The Latosa Escrima History

System Development

Latosa Escrima Concepts is a very dynamic and logical system. The system keeps developing and progressing into the future.The system progresses as student develop their technical competence. Latosa Escrima Concepts is the study and development ofthe best concepts and strategies of many systems. It is the idea of understanding what you do, how you do it and why it is done.The system is an education in body motion and weapon efficiency, not just physical movements attached to techniques, just to keep students busy.Latosa Escrima Concepts main goal was to keep it honest and real.

In Latosa’s early stages of developing Filipino martial art concepts, the movements or techniques were considered key, and the idea of using concepts was secondary.This proved effective and contributed to the fighting reputation of many of Rene’s students. However effective, the system did not seem complete.There was a missing element that distinguishes the Filipino art from the other martial arts. It was not the techniques that set the Filipino arts apart,since most systems utilize techniques. It was not the ability to change from empty hand to sticks. What exactly was it? This search for the answer becamethe driving force in Latosa’s quest to develop the Filipino martial art further. The answer was within the fighting concepts, and how they played a rolein the effectiveness of the Filipino martial arts. As the concepts of power hitting, blocking hard, balance, and attitude, became more dominant, the Latosasystem developed a new focus. Rene restructured his technique drills to impart the importance of concepts. Latosa utilized these concepts while boxing forthe Air Force without having any traditional boxing training experience.

Today, the basic principals of the system rests within the concepts of balance, speed (timing and distance), power, focus, and transition.However as advancement continues, so does the progressiveness of my system.

The Latosa Family


Escrima Grandmaster Esteben LatosaRene’s Great Grandfather, Esteben, was a well-known (wanted) outlaw and a feared and dangerous Escrimador. As the story has it, he possessed the Anting-Anting,”the symbol of the supernatural” coupled with his martial arts skills made him a truely invincible man. As a young boy of seven years, Juan Latosa, Rene’s fatherwas the only person his outlaw grandfather Esteben would allow near him. Esteben saw a future Escrimador in the brave eyes of his young grandson Juan. He tried toteach him the finer points of fighting but Juan was too young. One day as Esteben, lay sick in bed dying, he asked his grandson to take the Anting-Anting protrudingfrom his mouth. Even as a young boy, Juan sensed that this object had evil attached to it and refused to take it. Esteben smiled at Juan’s wise decision and feltassured that his courageous grandson would be a successful fighter without the Anting-Anting. In his weaken state Esteben left for the mountains never to be seen orheard from again.


Escrima Grandmaster Juan Latosa
Juan Latosa, Rene’s father, was a well-respected fighter within the province of Capiz, and in the city of Mambusao. Rene’s father was the eldest in his family anda big man in terms of the average size of a Filipino. As a teenager, relatives introduced Juan to the Filipino martial arts at a young age. With his interest and skillssparked, Juan asked his mother for money to go to college in Manila. His mother’s perception of study meant academics; whereas, Juan’s interpretation was to proceed tothe mountains to study Escrima. He never made it to Manila. For over a year he studied in a secret camp where his training extended to weapons of different sizes,shapes (kampilan, staffs, ropes, double swords, etc.), and ending with a weapon completely out of character, the Japanese samurai sword. When he returned to his village,he continued to season his skills in actual fights and by practicing with different vendors and travelers who had martial arts skills. In his village, he was the best fighter;it did not hurt him too much that his athletic skills were at his highest level (Philippine Olympic Track Team).

He departed the Philippines in the 1920s for America seeking fortune, adventure, and a better life. On the ship to America, he confronted a Japanese Bo master because he was causing trouble and bothering the other Filipino passengers. Juan asked him to stop; consequently,the situation escalated into a death match. With the stage set, the match began with sticks against staff. The fight ensued with Juan rendering the opponent down and defenselessin a matter of seconds. Being a death match, the opponent requested that he finish the job; Juan refused. His opponent had to live with the humility and loss of face for the restof the voyage. This story was told to me by other people, many years before I realized and verified that it was my Father who was the major part of this episode.


Uncle Pedro was a wonderful source of training and stories. He told Rene fascinating stories of his brother Juan’s temperament, fights, and reputation in the Philippines.Pedro learned Escrima from Rene’s father. The training he received from my father was for survival rather than learning for learning’s sake.


