DeCuerdas Eskrima: GM Tenio and Master Eliab

Grandmaster Tenio of DeCuerdas Eskrima

I read an article on GM Tenio and Master Eliab in the latest Filipino Martial Arts journal.

I was privileged to meet these two gentlemen in the early 90’s. The two of them drove from Stockton to Fresno to train me and my friend and training partner Ryan Osborne. They asked for nothing, but showed up to teach.

And teach they did. GM Tenio demonstrated pressure points on Ryan, who repeatedly dropped like a rock. The pain was so intense that Ryan literally threw himself to the ground. I’m glad I was the one watching.

The two masters then demonstrated DeCuerdas technique. It was very direct and economical. A key idea I learned from them, and it’s influenced my thinking ever since, is to keep the stick in an upright orientation. I had previously studied eskrima styles in which the stick sometimes pointed up and then pointed down, alternating constantly.

A constant upright orientation of the stick cuts down on needless movement. This was later reinforced when I studied with GM Maranga. Keeping the stick upright also is a strong defense against stick disarms, and anytime you drop the tip of the stick downward you leave yourself vulnerable to a disarm.

We trained all day that Saturday, and then we invited the men in to eat. When I referred to Master Eliab as “Master,” he disclaimed the title and denied he was a master. I was impressed by his humility. 

Master Eliab of DeCuerdas Eskrima

I had put a couple of slices of Filipino hot peppers (sili labuyo) into the homemade pickles to spice them up. I warned Master Eliab as he was about to bite into one, and we all had a laugh as his face turned red and he gasped. I told him they were hot!

We gave the two gentlemen some money to try to compensate them for their time and the teaching they had shared with us. They were surprised and grateful.

I never saw them again. But these two masters were class acts and I’m thankful that they so generously shared their art with me and my friend.


11 Responses to “DeCuerdas Eskrima: GM Tenio and Master Eliab”

  1. Hey Bro…I hear ya mate…nice post…sometimes the ones we meet no matter how long ago or no matter how long the visit have a way of touching us with their lessons of life, thus making us better for it.

    check my blog out bro if ya can

  2. I’ve been the uke of pressure point demos and after about three times of having the same point hit you try your best to avoid the pressure by dropping away from the applied pressure lol.

    Most of the stick disarms I know are for point up sticks. Also, I try to use what is where it is; if my stick is down because of follow through from a strike and I have to deflect an incoming thrust then I’ll do so with my hand up and the stick pointing down rather than try to get the stick back up as the strike is coming in. I think if I tried to always keep the stick pointing up I’d look like I was doing Wing Chun and not Escrima.

    Maybe I’ll call my style: The Style Of No Absolutes 😉

  3. Amo Guro Blackgrave,

    Liked your site. I’ll add it to the blogroll.


    I didn’t mean to say the stick is upright 100% of the time, but the goal is to try to maintain the position. I’ve never seen anybody disarm better or faster than GM Maranga, and when I’ve been disarmed it’s usually at a horizontal strike.

    Some styles’ number 1 strike is a high horizontal strike, which just begs for a disarm.

  4. Not that anyone said it, but I certainly am not claiming to have skill any where near what the gentlemen in your post have.

    Our #1 is a diagonal strike from to the left head/shoulder down to right hip and out #2 is a diagonal strike to the right head/shoulder down to the left hip It is in the Irish angles, the Scottish angles, and many FMA angles, and is the most common angles used by people with baseball bats who want to bash your head in (second would be a side to side angle with the bat). This is why it is our #1 and #2, but it doesn’t mean that those are our first or second strikes we use when we have to defend ourselves.

    We talked about this before; angles like a strike to the knee or even a thrust to the stomach are not commonly used by attackers who have no formal FMA training. It tends to be all about knocking off the head.

    Maybe disarms would be a good video for your YouTube page, showing ones that you don’t see many styles doing. I understand though if that is something you don’t want to advertise to the world as anyone can watch YouTube, be they good or bad.

  5. James,

    I’m a believer in the X pattern, too.

    I was talking with one instructor who was teaching a high horizontal strike as a #1, and he acknowledged that the strike was problematic, but said that they taught it –at least at an introductory seminar– because it was traditional.

    Thanks for the You Tube video idea. I’m working on getting a mailing list, and plan on mailing more substantial techniques to those who subscribe.

  6. Hello, I studied and trained under the late Grandmasters from the age of seven. Gilbert Tenio was my grandmother’s oldest brother. So when it came time from me to study self defense who better to learn from than my grand uncle.

    I loved your article on my late grand uncles. If you don’t mind I would love to repost your write up on my blog.

    I try to experess to my students daily of the love and passion that my uncles had for eskrima and all martial arts. They always welcomed everybody open arms and without prejudice, with nothing in return. This is something I wish to pass on to my students.

    Being from Stockton people usually only think of Angle and Leo when you bring up Stockton Eskrima. Having trained, though very young, in the 80’s and 90’s I am aware of the very rich stable of eskrimadors from Stockton. Masters that have long passed that chose to teach privately and only through bloodline. Leaving their art to die with them.

    I’m sorry to be taken off track, but like I said this is a great article and I would love to repost it with your permission. Thank you for helping their legacy live.

    God speed,
    B. Black

  7. Ah. Who really is GM Tenio?

  8. DalimarkTenio Says:

    Where did he live when he’s still alive?

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