Author Archives: Karlo Sevilla

About Karlo Sevilla

Poems published in Philippines Graphic, Philippines Free Press and Pacifiqa, and have appeared or are forthcoming in the following international literary publications: I am not a silent poet, Peeking Cat Poetry, Haikuniverse, Eastlit, Spank the Carp,, Indiana Voice Journal, Shot Glass Journal, Radius, The Fib Review, Rat's Ass Review, Pilgrim, Rambutan, Razorhouse, Yellow Chair Review, The Five-Two, Eternal Remedy, One Sentence Poems, Peacock Journal, Sub-saharan Magazine, Awakened Voices, Riverfeet Press Anthology, and Kitaab. Wrestling coach. Blue belt in Brazilian Luta Livre and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. 2016 Southeast Asian ADCC Submission Fighting champion (-83 kg., intermediate level). Volunteer at Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (Solidarity of Filipino Workers).

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Train like a fighter with cage fitness

Monday, 30 May 2016 | Written by
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Brawlers’ Lab fitness gym at Valenzuela City is booming. It has recently occupied a bigger space on the third floor of the building along MacArthur Highway, while retaining its original location on the second floor. And, of all its fitness programs, the burgeoning attendance in its group sessions of Cage Fitness is its biggest proof. On evenings and right after the martial arts sessions on the mat, clients who have been eagerly awaiting their turn finish putting on their hand wraps. And, in a few minutes, they fill up the mat and start warming up with dummies/punching bags, one for each, and engage in a fun and intense 30-minute workout.


Exclusively offered here in the Philippines at Brawlers’ Lab, Cage Fitness is a complete workout program from the USA based on movements from mixed martial arts (MMA). Participants get to experience training like a fighter, and the good thing is they could adjust their workout according to each one’s fitness level, respectively.

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One session is set to five rounds of five minutes each, with each round spent circuit-training in various movements, mostly with the unique Cage Fitness dummy which endures all the strikes, lifts, throws, etc. for the client’s fitness ends.


The workout is patterned after a popular MMA rule set for a championship match. Clients, women and men alike, who finished their session said they felt like champions who have just emerged triumphant from a grueling title fight. When they first learned that two-time UFC champion and Hall of Fame inductee Matt Hughes is the main endorser of Cage Fitness, their decision to get fit via this workout program was further reinforced. Another popular former UFC fighter and title challenger, Chael Sonnen, has come aboard in promoting Cage Fitness.


According to the Cage Fitness official website, the sport “is a complete workout program that is designed to cater to people at all levels of fitness. There are four key elements that are focused on: endurance, strength, power and core. This is accomplished through our 5 round fitness system which is broken up into the following categories: Warm Up, Upper Body, Lower Body, Combo Round and Cool Down/Core.” Individuals can customize their workout by adjusting their intensity level to best suit their personal fitness goals.”


Coach Gabay Forlales — Brawlers’ Lab co-proprietor and pioneering Cage Fitness instructor in the Philippines (along with wife Miriam) — showed this writer successful before-and-after fitness photos of their regular clients. Forlales also shared that they would be holding events like the Cage Fitness marathon and Cage Fitness for grapplers this summer of 2016. One of Forlales’ kickboxing students, actress Glaiza de Castro, also trains in Cage Fitness at Brawlers’ Lab during her spare time.


To know more about Cage Fitness, check out Brawler’s Lab official Facebook page.






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Trying Muay Thai for the first time

Friday, 20 May 2016 | Written by
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Jessica Frias isn’t new to physical exercise and combat sports, she a long-time practitioner of submission wrestling and current fitness trainer for Gold’s Gym (Greenhills branch). But, right before sweating it out in the martial art of Muay Thai — for the first time — at SPRAWL-MMA gym in Cubao, the 22-year-old iron lady admits that she got in an unfamiliar territory.

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“I’m so excited! Though, I still expect to experience some difficulty as I am used to different movements in my core sports of grappling and weightlifting. May konting training din naman ako sa striking, pero casual lang with my close friends in martial arts, and never like this na formal training in Muay Thai.”

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The art of Muay Thai, which (as the name suggests) originated from Thailand, is also known as “The Art of Eight Limbs,” as it comprehensively employs strikes with fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet in fighting an opponent. It also uses various clinching and some takedown techniques.

Muay Thai continues to gain popularity in the country. The amateur movement of the sport is governed by the Muay Association of the Philippines (MAP), and SPRAWL MMA gym where Jessica trains is an accredited member.

