Kali Association History
The Texas Kali Association (TKA) is the current incarnation of a non-profit
organization founded in July 1993 by Mataas Na Guro Erwin Ballarta. The
original organization was named the Arnis Texas Association (ATA). As the number of
members in the organization grew during 1994, Guro Erwin decided to formalize
ATA by holding elections for officers among the current membership. In May 1994 a
President, Vice President and several other officers were nominated and approved
by the membership and Guro Erwin.
In 1995, the organization moved from "The Dojo" facilities in
Austin to a Gymnasium in Pflugerville. Motivated by the nice weather, we
spent a majority of our time training outside the Gym in the adjacent athletic
fields. Realizing that the outdoor training provided a more realistic
environment, we eventually moved the training classes to Pflugerville Park in
1996. This venue, with its open fields and covered pavilions allows us to
train outdoors year round.
In 1996, the active officers in the organization developed a Constitution
and By Laws document for ATA. The document consists of six Articles
with twenty two sections. Authors of the document included Erwin Ballarta
- Chief Instructor, Leslie Buck - President, Rich Reynolds - Vice President and
Jennifer Wharton - Secretary. Review and comments to the document were
provided by Rudy Salazar and Rene Rodriguez.
ATA formed relationships with various Filipino organizations during the mid
1990's. As a result of these relationships, ATA was invited to attend a
variety of social functions that promote the Filipino culture. On almost
every occasion, there was a request for the participants to do demonstrations of
our Filipino Martial Art. Over the years we have continued to respond to
requests to do demonstrations for cultural events and other Martial Arts
As the organization matured and membership leveled off, the training began to
focus on developing the senior students into the next generation of
instructors. Seminars for Instructor Development were conducted by Guro Erwin that drew
attendance from within and outside the ATA organization. As instructor
skills were developed, ATA members were invited to participate in
the training of Law Enforcement personnel. The training courses were
designed to acquaint Defense Tactics Instructors with Edged
Weapons attacks and survival.
In 1998, four members from ATA were invited to
attend a training camp in the Philippines offered by Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje, Jr. Attendance
at the camp lead to the establishment of relationships with Filipino Martial
Artists from Germany, Canada and other locations in the USA. Each year since 1998, one or more of our members have
traveled to the Philippines to train personally with Tuhon Gaje. President
Leslie Buck has participated in all of the training sessions since 1998. Leslie's
visits to the Philippines to train with Tuhon Gaje has enabled our organization
to establish a relationship with the World Kali Federation and other Pekiti
Tirsia System organizations in the USA, Canada and Germany.
Influenced by the annual visits to the Philippines, the elected officers,
with approval from Guro Erwin, decided to change the name of our organization
from Arnis Texas Association to Texas Kali Association. The name was changed in 2002 to avoid confusion between the terms Arnis and
Kali and to be consistent with the terms used by Grand Tuhon Leo T. Gaje,
The past has been good to our little family of dedicated
Filipino Martial Artists and we look forward to the future with great
anticipation. We will continue to document our history in the ATA pages as we write our future in the
rapidly expanding TKA sections of the website.
April 25, 2003
In 2002, Guro Erwin asked Arvee Garde to research and write about ATA's
history. Arvee prepared this view of our history:
No failure, only Success.
No illness, only good health.
No Death, Only Life.
This is the motto of the Arnis Texas Association (ATA). A growing group of students devoted to learning, understanding, and promoting the art of Arnis but specifically, Pekiti Tirsia Kali.
Back in 1993 in Austin, TX, a group of students studying martial arts at a place called the "Dojo" were introduced to a specific Filipino martial art
(Arnis) called Pekiti Tirsia by a master of the art, Mataas Na Guro Erwin
Who is Erwin Ballarta
"Mataas na Guro Erwin Ballarta began his training in 1974 under Fred Tolentino in Manila in a family style of
Arnis. In 1975 he met Tuhon Gaje and began training during frequent trips to New York City. Erwin fought in the first full contact Arnis tournament in the U.S. the Palarong Pilipino Pekiti-Tirsia tournament in 1977 and won First Place as the 'First Filipino American Full Contact Arnis Champion' at the Philippine Embassy, New York, N.Y. During these early years of Pekiti-Tirsia in the U.S. it was he and Tom Bisio who traded the champions' trophy back and forth each year at the Pekiti-Tirsia National Tournament. Erwin's titles also include; 1980 Grand Champion (Great Gorge, N.J.) and the 1981 U.S. Midwest Champion.
In 1982 Erwin moved to Big Spring, TX. to continue his training with Tuhon Gaje and was Tuhon McGrath's roommate for the first 6 months they were there. Soon after arriving in Texas, Erwin accepted a position as a police officer with the Big Spring Police Dept. quickly being promoted to the rank of Sergeant of the Patrol Division, then Crime Prevention and finally Criminal Investigation Divisions.
From 1987 to the present Erwin has worked as a State Trooper with the Texas Dept. of Public Safety
(DPS) in positions that have included Staff Sergeant Governor's Protective Detail, Staff Sergeant DPS Training Academy, and rising to his present position of Staff Lieutenant Defensive Tactics Coordinator at the DPS Training Academy.
Among his many certifications are Emergency Medical Technician certification and an Instructor's Certification with the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Office of Standards and Education. He is an ASP Tactical Baton Instructor and a Chemical Aerosol Projector Instructor.
