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Article on the MACE Filipino Martial Art Summit, written by my cousin Lisette Saldana.

By Lisette Saldana
Freelance writer
September 7, 2013

MANTECA, Calif. – Sponsored by the Martial Arts Cultural Exchange, the VEA Martial Arts Academy hosted its third annual Filipino Martial Arts Summit on Saturday Aug. 31 2013 in Manteca, CA.

Nearly 40 participants attended the event -- men and women of all ages and backgrounds went to the summit to get hands on experience in the martial arts they study so passionately. Through the various instructors they also gained knowledge in the culture, techniques and history behind the art.

Among the instructors present at the summit was Master Gilbert Cordoncillo from Salinas California who operates and teaches at the Fierce Tigers Martial Arts School. He taught students Kada Anan Eskrima.

Master Harry Green, an Ex-US Special Forces Officer, has been studying Filipino marital arts since 1962, he taught students hand to hand combat techniques as well as combative knife skills.

Maestro Dexter Labonog of the Bahala Na Multi Styule School in Stockton also participated in the summit, he taught students in stick combat largo and corto concepts including stick and dagger principles. Also present was Guru Jon Ward, an avid seminar instructor and teacher at Inayan Eskrima in San Jose.

Grandmaster Carlito Bonjoc has been practicing martial arts since he was nine years old. The excitement for teaching and passion for martial arts is evident -- at 52 and in a wheelchair he is as energetic as the students he instructs.

“It’s a passion for me,” Bonjoc said. “I enjoy being involved in [Filipino Martial Arts].”

Originally from the Philippines, his family settled in Stockton, CA in 1971 and his father worked on multiple migrant farms in the valley. Bonjoc remembers play fighting with other Filipino men on the camps, men who had been Eskrimadors, Bonjoc thought he was just play fighting but unbeknownst to him, he was learning Eskrima moves.

When Bonjoc began to attend school he was picked on because he was from a different culture but also because he had a slight limp, Bonjoc was born with Spina Bifida. His sister, who had already been partaking in Eskrima before coming to the US, convinced their father to teach Bonjoc Eskrima.

Bonjoc was taught by many, but most notable is the time he spent under Angel Cabales who founded Serrada -- a close distant combat style of martial arts that uses a combat stick or blade and involves checking and passing techniques.

It was Cabales who taught Bonjoc how to instruct others while in a wheelchair, in 1980 Bonjoc was diagnosed with a bone disease that lead to the amputation of his lower limbs.

“I’m proud to be able to teach it,”Banjoc said. “Teaching is my way of giving thanks to many the eskrimadors that taught me.”

Bonjoc operates Mata Sa Bagyo school of Filipino Martial Arts in Stockton, though he only teaches private lessons and at seminars like the FMA Summit.

Guru Celina Duffy also led a class at the summit. She is trained in the Jack Santos Method, San Miguel Eskrima, Lameco Eskrima and various other styles of Filipino martial arts the learning doesn’t stop even though she partakes as an instructor at various seminars in different cities throughout California.

“I’ll be a student forever,” Duffy said. “There’s always something to learn in Filipino martial arts.”

Duffy’s journey in the martial arts began with a simple self defense class, she was hooked. It was her uncle Faustino Caigoy who encouraged her to pursue other styles and methods in Filipino martial arts.

“He’s the one who has encouraged me from the very beginning,” Duffy said.

Duffy taught students at the FMA summit how to get into an opponents blind spot by focusing on body structure and footwork, footwork which she learned from her late teacher, Master Christopher Ricketts of Kali Ilustrisimo.

Duffy resides in Los Angeles, CA where she runs her own graphic design company, for her martial arts is a lifelong pursuit of learning; her passion for learning is what she passes on to those she teaches at seminars.

For an outsider it can be simple to lump all Filipino Martial Arts into one category,however there are various styles, often times it is the environment that dictates the type of style a region in the Philippines practices.

Up until the 1980’s events where different types of Filipino martial arts instructors came together to teach others their skill was unheard of.

Many Filipino martial artists brought the rivalries of the motherland with them to the US -- sharing techniques was like giving away your strengths and weaknesses to your enemy.

The Martial Arts Cultural Exchange is one of several programs that aims to bring together all types of practitioners so that the history and techniques of Filipino martial arts can be passed down from generation to generation.

Grandmaster Art Gonzales of Diestro DeCuerdas Fighting Systems founded the organization and Guro Mike Cardenas has hosted all of the M.A.C.E events thus far. Though they have been successful in Manteca, the intent host M.A.C.E organized events throughout the region and world.

“The goal is to bring together martial artist of different styles to share their martial arts history,” Cardenas said.

Cardenas explained that past instructors realized if they didn't pass on their knowledge that the history and the various styles of Filipino martial arts would be lost.

He added that learning different styles is a way to honor the older generation of Filipino martial artists who have since passed on.

Cardenas who has been practicing Eskrima for over 15 years says the goal of the M.A.C.E is to provide a place for practitioners to learn new techniques and gain knowledge about the art they practice while keeping it at a low cost. The event lasted from 9 a.m. to 4p.m. and was priced at $40 per person, with a catered lunch provided to all participants.

Travis Pond, 38 who attended the event he has been practicing various types of martial arts on and off throughout his life and he is one of Mike Cardenas
’s students.

“I think its awesome event,” Pond said. “It’s really good cross training.”
Cardenas teaches Eskrima to adults at the VEA Martial Arts Academy along with Larry Acaya who teaches Kenpo to children. The facility is located in Manteca CA and the academy prides itself in providing a place for quality martial arts instruction and low cost classes. For more information visit

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