Tuhon Jack Latorre:
I received my introduction to the Filipino martial arts around age four (circa 1974) at weddings, birthday parties, and other Filipino gatherings growing up. The teachings were not done as formal classes by formal teachers; rather, it was done by anyone who had something to show to whomever was invited to see. It was not unusual to have a cousin or uncle or some other relative pull someone off to the side and say something like, “Let me show you this move” or ” Throw a punch at me, I’ll show you how I beat it”. A few techniques were shown to me by my granduncle, “Lolo” Leoncio Romano, a former U.S. Navy cook, doing what I would find out later to be eskrima. According to my father, Lolo was an eskrimador and a bouncer in pubs back in Philippines back around World War II. He was in charge of tossing out unruly U.S. sailors using a cane or gloves loaded with ball bearings. Training with Lolo pretty much consisted of him striking slowly at me with a downsized pool cue until I figured a way to evade the strike and deliver a counterstrike. Unfortunately, I did not think much of the whole eskrima thing at the time and naturally focused more on toys and such. Lolo passed away in 1978, leaving the Latorre family feeling much emptier and halting my training. In latter years, two cousins stayed on different occasions with the Latorres Douglas (Dojie) Seludo, and his brother, Jessie (Chuchi) Seludo. Neither of them was an eskrimador per se, but they knew enough to perk my interest in the matter.
Throughout my childhood and adolescent years, I wanted to pursue Karate, because of some of the movies I had seen. My parents did not want me to join, I thought, because they did not want me to be encouraged to fight. It would be much later in life that I found out that my father, Amado Latorre, was a guerilla during World War II as a teen. He served by running communications for Colonel Fertig on the island of Samar. Of the things he experienced during those years, one of the more heinous acts he witnessed was the beheading of some of the townspeople of Villareal by the Japanese soldiers. As a result, my father harbors some resentment for the Japanese to this day. It is precisely his experiences then that guided his decision to prevent me from studying Karate in my youth.
As an adult, I continued my studies in art and education, but seeing a book by Guro Dan Inosanto rekindled my interests in my cultural heritage. Honestly, at the time, I didn’t even know we (Filipinos) had any formal martial art. I purchased it, flipped through it, was impressed, and realized that I had seen some of this stuff before at those family events, birthday parties and weddings. It came as such a late “renaissance” for me, all I wanted to do is know more about my culture and its martial traditions. It changed my life. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much in the realm of Filipino martial arts around where I was living, so I ended up studying Wing Chun Kung Fu with Sifu Steve Lee Swift. It was a very positive experience for me, but I still wanted to learn the Filipino arts.
While studying Wing Chun, I discovered that Guro Inosanto was teaching a seminar not very far away. I registered, participated, and thus came the next major turning point for me: inspired by Guro Inosanto, I tried to train in whatever Filipino art I could get access to. During this time, I trained and received instructorship in Corral Arnis under Guro Perry Gamsby and Guro Geoff Rudd of Sydney, Austrailia (1994). While there, I was exposed to Doce Pares by Guro Vince Palumbo. When I came back stateside, I continued doing a little Doce Pares with Grandmaster Ciricao (Cacoy) Canete, Grandmaster Dionisio (Diony) Canete, and Guro Arnulfo (Dong) Cuesta. Of course, Guro Inosanto’s seminars were ones of priority. I tried some Muay Thai, some Shooto; it was eye opening.
It wasn’t until 1995 that I got my first taste of Pekiti-Tirsia. Kuya Doug Marcaida invited me to a seminar given by his instructor, Guro Omar Hakim. Most fortunately I was invited to join Kuya Doug at the first Pekiti-Tirsia International training camp at Tuhon William McGrath’s home. Since then, Pekiti-Tirsia has been my “home” art. I have endeavored to study Pekiti-Tirsia with Tuhon McGrath whenever possible. The system has provided more answers than I have had questions; it has transformed the way I look at martial arts and how I approach things outside of the martial art realm. The highlight of my martial arts training has been my promotion to Mataas Na Guro (Master Instructor) in May of 2003…and to the rank of Tuhon in November of 2017. Although I will continue to research other systems, it will be primarily to establish technical relations to my Pekiti-Tirsia, much like Conrado Tortal and his brothers bringing the techniques of other systems to the “think tank” for analysis. Training through the years with peers such as Mataas Na Guro Wes Tasker, Mataas Na Guro Zach Whitson, Mataas Na Guro Jerry McCleary, Tuhon Scott Faulk and Guro Isa Jack Bernard have made my experiences invaluable. My own students good-naturedly point out what I’m doing wrong, reinforce what I might be doing right, and help me reflect on where I am going with all of this. I plan on keeping the system alive for future generations, and making it a sort of “family heirloom” to any descendant willing and disciplined to learn it.
In addition, I continued to learn more about filipino culture and history (in particular, World War II) from my late father, Amado Latorre, a decorated Merchant Marine and World War II veteran. Throughout my life, I can honestly describe my father as a “man of no words”, as he didn’t talk much…but in his final years has shared different stories about his experiences that make me particularly proud to be a Filipino-American, as well as his son.
I continue to teach Pekiti-Tirsia privately, as well as publicly at Millman’s Martial Arts Academy in Scottsville, New York, operated by Master George Millman…and at Williams Martial Arts Academy in Spencerport, New York, operated by Sensei Frank Williams and Sensei Pam Miller. I teach seminars wherever I am welcome. I also occasionally teach self-defense classes at the School of the Arts in Rochester, New York where I teach drawing and painting.
I can be reached through Tuhon McGrath or by e-mailing: