Flashback Friday

This week’s Flashback Friday article (as I missed Throwback Thursday) is “Atienza Kali” by Tuhon Carl Atienza.  Originally published in the Filipino Martial Arts Digest Special Edition, “Filipino Martial Arts at Ang Daga” from 2006 you can still find it online HERE.

Atienza Kali
by Carl Atienza
The respected Grandmasters from the Philippines developed their systems by facing challenges in their environment and finding combative solutions for them. In the same tradition, the Atienza family worked for decades to find their strategies and techniques that derive from centuries of  blade warfare in the Philippines. The result is a solution for the combative problems now faced in their adopted home of the United States. This is Atienza Kali.
“We peer out of the second story window of our house,our sights scanning back and forth, hopping from chest to chest of the twenty three men across the street as one of them stars to cross the street to talk to my father Butch and my older brother Allain. I track the man crossing the street, my compound hunting bow at full draw, ready to release if this guy pulls any weapon. Darryl, the youngest of the three of us, keeps his crossbow on the main group. I don’t know what is going on- I was just awakened a few seconds before and told to grab projectiles- but I keep my sights set on the man talking to my father. As my vision adjusts to the dark I notice that my father has a blade in left hand and my older brother Allain has an unsheathed Bowie in his right. Apparently my older brother (Allain, 16 years old) just  fought off an attack by these men, managed to get away from them, ran back into the house, grabbed a blade and called my father for help. Fortunately my father simmered the whole situation down. We all knew we couldn’t get into that kind of a fight in front of the house.This may sound like an event from the dark ages or  something but this was on the corner of 168th place and 88 Avenue, Jamaica, Queens 1984. There was always stuff like this going on and involving big masses of people that the family might haven to fight We handled it the way we trained- two of the youngest would projectile the attackers, work the long range, while the oldest of the family would fight hand to hand. A day in the life of my family, the Atienzas.”
– Darryl Atienza
This was just one of the many situations that helped to develop Atienza Kali by the Atienza family- a system developed to address masses of people whether it be one person fighting a mass or a few family members fighting a mass. The solution is a system that utilizes blades of all sizes whether held or thrown. Also a major requirement of such a system would be footwork that would keep a blade user moving when attacked by amass of  people, as he can stay in one spot for only a limited amount of time when facing multiple opponents.
Basic Footwork – All the combative footwork used in Atienza Kali is derived from and trained within the hourglass pattern. A beginner in Atienza Kali will run the hourglass and its many variations of combative footwork patterns during warm ups. The main focus of this is to have the student develop the necessary muscles to keep him light-footed and mobile.
Basic Bladework – The basic curriculum in Atienza Kali starts with the bolo (short sword) and the small knife. Students will learn basic angles of attack along with different ways of doing them. Long slashes are taught mainly as finishing moves, short slashes are taught to be non-telegraphed and usually done as the initiating attack. Chopping trains the student to chop into the target and retract. Hacks are attacks that leave the blade in bone.These can be all done with different parts of the blade. The first four inches of a bolo would be used in conjunction with shorts slashes, chops and hacks to hit small targets like the eyes, jugulars and fingers. The first half of the blade would be used to hack right through a forearm or wrist. The part of the bolo closest to the hilt would be used in close quarter hip slashes where the AK practitioner would be very close and places the blade (portion of the blade a few inches from his fist) right on his opponents’ body then spins his hips out 180 degrees, using the entire length of the blade, from hilt to tip, to cut the entire midsection of his opponent.
There are three types of thrusts in Atienza Kali. The straight thrust, which basically puts the point into an opponent, paying very close attention to targeting. Tearing thrusts that use the back edge of the point to tear the opponent or in the case of a knife, hook into joints so the opponents body can be manipulated. Twisting thrusts are thrusts that enter an opponent and then twisted while in the body then withdrawn. All blade movements are taught to move in conjunction with body mechanics for maximum power delivery and maximum control of a heavy blade without damaging the joints of the practitioner. Pivoting of the body is used in conjunction with the movement of the blade so that the practitioner develops power and decreases target opportunity to his opponent by standing in a slimmer profile after the strike.
Hourglass and Blade – This exercise is one of the most important in the beginning stages of an Atienza Kali student. It incorporates the hourglass training and the basic blade movements to create an exercise called the “Atienza Kali Hourglass and Blade”. It teaches the student to efficiently pivot and strike while being mobile within the hourglass training pattern. This is very hard to do in the beginning of training and an Atienza Kali practitioner will do this exercise for years to master the movements. The skills developed in this exercise is mandatory if the Atienza Kali practitioner wants to be proficient in mass attack exercises and survive mass attack scenarios he may encounter on the street.
Atienza Combat Methodology – Atienza Kali practitioners train a short non-telegraphed first attack called the Force Anchor Initiation (FAI). The idea here is to move undetected so the first attack strikes its intended target successfully. There two ways the fight can go from there.

