Book Release – Kali Ilustrisimo: The Sword Fighting Art of Antonio Ilustrisimo by Master Christopher Ricketts

Ilustrisimo Book

Kali Ilustrisimo: The Sword Fighting Art of Antonio Ilustrisimo

By Master Christopher Ricketts, Guro Bruce Ricketts, Guro Brandon Ricketts



With over 3 decades of intensive training in both
Filipino & Chinese disciplines, Christopher Ricketts
presents Kali Ilustrisimo as it was taught to him by
the now legendary swordsman, Antonio Ilustrisimo.
Grandmaster Ricketts brings his insight to this highly
regarded fighting art with clarity and precise
methodology that is sure to enrich any student
regardless of style or system.

Lavishly illustrated with diagrams and pictures
from Grandmaster Rickett’s personal and
comprehensive archives, experts and beginners
alike stand to benefit greatly from this presentation.
Catch a rare glimpse into the inner workings
of this uniquely Filipino fighting system.

The art and legacy of Antonio Ilustrisimo lives on.

Author website

Budo Magazine Publishes the final Interview of Grandmaster Tony Diego of Kalis Ilustrisimo. Interview by Tim Fredianell.


Budo Magazine Publishes the final Interview of Grandmaster Tony Diego of Kalis Ilustrisimo. Interview by  Tim Fredianell.


Read interview in English here:

Read interview in Spanish here:

GM Tony Diego





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Guro Doran Sordo pays tribute to his long time teacher Grandmaster Tony Diego.

Guro Doran Sordo


I met Mang Tony Diego Kalis Ilustrisimo around 1986. He was introduced to me by my master, GM Topher Ricketts when we would accompany him to practice at the Luneta park on Sundays or the gym in Binondo. As the years passed, Master Topher would always ask Master Tony to teach me some techniques and polish details in my form whether it be stance, swing, footwork, etc. Master Tony was always so generous in his teaching and would share so much. I know him to be a quiet, humble man who would always tell me not to call him “Master”. Whenever he saw me, he would always fondly greet me by exclaiming “Sord!” and he always had a smile on his face whenever i came to Luneta. We would sit sometimes between practice and just chat. He would tell me about the good old days with Master Topher, showing me techniques while we were chatting. How he remembers us when we were still young and would joke that we were thinner then. He was a learned man, who would often ask me how my spiritual practice was coming along.

I remember one of the last conversations I had with Master Topher before he passed away. He told me “Never forget your Ilustrisimo. See Master Tony as often as you can and learn as much as you can. You practice what you learn until you are old.” I remember now the last conversation i had with Master Tony at his home in Tondo. He said to always be mindful of the details. I remember the last time I saw him. It was a day before he passed away. We said a prayer together and I went downstairs so he could rest.

I am honoured to be his student and proud to continue his legacy however way I can. I feel privileged to have been able to spend some time with him and learn from this great teacher. I can almost hear swords clashing as he is reunited once again with Grand Master Tatang Ilustrisimo, GM Topher Ricketts and PG Edgar Sulite. We miss you Master Tony.

Paalam Po, GM Tony Diego.



Master Diego 1

Rest In Peace Master Tony Diego, Head of Kalis Ilustrisimo. August 25th 2014.

Master Diego 1


Rest In Peace Master Tony Diego, Head of Kalis Ilustrisimo.

Rest In Peace Master Tony Diego. Thank you for the friendship, knowledge and wisdom you shared. I hope you are now happily practicing again with your dear teacher – Grandmaster Antonio Ilustrisimo. Along with your old training buddies Master Christopher Ricketts and Punong Guro Edgar Sulite who also departed way too soon.

Love & Respect,
Dino Flores


Master Diego 2

Guro Dave Gould of Lameco Eskrima pays tribute to Grandmaster Tony Diego of Kalis Ilustrismo.

Master Tony Diego Ilustrisimo

Guro Dave Gould of Lameco Eskrima pays tribute to Grandmaster Tony Diego of Kalis Ilustrismo.

I just wanted to pass on some sad news, that being the passing of Grand Master Tony Diego of Kalis Ilustrisimo fame. He passed due to a long illness yesterday on August 25, 2014 (Philippine Time).

GM Tony Diego and Master Yuli Romo were the first students of GM Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo who formally began their training with the old battle tested Grand Master in 1977. years later along came PG Edgar G. Sulite, Master Christopher N. Ricketts and Master Rey Galang who were recognized as the 5 Pillars of Kalis Ilustrisimo and were credited with spending the most time training directly under the astute tutelage of GM Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo as well as them being credited with better organizing the Kalis Ilustrisimo system and creating its curriculum based on the movements and reactions of their teacher, “Tatang” Ilustrisimo regarding that discipline.

For us in the Lameco Eskrima System Master Tony Diego was a great influence and he was the one who really brought PG Edgar G. Sulite to Kalis Ilustrisimo and to GM Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo, basically resulting from a sparring match between PG Edgar G. Sulite and Master Tony Diego, this was a defining moment in the evolution of the Lameco Eskrima System as we know it today, simply because up until this sparring session Lameco Eskrima was comprised of only 4 major influences, those being; De Campo 1-2-3 Orehenal, Kali Pekiti-Tirsia, Modernos Largos and the Sulite Rapelon Style along with the 6 minor influences of the system. Kalis Ilustrisimo would prove to be the missing piece of the system and this was discovered during that very crucial sparring session between PG Edgar G.Sulite and Master Tony Diego so many years ago.

The result of that sparring match saw PG Edgar G. Sulite becoming a student of Kalis Ilustrisimo under GM Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo and over the years adding countless techniques, concepts and principles from Kalis Ilustrisimo to the Lameco Eskrima curriculum to strike a fine balance to the system, especially regarding the blade and dagger portion of the curriculum.

Master Tony Diego became fast friends with PG Edgar G. Sulite and remained a very close friend for the rest of Edgar`s life and was partially responsible for the International Recognition of Kalis Ilustrisimo, Bakbakan International and Lameco Eskrima International along with Master Yuli Romo, Master Christopher Ricketts, PG Edgar G. Sulite and Master Rey Galang.

After GM Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo Passed away in 1997 Master Tony Diego being the heir apparent of the system was elected by the other senior members of kalis Ilustrisimo to take control of the system. It is a shame that he has been taken from us but he was taken contributing much back to the Filipino Warrior Arts Community from which much was given him over his life time.

Rest in Peace Master Tony Diego and long live your legacy!

Master Christopher Ricketts and Bakbakan Philippines doing Ilustrisimo on TV Show – 2005.

Master Christopher Ricketts and Bakbakan Philippines doing Ilustrisimo on TV Show.
Master Ricketts is assisted by Bruce Ricketts, Dodong Sta. Iglesia, Miguel Zubiri, Doran Sordo, Brandon Ricketts, Monsour del Rosario and other members of Bakbakan Philippines. Shot at Olympians Taekwondo Training Center (OTTC) in Fort Bonifacio, Manila, Philippines. 2005.



