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FMA Informative Issue #5 - TRACMA - Basics
#5 - TRACMA - Basics

How far a student will progress in TRACMA depends on no one but themselves. Young or old, male or female, it does not matter. It is the students’ perseverance that will determine how far they will go.

First, the instructors will evaluate the perspective student to find out if they have the basic qualifications.

They will have to satisfy themselves that the student has the right attitude, that the student agrees fully with and is willing to abide by, all the principles in the TRACMA Creed, that TRACMA will never be used for evil purposes, nor for vainglorious display, nor for public exhibition without consent from the proper TRACMA authorities, that the student will pledge loyalty, obedience and respect to all duly constituted TRACMA authority, and that the student is willing to work at developing their skills tirelessly and following the prescribed forms faithfully.

It is also important, of course, that the student is basically healthy. This does not mean that a perspective student should be in a superb state of health or physical development. As a matter of fact, the practice of TRACMA is supposed to help one attain this. However, it does mean that one should have no physical impairment that would make it inadvisable for them to engage in strenuous physical activity.

Assuming that the student has the right attitude and the basic state of health, the next thing that is required is that the student is given the proper guidance. One cannot do without a qualified instructor. A student cannot learn TRACMA from a book. A book will just help a student reinforce their learning. A skilled instructor often has to use different teaching techniques with different students. No book, in any subject, can adequately replace a good instructor.

It is important, of course, that from the beginning a student abides by the necessary disciplines expected of them.

TRACMA is an exercise, a sport, a fighting style, a discipline, a way of life, and is not to be parodied, made fun of, or taken lightly in any way. The instructor is the representative of the Master, and must be accorded full reverence, obedience and respect. The students’ fellow TRACMEN are fellow disciples of the Master and should likewise be given consideration and respect. A student should also respect themselves, of course, and conduct themselves with the appropriate sobriety and dignity

The uniform and insignia are symbols of the TRACMA brotherhood and should never be debased by improper maintenance or behavior. The gym or training hall is the place of learning and proper attire and sober behavior is expected from the time you enter to the time the student leaves. All of this is imposed to help one attain the full realization that TRACMA should never be used for evil ends or in frivolous or vainglorious display.

One must faithfully follow the prescribed form. TRACMA has been developed after long years of research. There is a reason, nay, several reasons for every single move. Not all of them can be made clear to the student overnight. But one should follow even if you do not understand. For if he or she does not they are either careless or immature, or they are presumptuously believe that they know more than their instructor. In either case, a student will not get very far.

Finally, a student should have the perseverance to stick to their training schedule. This will include gym sessions with their instructor and home physical conditioning exercises and diligent repetition of the prescribed forms by themselves. If the student does not apply themselves diligently to their training schedule, then they are not serious in their desire to learn TRACMA and the student obviously will not get very far.

However, if the student has all the qualifications that have been said, then a student will find that he / she will progress very quickly.

Grandmaster Trovador Ramos

Trovador Ramos
TRACMA was therefore an acronym for Trovador Ramos Consolidated Martial Arts

Trovador Ramos (born 1933) a movie actor, stunt man, martial arts Red Belt master (14th degree), and founder and developer of the Trovador Ramos Asian Consolidated Martial Arts or TRACMA, a unique and complete system of martial arts. Grandmaster Ramos Sr. established TRACMA in 1956 and went on to become a one of the most popular martial arts schools in the Philippines and in different parts of the world. TRACMA is a Filipino self-made Consolidated Martial Arts.

Master Trovador successfully was able to re-establish the worth of the Filipinos through unbearable endurance, self- discipline, sacrifices and willful determination that can equate and stand out over the world famous martial arts experts in terms of skills, talents and ability.

He believed that there was always a room for improvement and endeavored to develop his self-defense knowledge, which he inherited from his grandfather's clan, who were all exponents of sports in their prime days. He painstakingly analyzed, evaluated and modified every movement and step to give it a more rewarding effect in its inflictions and defense.