Starting out

Jessica, clad in her tank top and Muay Thai shorts, puts on hand wraps under the trained and watchful eye of Kru (Coach) Ferlin “Bobot” Mercurio – a duly-certified instructor and Muay Thai. Next, she warms up with jogging, stretching and various other movements including a three-minute jump rope exercise. “I remember doing this as a kid,” Jessica shares with a giggle and more pronounced depth and speed in breathing afterwards.

Upon climbing the ring, Kru Bobot teaches Jessica some basic footwork, followed by “shadow fighting” with basic strikes in Muay Thai. (Shadow fighting is practicing fight moves without an opponent or equipment; it’s like fighting against air.)

Let’s start hitting!

Now it’s time for Jessica to get rough and start using her eight limbs to inflict damage…on the pads worn by Kru Bobot.

Jessica, now wearing gloves, assumes an orthodox striking stance with her arms cocked at her sides and with left foot and shoulder forward. She jabs repeatedly by extending her left arm to land her fist on the pad. Then, with her other arm, she hits for straight punches with her right fist.


Kru Bobot then instructs his game and determined client to execute an uppercut. Starting with one fist at waist level, Jessica strikes upward at the pad. (This punch often targets the chin.)

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Next in line is striking with that sharp and hard pair of elbows – thrown from different angles. With all those fundamental strikes using the arms, Jessica does combinations of them on the pads in three sets of three minutes each, with a minute rest in between.

Now it’s time to use the legs as weapons. Kru Bobot teaches Jessica how to fire vicious roundhouse kicks, and the latter obliges by powerfully crashing her shins on the pads. Her coach also instructs her on hitting with the soles of her feet via front push kicks on his belly pad.



Finally, it’s time for the notorious knee strikes, with and without clinching the opponent’s head.


With her new arsenal of strikes using her eight limbs, our enthusiastic trainee finishes another three rounds of three minutes each in beating the pads.


Cooling down

Now the hard part is over, and it’s time to soften and cool down before ending the session. Kru Bobot assists in cooling down Jessica properly by gently stretching and massaging her limbs.

The cool down session after a rigorous training or exercise, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), helps “reduce heart and breathing rates, gradually cool body temperature, and return muscles to their optimal length-tension relationships, prevent venous pooling of blood in the lower extremities, which may cause dizziness or possible fainting, and restore physiologic systems close to baseline.”

A visibly satisfied Jessica enthusiastically shares at the end of her Muay Thai training, “It was fun! It was a great total body workout. Also, maganda ring matuto ng mga self-defense moves from Muay Thai, which could come in handy in case certain dangerous circumstances arise against me or my loved ones. Pero huwag naman sana, knock on wood! I commit to train here in Muay Thai at least two times a week.”

In photos: Jessica Frias and Kru Ferlin “Bobot” Mercurio; taken by Jonathan Malabed.

Karlo Sevilla’s poems have been published in Philippines Graphic, Philippines Free Press and Pacifiqa, and have appeared or are forthcoming in international literary magazines I am not a silent poet, Spank the Carp and Pilgrim. A wrestling coach and still an active grappling competitor, he holds a blue belt in both Brazilian Luta Livre and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.





The Truth: Brandon Vera crowned as inaugural ONE Championship heavyweight king

Tuesday, 15 December 2015 | Written by

veravschengFilipino-American fighter Brandon “The Truth” Vera turned his pre-fight disappointment into a spectacular 26-second finish of his replacement opponent Paul Cheng of Taiwan, to grab the inaugural heavyweight championship belt of the ONE Championship mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion’s “Spirit of Champions” event last December 11, 2015 at Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City. Vera, who strongly expressed his disgust over the no-show of original opponent Chi Lewis-Parry, unleashed a strong performance come fight night.

The MMA veteran hit Cheng with a solid counter left hook that momentarily dropped his game adversary to his knees, then immediately followed it with a head kick that felled his foe supine on the canvas, and quickly finished the fight with hammer fists that forced the referee stoppage.

Hometown bet Eugene Toquero likewise scored a stoppage in his flyweight match versus Li Wei Bin of China. Toquero battered Li with punches and knees to the head throughout the first and second rounds, forcing the latter’s corner to surrender during the break prior to the third and final round. This concession resulted to a technical knockout victory for the local fighter.

The three other Filipino fighters in the card were not as fortunate, however. Anna “Hurricane” Julaton was edged by Russia’s Irina Mazepa, who showed superior striking and takedown defense in eking out a unanimous decision win after three rounds. Mark “Mugen” Striegl submitted to Australia’s Reece “Lightning” McLaren, who caught him with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their bantamweight contest. And, flyweight Ruel Catalan likewise suffered a submission loss, tapping to a knee bar successfully executed by Brazil’s Alex Silva.

