Learning Kali

Would you buy life insurance that only takes effect 5 years from the date you signed up?

No, right?

If anything, you would expect the life insurance coverage to take effect once it has been accepted by the insurance company and you have paid the first premium.

Similarly, would you learn a combative art that takes a few years to get you to a decent level?

You would probably say no. However, the reality is that most learners would quietly accept this outlook.

In learning a combative art we don’t just want to know the lineage, the tradition, the techniques, the forms, the application, the color of the belt we can wrap around our waist.

I know, I know, they can be good to know, fun to learn. But face it, the end objective of being able to be combative requires the sharpening and elevation of our physical movements from the ordinary to that of a human weapon. Don’t you think so?

I don’t know about you but to me, being able to defend myself is a life skill. Sure, you might be rich, have the money to employ bodyguards. But what if you can’t employ a bodyguard or if your bodyguard is not with you when you need him? What do you do then?

I view the capability to defend myself my responsibility. I can call the police. That’s what most people would tell you. But try telling that attacker whose fists is seconds away from your face. Hold on, dude, I just called the po, they gonna come and take you away, yo. No? Bang, bang, bang, down you go.

It happened to someone I know. Six uninterupted punches that caused his cheekbone to drop down and had to be pulled up by wire and fixed back into place. He went on to buy a gun and learned to shoot as soon as he healed.

I know its best to avoid first, run second, call the cops third. But if these three options are not available then the stark reality is that you are still on your own.

In today’s crazy world you get people being attacked for no reason other than the color of their skin. And many of these attackers are targeting the elderly, people the least likely to fight back. Except when they do they put the attacker in a hospital instead.

I am sure all of us want to be left alone to live a peaceful life the rest of our life. Its when we can’t, when we have to then we better be ready.

In Chinese martial arts we say that we fear the fists of the young and the pole of the old. When you are old your reflexes are slow and your bone not as hard, nor your blows as heavy. Except when you have a weapon in hand. It can be a pole, a stick, a sword, a knife, or whatever is your choice of poison. You can probably take a few hits by a fist. But a hit from a stick or a pole or any weapon is a different matter.

This is why at the age when most people morph into silver haired, bearded masters sprouting Eastern sayings of wisdom I take up Kali instead. I can handle a long pole, straight sword, broadsword and butterfly knives. But I want to know how to use a knife, not just the kitchen variety which I learned how to use when I worked in a kitchen for a few years, but combat knives.

Since the Filipino Martial Arts is famous for the use of combat knives that’s how I came to take up Kali, in particular the iKali branch (headed by Tuhon Apolo Ladra) of Pekiti-Tirsia System of Kali of Grand-Tuhon Leo T. Gaje.

Below is a clip of Tuhon Apolo Ladra explaining a basic movement from our Double Sticks technique :-

The “i” iKali does not stand for internet, individual, instruct, inform, or inspire. Instead the “i” stands for indigenous. So iKali is short for Indigenous Kali and this name was chosen by Tuhon Apolo as he wants to bring back the old ways of using the blade, body mechanics and all.

The principles and concepts of iKali are taught through the double sticks, single stick, blade and empty hand. They are taught in a systematic manner that allows a learner to pick up the skills in a reasonable amount of time (weeks, months instead of many long years) with consistent and constant practice of the drills, solo or with a partner.

I’d say that iKali techniques are simplexity. They look simple, they are simple to do, yet they are not that simple beneath the simplicity. There’s a layer of complexity that you will discover as you keep on learning and practicing. There’s no mystery to it, just tons of practice to get the skill.

I come from the Tai Chi world where people are nuts about fajing this, fajing that. When I tell potential students not to be hung up about fajing they don’t believe me. They rather stare at the finger than at the moon. They fail to understand that if staring at the finger will get them the magical fajing skill they would have gotten it a long time ago. They fail to understand the irony of their stubborn viewpoint in hindering their search for the elusive fajing treasure. I’ve been there, done that so I have an idea of what fajing is about.

The skills of iKali is waiting for anyone willing to practice. No magical breathing skills required, no standing still for hours, no meditation needed. You just need to stand there and rep it out is what Tuhon Apolo would say.

I hate to do repetition drills. I prefer to learn forms cause that’s what I am used to. However, I did a 10,000 repetition challenge once just to see what its like. I did 10,000 reps each for left side and right side. There is positive outcome to doing it. I embedded the most basic blade flow into my movement. Months later I can do it better and faster – take a look :-

I wanted to master Kali. I am not young. I don’t have the luxury of taking my time. I practiced as much as I can, as often as I can. I followed the learning plan. From not knowing how to flow with the stick I found myself being able to do a decent flow one fine day. I just felt it, I wanted to try it and here’s what it looked like, this flow that is made up of the various drills I learned in iKali :-

Yeah, if an old dog like me can pick up new tricks anyone else can do it too. Tuhon Apolo said that we should learn to teach and teach to learn.

So if you have the interest to pick up Kali drop me a line here. iKali is especially suitable for ladies. Here’s Guro Katie, one of the deadly ladies of iKali :-

What you see in this video are the basics. Yes, the basics, not some esoteric technique you need to prove your worthiness or need to climb the ranks before you can learn them.

OK, this is turning out to be a long post. I better stop here. Time to go practice iKali.

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