Martial Arts

Welcome to MARC, the program for Martial Arts at Rizal Center. We offer free on-site hands-on classes about martial arts in general with an emphasis on Filipino Martial Arts.

How many Bolos do you see at the base of the Andrés Bonifacio Monument in Caloocan, Philippines? The absence of a handguard indicates that these familiar and readily available civilian agricultural tools were conscripted for defense.


Regular Schedule

  • Thursdays 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm. HG: Wrestling / Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
  • Saturdays 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm. HG: Boxing
  • Saturdays 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm. HG: Open Gym / Strength & Stretching
  • Saturdays 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm. HG: Striking & Self-Defense
  • Sundays 1:30 pm to 3:00 pm. GH: Filipino Martial Arts
  • Sundays 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm. GH: Tai Chi

Any notes and exceptions will be listed here ASAP.

  • The schedule goes into affect 2024-05-06 Mon as was announced with this post: Haymaker Gym & MARC.


Classes are free but donations are appreciated.

Certain events like workshops with guest instructors may not be free.


  • Wear/Bring
    • Comfortable clothes & shoes
    • Water bottle
    • Waiver required for each participant. Options
      • Save the waiver as a PDF, complete it digitally, and email it to
      • Save the waiver as a PDF, print it, complete it physically, and submit it in-person.
      • There are printed copies on-site, complete it, and submit it in-person.

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    The scheme is simple

    • Health & Safety First. Unsafe training is ineffective training. Scale activities to your level.
    • Relax & Play. You are consenting to do something healthy, meaningful, & enjoyable.
    • Modular Learning. Small and simple foundational pieces. Start with like vs like.
    • Grow Over Time. Add more pieces, varieties, repetitions, combinations, tests, etc. Share & pass on!

    Modes covered include

    • Unarmed & Armed. Core arms:
      • < 1′: Dulo Dulo (Palm Stick), Daga (Knife)
      • ~2′: Baston (Stick), Bolo (Sword Machete)
      • ~3′: Tungkod (Walking Stick), Spada (Sword, e.g. Kampilan)
      • 4’+: Poste (Pole), Sibat (Spear)
    • Unarmored & Armored. Core armor:
      • Fencing Mask. For general safety and correct distance.
      • Kalasag. An oblong Shield in a hand or tower version.
      • Taming. A circular forearm Shield.
    • Upright & Ground
    • Blows, Trapping, Clinching
    • Wrestling, Takedowns, Throws, Pins, Grappling, Locks, Breaks, Submissions
    • Varying degrees of contact
    • Solo, Like v Like (e.g. 1 v 1, Few v Few, Boxing v Boxing), Like v Unlike (e.g. 1 v Few, Armed v Unarmed, Axe v Sword)

    Program Emphasis

    Safety. The first step in risk management is believing that danger is possible. We will foster street smarts, i.e. preventative self-defense and active self-defense. Unsafe training is ineffective training. Training can be demanding, but injuries should be avoided. Video game combat may be safer, but physical combat is more real.

    Health. Activities will be scaled to a level that can safely challenge each individual. We will periodically do simple tests so we can have a benchmarking perspective. Yes, you can drink water, go to the bathroom, or take a break. Activities will foster your cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, coordination, agility, balance, and accuracy, but we will focus on martial arts. Feel free to cross-train! 

    Atmosphere. Learn and practice in a legal, ethical, proud, fun, social, positive, and effective fashion. Martial arts (like life & tennis) come alive when done with a partner. Your partners are very important! Foster productivity & innovation with work AND play. You can do more if you are rested & relaxed, curious & collaborative, questioning & authentic. Fostering civility & character also enhances safety. 

    Inclusivity. Everyone regardless of culture, background, race, language, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ability, disability, or age can benefit from martial arts. This program supports tolerance for all except the intolerant. It is beneficial for all participants to train with a robust variety of body types, styles, skills, mindsets, experiences, etc. As far as the degree of knowledge, skill, athleticism, etc., don’t let it be a barrier. Perfection is the enemy of good. We are all learning and improving. Do not worry about making mistakes or starting easy, that is the way of growth. Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Like swimming: Don’t panic; instead, stay calm. There is always someone better. We welcome feedback.

    Consent. All staff and students consent to participate. Unwanted harassment will not be accepted. When we play, we consent to rules of engagement. Cheating in Tic Tac Toe makes it unplayable, but cheating in martial arts makes it also unsafe.

    Intent. A key goal of martial arts is defense; You don’t need martial arts to be offensive. While martial arts may share aspects of dancing (such as pleasure, entertainment, expression, athleticism, and real-time execution), martial arts are not dancing. Awareness of non-sporting actions & gear, dirty fighting, fouls, laws and statutes related to felonies, misdemeanors, and murder helps us clarify our intent.

    Fundamentals. Abecedario (“The ABCs”): A few letters can make many words. Fundamentals include stances, structure, breaking structure, blows, blocks, grips, leverage, geometry, momentum, weight distribution, distance, lines, anatomical pros & cons, timing, initiative, and provocations. Like learning to drive there are 3 levels: Learning fundamentals, executing intuitively, then insights akin to emergent properties or “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts”. The large and complex are built upon the small and simple.

    Curate. Filipino Martial Arts are fighting methods, arms, and armor devised in the islands of the Philippines and practiced by the diaspora of Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. This includes the past (such as pre-colonial Philippines), the present, and the future. Some things cannot be recovered if lost (like a species or stories you haven’t heard from your elders), while other things can be rediscovered (like the concept of numbers).

