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Bruce Lee student hosts workshop: Bustillo teaches Filipino stick fighting at Dragon's Den in Union City - Bruce Lee News

The Filipino martial art of stick fighting, Cacoy Doce Pares, is hard to defend against. And for centuries, it was even harder to learn.

The Spanish colonialists killed Filipinos they saw practicing it and even after they were driven from power, the technique was mostly handed down from father to son in the privacy of Filipino homes and American garages.

That began to change 40 years ago when Richard Bustillo — who studied under Bruce Lee, a pioneer in blending different martial arts — set upon the task of learning the fighting traditions of his ancestral land.

In 1967, he flew to Hawaii, his home state, and working on tips from relatives and friends, started knocking on the doors of masters.

"I knew from my family that there was a Filipino martial art and I wanted to learn it," said Bustillo, who is now a grandmaster and ninth degree black belt in Cacoy Doce Pares. He also happens to grace this month's covers of Inside Kung Fu and Black Belt Magazine.

On Sunday, Bustillo gave a guest workshop in stick fighting and other martial arts at the Dragon's Den Kajukenbo Club in Union City.

For nearly three hours, the barefooted students — which included a 40-year-old real estate appraiser and a teenager in continuation school — sparred with 3-foot wooden sticks and fake knives.

Antonio Landaverde, a 17-year-old high school student from Hayward, doesn't plan on ever having to stab someone, but says the training still might come in handy.

"In the neighborhood we live in, it's good to know how to defend yourself against anything," he said.

Stick fighting "is an art for the people," Bustillo said. It originated as a way for farmers and their kin, usually armed with a machete-like knife called a bolo, to fend off bandits.

As a child growing up in Hawaii, Bustillo was mostly into judo and boxing.

Then, while living in Los Angeles in 1964, he met Bruce Lee, who had begun mixing different martial arts and encouraging disciples to create individual styles.

"What he was teaching in 1964 was exactly what I wanted to do," Bustillo said. "He showed me that you have to have an open mind or you will not grow."

In 1967, Bustillo and Lee's other Filipino student at the time, Dan Inosanto, set out to add stick fighting to their repertoire.

It wasn't an easy proposition. Secrecy had been ingrained into the culture of the art since colonial times.

"(Some instructors) were reluctant to teach us," Bustillo said. "In the'60s, if you asked people about Filipino arts, they said they didn't know."

Over time, though, the duo found willing masters in Hawaii and Northern California, many of whom gave private lessons in their garages.

They learned different modes of attack and taught some of them to Lee, who was no stranger to sword fighting.

After Lee's death in 1973, Bustillo opened a school in Torrance that taught stick fighting and hosted masters from the Philippines.

"Those two revived Filipino martial arts," said Jeffrey Macalolooy, a wrestling coach at Cesar Chavez Middle School and the owner of Dragon's Den.

With the growing popularity of mixed martial arts, Filipino stick and knife fighting is beginning to go mainstream — a fact that fills Bustillo with ethnic pride.

"I want to teach the arts to preserve our heritage," he said. "So children know there is a Filipino martial art."
Author: Matthew Artz

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