Grandmaster Rene Latosa
In the beginning
Rene Latosa's initial exposure to the Filipino martial arts came through his ethnic and cultural environment. As a young child, Rene first witnessed martial arts during celebrations (after the crop season was over), cultural events, and hanging around the Filipino Community Center in Stockton, CA. At this community center he would watch the "Old Timers" amuse themselves by hitting their walking sticks together as if they were sword fighters and applying locks to each other.
As a teenager, many of Rene's friends were studying Judo. He asked his father if he could take Judo or Karate lessons. His father offered to teach his young son "jitsu." He didn't believe his father knew anything about martial arts, so he did not pursue that avenue. His mother recommended taking selfdefense classes taught by a long time family friend, Angel Cabales, at the Stockton Escrima Academy.
Stockton Escrima Academy
His first visit to the Stockton Escrima Academy was in 1968. Rene was greeted by Angel, holding a cigarette in one hand and a rattan stick in the other. Angel, having known Rene since he was small, told him to grab a stick and Angel proceeded to demonstrated a quick technique. From this point forward, Rene was hooked and he continued to study and eventually taught at the Academy for over five years.
At the Stockton Escrima Academy in 1968, "formal training" did not exist. The method of teaching employed at the academy was strictly on a teacher to student basis. Rene remembers the ambiance at the academy was very casual, Angel was just "Angel." For all the students at the academy, the title "Grandmaster" was inherently Angels, and his alone. To Rene's advantage, during his first five months of training, he was the only one of three students who showed up for lessons.
Rene's initial training, with a ratio of four instructors to one student- Angel Cabales, Max Sarmiento, Leo Giron, and Dentoy Revilarprovided plenty of diversity in styles. These four individuals played a definite role in shaping the basic format of the Escrima Concepts system; however, his greatest influence was his father.
Pioneering the Philipine Martial Arts
Rene Latosa left Stockton in 1973 for duty in the U.S. Air Force. When he left Stockton, he brought along his culture, his heritage and his martial arts. His first station of duty was Virginia. Rene taught the special "Swat Team" of the local law enforcement agencies. This was the first time that local police on the East Coast used the Filipino martial arts in their training. It was here that Rene tested some of the theories used in developing Escrima Concepts. With actual situations confronting the SWAT teams or Riot squads, they had to know and believe in what they did because it could cost them their lives. He developed techniques coupled with very strong power and attitude concepts. Being 6 foot and 200 plus pounds, his style had to be adaptable to the various sizes and strengths of different students.
England and Europe
While stationed in Europe, Rene was busy executing pioneering efforts, developing a reputation by visiting local martial arts schools and exposing the Filipino martial arts throughout the European community. As word began to spread through the community, a local martial arts magazine contacted Rene for an interview. This interview led to other magazine coverage as well as invitations to conduct seminars at different schools. He started a weekly training course at a local jujitsu school. It was there that he met students Bill Newman and Brian Jones.
The initial exposure to the European market was difficult and challenging for Rene. The Filipino martial art was virtually unknown. Skepticism from veteran martial artists was running high which was understandable. Picture a group of big, strong 20+year veteran martial artists standing around and listening to a young 21-year-old "martial arts expert" talk about a Filipino martial art no one had ever heard of or have ever seen! As you can well imagine, Rene had to back up, prove and demonstrate everything he stated. Not only was the reputation of the Filipino martial arts at stake, but also his culture and pride. Fortunately, Rene made his point and developed respect and a following.
Through the invitation of Keith Kernspecht, a noted Wing Tsun instructor and head of the EWTO, Rene with the help of his student Bill exposed the Filipino martial art to Germany. However, it was with Keith's help and his organization that allowed Escrima to grow. It was there that the exposure of the Filipino martial arts started to gain momentum. The following year (1977), EWTO published an Escrima book.
Rene and Bill became regulars on the EWTO seminar circuit throughout Europe. Rene, as his tour of military duty ended, returned to sunny California and Bill Newman was responsible for the continued growth of the Filipino martial arts throughout Europe. As Rene was building up a significant following dedicated to the concepts of Combat-Escrima, under the Philippine Martial Arts Society in the United States, Bill was doing the same in Europe. Rene travelled at least once a year to quality control the teachings of his system.
He served in the U.S. Air Force for five years and has a B.S. degree from the University of San Francisco. He has taught martial arts to special police tactical units on the East Coast, West Coast, special combat units within the Air Force, the California Highway Patrol, U.S. Probation Department, sheriff departments, various security firms/bodyguards and various police and Special police Units in Europe. He has designed several self-defense courses for women and children. He has several series of videos out on the market, published several books on the subject, and has been the main theme for several major martial arts magazines as well as television stories both in the U.S. and in foreign countries. He currently teaches Escrima seminars exclusively for the EBMAS in Europe and in the US. He also teaches special police tactical courses through another business. He acts as a consultant to several kick-boxing and martial arts schools in Northern California.
He is married to his wife Coleen, and has three daughters Bianca, Rachel and Jessica