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History of Amara Arkanis

Zikdokan Amara Arkanis
Sining, Agham at Diwa ng Mandirigma
(Art, Science and Spirit of the Warrior)

Filipino Fighting Art of the Mandirigma
By Emmanuel ES Querubin
(Official Biographer of Louelle Lledo Jr.)

Filipino Fighting Arts is always in a state of evolution. This evolution created the desire of the sporting community to excel in international competition. As a natural consequence armed and unarmed fighting arts took separate ways of development and deviated from each other.

Martial arts became a medal sport and lost its meaning as a way of life. Winning the gold medal became the primary and only purpose in training in the combative arts. Even the government, contradicting the essence of sportsmanship, got in the act and was offering financial and social rewards to the winners.

The essence of attaining the spirit of being “one with nature” and to train for the purpose of achieving harmony and balance within oneself was lost in the quagmire of the commercial atmosphere that was corrupting the martial arts.

Twenty-six years ago, in 1980, Luis Rafael C. Lledo, Jr., in his desire to bring back the original mandirigma spirit to the fighting arts, established Amara Arkanis, a product of the continuous evolution of the fighting arts he has learned.

When Lledo Founded the Amara Arkanis style of Filipino fighting arts, he held the rank of Ika-Amin Na Antas Sagisag Na Itim (6th degree Black Belt), and the title of Punong Guro (head instructor) in the Filipino fighting arts and in Japanese Karate.

The first seeds of Amara Arkanis were born in 1959 in Zamboanga City on the island of Mindanao, in Southern Philippines. Lledo was first introduced to the rudiments of the fighting arts by his grandfather, his father and his uncles.

His great grandfather, Antonio Marquez Alvarez, a descendant of the Spanish conquistadors, taught him the European style of fencing. His father, Luis Lledo, Sr., then an intelligence officer of the Philippine Air Force, taught him the military, albeit dirty style of hand-to-hand combat. At an early age, Lledo also became an expert in combat shooting, both with rifles and handguns.

After school, Lledo, apprenticed in a boxing gym operated by his uncles Ramon and Antonio Lledo, local boxing promoters and champions of Zamboanga City, where he learned the manly art of boxing.

Lledo, although not of royal heritage, but nonetheless from an influential family, was also schooled in the secret fighting arts of Kuntawan and Silat. He became adept in the arts of Kuntawan and Silat. At the same time, Lledo took up Karate under Joe David of the Kyokushinkai style of Karate and was awarded his 1st Degree Black Belt as he celebrated his 18th birthday.

In his desire to learn more about the fighting arts and to pursue a degree in Medical technology, he went to Manila and trained further in the different arts and styles of fighting. He sought the instructions from the Masters.
1970 K.A.P. Black Belt Champion
1970 K.A.P. Black Belt Champion

Due to his diligence and skills in the fighting arts, he was promoted to the 4th Degree Black Belt in Karate in 1972. It was then that he became acquainted with Remy Presas, who was in the initial stages of establishing the Modern Arnis Federation of the Philippines.

1970 National Team Champions
1970 National Team Champions









In 1974 Lledo was named head referee during the International Invitational Karate Championships, hosted by the Philippine Karate Association, the ruling body of Karate in the Philippines, of which Remy Presas was also an official.

Even the private colleges and universities, both in Manila, and the Visayan region took notice of the effectiveness of Arnis de Mano as a means of self-defense and physical exercise.

In the 1950’s, private self-defense clubs sprouted in the different cities and schools all over the country. Aside from Arnis de Mano, Karate and Judo were taught. In Manila, the most prominent were the Kapatirang Sikaran ng Pilipinas, headed by Meliton Geronimo, a Sikaran and Arnis (Abaniko style) expert from Rizal and the Commando Self-defense Club, headed by Latino Gonzales, an Arnis expert from the Visayan region, who later on switched to Japanese Judo and Okinawan Karate. At the Far Eastern University, Lamberto Ticsay taught Arnis de Mano as a physical education curriculum. Remy Presas was also giving instructions and started working on a program, which he later named Modern Arnis. At the Philippine College of Criminology, Joe Sidlacan was teaching Arnis de Mano and defensive tactics. Another pioneer in teaching Arnis de Mano was Jimmy Galez.
Remy Presas worked with Arsenio de Borja of the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation (PAAF), which made Arnis de Mano an approved physical education curriculum of the National College of Physical Education (NCPE).

