Grandmaster Federico T. Lazo
About GM Fred Lazo

Grand Master Federico T. Lazo is a living treasure, and a peerless expert in the highly esteemed martial arts of the Philippine archipelago. Rarely does an individual progress to the levels of martial arts mastery that GM Lazo has ascended to. Even more rarely do they openly share what they have learned with others. A quiet and humble man by nature, Grandmaster Lazo has always been one to avoid public attention during his 55-year plus span of intense study, practice and application of these bona-fide warrior arts.

Although Grandmaster Lazo was actively involved with the creation and promotion of what is today known as Modern Arnis, for decades he has chosen to live in seclusion, preferring to teach just a handful of students. When Grandmaster Lazo is not engaged in the further refinement of his own signature art or training his core disciples, he passes his time by making authentic battle-ready weapons and refurbishing antique Filipino blades.

Grandmaster Lazo is and always was a man with a deep passion for every aspect of his art, from little known historical details to subtle differences in the application of techniques and everything in between. It is that enduring passion for the arts that he loves so dearly that has led this grandmaster to break out of seclusion and share his unique personal art, this crowning jewel, with the new generation of practitioners. This is his way of displaying his gratitude to all of the enthusiastic lovers of these arts and the passion and dedication that they have invested into their practice of the combat legacy of his homeland.

Young Fred Lazo

GM Lazo was born March 4th, 1938 in the barrio of  Ananaao, Tayum, Abra, Philippines. He was the son of proud parents Paulino Millare Lazo and Rosalia Tamo along with two brothers and a sister. The beginning of Grandmaster Lazo’s life was destined to be filled with tragedy. After suffering the loss of his two brothers in WWII, young Federico would also endure the devastating loss of his mother at the tender age of seven. Federico’s grieving father, confronted by the absolute impossibility of laboring in the fields all day and raising his family by himself, was forced to make the difficult decision of moving his children to Manila to be raised by their aunt.

Life in Manila provided a wealth of new experiences and opportunities for young Federico. He remained in Manila to adulthood and received the bulk of his academic education there. He majored in accounting while enrolled in the University of the East, located in Manila, and earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Afterward he landed a job working as an accountant for the S.V.D. or "Societas Verbos Divinos" (Society of the Divine Word).  

Throughout this entire period, Paulino, always the dedicated father would regularly visit his children after making the long trek from his hometown of Ananaao, Tayum, Abra. When the work in the fields was slow, Paulino would stay for months while working at his sister’s candle factory. These times spent together by this father and son duo would form the basis of what would later become martial arts history.

1948 Lessons begin

Mateo EstillosoMr. Luis CruzPaulino LazoGM Lazo was nine years old when he first approached his father and asked him to teach him Arnis. Paulino flatly refused. He knew full well the dangers that accompanied the life of the Arnisador and he was certainly aware of his son’s fiery temper. In Fred’s fathers eyes this was a recipe for disaster. Out of respect for his father’s decision he did not ask again, but he continued to hope his father would someday change his mind. As fate would have it, at the age of twelve Federico narrowly escaped a vicious beating, or perhaps worse, by a group of local teen-age thugs. His father realized instinctively that his son was spared that time but the next time might have been a different story. Paulino simply could not bear the thought of losing another son. So, after much initial hesitation, he was compelled to begin teaching his son the art of Arnis at long last. Thus began Grand Master Lazo's journey through the world of the Arnisador. Along his ascent he would experience many training sessions accompanied by sore muscles, bruised hands, splits lips and the heart felt satisfaction of knowing that he was finally on the path to mastery.

Grand Master Lazo's early training as an Arnisador was filled by many colorful experiences and fascinating characters, many of who were expert martial artists. Their common love and appreciation for their arts led so many of these experts and even masters to share their knowledge with the hungry young student whose intense devotion to training was plain for all to see. Beginning with his father he learned the Ilocano art of stick fighting called “Kabaroan,” which is also known by its older classical name of “Didya”.  Kabaroan or Didya is noted for it long-range techniques and devastating striking power. His next teacher was actually the legendary Felicisimo Dizon. Master Dizon was feared for his close range Serrada style, and rightly so.  GM Lazo trained with him as a youth, when Master Dizon would come to the house in order to treat an illness that his aunt was experiencing. Years later the training with Master Dizon would resume, and during this period it was considerably more intense due to Grand Master Lazo’s more advanced skills that had been accumulated over time. They trained together right up until Master Dizon’s death. Afterward Grand Master Lazo became better acquainted with Master Dizon’s son, Boy Dizon, who was an accomplished Arnisador in his own right. These two enjoyed a lengthy relationship as friends and sparring partners.

