The cutting edge art of Kalis Illustrisimo
by John Mellon. Part 4
In Kalis Ilustrisimo, the truism
that, when unarmed, Filipino stylists will simply use the weapon tactic
empty-handed really is followed.
Naturally, a few techniques have to be slightly adapted, but mostly
nothing is done differently – essentially
even the hand forms simulate blade use. Like Tatang
before him, Tony Diego is very accepting of techniques derived from elsewhere.
The criteria really are combative practicality and consistency with the
underlying concepts of the system. Shamim has, on
occasion, demonstrated silat techniques to
Master Tony for evaluation, and has always received a very positive response.
I asked Shamim what he most enjoyed about training
in the Philippines,
what he least liked, and what surprised him also. Just training and spending
time with the legitimate Grandmaster of an authentic and proven system was the
important element for him. He particularly enjoyed the “anecdotal
training”. The opportunity to really soak up the history and lineage
underlying the art was the difference. Shamim had only
seen Tatang Ilustrisimo in
1994, when he was very ill, so he didn’t have an opportunity to train
with the founder. But training with Master Tony, and the other master teachers
under Tatang, is an enormous privilege. As first
generation students under one of the most revered and respected eskrimadors ever, they all have much to offer, and
he credits their freely given advice and coaching with his rapid development.
Spending time with Tony Diego is, in a sense, always training. He will
illustrate a tactical discussion with an anecdote from Tatang’s
life, then break off and say, "Let’s move", that is, let’s train,
I’ll show you. When the current head of the family speaks of his late
master, his voice will often thicken. Tatang Ilustrisimo was a remarkable man, and the affection and
respect he engendered in his students is observable.
Shamim particularly enjoyed hearing how Tatang developed techniques through combat experience.
Master Tony recalled often sitting with his teacher, having wide-ranging
discussions on technique and strategies, and trying to catch his teacher out
with a sudden attack. Tatang never seem surprised – he simply countered everything calmly, and carried
least favourite memory of the trip was demonstrating a number of times in front
of other senior masters of the system, and assorted bystanders, in Lunete (Rizal) Park in Manila. Nonetheless, he
recognises this was a useful experience, as the other first generation students
were very positive and always had useful advice and training methods to offer.
Masters Chris Ricketts and Yuli Romo,
in particular, contributed additional training and they each have enormous
experience of other arts. Master Chris had an extensive background in various
styles of karate, and in judo and aikido, prior to arnis.
He has since added boxing training, and is the co-founder of the art of Sagasa - a highly effective empty hand art, and of Bakbakan International, a successful organisation promoting
Filipino arts. Master Yuli Romo
is truly a unique character, very quiet, with a very humble demeanour. He has a
different style of motion to Master Ricketts and Master Tony, but you can tell
the principles are the same. He has trained with many masters of Arnis from all over the Philippines. He has a reputation
for disappearing for months on end, to return with much new material he
acquired on his travels. But when it comes to Arnis, Ilustrisimo is the art he
chooses over all the arts he has studied. Like Master Tony, he says "No one
can move like the old man (Tatang), no matter how
hard they train, no one can replace him".
From Shamim’s perspective the most
surprising aspect of his trip, was that so few of the local students trained as
often as they could have. If you’re in the London area, I recommend you get in touch for
an authentic taste of a devastatingly effective weapons art, delivered by an
intelligent and devoted teacher, who knows how much more he has to learn.