THE ART OF THE BLADE
MAESTRO ARNOLD NARZO was personally trained in the “Art of the Blade” (Kalis Ilustrisimo) by Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo and by Tatang’s top protege, Master Tony Diego (Mang Tony).
Here’s Arnold’s story…
Born in Manila, Philippines in 1970 but raised in Cebu, Arnold took a liking to boxing and the martial arts at a young age. He loved to watch boxing matches and martial arts films from Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan on TV and copy the moves.
He started boxing at age 12 when his next door neighbor taught him and a few of the neighborhood kids the fundamentals. After class, the boys would go to the sea shore, wrap their hands with t-shirts in lieu of boxing gloves and spar with each other. The winner would be awarded 10 pieces of candy, and the loser 5 pieces.
The first time Arnold saw Eskrima was when one of his neighbors in Cebu was practicing double-stick techniques from Doce Pares Eskrima. Arnold later moved to Manila to continue his studies in college. On Sundays he would go jogging at Luneta Park in Manila. There he found a group of boxers who practiced there every Sunday and he joined the group.
He also noticed there were several groups there who practiced the Filipino Martial Arts which sparked his interest, so he began looking around the park at the different groups to see if there was one he’d like to join. While checking out the different styles of Arnis and Eskrima at Luneta Park, he noticed that most of the styles would hit and retract their strikes as opposed to pulling all the way through which did not seem realistic to him. He then stumbled upon a group that pulled their strikes all the way through with full power. Arnold thought “This is it! I like this.” So he stayed every Sunday to watch.
While there one Sunday watching, one of the the leaders of the group, Tony Chavez, noticed that Arnold was watching every Sunday and said “Hey Kid, would you like to join?”. Arnold said yes, he would like to join and asked “What is the name of this martial art and what is the name of the club?”.
Tony said “The name of the art is Eskrima and the name of the club is Ilustrisimo. That is the master there sitting down”. Sitting there with a stick was the 90 year old martial arts legend, Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo. Arnold asked “That old man is the master? Can he still move?”. Tony said “Yeah, he can still move! Come and join us.”
So Arnold joined the group for training every single Sunday and began to move up the ranks. Eventually, Tony Chavez stopped showing up on Sundays because he ended up in prison for getting in a fight with 5 guys in Cavite.
So, Arnold had to take over as one of the instructors, teaching the basics. Then, when riding his bike by Luneta, Arnold found out that Tatang was not only there at Luneta on Sundays, but every day. So, whenever he had a chance, Arnold would ride his bike by Luneta to see if Tatang was there and sit down to talk with him.
Then one day, Tatang said hey Arnold, come here and he began to show Arnold some techniques. So the first time Arnold actually saw Tatang moving was up close and personal on the receiving end of Tatang’s moves. Tatang would say “OK you strike.” He would defend and hit Arnold on the nose, on the eyebrow, on the hand etc. Arnold would watch closely and study everything Tatang did.
Every Sunday, Arnold would collect the money from the Luneta group and give it to Tatang. Then after the training, he would take Tatang out for lunch and take him home. Tatang would invite Arnold in and would tell him stories about his many fights and about the old days of Eskrima.
In 1997, Antonio Tatang Ilustrisimo passed away. In his absence Masters Tony Diego, Christopher Rickets, Yuli Romo, Edgar Sulite, Rey Galang and Romi Macapagal (Tatang’s top disciples) were left to carry the torch of the Ilustrisimo system. In 2000, Mang Tony Diego (Tatang’s number one student), took over teaching the Sunday group at Luneta Park. One Sunday, both Master Yuli Romo and Mang Tony Diego were there at Luneta, and were watching Arnold sparring.
That’s when Mang Tony took notice of Arnold. Mang Tony said “Come here. Come here. This kid moves well. Who is your teacher?” Arnold replied “I’m a student of Tatang”. They said “This kid is pure Ilustrisimo!” That’s when Mang Tony invited Arnold to train at his gym in Binondo and to spar with Tom Dytang. It was 1999, and that’s when Arnold began his 15 year journey training with Mang Tony Diego at his gym in Binondo.
Along with Tom Dytang, Arnold quickly became one of Mang Tony’s top student’s and assistant. When Tom was not there, Arnold would assist Mang Tony. Soon Mang Tony’s knees began to give out, so Arnold began doing a lot of the teaching while Mang Tony would supervise. Mang Tony would demonstrate something, then sit down and Arnold would take over the teaching. After class, Mang Tony would correct Arnold on his teaching methods and give some fine points.
Then, in about 2006, Tom Dytang moved to Canada. At this time, Maestro Arnold officially became Mang Tony’s right hand man. Up until the time of Mang Tony’s death in 2014, Arnold looked after Mang Tony like he did with Tatang Ilustrisimo. Arnold would collect the money after class and give it to Mang Tony. Under Mang Tony’s guidance and supervision, Arnold would teach the classes at Luneta and Binondo. And, Maestro Arnold was there until the very end, even taking Mang Tony to the hospital several times.
If you are looking learn “The Art of the Blade” as passed down by Mang Tony Diego and Tatang Ilustrisimo, in the Philippines, Maestro Arnold Narzo is your man. He is also available for seminars worldwide.
You can reach Maestro Arnold on his Facebook page here…