TUHON APOLO LADRA
By Mark Brady
Apolo Ladra, a native of the Philippines and Master (“Tuhon”) of the indigenous art of Pekiti Tirsia Kali, holds to the mantra “Learn to teach, teach to learn.” What have more than 40 years of training taught him? Here are some distillations.
Tuhon Apolo Ladra was born in Batangas, Philippines, and came to the United States at age five. He holds an ATA 6th-degree black belt, 7th-degree WTF black belt, and the rank of Master at the Ernie Reyes’s West Coast Tae Kwon Do Association. A student of Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje, Jr., heir and guardian to the Pekiti Tirsia style of Kali, Ladra’s Kali-4-Kids, KaliCombat, and KaliFitness curricula are used by tens of thousands of students worldwide.
How far back do you trace your martial arts heritage?
I was born in a place where conflict was inevitable. Batangas, Philippines, is where the balisong, the butterfly knife, was born. My father was chief of police in Batangas. To see him suited up in pressed, crisp khakis and cap, standing up straight, it set him apart from virtually everyone. I held him in the highest respect. And even when I was very young, I knew he had dangerous responsibilities. I had a sense, it’s hard to define it, of what he risked while out on the streets.
When he moved our family to Baltimore, I found myself in a different world, culturally. Safer, perhaps, but far more antagonistic. I loved basketball, but no one would hand me a basketball or invite me to play. I wanted to hang out, make friends, but it was a very hostile environment, a bully-rich environment, and I was literally shoved aside.