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A Tribute to:

Grandmaster Narrie Babao of Babao Arnis

Grandmaster Narrie Babao of Babao Arnis is a martial arts legend. In the martial arts community, Narrie Babao was known as the Father of the Filipino Martial Arts in San Diego, California. He was the only certified Doce Pares Eskrido Eskrima Grandmaster, and Kali Guro' in the County of San Diego. The certificates were awarded to him by Doce Pares Supreme Grandmaster Cacoy Canete and the late Kali Grandmaster Ben Largusa.

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Video: The late Grandmaster Narrie Babao of Babao Arnis and his students demo their martial arts at the 27th Philippine Cultural Arts Festival on August 07, 2011 at Balboa Park in San Diego, CA.
Grandmaster Narrie Babao
Narrie Babao at the age of 18 reluctantly started his Arnis de Mano training under his father, the late Turing Babao. The style he learned was the Baston Batangas system, which his father learned from Master Ka Juan, a Katipunan rebel under General Miguel Malvar, during the Filipino-American war. At that time, Narrie's primary interest was bodybuilding and weightlifting. He was selected as the 1964 Jr. Mr. Philippines, during a contest sponsored by PWABBA (Philippine Weightlifting and Bodybuilding Association).


For two years, the father and son trained hard in Arnis after which Narrie enrolled in Shotokan karate. His initial instructor was Romeo Plantado, however it was Master Jimmy Galez of Manila, who awarded Narrie his first black belt.
By 1968, Narrie joined the United States Navy. Whenever his ship was in Subic Bay, Narrie would spend time at the school of the Philippine Kuntaw Association which was owned by Grandmaster Carlito Lanada. Over time, Narrie was awarded a fourth degree black belt in Kuntao.


It was in 1975 when Narrie met Dan Inosanto and the two would exchange their knowledge of the Filipino martial arts. Dan Inosanto introduced Narrie to Kali Master Ben Largusa, who accepted him as a disciple. In November of 1976, Narrie Babao and Dan Inosanto formally introduced the arts of Arnis and Eskrima to the people of San Diego, California.


In July 1978, Narrie became the first Weapons Sparring champion, during a tournament sponsored by Ben Singleton in Vista, California. It was the first of its kind in American martial arts competition where the fighters would select the weapon of their choice. Narrie defeated other instructors, who used esoteric weapons like the nunchakus, bo, and shinai. It was also that year, when Narrie Babao was promoted as Kali Guro' by Grandmaster Floro Villabrille and Grandmaster Ben Largusa.
Then in 1981, Narrie met Doce Pares Grandmaster Cacoy Canete, the undefeated stick fighter in the Philippines. Narrie was captivated by the close quarter combat fluidity of Eskrido, the art that was developed by Grandmaster Cacoy.


Narrie retired from his position as a Master-at-Arms Chief in the U.S. Navy where he taught Defensive Tactics to numerous Shore Patrol and Master-at-Arms personnel. He also developed and trained his Command's Boarding Party, which in 1990 became the U.S. Navy's first officially certified VBSS (Visit, Board, Search and Seizure) Team in the Persian Gulf.


On June 19, 2010, Narrie Babao was inducted into the Martial Artists’ “Masters Hall of Fame” and received the Platinum Life Achievement Award.


Narrie continued to develop and expand his martial arts knowledge and skill set. In 2012, Supreme Grandmaster Cacoy promoted Narrie Babao to the rank of 10th Grade Grandmaster of Cacoy Doce Pares.

His untimely passing on October 11, 2013 left the martial arts community at a loss. The Grandmaster's teachings and legacy will continue on through his 3 sons: Master Narrison "Nar" Babao, Guro Jack Babao and Maestro Kris Babao.
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