Sayoc Kali

Kali. The word evokes vivid images of native Filipino warriors moving about quickly and lightly, strongly brandishing hardwood sticks or swinging long swords at their terrified opponents. Arnis, Kali and Escrima are 3 commonly used terms to generally describe the fighting arts of the Philippines. These days these arts are known as a “stick-fighting arts,” using the stick as a training substitute for real, live sharpened swords and knives.

For most students training in the Filipino martial arts their curriculums generally begin with an introduction to stick work, followed by blade work and then on to empty-hand training. Most of the Filipino systems taught in the US today, introduce their knife work as following similar patterns of direction, angle and application similar to their stick patterns of movement. The drills typically involve blade manipulations, checking, slashing, thrusting, use of pommel strikes, and disarms and are typically taught as a defensive skill, targeting the incoming limbs of their opponents, prior to application of the blade into a finishing or “bargain” position.

Sayoc Kali is a unique system of edged weapons dynamics. It is a family system of Filipino martial art, the blade aspects which are primarily propagated by Tuhon Christopher Castañeda Sayoc, Sr. Sayoc Kali dates back over five generations. As a matter of fact, the entire Sayoc Clan has devoted a lifetime into training in the martial arts. Brothers Michael Sayoc, Butch Sayoc and the late Tony Sayoc have all studied the Filipino Martial Arts, each specializing respectively, in empty hands/whip, stick work and espada y daga. Tuhon’s sisters are also heavily involved in martial arts, Deanne and her husband Barry Tierney operated a school, and Barry is currently involved in SWAT Tactical training, while Cindy, Leilani and her husband Jon Paggioli are also active instructors in the Sayoc fighting systems.

Tuhon Sayoc received training from one of his uncles, who is a well known expert in the field of security, as well as from his father…Grand Master Baltazar “Bo” Sayoc, Sr. Tuhon is a term which the Sayoc clan uses to define the lineage possessor of Sayoc Kali and has since been adopted by other systems.

Before arnis and other Filipino arts were popular in this country, the Sayoc home and school were privileged to have many famous Filipino masters stop by to visit. This exposure to other great martial artists has helped Tuhon Chris Sayoc refine his system of Sayoc Kali.

The system is unique in the depth and breadth of skill taught in the application of knife skills. Sayoc Kali knife training clearly surpasses the “de-fang the snake” philosophies typically espoused by the vast majority of Filipino martial artists. Many Filipino knife-training systems will teach the students to cut or slice the incoming limb of an opponent as a means of defeating an attack. Sayoc Kali takes their training to a higher escalation of response. As an example, the first drill taught within the Sayoc Kali system is the 9-count drill. This cutting and flow pattern is unlike other systems which attempt to translate their angles of stick attack to blade work. Consider the targeting methods of most arnis, escrima or kali systems…the targets are usually focused upon the eyes or temple, the elbows or ribs, the solar plexus, the knees and the chest. There is a statement often used when teaching Filipino martial arts, which goes, “stick seeks bone, steel seeks flesh…,” clearly, knife work aimed at the temple, elbows and ribs and knees may have limited application, when compared to Sayoc Kali’s first series of targets which are taught to be: the carotid arteries, the lower abdomen, the throat, the perineum, the armpits, the femoral arteries, and then a power-assisted two-handed cut across the throat.

Tuhon Sayoc calls these targeting systems “Vital Templates.” In addition to teaching these templates, Tuhon goes on to teaching the combative applications of empty hands and edged weapons, using these templates. What is even more unique to Sayoc Kali, is that there are many templates, more than just one standard template within its system of teaching…with each particular template focusing on achieving a particular goal, using a specific type of edged weapon! Tuhon Sayoc likes to remind us that there are thousands of different bladed weapons, not including projectile weaponry.

While most Filipino knife fighting systems will typically introduce 3-4 knife grips, Tuhon Sayoc introduces 12 different knife grips and actually will disseminate the necessary information to appropriately use these different gripping methods. This is another example of how Sayoc Kali differs from the common techniques and methodologies currently being presented in the martial arts world.

