Stick-fighting world champion Photo by Lee Woolcock
Australian, 33, osteopath and stick-fighting world champion.
It was a 12-year dream to live in Europe. I came because a good friend of mine invited me to practise osteopathy in her wellness studio. Barcelona has a different pace of life to the rush, rush, rush, 9 to 5 culture I’m used to. It feels very nurturing to an over-achiever like me.
Eskrima is an ancient martial art, and in combat, it is very fast and very aggressive. When I first saw people stick-fighting, I thought, “There’s no way I’ll ever be able to do that,” but when I actually tried it, I found it uses left and right brain coordination, which for me was both challenging and interesting.
The sport has some Spanish connections—its name is derived from the Spanish word for fencing [esgrima] and, according to the history books, the Filipinos used it to slay a famous conquistador in the 1500s before the island became a Spanish colony.
Grand Master Cacoy is the founder of the modern method. He’s about to turn 90, yet he still teaches internationally. I met him at a seminar in 2004 and have been going to the Philippines nearly every year since to train with him. He’s an incredible man and really special to me. Every time I fight, it’s in honour of him.
I represented Spain for the first time at the World Championships this year, and I was the only one on the team! I’m teaching it here now though, so hopefully next time I’ll be able to take some people with me.
I’ve been doing different styles of martial arts for 19 years, and I guess stick-fighting was just a natural progression. As a kid, I was really inspired by martial arts films—I loved the choreography. Even now, in the middle of a fight, I still feel like a little kid playing. I’m just having a good time.
Eskrima is a way of life. It’s not like playing basketball at the weekend. For me, it’s been a vehicle for spiritual growth and I intend to keep growing.
Before a tournament, my regimen is very strict. I cut out alcohol and junk food, sleep a lot more and train for around 13 hours a week.
I eat kangaroo meat as my main source of protein. I was delighted when I arrived to find that the guy living in the flat downstairs from me was a distributor! My friends in Australia couldn’t believe it.
Energy-wise, there are definite parallels between osteopathy and eskrima. In both the martial arts and healing arts, I see myself as a conduit; the energy simply travels through me. It is an honour for me to be able to share in these gifts and empower other people, whether it is helping to heal their bodies or teaching them something practical.