Master Christopher Ricketts on TV

Fundraiser for Master Tony Diego of Kalis Ilustrisimo, July 2013

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Greetings friends,

We are seeking assistance for Master Tony Diego of Kalis Ilustrisimo.

Master Diego’s wife has breast cancer and has just had surgery for the second time. Sadly, even with surgery it has spread and costly chemotherapy is required. Master Diego is retired from work and has no medical or retirement benefits, so any amount donated will be very much appreciated and put to good use.

If you would like to donate you can contact Dino at:
or you can contact Peachie Baron at:

Laban Laro – Invitation Only Sparring, June 22nd. Aranda/Ricketts Memorial Gym

Laban Laro – Invitation Only Sparring, June 22nd. Aranda/Ricketts Memorial Gym

An Event Honoring the Sparring Tradition Founded by the Five Pillars of Ilustrisimo and the Original Bakbakan Philippines.

Participating Organizations: Bakbakan Philippines – USA HQ,  Ilustrisimo USA, Lameco SOG, Kapisanang Mandirigma.

Event Supervised by: Guro Brandon Ricketts, Guro Bud Balani, Guro Ariel Flores Mosses,  Guro Dino Flores.


Laban Laro, GM Ricketts, PG Sulite, kali, kalis, eskrima, escrima, arnis, ilustrisimo, lameco, bakbakan, kapisanang mandirigma,,, guro dino flores

The FMA Informative publishes Master Tony Diego & Kalis Ilustrisimo Special Issue, March 2013

master diego fma digest kalis ilustrisimo

Informative Issue No #67
Kalis Ilustrisimo

The FMA Informative publishes Master Tony Diego & Kalis Ilustrisimo Special Issue, March 2013

Master Antonio “Tony” Diego

When Master Tony moved to Manila, he trained in the Balintawak style of Arnis with the Eskrimadors
from Cebu while he was working at the docks and at the same time training with Berting Presas (Modern Arnis) in Quiapo, a district of Manila. Soon after, he met Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo in 1974. Tatang’s simple but ferocious style greatly impressed him. He then requested Tatang to teach him. At first Tatang would not teach Master Tony, explaining that it was only for his use alone! He said he remained undefeated because others do not know his style. Master Tony, far from being deterred, relentlessly pestered Tatang with attention and gifts until the old man finally agreed to teach him the ways of the blade.
As a teacher of Eskrima, Master Tony has earned the highest reputation as a person and as an instructor. He fully believes that a student who learns the Ilustrisimo system should give credit where credit is due, and not to learn and then claim it or its derivatives as a personal innovation or declare it as coming from an imagined family tradition.
Compared with Tatang, Tony teaches almost the same way with the exception that he has structured his
instruction procedures into sets of techniques which make learning easier. This comes from having seen it from the student’s point of view.
Tony has insisted on maintaining the purity of the system as Tatang taught it. The only change is the way the Ilustrisimo system is now taught in a structured sense, which Tatang did not.
Any Questions Contact: Ms. Peachie Baron-Saguin at:


Kalis Ilustrisimo in its Pure Form

Kalis Ilustrisimo in its pure form
tries to maintain the life and death
combative perspective and ex-
presses this point of view in its
techniques and their applications.
There has been also a need to enter
the Filipino martial arts world,
which has a greater emphasis on
the sports aspect. For this, Ilus-
trisimo methods and techniques
have perforce been modified in
order to keep within the structure
of the necessary constricting rules
of sports. These rules are meant
for the safety of participants and
life and death combat movements
are illegal. This is true for other
ing, etc.
Because of the greater
emphasis on sports in the present
Filipino martial arts community,
students are more – keen on learn-
ing techniques believing these
will enhance their skill and their
chances of winning competitions.
In contrast, instruction in Ilustri-
simo is based on the foundational
combat philosophy of Antonio
“Tatang” Ilustrisimo when teach-
ing the techniques and their appli-
cation. This point of view delin-
eates objectives which give rise
to the movements or techniques
necessary to achieve such objec-
The original main objective
of Tatang’s fighting system is win-
ning in battle and coming out of it
alive and unhurt. For this, a flexi-
ble fighting capability is necessary.
Thus the Ilustrisimo system has a
varied set of techniques which are
effective at various distances and
with various weapons all the way
to empty hands.
In using Kalis Ilustrisimo they use what one would call fraction (Master strikes at the student
according to numbers). The Master strikes the student first countering the strikes one through twelve
strikes, Abierta: Compared with Tatang, Master Tony teaches almost the same way with the exception that he has structured his instruction procedures into sets of techniques which make learning easier. This comes from having seen it from the student’s point of view. Master Tony has insisted on maintaining the purity of the system as Tatang taught it.

The FMA Informative publishes Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite and Master Christopher Ricketts Memorial Seminar Special Issue, March 2013

The FMA Informative publishes Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite and Master Christopher Ricketts Memorial Seminar Special Issue, March 2013

The FMA Informative was very lucky to be able through the cooperation of Guro Dino Flores to be able to bring just a hint of the knowledge that was put forth and the skills that were demonstrated on March 16 and 17, 2013.
At the Lameco S.O.G and Kali Ilustrisimo Memorial Seminar the instructors were the dedicated instructors of Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite and Master Christopher Ricketts. They were: Guro Dino Flores, Guro Bud Balani, Guro David Gould, Guro Bong Hebia, Guro Ariel Flores Mosses, and the son of Master Christopher Ricketts Guro Brandon Ricketts.
First you will read about the participant Dr. Bryan Stoops reflections on his experience in the 12 Week Backyard Lameco Eskrima course and the 2 day Lameco S.O.G and Ilustrisimo Eskrima Seminar.
Then on another aspect Guro David Gould his thoughts on the 2nd Lameco Eskrima “SOG” Memorial Seminar held in Los Angeles, California.

Visit and download a copy.

Download a copy –

The FMA Informative publishes Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite and Master Christopher Ricketts Memorial Seminar Special Issue, March 2013, kali kalis eskrima escrima arnis

Master Rey Galang By Jim Winterbottom

rey-galang kali kalis arnis eskrima escrima fma

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.

Short Interview with Grandmaster “Yuli” Romo, Bahad Zubu, May 25th, 2008

Short Interview with Grandmaster “Yuli” Romo, Bahad Zubu

bahad zubu kali kalis arnis eskrima escrima fma, master yuli romo, ilustrisimo




Q:   How is Bahad Zubu different from other Martial Arts?


I have researched and restored the ancient Filipino Fighting arts of the Philippine Archipelago. “Fighting Arts” is different from “Martial Arts”. The Filipino warriors of ancient times didn’t know what was 1,2,3 or a,b,c but they knew how to fight like a cat knows how to be a cat.

“Martial” to me means something rigid and prescriptive. Bahad Zubu is intuitive and natural. It is not a “Mixed” martial art that employs different “techniques” at different ranges. Nor does it have any un-natural stances just “Situational Footwork”. Step in, Step Out. Kompass 1 (right foot), compass 2 (left foot). That’s it.

Q:    How is it possible to teach the art of Bahad Zubu in just 20 sessions?


Generic basics and proper learning and understanding.

