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KBS System of Filipino Martial Arts

The Hunted and Sayoc Kali
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If you are a fan of the martial arts in general and/or a fan of martial arts movies in particular, and you haven't yet seen "The Hunted", you are missing something special!

The movie is about an FBI "deep woods tracker", played by Tommy Lee Jones, who captures an assassin, played by Benicio Del Toro. The assassin had been tracking and killing deer hunters just for fun in the forests of the Northwest. Later, the assassin escapes and Tommy Lee Jones must track him down again before the assassin comes looking for him.

The fight scenes, particularly the scenes with the weapons, are special because they show the Filipino martial arts at their finest. Two senior instructors from the Sayoc Kali-Silak System, Tuhon Tom Kier and Tuhon Rafael Kayanan, were responsible for training the actors, stunt people and crew in Sayoc Kali for the film. In one scene, according to Rafael, "a fight starts as empty hand vs. empty hand, then escalates to stick vs. empty hand, stick vs. knife, stake (short, pointed stick) vs. knife, then moves to close-quarter striking and then to grappling. It also includes some Filipino martial arts (FMA) style of tapping and percussion disarms. The scene is brutal and very intense. You can say that "The Hunted" contains the longest FMA-style knife vs. knife scene in movie history! "

The weapons scenes are so exciting and so well done because of the work of the two Sayoc Kali instructors. Tuhon Tom Kier has been involved with Sayoc Kali for over 14 years, but also brings a wide range of other experience to the movie. He is a senior instructor in Kun Lun Pai silat under Willem de Thouars, is co-founder of American Combat Grappling, is the Director of Sayoc Tactical and co-founder of the Defensive Systems Institute. He has had hundreds of real-life encounters from his time as a bouncer and in paid pit fights. As Tom states, "There is a brutal reality learned there that people working on certain films want to tap into." In addition to all the above experience, he has instructed members of military special operations groups, such as Navy SEALS, and civilian law enforcement officers (LEO) groups, including tactical response members and defensive tactics instructors. Recently, he was brought in as a consultant for the U.S. Naval Academy's Defensive Tactics program, and he has been involved with the Federal Air Marshals as an advisor on program development since 9-11. He is also a world-class marksman in 1000-yard shooting competitions. His value to the film did not begin and end just with the blade sequences, as one can see. Just because Sayoc Kali is known as a blade system doesn't mean that its practitioners shy away from firearms!

Rafael Kayanan has been with the Sayoc Family System of Kali since about 1983. He began his training with Tuhon Baltazar "Bo" Sayoc, and then got heavily involved with the blade-only methodology taught by Tuhon Christopher Sayoc after Tuhon Bo retired from active teaching. He was born in Manila and his family has a background not only in the martial arts, but also with the military, including Special Forces training. Many of his family were guerillas during World War II against Japan. Even his family name- Kayanan- is related to the Kayans of Borneo, a tribe of headhunters, and distantly to the ManKayans of the Igorot headhunters in the Philippines. You might say some of his skill is "in the blood!" Rafael was also involved with the movie on another level. He has more than twenty years experience illustrating comic books, including Conan, Batman, and Spiderman. Because of this artistic experience, he drew the fight storyboards for the film. "It took my combined experience in the visual storytelling medium of comics," he said, "to somehow translate some of the subtleties of Sayoc Kali into the film".

These two instructors, and through them, the Sayoc Kali-Silak System, got involved with the movie project through a circuitous route, but once the people at the top saw them in action, they were hooked. Tom Kier had been working with Mr. Tom Brown, Jr., teaching some of his instructors for about a year, off and on. One day, Mr. Brown mentioned that he was involved with a movie and that he needed some blade work for the film. Tom Kier went to his school in New Jersey, taking along Gordon Katz (an associate instructor in Sayoc Kali) to assist him. When they arrived, they found Benicio Del Toro there researching Mr. Brown's tracking and survival skills. They had planned to give about a 2-hour demonstration of Sayoc Kali, but they ended up working for 2 full days! Mr. Del Toro was so impressed with the material that he told them he wanted more training on the set for the movie. Tom Kier explains, "Well, I didn't really know how serious he was until I had a script FedExed to my front door two days later. About a month after that, I got a call from Paramount Pictures that they wanted me out to the set, and they sent me a plane ticket to Portland, Oregon, where they were filming." Originally, the plan was for Tom to be on the set for a week, training the actors during rehearsal time. He was introduced to the director, William Friedkin, the producer James Jacks, and the main actors, Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro, who he had already met. He began training the actors and they liked the training so much that Paramount decided to bring out Rafael Kayanan as well. The one-week became two weeks, and then Director Friedkin asked them what a real knife fight might look like. They did an impromptu knife duel on the spot and that, as they say, was that. They remained on the project until the end, over a year later. They were put in charge of fight choreography and did technical advising on anything blade-related. The two were also responsible for training the stunt people and the other actors.

