It’s finally here. The long awaited book on Kabaroan Eskrima by Grandmaster Ramiro Estalilla. Estalilla, now 86 years young, is one of the most senior grandmasters of FMA int he world today. It took 20 years for this book to come together… and it’s well worth the wait!
For nearly 25 years I have been a student of Grandmaster Ramiro Estalilla, whom we student lovingly refer to Apo. He is a kind and loving man with a huge heart, and I am proud to represent him and his art in my own small way. I initially reached out to Apo in 1993, just before the publication of my first book on eskrima, titled Filipino Martial Arts: Cabales Serrada Escrima. I was working on my next book and had also begun a newsletter, titled Tambuli (which 20 years later I revived in name and spirit as the name of my publishing company). I had seen an article in Black Belt magazine about Apo and his Kabaroan style which intrigued me, and I wanted to know more. So I got his number through a mutual friend and called him. After this call, we became friends. And soon thereafter, I flew out to Fresno, CA to meet him and become his student.
What I find intriguing about Kabaroan Eskrima is how unique it is among Filipino martial arts. There are hundreds of different FMA styles, but most share a common use of stick and swords of between 24-inches and 32-inches. Kabaroan makes use of much longer and heavier sticks; poles really. And these poles are representations of staff, spear and shield. These are weapons of traditional cultures used throughout the Philippines, not of the modern-era stick and knife and bolo methods. The weapons are held at different lengths, one used to propel the other in various directions, another used as a shield, another method to extend its length during projection. It is a unique FMA to watch and practice.
Moreover, the Estalilla Kabaroan method approaches the sinawali training from a different perspective. It utilized methods of “merging” the weapons over “meeting” them in force. Additionally, the breakdown of the art into techniques of Sensilla, Bambolia and Compuesta with methods known as Tiradin and Todasan, also make this FMA unique.
We owe a debt of gratitude for men like GM Ramiro Estalilla, who is also a fencer and a minister and who has never bragged of defeating foes or surviving death matches. With his humility, and generous nature, comes the guardian of an older and mostly unseen Filipino martial art: Kabaroan. I think it was in 1997 that Apo and I began working together on this book, while I was martial arts editor at Tuttle Publishing. He kept saying, “This is my life’s work, it must be complete.” And so, 20 years later he has indeed produced a book worthy of a lifetime of thought and effort.
It is with honor that I am able to publish this authoritative overview of the art of Kabaroan Eskrima, by my dear friend, mentor and teacher, Ramiro U. Estalilla, Jr. We are both indebted to Associate Grand Master Ron Reekers, for pulling it all together for publication and to Guro Dan Inosanto for providing a Foreword.
Here is what Guro Dan Inosanto has to say about this book and its author…
“It is an honor to write this foreword for my teacher and friend, Grandmaster Ramiro Estalilla Jr.’s new book, Kabaroan Eskrima. I have had the privilege of being Grand Master Estalilla’s student for more than twenty years. I first met Grand Master Estalilla at the Fountain Valley School of Ronald Reekers. I was impressed not only by his skill and knowledge in Estalilla Eskrima, but also impressed by the man. It is rare you find a man, martial artist, and expert in his field who is so genuinely humble, kind, and giving.
Grand Master Estalilla is man of great faith, a minister whose love and dedication to his Christian principles is never lost as he teaches and trains his students not “only techniques, but culture and history. Training with Grand Master Estalilla has made his students more proficient martial artists, and if they follow his example of humility, love, and kindness, it has helped make them better human beings.
“I highly recommend this book, Estalilla Kabaroan, to all students in the Filipino martial arts. This book will be great addition to your training and understanding of Estalilla Kabaroan.” – Guro Dan INosanto
Thank you for publishing this book. It is a very proud moment for Grandmaster Estalilla and his students. We are very greatful.
It is an honor and a pleasure!
Im sorry I couldnt make it Apo. I will see you soon.
Manong Estalilla, I hope you’re well.
To the author of the article and other students -I just gotta ask: When did you begin “lovingly referring to him as “Apo”? -I was a student of his in the early 90s, beginning at Fresno State. My family is Ilocano, and I called him àpo from day one, simply because it’s how you respectfully address a significantly older man in our culture. The funny thing, is he literally would look at me like I was being disrespectful by calling him that. I thought he was from pangasinan province, where a lot of the people speak some basic Ilocano, and I just blew it off to language differences.
Anyway, no disrespect: just curious due to my specific memory of this.