Five Fighting Lessons My Father Taught Me

Five Fighting Lessons My Father Taught Me


(Above Photo: My father and I. My father has influenced a lot of my knowledge regarding fighting and survival)

As the Chief Instructor of Bayani Warrior Group (, I have been fortunate to train with some of the best names in the Filipino martial arts world. However, my father taught me a lot of lessons that have carried on into Bayani Warrior and my teaching. Growing up, my father was no martial arts expert. However, he grew up in a very rough area of Manila where fighting was common, particularly fighting where large groups of people were involved. In addition, his family worked in the food industry in a third-world country, which meant he learned how to store and maintain a steady food, water, and tool supply over long periods of time where food was sometimes a rarity. In this article, I want to outline 5 lessons my father taught me when it comes to fighting, prepping, and survival.

1) Always be aware: When I was a kid, before I started my martial arts training, my Dad always yelled at me for having my head in the clouds. I would constantly daydream, and he told me that I needed to be more aware and focused on my surroundings. From the time I was a child to even this day, when my father walks in the room, he always takes a full 180 degree stare of the room, walks with his head up high, and walks in. My Mother would always tell me she felt this made him look too mayabang or arrogant. However, I realize now that my Dad never missed anything around him, and he was and is always aware of his surroundings.

Recently, on a recent trip out of town, he asked me to research the crime levels of the town we were flying out as a family to visit. I asked him why, and he said to me, “You don’t want to be stuck in a dangerous area away from home.” As a person who is traveling regularly across the country to teach Filipino martial arts, I now make sure to always research where I am going and what I can expect when I arrive. 

2) Always have extras of everything: During Hurricane Sandy, my family was in New Jersey when the Hurricane hit. I was out of town in Dallas teaching the Bayani Warrior Dallas Training Group, and due to inclement weather, I couldn’t fly back into New Jersey for over a week. Phone lines in New Jersey were down for several days, and eventually, my brother was able to call me and update me on my family’s status. According to my brother, he said, “We’re lucky Dad can be such a hoarder sometimes. We never ran out of water, or food. We didn’t even need to buy a lot of stuff. He just seemed to have everything we needed.” 

My father grew up in a rough part of Manila where he and his family would have to store food, water, and supplies regularly. Even though he has been living in the United States for over 30 years, he still makes sure to carry extras of everything: spare keys, spare batteries, spare food, etc. He also emphasizes the importance of having a full-tank of gas in the car at all times in the event we have to evacuate from a disaster. From a fighting perspective, it helps me realize that it’s important to also have extras: extra tactics, extra weapons, extra first aid kits. The below video is a video I shot before Hurricane Irene a few years ago.

3) DO NOT PUNCH PEOPLE. Hammerfist them instead.

When I was a kid, I used to get bullied a lot. Before I began formal martial arts training, my Dad taught me the Hammerfist, or as he called it, “The Bolo Punch”. He told me that punching people hurts you more than the other person, and that you can break your hands if punching people with a fist. Instead, he recommended that I use the base of my fist. As it turns out, the Hammerfist is an excellent technique for Kali practitioners. It mirrors the motions of swinging a stick, particularly as it regards Punyo techniques. Hammerfists can be launched from a variety of angles, and also helps keep your hand intact even after hitting a hard surface, such as the skull. My father told me that he used the Bolo Punch to great effectiveness in his fights as a youth, and it is a standard part of our Suntukan, or Filipino Boxing program. Here, I show how the hammerfist is used in a Suntukan exchange.

4) Weapons Come from the Most Unlikely Places: A few years ago, my Dad and I were waiting for a tow-truck to pick up my then-car, a busted Toyota Camry, from a parking lot after it stalled. While we were waiting, he told me about his days as a youth in Manila where he rolled with a gang of about 10 guys. He and his gang would walk from town to town and oftentimes, they would be confronted by the gang members representing that particular territory. While there are many stories of Filipino warriors swinging swords, Bolo knives, and sticks, my father and his friends carried the following:

Sharpened Toy Spinning Tops: Used as sharp, hole-punching fist loads for punching holes into a person’s face or body.

Slingshots: There were two kids of slingshots he encountered and used. One was the standard rock or marble projectile launcher, and the other was known as the infamous Pana slingshot (yes, it happens to also be my last name) that shot steel nails as darts. 

2x4s: Large poles and boards are often the fighting sticks of choice in the Philippines. My father and his family, even to this day, have carried and used long boards, poles, and bats for fighting on the street. 

Rocks and Molotov Cocktails: In his college days, my father and his friends would fight students from the rival college across the street. He told me that throwing rocks made great weapons for keeping a crowd of hostile people at bay. In the event they had run out of rocks, they always had a supply of Molotov Cocktails handy. They required less accuracy and  caused a bigger scare.

It just goes to show that with a little awareness and a little ingenuity, one can truly use just about anything as a weapon. The following video shows the kind of stick most Filipinos on the streets in the Philippines are fighting with. Here’s a hint: It’s not rattan.

5) Don’t Neglect Your Spirit: We all train our techniques. We all spar. We all work out to ensure that we are in top shape for fighting. But, my father has always emphasized the importance of a steady spirit, rooted in a faith in God. My father always taught me that a faith in God keeps you calm and keeps your grounded. I have never seen my father stressed, and it’s very rare to see him emotional or angry. He attributes his mindset to his faith. Your faith can help keep you centered and calm enough to fight a challenge head on. Regardless of your belief system, or even lack thereof,  it’s always important to remember that you are part of something greater than just yourself. By developing your spirit, it will keep you calmer, more controlled, and more self-aware. These are attributes that are essential for fighting in any battle. 

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