Training actors making a film is different from normal martial arts training. Working with actors is unique, because they don't actually have to know what they are doing. They only have to look like they know what they are doing. In-depth training is not necessary. It only has to look good and be entertaining! Sometimes, this means that what is done on a film starts to differ from the correct way something should be done, which causes problems for the people training the actors. Rafael Kayanan acknowledged this, "I found out that although a film is based on entertainment, there are lots of serious people and high-level professionals working in that field. On a film like "The Hunted", you not only have A-list stars, but extremely talented crews as well. The knife fights had to be done so that we preserved the intensity and danger of a knife duel scenario... We had to make sure the moves which are normally tight and up-close, or which use subtle movements, were opened up so they could be seen by the untrained eye. At the same time, we didn't want to romanticize or blur the lines between real-life and film work." Tom Kier agreed, "What is needed is how the scene comes across on the screen, and that it is entertaining. This may go away from the way it really should be done in real life. This is the line we were always trying to walk!"

The two instructors agreed that training these particular actors was not difficult. Both felt that Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio Del Toro were real professionals who listened to their teachers and who really tried to understand the methodology. They were even able to point out when a move might be too tight or too fast for the camera. According to Tom, "They trained hard 2-4 hours a day, while still doing everything else they needed to do for the movie. They were also active in structuring the fights so that the action helped tell the story they wanted to get across as an actor, not just as fights for fighting's sake. What was the relationship between the characters at that point in the story? How could this bit of action help the story? I think the actors liked having this control, since it seemed as if it was not something that happened regularly in action movies."

Initially, training was with rubber training knives, but the actors were quickly moved up to the aluminum training blades. The weight of the aluminum is necessary to maintain the feel of a real blade. Respect for the blade is important, too, so working with aluminum training blades keeps everyone serious. For the actual filming, they went back to the rubber blades, but by that time, the feel was there.

In addition to the main actors in the film, the stunt people and other actors needed training as well. Most of the stunt people were already martial artists, so they only had to become familiar with the Sayoc Kali methodology and philosophy. Veteran stuntman Hiro Koda (a Shihan in Yoshukai Karate) was working on the film, and he is well versed in Japanese blade methods. He had done films such as "Blade" (1 and 2), "Daredevil", and the sai scenes from "The Mummy", so he was able to give some good tips on working things out for the cameras.

The movie was filmed in some very rugged country in the Northwestern U.S., with the shoot taking place in the middle of winter in Oregon and Washington. It was exciting and even dangerous for some scenes. One group of scenes was filmed on a rocky cliff and slippery rocks right next to a raging waterfall. It took more than ten minutes just to climb from the base camp to where the action was taking place, crossing wooden bridges and scaffolding set along the cliff. One slip and it was all over! By this time, of course, the training was over, but it was still necessary to observe the action and make sure the intensity level remained high. As technical consultants, it was also their job to make sure the film's higher ups were kept aware of the actors' safety. During the actual filming, they checked collapsible knives to be sure they didn't jam in the cold. They made sure that the knives used for close ups and inserts were the real thing, while the knives used for the action scenes were the rubber ones. They also worked on making sure that cuts to the face area were simulated so no actual danger was present to the actors' eyes.