All we need is forehand and backhand, Compass 1 and Compass 2, touch and un-touch. These simple basics. Of course, we need correct balance, posture and co-ordination. For example the 3 different levels upper (neck / chest), middle (hips) and bottom (legs, heels / toes) need to move as one.

Before there were no gyms, clubs or instructors. “Proper Learning” is done by observation. “Proper Understanding” is having a friend to check you and practice with. Without “Proper Learning” you can not have “Proper Understanding” and vice versa.

Bahad Zubu is a very natural fighting art. It is not taught like the common group era or by mass practice. It is taught 1 on 1 by intuitive interactive drills.

Q:   How can you learn to “Control the fight”?


With simple basics you can fight. Of course, you need tactics to be able to handle the fight. Bahad Zubu is a “Situational and multiple distractive tactics”. You must bait your opponent. Things like dis-arms are all just options. Everything that happens in the fight is unexpected and intuitive so you must practice the basics.

Simple basics – most advanced!

Q   Why do you think many people practice “Un-Natural” Martial Arts?

I hink their minds are poisoned like the serpent in the garden of Eden. We are not tigers, snakes, cranes, etc, etc. We are the top animal. The most evolved. So their mind is confused. For me these arts are good for entertainment but not for the challenge of combat. Unfortunately these “un-natural” arts are the most common.

Q   :     A student from another group invites one of your students to spar. How should  your student re-act?

YR:    That is the time to test our individual skill.

In Bahad Zubu we do not have padded sticks and helmets for sparring. We spar with live sticks. At the end of the 80’s and in the 90’s my Kali Parmatukan group competed in WEKAF tournaments and won a stack of medals. Now we just use padded sticks for practice. Obviously if we practice with live sticks we will not be able to train due to the injuries caused.

Once you have all that padding on it stops being a “Fighting Art” and becomes a sport. Also, there are certain strikes you can not perform with a padded stick due to it not being rigid. So, if anybody wants to spar with “live” stick that is good for our group.



Giving the Right Credits 
By Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite

This article was first published in VORTEX (Volume 4, Number 1) in 1995. A quarterly 
newsletter of Lameco Eskrima International, the publisher was the late Punong Guro 
Edgar G. Sulite who passed away on April 10, 1997. The editor was Arnold A. Noche.


Giving the Right Credits

By Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite


In today’s society, martial arts practitioners are constantly bombarded by the 
knowledge and techniques of various martial arts arriving from all four corners of the 
world. These are the same exact techniques that were once forbidden to be taught outside 
the family circle by the very same people who created it and used it. Those people 
dedicated their lives in the laboratory of the battlefield just to experiment whether their 
techniques would work or not. Many lives had been wasted before the techniques were 
ever refined. The masters from the different martial arts devoted their time, energy and, 
above all, their life in the development of their fierce combat techniques. 
The Filipino martial arts (Eskrima, Kali, Arnis), Kung-Fu, Thai Boxing, Karate, 
Indonesian Silat, Jiu-Jitsu, Western Boxing, Tai-Chi, Judo, Savate and other martial arts 
are just a mere phone call away. In our generation today, we are extremely fortunate to 
have these different types of martial arts available within our grasp.
I remember Grandmaster Jose D. Caballero who was my teacher in the De Campo 
Uno-Dos-Tres Orihinal System. It took me more than one year to court him, bringing him 
food each day on every visit as a means of a gift, just for him to accept me as a student. It 
was primarily because I was an outsider, one who didn’t belong to their family, that I was 
not accepted right away. It was also because of my perseverance, that I never stopped 
coming to his house to ask him to teach me, that I was finally accepted to become one of 
his disciples.
Nowadays, you can study any and all kinds of martial arts as you wish, because 
they are available within your reach, for as long as you have the determination to learn. 
Due to the abundance of these martial arts that we study, we somehow consciously or 
subconsciously mix it together as one. This bring us now to the big problem that evolves 
due to the fact that some martial arts teachers, as well as some students, are not honest 
enough in giving the right credits to where they have gotten the knowledge from or where 
they have attained the techniques from.
One afternoon in Manila, Philippines, during our Sunday sessions with 
Grandmaster Antonio Ilustrisimo in Luneta Park, we noticed two bystanders carefully 
observing our training with extremely watchful eyes. I, being one of the spokesmen of the 
Kali Ilustrisimo System, approached the two men and asked them if they knew Eskrima, 
Kali or Arnis. I also asked them if they would show us some of their moves. The 
demonstration that they performed for us was quite impressive. Grandmaster Ilustrisimo, 
who does not impress easily at all especially if you are from another style of Kali, was 
astounded. After their demonstration we asked immediately who their teacher was. One 
of the young men replied that they did not have a teacher that they just went to the 
mountains and meditated to formulate the techniques, which they had just performed. We
did not believe him nor them. Master Tony Diego said to me that it was such a pity to 
their teacher, whoever it was, that these two men would turn out to be so disrespectful. 
Less than a year later, during our meeting with the different grandmasters of Arnis 
Philippines, I met an old master that demonstrated the same techniques that I saw earlier 
from the two men. When I asked the master if he knew of the two, he replied that they 
were his students.
The truth will always come out. Giving the right credits to where we have learned 
the techniques from pays a lot of respect to the people who invented it and devoted their 
life in battle just to prove that it works. It is their pride that their names are being 
remembered and honored by us who are now practicing or who have practiced their once 
called forbidden art.

LAMECO: Legacy of Steel By Steve Tarani

LAMECO: Legacy of Steel By Steve Tarani


lameco eskrima arnis kali

dino flores eskrima

This article was reprinted with the author’s permission from the Souvenir Edition of Arnisador Magazine published by Goodwill Publications Limited. More information about the magazine can be obtained by calling Peter Morgan in London at +44 (0) 171-895 0800.

Saturday, June 1st, 1996
LAMECO: Legacy of Steel
By Steve Tarani

Swollen knuckles, bleeding forearms and battered shins – two warriors face off in a clearing. Sharp strikes of clashing rattan mix with the drawl of heavy breathing and shuffling feet. Intensely focused and alert, both combatants melt into the sweltering humidity. Glistening beads of sweat roll down to fingers wrought with open blisters. Ignoring the searing pain, each man continues fighting. Skillfully, cautiously – each life hinges upon immediate reaction to a deadly salvo of crushing blows.

Such is the way of life of an Arnisador – a path chosen by Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite. Since and before the days of Magellan, the Filipino martial arts have proven themselves highly effective standing in defiance of determined warring tribes, rabid Conquistadors and greedy foreign hordes.

The LAMECO system, systematically structured and easily assimilatable according to modern training methods, is the stainless steel link in an unbroken chain of training succession.

Great-grandfather to grandfather to father to son, a continual succession of knowledge and commitment breathes life into the ancient art from those very early days of foreign aggression to the current days of domestic violence. The heritage of combat-ready warriors runs deeply through the bloodline of the Sulite family tree.

Born on September 25, 1957 in a rural province on the Visayan Island of Leyte, Tacloban City, Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite was raised by a family of martial arts devotees in a rugged barrio neighborhood where deadly brawls and Bolo knife skirmishes were commonplace.

