Outside of writing and history, I have four loves: teaching Filipino martial arts, my hometown of Scarborough, watching Toronto Raptors basketball, and instrumental music.
Filipino Martial Arts
Soon after my family moved to Canada in 1998, we opened a small Filipino martial arts academic for local children and youth in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Originally known as Marc's Kuntaw Martial Arts (after my father and the first Chief Instructor, Marcialito "Marc" De Leon), the school initially taught Kuntaw (Lima-Lima), an unarmed style from Mindanao (the major island in the southern Philippines), and brought to Luzon and North America through U.S. military education.
Throughout the years, we slowly incorporated four other martial arts into the academy, which the school continues to teach today. Since then, the club has been renamed as Tagaan Kawala Martial Arts, in order to showcase the two martial arts cultivated from my paternal ancestry in the Manila Bay region. My family runs the club as community service, as well as cultural and fitness education for the GTA. Since our opening, our students have competed in (and won) several North American and international open martial arts tournaments.
I received my first Black Belt (in Kuntaw) in the summer of 2009, and two Black Belts (in Tagaan Arnis/Kawala and Sikaran) soon after. Until 2017 (my departure from Toronto on a Fulbright Scholarship), I served as Instructor, and then Chief Instructor. The current Chief Instructor is Danise Fernandez (4th degree Black Belt).
I profile the various major arts below:
Kuntaw (Lima-Lima) -- an unarmed style from Mindanao that utilizes hands and feet in its "hard" (closed fist; striking kicks) and "soft" (open hand; sweeps) ways.
Sikaran -- a style from rural Central Luzon that emphasizes close-range footwork in its diverse aspects: sweeping, jumping and spinning kicks.
Tagaan Arnis -- meaning "to hack" or "to kill" in various registers, Tagaan Arnis is a style of arnis/kali/escrima (weapon martial arts in the Philippines) that uses distance and evasive strikes, as well as evasive footwork (V-Steps), in order to disarm opponents. Developed in Bataan, on the northern tip of the Manila Bay, by my grandfather, Marcial De Leon.
Kawala -- meaning "to escape" in Tagalog, this is the unarmed complement to Tagaan Arnis, utilizing the same foundational footwork with circular movements to disarm and render opponents into submission. Developed in street fighting from the slums of Manila.
Buno/Dumog -- various modes of ground wrestling games in rural farms and plantations all over the Philippines.