Tuhan James Berdal

Tuhan James Berdal is blessed, honored and privileged to have had the legacy of great martial artists Supreme Grandmaster Floro Villabrille, Sr., Grandmaster Ben T. Largusa and the new standing Grandmaster Mel Lopez guide him along the right path in his development as a martial artist.  He relies on their teachings to focus his efforts in continuing to honor their legacy by perpetuating and promoting the Filipino Martial Art of Kali with the Villabrille-Largusa Kali System.

Born in Tondo, Manila, Philippines and raised in Fremont, California, Tuhan Berdal’s interest in martial arts began in the garage with his father, brothers, a “How To” book on Karate and many Bruce Lee and Shaw Brothers movies.  Bruce Lee’s nunchucks were his first introduction to weaponry.  The 80's and 90'sHe was captivated by the speed and flash of nunchucks and would make them from any kind of material that he could find such as broom sticks, metal pipes, rattan, his dad’s shovel handle and connect them with rope or chain.  Tuhan Berdal would twirl and swing the nunchucks day and night, switch between his left and right hands and incorporate many fancy moves.  But he did not know how to apply them in actual combat until several years later when he would learn Kali.

James Berdal and Percy Titsworth - Kajukenbo 1978At age 14 he began formal training in martial arts under Sigi Greg Lagera and the Crazy Dragons Kajukenbo System.  Several years later, his uncle would introduce him to a Villabrille-Largusa Kali class held in Union City, California being taught by then Guro and now Grandmaster, Mel Lopez.  After watching the class, he expressed his interest in learning weaponry and Grandmaster Lopez invited him to try Kali.  He recalls, “Within a few weeks, the Villabrille-Largusa Kali system opened my eyes to a complete and effective weapons based and empty hand system, the beauty of the martial arts and the heritage of my Filipino ancestors.”  He began to apply the concepts of Kali in using the espada y daga (long and short stick) and it became more than just swinging a pair of nunchuks.  The garote along with other weapons became an extension of his hand and an effective weapon of combat.

In 1982, after passing the first standardized Kali Association of America review board which was comprised of Grandmaster Ben T. Largusa, Guros Greg Lontayao, Greg Rojas, Tony Lamadora, Ron Hellman, Allen Magdangal, Mario Magdangal, and Jerry Pongasi, he received his certificate of Lakang Osa (1st degree black sash) from Grandmaster Lopez.  Later that year he joined the United States Navy.  On a brief return home from active Naval duty in 1983, he was granted the authorization to teach the Villabrille-Largusa Kali system under the guidelines of the KAA.  He has never stopped training and always remained involved.  In his training, he continues to uncover the theories and concepts   inherent in the Villabrille-Largusa Kali System as well as apply Grandmaster Largusa’s Sixteen Basics Fundamentals and principles of options and extensions.

He was honorably discharged from Naval duty in 1987 and the first Berdal School of Kali was opened in Fremont, California.  Ten years later, after relocating to Hawaii, the Oahu school was opened.  In 2000, he was promoted to the rank of Professor and in 2003, he transferred with his job as an aviation technician to Maui, Hawaii where he continues to teach Kali.

In the early years of his training his parents Jaime Sr., and Sinaglaya Berdal, were at every KAA function and are proud that his brother, Tuhan James Berdal - 1978Willie and he share with their family and friends the beauty and richness of this aspect of the Filipino culture.  He explains, “Today, my life in Kali would not be as possible without the love and support of my wife, Paula.  She is my left hand, and the right is for my garote (hard stick).  We both enjoy watching our two boys Rolando and Liam twirl and bang the sticks around.”

Early in Tuhan Berdal’s training he remembers Grandmaster Lopez telling him, “Train hard and well, make no excuses, one day you could be the next Tuhan”  and recalls, “Above all else, loyalty.”  Upon Grandmaster Largusa’s passing, Tuhan Lopez succeeded him as the third Grandmaster of the Villabrille-Largusa Kali System and Lopez’ personally chosen successor as Tuhan, James Berdal completed the succession plan implemented by their predecessors.

The torch has been passed and the legacy of Grandmasters Villlabrille and Largusa continues under the guidance of Tuhan James Berdal and Grandmaster Mel Lopez.