Kalis Ilustrisimo seminar in Maryland

A few weekends ago I attended my second kalis Ilustrisimo seminar, sponsored by Guro John Jacobo of SWACOM. Master “Topher” Ricketts and his son Bruce led the seminar and it was one hell of a good time, despite being in a sweaty gym in Baltimore on a 95 degree day. (That kinda added to the atmosphere, though.) I had not had the pleasure of meeting Bruce before, but let me say that kid is already amazing and is going to be one incredible fighter someday. Actually he is already.

Kalis Ilustrisimo is a bladed art of the Philippines that was last handed down from the Ilustrisimo family by the late Antonio “Tatang” Ilustisimo to Master Ricketts, Tony Diego, and a handful of others. Tatang passed away at the age of 95, if I remember correctly. The genius of kalis Ilustrisimo as a bladed fighting art lies in its ability to train the practitioner to identify an attack as it is initiated, and begin execution of the appropriate response timed to actually “beat the attacker to the punch”, so to speak.

Speed is not the primary determining factor, however, in success of the counterattack; timing and distancing are. Knowing exactly when to move, and economy of motion (just far enough so that the opponent’s blade misses by the smallest fraction necessary to put one out of harm’s way, and thus maintain a perfect distance for the counterstrike) are what make this art special. They are also difficult concepts to master. Once these skills are ingrained, though, the Ilustrisimo practitioner is formidable to say the least. When one realizes that Tatang had survived quite a few death matches and also bladed combat in the jungles of the Philippines during the Japanese insurrection in WWII, the combat-tested applications and benefits of this style become apparent.

The art is further enhanced by the common principle of Filipino martial arts referred to as “defang the snake”, which means if you disable an opponent’s limbs then he is no longer a threat. In kalis Ilustrisimo, the hand and arm are recognized as the primary, closest (and therefore most vulnerable) targets available for counterattack when faced with a blade-wielding foe.

Here’s a shot of me executing block “fraile” and counterstrike off an angle 2 attack.

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We engaged in some sparring after class on Saturday, and I’ve got to say I was quite pleased as I more than held my own.

Here’s another pic, of me with Bruce (on the right) and Master Ricketts. Both are very delightful people.


No comments about my need of a haircut. I’m glad I had the opportunity to train with them. I was somewhat less pleased about the welts on my right arm and legs the next day, or the fact that I had to drive home using only my left hand. Ah, it was worth it.