In other martial arts, the attainment of a certain level automatically designates the title Master or Grandmaster. In the Philippines, there are certain norms to be satisfied before one can be called and accepted as a Master or Grandmaster.

After expressing great interest in the Filipino fighting arts at a very early age, young Edgar was introduced to the rigorous training by his own father – Grandmaster Helacrio Sulite Sr.

Grandmaster Helacrio first studied with his father Grandmaster Timoteo Sulite in the 1930s. Grandmaster Helacrio went on to further enhance his skills under the tutelage of several other Arnis masters of varied styles (such as the late Grandmaster Melicio Ilustrisimo and Master Almario of Cebu among others.)

Grandmaster Timoteo Sulite’s instructors were active in the mid-19th century and their grandfathers recalled stories of their grandfathers which included the defeat of several infamous Spanish conquistadors using the very same styles of Arnis that have been meticulously passed down to Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite who, in turn, continues the solemn tradition to this very day.

While simultaneously training under his father and coming to master the family system known as Sulite Rapelon, Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite continually expanded his skills and combat technology by training intently with several other masters and Grandmasters all across the Philippine Islands.

Punong Guro devoted his entire life to the study of the ancient systems and masters who transformed him from young eager aspirant to the refined physical embodiment of technical perfection that he has become today.

Among the long list of such distinguished curators of the ancient ways is Grandmaster Antonio Ilustrisimo of Bag-on Bantayan – founder of Kali Ilustrisimo, Grandmaster Jose D. Caballero of Ozamis City, Western Mindanao – founder of De Campo 1-2-3 Orihenal and Grandmaster Leo T. Gaje Jr. of Negros Occidental – founder of Pekiti Tirsia (a close quarters combat system that specializes in knife and Espada y Daga.)

Punong Guro sheds further light on the methods of his masters in a series of educational books and video tapes available to the general public. Especially in his third book, MASTERS OF ARNIS, KALI & ESKRIMA, Punong Guro provides a rare glimpse into the arcane and mystical world of the traditional Filipino warrior class. Punong Guro is also the author of ADVANCED BALISONG: FILIPINO BUTTERFLY KNIFE and THE SECRETS OF ARNIS and has produced a total of ten instructional video tapes.

Punong Guro Sulite believes that the ancient tradition of keeping the sacred art only in the family is a double-edged sword. On the one hand the art is kept pure and in accordance with tradition. On the other hand, as modern times erode the interests of today’s youth, (who would much rather play video games rather than listen to grandpa tell old war stories,) the passing of the torch becomes more and more limited to only a select few. Unfortunately, when such masters pass away, so goes with them, forever, the art which they possess.

Thus, with the bold risk of changing the course of tradition, Punong Guro accepted the responsibility of both preserving the ancient teachings in the exact way in which he was taught, as well as disseminating this teaching in a modern platform of instruction.

In this modern age of automated organizational skills, combined with his uncanny ability to analyze with the precision of a high-tech computer, Punong Guro Sulite has heavily exposed the western world to the LAMECO system. Punong Guro currently has a number [of] schools in such varied corners of the globe as the Philippines, Germany, Australia and the United States. As a result of his unique modern approach and personal dedication through the LAMECO system, the proliferation and integrity of the ancient teachings is sustained.

What is the LAMECO system? LAMECO is a perfectly balanced synthesis of the many effective teachings and styles which Punong Guro has come to master in the span of his life.

There are some systems which specialize in long range fighting (known as “Largo Mano” or “Long Hand”) and others specializing in medium range fighting (known as “Medio”) and still others which specialize in close quarters combat (known as “Corto”). Thus, an acronym for the synthesis of the three ranges of combat LARGO, MEDIO and CORTO, the first two characters of each combat range LA, ME and CO were combined to form LAMECO.

In an interview, Punong Guro said, “I wanted to preserve the ancient teachings… but bleeding forearms and knots on the top of the head is not a good way… [there is no] safety. So a good compromise is safety equipment… [and] gradually, we can remove [the protective armour].”

When asked how he had planned to preserve the old teachings without dissipating the potency of the original art, and simultaneously combine the best of each system without offending each of his teachers, Punong Guro Sulite replied, “Grandmaster Ilustrisimo entrusted me with his [lifetime of knowledge] and wanted me to carry his name… the same with Grandmaster Gaje, Grandmaster Caballero, Grandmaster Abella, and all the others. So I have systematised and presented [the arts in a modern context easy to assimilate through a synthesis of multiply effective systems].” Thus the LAMECO system was born.

What further separates LAMECO from all other contemporary systems is its emphasis on the totality of the human being – mind, body and spirit – not only the physical elements. Attention, intention, visualization and complete focus are the integral components of the LAMECO training system. Drills and processes which develop the vital constituents were developed as the result of intense study and detailed analysis of countless ancient systems.

As modern day martial artists, we should consider ourselves most fortunate to have the opportunity to train under a renaissance thinker such as Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite. He is one of the very few who has brought the ancient traditions out of the darkest jungles and into the light of modern day martial arts training, by sharing with the rest of the world – his legacy of steel.

Punong Guro is a Tagalog title which is comprised of two words. The first, Punong, literally translates to “trunk” or “base of”, for example, a tree. Combined with the second word, Guro, which translates as “one who leads another out of ignorance” (or “teacher” in Western terminology,) this title can be translated as “Primary master instructor” or more readily, “Grandmaster”.

Grandmaster Christopher ‘Topher’ Ricketts Interview by Guro David Foggie and Guro Dino Flores for Blitz Magazine, Australia, 2006

Grandmaster Christopher ‘Topher’ Ricketts Interview by Guro David Foggie and Guro Dino Flores for Blitz Magazine, Australia, 2006



Questions by David Foggie Interviewed by Dino Flores. Answers by Master Ricketts given in Tagalog, Translation by Dino Flores.  Interview commenced 12 th February 2006 and conducted over a span of three months in the form of casual conversation by Dino Flores in Los Angeles to San Diego, California U.S.A as well as Las Vegas. When Dino was asked by Master Ricketts to assist him with the interview, the questions to the answers were very limited in information. However with Master Ricketts now able to answer the questions in the Filipino “Tagalog” language, the project began to flow and paint a clearer picture of  Master Ricketts incredible achievements and contributions to the world of martial arts.

Grandmaster Christopher ’Topher’ Ricketts Interview

Grandmaster Christopher N. Ricketts or ‘Master Topher ‘is Chief Instructor of Bakbakan International whose motto is “Matira Matibay” (The Best of the Best). Concerned with training and passing on his knowledge to students rather than collecting accolades and titles, Master Topher’s skills and credentials are impeccable and second to none; he is one of the best of the best.

A senior disciple of the revered Grandmaster Antonio Ilustrisimo and one of the 5 Pillars of Kali Ilustrisimo, he is the highest ranking living instructor in Lameco Eskrima, having trained personally with Grandmaster Edgar Sulite. With teaching credentials in several martial arts systems including Ngo Cho Kuen (5 Ancestor Fist), Sagasa Filipino Kickboxing as well as being a professional boxing trainer, he has dedicated his life to the martial arts and other fighting systems.