First option – is the FAI is successful and the AK practitioner can finish the exchange with quick killing follow up tactics.

Second option – the FAI is successful but the opponent still counter attacks even if he is hit. The idea here is that an injured person will not react within his skill set but in are action that is in panic. This is usually in a very basic attack that can be countered very easily by the AK practitioner.

What if the opponent successfully defends against the FAI? The term “force anchor” needs to be explained to understand this portion of the combat methodology.Anchor points are tracking points used by AK  practitioners to “observe” which angle of attack an opponent is about to use. Chambering and loading are commonly used terms. We say “observed” because with enough training the tracking of a blade through anchor points becomes conditioned to a point of no thought. Atienza Kali practitioners don’t say “our opponent countered our FAI” but rather have the mindset that we just “forced the opponent’s anchor point” which allows us to get a basis on what angle of attack he will use on his counter and how we will in turn counter that attack. That mindset is very important in Atienza Kali. That way the mindset of “defending ourselves”, which is very common in today’s world, is cast away. This is called the Atienza Kali Force Anchor Strategy (FAS).

Fighter Types

Fighter Types is a term used in Atienza Kali to catalog the different types of techniques that an AK practitioner will use in a blade exchange. Fighter types can be used in attack or in counter.The AK practitioner executes his FAI and it is countered, that counter can be categorized in a fighter type immediately. This is better explained by example.