He has taught at these specialized schools on the following subjects: Edged Weapon Defense. Philippine National Police, FBI Defensive Tactics Instructors Course (at Quantico, VA.) DEA Recruit School (also at Quantico), DPS SWAT Team, DPS Narcotics Agents, DPS Criminal Law Enforcement Agents, Mexico Federal Police. Improvised Survival Weaponry. DPS Narcotics Agents
(TNCP). Hand Gun Retention. DPS Recruit Schools, DPS Narcotics, Officer Survival Schools, DPS SWAT. Baton Tactics. DPS Recruit School, Midland Sheriff's Office, Sul Ross University. Women's Self Protection. DPS employees, Big Spring, TX. Midland, TX. He has also conducted numerous OC (Oleoresin Capsicum Spray) training classes as well as Survival Ground Tactics classes.
He has been recognized by the FBI Training Academy, Quantico, VA. for his efforts and contribution in the field of Defensive Tactics and developed and instructed the Arnis Baton Tactics class for the Texas DPS Troopers Officer Survival Course (implemented statewide). Before joining the State Police Erwin was the Head Instructor for Safety Baton Tactics, Permian Basin Law Enforcement Academy.
Erwin Ballarta is the President of the Austin Filipino American Association and the Executive Director for the Arnis Texas Association."
The Early Days
The initial meeting was at first just a seminar but the interest by the students urged Erwin to continue teaching the art. Guro Erwin Ballarta began to organize a nightly class and then soon after there was a second class which occurred on Saturday mornings. It was decided to form an organization that would promote the teaching of
Arnis. As a result the Arnis Texas Association was formed. Officer positions were immediately assigned. The initial group of students ranged from 10 to 15 people with a variety in martial arts background training. The school itself has also expanded beyond Austin. There is an ATA school based out of San Antonio that is headed by Guro Rudy Salazar who is also under the tutelage of Guro Erwin. In the initial stages of the class Guro Erwin Ballarta emphasized on the basics of footwork. There was very little stick training introduced. The sticks were more in the sense used as guidelines for footwork or used for some forms and mechanics training. The students did not practice much of any stick contact drills.
It was approximately 4 years later that the curriculum of the class began to change where there was more emphasis placed with weapons. Guro Erwin Ballarta became more open to practicing different forms such as single stick, double stick, knife, stick and knife, and empty hands. Being an officer and a defensive tactics trainer for law enforcement, Guro will occasionally share his experience and training techniques with the class to show the relation of the art in practical application.
The training we learn in class works in a cycle that starts with the basics of stick and footwork and then may end with some of the advance techniques that may involve multiple weapons such as double stick or knife. At this point the class will revisit the basics to begin the cycle again. For the most part the result is usually a new technique that may spawn each time we go through this cycle. So in essence it’s not always learning the same forms over and over again. It’s more of opening our minds and rediscovering new ways of applying what we already know. This is the dynamic part of how we learn
Arnis. One other part we learn is the idea of “flow” in our moves. Guro Erwin will use the example of “having a new tool to place in your belt” which relates to different techniques we have been taught. How well we use these tools can be expressed in the fluidity of techniques via technical sparring or practicing drills. There is different objective levels students’ train for. The first level is to train for application in tournaments. The second is training to become an instructor.
Through the years since the ATA was first formed there have been many people that have come and gone but there is a few devoted students that have stayed from the beginning up to this present date. When Guro was not able to teach class due to obligations that has forced him not to be available. Many of the advanced students have stepped up to help Guro teach so that there is no interruption in the lessons and Guro has recognized their dedication and knowledge. Those few people have been given promotions/certifications that has been approved by Tuhon Leo Gaje and Mataas Na Guro Erwin Ballarta to become Guro’s (instructors) and Lakan Guro’s (assistant instructors). Many other students were given tests in basic knowledge by physical application and oral examinations. Through these tests various advanced certifications were handed out.
Seminars, Demo's, and Tournaments
To help give more recognition to the art seminars sponsored by the ATA have been organized. With the large amount of information and a small amount of time, the attendees were introduced to more of the building blocks and basics of Pekiti
Tirsia. Within these seminars Guro Erwin Ballarta also lectures on the history and present day applications as well some self-defense tactics that is related to the art. He also passes on the philosophy of his teacher Tuhon Leo
Gaje. The ATA was also fortunate to take part in tournaments locally in Texas as well as in the Philippines. The tournaments in Texas are sponsored by the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) where our school and other schools from Dallas competed. This was an excellent opportunity to apply what we have learned as well as getting people aware of the ATA and the art of Pekiti
Tirsia. In 1998 some of the advanced students of the ATA had the opportunity to go to the Philippines and train with the Grand Master of Pekiti
Tirsia, Tuhon Leo Gaje as well as take part in a full contact sparring tournament. This was the first meeting of the ATA and Master
Gaje. The students of the ATA were successful in the tournament, which in turn impressed Master Gaje of their skills. Most recently (Nov., 2001) two students took part in another tournament in the Philippines where one of the students returned back as the champion. Visitations to train in the Philippines have continued by a few students since then and the students who do go have shared their knowledge with the rest of the class upon their return. To this day, Master Gaje recognizes the Arnis Texas Association as one of leading schools in the art of Pekiti Tirsia Kali and Mataas Na Guro Erwin has made it known that he is a true master of the art.