It was during this period that Louelle Lledo moved from Zamboanga City to Manila, to further his studies, both in the academe and in the martial arts. He was already a black belt in Karate and an adept in the various styles of sword fighting, including European fencing, Visayan Eskrima and the Muslim sword fighting of Koon-tao and Silat.

Grandmaster Porfirio Lanada
Lledo also trained in the traditional system of Arnis propagated by Porfirio Lanada
Daniel Rendal
(behind Lledo) and the innovative style of Daniel Rendal

In Manila, Lledo was introduced to other styles of Arnis de Mano, such as the Modern Arnis of Remy Presas, the traditional style of Porfirio Lanada and the innovative style of Daniel Rendal. But the greatest influence in his stick-fighting education, was from Delfin Bernarte, who called his technique Sistemang Praksiyon Brokil.

Louelle Lledo trained in the traditional aspect of Arnis de Mano under Porfirio Lanada. He became acquainted with Kalis Illustrisimo through Yuli Romo, a student of Antonio "Tatang" Illustrisimo. He also trained and received a Master's Certificate in the Bernarte Brokil Sistemang Praksiyon.

Masters of Arnis de Mano found a way to treat and temper a type of hardwood known as bahi, making it tough and strong as steel. It was a popular belief that the master imbues the bahi with his spirit, personality and his anting-anting (amulet). This bahi and anting-anting were passed on to the successor in a highly secret ritual just prior to the master’s demise. It is said that unless the anting-anting is passed on to the successor, the master’s final moment will be agonizingly long in coming. It was also rumored that Bernarte’s bahi and anting-anting were passed on to Lledo, something that Lledo neither denies nor confirms.

with Grandmaster Hwang Kee
Grandmaster Hwang Kee
with Grandmaster Gogen Yamaguchi
Grandmaster Gogen Yamaguchi









Ed Cayetano
Ed Cayetano instructs Louelle Lledo in application of Tai Chi Chuan techniques using a double cane

He trained in Tai Chi Chuan under Ed Cayetano. Fortunato Sevilla and Francisco Alvina were Lledo’s instructors in Judo and Ju-jitsu. He learned the concepts of Korean Tang Soo Doo and Japanese Goju-ryu Karate from Grandmasters Hwang Kee and Gogen Yamaguchi respectively. Lledo learned Sikaran, various Japanese styles of unarmed combat and Soong Leong Kwan (Double Dragon School), Kung Fu, from Emmanuel Querubin, who learned it from Chan Keng Wan, the last living Master of Soong Leong, Kwan.

Lledo’s associates and training partners, particularly Inocencio Glaraga of the Kalaki School of Kali, Yaming and Arnis, Yoli Romo of the Philippine Pamantukan Penjakali Stick Boxing Society and Rodel “Smoking Sticks” Dagooc of Modern Arnis Philippines, further enriched his experience with other systems of fighting.

In 1975, Lledo was accredited as an international referee by the World Union of Karate-do Organizations. (WUKO), the world ruling body in Karate and was called upon to officiate in the Third World Karate Championships held at Long Beach, California.

While in Long Beach, Lledo became closely associated with Ed Parker, father of American Kempo. Parker played host to Lledo and other officials of the Philippine National Karate Team, whom he chauffeured around in the Cadillac given by Elvis Presley. Parker became an honorary member of the Philippine National Karate Team and was always present during the training sessions of the Philippine Karate Team. The Philippine team placed fourth in the team competition in the 3rd World Karate Championships. The exchange of information and techniques with the various martial arts leaders and practitioners during his foreign travels and in their visits to the Philippines further enriched his understanding and experience in the fighting arts.

In 1980, Lledo established an eclectic system of fighting geared towards an individual’s psychological and physiological makeup. It is not a new combative art. Rather, it is a further evolution of the various martial arts that Lledo trained and learned.

Louelle Lledo learned the Filipino martial arts, the way it was taught by the Masters of old. Having learned the Japanese arts also, Louelle Lledo became aware of the similarities of the arts, but more important he noticed the difference in the teaching approach.

