Interview With Mike Pana of Bayani Warrior Group LLC

Posted: August 4, 2014 in General, Vendor Reviews
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I recently had a chance to meet with Mike Pana before one of the Bayani Warrior classes in Addision and talk more with him about martial arts, his training program, and the relationship between martial arts and firearms training.

In addition to attending Bayani Warrior classes once or twice a month, I train privately with Mike on defensive applications of Kali in the private security business. I hope you enjoy this interview.

TGR: I suppose the first question on a typical TGR blog reader’s mind is ‘I carry a gun, so why do I need to be concerned with unarmed defense?’ What is your response?

Thanks Jim for bringing me on your blog! I’d like to first make clear that we do not teach “unarmed defenses” against weapons. We teach students how to fight with weapons, period. We instruct students in the combative use of impact weapons, edged weapons, and from there we begin to integrate unarmed methods and unarmed transitions to such weapons. While the ability to execute unarmed counters against weapons is certainly a by-product of the training we offer, we are a weapons-based school of Filipino martial arts that primarily focuses on the use of weapons for combat, not defending against them.

While guns are truly the apex of the weapons world, it’s important to note that to be truly prepared combatively, one needs to possess various skill sets in order to be as versatile and prepared as possible for whatever comes their way. We in Bayani Warrior aim to help anyone who is serious about taking charge of their safety and give them the information and skills needed to make them better and more complete warriors.

TGR: In your mind, then, what best characterizes the ‘complete warrior?’

We need to first understand what a Warrior is. Oftentimes, we equate a Warrior to someone who serves in a military or law enforcement environment. While these individuals certainly can be Warriors, we have found that Warriors can be found in all walks of life, from martial artists to single-parents, from cancer survivors and elite athletes.

In light of this, it’s important to understand that being a Warrior is more than just acquiring the combat related skillsets needed to dominate a violent encounter. It all comes down to mindset. For the last few years, I’ve been studying a system called Sayoc Kali. In our training, we are taught that being a Warrior is an individual who can face problems logically and efficiently, and a Warrior is a person who seeks to make themselves stronger, better, and more powerful every single day. A big part of this is being able to see every possibility, and this mindset manifests in one’s ability to learn and gather as much information in as many realms as possible. These realms can be medical and first-aid knowledge, firearms training, leadership development, as well as training in the use of impact and edged weapons, which Kali teaches.

TGR: What makes Kali unique from other martial arts?

The primary difference between Kali and other martial arts is that Kali, from day one, introduces the student to the idea that violent encounters involve weapons. Unlike Karate or Kung Fu, where weapons are taught years later down the line after learning weapon tactics, Kali is unique in that it starts the student with weapon tactics and then progresses to introduce them to empty hands. The result is a student who understands the combative use of weaponry and it’s importance in combat, and that empty hands in a real fight are truly a last resort. In Kali, everything revolves around a weapon, and since weapons attacks are so prevalent in the real world, it makes one better prepared to deal with the danger and reality of dealing with a weapon in a real life-or-death fight.

TGR: One thing I’ve seen early on is the fluidity and target-of-opportunity approach commonly associated with Jeet Kune Do. Are there Kali roots in JKD?

The relationship between Kali and Jeet Kune Do have always been close due to the work of the legendary Dan Inosanto, who was Bruce Lee’s top student and currently the world’s greatest authority on Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. Dan Inosanto, in addition to being a student of Bruce Lee, is also an expert in over 20 systems of Filipino martial arts, and has trained with some of the biggest names in the Filipino martial arts world. Dan Inosanto introduced the Filipino martial arts to Bruce Lee, and you can even see some evidence of Kali in Bruce Lee’s film, “Enter the Dragon”, in which he uses double sticks in one of the most famous sequences in that film. Today, due to Dan Inosanto’s expertise in both Kali and Jeet Kune Do, it’s very common for Jeet Kune Do instructors to also possess teaching qualifications in Kali, and oftentimes, both systems are taught side by side in the same school. A great example of a school right here in the Great State of Texas that offers amazing training in both Jeet Kune Do and Filipino Kali is Warriors Way Martial Arts Academy in Wichita Falls, Texas lead by Guro Harley Elmore. He is one of my teachers who is an instructor under Guro Dan Inosanto, and also is a Full Instructor in the Sayoc Kali system under Pamana Tuhon Christopher Sayoc. His school is a great example of how the Filipino arts and the Jeet Kune Do system are trained side-by-side.

TGR: Footwork seems to be another big focus in the art and I believe that since most self-defense encounters are fluid in nature, footwork is a big part of survival, regardless of how you are armed. What are your thoughts?

In our approach to Kali, Footwork is everything. One of the other systems I study, which is called Atienza Kali, really emphasizes footwork particularly in the beginning due to it’s focus on dealing with multiple attackers. My teacher, Tuhon Carl Atienza of Atienza Kali, made sure to teach me how to fight on icy concrete, steep mountainsides, you name it. In short, footwork dictates how we fight. The techniques we use may change or adjust depending on the surface we are fighting on, which impacts our footwork. For instance, the footwork I am using on a flat hardwood gym room floor will be different than the footwork I use on a steep flight of stairs covered in ice in New York City. Why? Because the terrain and environment will change my footwork and balance, and as such, my techniques need to adjust to the footwork I am using. In our training in Bayani Warrior, every technique we do is dependent on the Footwork we are on. If you go to my YouTube Channel, you will find a video entitled “Understanding Filipino Kali: It’s All In the Footwork”, which really delves into this subject properly.

