Filipino Martial Arts for Families & Children with Special Needs

Last year as I worked on my Legacy Project for Sayoc Kali, one of my instructors Guro Joey urged me not only to demonstrate an understanding of the curriculum but also to take the material and really do something with it. He encouraged me to make it mine, to put it in my own life and context and functionalize it so that it is meaningful and unique to me. Just a few months later at our Sayoc Kali Sama Sama I found it particularly poignant when Tuhon Tom Kier moved with his family during our Sayaw, a time not only of preparation for conflict but an opportunity to engage with our brothers, sisters as a family. Every year during our Sayaws I circle the fire three times, and with each round I dedicate my thoughts to my wife and children. Although they are not always with me in proximity, they are always with me in my heart and mind. They are the reason I am where I am today, and greatly responsible for the person that I try to be. If there is any ounce of good in me, it is only because of them and the Grace of God.

I am a proud father of my sons and daughter, but I hold a special place for my oldest son William. As many of you know my son was born very prematurely and unfortunately encountered very traumatic circumstances close to and in the months following his birth. His first few months of life were spent in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, only to be followed a few weeks after his discharge by a few months more in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. His injuries were catastrophic, and as a result he has spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, hydrocephalus, cortical visual impairment and a whole host of related diagnoses and has endured multiple surgeries for his brain, heart, stomach, hips and legs. He has far more strength than I do, and the only thing that exceeds his fortitude is his loving heart. He shows me that I am stronger than I am, I am more than I believe and I can be better than myself.

In the three primary Filipino Martial Arts systems that I practice and have the privilege to represent, the family and tribe are central to our philosophies. Our families propel us and drive our training, they are the reason we train and fight so hard. We are not separate from our families nor our tribe, and our conceptualization of combat is always rooted in this context. Most of us are not young men beating our chests for status or attention, and if we would ever have to use the technology we have been taught there is a good chance it may be with our wives, children or families present. With this in mind, I began fleshing out already proven and existing material and adapting techniques and concepts to our own specific and unique needs. With my son’s level of involvement he is encumbered in a heavy special needs wheelchair, and cannot observe, engage or even communicate with me or my wife in the same ways that other children would normally do. But we are no victims to circumstance, and my training has taught me to be a Feeder, not a passive recipient to life’s challenges. My family, no matter the specific situation is and always will be my primary security protocol; it is my life’s job to take care of them, to protect and provide for them unconditionally.

I began with a few video clips and with Pamana Tuhon Sayoc’s suggestions and permission I would like to present my ideas on using our Filipino Martial Arts for parents, guardians and family who take care of children with special needs.  A debt of gratitude must be expressed to Pamana Tuhon, Tuhon Carl and Guro Dan for everything they have taught and shared.  My instructors Guro Joey, Guro Travis and Guro Brian for their guidance and instruction, my brothers Guro Steve and Guro Jon for always working with me on my projects and ideas, my students for staying with me, and a special thanks to my wife who constantly puts up with my antics.

This past Easter season, I found myself thinking about my faith and the belief that there are angels and archangels that watch over us. For my profession I take care of sick infants in the same Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that my son was born into. I wondered about the spirits and angels in our midst that watch over these babies, and I remembered our second son Gabriel who we lost at birth. I find solace in the thought that he, the dearly departed and those angels entrusted with our charge who continue to guard and protect us continue to do so on their end. This project is my promise to work within my own faculties, my physical ability and mental creativity and build on the Filipino Martial Arts that I have been blessed with, and hold so dear. This is for my instructors and students, my brothers and sisters-in-arms, my family and above all for my son William.


2 thoughts on “Filipino Martial Arts for Families & Children with Special Needs

  1. Nice use of the technology. Glad someone is doing this stuff. Excellent projectiling! Have you considered as many situations as possible in which your son or someone in a wheelchair might be in jeapardy from another? What do they want? You or your son? Money from you? To kidnap your son with you there? there are lot’s of scenarios. If I were trying to get to you through your son I would probably try to keep him between us so I had access to him and could use him against you. You would have to move a lot to keep him away from me and it might take all your energy and time. You might also consider carrying a sheild of sorts on the wheelchair. Something light but temporarily protective. Someone older in a wheelchair might be able to hold something you give them to shield them from injury (Got this from Tuhon Bong and Tuhon Raf). Projectiles would be an excellent option. Get the attacker on the first go so he doesn’t throw them back at your son (or grandma). Another reason for a sheild of some sort. Good work. – Teja

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