written by Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny
Crossbreeding Kali and Krabi Krabong
SECTION ONE: Cross breeding and fear of Inbreeding
One of the great strengths of the Dog Brothers is that we have different clans. Dog Brothers are spread around the United States, Canada, and now Switzerland (and Spain is under consideration) and those who train with a particular Dog Brother and become the clan of that area under his leadership. Thus, each clan develops its own distinctive flavor.
But it was not always so.
When the Dog Brothers came into being in May 1988 with three days of fighting in Ramblas Park in San Clemente CA the number of people willing to engage in “Real Contact Stickfighting” was quite small. Our open invitation to any practitioner of any style was accepted only occasionally. People had read of the death matches in the Philippines in Guro Inosanto’s book “The Filipino Martial Arts” and in the absence of any context in the west, were understandably reluctant to give it a try. Apart from rare isolated backyard testing (and this DID go on) the only consistent testing of the art at that point was tournaments wherein the sticks were tiny, the competitors were heavily padded and permissible techniques quite limited. In this context we were generally viewed as sweaty, smelly psychopaths with sticks.
In the years prior to formation of the Dog Brothers and in the first years after what Eric (Top Dog) and I would have to go through to get anyone to show up could be pretty funny– and the excuses we would get could be funnier yet. One of my all time favorites is “My mother doesn’t want me to do this”. The net result was that a typical day of fighting would consist of the same 4-5 “usual suspects” and 1-2 people that we had somehow lured, tricked or shamed into showing up. Usually they never came back.
I began to worry about inbreeding.
Indeed, one of the purposes of the “Real Contact Stickfighting” video series released in 1993 now known as “the Dog Brothers videos” (which is, ahem, still available at www.Dogbrothers.com ) was to help us find more people willing to engage with our search for truth. Gradually, as word began to spread (there still had been no martial arts media coverage of us) our fight days began to grow in number: Eight fighters, twelve fighters, twenty fighters, thirty fighters, thirty eight fighters– and any concern over inbreeding vanished.
As the number of visiting fighters grew, so too did the size of the Dog Brothers from the “Original Twelve” (including my Akita “Zapata”– who is the dog in the logo of Dog Brothers Martial Arts). Including retired DBs, there are now 25 Dog Brothers. There are also 5 “Candidate Dog Brothers” and 11 “Dogs”. As you can see, the numbers are small and the standards correspondingly rigorous. Scattered as they are around the US and Canada (and now Bern, Switzerland with a group in Murcia, Spain under consideration) various “clans” have formed and each one may have its own flavor. There is always plotting and strategizing within each clan to solve the evolving games of other clans at the next “Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack”.
SECTION TWO: The coming of Krabi Krabong
Although the largest clan has always been that of Hermosa Beach, California, the Santa Fe New Mexico clan under co-founder Salty Dog has always been very influential.
So as to best understand, please allow me to set the context for the introduction of Krabi Krabong into “Dog Brothers Real Contact Stickfighting” and its subsequent inclusion in the curriculum of Dog Brothers Martial Arts.
>From the beginning of our fighting (1985?) we had been allowing grappling in our fighting because, as Top Dog says “Grappling happens. There’s just no way around it, it just does.” I know that many in the Filipino Martial Arts, including some from the Philippines, criticize us because of this. They say that there was no grappling in the death and challenge matches in the Philippines and that the grappling that occurs in our fights is due to the presence of fencing masks.
Concerning the latter point first: sometimes it is true that the grappling that happens in our fights does so only because of the fencing masks. We know that! Yet I submit that we have many skilled fighters who can predictably and technically create grappling in their fights without relying on the headgear. The ability to do so however was developed in part by surviving the learning process, –more or less, people can and do get dropped– thanks to the headgear.
But what of the Philippines? Was there grappling in the Philippines? And did it occur in the challenge fights? Even amongst the Filipinos themselves there is often substantial disagreement on many matters and I am certainly not the man to enter into these discussions and debates. I limit myself to what I know.
When GM Atillo of Balintawak Eskrima came to the Inosanto Academy one evening to present a seminar, the first thing he did was discuss his famous challenge match with the legendary GM Cacoy Canete of Doce Pares. Canete calls his system ESKRIDO– a name which is created by blending the names ESKRI-ma and Ju-DO– and Judo is most certainly a grappling art. So GM Atillo then showed us a document signed by the two of them agreeing to the rules of the fight and drew our attention to the rule that clearly specified “NO GRAPPLING.” He then showed us a picture of the fight from the local newspaper the next day wherein GM Cacoy held him in a headlock while whacking GM Atillo with his stick. “You see!” said GM Atillo “He cheated!”
>From this story it seems to me fair to conclude that grappling could and did happen in at least some of the famous challenge matches of the Philippines.
Returning to the point at hand, apart from the adrenaline and testosterone of a real stickfight, it must be said that in the beginning our grappling was pretty clueless. Then, in 1990, (a couple of years before the UFC–BJJ revolution) I discovered BJJ with the Machado Brothers thanks to a tip from friend Chris Hauter. After a mere 9 lessons with Carlos Machado, I fought using BJJ for the first time in September of 1990. The UFC was still a couple of years in the future and grappling awareness was very low and the results were very strong. Intrigued by my results with the Machado brothers, Top Dog also got involved with the Machados too. I began to explore the unique world of stickgrappling and the Hermosa Clan of the Dog Brothers was happy.
