|Grandmaster Ernesto A. Presas
Founder, Teacher, Friend, and Living Legend
Forward: You can pick up just about any of Grandmaster Presas’ books and read information about
his abilities from many of his followers. His dossier is posted in a number of places and is in all of
his books. This, instead, is a view of what GM is to me, and why I feel he is such an exceptional
Grandmaster Presas is one of the most lethal men alive. His skills in the art that he founded,
Kombatan, are the stuff of legend. I have never met anyone or even heard of anyone that saw
Grandmaster (or “GM” as we know him) that wasn’t incredibly impressed with his art and his capacity
to teach. Meeting the man one time is enough to see that he is as dedicated to the martial arts as
anyone could ever be; for he is a man for whom martial arts is everything.
In 1994, my wife Lee gave birth to our daughter, Mallory. Having a child meant having someone to
protect and having the need for a legacy to hand down. After an injury to my knee and a long
sabbatical from martial arts, I’d decided that I needed take up training again. I’d looked for training
that would be more practical and less sport than what I’d seen and done in the past, because the injury
had left me unable to do even the simplest of drills and way out of shape. It had also left a void in my
life that kept me aware that something was missing… and that was training.
Friend and coworker Garry Johnson and I stumbled across training in this art quite by accident. It was
Garry (who knew of my interest and injury, etc.) that convinced me to explore the arts of the Philippines
by attending a seminar in Tulsa, Oklahoma and see Guro Dan Inosanto. I had never seen this type of
art, and was by far the least familiar and unskilled person in the room, but some of the more advanced
students came to my assistance (probably out of pity for Garry having to work with me!). One of these
gracious souls was Steve Todd. In a conversation at lunch during the Sunday session, Steve told us
about an instructor in our hometown, and gave us Shelley Millspaugh’s card. With a newly awakened
appetite, we returned home to seek out Guro Shelley and … well, that is how I got started. Garry and I
became Shelley’s students that same week.
The first time I met Grandmaster, I was in awe of him. Part of this had stemmed from all of the
amazing stories I’d heard about him from Shelley and others, and some of it was from seeing the man
in action. I felt honored that the man even spoke to me; after all, he was the Founder of the art I was
training in… and I was “student X”, one of hundreds in the United States and thousands worldwide.
Over the years, I’ve learned much from Grandmaster. Eventually, I came to be the host of
Grandmaster’s seminar after Shelley moved away and I became the instructor. I have been fortunate
enough to have GM in my home several times as a guest for several days. I remember being outside
in August, working for hours the man who, despite being the same age as my father, never seemed to
tire while I struggled just to stay on my feet. I have been fortunate to talk at length with GM about his
past, his training, his challenges, his love of the Philippines, and his future hopes for the art. What I’ve
learned is what an amazing person he is outside of the martial arts… unbelievably dedicated to his
family, a devout Catholic, and a magnet to children. Grandmaster is by far one of the most
warmhearted people I have ever met. I am much more in awe of him today than I was upon first
meeting him. He is truly an amazing man.
One of my fondest memories of Grandmaster will always be from a few years back when he stayed in
our home. He sat downstairs on the couch with his arm around my daughter watching “Mary
Poppins”. They sang the songs together and laughed while I sat at the computer a few feet away,
watching in disbelief. Here sat my young daughter and probably the most skilled fighter in the world
singing Disney songs in my living room. It was then that I realized that Grandmaster Ernesto A.
Presas was as close a member of my family as anyone that shares my last name.
It seems like years ago since Garry and I went to Tulsa. I am now the instructor of the school in
Wichita, and strive to teach as I was taught. My daughter is now 9 years old going on 16, and training
in the art that she’d helped me find. My wife found her way into the school, and is now a member of
my black belt corps and helping teach. Shelley is now the Chief Instructor of the Midwest, and runs a
camp in KC. He still finds time to teach me new things about the art. Steve Todd is now Grandmaster
of his own fantastic system, and a good friend as well as my teacher. Although out of touch, I hear that
Garry has become very accomplished in his training as well. I have met many wonderful people and
have a huge martial family that I now strive to help cultivate and grow. The common thread between
us all is Grandmaster Presas and Kombatan.
Great Grandmaster Ernesto A. Presas was returned to his Creator
on November 1st, 2010. All of us in the Kapitiran Mandirigma family
who knew him and were trained by him were deeply saddened by
We continue to support the Presas Family, including his son
Grandmaster Ernesto G. Presas (Jan-Jan). We also continue to
propogate the art of Kombatan as he taught it to us and as we were
told to teach it.