A LETTER FROm
Dear Budo Fam,
A new month brings a new issue! :)
We are sure glad we survived the month of July as it was jam packed with exciting initiatives. We launched T-Shirts right before traveling down to Vegas to attend the 2017 Martial Arts Super Show (MASS17) presented by MAIA & Century Martial Arts.
First things first, MASS17 was nothing short of OUTSTANDING! We cannot recommend the event highly enough. If you are a martial arts instructor, or school owner, the Martial Arts Supershow is a "must attend" event. In this month's issue we take you along for the ride and share our experience (including some of the trouble we managed to get ourselves in during the trip.)
While we were down at MASS17, we were fortunate enough to meet Tuhon (Master) Apolo Ladra, who specializes in the Filipino art of Kali. Master Apolo Ladra has made a big splash in the martial arts world, with tens of thousands of students practicing his teachings. We have an amazing interview to share with you this month, as well as some fantastic skills specific to Kali that are definitely worth trying out.
We are also excited to deliver another double feature this month. So often we hear of martial artists beginning their journeys at a very young age and sticking with it throughout their lives. Sensei Rosie Misenhimer shares her inspiring story on how it's never too late to start training in martial arts.
Featured Budo Brother
Tuhon Apolo Ladra
Watch this video:
Tuhon Apolo Ladra
By Mark Brady
Apolo Ladra, a native of the Philippines and Master (“Tuhon”) of the indigenous art of Pekiti Tirsia Kali, holds to the mantra “Learn to teach, teach to learn.” What have more than 40 years of training taught him? Here are some distillations.
Tuhon Apolo Ladra was born in Batangas, Philippines, and came to the United States at age five. He holds an ATA 6th-degree black belt, 7th-degree WTF black belt, and the rank of Master at the Ernie Reyes’s West Coast Tae Kwon Do Association. A student of Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje, Jr., heir and guardian to the Pekiti Tirsia style of Kali, Ladra’s Kali-4-Kids, KaliCombat, and KaliFitness curricula are used by tens of thousands of students worldwide.
How far back do you trace your martial arts heritage?
I was born in a place where conflict was inevitable. Batangas, Philippines, is where the balisong, the butterfly knife, was born. My father was chief of police in Batangas. To see him suited up in pressed, crisp khakis and cap, standing up straight, it set him apart from virtually everyone. I held him in the highest respect. And even when I was very young, I knew he had dangerous responsibilities. I had a sense, it’s hard to define it, of what he risked while out on the streets.
When he moved our family to Baltimore, I found myself in a different world, culturally. Safer, perhaps, but far more antagonistic. I loved basketball, but no one would hand me a basketball or invite me to play. I wanted to hang out, make friends, but it was a very hostile environment, a bully-rich environment, and I was literally shoved aside.
How did martial arts come into your life in the U.S.?
Luckily, we lived on a route for J. Kim’s Taekwondo school. My brothers and I would see his yellow van pass by like an ice cream truck, the word “KARATE” painted on the side. There was an allure there, a draw. I could feel my muscles tense up, my back straighten, when J. Kim drove by, waving out the driver’s window. I wanted to join, so my father signed us up.
As I progressed through the ranks (this was the early 1970s), I gained all the skills and abilities that you attribute to martial artists. Strength, flexibility, discipline, coordination, courage. I could stand up to bullies, to anyone, without brashness, without violence. Just confidence. Courage.
That was a massive contribution that martial arts played in forging my identity. I couldn’t just play the card of my father being a big, bad chief of police in one of the most hardcore, street-rigid regions of the world. I had to develop my own identity as a confident, strong human being. That development I owe to my formative years in taekwondo.
Were there other dimensions to your early martial arts training beyond combat?
I also learned a lot about leadership and management, in the social and business spheres. I managed, at my height, 57 individual taekwondo schools. I taught more than 60 classes a week. I trained hours every day and competed for gold and silver medals at martial arts events around the world. I helped train state, national, and Jr. Olympic champions.
These were serious responsibilities, knowing that others were depending on me. Not like grade school where you pass up through the ranks whether you earn an A or a C, accountable to no one. I had to keep on top of the books, keep the lights on and the mats cleaned and the instructors informed and motivated to teach. This ingrained in me the values of quality, conviction, and action. These are part of me. They’ve never left.
How did you return to training in your native Filipino martial arts?
When I entered my twenties, I felt a strong pull toward the Philippines, specifically my homeland’s heritage in the martial arts. Developed and passed down through families for so many hundreds of years, there are literally thousands of sub-disciplines of Filipino martial arts, from ancient weapon-based styles from remote areas in the south to the urban skirmish arts of self-preservation in Arnis and Eskrima.
I felt a need to learn and to teach from the deep well of Filipino martial arts, specifically Pekiti Tirsia Kali. I have been fortunate enough to train directly under the tutelage and watchful eye of Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje, Jr. For more than twenty years his teaching has strengthened and sharpened me, you could say.
Watch this video:
What else has your career in the martial arts exposed you to?