With his brother Ronnie Ricketts being a well known and respected action star in Philippine movies, Master Topher has provided his vast experience in the fighting arts to choreograph fight scenes.

Through an introduction from my teacher Grandmaster Roland Dantes in 1998, I have been fortunate to benefit from Master Topher’s extensive knowledge and experience.

Knowing the high regard my instructor, Roland Dantes and many other respected elders of FMA hold Master Topher and having witnessed his immense skills, it was an opportunity not to be missed.

When I first observed Master Topher demonstrate Kali Ilustrisimo at his home, I knew that I was in the presence of a genuine master of Kali Ilustrisimo. During our training sessions, the true scope of Master Topher’s knowledge became apparent as did his effective use of body mechanics. Under Master Topher’s instruction, I was introduced to the principles and techniques which form the foundation and in fact, the nucleus or core of Kali Ilustrisimo. With a sharp eye for perfect form and understanding, Master Topher meticulously dissected each technique and corrected even the minutest nuances until he was satisfied.

My time spent training under Master Topher has afforded me the opportunity to see the various aspects of this remarkable martial artist. A remarkable man, he is a fighter, teacher and friend to his students. Martial arts are meant to be about honor, respect, integrity, loyalty and dedication. Master Topher embodies these traits and as such, it is easy to see why Grandmaster Roland Dantes and many other highly respected masters are his friends and respect him.

It was with the approval of my teacher, Grandmaster Roland Dantes, I began studying Kali lIustrisimo under Master Topher and as such, I consider him also to be my teacher. More importantly, I consider him to be a respected, loyal and much valued friend. It is my pleasure and honor to present, Grandmaster Christopher ‘Topher’ Ricketts.

(Q) Firstly what is the history and aim of Bakbakan?

Bakbakan means something along the lines of a free for all brawl. Bakbakan was founded in 1967 by a group of instructors from various styles of martial arts in the Philippines. Prior to the organization becoming a bastion of martial arts in the Philippines, the main objective of the original members was to elevate their fighting skills through constant full contact sparring.

Originally there were only six of us: Ding Binay, Rolly Maximo, Christian Gloria, Eddie Ben Alicante, Rey Vizer and myself. We would meet at my house in San Miguel Village in Makati, where my bedroom was our original gym.
(Q) Prior to studying under Grandmaster Antonio Tatang’ Ilustrisimo did you have much exposure to FMA?

Prior to Kali Ilustrisimo my training included the Rapillon style of Mang Sciano Cleope in 1967. He was a well-known eskrimador from Quezon province of the Philippines and I was a training partner of his son, Edgar Cleope. For a little while I trained with Jimmy Gales in his arnis style which he called Sphinx. He used the centro baston (central grip) and susi (inverted grip) styles of wielding a stick. I also trained with Doc Lengson in the Arnis Federation of the Philippines style from 1973-1978.

(Q) Grandmaster Ilustrsimo is celebrated as one of the greatest masters of FMA. How did you come to know of Tatang and how did you come to be accepted as his student?

I was introduced to Tatang by my good friend Alex Co, a driving force in the Philippine martial arts world. It was the same time that I met Edgar Sulite, Yuli Romo and Tony Diego. When we met for some reason the old man took a liking to me and thus I was accepted as one of his students.

(Q) You were exposed to and had seen other systems of arnis. Why did you decide to follow Tatang? What attracted you? What made his system so different?

Various strategies attracted me to Tatang’s method, such as being direct, simple and to the point. It has very few flowery movements and there is a natural flow with continuous movement, like a real fight.

Once you truly understand the fundamentals, you respond instinctively without thought and respond appropriately to a situation. Tatang has proven this on countless occasions just as it has assisted me on occasion. It appears simple on the surface, yet in reality there is a deeper true meaning.

(Q) Being one of the senior disciples of Tatang, what can you tell us about his method of instruction? Were his teaching methods structured or unstructured? What was the teaching progression?

A true practitioner of Kali Ilustrisimo will have totally instinctive reaction with no set pattern. Tatang never responded the same way to the same angle of attack. He movements were so natural and a wonder to behold.

Tatang did not teach you in the traditional sense. If you simulated an attack angle, he would instinctively (and painfully) respond. It was up to you to understand and absorb the techniques used. There was no progression, forms or structure. The main structures and progressions being taught to the public these days are individual interpretations of the original 5 pillars of Kali Ilustrisimo. The 5 pillars of Ilustrisimo being Tony Diego, Yuli Romo, Rey Galang, Edgar Sulite and myself.

After Tatang’s death, all kinds of people came out of the woodwork making all manner of claims on how the old man moved. Fortunately I am in possession of hundreds of hours of video footage taken of Tatang in action over a period of 15 years. It can confirm and dispute many of the claims out there based on this evidence. Anybody who doubts this is welcome to view the archives. Let your own eyes be the judge.

(Q) Having received your training before the system was systematized and being one of the people responsible for structuring the material, what are the good and bad points of each method of instruction?

Before systemization, Ilustrisimo’s art was still raw and pure. Almost virgin like, as prior to our pursuit it was only revealed in a real situation. It was free of showmanship, direct and purely functional for combat; however it was difficult to learn and always painful, as you usually had to get hit for the technique to be revealed. Only those with time, dedication and a high threshold for pain and tolerance were able to eventually understand Ilustrisimo’s methods.

The good points about systemization is that it is easier to teach and a lot less painful! Keep in mind though that systemization by someone other than the founder is their own interpretation. This can be seen in the different way each of the five pillars of Ilustrisimo teaches the art. There are many similarities but there are also differences, reflecting the experience of each individual. Tatang was one of a kind; that will likely never be replicated.

(Q) Could you please share with us the primary fighting strategies of Kali Ilustrisimo?

Some of the primary fighting strategies of Kali Ilustrisimo include: de cadena, sak sak, bagsak, and V-strike. These are mainly finishing moves, as in a real blade confrontation it is over quickly.

(Q) The techniques of Kali Ilustrisimo are noticeably sword based, whereas many styles are either stick based or evolved to being stick arts. What is your view?

Kali Ilustrisimo is definitely a sword-based art; even the stick is treated as a sword. Kali means sword in one of the dialects of the Philippines, thus Kali Ilustrisimo means the sword of Ilustrisimo. The rattan stick is a training device that represents the sword.

(Q) What about the claim sticks can be replaced by swords and it is the same?

There is no doubt that they are both deadly weapons. However, there are differences. In non-bladed arts, practitioners tend to grab to grab the stick in a way that if it were a blade, they would surely be cut. In non-bladed tournaments the participants hit each other just as much as they get hit. There is no respect for the weapon or defense. In a bladed match, they would both be dead. Maybe it is good for a sport, but not for the bladed arts, as long as the distinction is made.

(Q) Tatang knew Felicisimo Dizon and his student, Angel Cabales who went on to become the founder of Serrada Escrima. Did he talk of them and if so, what can you tell us?

Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite asked this question of Tatang before he died. A student of ours, Steve Tarani, was present while I filmed the interview. With respects to the departed, I will leave it at that.