    Openness & Transparency. This program is open and adaptive, so it explores the broader field of martial arts in general. How do you know? Ask questions and test (especially under pressure) theories, concepts, gear, combos, etc. More repetitions can increase your confidence in your knowledge, gear, & skill. This is knowledge as a justified true belief. Absorb what is useful from any source. Education is not just learning but learning how to learn. Feel free to cross-train or share cool stuff with us! 

    Intuition. People are learning machines with a lifetime of learning. You teach yourself how to hit by hitting things. You innately know about breathing, moving, hunger, thirst, lust, anger, fear, fight-or-flight stress response, etc. How do you feel? Problem-solving takes IQ + EQ. Every class should include free play (randori) scaled to a level that can safely challenge each individual. The intuitive execution of combat while under stress is enabled by many methods including chunking, reps (for muscle memory), cues, reference positions, reference points, and other heuristics. 

    Gear. One of my goals is to grow a pool of on-site communal gear because there’s a lot of gear, some of it is specialized, expensive, or both, and gear gets difficult to lug around. We’ll start with our core gear but explore others. We can categorize weapons as impact, bladed, flexible, hooking, projectile, historical, armor, and improvised gear (stuff that has non-defense uses and is commonly owned by modern law-abiding citizens, but is accessible and applicable for defensive purposes).

    Disaster Preparation. Build awareness of actions, gear, and knowledge helpful for disasters. You can prepare, even if you don’t know Who, When, What, How, Why, or If the cookie crumbles. We will tie knots, build gear, watch our finances, make backups, look ahead, etc.

    From the top: A sharp tip Bolo (aka Iták or Súndang) and scabbard. A trainer approximation is a synthetic Dussack with a hand guard. A police Baton (specific gravity 1.2). A rattan Baston (SG 0.3), and a removable leather hand guard. A sharp Tomahawk and a trainer Tomahawk. Knife Folders with 3″ blades, one sharp and one a trainer. A Rock (SG 2) and a Juggling Sack (SG 1.1). George Hernandez with an unprotected head next to a Fencing Mask, which should be your first armor item.

    On the sides: A Jump Rope is for exercise but it can also be improvised defensive gear as is in various ways or modified into a Tabak Toyok (Nunchaku) or Bolas. A steel Side Sword. A synthetic Kampilan. A 6′ oak Staff (SG 0.7): Its length enables injurious blows even if you’re wearing a fencing mask.

    There is more gear to explore!

    About the Main Instructor

    A teacher may guide a student through a forest, but it’s the student doing the walking; plus the forest is huge and can be seen from many perspectives. I am thankful for all who have taught me, all I have trained with, and all I have taught (because they taught me too).

    • My name is George Hernandez. I was born in Manila, but my family is largely from the Sorsogon Province in the Bikol Region of Luzon, Philippines.
    • Boxing. In a family of 7 boys, our father had us boxing from 7 years old. Participated in the Silver Gloves program with the Chicago Park District. The smell of leather and sweat is nostalgic for me.
    • Shotokan Karate. 13 years of heavy practice. Collegiate national champion. UIC Karate Club President. 3rd-degree black belt with the Japan Karate Association (JKA) and the International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF). Interesting connection with the South African JKA. I participated in the build-out of 2 dojo/schools.
    • Western Martial Arts (WMA). Member of the Chicago Swordplay Guild (CSG) since 2003. Scholar in both Rapier and Longsword. I did the website for CSG and the Western Martial Arts Workshop (WMAW) for years. Studied and practiced Historical European Martial Arts (HEMA), period documents, arms, and armor, including Italian, German, English, Spanish, Singlestick, Arming Sword, Side Sword, Spear, Saber, Dussack, Messer, Poleaxe, Buckler, Rotella, Rondel, and so on. Yes, I was there as the community transitioned from wood/rattan to bamboo Shinai to synthetic to aluminum to steel.
    • Filipino Martial Arts (FMA). Student of Guro Nate Defensor and the Defensor Method of Filipino Martial Arts. Emphasis on Baton and Muay Thai. Although I have a fond memory of a marine stepping on my neck with combat boots, we will generally avoid combat boots in our classes.
    • Firearms. Trains in firearms. Registered in Illinois with a current Firearm Owners Identification (FOID) and Concealed Carry License (CCL).
    • Misc. I dabble in various other martial arts including BJJ, MMA, Archery, Aikido, Wing Chun, Tai Chi, and Judo. I watch a lot of YouTube videos on martial arts. I have taught adults, seniors, and children.
    • CrossFit. Training since 2007. Constantly varied functional movements ranging from gymnastics, weightlifting, running, rowing, swimming, and more. I like the concept of general training combined with specialized training.
    • Health: Nearsighted in both eyes: -2 diopter, i.e. perfect vision to 10″. Deaf in the left ear. Sinus bradycardia: Resting heart rate in the 50s. Allergic rhinitis: Seasonal allergies. Gout: Filipinos are genetically susceptible to gout. Martial arts related injuries: Various bones, teeth, & nails broken over time; Two surgeries on my right knee have given me titanium screws.
    • Certified in First Aid, CPR, and AED.

    George Hernandez with Gambeson, Gorget, Gauntlets, and Poleaxe in a group photo for a Poleaxe class taught by Christian Tobler and Greg Mele at the 2007 Western Martial Arts Workshop.

    George Hernandez in a group photo after a Poleaxe class by Christian Tobler & Greg Mele at the 2007 Western Martial Arts Workshop.