Category Archives: Philippines

Training in Paradise

The intensity of the training continues to increase, but its very rewarding. What we normally do as conditioning and fitness training, back home after we’ve warmed up, is what Steve has us doing at 5am as our pre-stretching warm-ups. Sparring is a lot trickier too when the floor is soaked with sweat!
After Friday morning’s training we got the chance to train with professional firearms combat trainers. These guys train the police and the army in effective and rapid combat response. Davy, of course, went straight for the 45 (the highest calibre handgun) and was essentially our response team leader for our rapid-fire combat drills. The weather was fantastic and it was great fun, although the emphasis was upon responsible gun ownership and use. Incidentally, citizens are allowed to own handguns in the Philippines (within certain parameters), we haven’t come here to train as assassins.
When you work hard you get to play hard, so on Saturday we still got up around 4am and met with Steve, but we also met up with our now familiar friends from Alvin’s family and we hopped on a ferry and went to Samal Island, which is in the large bay of Mindinao just south of Davao City.
Samal Island is known as paradise island, and for a very good reason. As if the tropical conditions in Davao aren’t enough, where you are surrounded by rainforest, and coconuts and various other fruits grow in abundance, Samal Island is surrounded by white coral sands and azure sea. We had a bit of picnic and a swim in the sea before hopping onto a boat that we had chartered to take us round the smaller island adjacent to Samal. Well, you can never have too much of a good thing!
View from our picnic breakfast on Samal Island

View from our picnic breakfast on Samal Island

When we got to the smaller island we found a small cove where we could swim for a while and have some mid-morning snacks. Despite being in a secluded cove on a small island, off another island, the people on the only other boat there recognised Steve and had to get their photographs with him before he got a chance to have a splash about in the sea. It was strange to think of the guy that has been training us for the past week and half as being an actual celebrity. Of course, by the time it happened later at the waterfalls we were sort of used to it.
We continued round the island, had a swim at a coral reef (awesome) and more snacks and we finished the day almost as tired as on our normal training days, given the amount of swimming that we had done!
Barely able to stay awake, we still decided to go out for dinner. At the café, the pizza looked like a pretty good choice, but there was only a choice of a slice, or a full pizza. In order to ascertain the size of the pizza to decide whether to get a slice, or go for the whole thing, I asked the girl how big a whole pizza was. “8 slices”, came the response. When I asked again, trying to make my point by gesturing with my hands like a fisherman boasting about his catch, the girl reiterated “8 slices”. Thanks to Alvin we finally agreed on the criteria for defining size so the girl showed us a round tray about 10” across. As that seemed a manageable size of pizza we ordered one each. Little did we know that the 10” tray held a 14” plate holding a 14” pizza! Admittedly they were cut into 8 slices each!

Sunday off again, which is a relief as we have all now collected an array of bruises, lost gallons of sweat and spilled some blood.

Warm much?

Sunday was the hottest day here, so far. Sundays are also our day off. At this stage we’d only had 2 days training but we were beginning to feel the effects of training hard in the heat and humidity.
A few lengths of the pool and some light stretching preceded a stroll around the City in the midday sun, an hour into which we could vaguely remembering Alvin telling us not to go out between  12:00 and 3:00! The local people are friendly, although they do think we’re American and shout “Hey, Joe!” at us as we pass by. The children, being unfamiliar with Gi Joe, just shout “Hey, man!” and run over for a high-five!
5am Monday saw us out running through the City to get to the car park at the Victoria Plaza Shopping Mall for our drills and sparring. The Plaza is a popular place for Filipinos to exercise and there are lots of people exercising by the time the sun comes up. During our training I look over at one of the groups leisurely practicing tai-chi and wonder if I’ve picked the wrong martial art!
On Monday night we got our first Arnis/Eskrima lesson before our normal training with Steve. The lesson was fascinating and it’s a very graceful martial art, though you wouldn’t have been able to tell from watching us. This also meant that we were already warmed up for Steve’s lesson, so he was able to start beasting us right away!
We finished Monday’s training session with boxing training. I can only assume that we all make amusing expressions after being punched in the face, because the more Steve hit us, the more he laughed! Normally we wouldn’t write on the internet that we’ve been punched about the head in training, but given that Steve Grandeza does 12 rounds with Manny Pacquiao’s sparring partner on his lunch breaks, its not so bad.
It was raining when we finished our training. I’ve never been so glad to see rain. It only rains at night here, and the rain is warm, but it was still more refreshing that the stifling heat of wearing a headguard in a hot gym. It only rains at night here, which makes a perfect balance.
On Tuesday morning Steve told us that we were going to stretch out our muscles to loosen up. It sounded that it was going to be pretty relaxing. It was as relaxing as doing the splits with someone sitting on your back can be!
Tuesday evening included moulding training (conditioning the body to take blows), which wasn’t fun, although by the end of the night Davy had perfected his 540 degree tornado kick..
We’re almost halfway through our training, but we also seem to be halfway through all the varieties of food that the Philippines has to offer. Roll on our next meal…I mean… session!
Soaked with sweat, and just putting the gloves on!

