Tucked away in the Bay Area is the hidden gem Eskabo Daan Filipino Martial Arts in San Francisco. It’s a place for the underdogs, those who want to defend themselves, and those who want to learn more about their identity. Grandmaster Robert Castro is the one to thank who founded this art form. Using techniques that defends a person with and without weapons, Grandmaster Castro opened Eskabo Daan to anyone and everyone.
Recently, we were contacted by Joseph Bautista, Filipino Martial Arts instructor and school owner, who shared how finding Eskabo Daan was his way of learning about his own identity during a time he was seeking for answers. Continue on reading our chat below as we learn more about this art form, how he discovered his own identity, and much more.
TFCU: Can you tell us a bit about how Eskabo Daan Filipino Martial Arts? How did it all begin and how did you eventually get involved?
Joseph Bautista: Eskabo Daan Filipino Martial Arts School in San Francisco teaches a weapons-based system that uses impact weapons, edged weapons, Panantukan (Filipino boxing), Dumog (Filipino wrestling) and Kino Mutai (the art of pinching and biting).
Students learn techniques, disarms, locks, and takedowns—with and without weapons. For those interested, the school also teaches the history, culture, and traditions of the Philippines, and provides insights on the Filipino-American experience.
Eskabo Daan is a system that was conceptualized over 30 years ago by Grandmaster Robert Castro. Though he grew up in San Francisco, Grandmaster Castro spent much of his time as a young man as a professional musician and performance artist in LA. When that lifestyle grew unsustainable, he moved back to San Francisco and began training Filipino Martial Arts under the Great Grandmasters Angel Cabales of Serrada Escrima and Ernesto Presas of Kombatan Arnis.
With their influence, Grandmaster Castro began blending different arts together and came up with the name Eskabo Daan. Eskabo is an acronym, which stands for different Filipino Martial Art styles, namely Escrima, Serrada, Kali, Arnis, Boxing (Filipino dirty boxing) and Jeet Kune Do. Daan means “the way.”
Grandmaster was mainly teaching the system out of his garage, until 2009 when he and I opened up a public school.
How did you learn Filipino Martial Arts (FMA)? Who taught you?
My Uncle Rey Viray showed me my first sinawali at a young age of 5. But I didn’t really begin training in FMA until 16 years later. I was introduced to Filipino Martial Arts by my step father Joseph Camins. He introduced me to Eskabo Daan. I learned Filipino Martial Arts from Grandmaster Castro in his garage, and I’ve been training for 14 years. I have also been very fortunate to be able to train with fellow FMA enthusiasts both locally and abroad, so my learning continues to this day.
How did you learn about your Filipino identity while opening this martial arts studio?
My family has been in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1919. I don’t understand the language, nor do I know all the customs or traditions. In the area I grew up in, there weren’t many Filipinos so I didn’t interact with many. I have learned to explore and appreciate my Filipino identity through the last 8 years of running Eskabo Daan—much more than I had throughout my childhood.
Because of my martial arts school, I have been exposed to Filipino cultural bearers. Due to these interactions, I’ve discovered different aspects and perspectives of Filipino history, culture, and traditions. I believe for one to know their identity, they need to know what their ancestors have done. Once they know that they then need to take that knowledge and help shape their own future.
Here is a list of subjects/resources for fellow Fil-Ams looking to learn about their history:
I have learned that all of these categories are all linked together. In many cases there is overlap. So to understand one subject matter more, you have to dive into another category. The deeper you dive the greater sense of identity you get. The more Filipino you begin to feel. You just need to find the subject matter that resonates with you the most.
What’s something most people don’t know about Filipino Martial Arts?
First and foremost, most don’t even know we have our own martial arts. Second, if anyone does know something about Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), they think it is only 2 sticks vs 2 sticks. Couldn’t be further from the truth.
With that said most people don’t know how versatile and effective yet beautiful FMA is. How many different ways can someone make Adobo or Pancit? Or, how many different dialects or islands are there in the Philippines? The short answer is A LOT. There is a reason why military and law enforcement from around the world uses FMA.
Did you know that FMA was hidden in Filipino folk dancing during Spanish occupation? Probably why FMA looks beautiful.
If we were to sign up for your classes for the first time, what’s one thing we should know before signing up?
You will learn how to use a weapon. If you have ever seen Bourne Identity, you will remember the scene when he uses a pen as a weapon. We specialize in using everyday items as a tool for self-defense. On day one you will walk away knowing how to use a pen as a tool for self-defense. Learn to fight smart not hard.
What do you hope or envision for Eskabo Daan Filipino Martial Arts?
I envision Eskabo as being a way for people to learn self-defense and gain self-confidence. For all the Fil-Ams, Filipinos and non-Filipinos, I hope that Eskabo will be a way for you to learn to find your identity. That coupled with self-defense skills and self-confidence, I hope you will end up being proud and not ashamed of your identity.
For the kids, I hope Eskabo will give them something that many of us today wished we had as kids. That is a head start in learning to identify as Filipino and being taught/mentored in developing a healthy viewpoint of being Filipino. Most of us today grew up thinking Filipinos as second class. I hope Eskabo can be used as a vehicle to get past that type of thinking.
What motivates you every day?
Every day I seek to give what learning Filipino Martial Arts has given me. A greater sense of identity and pride.
What’s a quote you live by or will always hold a special place in your heart?
My grandmother, who was a POW during World War 2, used to always tell me [that.] To me, it basically means know your past, accept it/know it, appreciate today, take that knowledge/appreciation and move forward to make tomorrow the best you can.
Thank you for taking the time to chat, Joseph.