Article: Bay of Plenty Times 1996
Ancient Art New to Bay Students
The ancient Filipino art of stick fighting is being introduced to Tauranga by Bobby Taboada.
Bobby, a 48 year old Tauranga security guard, is chief instructor of only 10 teachers of Balintowak in the world. Formerly of the Philippines, he first came to New Zealand in 1980, returning last year to marry one of his former students.
Now Bobby, his wife Jeanette and young daughter are building a home in Merivale and hope to start teaching Balintowak in the Bay of Plenty.
But unlike other martial art instruction, all teaching will be done on a one-to-one basis as it has been for centuries in the Philippines.
Balintowak is a contact martial art, combining flexibility and speed.
The stick is used to block and attack concentrating on speed and agility.
Also known as arnis and eskrima, it has become a national sport practised by the busy businessman down to the neighbourhood punk.
Bobby first stated learning in an effort to defent himself in the overcrowded slum areas of the Philippines, which as 55 million people trying to live in an area the size of New Zealand.
“In that sort of environment you have to live off your wits,” he said.
“Bashings and clubbings are common. Life is cheap in the Philippines.”
When he was about 18 years old, the grand master of the art, Mr Teofilo Velez, took an interest in Bobby and taught him all the movements. After two years, the grand master tested his student and allowed him to become a professional instructor.
Every four years, the top exponents of Balintowak fight to establish their hierarchy below the grand master. The winner becomes president with the second being the vice president.
Bobby said he was unable to beat the president or vice-president but hoped to move further up the ladder in future years.
“Balintowak is a discipline where mastery of technique is more important than brute strength,” he said.
Bobby says the sport is purely based and originated from a need for self-defence and has no religious background.
He believes that the art is especially valuable for women wanting to defend themselves in the street situation.