Reprinted with permission from the Martial Talkk column of Perry Gil S. Mallari in the Life and Style Section of the Manila Times in its November 26, 2008 issue
I always consider it a great privilege meeting old-school escrimadores—those vanishing breed of Filipino martial arts practitioners who have learned their art the painful, old fashion way.
I had a memorable dinner with escrima luminary Manong Ireneo Olavides last weekend. I used the traditional Filipino title of respect “manong” to address him because he refused such titles as “master” or ‘grandmaster’ be attached to his name. The 64-year-old Olavides, better known as Manong Eric in FMA circles is revered as the heir to the late juego todo (no-holds-barred stick fighting match) champion Grandmaster Jose D. Caballero. Caballero’s style is known by the name De Campo 1-2-3 Orihinal.
I have high regards for De Campo as a stick fighting art mainly because it has been proven in actual all-out escrima matches of the olden days. Olavides today is teaching a system he named JDC-IO (sometimes pronounced “jadecio”), which was taken from the initials of the name of his mentor “Jose D. Caballero” and his own name “Ireneo Olavides.”
My personal observation of De Campo is that it possessed a unique body mechanics unlike most systems of escrima. I should say that its rebounding strikes are surgical and insidious. My interview with Olavides has affirmed a few of my personal opinion concerning the Filipino martial arts, this include my view that the techniques of escrima should work for weak individuals (the people who needs self-defense knowledge the most) and that an escrimador should focus on hitting rather than trapping or grappling so as to maximize the potential of the stick as an impact weapon.
While Olavides took pride in surviving the “old-school” method of training and fighting, he recalls encountering difficulty adapting Caballero’s way verbatim. “I don’t have the robust physique of my mentor so I had a hard time fitting in to his training methods,” he narrates. Olavides should be given the credit of organizing and streamlining the De Campo system’s original curriculum, a task that he is very qualified to accomplish given his credentials as a college professor and defensive tactics instructor. He has also infused to JDC-IO principles he learned from other martial arts, specifically tai chi.
He has a very interesting insight on the seemingly simple subject of holding the stick. He says that “being one with the stick” means the weapon has become a mere extension of your limb. “If you have become one with the stick, then you don’t treat it as a slave, gripping it desperately as if it would slip out of your hand any moment,” he relates cryptically. Much like the yin and yang of tai chi, Olavides intones that the proper way of holding the weapon should be “soft yet hard.” With nearly 40-years of swinging weapons under his belt, his palms are smooth as that of a woman not betraying its deadly potential.
I also consider Olavides a rarity in the current trend of crass commercialism in the world of martial arts. Given the reputation of his art, he could have easily churned out thousands of dollars by conducting seminars overseas or handing out diplomas to martial arts instructors who want to beef up their credentials. Olavides instead opted to go low profile concentrating on producing quality instructors that would preserve the integrity and heritage of his beloved art. “The best way to describe the JDC-IO organization now is its tightly knit and personal,” he says, concluding, “Much like a family.”