Examples of fighter types
2 count – this counter is done by either pulling the hand away (if the hand is attacked) or  by pulling the body away (if the head or torso is attacked) then counter striking immediately.
1 count – this is a counter that happens simultaneously with the opponents attack or in one count. Intercepts to the weapons hand, evading the attack and attack the body simultaneously with thrust or slashes all fall into this fighter type.
Details of a typical blade exchange:
1- AK practitioner FAI to his opponents’ fingers in his blade hand. (right hand for this example)
2 – The opponent counters by pulling his hand away (fighter type: 2 count) to his right side setting an anchor point for an angle one attack (forehand attack).
3 – Opponent sends an angle one long slash to the AK practitioners’ throat.
4 – AK practitioner counters with a short slash intercept, while slightly retreating, to the opponent’s brachial plexus. (fighter type: 1 count)This is a typical entry that an AK practitioner would use. It also demonstrates what the AK practitioner sees in a blade exchange.
Atienza Kali Evolution
Since the core and success of the Atienza Kali blade exchange is based on fighter types there has to be a training method that teaches a student how to defeat each fighter type with other fighter types. This is what the Atienza Kali Evolution does. An Evolution is a two-man exercise that interacts fighter types and teaches a student how to defeat an opponent’s fighter type. Unlike a traditional drill that recycles a series of counters and maneuvers the Atienza Kali Evolution doesn’t run the same move twice in a row and eventually end with  kill.
Atienza Kali combat phases: An AK practitioner sees a successful entry to kill in phases.
Phase 1 – is what was just discussed. The FAI and the FAS. This also includes the use of  projectiles for entry, which is the favored entry for most of the more experienced AK  practitioners.
Phase 2 – taking behind the elbow control (BEC). BEC allows the AK practitioner to secure the motion his opponent after entry and still have sensitivity for any counters that his opponent may try to execute. This is a transitional phase, happens very quickly.
Phase 3 – the weapon hand is completely controlled with locks and holds. The blade is still constantly working here to bleed out the opponent. Body shielding is done in this phase in mass attack.
Phase 4 – an optional phase in Atienza Kali. This where the opponent is thrown to the ground and controlled where the final bleed out is done. We say optional because in amass attack situation phase 4 may not be done.AK practitioners understand that the opponent will not fall immediately unless the brain is separated from the central nervous system. Most of the time the opponent must be bled out, that takes time. If your opponent is armed with a blade or firearm he can still kill with the time he has left. That’s why phases are used in Atienza Kali. This is to make sure that there is complete control of the opponents’ weapon hand until the kill is successful.
Real Combat Exercise
Once the student learns the evolution, the isolation of individual techniques from the evolution begins. One way to do this is through Real Combat Exercises (RCE’s). Once the techniques are nearly perfected in form and footwork, a specific technique are isolated and fed in real time. When we say real time we mean real energy and real intent. Atienza Kali Chiefs instructors find that this training gets the student ready for the real energy and mindset of an actual violent encounter. In their opinions most attackers are successful against martial artists because the student wasn’t shown the reality of a violent attack. By taking what they have experienced and putting them into RCE’s the student is on the way to having the proper mindset.
Atienza Kali Mass Attack training
Mass attack training is introduced fairly early in the curriculum. In the beginning of a student’s mass attack training, techniques are isolated from the evolution and attempted in the mass attack exercise. The added stress of multiple attackers serves to magnify any weaknesses in the student’s form. At the same time, it introduces him to how a mass of people move, allowing him to develops the proper movement and footwork needed to clear the attack. This results in the refining of both the specific technique and the student’s performance against a mass attack.
Atienza Kali Mass Attack scenarios
Since it was such a common occurrence, the Atienzas very early on categorized the many different ways a mass can attack. This eventually was called Atienza Kali Mass Attack Scenarios. They categorize 5 different scenarios.
1. Forward rush – attackers move in a straight rush overwhelming the AK practitioner
2. Sacrificing the one – one of the attackers in the mass tie up the AK practitioner so the rest of the mass finishes him.
3. Closing circle – one of the mass attackers takes the attention of the AK practitioner while one or 2 attackers try to position themselves behind the AK practitioner.
4. Closed circle – the circle of mass attackers just closed now the AK practitioner has to fight out

5. Clearing hell – the AK practitioner has to clear mass attackers who are using Atienza Kali reverse mass attack strategies. The hardest and one of the most impossible to clear since the mass is now tactically organized. Projectiles are a must in this scenario.

Atienza Kali Mass Attack Strategies

These are the actual strategies that Atienza Kali practitioners use to clear the mass attack scenarios. All require and aggressive offensive mindset and exceptional footwork.

1. Body shielding – using the next attacker as a shield from the last attacker you the AK  practitioner just engaged.
2. Mass attack in sequence – using some sort of bottleneck (doorway, parked cars etc.) so mass attacker move in a straight line momentarily. The mass attackers are dealt with one at a time as the come at AK practitioner in sequence from bottleneck.
3. Attack the wall – AK practitioners are taught to deal with a wall of attacker momentarily until they can get back to body shielding.There is a brief overview of what the Atienza Kali family system entails.
Currently Allain, Carl and Darryl Atienza head Atienza Kali since the death of their father “Butch Atienza “ in January of 1999. Since the introduction of Atienza Kali to the public in 2002 Atienza Kali training groups have started all over the U.S. and in Europe with Atienza Kali Instructor candidates in the same locations.Atienza Kali blade work has also made its way into educating military and law enforcement about the destructive capability of the blade and has given the military and law enforcement community solutions based on Atienza Kali blade principles. In November of 2005 a New Jersey police officer new to the force thanked the Atienza brothers for their Atienza Kali blade awareness class done at the Passaic county police academy. The officer claims that the information from the blade awareness class saved his life against a knife-wielding suspect.
For the highest quality training in short blade (knife), long blade (bolo), impact, flexible, projectile and unconventional weapons as well as mass attack strategies, visit Atienza Kali and start your training today. Lakas Filipino Martial Arts is proud to offer classes in Atienza Kali in Hunt Valley, MD.

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