(Q) Did Floro Villabrille study with Tatang? Is it true that he was Tatang’s nephew?

Floro Villabrille married a niece of Ilustrisimo. He was a student. I will leave it at that.

(Q) Do you think Tatang was trying to develop and instill specific qualities in his students?

Tatang was a pure fighter. He had little interest in teaching. It was not until he was in his 80s and retired that he started teaching in Luneta Park. He only taught to get a little spending money for extra curricular fun.

As for developing and instilling specific qualities in his students, Tatang couldn’t care less. His main concern was it saved his life on his many adventures as a merchant marine and guerilla fighter in World War II.

(Q) It is said you were instrumental in introducing sparring into Kali Ilustrisimo and provided much advice from your experience to help develop your fellow students’ skills. Is that correct?
Prior to me joining the Ilustrisimo’s core group, sparring was done only occasionally. I insisted it be done regularly, which we usually did at my house. My experiences in full contact martial arts sparring and ring boxing assisted greatly in developing this aspect.
(Q) During your time training under Tatang, what was the emphasis during your training with him?

The emphasis was on spontaneity and pain. One of us would simulate an attack, he would instinctively and painfully react, and then during our free time we would try and decipher what we had seen. Because there was no curriculum, we had to learn techniques by experiencing them.

(Q) Tatang’s timing was remarkable to watch.

Even in his old age, Tatang’s timing was remarkable. In all my eskrima experience, none have come close.

( Q) There have been discussions about which is the correct name of Tatang’s system: Kali Ilustrisimo or Kalis Ilustrisimo. Through the years I have heard it referred to as Olistrisimo (an acronym of the words olisi meaning stick and the Ilustrisimo name).Would you like to comment on this?

During the whole time I was training, I never heard Tatang use any of these terms. The five pillars referred it as Kali Ilustrisimo only so we could have something to call it. Tatang had no name for the art in my observation. It was only after his death that all these other versions began to surface.

(Q) Do you think Tatang would be happy with the way Kali Ilustrisimo has spread? How do you see the future of the system?

I think Tatang would be saddened that politics has infected our group. When it was still the core group, practice was fun for many years. None of us were doing it for self-promotion or ego inflation. It was like a family. It was not until people who were not in the original group made their way in. This is where the problems began. Unfortunately, there will always be people that exist who will say or do anything to become “famous”.

(Q) What can you tell us about Tatang? History, stories, etc?

This could be a rather lengthy answer worthy of volumes. Perhaps I will write a second book on Kali Ilustrisimo to answer these questions.

(Q) Melacio and Regino Ilustrisimo were the uncles of Tatang. What do you know of their styles and were they the same as Tatang?

I did not meet the uncles of Antonio Ilustrisimo personally. However, during his research for his landmark book, ‘Masters of Arnis, Kali and Eskrima’, Edgar Sulite met them both on Bantayan Island. According to Edgar, their styles, although founded upon the same root system, were now different. In other words, Tatang’s style had evolved through a lifetime of actual combat experience throughout the Philippines and the world.

(Q) Tatang was greatly respected for his combat skills. During your time with him, did you ever witness him being challenged or having to use his skills?

Tatang was respected by all. I never witnessed anyone dare challenge him.

(Q) You were very close to Tatang. What are some of your fond memories of him and your time together?

There are so many. Very few had the privilege to spar Tatang regularly as I did, but there is one occasion I will not soon forget.

In general, Tatang was a respectful gentleman. However, on this particular day I kept telling Tatang that he was not able to hit me. I was doing this in order to see how the old man would press his attack and possibly reveal some new strategies and techniques; a

sacrifice so to speak. Immediately Tatang stood up and began striking me in the head. He quickly feinted left, and then suddenly struck me in the right eye with an inside De Cadena attack. Tatang struck me so hard I actually believed he had knocked my eye ball out and so I dropped to the ground in search of my eyeball! When I realized my eye was still intact, I stood up and Tatang asked if I was okay. When I said I was fine, without hesitation he continued his barrage of attacks upon me. Tatang was always willing to fight to the end, even in training sessions. Now that he has gone, even the painful memories have become fond memories.

(Q) The lutang (floating) footwork of Grandmaster Antonio Ilustrisimo is very unique. What can you tell us about it?

Lutang means to float and it is a unique footwork of Tatang’s. It involves temporarily being on one foot while the other leg “floats”. Although it looks unusually elegant, it can generate tremendous power and reach. It also allows you to move in and out and then back in from various ranges of combat in an instant. Classic Tatang; simple yet sophisticated, beautiful but deadly.

(Q) In a nutshell, what are the differences in how you learnt from Tatang and how you teach today?

Throughout the years up until his death, I was constantly learning, dissecting, experimenting, analyzing and observing his movements. After Tatang’s death, I continued to do the same with what I had retained. Now I have come a full circle back to his original techniques: minimal, uncomplicated, and effective. When I went back and reviewed the hundreds of hours of film archives on Tatang, it confirmed that I am on the right path. And still in wonder of my teacher’s abilities.

(Q) Would you say the teaching progression you developed has fine-tuned the manner in which the art is taught to the students?

My teaching progressions teach a student to instinctively react with the techniques of Ilustrisimo. However, it is not something you learn overnight.

(Q) How do you ensure the students receive and grasp the essence of the art?

Research, review, dissect, spar and dedicated practice, practice, practice.

(Q) You are renowned for placing emphasis on physical conditioning. What led you to this?

My experience as a professional boxing trainer when I had a stable of fighters and the intense workouts of Doc Lengson’s KAFEPHIL style were what led me to appreciate the importance of physical conditioning.

(Q) Dr. Guillermo Lengson was a remarkable man. How did you come to study under him?

During the KAFEPHIL days, I was introduced to Doc by an instructor under him, Chito Santos. Doc took a liking to me and adopted me in a way. I not only look to him as a teacher, but also a father figure.

(Q) From your experience, what are the facts and myths of edged weapons and defending against them?
If you have the option to run, run. 99% of the time you’ll get cut, especially with the style of blades today. If you have no other option but to engage, be direct and finish quickly. Plus, always remember that even if your opponent dead or dying, they will still likely be thrusting and slashing their weapon.
(Q) What is your approach to defending against edged weapon attacks? Can there be too many drills taught?

Drills are always good to condition your movements and mind. As long as your honest with yourself and realize that actual combat is a lot simpler, direct, and bloodier than drills.

(Q) What is the emphasis in your teaching?

My emphasis is on constant repetition of basic techniques and sparring.

(Q) You adhere to a very practical approach in your training as well as your teaching. How do you view and approach teaching stick and knife disarms?

Simplicity. Never wrestle for a disarm. Never look for a disarm. Only do it if an opportunity arises. Always treat the weapon as a blade.

(Q) It is better to possess an understanding of the general principles of disarming?

Yes, knowledge is power. Better to have something, than nothing. Just be realistic about what would actually work.

(Q) You were a close friend of PG Edgar Sulite. How did you meet him and do you have any fond memories you would like to share?

