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Manteca engineer is martial arts devotee
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Fifteen years ago, Michael Cardenas knew nothing about a martial arts discipline called eskrima.

Today, the electrical engineer who works at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is the instructor in Manteca who teaches this type of martial arts that originated in the Philippines.

While eskrima has picked up a growing number of faithful followers through the years, it still sounds alien to a lot of people, Cardenas said. So much so that when they hear the word eskrima, he said their common reaction is usually, “’What’s that?’ Unless they’re Filipino.”

Cardenas describes eskrima as “a well-rounded martial arts (and) a weapon system” that involves, among other things, empty hands and grappling.

“What I like about it is, it’s a system that’s based on concepts. In some traditional systems, they teach you a technique but you really don’t understand why you do that technique. With eskrima, it’s more of a free-flowing system; it’s a reactionary art,” explained Cardenas.

“It definitely requires discipline and takes years of practice,” he added.

Born in Stockton, Cardenas attended San Joaquin Delta College and later received his bachelor’s degree from ITT in Sacramento. He received another bachelor’s degree in business from Charter Oak State College in Connecticut, and then earned a master’s degree in instructional technology from Ashford University.

Martial arts, he said, “is kind of my passion outside of my normal work.”

 Long before he became a disciple of eskrima, he did a lot kung fu.

 “But I never knew the Philippines had their own martial arts system,” said Cardenas who now lives in Manteca with wife Lisa, a former preschool teacher and currently a stay-at-home mom, and their four-year-old daughter, Sienna.

That all changed when a friend with whom he worked out introduced him to an eskrima instructor in Stockton.

“After that first class, I was hooked,” Cardenas said.

Eskrima, he learned soon after he discovered this martial arts discipline, is an old Philippine martial arts style – if not the oldest. He also found out that there are “various styles of eskrima depending on what region of the Philippine Islands you came from, and that’s why you have different styles,” Cardenas said.

“It’s primarily a bladed-weapon art, but we also use sticks and staff and empty hands,” he said.

These different styles of eskrima will be highlighted during the Martial Arts Cultural Exchange Saturday, July 23, which will be held at 17978 Ideal Parkway, off East Highway 99, in Manteca. Among the featured guests will be grand masters and renowned Filipino martial arts instructors such as Grand Masters Arthur Gonzalez, Ver Villasin and Darren Tibon; Maestro Dexter Labanog, Master Ron Saturno, and Guros Dane Abrigana and Mateo Masellones.

Cardenas also will be there along with Kenpo Karate instructor Larry Acaya. Cardenas, who is the DeCuerdas Eskrima instructor in Manteca, and Acaya are part of the VEA Martial Arts Academy operating under the umbrella of the Victorious Elite Allstars in Manteca which offers cheerleadidng instruction and coaching. VEA is owned and operated by Amy Acaya.

Cardenas noted that three Filipino men from Stockton are credited for introducing eskrima in the Western United States: Angel Cabales, Leo Giron, and Gilbert Tenio.  But it was Cabales who was “the primary martial artist responsible for bringing the eskrima to the Western United States,” Cardenas said.

“I never got to meet him in person,” he said of Cabales. In fact, all three men have already passed away when he started learning eskrima.

But their memories and their contributions will live on. “This is paying homage to these instructors,” he said of the martial arts seminar on Saturday. It will be held at Ideal Parkway in an industrial park off East Highway 120. Going toward Oakdale past Highway 99, Ideal Parkway is the street on the left when you reach the first fruit stand on East Highway 120.

Martial artists and those attending martial arts schools in the area are invited to attend the hands-on workshop. Pre-registrations will begin at 8:30 a.m. followed by the seminar from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with breaks in between.

Registration cost before the event is $35 per person; $50 at the door. Included in the fee will be a barbecue lunch.

Those who want to just “come in and watch” are also welcome for a fee of $10 per person.

For additional details about Cardenas and his eskrima class, visit To register for Saturday’s martial arts seminar or for more information, contact Daniel Siazon at (916) 475-6488.