This of course meant that the Santa Fe, NM clan was not. Although the largest clan has always been that of Hermosa Beach, California, the Santa Fe New Mexico clan under co-founder Salty Dog has always been very influential. At that time (1991-94) there was no BJJ in Santa Fe. Salty Dog mulled things over. As an instructor under Ajarn Chai Sirisuite he knew Muay Thai and as an apprentice under Guro Dan Inosanto he knew of its forerunner Krabri Krabong. Maybe with KK he could make it harder and more costly for Top Dog and me to establish grappling range? KK seemed like a natural. Unlike most of the Filipino Arts, which tend to shun kicking and knee in the long and medium ranges, KK did so with abandon. Would this help neutralize the flying roof crash of the stickgrapplers? As the military weaponry forerunner to the ring sport of Muay Thai, its movements were closely related, which led Salty to hope that functional results should be achievable in short order.
Salty began training with KK teacher Jason Webster, and it became harder to close on the fighters integrating the KK structure. Salty began traveling on a regular basis to train at the Mecca of KK in Thailand– the Buddaiswan Institute-and eventually became a full “Ajarn” (similar to “Guro” in the Filipino Martial Arts) but the successful application of KK at the DB Gatherings took some years and A LOT of fights. At last a flash of insight about the footwork and it was a new ballgame and the Santa Fe clan was happy.
Of course, the other clans were noting the coming of KK and began picking up elements of it. The crossbreeding of the two began almost right away. Kicking, which many Filipino systems teach as near insane in the context of a weapons fight, began making its appearance. So too did the driving footwork. True Dog began to use both to excellent effect. Although not it was not technical KK, the concept of when and how to do so was KK. As we say in DBMA we were “Smuggling Concepts across the Frontier of Style” ?
And the KK of the Santa Fe clan was not “pure” either. There was a particular strike they used which gave lots of people a hard time-including me. I asked Guro Inosanto about it and he seemed surprised. “That’s not Krabi Krabong. ” he said. Finally I asked Salty Dog about it. “Oh” he replied “That’s Lameco Eskrima. Punong Guro Edgar (Sulite) showed me that.” I had forgotten the late PG Edgar, of whom I was a private student, had helped Salty whenever Salty was in town. Indeed, some of his lessons with Salty were in my backyard. Uncraftily, I had not watched them though and upon reviewing the video I saw that not only had this strike entered into Salty’s KK structure, but so too had a particular footwork. PG Edgar had an absolutely superb analytical eye for Stickfighting and it seems that just as PG had helped me solve Salty’s fighting game, he had been doing the same for him against me! I had to laugh.
SECTION THREE: Krabi Krabong in Dog Brothers Martial Arts.
Turning now to the logic of DBMA.
Most people prefer to fight with one stick and the same foot forward. They often reason that this is the same approach as used in boxing wherein the great majority of fighters specialize in one side forward. (Although his career seems to have concluded, I always enjoyed watching Prince Naseem flout the conventions in this and many other regards). A righty fighting with the left foot forward is the general rule. Unlike boxing however, wherein both sides of the body are vigorously used (e.g. the jab and hook balancing out the cross) in single stick fighting the way most people do it, the effect is to INCREASE the difference between the dominant side of the body and the complementary side. If one genuinely seeks to use the movements of weapon fighting empty hand (and I do) as promised by the Filipino arts, then this seems counterproductive to me.
In KK a single stick fighter can work readily with either foot forward and in double stick mode this is developed even more. The drills are simple, primal and power-crazed. Powerful linear distance-covering-pressure-maintaining crashes can be developed to a high degree. We like that. And as we crossbreed the two, these powerful drives can be done on angles created by Kali footwork and KK linear drives can be blended with Kali combinations. We like that too.
DBMA is not the “Crafty Dog style”. It is a “system of many styles dedicated to smuggling concepts across the frontiers of style” (c). It is a system “to walk as a warrior for all one’s days.” This means it must be functional in the context of many people, not just two men facing off. In our experience this means using triangular footwork and being able to fight with either hand forward and either foot forward. We call this “Bilateralism”. Thus double stick is an important category in the system, not only in and of its own right, but for the attributes it develops and their application in other categories.
Guro Dan Inosanto teaches about the Majadpahit Empire of several centuries ago. It consisted of what today is the central and southern Philippines, Indo-China (Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Singapore) Indonesia, and Malaysia. The many and varied martial arts from this part of the world, as different as they may be, tend to have “common thread” and usually one can blend from amongst them and find an inner coherence of structures. This has been my experience in bringing KK to the Kali-Silat core of Dog Brothers Martial Arts. The crossbreeding of Kali and KK shows much promise.
There also is the matter of “Clinch” range (the sixth of seven ranges in our system). KK use of knees and weapons during the clinch has been of influence as well and has triggered explorations in , , , other areas. But that’s another story for another day.