A foretaste of his efforts was realized in his hometown at San Antonio, Zambales wherein his first gym was established. Martial arts enthusiast from all over the fourteen towns of Zambales, overwhelmingly surged to his gym to learn the art and enlist as student/members. The art spread like a wild fire. Thus, he was recommended and personally was asked to teach TRACMA at the near-by-bases.

Master Trovador was hired as the Chief Instructor of martial arts at the US Naval Base namely in San Miguel Navy Communication Station and in Subic Bay in 1961, together with the US Naval Security Department-Uniform Guard Chief Capt. Andy Cascante, being appointed by Master Trovador as the Administrator of TRACMA, the Olongapo gym was organized. It was followed by another one in Pampanga, then in Tarlac, then in Pangasinan and way up to Baguio City. All of each gym on different places had an assigned trained and qualified instructors through the recommendation of Capt. Cascante. And this is where and how the Master/Founder came to know the Administrator, who also became his good friend.

The established gyms and its members were named "D' Invincibles", because of its aim to train only on gaining friends and did ways with enmity. It had justified the group for logically saying "One knows not of defeat when he has an enemy". Thus, Master Trovador had the opportunity to have personally met several world renowned martial arts experts, such as Karate, Taekwondo, Judo, Aikido and many other self-defense groups in the base, whom all earned their rank and belt from different foreign countries. To their surprise, they merely turned dull-rats and sluggish when faced and tried by only student beginners of Master Trovador. And because of this, frequent invitation was extended to him to lecture and demonstrate on board ships as a Civilian US Navy martial arts Instructor on a Temporary Additional Duty (TAD). This had made him saw several places in the world possible. And the most frequent question asked to him was on what/which book or where his art was acquired. With the humility and with a smile, he explained that such forms could not as yet be found on any book for it was personally developed and consolidated by him.

Mr. Teddy Halper, the 1956 World Champion of International Real Combat, in his capacity as head of the World Research on Martial Arts and Education and World Authority Consultant on Real Combat studied TRACMA's art. After thorough and careful evaluation of the Filipino martial art instructor's knowledge, agility, skills, techniques and ability, he then awarded and vested him the title which all of Mr. Halper's staff concurring, the "fourteen (14) Degree Red Belt Master".

He decided to legalize the introduction of his self-made Consolidated martial arts for official recognition after returning from his duty on TAD order (Temporary Additional Duty). Authoring its operation, he organized a non-stock corporation and called it the "International Real Combat Judo-Karate Organization" under Sec No.36882 on November 25, 1968. He then gave birth the recognition of Filipino martial arts' in the country.

The Philippine Karate Association (PKA) was also formed in 1970 and thinking that Master Trovador's organization was also a Karate group, they listed it as a member of the formed PKA subjecting it under their leadership, laws and regulations. Master Trovador then vehemently with tact and humility objected and appealed to the PKA Secretary Atty. Jesus P. Arino Sr.
1. That his founded martial arts was a self-made style and technique. Not copied from any foreign martial arts. It's obviously very different in many ways from that of Karate which was an art form that originated and introduced by a foreign country.
2. That the self-made art of the Founder was already established and had proven supremacy and efficiency in several parts of the world where it has been accepted, acknowledged, respected and adopted as the Filipino martial art; and that it has already one hundred ninety seven (197) branches that had been organized outside of the Philippines.
3. That to accept subordination and/or membership under Karate, a foreign martial arts in the Philippines, is a disgraced and discrimination to the Filipinos and to the Republic of the Philippines. It could also degrade the Filipino Master/Founder who already had sacrificed unbearable time and efforts in his founded art's creation that required not only acknowledgment and respect, but also recognition on its supremacy and efficacy above many other martial arts.
4. That its name recorded in the Security and Exchange Commission was given to show due respect to the world organization of Mr. Teddy Halper, who awarded Master Trovador his present title and degree. It did not mean that it was a part of the Karate Association. Karate was merely a tiny part of the Filipino Consolidated Martial Arts and should not therefore, and in any sense of justice, fall under or to subordinate it to any foreign martial arts.

Then Master Trovador finally decided and resolved the confusion by renaming it as "TRACMA". It did not carry the previous listed members under the non-stock organization and also primarily avoided all who were dropped out for non-participation and obvious disinterest to the group as well as those who did not kept in touch with the Founder for the last six (6) or more years.

