Move Like a Tuko


Years ago I stayed with a Filipino family in the Camotes Islands, between Cebu and Leyte. I was outside at night under a mosquito net, while my hosts slept inside. I heard a noise all night that I couldn’t figure out.

The next morning I asked Bibi, “What was that noise I heard last night, kind of like a frog croaking? But I know it’s not a frog, and it’s not a bird, either.” I imitated the sound.

He laughed. “It’s a lizard. We call it tuko.”

You can hear tuko croaking at night in the Philippines, and they’re common in many Filipino homes, where they stay in dark, hidden parts of the house during the day and emerge at night.

To see a tuko lumber clumsily up a wall at dusk, it looks like an idiot with a large head, and a slow side-to-side crawl. Then it perches motionless, preferably near a light bulb.

One night I saw a moth land not far from a tuko. The gecko slowly inched toward, and I was startled when the tuko simply exploded and snapped up the moth in the blink of an eye. I wasn’t expecting to see such blinding fast speed.

Rather than creep right up to its prey, the tuko had calculated maximum striking distance, and had burst like a whip to close the gap.

This is food for thought for the martial artist. To be calm, not frenzied or waving the stick around. Then to calculate the optimum striking distance, exploding and blasting the opponent at a range where he doesn’t perceive the danger of your pending attack, and yet it is too fast for him to do anything about it.

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