Maelstrom’s kali gurus teach knife defence
By Adam Tatelman, Staff Writer
If you’ve ever wondered where the phrase “mano y mano”comes from, look no further than the martial arts of Southeast Asia. Kali, now a national sport in the Philippines, was invented in the 1500’s by the peasant class as a means of self-defense against the occupying Spanish forces. Due to these humble origins, there are few written records of the art; kali has survived mostly through oral tradition. Today it is taught by militaries worldwide due to its efficiency and unparalleled knife defence training.
Enter Loki Jörgenson, the second-highest ranked kali instructor in Canada and founder of Maelstrom Martial Arts, a collection of Southeast Asian martial arts aficionados. Loki has studied Pekiti-Tirsia Kali for 20 years under world famous instructors like the Dog Brothers (Philip Gelinas and Marc Denny) and Dan Inosanto, the world’s premier kali expert and one-time Bruce Lee opponent in the film Game of Death. That is some impressive pedigree.
Given all this prestige, I was rather surprised when I found that Maelstromshares a building with Aché Capoeira, a school for Brazilian street dance. Loki leads classes in the building’s garage. Between the hanging strike dummies made of tires and the cheap foam mats on the floor, the place seemed very low-rent, a definite contrast to Loki’s slick website and the dance studio on the floor above. For a moment, I wondered if I was even in the right place, but, sure enough, the instructors arrived.
Though leery of the Fight Club atmosphere, I was engaged by the instructors’ friendly, patient, and professional attitude. That and they also let me pick up wooden knives in my first class. As opposed to most martial arts, kali training covers weapons combat before hand-to-hand combat. Dual and single baton training comes first, then knife training, then unarmed. All these forms are based on triangular footwork designed to move in and out of your opponent’s range during each attack. It’s actually dynamic and fun to practice.
Beginners often face uncertainty when learning basic forms. Will this technique work if my opponent doesn’t attack exactly like we’ve trained? Does karate only work against karate?These are typical fears.
Fortunately, the mechanical theory behind kali is that all attacks—barehanded, bladed, or otherwise, follow similar angles. Thus, kali teaches students to cover these angles instead of matching defences to certain attacks. Since martial arts can become rigid when they focus on the latter method, the kali ideal of mastering angles is one I find appealing.
Despite its sallow accommodations, I liked Maelstrom. The training quality is undeniable, and the love these instructors have for the Southeast Asian martial arts is inspiring. If you want to keep practicing, they’ll stay after class as long as you will.
Maelstrom offers training at 341 East BroadwayStreet from Tuesday to Sunday for training in kali, panantukan, krabi-krabong, and pencak silat. You can also find them in Tactix Gym at 1149 Hornby Street, where they offer kali on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.