Grandmaster Rene Latosa
Rene Latosa’s initial exposure to the Filipino martial arts came through his ethnic and cultural environment. As a young child, Rene first witnessed martial arts during celebrations(after the crop season was over), cultural events, and hanging around the Filipino Community Center in Stockton, CA. At this community center he would watch the “Old Timers” amusethemselves by hitting their walking sticks together as if they were sword fighters and applying locks to each other.

As a teenager, many of Rene’s friends were studying Judo. He asked his father if he could take Judo or Karate lessons. His father offered to teach his young son “jitsu.” He didn’tbelieve his father knew anything about martial arts, so he did not pursue that avenue. His mother recommended taking self-defense classes taught by a long time family friend, Angel Cabales,at the Stockton Escrima Academy.
Stockton Escrima Academy

His first visit to the Stockton Escrima Academy was in 1968. Rene was greeted by Angel, holding a cigarette in one hand and a rattan stick in the other. Angel, having known Rene since he wassmall, told him to grab a stick and Angel proceeded to demonstrated a quick technique. From this point forward, Rene was hooked and he continued to study and eventually taught at the Academy for over five years.

At the Stockton Escrima Academy in 1968, “formal training” did not exist. The method of teaching employed at the academy was strictly on a teacher to student basis. Rene remembers the ambianceat the academy was very casual, Angel was just “Angel.” For all the students at the academy, the title “Grandmaster” was inherently Angels, and his alone. To Rene’s advantage, during his firstfive months of training, he was the only one of three students who showed up for lessons. Rene’s initial training, with a ratio of four instructors to one student- Angel Cabales, Max Sarmiento,Leo Giron, and Dentoy Revilar- provided plenty of diversity in styles. These four individuals played a definite role in shaping the basic format of the Escrima Concepts system; however, his greatestinfluence was his father.

During those early days at the academy, Angel did not have student certificates or rankings. They did not exist. You were an instructor when Angel said you were (Rene did receive an instructorscertification from Angel and another one from Max Sarmiento, the only one ever given in Kadena de Mano. Angel always said that certificates, belts, and titles meant nothing without the ability toback it up.

Training with Dad – “Never judge a book by it’s cover”

Learning from his father was very difficult for Rene. His father was a fighter and every reaction to a situation was combat oriented. When Rene asked to see a movement for a second time, he wasshown something else. Because his father did not use techniques, no two movements were ever the same.

Rene’s enlarged ego was instrumental in his introduction to his father’s prowess in the Filipino martial arts. Rene was practicing for a demonstration when he became concerned that he did notlook as flashy and impressive as he should. He asked his father, who was working in his garden, if he would care to be his practice “dummy”, The elder Latosa noted for his quick temper remainedcalm despite this arrogance. He had watched as his son practiced his techniques, smiled and said “boy, you need more training”, the younger Latosa asks him what he knew since he was only a “dummy!”

He dropped his hoe and walked quietly towards his young egotistical son and picked up a stick. Rene asked his father if he would hit him over the head, but warned him to be careful because of hisdeadly speed and dangerous skills. Instead, the old man in a calm voice asked his son to strike at him. There was some hesitation on Rene’s part; fearing that if he went too fast his father mightget hurt. Rene directed a slow hit at the old man. Before he saw what had happened, his father’s stick hit him on the head. “This must have been an accident,” thought Rene. He again struck at hisfather but this time faster. Again, Rene’s head was the final destination for the end of his father’s stick. In a serious fury, Rene went after his father with a strike that was strong, fast, andheaded toward its target; as a result, his target moved and a stick landed between Rene’s neck and shoulder knocking the young man to the ground. His father walked away laughing and went back totending his garden. Rene’s mother came out of the house, yelled at his father, and consoled her son with the bruised ego. Rene spent some time soul searching, trying to get a grip on what happened.Rene was under the impression that with his speed and technical skills he could not be beat. His father took him aside and told him about his rough and dangerous background and informed him he hadmuch to learn. Rene’s attitude towards the Filipino arts changed. The first attribute to be disposed of was his enlarged ego. His father started to train Rene in the finer points of fighting concepts,different weapons, and his philosophy. Rene realized the importance of concepts in relationship to techniques.