Grand master Michael Giron
“ONE STORY TO TELL”
Biography of Grand master Leovigildo Miguel Giron
Soon to become a legend in the world of Filipino Martial Arts, Leovigildo Miguel Giron was born. The son of Policarpo and Ellen Giron was born in the barrio of Hermosa, town of Bayambang, Province of Pangasinang, Philippines, August 20, 1911. Training in the very guarded Filipino Art started with family and as his interest grew, at the age of 9 he was given permission by his father to train with Master Benito Junio. Master Benito Junio was also from the Province of the Bayambang and was known for his expertise in Estilo Larga Mano and Estilo De Fondo. This lasted for approximately 1 year and his training continued with Master Benito’s uncle Fructuso Junio who was known for his expertise in Estilo Macabebe. Through Master Fructuso Junio it was instilled in Leo Giron to understand the importance of defining the difference between the Cadaanan (Old Style) and Cabaroan (New Style). This training lasted for about 5 to 6 years.
Journey to the United States
At the age of 15 his family decided that Leo would be chosen to go the America to find success and to also provide a path for family members to follow. With only $3.75 on October 29, 1926 he set sail on the USS President Lincoln. In order to pay for passage and food by the time he got to America he had 25 cents left. Leo was met in San Francisco by his cousin Toribio Rebomantan Abalos and now it was off to Stockton, California to start his new life. His life started in the fields of Terminous, Ca. harvesting celery for 35 cents an hour but because he was very young most felt he shouldn’t get a man’s wage and had to settle for 17.5 cents an hour. Sustaining the new life wasn’t as he heard or dreamed but he still had to eat so as most Filipinos, he had to maintain this way of life hoping it was temporary. In the migration with other workers he ended up in the prune orchards of Meridian, Ca. This is where he met in 1929 his next instructor Master Flaviano Vergara. Master Flaviano Vergara was the top student of a great champion, Dalmacio Bergonia. Dalmacio was highly skilled in the Estilo Elastico. Master Flaviano Vergara emphasized the importance of having the knowledge a close quarter combat style,(Estilo Defondo) as well as the long range combative style, (Estilo Larga Mano). Master Flaviano advocated being a quiet defensive fighter as to not give up the knowledge of fighting that you possess. Most of all this is where Leo learned patience in which he practiced in all his days to follow. Master Flaviano Vergara and Leo would train for the next 4 to 5 years.
World War II
The war broke out and along with thousands of Filipinos Leo tried to enlist but because he like most were not U.S. citizens they were not eligible to enlist in U.S. Military to help defend their homeland. In April of 1942 the Draft opened and that is when he successfully volunteered. Leo got his calling on September 24, 1942 and was inducted into the United States Army. He initially would be apart of the 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiment and later assigned to the famous “978 Signal Group and The Allied Intelligence Bureau. As part of select group of secret operatives / commando for General Douglas Macarthur intense military training began. During the War Leo would again meet his friend and Master Flaviano and they would continue to train. He was taught more of the two extremes of “Defondo” and Larga Mano. Master Flaviano explained that what he has learned was a gift and to hold it in remembrance of him as he felt this War will be the reason for his death. Master Flaviano explained that there are a lot of unexpected styles out there and Leo needed to learn them in order to bridge the gap between the two extremes. Later in 1944 Leo would find out that Flaviano died during a dynamite explosion. Thus, the birth of the: MASTER’S FAN”.
Next he would meet his next instructor, Sergeant Beningo Ramos and respected for his knowledge of the combat styles of Larga mano, Miscla Contras, Tero Pisada, Tero Grave and Elastico styles. Surviving the War Leo was Honorably Discharged from the U.S. Army as a hero.
He was awarded the following:
1. The Bronze Star Medal
2. The Philippine Liberation Ribbon
3. The Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal
4. The American Campaign Medal
5. The World War II Victory Medal
6. Letter of commendation from the President of the United States America
Back to Civilization
Leo then returned to the United States in Stockton Ca. where he would be marrying Soledad Mapa on March 12, 1952. They would soon bring into the world 4 children Christina, Michael, Regina and Thomas.
Later he would start training with his last instructor/cousin Julian Bundoc who was a graduate of Benito Junio. They would train from 1956 to 1961. The War would take its toll on many as it did Leo. Still bearing the horrific nightmares of WW II the screams and talking in the middle of the night was not an uncommon event. The War made him very bitter and yet very regimental in the way he lived his life and raised his family. Also, was the frustration of acceptance in being a foreigner in this country even though he became a “Naturalized Citizen of the United States”. In order to alleviate the language barrier Leo and some friends would join the Toast Masters Club of America to learn to speak and present them in the manner society accepted. He was constantly looking for ways to make it better for himself and his family. Still the memories of the War lurking in the background Leo returned to the solitude of being a fisherman and at home he would periodically play his violin. He also would become a member of a largest world wide Filipino Fraternal Organization called the Legionarios Del Trabajo. Later to hold one of the highest recognized positions in the fraternal organization. He would also organize a lodge composed of all this town mates from the Province of Bayambang. Between family and all the activities he was trying to make it easier to cope with the bitter past.
His life takes a turn and Leo and Soledad divorce. Leo would soon marry Alberta Rollojay who became the driving force to make him show his Art of Escrima and he would then move to Tracy, Ca. The incident in the Eastern United States in which several nursing students (mostly Filipina) were killed by a sex maniac sparked Leo in the teaching of his Filipino Art of Self Defense. He could not understand how several nurses could not subdue one maniac.
A Warrior Returns
Leo finally finds a way to alleviate and redirect some of the post war syndrome. He opened his first school of Escrima in 1968 in Tracy, Ca. He would have the help of the late Grandmaster Vincente Tinga, (Menehune Karate) who would allow him to share his Dojo in return for payment he would have to share his Escrima with Grandmaster Tinga’s students. One of the students was Grandmaster Tinga’s daughter, Elizabeth Tinga and the first female Escrimador within the Giron System. Then, 1970, it was back to Stockton, Ca. and the Bahala Na Giron Arnis Escrima breaks ground on South San Joaquin Street. Due to his military skills, knowledge of combat Escrima, knowledge of fraternal structure, experienced as a Toast Master, Leo’s road of being a legend continues. Under the original logo of the Giron System harvested many students: Dan Inosanto, Dentoy Revilar, Ted Lucaylucay, Jerry Poteet, Elizabeth Tinga and many more to follow.
In 1979 Leo restructured his Giron Arnis Escrima Club #1 into an organized group with constitution and bylaws and now under a new logo as Bahala Na Martial Arts Association.
Leo decided to go abroad with the Giron System and created “Giron Systems International”. This took him to Germany and Spain and the system blossomed into a global renowned Filipino Martial Art System.
Leo has fought on the battle fields of WW II and now he has to contend with his personal battle with his health. Suffering all his life with Hay fever, (Asthma), later going through a double and triple bypass slows the warrior. He insists on getting on the floor and to continue to correct his students but the sincere and sensitive instructors step in and say “I will take care of it Uncle Leo”. He looks always with a smile but the inevitable is near and he knows it.
The legendary Great Grandmaster Emeritus, Leo dies May 21st 2002 at the age 91.
“He was highly respected then and he is highly respected today”
The son of Leovigildo Miguel Giron
Grandmaster Michael Giron
Original Giron Escrima Federation