Edgar G. Sulite was one of my closest friends. I met him through another close friend of mine, Alex Co, a pioneer publisher in the Philippines of martial arts books and magazines. Alex asked me to check whether Edgar was the real McCoy because Edgar wanted to discuss the publication of a book. After meeting Edgar, I reported that he was indeed the real thing and the rest is history. Alex ended up publishing all three of Edgar’s books: Secrets of Arnis, Advanced Balisong and Masters of Arnis, Kali and Eskrima.

The Masters of Anis, Kali and Eskrima was a landmark book because it was the first time a researcher traveled throughout the entire Philippines to research the art and publish it in a book. It revealed many relatively unknown systems to the world and opened many doors for future researchers and practitioners. I am happy to have been a participant in bringing these projects to light.

(Q) What was it like training with PG Sulite? Was Lameco Eskrima founded at the time?

Lameco Eskrima was already founded at the time. However it was still evolving and Kali Ilustrisimo was the finishing touch. Training with Edgar was fun and enlightening for the both of us and we became training partners. There were lots of live and instinctive drills. Constant research, experimentation and sparring, sparring, sparring. We had lots of painful bumps and bruises because back then we had no safety gear. It was very educational for the both of us.

Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite was a true scholar, gentleman and warrior.

(Q) With the unfortunate passing of PG Sulite, you became the highest ranked black belt in Lameco Eskrima. Are you presently teaching the system?

No. I will leave the future to his son, Edgar Sulite Jr. He is my official appointed heir to the Lameco Eskrima International system. Edgar Sulite Jr trained under me for many years in the Philippines while his father was in the USA preparing for the eventual arrival of the family. I trust Edgar Sulite Jr. to make many wise decisions. He is like family to me.

(Q) You are close friends with my teacher, Master Roland Dantes and I know the respect he has for yourself and Bakbakan. How did you meet and I believe you have some memories of your competition days.

I met Master Roland Dantes in my KAFEPHIL days when I was young. His brother Johnny Pintoy, was a champion in the tournament circuit. The first time I met Master Roland Dantes, he was a judge on the first ever televised karate versus boxing match in which I was representing karate. There was some controversy concerning illegal biting and elbows. Regardless of the outcome, Master Roland Dantes gained my respect and made an impression on me as someone who was humble and fair, regardless of his fame and status. We have been close friends ever since.

(Q) During your decades of martial arts training, you have studied and become proficient in several systems including boxing. Why?

I am a true lover of the warrior arts from forms to practical applications. I do it because I truly enjoy it. Boxing has some of the best full contact, conditioning and training methods that exist.

(Q) Did you encounter difficulty learning and then applying the different techniques and concepts?

No not at all. I enjoy every aspect of learning.

(Q) In your years of teaching, do you feel that students want the fast service approach, i.e., quickly moving through the material?
I have never experienced it personally. Usually when students want to learn from me they know I mean business and they in turn must be committed and dedicated. Otherwise, I will just refer them to someone else.
(Q) Are you concerned that with the proliferation of unqualified teachers attempting to cash in on the popularity of FMA, the true intention of the art will be lost?

Naturally I am concerned with the preservation of all the arts in their purest form. Personally, my main concern is with Kali Ilustrisimo. After the death of Tatang, many people suddenly appeared claiming to represent Kali Ilustrisimo. These people are mainly good at talking and making theories. However, this is not enough. You must also practice Tatang’s real techniques and be able to apply them.

Many people are good at talking, but when it comes to sparring they either decline or perform very badly. Unfortunately, there are people exploiting the Ilustrisimo name but are actually teaching their own personal vision. When teaching you must make the distinction between your version and the original. If people are not honest and this keeps up, the art will continue to be watered down and may eventually be lost.

Also since the passing of Tatang, there have been many people publicly proclaiming to be “certified” by Tatang. There are all manners of scenarios: some spent a week, a month or just took a photo with Tatang to become “certified”. There are very few credible martial arts that will even consider certifying anyone with even two years of dedicated training, let alone two weeks. There is even a story of people helping Tatang with his medical bills in his twilight years and thus being awarded certification for their help.

There will always be unscrupulous people that will say anything to become “known” in the martial arts, even at the expense of the art. Because of these facts, my main focus is now is concentration on Tatang’s original core techniques, the roots of his system which I always differentiate from drills developed by the five pillars. Who is to say what is original and what is not? On top of the fact I was one of his most physically dedicated students, the hundreds of hours of Tatang’s film archives that I have of him in action speak for themselves. The majority of what is being pushed as Kali Ilustrisimo was never done by Tatang. Let your eyes be the judge. Once again, personal interpretations.

Being one of the five pillars of Kali Ilustrisimo and spending countless hours with Tatang, I take great offense at the actions of pretenders. I have dedicated a good portion of my life to this art. It is a part of me. Regardless of these facts, I will always attempt to settle misunderstandings as a gentleman, first and foremost. However, if this course of action fails, I will not hesitate to settle it as an Eskrimador. It is after all, the “Warrior Arts” and not the “Verbal Debating Arts”. I have full confidence in what Tatang has passed on to me; most do not.

(Q) Would you agree the primary objective is to prepare the student to be able to defend themselves should the need arise?

In the Philippines, it is always for self-defense.

(Q) Your son Bruce is only 15, yet the accolades he is receiving from people such as GM Vicente R. Sanchez, GM Roland Dantes and GM Yuli Romo are testament to his skills. When did he start training and which combat arts is he proficient in?
Bruce began his formal training at 4 years old. He was always surrounded by the arts, as there was a gym at our house in the Philippines. Although he has trained in various arts, his specialty is Kali Ilustrisimo, which he learned under myself and Tony Diego, Sagasa Kickboxing, Thai Boxing, Western Boxing under Dodong Santa Iglesia and Ngo Cho under Alex Co.
(Q) Dr Lengson combined linear and circular movements. What can you tell us of his arnis system?

Doc Lengson started Arnis with Sinawali and Cinko Teros systems as he is from Pangasinan province in the Philippines. When he first met Remy Presas, Remy was still Balintawak and Doc was impressed with the movements and added some concepts to his system. Doc and Remy met before Modern Arnis. Most of the circular motions, he learned from Johnny Chiuten who was a kung fu and Balintawak master.

(Q) I have been told in the Philippines Dr Lengson shared his vast knowledge of sinawali and double sticks with Professor Remy Presas. Do you know if they exchanged knowledge?

Doc Lengson and Remy Presas met before the formation of Modern Arnis. They were training partners. Remy learned sinawali and Cingko Teros from Doc Lengson, which he put in Modern Arnis. Remy also learned karate from Doc Lengson, as he was considered the best in the Philippines at that time. In return, Remy taught him some of his Balintawak techniques. It was also Doc Lengson who came up with the name Modern Arnis.

(Q) Sagasa is one of Dr Lengson’s legacies. Could you explain how he came to develop Sagasa?

