I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to interview Professor Barongan on a number of occassions. Not to mention the time spent with him as my primary instructor for the last 15-plus years. I am excited that the technology available to us today is making it possible to share some of Professor Bobby with you.
In this episode, Professor shares a bit about his history; Growing up and learning martial arts in a part of the world that was still feeling the affects of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, post-WWII. We jump ahead to Professor’s time in the US, the Martial Arts boon of the 1970s and 1980s, and present day.
Back in 2007, I interviewed Professor and wanted to share that interview here…
This is a response by Soke Barongan (then 9th degree) to questions asked by Sempai Bill Miksich (then a 1st grade brown belt) on July 30th, 2007. Some things have changed (with regard to UKKS specifically), but the history is still accurate.
OK, lest see, I’ll be going down the list of question:
First of all.
I was born in Manila, the capital of the Phillippines Isl. on Sept. 25, 1950, yeh yeh, I know I’m old!!!!!! I was the only child.
After graduating from High School, I came to the US when I was 17 on Sept 11, 1967.
I was introduced to the Martial Arts, when I was 13-14 yrs old by some friends at the Far Eastern University, in the Japanese Art of Shotokan Karate, then I was forced to move to a Public school in Quezon City, where I was introduced to Arnis, then to Combat Judo Under Sensei Robert Mina.
What I fully enjoyed the Arts is when I started teaching in the Military ( US Army ), where I studied Kempo. I met and trained from several Instructor but I was promoted to Shodan in 1971-72 by Sensei Rodney Ventar ( deceased ) in Neu Ulm West Germany. I came back from the service and started teaching in Des Moines, Iowa in the 70’s. I met Soshu Lee Dawson from Cedars Falls, IA. He was the State Representative of the United States Karate Asso. and he sponsored me to the Association and was promoted to 2nd Degree and 3rd Degree Black Belt by Grandmaster Robert Trias (also deceased ).
I then met the late Professor H. Laranang in the 80’s and I was charmed by his charismatic personality, he become my friend, then my older brother, my mentor, then my instructor. He gave me a name in Japanese : Kyodai, means younger brother During the last couple of years before his passing, he showed me and some selected student to love the Way of the Sword and the Kappan, the Blood Oath, making those few selected instructors, into the Society of Warriors.
As far as his lineage, I believe you can type his whole name and it will show his lineage, his instructors [on kenponet]. I remember Ron Eli, Tawak, etc. As far as the systems. I am not a Kajukenfu stylist, I have to stay and master the Chinese Kempo, my roots, then start a different system for my mastership. This is when I introduced the Filipino Arts. We’re a sister school of the Kajukenfu Budo Kai Kan. We’re not part of their system, just like they’re really not UKKS. The relationship with them is thru the late Professor’s teachings. ( Iaido )
Let see, the difference in the styles, Kajukenfu, still uses the Japanese Pinan Shodan, Tekki and the rest of the old forms with some modifications. During the last Gathering in Louisiana, Professor Pereda, Shihan Irene Laranang-Savell, and Renshi Ailina Laranang-Mallor, wanted to get rid of the old kata from their curriculum and bring back some of the forms that the late Professor developed for the Kajukenfu system. I will be informed when that’s gonna take effect. Students, Ahh, there weren’t a lot of records kept, but just imagine, I started teaching in 1973. Started in the basement of Loren Bishop, our first junior Brown Belt, then we moved to YWCA, downtown. Then opened our first dojo in E. 8th and Hull Ave. Our membership grew and we had to move to the YMCA by the river. Six months later we opened our second dojo at 14th and Grand, Downtown. We used to practice early in the morning on Saturday, then walk or jog to the movie theater to watch Kung-fu movies then run back to the school and spar like crazy. We grew some more and we had to moved to a bigger place downtown, 6th and Locust. We had the whole second floor. It was the biggest dojo so far. After two years, there was a fire on the first floor and we were forced to vacate the dojo. We ended up in West Des Moines Gymnastic Club on Elm St.
At this time, we promoted our first Black belt, Jimmy Wong, who now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, then Shihan Larry Gilchrist and Sensei Randy Cook were next to be promoted to Black, then came Kyoshi Frank Raymond, then Rick Plummer, Diane Barongan, David Palewski, Leo Haughton, Brian Burch. Some where along the line, I believe just before Shihan Larry and Sensei Randy tested, we met the Late Professor, who was a Shihan at the time and his ex wife, Irene. They were returning to Louisiana from MN, just passing by, when I invited them to stop by and see the school. They accepted and were coming in two weeks. I called Kodomo Larry and Kodomo Randy and informed them that we will be having a visit from the Professor and that they will be testing for their Shodan. You should have seen their faces. And thats how its started. Now you understand.
Anyway, Kyoshi Mullane and Shihan Patty McClintock were the other judges and after the visit, both started cross training in the art of Chinese Kempo. When Patty returned to MN, she had a meeting with Kyoshi Roger Zopfi, Shihan Tony Nobello Sr, along with Junior, then Shihan Carl De Los Reyes and the UKKS was conceived. All, cross trained in the Chinese Kempo and Professor and myself traveled to MN twice a year and started testing and promoting the Chinese Kempo.
