"Understanding Imua Tamaraw Escrima Kuntao"
By Joel Morales
I was asked yesterday, "What is the belt system and how do I go up in rank"? There are 6 levels in my system of Imua Tamaraw Escrima Kuntao. The first level will take well over 1-1/2 years of learning and practicing to fully understand the aspects of the 9 Gates System. With diligent and constant practice, the system will teach the student. For example: A beginner student learns the basic kicks, front, side, roundhouse, and back/rear kick, then teacher challenges the student to come up with several two kick combinations, then three kick combos. If the student comes up with front kick-roundhouse-back kick while advancing using each leg and has not been taught the spinning back kick, then he gets the idea from the combination work and improves with practice under the eye of the teacher/guide. This is one of the teaching princples of the Imua Tamaraw. Example two, teacher shows beginner student the 9 gates striking pattern, it is the students first lesson. After explaining all angles of attack, while standing (showing to pivot and use hips) and some practice time, the teacher then tells the student the same pattern is not only in front of you, but at your sides, behind you and over head, and last but not least you are standing on it, futher explaining the attacker is at angle number 7 ( the top of the 9 gates pattern), and the student/defender is at number 9 on the pattern (center of the pattern). The student then learns one direction at a time what he can do to counter from that particular number on the pattern, in this case number one (top righthand-45* angle ( first 4 numbers form an X, 5-8 form a +, and 9 is the center). Attacker advances with a number one strike (since it is the attackers #1 strike, it will be coming toward the defender at the #2 angle), defender steps to his #1 with his right foot and executes and #1 strike to attackers weapon arm/hand/head. The student futher learns the targets on the attackers body and begins learning the range/distance/timing for that #1 position of the footwork pattern of the 9 Gates System. Teacher explains to student that striking can be blocking, using the idea of mirror imagining, using strikes 1 and 2 with partners, they learn and practice the downward figure 8, then the next lesson would be upward figure 8, the lessons after that would be to use the first 4 directions of the 9 gates footwork with these striking drills. These beginning drills both solo and with partners are also done while advancing (floor work) as well as the directions of the footwork pattern. When concidering the 9 directions of the footwork pattern, you might begin to understand how to progress and advance in knowledge of the 9 Gates System, and I haven't even mentioned the blocking pattern of the system, or empty hands, or double sticks, takedowns and follow-ups, control techniques or other weapons. So you can see that advancing in rank takes time and every 6 months I will give students a certificate with how many hours of class/training time he/she has, and if the student stays and fully learns, I will award the appropriate rank/title the students deserve when the time comes. If classes were held every day for three hours a day, five days a week and once in awhile on sat. and the student came to all classes with out fail, they would most certainly reach and attain Black Belt status.
The name of this martial art is "Imua Tamaraw Escrima Kuntao". This was taught to me by Lino Rodriguz, of Merced,Calif. I learned from him in the mid 70's during ''A" school while in the US Navy. His teacher was Sijo Abrecsy, who learnd Escrima from his Uncle and was also with Tai Sifu Otto VanDeergoen of the Imua Shang Tang Kuntao. In a sense we are sort of related to that system, of which I really do not know how they teach that system, but it is well run under Master Armando Soto. Imua as it is understood, is Polynesian/Hawaiin, and means advancing, aggressive, and or progressive, Tamaraw is a very, very endangered spieces of wild water buffalo found only on a remote island in the Phillippines. This patictular animal is said to be an agressive beast that doesn't back down when threatened, and it is to this attribute that the style was named for. Though I have thru my martial arts journey several Black Belts in different systems including Hapkido, Kenpo, Tang Soo Do, And Taekwondo (I wont mention Ninjutsu), I teach the style with no other FMA influences ( I have been to several seminars of PTK, and Doce Pares). The closest that resembles this style is the BahadZuBu that my good friend Mike Blackgrave teaches under Master Yuli Romo. The other weapons that I teach in Imua Tamaraw are, sai, tonfa, staff, spear, kwan dao, and the three section staff(both little and large). I teach of course using again the 9 Gates System, and not with outside influence like some other styles' forms or katas, only the patictulars of the weapon, its specific uses, techniques according to the "concepts" of the 9 Gates. In the past I have worked with other Instructors who wanted to learn "sticks", I enjoy teaching advanced martial artist in a whole different enviorment, at my home for an afternoon or evening while cooking outdoors in a friendly family type setting, or on a road trip to the beach (only 3 hours away). Imua Tamaraw at advanced stages is to be practice and taught in the manner just mentioned, in a family gathering way.
Imua Tamarwa Escrima is a complete style, that fits into any style of empty hand martial art and can help others understand thier own martial art. The basis of Imua Tamaraw can be the same for all one step techniques, Kenpo techniques and even Hapkido techniques (but that is for maybe another article).