Another of his teachers would be Mr. Luis Cruz from which he learned Single stick and Tabak at Balaraw or Espada y Daga using the Sinawali movement as foundation of the art. Mr Luis Cruz was with the Tabak Ni Bonifacio group, organized by Grandmaster Placido Yambao. Grandmaster Yambao was one time an All-Philippines champion and the teacher of the teacher of Mr. Cruz. Grandmaster Yambao’s superior sword and dagger techniques are documented in the rare book he wrote titled "Mga Karunungan Sa Larong Arnis" (Classic Arnis), as well as the book (with the help of Mr. Buenaventura Mirafuente) entitled, “Karunungan Sa Larong Arnis (Knowledge in the Art of Arnis)” which documents his Sinawali techniques. Other great Arnisadors would follow in turn. They would include Mateo Estilloso, a man of venerable age who was highly proficient in “Tabak at Balaraw” also known as “Espada y Daga” (sword and dagger). He taught his art at Grandmaster Ernesto Presas’s training camp, which was known throughout the entire archipelago.

Grandmaster Lazo credits Nicolas Ignacio as being his single biggest influence. He was a career soldier by trade who served on military assignments spanning the far corners of the entire country. His skill as an Arnisador was legendary. Master Ignacio’s reputation preceded him wherever he went, both as a teacher and as a duelist. It was well known that he had crossed sticks with some of the best martial artists of his homeland and he lived to talk about it. He taught many styles of Arnis including the following: Visayas, Pangasinan, Ilocano, and Tagalog. From this teacher Grandmaster Lazo learned many thing including “Palis” (Stroking) and “Lastiko”. GM Lazo remained his loyal student until his departure for the United States in 1975.

There were many others, too numerous to list. Some of these individuals only served as sparring partners that preferred to keep their secrets to themselves and use Grandmaster Frederico as a test of their skills while others exchanged information and techniques evenly with him. What ever the circumstances were, Grandmaster Lazo was always looking for opportunities to train, learn, and share and most of all, to test his skills.

1960's - Rebirth of Filipino Martial Arts
Ernesto Presas,  Fred Lazo and others circa1964 Remy sparring Ernesto in Japan circa 1964

In the past Arnis was seen as a violent and brutal art and that perception was not entirely unfounded. Attitudes and practices varied widely from Master to Master. As a result some teachers, if not most, conducted dangerous training that was often accompanied by severe injuries. Becoming an Arnisador was a high-risk proposition in those days.  Not surprisingly, most individuals were not inclined to train this way. Unfortunately this situation was leading to the decline of Arnis in its own homeland. Native Filipinos were turning to foreign martial arts like Karate and Kung Fu as alternatives to the brutality and danger of their own indigenous arts.
The future of Arnis was bleak. The art was in danger of gradually fading away. While there were many legitimate instances of extreme and even unnecessary violence in the world of Arnis, there were also a lot of misconceptions about the art in general. Clearing those misconceptions up and modifying the training methods would have to be the first step in the preservation of Arnis.  It became his personal mission to preserve the legacy of these arts. Grandmaster Lazo will be the first one to point out that he was not alone in this mission.

One day, in the mid 1960’s, Grandmaster Lazo met the Presas brothers while they were giving a demonstration. The meeting sparked a friendship that led to a great deal of training, sharing of knowledge and their mutual vision for the future of Arnis. They frequently did public demonstrations together. This group of men was absolutely dedicated to the same vision of stemming this tide of foreign martial arts while preserving their own homelands’ cultural heritage for posterity. The foreign arts were not necessarily viewed as “bad”, but they were not Filipino. They were not the arts of their ancestors. They were not the arts that flowed through their veins.
So this small group of men who shared a common vision for the reemergence of Arnis set about the formidable task of making the arts more inviting to the public while carefully retaining their essential spirit and potency. This was an unprecedented task and it would require the combined resources of all of those involved. It was taxing. There was a great deal of trial and error. The men argued passionately into the late hours of the night over what sometimes appeared to be unimportant details. But to these men, there was no such thing as an unimportant detail when it came to Arnis. Logistical modifications related to sparring and drilling were finally implemented in what would become later known as the birth of Modern Arnis.