At one time or another, all members of the UKKS started with all our curriculum, our forms empty hands and weapon were mastered by the members. They were already black belts in their particular styles but they could not go any higher than Shodan, thus the UKKS. As long as there’s two higher degree, one’s can be promoted as long as he can make a presentation in front of a Board of Regents. Roger, Mullane, Patty, Carl and Don Anthony Nobello were promoted by Professor as Anthony Berenguel.
I was promoted to 3rd Degree in 1985, when we visited the Prof in Louisiana, then 3 years later, we had our first Banquet. Professor, with seven car load and a Mini home (RV) came to Des Moines. Me and Shihan Irene were promoted to Yodan, 4th Degree. Soshu have the honor to meet the late Professor at this time. A couple years passed and Cory Albert, A 1st degree Balck belt in Taekwondo, presented to the Board and cross graded in Chinese Kempo. Richard Yabanaka, my best man was promoted to Shodan, then Anthony Berenguel came with us to visit Professor in Pasadena, Texas and tested, passed his Shodan Degree, making him the youngest Blackbelt in our history. Later that day, we made and proclaimed Shihan Laranang to Professorship. A very emotional but happy occasion. Next to be promoted were Renshi Colleen, Sensei Mitch Carey and Lonnie Huhges in MN. Rocky Collier the second youngest Grand Champion was promoted to Shodan. Sensei Sama’s Seng and Deng Lovan tested with the Chinese Martial Arts Asso. under Master Jose Mendoza and Master Anthony Bates. Candy Robinson and Brian Barongan were tested by the late Professor in our 3rd Gathering, the last one he would be attending. Master Jesse Garcia came and made a presentation to the Professor and the rest of the Board of regents and was inducted to the UKKS as our Mediator.
Harold Powell, representing the Hawaiian Kempo, along with John Sanders were tested and promoted to Black belts. Jenny Balungot and Rick Levang, Shihan Carl’s students were tested in MN under my system. Back in Des Moines, Nick Lovan, then Tina Lothi, Chad from HawaiianKempo were next in line. A group from Topeka joined and were inducted to the UKKS, which includes Shihan Paul Burges and his wife, Shannon Woodward and two other Blackbelt representing Alo Kempo, another Hawaiian form of Kempo. Then came Jamisson Maddox, Jerry Schroeder, Neil Young Jim Douglas, Shay Jackson Amy Morris then last but not lease Adam Goble and Steve Goodrich. And that is all.
Where’s every body?????????? I been asking the same question, Some still have students that still needs some guidance from us, Some have moved on to live their own lifes, Some thought, they have achieved what they willing to work hard for, the coveted BLACK BELT, Been there, done that, kinda thing. Some thought there’s no more to learn. They don’t know that this is just the beginning. Oh well, it’s their loss, not mine. My dream is to teach, to promote our traditions and I think I’ve accomplished that.
About the UKKS, Unified Kempo, thats the late Professor’s dream. To unite all the Kempo “Orphans”, that’s what he call them. Students and Instructors from all types of Martial arts, who were left behind by their system and intructors. Those dedicated Martials Artist who dont have anybody to turn to. By forming the group, now anyone can get more advance and enhance training from different Masters and instructor at not a lot of cost. Just dedication, respect and hard work, the only requirements.
The UKKS was formed by myself, Kyoshi Frank, Kyoshi Roger, Shihans Larry, Tony Sr, Carl and Anthony Don Nobello Jr. Shihan Patty McClintock and last, Hanshi Dan Mullane. From 6th Degree on up, I was recommended and proclaimed by the Board of Regents and as the next command to the late Professor Laranang.
Chinese, Okinawan, Japanese or our own Filipino Kempo, they’re all the same. Students would like to learn traditional, the simplicityand the effectiveness our system. We’re teaching you a new culture, an Art, the weaponry, how to be confidence in yourselves by knowing you can do what ever you put your mind to do. The MMA doesnt give you that. All you learn from that is how to hurt your opponent, how to beat the x/#$ out of him or her. Will you be able to sleep at night. I have fought in PKA, in tournament, competed all over the Midwest, in California, in Germany, and I was sparring one of our young Black belt, he got me good with a spinning hook kick, I was about to passed out, but didn’t. The next round, I hit with so many combination and broke his nose. He was bleeding so hard, he almost passed out. I felt so bad, after that I hang up my sparring gears and have not fought for good.
Honor, perseverance, dedication, I would like my students to also embrace patience, hard work and loyalty to what or whatever or whom ever. Remember where you came from and how you got there. who helped you get where you’re at. Is that asking too much?????????????
Well you asked for it. I might have missed a couple of students, but you know I’m getting old. My memories we’ren’t like it used to. Well I hope this will suffice you’re inquiries.
Kodomo Bill, I like you to know that I’m very proud of you and your accomplishments, Don, lost a good and dedicated student. Keep up the good work, You’re very well appreciated.
Photo Credit: Jakub Gorajek