Soaked with sweat, and just putting the gloves on!

A Rest Day!

Following Friday night’s training we were invited to another family function with Alvin and his family and friends. It was great to socialise and the hospitality was fantastic. I could certainly get used to this!
Well, Saturday morning’s training session has been the most draining so far. So much for the later start! We’ve all lost about 1kg in real terms, but we’re sweating out 2 – 3kg of water at each training session. Ian even lost a few grams of skin.
We donned boxing gloves for our  punching work this time, not because we use boxing gloves in martial arts, but to make our hands heavier. An additional 12oz doesn’t seem like much, but give it an hour!
We also found out that if your body doesn’t go into the shape required to do a certain kick, Steve will soon make your body go into that shape.
We travelled into the hills surrounding Davao city to visit an Eagle sanctuary and a wildlife park. The journey itself was as fascinating as the parks. Finishing the day-out with some traditional Filipino ice-cream dishes was a pleasant treat.
I also seemed to have sussed out the driving criteria for the Philippines. It seems that everyone has right of way. Whether you get to exercise your right of way is directly proportionate to the size of your vehicle. If you need to cross the lane of on coming traffic you just turn in and assume everyone will stop, and at crossroads you just drive on into the middle and hope for the best, perhaps accompanied by a toot of the horn for good measure. The journeys in the car have become more entertaining than frightening, although some times is hard to tell whether our laughter is due amusement or fear!
We get Sunday off to recover. Brilliant!
Ian Handling a Snake

Ian Handling a Snake

3 Get Knackered in the Philippines!

On Thursday afternoon we were able to get a swim to loosen up and grab an hour of sleep before our first training session. Upon arriving at the gym we got the chance to meet the highest ranking, and founding members of Moo Duk Kwan in the Philippines. It was humbling to meet at 7th Dan judo master sweeping the gym floor and polishing the mirrors.
It was nice to see that the younger members of the Moo Duk Kwan preparing the Dojang for classes in the evening. We’ll have to bring that sense of work ethic back to instil in our own young people!
After our first session it was easy to see why Steve Grandeza is an undefeated world champion. The session was pretty gruelling, but enjoyable, and we all gained a lot from it. It was pity when Alvin informed us that we were getting it easy for our first session.
Davy at the Moo Duk Kwan Gym

Davy at the Moo Duk Kwan Gym

We had the honour of being invited to a birthday party with Alvin and his family immediately after training, which was great as there was loads of food, and we were starving!
We left the party around 10pm so we could get some sleep, given that we had to get up at 3.45 for our next session at 5am. A run through the streets of Davao got us nicely warmed up for drills and sparring in a shopping centre car park in the city. It was great training as the sun rose, marred only by the fact that we had to do knuckle press-ups on the rough concrete.
4am Pre-Training Coffee (It gets light here at 5am)

4am Pre-Training Coffee (It gets light here at 5am)

A shiatsu massage in the afternoon helped loosen us up for the evening session, and before you think it was anything risqué, the massage was almost as painful as the training.
Our 3rd session really stepped things up a bit, and we all only have a few bruises so far. We were able to experience Steve’s impressive side kick. Luckily the gym had concrete walls to stop me travelling any further, after being kicked.
We’re getting it easy on Saturday morning, as our session doesn’t start until 6am. We have also found out that we are going to be getting additional training in Arnis (Filipino stick fighting) on Monday. Suddenly I feel as if I haven’t brought enough tiger  balm.

