Floro Villabrille 1992 Weapons Instructor of the Year

Floro Villabrille 1992 Weapons Instructor
Black Belt Magazine 1992

Floro Villabrille was probably the guy who coined the old phrase “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

After all, who knew more about breaking bones with sticks and having his own bones broken by them than Villabrille, founder of the Villabrille system of kali?

The venerable stick-fighting master fought hundreds of full-contact weapons matches during his lifetime, many of which did not end until one fighter was left incapacitated or dead. Villabrille reportedly never lost one of these so-called “death matches,” although the beatings took a terrible toll on his body. As it turned out, there was only one opponent Villabrille could not defeat his own advancing age.   The legendary Filipino stylist died March 8, 1992, of complications caused by a minor stroke. He was 79. Like the determined fighter he was, Villabrille had earlier fought off several heart attacks and a 1975 stroke that left him paralyzed on his left side.

It is the kali great’s many victories and his many astonishing accomplishments that his followers will remember most. He was said to have superhuman strength and could not only punch nails through two-by-fours with his bare fists, but could then pull the nail out with his hands. “One time he took a rusty nail it had no point and he smashed it right into solid wood,” recalls Frank Mamalias, one of Villabrille’s former training partners. “He told the audience; ‘I have $100 for anyone who can pull that nail out.’ No one succeeded, so he held the board, took his hand, and pulled the nail out with no hesitation. It sounded like a .38 going off!”

Another time, Villabrille challenged a man to peel a coconut with his bare hands. The man tried desperately to make inroads in the leather-like covering surrounding the actual coconut shell, but to no avail.  Villabrille took the coconut and in no time had pried the outer portion apart with his bare hands.

Villabrille began his training in the Filipino arts at age 14. His favorite instructor was said to be a blind princess named Josephina, who lived in a small village on the island of Samar.  Although she could not see, she was somehow able to block his stick and blade blows during training, Villabrille claimed.

Villabrille fought one of his memorable bouts at age 18, taking on a Moro stick fighter. There were no rules, nor body armor, and the two traded vicious blows for five rounds before Villabrille finally persevered and subdued his determined opponent. For weeks afterward, Villabrille was unable to lift his arms over his head due to the blows he had absorbed while at-tempting to block the Moro’s stick strikes.   If they had been fighting with bladed weapons, Villabrille admitted he would have been killed.

In his book The Filipino Martial Arts, noted Filipino fighting arts expert Dan Inosanto includes a quote from Villabrille about how he trained for these full-contact matches: “Before a fight, I go to mountains alone. I pretend my enemy is there. I imagine being attacked, and in my imagi-nation I fight for real. I keep this up until my mind is ready for the kill. I can’t lose. When I enter the ring, nobody can beat me; I already know that man is beaten.”

Inosanto is just one of many great martial artists who was influenced by Villabrille. Others include Mamalias, Eduardo Pedoy, Snookie Sanchez, Raymond Tabosa, Ciriaco Canete, and Ben Largusa, Villabrille’s top student, who brought kali to the U.S. mainland 19 years ago.

In honor of this great man, and great martial artist, Black Belt posthumously names Floro Villabrille its 1992 Weapons Instructor of the Year.

Copyright © 1992, Blackbelt Communications, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
1992 Weapons Instructor: Floro Villabrille