Doc Lengson developed Sagasa through constant full-contact tournaments with other martial arts associations. At the time, he was considered the best in karate in the Philippines. Because of this, all the other organizations would gang up on his group and go as far as the judges cheating in their decisions during tournaments. Consequently, Doc Lengson had to come up with techniques that would make it clear that they were the undisputed winner of a competition. These techniques were developed primarily through Master Johnny Chiuten and his kung fu style, in which Doc Lengson developed the training method for teaching. Initially these techniques had been secret, as Doc Lengson used it for his position in KAFEPHIL’s election through sparring. In other words, whoever won all the sparring matches among the candidates became the head of KAFEPHIL.

(Q) John Pintoy told me Dr Lengson was very knowledgeable in the area of body mechanics and emphasized the use of the hips. Did he stress this in your training and how important do you think it is for the student to comprehend the significance of body mechanics?

The emphasis was always on the hips and always exaggerated, so to the untrained eye it would look unusual. All real power comes from the hips and not just for attacking, but also evading and defending.

(Q) The intensive drills, which are called series, develop and refine coordination, power and reflexes. Were these developed by Dr Lengson?

Doc Lengson developed the Sagasa series in collaboration with Johnny Chiuten.

(Q) How did Dr Lengson influence the drills and curriculum of Bakbakan?

Sagasa Kickboxing is one of the core systems of Bakbakan. Among other things, it led Bakbakan to emphasize practical and functional techniques with full contact sparring. It also underlined the importance of the hip and body placement in sparring.

(Q) Though you yourself have competed in various forms of competitions, do you believe FMA competition can develop bad habits?

Yes. Most tournaments forget about defense and just press the attack. They get hit as many times as they hit with little respect for the weapon. They rarely do the art justice. A tournament with protective gear can be good as long as the rules, judges and participants respect the true capabilities of a live weapon at all times. Another way to rectify this is to remove the helmet and other protective gear and use a full live stick. But how many people are willing to do that?

(Q) You are known and respected as someone who has used his skills in dangerous street situations. How did these experiences alter your approach to martial arts?

I am now more practical than realistic. When I was young, I practiced controlled sparring and pulled my punches. I used to think that was it until I found out the hard way in a street fight.

(Q) What changes did you make as a result of these street fights?

Constant repetition of basics, regular full-contact sparring and honesty with yourself.

(Q) As someone respected for their fighting ability, how do you prepare students to take their skills from the class and apply them effectively in the street?

Constant repetition of basics, regular full-contact sparring and honesty with yourself.

(Q) I know and agree with your emphasis concentrating on drilling the basics. What is the emphasis and aim of your teachings?

For a student to be able to eventually naturally execute a technique correctly without thought. Become an instinctive fighter.

(Q) You have trained elite military units. Do you believe arnis serves as a practical combat method in these modern times?

Yes. Technology may change and sometimes even fail, but the physical human body is the same.

(Q) Both Bruce and you have been involved in the film industry through your brother Ronnie Ricketts. What can you tell us about this?

My brother Ronnie is an actor, director and has a production company. Whenever he has the opportunity he promotes the Filipino warrior arts in his movies.

(Q) The future of Bakbakan will definitely be in good hands.
All I can do is my best.
(Q) Bakbakan is respected worldwide for its integrity in the promotion of the combative arts of the Philippines. You should be very proud.

Yes. I am very proud and humbled at how well we are received around the world.

(Q) You recently relocated to the USA. Are you presently teaching and how has Kali Ilustrisimo been received?

I am currently teaching in the United States and have recently done seminars in California and Nevada. I am assisted by my son, Bruce and Dino Flores of Lameco Eskrima SOG. Dino has been training under me since 1997, after the passing of his teacher and my friend Edgar Sulite. Presently I am offering small group and private lessons, as well as seminars.

Kali Ilustrisimo is being very well received as most of the participants have heard of it. Once they experience it in person, it usually is an eye-opener for practitioners of many styles. It is especially an eye-opener for those who have “supposedly” been learning Kali Ilustrisimo.

(Q) When I was training under you in the Philippines, you stressed you only teach Kali Ilustrisimo. Does this still hold true?
(Q) Do you teach Lameco Eskrima and/or Bakbakan Kali (Ilustrisimo)?
No I don’t.
(Q) What is the difference between Kali Ilustrisimo as you teach it and Bakbakan Kali (Ilustrisimo)?

The difference is Kali Ilustrisimo is Topher Ricketts and Bakbakan Kali is Rey Galang’s.

(Q) You will be visiting Australia to conduct seminars. What can attendees expect?

I’ll be there soon. Expect Kali Ilustrisimo in its most combative, practical and purest form.

(Q) Master Topher, thank you very much.

Walang anuman. You are welcome and thank you for your support and interest in the warrior arts of the Philippines.

Rest In Peace Grandmaster Christoper N. Ricketts (March 21, 1955 – October 5, 2010)

2010_master christopher ricketts

Rest In Peace Grandmaster Christoper N. Ricketts (March 21, 1955 – October 5, 2010)

It is with sadness and joy that we announce the passing and rebirth to eternal life of Grandmaster Christopher N. Ricketts on October 5, 2010 at 3:02AM. May his soul and the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. Amen.

A loving husband, father, grandfather, son, brother and uncle, he is survived by his wife Beth Ricketts and sons Jason Ricketts, Bruce Ricketts, Brandon Ricketts and Christopher Ricketts, Jr.; daughter-in-law Jeanne, wife of Jason and grandkids Jacob, Jennell, Josh and Justin; parents Edith and Max Ricketts; younger brother and sister-in-law, Ronnie Ricketts and Mariz and nieces Marella and Marie; and youngest brother and sister-in-law, Alex Ricketts and Marybeth and nephews Jamie and James.
Master Topher, known world wide as a consumate martial artist of Filipino decent, was loved by many but more importantly, respected by all. He was one of the founders and the Chief Instructor of Bakbakan International, a fraternal brotherhood of martial artists established in the Philippines in 1968 whose motto is “Matira Matibay” (The Best of the Best). Concerned with training and passing on his knowledge to students rather than collecting accolades and titles, Master Topher’s skills and credentials are impeccable and second to none.
A senior disciple of the revered Grandmaster Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo and one of the “Five Pillars of Kali Ilustrisimo”, he remained loyal to the memory and legacy of his teacher and was the highest ranked Ilustrisimo instructor in the United States. A close friend and training partner of the late Punong Guro Edgar G. Sulite who founded Lameco Eskrima, he was also the highest ranked Lameco instructor in the United States. With teaching credentials in several martial arts systems including Ngo Cho Kun (5 Ancestor Fist), Sagasa (Filipino Kickboxing System), as well as being a professional boxing trainer and fight choreographer, his was a life befitting a true warrior.

A public viewing, requiem mass and farewell offering (Halad) will be held on Thursday, October 14, 2010 from 4:00PM to 8:00PM at the California Cremation and Burial Chapel, 5880 El Cajon Blvd, San Diego, California 92115. In lieu of flowers, donation to your favorite charity in the name of Grandmaster Christopher N. Ricketts will be greatly appreciated.

All members of the warrior class are encouraged to come in uniform to pay their last respects to one of the best of the best.

Sumasaiyo at Maraming Salamat
(With Sincere Thanks),
The Ricketts Family