TRACMA Promotions was then formed. It was approved by the Bureau of Domestic Trade of the Philippine under the B.D.T. Certification of Registration No.0141/77 and a B.D.T. Provincial Cert.No.P.76/ 13772 was issued to continue its operations legally.

TRACMA was therefore an acronym for Trovador Ramos Consolidated Martial Arts. Therefore, it is proper, wise and fitting to know more of the Filipino Founder in order to fully visualize the evaluation of its significance and entirely.

The Founder was likewise a professional musician. And after leaving his US Navy civilian job as Chief Instructor, he traveled with his brothers, who were also all musicians, with an aim to earn and pursue the global recognizance of his founded martial arts. He established gyms in all the places he went up to. Slowly, but with willful determinations, the Founder courageously hurdled and surpassed all of the countless rival resentment and odds triumphantly. His tactful and friendly approached had paid off effectively. All those who opposed and confronted him, one after the other, accepted their defeat and fell on to his aide. His safe and constructive method was sincerely shown and the interest for their behalves was proven by actual efficacy of Master Trovador's art. And with this, he gained their respect and acknowledgment for his art's Mastership supremacy. They bowed down to him and submitted themselves under his tutorship and proudly adopted TRACMA as their choice of martial arts.
Hong Kong was not different to all these places in the Far East that the Master/Founder had been to. In fact, it was where he met so many challenges that gave him the limelight break to popularity. Hong Kong was not only an open port, but was also a creamy melting spot for relaxation that invigoratingly invited the world noted martial arts expert to converge and domicile.

With the tide in favor of the Master/Founder and perhaps with lady-luck on his side, he undoubtedly had proven the strength of his friendly and tactful approaches. He showed with ease the supremacy of his founded art to whoever confronted him. This had boosted his personality and his name became an epitome and by word of so many martial arts experts who have tried and accepted his Mastership.

As told by Grandmaster Trovador Ramos

Then one afternoon, the late world famous movie action star, Mr. Bruce Lee, whom in real life was an acclaimed international martial arts expert uninvited, visited Master Trovador. With evident curiosity and obvious intent to try the fast rising Filipino martial arts Master, the Chinese action star challenged Master Trovador very tactfully. And on pretext of the game Mr. Lee wished to warm up and invited anyone in the gym to try and fight with him. Mr. Lee, being an international figure and celebrity aside from being a Chinese martial art idol, is a much respected man. Thus, no one dared to accept the challenge. With countless avid fans in addition to so many media men, camera men and movie personalities whom were always following him, several people witnessed that event. The Filipino Master had no alternative but to give way in protecting the prestige and image of his founded art for his gym's respectability, for his member's moral, for the pride of the Filipinos as a whole and for honor to his country - the Republic of the Philippines.

Together with all those people around him and those who believed and supported in his invincibility, Mr. Lee's superb fighting speed, knowledge and agility had made him over confident. Master Trovador, on the other hand, had that equaled timing, guileful defenses and counters that kept him unperturbed by human opinion. Both started with great confidence and it was actually the audience whom visibly showed worries than excitement to the result of the sparring.

The Filipino Master's dynamic sportsmanship and professionalism however, prevented him from being in a most embarrassing position and unamendable disgraced of the famous Chinese action movie star. Instead of subduing Mr. Lee, which obviously could have been easily done, Master Trovador caught the Chinese Actor's fall twice and without an attempt to inflict a blow. He vowed to signify his desire to put an end in the worthless sparring in cognizance in the martial arts Master especially in an official sport fighting.

Master Trovador delightfully amazed all with his scientific and perfect timing, thwarting with case and beauty of Mr. Lee's all out efforts of attack with lightning speed and agility which resulted in vainglory.

He could have won and done it with all the justification in the book, but he would just be creating an unwanted feeling among the Chinese followers or perhaps eighty percent (80%) of the Hong Kong Chinese population who loved and idolized Mr. Lee. He then signaled the Chinese action movie star to stop the fight and was gladly acknowledge. In return out of gratitude, Mr. Lee loudly announced that his main purpose at the gym was not to challenge Master Trovador, but to offer him a good role and be a part of his forth coming movie entitled "Enter the Dragon".