While presenting the 9 count drill, and teaching the empty hand counters to the drill, Tuhon Sayoc begins to present the concepts of reflex response vs. conditioned response. This is done to teach the receiver of the drill, the ways in which one response is ineffective to a given angle of attack, and how to adjust to apply the conditioned response…after the students have gained proficiency and advanced to a skilled level, Tuhon Sayoc then presents what he terms the Sayoc Correct Response methodology. The reflexive response is a term that describes the “typical” or untrained counter or block directed towards a given knife attack. This reflexive response as an example, might be a Karate-style down block or a parry which would leave an individual susceptible to the fast-moving and quick-changing angles of flow of a knife attack. The conditioned response is the appropriately taught counter to a given knife attack which minimizes the likelihood of getting cut or stabbed by an opponent. Without proper training, an individual is left depending on skills better geared towards an empty-hand attack without considerations of an edge weapon being involved. The Sayoc Correct Response methodology describes the end-result of proper training. It is the development of a 3-dimensional method of thinking and response following extensive training in 2-man drills, studying and participating as the feeder of the drill, the receiver of the drill and then as an observer…attempting to learn and develop skills and knowledge of possible counters and methods of development for essential survival skills when dealing with the blade.

A steady method of progression during the applications of the knife drills is what truly sets Sayoc Kali apart from the rest. Initially, drills are presented to teach a pattern, then this is progressed to a flow in response and reaction. From the flow, the students of Sayoc Kali are led into isolation of the various techniques and counters available to be garnered from the drills. And then even further, the drills are taught in such a way that each drill can be progressed to an ever higher level, as other aspects of the Sayoc Kali methodologies are revealed. These methodologies are then utilized in the flow of the drill to develop a greater variety of attributes and technology. An example of another unique training method is how Tuhon Sayoc incorporates leg stepping and trapping while in the performance of these drills which predominantly focus on the skills of the hands. There are at least 5 types of footwork used to destroy the stability and positioning of one’s opponent or partner in training.

All of the drills taught in Sayoc Kali contain common elements. These elements include footwork, proper positioning of the hands and blade, and are designed to create an awareness of distance, energy commitment, timing, and entries. These elements are necessary to increase the likelihood of success in an encounter with an edged weapon. Another unique training method which Tuhon Sayoc applies to the drills are an introduction to a “buddy system” in knife-fighting vs. multiple attackers. Clearly, Tuhon Sayoc is intent upon presenting drills which teach a variety of applicable skills, and which takes into account a variety of situations and possible scenarios.

Tuhon Sayoc has recently begun releasing a series of transitional flow drills to the public. Flow drills are prearranged sequences of 2-man drills designed to develop attacking and counterattacking skills in an edged weapon encounter. They include a template of knife attack to specific vital areas (including different angles and approaches to entry), the correct conditioned responses to these attacks, and various isolated techniques of attack and defense. It is a flow drill, since it can be done smoothly and efficiently as a mutual opportunity of exchange, while at advanced levels the practitioners of Sayoc Kali seeks out the hidden, isolated movements to be derived from the flow pattern. These transitional flow drills are unique in their organization and in the volume of potential counters developed while working the drills. They are very sophisticated, incorporating conditioned responses, extensive use of the live hand to grab, check, become involved with joint attacks, limb immobilization’s, elbow strikes and grappling. The drills involve extensive training in order that the “feeder” of the drill develop his/her skills, and also so that the “receiver” can also develop his/her skills in countering the skills of the other. Without a trained instructor in Sayoc Kali, it is difficult if not impossible to truly grasp the full flavor these transitional flow drills. Again, like all the other drills presented by Tuhon Sayoc, these drills are also enhanced and progressed as the skills of the practitioners develop. Amazingly there are 10 drills which Tuhon Sayoc feels comfortable in currently releasing, and a few others which Tuhon Sayoc is in the process of considering releasing to the public.

Only recently has Tuhon Sayoc begun to show to the public the aspects of this art known as Sayoc-Silak (Knife trapping and locking). These skills are incorporated into the transitional flow drills to enhance the skills and arsenal of counters available to the practitioners of Sayoc Kali. In time, martial artists may be fortunate to have Tuhon Sayoc present another unique aspect of his art, known as Sayoc-Bakal (the art of Projectile weaponry).

