Participant Dr. Bryan Stoops reflects on his experience in the 12 Week Backyard Lameco Eskrima course and the two day Lameco S.O.G and Ilustrisimo Reunion Seminar. March 2013

Participant Dr. Bryan Stoops reflects on his experience in the 12 Week Backyard Lameco Eskrima course and the 2 day Lameco S.O.G and Ilustrisimo Reunion Seminar.


For 12 weeks, I had been taking an introductory class in Lameco Escrima with Guro Dino Flores in Southern California. The classes were conducted in the same backyard in which many of the late Punong Guro Edgar Sulite’s select students would train when there was no scheduled class. With just under a decade of FMA training under my belt, and some certifications from well-known names, I was impressed (and a little shocked) with how demanding the training was in terms of getting everything just right, down to the smallest detail, without those minor details becoming trivial. Guro Dino wants the best out of and for his students.

I missed a few of the classes due to other commitments to some of my other instructors (and one day because the babysitter was sick), but I was able to attend a good percentage of the classes. There were a handful of other dedicated students also taking the class. I tend to give my instructors my best when I have a little time with them, and I feel comfortable (when I’m uncomfortable, I know I have the tendency to move a little stiffly), so getting to know my instructor a little better and getting to know my fellow students helped me really enjoy my training.

Along with rich, progressive, physical training, Guro Dino also had great stories about PG Sulite, the late Master Christopher “Topher” Ricketts, and Grand Master Ilustrisimo. Part of the work of Guro Dino and his Mandirigma Research Organization is to preserve the legacy of his instructors and their systems of martial arts. I have dedicated a great deal of my time, money, and energy to the martial arts, particularly the Filipino Martial Arts, so to be involved in that preservation (even in a very small way), felt very humbling and at the same time important. I was glad I could be there to take the class and take on a basic understanding of the life’s work of those instructors who are no longer with us.

A few weeks before the end of the 12 week class, Guro Dino notified his students that there would be a special Lameco and Ilustrisimo seminar to be held in the backyard on Saturday, March 16th (right after our last class of the 12 week session) and at another location in Glendale on Sunday the 17th. I signed up for both days fairly quickly after receiving notice of the event, as the seminar struck me as a great opportunity to train with some excellent people, and a wonderful way to celebrate the completion of the 12 week class.

On Saturday, March 16th, we gathered in the backyard for our last class, and the seminar immediately following. The collective knowledge of the presenters/instructors was pretty amazing. Guro Dave Gould opened the seminar with a warm-up focused on footwork. Guro Dave had everyone huffing and puffing. After the warm-up, all of the presenters had an opportunity to teach. I’ll go instructor by instructor, and share my impressions:

Guro Dino Flores – In discussing Guro Dino’s style/teaching with others, my comment was usually something like, “Guro Dino wants everything picture perfect, which makes you (the participant) really focus on your form, and exact, specific details.” It’s refreshing to come into systems that force you to slow down and not let your ego get in the way. Guro Dino always has a logical progression to what he teaches. Guro Dino presented some single stick material the first day and double sword material the second day.

Guro Bud Balani – It’s always productive to see an overview of how a system approaches disarms. On the first day, Guro Bud presented several stick disarms from both the forehand and backhand sides. Many of the disarms led to stick-assisted chokes, or joint locks. Guro Bud has a very straight forward, no-nonsense style to both the techniques and his teaching style. I’m sure everyone in attendance left with at least one or two new disarms to explore. I had to miss Guro Bud’s session on day 2 (which I’ll explain).

Guro Dave Gould– Guro Dave presented a progressive approach to single blade versus single blade on Saturday. Guro Dave strikes me as one of those scary people: a big person who moves with the speed and deliberateness of a small person, with all of the benefits that come from being big and strong. I enjoyed the manner in which he sequenced the material. Unfortunately, I had to miss Guro Dave’s session on Sunday.

Guro Bong Hebia – On both Saturday and Sunday, Guro Bong was on the verge of almost apologizing for teaching such a small block of material over the two days, but I was really taken with what he had to show us (four knife hold-up counters, three for gun, and an empty hand progression that made a lot of sense). There is nothing wrong with having a focus, and with Guro Bong, we were very focused on those particular techniques. Guro Bong kept telling us stories about how he had to run single movements of the techniques over and over with PG Sulite.