They received thunderous applause and both became good friends. However, the offer was later turned down tactfully in the interest of preserving Filipino Prestige, ego and principles. Nevertheless, Mr. Lee requested to Master Trovador to teach him some routines to use in another movie productions to be filmed entirely in Italy, which was entitled "The rhythm Man", named after Master Trovador's perfect rhythm and timing. He was then recognized as Bruce Lee's coach. Unfortunately, the Chinese famous Action Star's untimely death shattered the realization of the said film.

Amazingly, an American producer of Pan Asia Movie Production was one of those who witnessed the sparring of the two martial arts Experts and offered Master Trovador a directorial action job in his company. It was a shining opportunity to once more further the expansion of the Filipino martial arts in spite of the monitored meagerness, compared to that of Bruce Lee's offer which he turned down politely, the Founder readily accepted the offer.

He went with the company to so many places in the world, directing action portions and also acting when giving an important and good role to play. This likewise made possible the establishment of TRACMA's gyms in so many places in the world. And made TRACMA a legend etched a deep in history never to be obliterated that members distinguished it with pride and honor, worth of the highest quality to preserve.

Master Trovador returned back as well polished movie star and was offered to do so several Chinese action movies on which some where box office record grosser in Japan, Australia and several other places in the world. Then a Filipino producer of a certain movie outfit met Master Trovador in Hong Kong and offered him to make a movie in the Philippines. "The Red Belt Master" which earned him for the first time, acceptance and cognizance in the movie world of his own country after working at many foreign movies. Then another offer came in promptly entitled "Sandugo", which became top grosser. Then it was followed by the "Big Fist" that made him stay in the Philippines a little longer.

In support to a Presidential Decree No.604 in 1975 at this juncture, the Inc's Nationwide Development of Sports and Physical Fitness Program decided then that TRACMA art be nationally adopted. It was not because the Master/Founder was a brother of good standing but due to its high degree of choice in its development program and fervent nationalistic support.

Aware of the officers’ significance, Master Trovador happily accepted and regarded it as another challenge whether he could once more stand out in terms of leadership dynamism. To ascertain a resounding success, he stayed in the country for a couple of years to oversee the establishment of TRACMA schools and nationwide teaching for the interest of his country and fellow Filipinos.

After a while, Master Trovador continued his career in the music world as a Musical Director in Hong Kong. Aside from his high paying job in the music industry, he still continued teaching TRACMA. And because of his greatness in the art, countless people of a new batch registered to him as a student of TRACMA.
Being one of the pioneer brethren of the INC in Hong Kong, Master Trovador assisted on establishing a locale in the country and congregate worship services. He actively participated in the Kowloon locale being one of the officer and even becoming the Head Deacon.

Then Master Trovador met Mr. Roger Boschman, an INC member, who is also an exponent and an ardent lover of martial arts. The two became good friends. Mr. Boschman eventually studied and learned TRACMA. With great appreciation and high regard to TRACMA's art and especially to the Master/Founder, Mr. Boschman, together with Master/Founder Trovador and Administrator Capt. Cascante, agreed and got together and pursued the revitalization of TRACMA. Thus, on April 24,1988 TRACMA World Wide Federation as registered in Hong Kong with Master Trovador Ramos Sr. as the Founder/President and titular head and Mr. Roger Boschman as the Chairman & Chief Executive Officer. However, Capt. Andy Cascante was still the International Consultant/Adviser and managed TRACMA Promotions in the Philippines nationwide. It was later on re-registered as Philippines TRACMA Worldwide.

In 1988, Master Trovador's two youngest children came to Hong Kong to study. The opportunity that his children were there enabled him to upgrade the teaching of TRACMA to them. His youngest son Trovador A. Ramos Jr. or James as they call him and his youngest daughter Lyrabelle A. Ramos or simply Lyra to them, learned fast and well. Thus, when both acquired the Black Belt, they were officiated by Master Trovador as instructors. Although Lyra concentrated on the level of administrative, James on the other hand actively trained the TRACMA students and pursued on to a higher belt and earned the title of 8th Degree Black Belt.

