Atienza Kali is a Filipino weapons-based system conceptualized here in the States vs. at home on the island. Kali was taught to the Atienza Tuhons (Allain, Carl, & Darryl) by their father (Edgar “Butch” Atienza) and largely focused on multi-opponent combat; how to fight a group and how to fight in a group were some principle concepts. Edgar “Butch” Atienza was a Filipino native who was able to train with many influential Kali systems. Edgar Atienza was the president of Arnis Americas for a few years in the 70′s. Many FMA masters were members of this organization such as:Professor Florendo Visitacion, Grandmaster Remy Presas,Master Leo Gaje, Master Matt Marinas,Grandmaster Dong Cuesta. ‘Butch’ began training his sons and even local neighborhood people. He originally called this system Katipunan ng Kalis. Katipunan in Tagalog means a fraternity or brotherhood. Kalis refers to the blade or sword in relation to the Filipino combat arts. Katipunan Ng Kalis roughly translated means “Brotherhood of the Blade”- the name of the organization.
In 1991, Guro Carl began attending S.U.N.Y Stony Brook for his undergraduate degree. Being so far from home he couldn’t easily train with his father, so he spread the word that he was going to make lessons available to the student body. The first to answer this offer was Rue Reynolds. After seeing a short demonstration, Rue immediately signed up and would prove to be one of Carl’s most industrious students. Running or cycling three miles to Guro Carl’s off campus house, Rue would put 100% into training. Training 4 to 5 days a week after classes, Rue quickly excelled in the knowledge Guro was passing to him. Rue Reynolds would be the first to receive the rank of Instructor in Atienza Kali under one of Edgar Atienza’s sons.
They would train in the main gymnasium on the Stony Brook campus in the view of many other students. Many campus students would watch what they were doing and develop an interest in the Filipino Arts. As a result, Guro Carl would steadily gather more students. This would be the first group to hold the name Katipunan Ng Kalis and the group that Guro Carl considers the “Original Katipunan”. Guro Carl held classes 3 or 4 times a week in the main gymnasium or in dormitory lounges, training his students with the intensity that was reflective on his own training. He trained them in all aspects of Atienza Kali such as Atienza Kali Punyal, Isang Kalis and special weapons. In return Guro Carl would use his developing students as training partners further advancing his own skills.
Leo Manalo heard many stories of the Atienza brothers and their “real” approach to teaching and began to seek them out for instruction. Through mutual friends was able to meet Guro Carl but was not allowed to join the Katipunan Ng Kalis because of certain activites he was involved with that Guro Carl did not approve of. Instead, Guro Carl gave an introductory course to Atienza Kali to Leo, with the hope that the training and education of Filipino culture would pull him away from his current activites. Leo gave his full attention to Atienza Kali and had abandoned his other activities. He was then allowed into the Katipunan Ng Kalis.
Leo was fascinated by Guro Carl’s skill and his approach to street fights through the Filipino Martial Arts. He would take trips on the weekends to Stony Brook from Westchester County just to train with Guro Carl. Leo was the second student of Guro Carl that had a passionate appreciation for Atienza Kali. He had taken Filipino Martial Arts in other schools but none of his previous training was like Carl’s. He had heard of the street encounters that the Atienza family had faced and finally got to see their skill first hand. Leo was a Filipino American and was never really educated in Philippine history. Long talks with Guro Carl after training sessions would open his mind to true Filipino culture. Leo Manalo would become Guro Carl’s second student to become a Full Instructor in Atienza Kali.
Spending only two years in S.U.N.Y Stony Brook, Guro Carl transferred to C.U.N.Y Hunter College. At this time Leo worked at Hunter College and helped Guro Carl start another training group. This was a group of about 10 students (including his original students who traveled from Stony Brook) that met 3 days a week to take lessons from Guro Carl. They would meet at the end of the day after classes and train for a few hours. The students from Stony Brook would come up once every two weeks to keep the skills fresh. Most of the students left the Katipunan Ng Kalis after graduation to pursue their respective careers.
In the course of time, the title of Tuhon was given to Tuhon Carl Atienza by Pamana Tuhon Chris Sayoc. Leo Manalo is Tuhon Carl’s most senior student & would eventually be given the rank of Full Instructor. The organization has grown throughout the years with over 200 members, Josh Votaw as the second person to be given Full Instructor, and several Atienza instructors.
AK and Sayoc are two different systems. Edgar Atienza was a mentor to a then young Pamana Tuhon Chris Sayoc. Pamana Tuhon Sayoc was like a big brother to the Atienza brothers. In 2002, The Sayoc organization was responsible for the success of Atienza Kali introduction to the public. Tuhon Chris Sayoc hosts the “Melee Wars” and “Circle of Pain” seminars in Media, PA. Introduces Atienza Kali with Carl, Allain ”Bong” and Daryl “Dee” Atienza and families.
In 2007, Tuhon Chris Sayoc and the Sayoc International Group, Inc. host the 7th Sayoc Sama-Sama in St. Cloud, Florida. This event inaugurated the new titles of Pamana Tuhon Sayoc and Pamana Silak Tess Sayoc. The Atienza Kali family were also inaugurated in their new titles. To this day the Atienza Tuhons still take lessons on how to organize and maintain a strong organization.
Many of the differences in this system are truly seen during the transfer of knowledge. Where many traditional drills repeat with no end, AK teaches the students how to evolve their movement, many times injecting the knowledge without the students even knowing that the transfer of knowledge is being communicated. AK uses systems such as Targeting Chains and Evolutions. Targeting Chains allow student to correctly identify proper targets on the body. Repetition of this helps with muscle memory and action to turn into reaction. Once established the TC’s are then practiced in motion; this helps the student apply the movements in coordination with the blade further enhanced by performing with footwork in an hourglass formation. All of this is practiced prior to a two man evolution where the particular TC is broken down between two people. Evolutions are based off of specific fighter types. This enables a student to feel how an exchange can take place. There are multiple evolutions all with a specific purpose during a student’s course of study. Through out the course of study students will learn Mass Attack Strategies, Projectiles, Force Anchor Strategy, and Fighter types. This heavily influenced system pays tribute to those who have fought many battles.
Many systems have influenced AK, the main one being Sayoc. Atienza Kali has grown into its own and pays tribute to those who came before.