When we arrive in new cities, no matter how beautiful and traveler-friendly the city seems to be, we will meet someone within the first few days with a WARNING about the crime in that town. And it really doesn’t matter where you are, the story sounds something like, ““someone I know met a guy who overheard in a bar about a friend who had a cousin. That cousin got robbed at knife point right outside of (insert the new city where you’ve just arrived)!!!!” Scary stuff and hard to know when to take it seriously because you hear it A LOT and it is rarely true. After nearly six months of Christine and I traveling all over Guatemala and Central America, we had exactly zero encounters of knife wielding banditos or even pick pockets. However, crime does happen and although typically I say, “run away to live another day,” learning new ways to get out of a dodgy situation is something I think we can all appreciate when walking down a dark alley.
This is where my friend and instructor Ron Fortin comes in. Ron is a former Marine who lives in Antigua, Guatemala and is an instructor at Antigua Kali. He uses his strong ties to the Kali art and Filipino Martial Arts to practice and teach Pekiti Tirsia Kali headed by Grand Tuhon Leo T Gaje Jr. From my time spent serving in the Infantry, I have learned a little hand to hand combat, but only enough to get myself into trouble, not out of it. Through the years I’ve studied a little Tae Kwon Do, Krav Maga, and, most recently in Hawaii, Silat/Kali/Kuntao and have always wanted to continue training. So, I thought, why not look up some martial arts classes while living in Guatemala. Amazingly, I found Ron through a random google search on self-defense in Guatemala and after a quick meeting, Ron and I hit it off and he agreed to train me by building on my limited foundation for the little time I was there.
I honestly never thought I would be able to study Kali in Antigua! Kali is a Filipino martial art based on bladed and improvised weapons. It is fast and lethal. We trained a little with the Kali sticks, but concentrated more on knives and bare hands. Ron was patient and took the time to really explain the art to me including the history of the art at times. It was more of an all-around lesson on how it developed than just a show-up-and-earn-bruises type of learning. In short, I had a blast.
The five months or so that I got to train with Ron went by way too quickly, but I am beyond grateful that he gave me the opportunity to see the inside of such an amazing martial art. If you have the time as you travel through Guatemala check out Ron’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/AntiguaKali. He often gives demonstrations around town and maybe you could be lucky enough to get a few lessons from him.