Seeing martial arts education first hand, at the Japan Karate-do College of Grandmaster Gogen Yamaguchi, Louelle Lledo decided that the best way to learn and teach martial arts is through the educational system of the academe. The Japanese arts were systematically broken down to basic techniques before the application of the techniques were taught. Watching the Grandmaster and the seniors of the Japan Goju-ryu Karate-do in training, he realized their emphasis was training the basic techniques in forms and drills. Training started with a lot of reverence. Before physical preparation, mental preparation came first. Before teaching the technique, the students were taught the underlying principles. The students spent weeks, just in assuming the different stances. Defensive techniques, such as evasion, blocks, and deflections, were taught, only after learning the stances. Offensive techniques were taught, but only after the student learned how to evade and block while moving from one stance to the other. Physically, this type of training prepared the student in effective evasion. Mentally, it instilled in the consciousness that the student was training in a self-improvement class first and in a self-defense class second. Months would have passed before the student was taught how to move, defend, and counter-attack. This training also served as a weeding our process for those who were not serious in learning the art.

Louelle Lledo was amazed by the very motive of the Karate-do College. The main goal was the development and propagation of Karate as an art, without regards to style or school of thought, despite the fact that there are four major styles of Karate.

Lledo envisioned a program of Filipino Martial Art Education with the same goal in mind. He even toyed with the idea of a true Filipino Martial Arts College, where students will study and graduate with a Degree in the Filipino martial arts, Major in Armed Fighting and Minor in Unarmed Fighting, or even a degree in martial arts healing.

In comparison, the Filipino martial arts are taught in an almost roundabout manner. All Arnis de Mano schools or styles have one thing in common - the way the art was being taught. Training starts by facing the opponent and blocking his strike. This training goes on until the student becomes an adept. Most instructors believe that this is the best and the only way to teach the fighting art - by actual exchange of blows from day one. A training session starts with engagement and ends with engagement. “No pain, no gain” seemed to be the principle on which learning Arnis de Mano revolved. Another “sorry” state of training the “old-fashioned” way, without the use of padded sticks or protective gear, is the injuries the trainees sustained.

Aesthetics and good form were being sacrificed, for the sake of injuring the opponent to make him give up. More and more “one-technique fighters” and less and less martial artists are being produced. As less and less martial artists, are being produced, less and less good teachers are also being produced.

A firm believer that there is always room for improvement, Louelle Lledo decided on a third option. He approached teaching martial arts as Martial Arts Education, just as he had witnessed at the Japan Karate-do College. He professed that if there is Physical Education, why not Martial Arts Education?

The interest in this approach became more apparent when Louelle Lledo was named Martial Arts Monitoring Officer of the Philippine Sports Commission. The PSC is the government agency responsible in monitoring the practice of all amateur fighting sports, including Karate, Judo, Tae Kwon do and Arnis de Mano, to insure a respectable showing in international competitions.

To upgrade his qualification, the Philippine Sports Commission sent him to several workshops, including the University of the Philippines Physical Education College, where he finished courses in Sports Medicine, Coaching, Officiating, Sports Management and Psychology, Competition Psychology, and Program Preparation, among others. He worked with the coaching and officiating staff of the various martial arts associations.

In 1986 with the change of the administration, the Philippine Sports Commission Monitoring Office was abolished.. This gave Louelle Lledo the opportunity to work on a program of martial arts education, using his association as the launching vehicle.
Rather than emphasizing the style of fighting, he placed the emphasis on the approach to teaching. To start with, he added “Filipino Martial Arts Education” to his association’s name. Thereafter he called his school as “Amara Arkanis Sistemang Praksiyon Filipino Martial Arts Education.”

Due to the different vernacular language, being used in teaching Filipino martial arts, Louelle Lledo used English terms in his Martial Arts Education Program. Use of English also became less confusing to the student and easier to understand. Every so often, Lledo throws in Filipino terminology to give his students a “taste of the original flavor.” He also used English in teaching Karate, insisting that Karate is no longer just a Japanese art.

The program he instituted was simple enough. The program was so flexible, in its simplicity, that it was adaptable to different learning environments. The program worked in the settings of small sports clubs, law enforcement agencies, and even large universities.

Lledo did not develop “new” techniques or a “new” style. What he did was to “re-arrange” the way the techniques were taught. The first step was to plot a course of study, which will cover all the aspects of the Filipino martial arts and set the stage for upward evolution to an exciting and aggressive but safe modern fighting art. He separated the “unarmed” techniques from the “armed” techniques, but based the training on a common platform. Comparing the techniques will show that they are one and the same. The only difference is that “unarmed” techniques use the empty hands and the “armed” techniques use a weapon. Whether the weapon is a single stick, a double stick, a knife, an alternative weapon, or even the empty hands, the maneuvers are the same.

