Dr. Dom Lopez Dr. Dom Lopez started teaching Balintawak in Victoria in the early 1980s. He learned the art from Master (Attorney) Jose Villasin in Cebu in the early 1960s, and Master Tinong Ybanez. Since that time he has instructed many students in Victoria, some of them having significant accomplishments in other martial arts. He now teaches at the Victoria Balintawa Eskrima Society when not traveling. Senior students of Dr. Lopez (presented chronologically) include: Kerry Hillier, Michael Zimmer, Mike Puckett, Richard Chan, Greg Nardi, Bob Holland, Daryl Pope, Chris Cunningham, Torrie Miller, Steve Ratch, and Chris Devlin


Michael Zimmer Michael Zimmer started training in Karate in the mid-1960s, and except for a hiatus of several years in the late 1970s, has been a martial artist since them. He started training with Dr. Lopez in 1984, and has been with him continuously since then. He has instructed in the club since for most of that time.


 Steve Ratch “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” I first became interested in martial arts when, as a kid, I saw Jackie Chan in movies. I wanted to be able to move like that. So, when I was about thirteen, I started with Hungar Kung Fu. When the teacher closed his school, I started Jujitsu with my friends. Then I was off to college, where I trained in Shotokan Karate and White Crane Gung Fu on different nights of the week. Eventually I went to Japan as an English teacher, and studied Kendo while I was there. When I moved to Victoria, I decided that I had had enough of starting over in a new style every year or two, as a beginner. I wanted to pick one style, train hard, and finally ‘master’ something. Fortunately, my exposure to such a wide sampling of styles had left me convinced that kung fu was the style for me – balanced skills, a wide range of techniques, and moves that could be made to work for different body types. After calling or visiting four or five different schools, I had my first conversation with Chris Cunningham over the phone, and a private lesson with Bob Holland. My friend Melanie and I both decided that this was the school for us: not too big, not too formal. The school had a friendly atmosphere, and a beginner could already take 6 classes a week (and even up that number once he or she achieved higher belts, which we did). In those days, we signed in on paper, forming a line ranked by belt level, with me at the very end. Over four years, we trained four or five days a week, improving our fitness levels, our coordination and reflexes, learning to kick, to breakfall, to grapple. We learned how to let go of enough ego to ask for and accept constructive criticism, how to help others learn, and that everyone, from the veteran blackbelt to the raw beginner, could teach you something if you were willing to learn. Other students came and went, and we made many friends. Then, one day, as we were signing out, I found myself at the head of the line, as the highest ranking student present that night. It was a special moment for me, the first time I truly became aware of the progress I had been making. After dabbling in so many different styles, I was finally getting good at something. After training with Chris, Bob and Rodger (who was pretty much a blackbelt long before he was tested) for four years, I received my blackbelt. I was proud of myself and grateful to my teachers, but I didn’t feel like an expert martial artist. At that point I realized that the belt was just another milestone on my chosen path, and that I could spend a lifetime traveling down this road. Since then I have continued to train in kung fu, teaching classes Thursday nights, and training in Escrima with Dom and Mike, which is a style that I find dovetails nicely with my kung fu, helping me to close off weaknesses in my fighting style. If some of my fellow martial artists are any indication, I still have decades left with which to improve my skills, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Chris Cunningham

  “The other side of fear is fearlessness”Dalai Lama

I believe that many of us have a fear or uncertainty that prevents us from pursuing things that we would like to accomplish. Whether this fear or uncertainty is about meeting new people, asking for help or in my case trying a martial art.  It is this self doubt and non-belief in myself that kept me from joining a martial arts club for 5 years until a friend called to inquire for me.  Until then I told myself that I wasn’t strong enough or flexible enough, too out of shape and it was this fear that didn’t allow me to follow what my heart really desired.

It was upon entering Kung Fu Canada and meeting my first teacher, Master Ed O’Brien, that my life was changed forever.  Each of us start out the same – a blank canvas that through nurturing and teaching we can become great martial artists.  I remember thanking Ed Walsh (another teacher at Kung Fu Canada) for giving me my Yellow Belt and he said to me “I didn’t give it to you, you earned it yourself”.  The realization that I could achieve my goals that I struggled with for so long was so powerful.  I found with desire and practice you have the ability in every class to transform into the martial artist you have always wanted to be.

I have been practicing martial arts for … years. I received my Black Belt after four and a half years at Kung Fu Canada and then left to pursue other goals.  Shortly after, I was given the opportunity by Bob Holland of Holland’s Kung Fu Academy to teach a new children’s program.   I trained at Kung Fu Canada with Bob and after joining Holland’s Kung Fu Academy he has been my primary martial arts instructor.  Under Bob’s guidance I also started teaching the adult programs on a regular basis and obtained my First and Second Sash’s (each sash is a five year commitment after obtaining the Black Belt).  Bob gave me the freedom to become more creative which has become the basis of my teaching style.  In October of 2005, I was asked if I would like to take over the Kung Fu Academy as a business opportunity, and in November 2005, HiddenDistance Kung Fu Academy was opened.

I teach through kindness and constant building of each student’s self-esteem and confidence to help them become great martial artists.  It is with this gift that I believe true happiness of mind, body and spirit is the achieved goal of martial artist.

… I am studying with Dr. Dom Lopez and Michael Zimmer of the Villisin Balintawak Eskrima Association (now Victoria Balintawak Eskrima Society).  Eskrima is a Phillipine Stick Fighting Art that has such subtle sophistication that I find so challenging.  I appreciate their insight and have learned so much from them.

Daryl Pope – Student of Bob Holland, Dom Lopez and Michael Zimmer