial arts, he imparts this message: "Every style has something to offer. Pick up a good move, rehearse it, practice it, understand it and then think about the counter. Then it is yours."
On Balintawak Escrima:
In Balintawak Arnis, the stick is used as the primary training tool. The theory is that the stick is only an extension of the arm and that the human body can only move in so many normal ways. It includes parries, clips, ruses, feigns, tripping, sweeping, kicking, trapping, reversals of motion and direction, blows with simultaneous offence and defence and more. There is no limit on where and what to hit except in friendly workouts where injury is avoided and safety is imposed. As a matter of fact, what is considered foul in many arts, is what is taught and mastered in Balintawak. It is combat, street fighting and self- defence. In Balintawak, the student is taught that there is a counter to every counter and that continuous research and discovery is the basis of knowledge.
Sources and References:
Arnisador-The Journal of Philipines Arts & Culture
By Sam Buot, Sr.
Goodwill Publications Limited
World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (WEKAF)