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[ONE Championship] Pinoy fans will see biggest fighting event of 2015

Sunday, 29 November 2015 | Written by
Main event at the ONE Championship event

Main event at the ONE Championship event

Filipino-American fighter Brandon “The Truth” Vera will return to Manila to fight, but this time for something much bigger at stake – to make history as the first ONE Championship heavyweight champion.

Standing in his way inside the cage come December 11, 2015 at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena is Chi “Chopper” Lewis-Parry, the 6’9 ft. fighter from London.

Originally from Norfolk, Virginia, USA, Vera (13-7-0) debuted for ONE Championship last December and impressively beat Igor Subora, the Philippine-based Ukrainian, via TKO (punch and soccer kicks) in the first round.

Likewise, the still undefeated Lewis-Parry (6-0-0) scored a stoppage in the first round of his last fight for the Singapore-based MMA promotion, disposing of Alain Ngalani with vicious elbow strikes. Lewis-Parry was a former pro-basketball player before he became an MMA fighter in 2010 at the age of 26.

The Truth returns to UP

To further promote the Fil-Am fighter’s upcoming bout, ONE Championship held a whole day meet-and-greet event last October 29, featuring Vera and international MMA legend Rich Franklin.

Vera and Franklin met their fans at the University of Pasay and in the afternoon, they entertained their student fans at the University of the Philippines College of Human Kinetics Gymnasium in UP Diliman.

The event was a homecoming of sort for Vera, who first visited UP Diliman a decade ago, when he generously held a free MMA clinic for local MMA team SPRAWL at the UP Vanguard building.

Fight card. Info from

Filipino stars Julaton, Striegl and Catalan also seeing action

ONE Championship CEO Victor Cui said that fans should get ready for an amazing night of world-class MMA action because aside from the main event bout between heavyweights Brandon Vera and Chi Lewis- Parry, the sport media company is bringing back Filipino fighters Ana Julaton, Mark Striegl and Ruel ‘The Wushu’ Catalan.

Female world-boxing champion Julaton will face Russian kickboxer Irina Mazepa. Phenomenal grappler Mark ‘Mugen’ Striegl will take on undefeated Jordan “Showtime” Lucas of Melbourne, Australia in a bantamweight fight. Flyweight Ruel Catalan seeks to avenge his elder brother Rene’s defeat two years ago against Alex ‘Little Rock’ Silva, as he challenges the Brazilian grappler in the undercard.

ONE Championship Spirit of Champions Manila will be on December 11, 2015 at the MoA Arena.

 Images from ONE Championship and Sherdog. Some rights reserved.


Karlo Sevilla’s poems have been published in Philippines Graphic and Philippines Free Press. He is also a wrestling coach, with a blue belt in both Brazilian luta livre and Brazilian jiu-jitsu.


So you want to be a Volleyball player?

Friday, 2 October 2015 | Written by

Philippine volleyball is undeniably booming like the powerful spikes the sport is known for. The clearest proof from recent memory has to be last year’s University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 76 winner-take-all title match won by the Ateneo Lady Eagles against their archrivals De La Salle Lady Spikers, which saw an all-time record attendance of 21,314 spectators packing the Mall of Asia Arena. (This was followed by an audience of a still-astounding 20,705 fans during the ultimate match UAAP Season 77, with Ateneo again emerging as champion.)

Of high significance, too, is the establishment of the following leagues: The nationally-televised and popular Shakey’s V-League in 2004 and the country’s pioneering professional corporate club volleyball league, the Philippine Super Liga (PSL) in 2013.

So, for those who want to be the next volleyball stars like Alyssa Valdez or Marck Espejo, here are some helpful tips:

Start training young

If you have this athletic dream, and haven’t yet taken the first step, start now! All over the world, undisputable records show that the most successful athletes of any sport, like world and Olympic champions, started training young. And, top national and international volleyball players are no exceptions. The younger you start in a sport, the more lead time you have to hone your skills, gain deeper understanding of the game, develop experience and mental toughness, and make instinctual your execution of techniques. So join the club nearest you, in your school or community.

Join training camps

Usually held as summer training camps, these activities will definitely give any budding and even experienced volleyball players the edge – while others are most probably engaging in other forms of fun like barkada gimmicks or playing video games. While required participation fees of volleyball camps led by renowned coaches and athletes can be quite costly, there are also charitable organizations that offer free or low-cost trainings like the Heroes Volleyball Program and the Youth Sports Advocacy. Go online and find contact info and details on training camps that are accessible and convenient to you. To check on the credentials of a training camp and its handlers, you can contact the Philippine Volleyball Federation (PVF).

Make the team!