Co-founded Modern Arnis

Modern Arnis - Articles of IncorporationModern Arnis Stamped Approval DocumentsModern Arnis ReceiptsIn the beginning Modern Arnis was just used as a term by just a few people who were involved or had witnessed a demonstration. It was originally just a convenient way to refer to this vast collection of arts. In time, after over a decade of development and promotion it was time to make Modern Arnis an official organization with legal status. (Click documents to enlarge)

Grandmaster Remy Presas asked Grandmaster Lazo to help make Modern Arnis official. So without delay Grandmaster Lazo began to formulate the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws for the “Modern Arnis Federation of the Philippines” of Grandmaster Remy Presas. Grandmaster Lazo even went so far as to pay the registration fee with his own money. At this time Grandmaster Lazo also registered the “Modern Arnis Association of the Philippines” of Grandmaster Ernesto Press. Grandmaster Laze served as the Executive Secretary for both organizations and continued to participate in demonstrations throughout Philippines thus helping to popularize the art up until his departure in 1975.

The official birthday for Modern Arnis was Sept. 29, 1970. When Grandmaster Remy left for the United States in 1972 with the name Modern Arnis, it was Grandmaster Lazo and Grandmaster Ernesto Press who continued to promote Modern Arnis in the Philippines. It was the contributions of these 3 men that led to the formation and popularization of a martial art that was destined to become the national sport of the Philippines and the most popular and widely practiced Filipino martial art in the world.

Co-founded Kombatan

Handwritten Modern Arnis Articles of IncorpartionMisc. Philippine Martial Art DocumentsKendo AssociationGrandmaster Lazo and Grandmaster Ernesto Presas continued to exchange arts and promote Modern Arnis in the Philippines. Together they worked to evolve their Modern Arnis to even higher levels of sophistication than before. This development laid the foundation for what would become known as Kombatan.
(Click documents to enlarge)

When Grandmaster Remy Presas left for the United States, GM Ernesto later changed his Modern Arnis Association of the Philippines to International Philippine Martial Arts Federation this is when GM Ernesto renamed his Modern Arnis to Kombatan (to avoid confusion with the Modern Arnis of his brother Grandmaster Remy). Grandmaster Lazo and Grandmaster Ernesto were the closest of friends (compadres) and Grandmaster Lazo would become the godfather of his son Henrich Presas.  Grandmaster Lazo was also instrumental in setting up Grandmaster Ernesto’s Philippine Kendo Association and his Arjuken Karate Association as well as several other Filipino Martial Arts Associations

1975 Departed for the US - Luzviminda is born

In 1975 Grand Master Lazo immigrated to the United States and chose to make his home in Tampa, Florida. Upon his arrival he began to set about the work of perfecting his personal combat system. The arrival of his two children, Ricky and Christine, meant that there would now be at least two successors who would receive his personal system, refined over years of research and experimentation.

Grand Master Lazo trained in almost complete seclusion during this period. He kept his Luzviminda combat system a closely guarded secret, mainly intending only to pass it on to his two children.  Very few individuals had the opportunity to train in the Luzviminda combat system during this time. Grandmaster Lazo was persuaded to make only a handful of seminar appearances and only consented to personally instruct an absolute minimum number of people.

Grandmaster Lazo’s Luzviminda Arnis Kali combat system is composed of Arnis styles spanning the entire Philippine Archipelago. The three main islands are named Luzon, Visiyas and Mindanao and in honor of these islands Grand Master Lazo named his art, Luzviminda Arnis Kali. Never one to brag, even Grand Master Lazo is forced to admit that there is something truly special about his art, especially in regards to the strides that the Luzviminda system had made in Sinawali. This particular brand of Sinawali is so unusual that the likes of it have never been seen before. According to Grand master Lazo its evolution represents, “A feat even the masters of old did not attempt.”

2007 Luzviminda Arnis Kali Brotherhood

A common theme among true masters of the martial arts is a growing desire to see their arts preserved for future generations. Grand Master Lazo is no exception. After having distilled his art of Luzviminda Arnis Kali for over fifty-five years the Grandmaster now feels that the time has come to offer this uniquely refined art to the public. The year 2007 marks the historic year of the debut of the Luzviminda Arnis Kali Brotherhood in accord with Grand Master Lazo’s desire to share his legacy with the world.

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Luzviminda Arnis Kali Brotherhood