Erwin Legaspi Bio


Erwin-LesgaspiErwin Legaspi was born and raised in Waipahu, Hawaii. Erwin’s early martial arts background included a few years of doing kata at a karate school for mischievous kids and being training dummies for friends who took judo, boxing, and Wing Chun.

Erwin’s real journey into the martial arts began in 1994, after a spending an entire summer of being a library bookworm researching his Filipino heritage and martial arts. Ironically at the same time of self-discovery, he met Maestro Eustaquio ‘Snookie’ Sanchez Jr. who also happened to have a school in Waipahu since the early 80’s and was world renown for his skills with the bullwhip and doing hard unpadded training. As he recalls:

“Everything about those days was tough. The school was in a rough place and my classmates were street fighters, soldiers, cops, and ex-gang members. People would come by to the school or to Waipahu Pump Liquor (where Maestro Snookie worked) to try to test some of the older guys out and even Maestro himself. I was just a bookworm – It wasn’t my scene and at times it was pretty frightening. At the very least though, I saw early on the type of things that worked in application and other things that were meant only to be practiced as mere training drills designed to strengthen specific athletic attributes.”

“Above all though, the training was the scariest. Maestro Snookie believed in the old, hard, unpadded training, and because of this, we lost A LOT of students. In the first two weeks both my hands were entirely swollen, and I had several bone spurs and fractures. I don’t think I was able to knock on a door for over a year. My arms and hands would also constantly tremble after unpadded sparring, as if I had a nervous disorder, because they were hit so much during every class. Since we trained at least three times a week for three hours and sparred majority of the time, my hands never completely healed. I also received a few concussions from direct hits to the head with the rattan. I was young and I didn’t dare say anything about my injuries because my parents would have forced me to quit. As a guy who never liked sports and was really a bookworm, I didn’t stay because I was tough – the only thing that kept me there was my desire to learn more about my culture and the fact that Snookie was such a positive role model for me. Though we no longer practice this way, the lessons from those days still stay with me. It still keeps me honest about what I know (and don’t know) and has given me a practical perspective in understanding techniques and their probability of success in actual application.”

After Maestro Snookie died in 1996, Erwin supplemented his Kali-Eskrima training by working out with friends who did other arts like judo, Kenpo, and Japanese jujitsu. Erwin eventually joined up with Makaha Kenpo under instructor Gordon Magallanes and received a black belt under him. “Gordon was very open to allowing us to try the things we knew and to see if it worked, because if it didn’t, everyone else in class let us know it didn’t . . the hard way. Gordon was very open and practical like Snookie because they both had to use their art in many actual self-defense situations. Gordon also liked the Kenpo old, hard training as well, and made us take as much punishment as we dished out – a moral lesson I don’t think a lot of schools have nowadays to teach the student the consequences of their actions – even if it’s justified for self-defense.” Though the club is much smaller from its heyday, Erwin still practices with the few active remaining members.

Erwin graduated from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and got a BA in Asian Studies, with minors in philosophy and Southeast Asian history. He formally joined the 02 family in late 2006 to learn Gracie Jujitsu and is back at UH MANOA to finish his masters degree in Asian Studies. He currently works at UH for a program directed at increasing underrepresented populations in college. He is presently a O2MAA blue belt.

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