Another location for the film was on a set built to look like Kosovo in the former Yugoslavia. The blade work here was not dueling, but rather more military applications, such as sentry removal. Eventually, this set was the scene of huge explosions and pyrotechnics. It was so intense that many citizens contacted the Portland authorities. They were worried that some sort of real catastrophe was taking place! In another flashback scene, Rafael Kayanan got a chance to play a small part in the movie and be killed by Benicio Del Toro. They had a funny moment while the cameras were rolling because when Mr. Del Toro thrust the knife to the heart, the rubber blade bent so obviously in front of the camera that it couldn't be used.

Besides the obvious skills of the two instructors who carried out the training, what is it about Sayoc Kali-Silak that made it a good choice for the film? What makes it applicable, not just for street situations, but for military and LEO applications? According to Rafael, "Half of the full instructors in Sayoc Kali are police officers, and Tuhon Bo Sayoc retired as a correctional officer. The System always tries to work within the parameters of real-life responses and reflexes." There are differences between training civilians in martial arts and training LEO's and military personnel. When it comes to training the latter two, they generally have limited time to learn the material, so simplifying the material is important. Training also varies between civilian and military applications, due to the restrictions each faces. LEO's don't need pro-active knife work such as sentry removal techniques, for example, while military personnel don't have to worry so much about legalities and "necessary force" requirements.

Tom Kier adds, "In Sayoc Kali, we want the most lethal and effective killing techniques, and that is what we teach. In other systems, techniques are called "self-defense" against a knife-wielding attacker. We don't do that directly. We attack the attacker, separate the separable parts and bleed him out as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. We believe that "defense" is a victim's word, and we try not to use it if possible. The military appreciates that thoroughness of application. In the movie, we shot training scenes with real military personnel as extras. They came to us after the filming and wanted to know how they could get this type of training for themselves. There are a great many techniques shown in the movie, including wet and dry sentry removal, percussion disarms, projectiles and so much more."

The methodology of Sayoc Kali-Silak is different from that of most other martial systems. The System is taught in three parts. The first part is Sayoc Kali. This is termed "feeder-dominant". It focuses on offensive movements, with all the practice being done by the feeder. Footwork, methods of limb immobilization and limb destructions are included in this part. The second part is called Sayoc Silak, and it is termed "receiver-dominant". This section works on the development of empty hand skills, footwork, and body mechanics necessary to trap, lock, position and disarm the feeder or aggressors blades. The third part is called Sayoc Bakal. It focuses on projectiles, and is the key to closing the fighting gap. This part exists so that one may defeat or injure an opponent before you need to get close to him. Ideally, the methods of Sayoc Bakal would allow one to defeat an opponent before a need for close engagement ensues. These three systems together complete the Sayoc System of Edged Weapons Dynamics.

Rafael believes that "Tuhon Sayoc has developed and evolved the knife methodology to such a high degree that any high-level martial artist who knows the knife automatically sees the depth of material in the system. The decades of real-life experience that Tuhon Sayoc has accumulated is reflected in the complexity and depth of Sayoc Kali. Also, the real-world applicability insures that Sayoc Kali is in a constant state of growth- it isn't an art stuck in the past, but is rather an art for the future. Assisting Tuhon Sayoc the past few years has given us the opportunity to meet many "names" in the business, entertainment and government fields. Everyone has their private reasons why they want to train in this material, so we treated this project ("The Hunted") like any other, and we made sure to be respectful of the art, because we were also representing the Filipino martial arts in general. If "The Hunted" is well received, then everyone benefits because of the spotlight. We want to emphasize that we did not go into the film as some Cinderella story, but rather as professionals who felt that we had something to offer."

Since the word has gotten around about the success Sayoc Kali had on "The Hunted", a lot of interest has been generated in the film community. In fact, even before they were finished with "The Hunted", Tom and Rafael were working on George Clooney's "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind". They trained Sam Rockwell for eight weeks for his role in that film. The actors on the two films have since been very helpful in getting the word out. There have been many offers coming in from studios, scripts have been sent by dozens of directors, and there are several projects in the works at this time. This is good news for martial arts movie fans, and we can look forward to a lot more excitement because of the film world's exposure to Sayoc Kali!

Contact us at:  KBS@kbs-system.com