Sayoc Silak consists of methods to trap, lock and disarm the blade from an opponent. These methods include redirection of the incoming knife attack, percussion strikes using various parts of the body, repositioning of the opponent’s knife hand and wrist to effect a release or weakening of the structure containing the blade and these methods do not focus on any one specific part or direction of the opponent’s given knife attack. To make the training of Silak functional and useful, the methods are incorporated into the transitional flow drill…doing the drills statically have limited value, by practicing these skills against a moving opponent in real time is to develop a true, useful method of countering one’s attack.

Sayoc Bakal defines the projectile weapons methodology of the Sayoc Clan. It is a profound system which incorporates 12 different release grips, blade manipulations and flipping of the weapons, and the majority of the throwing techniques actually involve the use of the non-dominant hand! In Sayoc Bakal, knives may be thrown from just about any position, either in the drawing position, or in the entry position. Intensive study teaches the student how to power the throws, or use the opposite hand to assist in the delivery of the blade to opponents. By studying and examining the body mechanics and movements of an opponent, targets are predicted and struck from different patterns of flow and movement.

The martial arts world is truly fortunate to have this art being presented openly. Tuhon Christopher Castañeda Sayoc, Sr., is a strong, powerful personality leading the way in exposing valuable and real world skills to the public. His development as a martial artist began as a young child, experimenting with knives and projectile weaponry. At an early age Tuhon Sayoc was training and engaging in live weapon drills with some of the world’s leading Filipino experts in knives and edged weapons. Tuhon Sayoc has had his knife skills tested in many real confrontations. And for many years, Tuhon Sayoc worked as an international security operative. Today, Tuhon Sayoc lives a calmer life, and is assisted in his teaching by his two able sons, Christopher Jr., and Jimmie Sayoc.

Tuhon Sayoc’s main operations are based in New York, and recently he has been presenting a series of public seminars and classes in the New York area. He is available for seminars, classes and private instruction. Tuhon Sayoc offers a variety of seminars presenting many of the aspects of Sayoc Kali noted above. In addition he is currently teaching a progressive series of seminars directed at a thorough introduction to his family system. It is not uncommon to see experienced and recognized martial artists with decades of experience in his classes. People have been known to drive across several states to participate regularly in his sessions. It is high testimony to the man, when well-known and influential martial artists go out of their way to pay respects to Tuhon Sayoc. Sayoc Kali is truly a dynamic method of skills and strategies. It is a complete system of combat methodologies with many avenues of growth and development. In the future, Tuhon Sayoc intends to release more aspects of Sayoc Kali and knife fighting techniques. There is no doubt that Sayoc Kali really is…The Art of the Blade!



Sayoc Kali is a knife-based style of Filipino Martial Arts. It is a family system, headed by Christopher Sayoc, Sr.. The motto of the style is, "All Blade, All the Time".

Sayoc Kali is taught as part of the more general Sayoc Fighting System, which includes sword, stick, tomahawk, karambit and whip. Sayoc Kali emphasizes the use of the blade. It includes techniques for single knife, multiple knives, projectiles, and secondary support to firearms. Empty hand training is under the Sayoc Silak curriculum.

Sayoc Kali presents itself as an evolving system. The Sayoc family hosted a number of Filipino Martial Arts masters who travelled to the east coast of the United States during the 1970s and learned Filipino Martial Arts from them. Initially the Sayoc family only knew and taught Tae Kwon Do at their school. Interaction and learning from these Filipino Martial Arts masters gave the Sayoc family the idea of creating Sayoc Kali.

Guro Dan Inosanto calls Sayoc Kali, "A highly evolved Filipino Martial Art".

Sayoc Tactical Group is Sayoc Kali's military and law enforcement division.

Sayoc Combat Choreography represents Sayoc Kali's entertainment and film division. SCC has choreographed fight scenes for films such as The Hunted and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

Sayoc Kali is headed by Christopher Sayoc, Sr. His father, retired corrections officer and former head of the Sayoc system Baltazar "Bo" Sayoc, retired from full time martial arts teaching in the late 90's. Tatang Bo Sayoc died on January 2007. Master Level Sayoc instructors with over twenty years experience respectively are Roberto Torres, Felix Cortes, Raymond Dionaldo, Rafael Kayanan, Ricardo Kayanan and Thomas Kier.