On Sunday April 26, 2009, after I arrived at Ike Sepulveda’s house, along with Terence, I was introduced by Ike to GM Bobby Taboada, who received my handshake warmly and with a friendly smile. I said “it’s an honor to meet you.” We all sat down for a delicious brunch served by Ike and his wife, Ina, and lots of conversation with GM Bobby.  How this meeting occurred is an interesting story unto itself.

I moved to the Toronto area from Columbus, Ohio in June of 2007 after marrying my Canadian wife and started teaching classes at the local community centre in Oshawa in February of 2008.  One of my students apparently told Ike Sepulveda, a resident of Ajax, about me.  Sometime in March of 2008,  Ike paid a visit to one of my classes and introduced himself. He brought along his rattan canes in a stick bag.

Ike indicated to me that he trained in Balintawak escrima but did not elaborate further. To the best of my recollection, he watched the first half of class. During a ten minute break in class, he asked if we could “play” and I replied “sure.”  Due to the fact that much of the tapi tapi of Modern Arnis is rooted in Balintawak, I delighted in this opportunity and found a lot of similarities. After we played, I thanked Ike for the opportunity. I said to myself “I really like this man.”  I obtained his e-mail address and we exchanged a few e-mails over the course of the next few months.

In May of 2008, I received an e-mail from Terence who inquired into the Modern Arnis classes I was teaching. I invited him to try it out. Terence became an instant Modern Arnis addict, so much so that we jokingly say that we need to form an “Arnis Anonymous” organization! Terence has introduced me to many aspects of Filipino culture, cuisine, and language.

In February of 2009, Ike paid a surprise visit to my Modern Arnis class where we conversed during a break. During this break, I introduced Ike to Terence. During our conversation, I asked Ike about the Balintawak Convention he attended in Las Vegas in November of 2008. He said that he had a very good time and that the training was quite good. At this time, I had no idea of the Balintawak connections that Ike had.  Indeed, he did not reveal much to myself or Terence. At this meeting, Terence and Ike exchanged e-mail addresses and began corresponding.

I would occasionally ask Terence if he had heard from Ike. It appeared that the correspondence increased over time to the point where Ike admitted to Terence that he was taking a month’s vacation to visit the Philippines and hinted that he was going to “train.” We thought to ourselves, “wow, we’d love to train for a whole month like that.”

One day I dropped by Ike’s Copy Zone shop in Whitby to have business cards and flyers printed. When I entered the shop, Ike saw me and greeted me like a long time friend and welcomed me to the back of the shop where he introduced me to his wife, Ina, and a couple of his employees.  While attending to my needs, he showed me YouTube video clips of Balintawak. I recall that he showed some by GM Nick Elizar and some by GM Nene Gaabucayan. I told Ike that I understood that he was going to the Philippines on a long vacation and he replied in the affirmative. I asked him if he was going to train while over there. With a shy smile, he said “yes.”  I was happy for Ike that he had this opportunity, still not knowing his connections.

After coming back from the Philippines, he revealed to Terence that he had trained with GM Nick Elizar. I was amazed that he had the opportunity to train with an esteemed Balintawak Grandmaster like Nick Elizar. But Ike was to reveal more. In an e-mail to Terence in mid-April, Ike revealed that GM Bobby Taboada was coming to stay at his house on the weekend of April 26th and that Bobby was a personal family friend. Ike further revealed that he was inviting us to meet Bobby on the Sunday of that weekend. Terence informed me of these developments. I said “Whoa, back up, GM Bobby Taboada is a personal family friend of Ike’s?” I then began to learn more about Ike’s interesting background.

Through my training in Modern Arnis, I had heard many stories of GM Presas’ training in Balintawak under Timoteo Maranga, Rondolfo Mongcal, and the revered Grandmaster of Balintawak, Venancio “Anciong” Bacon. I had also heard that Professor Presas and GM  Bobby Taboada were very close friends. So, when Ike revealed that GM Bobby was a family friend and asked if I’d like to come over and meet him,  I said yes as Ike’s house is only a 15 to 20 minute drive from my house.

What I learned was that Ike, his older brother, Butch, Nick Elizar, and Bobby Taboada all had trained under GM Teofilo Velez at the same time. In addition, Ike’s brother, Greg, trains with GM Nene Gaabucayan and GM Ising Atillo in Los Angeles. His brother, Butch Sepulveda, was the founder of the Gold Chapter in Cebu and is also the Treasurer for the World Eskrima Balintawak Arnis Federation (WEBAF, Inc). Ike continues to train under GM Nick Elizar and GM Ising Atillo in Los Angeles. Needless to say, there has been a family history of involvement in the art of Balintawak Arnis for quite some time. It was through this involvement that Ike’s family became friends with GM Nick Elizar, GM Bobby Taboada, GM Nene Gaabucayan as well as the Velez brothers.

At our first meeting, GM Bobby, Terence and I ate a delicious meal and conversed about Filipino Martial Arts, Professor Remy Presas, Balintawak, and a few other topics. Of course, we went out to the garage to train with GM Bobby and had a ball with the session. GM Bobby was not in the area to teach a seminar; I got the impression that it was more of a weekend getaway for him. The training and the conversations made for a grand time. After this meeting, Terence and I said to ourselves “We’ve got to get GM Bobby and Master Chuck Gauss together.”

Both photographs courtesy of Jody Melanson. The second photograph is the post garage workout.

A year later, GM Bobby came back to Toronto to teach a seminar at Sean Tyler’s Raging Tiger dojo. The day before the seminar, Terence and I had the opportunity to meet with GM Bobby once again during a Lechon at Ike’s house. When I approached him, he remembered my name as well as Terence’s right away. I had a hell of a time at his seminar and kept noting the similarities between Balintawak and Modern Arnis. Again, we resolved to set something up between GM Bobby and Master Chuck Gauss. That day (April 26, 2014) is now going to become a reality and it’s going to be a great seminar!

I’m looking forward to seeing GM Bobby again in April. The atmosphere at this seminar is going to be pure awesomeness.

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