It humbles me to say that martial arts has also trained me to handle the spotlight. The arena is different than the street. People are there to observe you, even to cheer and applaud, but they can still lash out. It’s a different strain on your nerves. And you have to learn to handle it, or else you’re eaten alive.
I’ve sat in newsrooms being interviewed live about my practice in martial arts. I’ve come onstage surrounded by the eyes and chants of tens of thousands at venues ranging from D.C.’s Capital Centre to the Russian National Championship Arena. The pressure has prepared me to teach impromptu, walk-in classes in Kali 4 Kids at local dojos and to conduct 5-day intensive seminars like the one at the MAIA 2017 Supershow in Las Vegas. Whether it’s crossing through an alley in the shadows or taking center stage at a seminar, martial arts has given me the experience, the confidence to do it.
Can you say a few words about the philosophic and practical value of competition in the martial arts? How is it different from other modes of competition?
The world is hostile. It doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly, honorable, hospitable. But as martial artists, and in my feeling this is especially true in the art of Kali, you develop a keen sense of what it is to be confronted, challenged, threatened. For civilians, martial arts competition immerses you in this and helps you learn to handle the tension so you can act.
There is great value and entertainment in a basketball tournament or even a spelling bee. But the impact of martial arts competition is incomparable to sport or intellectual competitions. My tournament wins in taekwondo arenas vs. top competitors from around the world came at the expense of many gashes and bruises. I learned from these, my body literally absorbing the lessons. And I’ve learned to convey these impacts to the people I train, no matter what their background.
With Kali, the art of blade, there is no margin for error. This reflects my approach to life, striving for perfection with all my actions, from teaching martial arts to parenting my young son. I cannot convey the respect I have for my father, for Grand Tuhon Gaje, for my students, my brothers and my country. It’s from their love of the art that I generate my love for practicing and teaching Kali.
Skills Of The Month
Skill #1 - Pasunuran-Sinawali
Skill #2 - Entry 4 Combat application
Skill #3 - Parry Salute
Featured Budo sister
Sensei Rosie Misenhimer
My journey to martial arts came in a roundabout way. My son was interested in it and so I searched for a long time for a dojo that would be a good fit for him. He is not a competitive person and I knew that a dojo that was all about fighting and competition would not be the place for him. I wanted to find an art that would build his confidence, support his growth, evolve his consciousness as well as teach him solid self-defense, while still maintaining his individuality.
I brought my son to CCB Martial Arts in Concord, California. I signed him up after the first class. I knew the owner’s daughter through my neighbor so I felt an immediate kinship. The feel of the dojo, the energy of the instructors and the overall satisfaction that other parents had was appealing, but really, my son’s delight was the clincher. This dojo and the teachers encompassed everything I was looking for. I became a martial arts mom, taking my son to and from class, participating in community events the dojo had, etc. The lead instructor, Jon Rodriguez, would ask me often when I was going to get on the mat. I would laugh. I did not think martial arts was for me. But we would stay to watch adults classes after my son’s class. And it was impressive!
Two years into my son’s training, the dojo was offering a Mother’s Day special and invited the mom’s to train for the month of May. At the tender age of 45, I decided to step on the mat. And I really liked it! Kyoshi Jon and I discussed my continuing as well as becoming more involved. I made the decision to keep going. I knew that it would be good for me- I needed this. I felt it would be a unique way to connect with my son on so many levels. I began helping out in all the kids classes. I found an affinity working with the kids, especially the girls. I want to inspire young ladies to do what they want to do, not what they believe they have to do. I have always been unconventional and I want young girls that feel different from the norm to know it’s ok to be who they are. A thousand candles can be lit from one flame and that flame will not lose its brightness. We all have gifts. It is our duty to share them.
After less than a month of training, I went to the Tai Kai seminar at the home dojo and committed to having my first degree black belt a year later for the next Tai Kai. I worked my way through the Mudansha belts and got my Shodan, first degree black belt within the year! Right after that, I took the teacher certification course and began the path of becoming an instructor in Seibukan Jujutsu. It took me about 9 months to complete the process and in March of 2015, I became a certified instructor.
Seibukan Jujutsu focuses not only on self-defense, but also on self-development. There is so much to this art, more than I can write about in this piece, but for me one very important aspect of the art is the budo principles. I have done many other things in my life and nothing really has encompassed so completely the alignment of body, mind and spirit like Seibukan Jujutsu. It’s not often pretty, but its definitely beneficial. The art itself is effective, efficient and effortless and I love that as a smaller woman, I can train with bigger, much stronger guys and know that I can do things to them that leave them amazed! I have become so much more aware of how bodies move, specifically my own. I have taken the concepts the art teaches us and used them to help me through trying times, such as the loss of my mother. I am blessed to have an incredible instructor and mentor. He challenges me immensely and I am so very grateful for the experiences and opportunities he has provided me to step out of my comfort zone and push me beyond my self-imposed limits. He reminds me that it’s ok to make mistakes and that this is a process. I know that with two steps forward, there is sometimes a step back and I do slip into old patterns, but I am more aware and able to catch myself sooner, make the adjustments and allow myself the space to do so and to be kind to myself.
