Louelle Lledo teaches fighting arts based on his experience as a martial arts student and instructor in the Philippines.
Although the skills he teaches are potentially fatal if used outside the classroom, he does so for strictly nonviolent purposes.
“It’s all about education,” said Lledo, a Delran resident. “There are so many systems. You can’t do a sport unless you understand the basics. Whatever you do, you need to know them. What I am really looking at is developing teachers.”
A “punong mataw guro” (head master teacher) and sixth-degree black belt, Lledo teaches the fighting art of “amara arkanis” at Dr. Lee’s Martial Arts Academy on Scott Street in Riverside and the Traditional Wing Chun Kung Fu Academy on Church Road in Mount Laurel.
Christian Herrera works in security and said he has guarded celebrities such as “High School Musical” actress Vanessa Hudgens. Martial arts has been a part of his life since he was a child growing up in Mount Laurel and was a member of the taekwondo team at Rutgers University.
A senior student of Lledo, he has worked with him for four years.
“It’s amazing. You learn real combat art,” said Herrera, a 1990 graduate of Lenape High School in Medford. “Not many kids are in class. This is more learning self-preservation, not just kicking. It’s not based on sports but on teaching reality. There is just more teaching and understanding of the underlying principles.
“Most schools don’t know how to teach it. He stresses education. There is no one style; it’s about education, teaching the right way.”
Lledo teaches armed and unarmed skills. Depending on a student’s level, his instruction includes stick fighting; Filipino karate; the use of Chinese, Japanese and Filipino weapons; and open-hand combat.
Lledo comes from a family steeped in the martial arts in Mindanao, one of the southernmost of the Philippine islands. It became useful to him when he was sent to school in Manila, the nation’s capital.
“When you are in a big city like that, you have to be aware of where you are going,” said Lledo, who eventually earned a master’s degree in physical education. “I went there for an education, not fighting.”
Lledo went on to serve in the military. When he was in charge of the security force for the mayor of Manila, he taught its members martial arts.
“The best thing of all is that, in seven years there, I did not have to use it,” he said. “Things were more peaceful back then.”
Filipino-style martial arts developed over the centuries as the group of islands in the Pacific had multiple invaders, each with their own style. Lledo wanted to bring back the original “spirit of the warrior,” as many martial arts programs are now based on preparing for competitions.
“Amara arkanis” means the art of achieving balance in life through the fighting arts.
“I think I’m the only one who describes it that way,” Lledo said. “Filipino martial art deserves its own identity. There are so many systems out there. Some Filipino instructors don’t even know we have our own.”
Lledo will show some of his skills on Saturday, when he will be a part of the Sword Sticks International program “Knifeworks: Drills to Skills Part 2,” from 1 to 6 p.m. at the Wing Chun academy.
“I’m just trying to help out the educational process,” he said.