His next step was to break down the maneuvers into their most basic elements. To achieve this purpose, the maneuvers, were classified as “basic” and “progressive.” “Basic” meant executing the maneuvers in forms and drills. “Progressive” meant applying the maneuvers to various different situations or as Lledo says “situational application.”

Another term he uses, when referring to “basic” is “foundation.” “Foundation” included such matters as stances, breathing, footwork, basic strikes, basic thrusts, one-man drills and one-man forms, such as the classical maneuvers, and the Salpukan (Impact Training)  and the palaisipan (mental game) or shadow fighting.

Application of techniques, whether in two-man drills or two-man forms were called “Progressive training”. The drills or forms may be in the manner of Bigayan or Palitan (semi-free style sparring) or Sabakan (free-style sparring or engagement).

After laying out the program, Lledo worked on the “nitty-gritty” elements. He broke down each maneuver to its most minute element and explained the techniques in detail. Starting with stance, he differentiated stance of execution from preparatory stance and explained the proper utilization of the stance in relation to the center of gravity and proper breathing. As a natural consequence, good form and aesthetics came about. With good form, proper use of body mechanics, leverage and direct application of force came naturally.

Lledo, then selected classical maneuvers that were common in almost all the styles and schools, such as the kruzada, the single and double sinawali, the figure of eight, the redonda, the abaniko, the rompida, the sungkiti and other variations. He broke down and explained the basic patterns of linear motion into diagonal, vertical and horizontal; circular motion into clockwise and counter-clockwise; the basic strikes into forehand and backhand; the basic thrusts into overhand and underhand;  and the disarming techniques into arm turn and arm twist. He designed warm-up and cooling down exercises from ordinary calisthenics into stick-fighting specific and oriented movements. He instituted one-man, two-men and even multiple-opponents drills. The emphasis of his training method was to make every technique a “simple reaction.”

Louelle Lledo adapted his program also in teaching Karate. He developed a Karate training program that laid emphasis on a very stable and strong foundation, which equated to winning gold medals in competition. Dean Ruben Estudillo, the Dean of the Physical Education Department, of the Cavite State University noticed the success of this program and hired Louelle Lledo to coach the University Karate Varsity Team.

After determining that Lledo’s credentials, was equivalent to a Master’s Degree in Physical Education, the Cavite State University instituted Lledo’s program and named Lledo Martial Arts Education Instructor in the Physical Education Department. Martial Arts Education became a major course in the Physical Education Curriculum.

Under Lledo’s leadership, the martial arts team of Cavite State University won several regional and national gold medals and honors. The State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association (SCUAA) Region IV (composed of 16 state colleges and universities in the Southern Tagalog Region) named Louelle Lledo, Head of the Martial Arts Accreditation Team and President of the SCUAA Martial Arts Organization.

Lledo’s ultimate goal in establishing the system is to develop a person’s character through the rigid and strict discipline required in training in the fighting arts. To give the system his personal touch and to reaffirm its ultimate goal, Lledo name the art Amara Arkanis.

Lledo’s legacy in the martial arts reached far and wide. In 1990, Lledo was awarded the title of Renshi and was named Philippine director of the International Goju-ryu Karate-do. The IGK is an independent Okinawa sanctioned Goju-ryu organization, headed by 7th Dan Tino Ceberano. 

Cavite State University Training Hall with Master Tino Cebarano
Cavite State University Training Hall with Master Tino Cebarano

Lledo’s expertise in teaching the fighting arts was recognized when he was appointed Chief Defensive Tactics Instructor of the Headquarters, Philippine Integrated National Police Training Command, National Capital Regional Training Center at Fort Bonifacio in Metro Manila. He later was made chief unarmed combat instructor of the National Bureau of Investigation Training Academy (the Philippine version of the FBI). He also headed a team of security agents for then Mayor Bagatsing of the City of Manila, and trained the Civil Intelligence and Security Unit of the City of Manila in the combative arts.

Lledo holds a rank of captain in the Philippine Air Force Reserves. He travels around the Philippines giving instructions and seminars in the Amara Arkanis School of the Filipino Fighting Art.  He is also Chief Combat Instructor of the 1st Air Division and the 304th Security Squadron of the Philippine Air Force.