TGR: What do you think about Krav Maga?

I feel that Krav Maga, at it’s core, is a good system. However, in my experience, it is difficult to find an authentic Krav Maga school and teacher that teaches the art in the combat-effective way it’s designed to be. Many of the Krav Maga schools here in the USA are more along the fitness and conditioning line, which I still think is great. However, it’s important to note that Krav Maga is simply one component of the overall training of the Israeli military forces, and that it takes a good teacher to really bring out the best in the system.

TGR: How does it compare to Kali?

It’s honestly mixing apples and oranges. Kali is more on the weapons-combatives end while Krav Maga is more on the unarmed defenses against attacks, both against weapons and without. I have seen some Krav Maga stick and knife work, but it isn’t the same as Kali. However, the common denominator between both arts is that they are both born from the battlefield, and both arts are still in high use today among many of the world’s military and law enforcement agencies.

TGR: Tell us about the Bayani Warrior program.

The Bayani Warrior program mission is to develop the student physically, mentally, and spiritually through realistic Filipino Kali training. We specialize in the combative use of Single Stick, Stick and Dagger, Knife, and Empty Hand training, and we also cover methods for CHL holders. Our training is done in a positive, challenging, dynamic, and supportive environment. In Bayani Warrior, we all seek to make each other better, not just in developing our fighting skill, but also to help us become better citizens and leaders in our own lives both in class and out of class. The word “Bayani” is a Filipino word for “hero”, and we aim to be heroes in our daily lives. There are a lot of Kali groups out there that focus mainly on just the fighting skills with the stick and the blade. We seek to do the same thing, but we also aim to teach our students how to apply that courage, strength, and perseverance in training to their daily lives.

TGR: How do you think Bayani Warrior would help a typical CHL holder?

Bayani Warrior is an excellent program for CHL holders because it teaches the student how to seek the advantage of weapons from day one. Weapons can be sticks and blades, but firearms as well. Training in Bayani Warrior gives the CHL holder a better understanding of the totality of a violent encounter, and also gives them more options as to what they can use to deal with violence. The truth is, not all violent situations are one size fits all. Some may require lethal force, others may require a less than lethal option. In Bayani Warrior, we aim to give the CHL holder more options that they can use to keep themselves and their families safe.

TGR: Can you start Bayani Warrior at any level of experience?

Absolutely. We attract elite martial artists with black belts in other systems, but we have also had students with very little to no experience. Bayani Warrior is truly something anyone can do regardless of age or fitness level due to it’s fluidity and focus on efficiency as opposed to relying simply on strength and fitness.

TGR: What are some of the weapons that can be legally carried where firearms are not allowed that you study with in the Bayani Warrior program?

As I said before, we are all about options in Bayani Warrior. I grew up in New Jersey, which for firearm lovers, is not the best state to be in. As a result, we train with various weapons that can be used where a firearm is not allowed. For instance, carrying a knife can be done in most places in the country legally where a firearm cannot be carried. Techniques with a blade can also translate to pens, screwdrivers, and other everyday items where even a blade isn’t allowed. We are very big on training short baton techniques, which in the Philippines are known as Batuta. Our Batuta curriculum can be applied to a small pipe or hammer. Right now, we are focusing on the use of the Bat Light, a flashlight that doubles as a 15 inch short baton. We currently train with it regularly at our classes and we also sell the Bat Light at our online store.

TGR: What are some of the issues that gun owners probably don’t think about when dealing with a potential edged-weapon attacker?

A: When it comes to learning about edged weapons, many gun owners like to refer to the old adage, “Never bring a knife to a gunfight.” Gun owners tend to think they can simply draw a gun and shoot a knife wielding attacker in their tracks. However, anyone who has attended one of my Edged Weapons Survival Education classes will tell you that blade attacks, particularly at close range, are extremely difficult for the standard CHL holder or law enforcement officer to deal with. In contact range, where most altercations take place, a person who is armed with a blade can, and often does, dominate a person with a firearm.

TGR: What would you say to someone who is a gun owner and is considering taking up classes with you?

Imagine for moment that I could arm you with a weapon that never ran out of ammunition, one that you could take practically anywhere in the world. You would never have to worry about an ammo shortage or a gun ban.

Well, this “weapon” I speak of is the training we offer in Bayani Warrior. We offer gun owners a wider range of options in terms of their use of force. We offer them a greater range of skills with various weapons that they can use in the event they are not allowed to legally carry a firearm. Our methods are effective, and we welcome anyone to come in to give our training a try.

TGR: Tell us when and where you train?

We train every week at Trophy Fitness Club in Addison, Texas located at 5080 Addison Circle Addison, Texas. Our classes currently run every Tuesday and Thursday night from 8:15 PM to 9:15 PM. You can contact me at to learn more.

TGR: Thanks again for your time, Mike.  I can personally vouch that the Bayani Warrior program will have a positive, transformational impact on your life from the very first class.  I hope you choose to join us.


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