Article and Interview was written and conducted by Mr. David Foggie and Dino Flores. Arnis de Mano or Arnis for short is a Filipino Martial Art. I would like to take this opportunity to thank David for sharing a remarkable man, I am referring to Grandmaster Christopher “Topher”Ricketts
Interview by David Foggie and Dino Flores
Grandmaster Christopher ’Topher’ Ricketts Interview by David Foggie and Dino Flores
JANUARY 11, 2011 BY MO1
Grandmaster Christopher ’Topher’ Ricketts Interview
Research & 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 by Dino Flores in Los Angeles, California U.S.A.
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.