I am honored to say that Grandmaster Braulio Pedoy was not only the most influential person in my martial arts career, but also something of a second father to me. His story is a tale almost mythical and folkloric in its own right. Close to the turn of the century, at a time of social unrest and brutality, when the many islands of the Philippines and their respective factions each fought for dominance over its neighbors, a young boy of about six years old embarked on a journey to escape the tyranny of a cruel and abusive father.
After receiving a particularly harsh beating one evening, the young Braulio decided it was time to leave all that he had known as home in the hope of a better life. Thin, alone, and with only a meager supply of provisions, he escaped his childhood residence and set off into the mountains without so much as a glance as to what he had left behind. It was a decision that would test his mind, body, and soul to the extreme.
The journey was a long one, and with what little he could afford to bring with him, starvation and dehydration proved a constant, grueling pair of combatants. After traveling just a short while, the young Pedoy was presented with his first obstacle: a fork in the road. One path was the familiar road to the city—where he knew he could surely find help and food—but this road ran the risk of him being found. In addition to this hindrance, he did not want to wind up with what he called the piyo (or rugged boys), a bunch of pick pockets and ruffians who made their living by stealing from others. The thought of becoming an immoral street rat was not one the boy found entirely appealing; especially when placed next to the second choice. This road lead deep into the mountainous jungles of the untamed Philippines. To Braulio, this path seemed the very embodiment of excitement and adventure. His choice was obvious. He chose the winding path through the mountains. Master Pedoy served as body guard for Datu Piang, after defeating the previous body guard in bloody battle quite literally a path that was destined to change his life forever.
It was not long before what little food Braulio had brought were exhausted, and hunger set in once again. Even at his extraordinarily young age, the grandmaster-to-be demonstrated his level head and will to survive at any cost by observing what sort of foods the monkeys and boars ate. He reckoned that if the animals would eat it, it was safe for him as well. After four sleepless nights and five agonizingly draining days of travel, he happened upon a small shack nestled deep in the Amandiwin Mountains. At the time, nobody was there; only the smoke from a still-smoldering fire somebody had recently built. And so the young master waited until the occupant returned.
As it turns out, the owner was none other than General Faustino Ablin (aka Papa Ablen), who was more than shocked to come across a small boy sitting by his shack. He had thought no one would ever find him, much less a child. Years of exile and solitude certainly didn’t prepare for this surprise. After questioning the boy and learning his tale, his surprise grew. How could such a child travel this great distance through the mountains and jungles which were laden with dangerous creatures, poisonous insects, wild animals and many unseen dangers. General Ablin asked the young boy if he had seen any snakes or any other deadly surprises along his journey. The general was a deeply religious man and considered this child to be sent by God. Ablin told Pedoy, “God has guided you to me.” The next day Ablin told him, “I need to show you what’s around here, so make sure you stay close to me or I will not be able to protect you.” Off they went, and even though Braulio was young he had the hardest time keeping up with this 50+ year old who seemed to move like the wind. He was shown all the dangers that lurked in the mountains, including snakes that were big enough to fill a 55 gallon drum. General Ablin taught him the ways of the jungle as well as the art of Derobio Escrima.
For 11 years Pedoy learned and studied all his master had to teach him. Finally the day came when General Ablin announced that he had taught him all he had to teach and that it was time for Pedoy to go. “Tonight you will need to stand vigil and pray,” Ablin said, and “make your peace with God, for tomorrow we fight.” Braulio would have to face General Ablin for his final exam; a potentially-deadly one on one test of skills. Both men would be armed with bolos and it would be to the death. The reason that the exam was to the death was that there was no medical help within several days journey; if either of them would become seriously wounded, a slow miserable death would be eminent. Ablin told his young pupil, “If you are injured, I will kill you because I do not wish you to suffer and I expect you to do the same for me.” With these ominous words ringing in his ears, Pedoy spent many sleepless hours awaiting his final test. At 17 Pedoy had the stamina youth could afford him, but it was equally matched by the experience of the now 62 year old general. Both used their best faints and counters. Braulio sustained three wounds; the first was across the bridge of his nose, the second at the base of his right thumb and the third under his chin. After almost three hours of intense fighting, both were exhausted. As hard as he had tried, Pedoy could not touch General Ablin; but he had survived the skirmish. These were scars that he proudly wore as badges of honor.
Next, Ablin took Braulio to a mountain pond. He told Braulio to climb to the top of the tree that looked over the pond. Ablin said, “Look down into the water and tell me what you see?” Braullio said he saw a bunch of bamboo stakes just below the surface of the water. “Now,” the general said, “jump!” The young man was hesitant to do so. Again, General Ablin commanded him to do so, saying, “Have faith, jump!” And jump he did. Much to Pedoy’s amazement, he didn’t die. He wasn’t even hurt when he hit the water, and when he looked around, he saw no bamboo stakes; he only saw bamboo leaves floating on the surface of the water. It was only an illusion the general had created to test the mental and spiritual skills he needed to survive. Braullio Pedoy was now ready to go out into the world but the general had a few more lessons to share.
“Study the movements of the trees and the ocean,” he told his pupil, “for they both have lessons to teach. Observe the motion of the branches in the wind. The tree stands strong, yet the branches pass the power of the wind as you must pass a blow and return to an equal and balanced position before reaching out with your own counter.” Next he said, “Climb to the top of the highest tree and look out unto the ocean.” He told his young student, “You will see different shades of blue, the darker the blue the deeper the water. In the lighter areas it is shallow, rough and noisy. Many are at this level. Close minded people with conflicting goals in life tend to use their mouths loosely. We must strive for the deeper water where it’s calm and peaceful, where your morals run deep and only pure thoughts come out of your mouth. Thus you can observe for yourself what is shallow and what is deep. Now it’s time for you to leave. Go Island to Island and learn from all the different masters. When you’re done, make your way to America where you will do well.” The young Pedoy wished his master a good life and embarked on his next journey.
Before traveling to other islands, Pedoy decided to stop at his home to visit his father. But the visit was not well received. After seeing things had not changed much, Braulio continued onward. After traveling to many of the Islands and studying from as many masters as would teach him, Braulio found that every village had different styles of fighting. Pedoy once said that some systems relied on sound—once the crack of weapons was heard, that was the indicator to counter the attack. One of the last places the young Pedoy found himself was in the southern Philippines. There, he said that the Moro fighters had incorporated a special skill that was adapted to their environment. Living primarily on or near beaches, these fighters used footwork that sprayed their opponent’s faces with sand as they fought, crippling their eyes with sharp blinding shrapnel. This technique was unique but also limited as they relied upon it heavily and found themselves somewhat handicapped on more solid ground. But on sand it was like fighting a whirlwind. This and many more things he learned.
Later in his travels the young master found himself in Mindanao, there he was presented with yet another challenge. Rumors of a fierce fighter, Datu Piang’s bodyguard, who was terrorizing the town’s people, reached his ears. Many told tales of rape, extortion and bullying. Although the young Braulio was new to this town he felt something had to be done. So he entered a tournament the bodyguard was fighting in. Much like in the old movies, many of the towns people turned up to watch justice hopefully be served.
To read the tale of how this fight ended, and the next adventures of Braulio Peody, and how he mastered the Derobio Escrima style and brought it to Hawaii, grab your copy of The Secret Art of Derobio Escrima today. In the pages of this book GM Dan Medina gives the foundation, counters, and counters against locks and reversing lock counters unique to the Derobio style.