Last year I was working on my Sandan, 3rd degree black and I fell quite ill. It turned out my kidney had doubled in size and was completely blocked by scar tissue (and no, this was not due to martial arts training). I had to have pyeloplasty surgery and then a stent for 6 weeks after. It was during my recovery time that I came across Budo Brothers. They were selling hanbos, which just happened to be the weapon for my level. I ordered the Babinga wood hanbo for myself and when it arrived, I slept with it and envisioned the day I’d be back on the mat practicing with it. It got me through that very difficult time. The forced time off really solidified my passion for this art and way! I was longing to get back to my training.
As soon as I could, I was at the dojo watching classes, taking in everything I could from that perspective. My surgeon advised I take a minimum of six months off; I stepped back on the mat 2 weeks after the stent was removed, just under 2 months off! I know my body and I believe the mat is far more healing than sitting around waiting. I trust the universe takes care of me.
About 7 months after my surgery, I got my 3rd degree black belt in Seibukan Jujutsu and my 1st Degree black belt in Enshin Itto-Ryu Battojutsu. I continue my training. I am a mere fledgling and a continuous work in progress. I am getting ready to do my 4th degree black belt in Seibukan, my 2nd degree in Battojutsu and I have started training in Seibukan Jojutsu as well. I am on the leadership team that helps run the dojo. I am in charge of the Children’s program and all the events for the dojo. It is more rewarding than I could have imagined.
So if there is one thing to take away from my story, it’s this: Never say never! It’s never too late to try something new and bold. Just because you think you won’t like something or that it’s not for you, doesn’t mean it isn’t. You never know unless you give it a shot! Ok, I said ‘never’ twice after saying never say never, but you get the point!
Budo Brothers attend the 2017 Martial Arts Supershow
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What is the Martial Arts Super Show you might ask?
Well, every year, the Martial Arts Industry Association (MAIA,) and Century Martial Arts put on one of the largest training and networking events for martial arts instructors & school owners.... and it just so happens to be in Vegas! :)
We first heard about the Martial Arts Super Show (MASS17) at the beginning of this year, and we instantly thought to ourselves: "WE HAVE TO GO TO THIS EVENT!"
Our motivation was to learn how to help take our Kids program to the next level. But, we also felt like it would be a great venue to meet talented martial artists and help share inspiring stories through our eMagazine.
Not only did we walk away from the show with some incredibly valuable takeaways for our program, but we also met some truly inspiring martial artists. We can't wait to share their stories with you over the coming months.
One of our favorite parts of the show was the seminars! Most days were jam packed with 1-hour seminars back to back. Everything from Krav Maga, Jiu-Jitsu, Kali, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, Tae-Kwon-Do, Karate, Olympic Judo, and more!
With so much action, one of our concerns was how to organize everything in order to maximize our experience... Luckily, there was an app for that! Actually. All we had to do was download the MASS17 app, then organize our day by events. It was like having an assistant that puts together an agenda for you! Very helpful.
It was also an honor to be part of the opening ceremonies where Benny "The Jet" Urquidez received the MAIA Lifetime Achievement Award.
At a young age, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez blazed a trail and a became 12-time world champion in full contact kick-boxing. His achievements made waves around the martial arts world and placed the sport in the spotlight. His Ukidokan system of Karate is now practiced in schools across North America.
During the ceremony, a video reel was played that highlighted his long list of accomplishments. We were both astonished by how much "The Jet" was able to accomplish so early on in his career. Very inspirational!
It was an even bigger honor to meet the legend in person :)
It's no secret that Vegas is known for being over the top. As we soon learned, the city's reputation is warranted. After a few days of focused immersion in the show, we decided to go explore and see what the legendary city of sin was all about:
Watch this video:
There was so much to do, so much to see, and so much food to eat. More specifically, we were on the hunt for some top shelf sushi restaurants. One evening while strolling through our hotel (the MGM Grand,) we stumbled upon a beautiful sushi restaurant called Morimotto Sushi. The place was so aesthetically pleasing, we we just had to bust out the camera and document the experience. Our wallets took a karate chop to the throat, but it was worth it!
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"Work Hard / Play Hard" is one of our mantras, and we definitely worked HARD this trip... So it only made sense to buy tickets to the Calvin Harris concert at Wet Republic in order to balance things out (we're good at justifying these kind of things.)
We have never seen anything like it! Thousands of people, one pool.
Now, we're by no means experts in waterborne diseases, but we felt like there was a strong likelihood of new strain of super-bug being spawned inside the pool with "Patient-Zero" emerging from the insanity.
Needless to say we did our best to not go in the water, but it was certainly hard to avoid getting splashed. Every time the beat would drop, everyone would go nuts tossing water around like they were are on fire!
You have to see it to believe it:
Even though we were only down in Vegas for 5 days, there is absolutely no way we could have crammed in more fun.
The Martial Arts Super Show was an event for the books, and we've already booked round-2 at MASS18. Given how time seems to fly by when you're having fun, MASS18 will arrive before we know it :)
Stay tuned for more exciting adventures we have planned this year!
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