If you truly aspire to someday become a pro, it is imperative that you make it to a team to prove you’re a cut above the rest. Try out and qualify to your school’s varsity team: elementary, high school and college. As a regular sport of the Palarong Pambansa, you can play for your elementary and/or high school team, and then qualify for your city or provincial team, then ultimately for your regional team which will vie for the annual national title. Volleyball is also played in the high school divisions of both the UAAP and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Also, remember that the country’s top high school players are, needless to say, often get under the radar of collegiate teams of the aforementioned most popular collegiate athletic leagues of the country.

Be a team player

Whatever position you play – be it outside hitter, middle blocker, setter or libero/defensive specialist — remember that volleyball is a team sport. And the professional league values players who are unselfish and can effectively blend and contribute to team play and its success. And, it’s a given that becoming disciplined and following your coach will make you a true team player.

Study well

As the saying goes, “A student-athlete is student first, athlete second.” The country’s professional volleyball league, the Philippine Super Liga, requires for eligibility two years of college. But, while you’re at it, might as well finish your four-year course and earn a bachelor’s degree. Playing is not forever, and it is always practical to have a college diploma to fall back on to enhance your chances of landing at least a decent job when your athletic career is over.

Follow these tips, and if you work hard and consistently churn out respectable collegiate volleyball performances in the UAAP or NCAA, chances are the pro league (and/or the National Team) will come knocking shots on your door.

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The future of grappling arts for Pinoys

Thursday, 24 September 2015 | Written by
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READ: Afonso Cego brings Luta Livre to PHL

Popular Luta Livre fighters

After Mestre Tatu, other popular Luta Livre fighters who rose to fame are Euclides “The Blond Devil” Pereira, who defeated Carlson Gracie via decision in 1968 and retired undefeated; Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 7 tournament champion Marco Ruas and his co-UFC alumni Eugenio Tadeau, Hugo Duarte, Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Milton Vieira; and former Shooto lightweight champion Alexandre Franca “Pequeno” Nogueira. Currently, lightweight Glaico Franca, winner of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 4, won his recent fight in UFC 190. Former English UFC fighter Terry Etims also won his last fight in Bellator 109, along with his countryman Paul Sass who won in Bellator 104. Even the controversial Maiquel Falcão, the Bellator Season Six Middleweight Tournament winner, is on a two-fight winning streak.

From Malaysia to Metro Manila: Luta Livre sets foot on Philippine shores

Last August, Aries Supremo, a Filipino aikido master who also trains in catch wrestling, was invited by Italian Antonio Batistessa to attend Mestre Afonso’s instructor certification course in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. The course was hosted by the Sabah Top Team, which Batistessa leads. Supremo successfully finished the course and was awarded a Luta Livre instructor’s certificate.

While in Sabah, it was decided that Luta Livre be brought to the Philippines for the first time, and for Mestre Afonso to try continuing his MMA fighting career in Metro Manila.

Last September 2, Xtreme Martial Arts, a gym in Taguig City owned by Supremo, offered the first of five free training sessions in Luta Livre conducted by Mestre Afonso, with the assistance of Batistessa who holds a purple belt in the martial art. The free training sessions culminated Friday of the following week, September 11. Then, the two-day weekend seminar commenced with almost a dozen attendees, who were awarded their certificates of participation at the end of the historical event.

Mestre Afonso, who represents Academia Budokan – RJ and received his Luta Livre black belt from Brazilian legend Joao Ricardo, is currently in talks with the management of an international MMA promotion which regularly holds events in the Philippines.

The future of Luta Livre in the Philippines

Supremo, the leader of the emerging Luta Livre movement in the Philippines, commits to promote the sport in schools and martial arts gyms across the country. He plans to hold Luta Livre events, in coordination with the Philippine Combat Wrestling Federation. (Originally from Japan, Combat Wrestling, under its new international federation FICW headed by its president Ivaylo Ivanov of Bulgaria, has rules best online casino very much similar to Luta Livre. Likewise, it has strong emphasis on takedowns and pins, and a comprehensive set of submission holds.) In fact, most of the Philippine delegation to the upcoming 2015 Japan Combat Wrestling Open in December attended Mestre Afonso’s seminar.

Due to its effectiveness in MMA competitions like the UFC and ONE Championship, submission grappling is growing into one of the world’s most popular combat sports. More Filipino athletes are becoming aware of the sport, with the more serious ones dreaming of someday setting foot on the mats of prestigious international competitions like the ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) Submission Wrestling World Championship.

