Testimonial 2 by Ernie Emerson of the Emerson Knife Company, Torrance, CA
I first met Richard Bustillo as a fledgling student at the Filipino KALI Academy in Torrance, Califironia in the 1970’s. I had moved from Northern Wisconsin just to train at what was at the time the only full contact fighting school in the world. This was a fighter’s school and needless to say I was more than a little intimidated at our first encounter. After all, here I was in a school filled with some of Bruce Lee’s original equipment in front of someone who had trained with Bruce. Richard quickly broke the ice and I came to realize that it was his “aloha spirit” that made him such a personable and effective teacher.
I remember Richard telling us what equipment to buy and what not to buy. What not to buy was when he said “Don’t go out and buy a lot of fancy boxing gear. When we start to go to full contact sparring half of you will be gone. Don’t waste your money.”I can remember looking around at all the other students looking at all the other students. “Not Me”, was the same thought in everyones mind. Six weeks later when we started sparring the class dropped by half. Then I remember Richard saying, “In a year there will only be 2-3 of you left. And in 2 years only 1 of you will be here. I was that “one” from my class.
I owe my entire career to my time at the Filipino KALI Academy with Richard and Dan. I was a starving student at the time and there were some months when I could not afford the $12.50 monthly dues. Luckily they let me clean the bathrooms in exchange for my dues. Well needless to say when we started training with knives, I was introduced to the Bali Song Knife. I was immediately fascinated with the knife and all of the maneuvers and manipulations so skillfully taught by Richard and Dan. Unfortunately I could not afford to buy one so I decided to make my own. With a hacksaw, hand drill, file and blowtorch, I made the first “Emerson” Knife. It wascrude by anyone’s standards but it worked and I found that there were other “poor” students at the academy. They in turn ask me to make butterfly knives for them. “You pay for materials, I’ll make you a knife” was all I asked. The rest they say is history.
On a side note. I’ve been conducting training seminars over the last 20 years in edged weapon and counter edged weapons skills. I recently returned from London England where I was instructing. At the end of the first day we covered unarmed defense against the armed attack. I teach a technique, more of a reaction technique than not, that I call a pyramid jam upward and a pyramid jam downward, depending on where the attack is coming form. It is simply a Vee formed by your arms thrust above your head or a Vee thrust below and in front of your mid-section. The morning of the second day of the seminar one of the students came to me with this story. “My partner Kevin (who was in the class the first day) wanted me to tell you that he went on duty as a firefighter 2 hours after class and was called to a fire in a flat. We needed to break into the adjacent flat since no one seemed home. Kevin broke down the door and entered the residence. A guy came running at him with a butcher knife in his hand. He stabbed down and Kevin shot his hands up in a Vee and crashed into the assailant knocking him down. His partners tackled the guy and disarmed him. He wanted me to tell you Ernie, that this stuff really works!” I returned from London and guess who was the first person I called? Richard Bustillo. Guess what I told him? “Richard, This Stuff Really Works!” Richard had personally shown me this exact technique about a year ago and I believe that the London Firefighter is alive today because Richard Bustillo had shown and taught me this simple, direct and effective technique.
The Filipino KALI academy and Sifu Richard Bustillo are to this day a major influence in my daily activities, the way I live and the way I teach. These influences have become the soil into which I grew my roots and I am so thankful for the chance to have been under the “wing” of the Iron Dragon for the time that I was, and still am.