Guro Brandon Ricketts– What a difficult position to find yourself in: Your father is revered by many, and upon his passing, you’re thrust into a leadership position in your father’s system. I found Guro Brandon to be very relaxed and easy-going, which made learning from him very enjoyable. I have overheard Guro Dino mention that Guro Brandon is involved in some kind of dance group in his free time; the dance influence is very evident in the graceful nature of Guro Brandon’s movement. Getting to train with Guro Brandon both days felt like a unique opportunity for which I was very grateful.

Guro Ariel Flores Mosses – Unfortunately I had to leave and I did not get the opportunity to train in this segment.

I live just about 40 miles inland of the area of Los Angeles in which the seminar was held. The first day, I left my home around 10 am and got home around 9 PM. My wife told me that my three-year-old daughter had been asking where I was all day. On Sunday, we took a break after having trained for about 5 hours. I realized that in two days, I had gotten in about 13 hours of training, and I wanted to go home and get in some time with my children before the weekend ended. As I drove home, I had the sense that I had been part of a very special class and a very special seminar.

My martial arts training was hit and miss when I was younger. I did three years of Tae Kwon Do, stopped for years, and then three years of Shaolin Kempo in college. I always read martial arts magazines from the time I was about 7, and I was always fascinated by the FMA’s. The first FMA VHS tape I ever bought just happens to be PG Edgar’s single stick tape from Unique Publications. I bought it while I was teaching Kempo in my early 20’s. One day I brought in the one Kali stick I had bought with the video tape to the Kempo School. My head instructor asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was going to try and teach what I had been researching. I was shut down, but I spent a lot of time watching that VHS tape over and over.

Years later, to be involved with Guro Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny and the Dog Brothers and to have Guro Inosanto say so many nice things about PG Edgar, I’ve always felt drawn to Lameco. I teach some of the Lameco that Guro Crafty has put into the DBMA system in my FMA Phase curriculum, and Lameco 3 through 6 (single stick patterns) have always been a major part of my single stick game (most of my students are used to my catching them with redondos in sparring). PG Edgar is in the top five of my list of people with whom I wish I could have trained (in fact, he used to do seminars at Sifu/Guro Bud Thompson’s school, my first Kali/JKD school) before their passing.

Throughout both days of the seminar, 8 by 10 pictures of PG Sulite and Master Ricketts were on a nearby table. The presence of the pictures was not morbid, nor was it overly reverent. The presenters clearly were in good spirits to be representing their teachers, and to all be together. Looking at the instructors spending time together made me think of my martial arts family, people spread all over the world that I get to see a few times a year that I feel closer to than some of my blood relatives. Martial arts are about people discovering the best versions of themselves. I feel lucky to have been at the seminar with such an authentic group of people.


Guro Doctor Bryan Stoops is a certified instructor of the Filipino Martial Arts in the Inosanto/LaCoste System under Guro Dan Inosanto, and Sifu/Guro Bud Thompson (one of Guro Inosanto’s “Old School” Full Instructors from the original Kali Academy). Guro Bryan is also a full Dog Brother (“Guide Dog”) with 49 career Dog Brothers stick fights, and an official Teacher of Dog Brothers Martial Arts under Guro Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny. Guro Bryan also represents Master Virgil Cavada as a certified Module 1 Instructor in the Applied Eskrima Method of Balintawak.

Outside of the FMA’s, Bryan also teaches Jeet Kune Do, (under Sifu‘s Inosanto and Thompson) Thai Boxing (Master Chai), Wing Chun (Sifu Francis Fong), Savate (Professor Nic Saignac), Mixed Grappling (Professor Roy Harris), and Maphilindo Silat (Guro Insoanto). Bryan Stoops has taught public high school in southern California for the past ten years. His master’s degree project was a DVD designed to help new K-12 teachers use the philosophy of Jeet Kune Do to become functional in the classroom. Bryan earned his Doctor of Education Degree from the University of La Verne in 2011.

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