In the local scene, martial artists Ronald Gavileño and friends made history by holding the country’s first widely-participated submission grappling events in 2004: the Grapplers Cup then the Philippine Grappling League, respectively, in 2004. Subsequently, Stephen Kamphuis and his BJJ team Kamphuis-Fabrico have been successfully organizing regular international and local BJJ tournaments, with gi and no gi divisions for a decade now. (Kamphuis is also the Philippine representative to the ADCC Submission Fighting World Federation.) Rollapalooza of Atos Philippines BJJ has also been attracting top local grapplers to its events for years already.

With wrestling finally becoming a regular sport of the Department of Education’s Palarong Pambansa starting next year (after its run as demonstration sport in the national games’ 2014 and 2015 editions), expect more Filipino youth to easily acquaint and appreciate learning and competing in Luta Livre, along with other grappling arts, in the near future.


The writer gives acknowledgement Maciel Welko and Elton Selva. Karlo Sevilla is currently the director of the Federation of School Sports Association of the Philippines (FESSAP) Wrestling Club and Philippine representative to the International Federation of Combat Wrestling (FICW). Post-assessment of his performance during the Luta Livre training sessions and seminar, he received a blue belt from Mestre Afonso. He also holds a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu from BJJ black belt Coach Stephen Kamphuis. He is the founder of Team SPRAWL – MMA.

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Afonso Cego brings Brazilian Luta Livre to the Philippines

Wednesday, 23 September 2015 | Written by
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Mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter and Brazilian Luta Livre (BLL) black belt Afonso Celso dos Santos Silva Jr., more popularly known as Mestre (Master) Afonso Cego, shared his martial art skills in a series of training sessions held in Manila last September 2 to 13. With participants mostly from local MMA team SPRAWL, the 35-year-old Rio de Janeiro-based Mestre Afonso generously imparted almost 40 moves from the submission grappling art of Luta Livre.

Luta Livre history

According to the website of Team Renovacao Fight Team (RFT) Deutschland, the term luta livre rose to prominence in Brazil in 1909, a Portuguese translation of the then “newly introduced English style of ‘Catch-as-Catch-Can’ wrestling.” In the early 20th century, it grew in popularity, with training sessions held at Copacobana beach alongside other sports. Back then, Luta Livre featured techniques in taking down an opponent to the mat, pinning holds, submission maneuvers from head to foot, and striking.

Distinct to the other popular grappling arts like judo and jiu-jistu, and more similar to amateur and professional wrestling, Luta Livre is played without a gi or kimono. “While jiu-jitsu attracted the wealthy and elite, many of Brazil’s working class poor gravitated to Luta Livre where they didn’t have to pay for lessons or a gi,” wrote Jonathan Snowden and Kendall Shields for The MMA Encyclopedia. This affinity with the working class is similar to England’s ‘Catch-as-Catch-Can’ wrestling in the mid-20th century, which became the sport of choice in the mining town of Wigan, and practiced in Billy Riley’s gym.)

Regular Luta Livre matches were held in the following decades. Even members of the renowned and pioneering Gracie family of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) participated in Luta Livre in various capacities: as fighters (Carlson and George Gracie, with the latter eventually winning a title as Luta Livre champion), trainees (George and Oswaldo), organizer (Carlson) and even referee (Oswaldo).

The rise of Euclydes “Tatu” Hatem

The most influential force in Luta Livre, is Brazil-born Euclydes “Tatu (Armadillo)” Hatem (September 16, 1914 – September 26, 1984) who dominated the Brazilian fighting scene for two decades from 1930s to 1950s. His first teachers were famous practitioners Manoel Rufino dos Santos, Orlando Americo da Silva “Dudú” and Aloisio Bandeira de Melo.

In 1933, Hatem joined the Luta Livre Amateur Championships where he impressed spectators by beating heavier and veteran fighters.

From 1935 to 1940, Hatem’s star rose higher when he won over formidable international opponents. Among them were Attilio of Italy, “Tigre de Texas” of the USA, and Kutter of Australia (whom the Brazilian defeated for his professional debut), Takeo Yano of Japan and Charles Ulsemer of France.

In 1942, he faced a compatriot who was also making a name for himself: George Gracie. Well-versed in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Gracie also trained in Luta Livre and even became a national champion in the sport. Hatem and Gracie fought for the Brazilian Luta Livre title, and Mestre Tatu overwhelmed his game opponent till he surrendered in the third round.

Mestre Tatu persisted in his fighting career, competing in his home country and abroad. He continued vanquishing foreign fighters, including the feared Leon “Man Mountain” Falkenstein of Russia, defeating him via his favorite submission technique: the choke hold.

Mestre Tatu finally retired from professional fighting in the 1950’s, but continued teaching Luta Livre to many interested fighters.

Read Part 2 here

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