3 Go Mad in the Philippines

Our journey got off to a great start. The Belfast flight left on time. It even arrived 10 mins early. I ran on through to get a place in the queue to get the next plane, as the airline had moved it forward an hour, and Ian and Davy grabbed the bags.
When I arrived at the check -in desk the girl told me that the desk was closing at 9.30. It was 9.25! I rang Ian, they were still on the train. The girl said that she could check me on anyway (well, someone was going to have to meet Alvin).
Luckily enough the guys arrived at 9.29 and 30secs, and were allowed to fly! Ian did say that years of martial arts training gives you the skill to not waste any time, while Davy muttered something about accuracy, distance and timing. I was still waiting for my heart rate to drop!
Kuwait Airlines replaced their fleet in 1991 after the end of the invasion, and it seems they haven’t paid much attention to their planes since. After discussing which movies we would spend the flight watching it turned out that you couldn’t listen to the movies anyway due to the shoddy wiring in the ancient plane (it still had ashtrays in the seat). We did take solace in the fact the this was one airplane that was unlikely to be hijacked.
We stopped off in Kuwait airport and, after spending an hour and a half getting our money changed, and then another 30 mins trying to work out what the currency was actually worth, we went for a snack. As we were familiar with Costa coffee we went there. After getting a coffee, roll and biscuit each we discovered that we had just spent £30. Note to self: don’t go to Kuwait on holiday.
Our £30 coffee break!

Our £30 coffee break!

Upon re-embarking the plane we were split up, each of us in a different row.  At this stage we had all been awake for about 24 hours straight and were trying to catch a doze on the plane. When we arrived in Manila, Ian complained that he hadn’t managed to get a wink of sleep and blamed it on the girl sitting beside him. I’m not sure if she was just a fidgeter, or whether Ian is now a member of the mile high club.
We were allowed through customs at Manila airport despite Ian accidentally ticking the ‘munitions to declare’ box on the immigration form, and we were relieved to meet Alvin where he took over the arrangements. Not to disparage our own planning and organisational skills, but everything ran smoothly after that!
We were now in the Philippines a mere 30 hours later and no sleep. Only one day and more flight to go.
We got to the hotel in Manila, got a much needed shower and headed out to the largest shopping mall in Asia to get a bite to eat. Steak dinners for about £2 followed by ice cream helped alleviate some of the tiredness.
Driving in Manila is something that I hope I never have to do. There doesn’t really seem to be any rules to the road, the lines painted on them does not create orderly lanes of traffic and everyone just seems to drive towards wherever they need to go, beeping at everyone in the way. We spent a total of 10-15 minutes in traffic going from the hotel to the mall and back, and we witnessed a crash, which was in the process of being made worse as we passed due to one driver continuing to reverse into the car he hit (this was after he had stopped due to the initial impact).
Back to the hotel for a nightcap and bed for 10pm. At this stage we’d been on the go for about 35 hours. We were all looking forward to a good night’s sleep, which was a pity because our taxi from the hotel back to the airport was booked for 2am!
We landed in Davao at 5.45am, watching the sun rise over the beautiful island of Mindanao during the descent, and were checked in at the Apartelle by 6am. During breakfast in the Aparetelle restaurant our hire car arrived and Alvin was then able to take us round Davao city.
Where we are staying is a place used by Filipinos and whilst the Apartelle complex is quiet, we are in among the real life of the city, and not in a tourist area. So far the Philippines is as exotic and as warm as you might imagine. The ground is too warm to walk to the pool barefoot and the palm trees are laden with coconuts, but we are now stocked up on chicken, rice, fruit, veg and a protein powders, ready to start our first training session tonight at 6pm until about 8pm. Hopefully then we’ll be able to get some sleep!