The Derobio Counters

The Derobio Counters

The General and the GM lived deep in the mountains above Omoc in early 1900s. There were no restaurants or bars to go to, no TV to watch, radio to listen to, school, or any other distractions. Derobio was taught during the day and by moonlight and the GGM learned fast because there was nothing else to do but gather food and train. The Escrima Masters on Leyte had developed the style of Derobio over thousand years, and now it was time for the General to pass on the knowledge to young Braulio.

The combat style of Derobio fighting requires the fighter to attack in the battle with their bolo(s) and try to finish of the opponent quickly and go on to the next fighter. If the Derobio fighter got intertwined with his opponents, then the 144 counter locks would go into action.

The counters are so painful, that it’s hard for the opponent to even think about how they can escape from the lock

The 144 locks were created over the centuries of fighting and were past on from one Derobio Master to the next. General Ablin had personally met three other Derobio Masters that knew the 144 counters and he felt it was the foundation of the style. Each offensive strike has 12 locks, get a ways and then counter locks. Since there are 12 strikes in the Derobio’s offense – 12 times 12 creates the 144 counters. The goal of each counter is to flow naturally into getting your opponent into a lock without ever going against your opponent’s force.

Chief Carlton, applies a counter to the GGM, so he can demonstrate to the class the technique used to escape and then reapply another lock

The 144 counters are not easy to learn even though a stick is used rather than a bolo, because they are so painful. First you must memorize the 144 locks and then learn how to get out the locks and then relock your opponent. General Ablin took 8 years to learn the 144, whereas the GGM was a genius as a kid and learned them in just 8 months.

At a counters class in 1980’s, top right- Instructor Ron England, Chief Instructor Knut, The Bakitan Eddie, Chief Peter, Chief Dan Medina. Bottom left , Dan Medina’s son, Blue Shirt Maestro Lee Castillo

The GGM didn’t start showing us the counters until we made red shirt Instructor’s level. He kept telling us that he didn’t want to die with the knowledge and he wanted us to learn as fast as possible. Unfortunately we all had an extremely hard to memorizing them, since the instructor’s class were only twice a week for 2 hours a session.

During class, the GGM looked forward to demonstrating the effectiveness of the counters. Every Tuesday and Thursday nights, the GGM’s neighbors would hear loud screams followed by laughter

One night, the GGM announced he had a dream and the General told him to teach us the 12 Kindergarten Counter locks to prepare a foundation for us to learn the 144 counters. Thus we spent a couple classes on the Kindergarten locks and it did help up when we restarted the 144.

GGM especially like to do the counters on Chief Peter because he was so much bigger than him

Then in the early 1980’s, the GGM announced he want us to video the 144 so we would be able to study the locks and so we wouldn’t forget them. Master’s Carlton parents donated a video camera (the hand handle cameras were extremely large when they first came out) and we start the process of taping the 144. The timing of the hand held camera couldn’t have been better; they had just hit the market.

Dan Medina trained in the 144 counters for years with the other Chiefs. The GGM told us he saw a lot of potential for Dan in Derobio

The GGM made learning of the counters so much fun, even though they were so painful. First he would get one of the instructors in the counter lock and then the GGM would turn his head to the other instructors and ask “Should I show him the pain?” Of course we would yell out, “Show him the pain!’ the GGM would tighten up the lock and make the instructor scream out loud in pain, and we would all laugh. Next one of us would get the GGM in the same counter lock, and the GGM would then ask the class, “Do want to see how I get out of this lock and how I am going to hurt him with a counter lock?” Of course, we would insist he hurt the next instructor and we would all laugh. This is how class was run for years. Screaming out in total pain, followed by laughter, the GGM’s neighbors thought we were all totally nuts.

GGM’s locks were so painful that all you could do was scream

To help us learn the counters, the instructors started making names for each counter, but the GGM would never accept our names and only would refer to each counter by their numbers, such as 1- 6 # 5. For fun we would try and mix the GGM up by doing a counter and giving it a different number, but he always would catch us and tell us we were mistaken.

GGM shows blue shirt Lee Castillo a new counter

In the early 1990’s the GGM dropped a bomb shell on us and told us one night there were 12 variations for each of the 144, 12 times 12, times 12= 1,728 counters. He then went about showing us the 12 variation for each of the 144 counters. Out came my camera and we started taping again. At times for the next few years, we would again try to mix him up for fun, but it never worked, he had them all memorized. How he could remember each counter, how to get out of them and then counter lock his opponent was unbelievable to all the instructors.

The Batikan loved to watch the GGM beat up the Chiefs during the counter training. And everyone was in awe that the GGM had all 1, 724 counters memorized by each number

Needless to say the GGM was a genius when it came to body movement. He wanted us to explain to future generations that it was he who brought the  1,728 to the US. Today in class, we start to teach the counters to kids at around 11 or 12 years old, because kids at naturally gifted in learning and are in a way are little geniuses. We try to make it fun and we show them our notes and videos to help them learn. Now it’s our turn to say, “We don’t want to die with the knowledge.”

When the GGM gave you this face, you knew he was mad and that you were in trouble

In showing us the secrets of Derobio and its 1,728 counters, the GGM did have a request for his instructors, “Let the students know that I was the one to share the 1,728 counters of Derobio, so my Pedoy name will live forever.”

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