Then in 1992, Cathay Pacific Airlines, an internationally acclaimed commercial airline company in Hong Kong, contracted TRACMA to teach Consolidated Martial Arts Techniques to all its Pilots, Flight Attendants and Management Teams. The teaching and training took place in the gym of the Cathay Pacific Building near the Kai Tak (old) Airport. With the personal supervision of Master Trovador, this deal was done and administered by James and Lyra. Aside from their regular training of forms, they developed the Cathay employees’ alertness/readiness and fast adaptation to crucial situation in line of duty and had provided Special Anti-hijacking Training Course.

While in the US Navy Steven Dowd was Stationed at San Maguel Communication Station, Philippines, located in San Antonio Zambales as Armed Forces Police for the town and Military Security Police for the Naval Communication Station.

Here he commenced his training in TRACMA. It was through a friend he met and started his training with Master Fred Zabala in TRACMA (Trovador Ramos Consolidated Martial Arts).

Master Zabala was a remarkable martial artist and Steven soon found himself taking instruction in the art of TRACMA.

The main school in San Antonio, Zambales was Grandmaster Trovador Ramos home which he no longer occupied since he was either in Hong Kong or Manila most of the time. Grandmaster Ramos in Hong Kong was a musician and in Manila was making movies.

TRACMA is a very rigorous style and one must be well disciplined and energetic to even attempt training in the style.

As with most style today if one is lucky to find a TRACMA instructor there have been changes of course in some of the forms, however take note that one must still be disciplined, energetic, and dedicated to learning the art.

Grandmaster Ramos Home in Quezon City, Philippines

Steven trained privately most of the time, however also trained in TRACMA in the evenings at Grandmaster Trovador Ramos home in San Antonio, Zambales. Grandmaster Ramos did not live there, but it was his main resident before he went to Hong Kong and started in films and he still owned it. After he got back from Hong Kong and was continuing in films he lived mainly in Quezon City.

When Steven was promoted to Black Belt in TRACMA, Fred Zabala, Steven and a couple other TRACMA practitioners went to Quezon City quite often and stayed at Grandmaster Ramos home and worked out. This is where Steven would hear from Grandmaster Ramos how he was asked to be in the Bruce Lee movie “Enter the Dragon” and turned it down because in the movie he would get beat. Grandmaster Ramos said that would never happen and would not even in films get beat by someone. Even in movies if he got beat it was from behind as a surprise attack.

Black Belt test
Black Belt test taken in the gym at Sam Miguel Naval Communication Station Philippines.
Administered by TRACMA Black Belts of San Antonio, Zambalas.

Grandmaster Ramos also claimed to spar with Bruce Lee while in Hong Kong and beat him. To this day Steven has never really been able to verify this fact. Even though in the Philippines the newspapers published the account of Grandmaster Ramos and Bruce Lee did get together and sparred.

It was also during these years in the Philippines Steven started competition. Steven remembers once that Master Fred Zabala, himself and a select few other Black Belts were called to Manila by Grandmaster Ramos to accept a challenge by a rival school. Upon arriving they we were taken to a deserted building somewhere in Manila. This was a large warehouse. Upon arriving there were many, many people maybe 300 or more. Steven was told these were TRACMA people and we were waiting for the rival school. We were told to get dressed and waited. After a few hours and the other school did not show up the Black Belts ended up doing a demonstration and then went to the Grandmasters home.

This was all during 1973 through 1977. And also a little fact when Steven was transferred from the Naval Communications Station San Maguel, Philippines, He was promoted to 3rd degree Black Belt and appointed by Grandmaster Ramos as the US Director West of the Mississippi, and Guro Roy Hall, which was living on the east coast, was the US Director East of the Mississippi.

Steven thanks Master Fred Zabala an amazing person and remarkable martial artist and Grandmaster Trovador Ramos for the knowledge and the chance to learn and train in the style known as TRACMA (Trovador Ramos Consolidated Martial Arts).