On May 8, 2002 Lledo was appointed by the Philippine Sports Commission as Regional Commissioner for Combative Sports of the State Colleges and Universities Athletic Association (SCUAA Region IV). The International Modern Arnis Federation of the Philippines also named Lledo Director for the SCUAA. 

When, Lledo migrated to the United States carrying with him the title of Ambassador Plenipotentiary of the Department of Tourism’s Office of Philippine Indigenous Fighting Arts.

Punong Mataw-Guro Lledo Migration to the United States

In 2002, Lledo and his family migrated to the United States carrying with him the title of Ambassador Plenipotentiary of the Department of Tourism’s Office of Philippine Indigenous Fighting Arts. With nobody to replace him, the Cavite State University cancelled the Martial Arts Education Program. Louelle Lledo met Eric Golden of the Golden Martial Arts Academy of New Jersey, who offered Lledo a position to teach Karate. While teaching Karate, he also threw in some stick fighting techniques.

Lledo’s skill and integrity spread like wildfire in the East Coast. Louelle Lledo, Dr. Christopher Viggiano, a Chiropractor by profession and Founder of the Shen Wu Dao School of Martial and Healing Arts, Sifu John Lee and Sifu Andy Cappucio, Chinese Martial Arts Masters, became very close friends and allies in the martial arts. Together they formed the Sword Stick Society, an alliance of martial artists from different arts. The Society’s main objective was to bring together the various schools of martial arts in the spirit of camaraderie and unity. Under the auspices of the Sword Stick Society, a martial arts gathering was held and for the first time different schools of Filipino fighting arts from New Jersey, New York and even Maryland was held in New Jersey. The first gathering was followed by more gatherings, with the last held in New York, under the auspices of Rich and Rico Acosta from the Kali, Kuntao, Kruzada, attended by members of Ultimate Eskrima, Balintawak, Doce Pares, Pekiti Tersia, Amara Arkanis, and other independent martial artists. In one of the gatherings, Leo Gaje and Dan Inosanto were also present.

In January 2003, Lledo was bestowed, the Grandmaster of the Year Award of the Filipino Fighting Arts, by the Action Martial Arts Magazine published in the east coast.

In December 2005, the International Modern Arnis Federation of the Philippines appointed Lledo, National Coordinator for New Jersey, USA.

For Louelle Lledo, it was just the beginning. In 2006 the American Society of Internal Arts (Tai Chi) invited Lledo to give a workshop about Amara Arkanis. He has since then been an annual guest lecturer.

On January 28, 2007, an Alliance with various martial artists of the Philippines, headed by Architect Joe Gumba of NASKOPHIL and Guros Mark Santos, Ariel Ramos, Jigs Zamora, Nikki Esmero, Julio Penalez, Felipe Penalez and Rodel Dagooc was formed.

Alliance Gathering at the University of the Philippines with Nephew
Alliance Gathering at the University of the Philippines

with Nephew Mark Santos of A.R.M.A.S. Philippines
 with Nephew Mark Santos of A.R.M.A.S. Philippines

The excitement and revelry created by the alliance was cut short by the sudden and unexpected demise of Architect Joe Gumba, a pioneer in Okinawan Shorin-ryu Karate in the Philippines, who that same day succumbed to a massive coronary failure.

Envisioning an international cooperation, that will lead to possible uniform standards in competition and even possibly ranking system, without giving up autonomy of member organizations, the Amateur Sports Arnis, Philippines (ASAP) commissioned Lledo to establish the Arnis Alliance of the Americas (AAA).

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Mataw-Guro Louelle Lledo

In September 2008, for the first time, Lledo bridged the gap between the Filipino Fighting Arts and Chinese Fighting Arts. The Traditional Wing Chun Kung-fu Association of the East Coast headed by Keith Mazza, with the blessings of Wing Chun Grandmaster William Cheung, invited Lledo to do a very successful joint workshop.

The success of this workshop and Lledo’s expertise in the martial arts got the attention of the Wong Fei Hung Ga Kung-fu International Association and in their 13th Annual Championships invited Lledo to officiate.

On January 24, 2009, for the third time Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Fame honored Louelle Lledo with another award as “Ambassador of Goodwill of the Martial Arts,” for bridging the gap between the Filipino and Chinese Fighting Arts.

In 2009, Louelle Lledo published his book entitled “Amara Arkanis Fighting Art of the Mandirigma,” and several Training Modules.