Grandmaster Gilbert Tenio taught Tenio Decuerdas Eskrima. The system was developed on the island of Bohol in the Phillipines. He incorporated 19 systems into Tenio Decuerdas Eskrima and also utilized his understanding of combat from his military service in the continued development of his system.
Gilbert Tenio was born on July 12, 1918 in Day Duero, a village on the island of Bohol, in the Philippines. At 26 years of age he became a naturalized citizen of the United States, making his home in Stockton, California. Grandmaster Tenio began his martial arts pursuit as a young boy around the age of 5 years old.
It is possible that his mother was an inheritor, or Suta of the DeCuerdas System. In the Vasayan dialect Suta means ruler of the mountains and wilderness and it is used to refer to a spiritual medicine healer.
As a child, Gilbert Tenio had a temper and therefore would not be allowed to train in the higher teachings of the art. If a student could not control his temper, he can not be trusted with an art that can hurt others. Gilbert was not exactly student material, but his mother had chosen him to carry on the family teachings.
In an attempt to help him gain control of his temper, he was sent to other martial arts schools that included training in Judo, Jujitsu and Karate. Gilbert earned his first Black Belt at a young age. Then, while in military service, he had the opportunity to train with ‘Cat Man’ Yamaguchi and received the rank of Yondan from him. Gilbert Tenio taught Karate-style martial arts in the military and he had a small dojo on the base, but he kept his Eskrima to himself.
When Gilbert Tenio began teaching martial arts in the early days of martial arts instruction in the United States, he was often challenged by other instructors who were territorial and having two instructors in the same area was bad for business and hard on the ego, so challenges were normal. Master Tenio welcomed these challenges as extra training opportunities. It was said that he hung a sign on a beam in his dojo stating, “All challenges accepted!” and that Tenio kept a table with weapons on it near the entrance of his school. When a karate practitioner come into the school and challenge him he would say, “Choose a weapon and I will be right with you.” Not expecting a blade fight, most times the challenger would then try to talk his way out of the challenge. In the end Master Tenio would prevail and do his best to teach a strong lesson without hurting anyone.
Gilbert Tenio was strong, but a very kind man. Training was never easy and the lessons never forgotten. He was determined that his students were going to watch, listen and learn. Then, after he made his point and class was over, he would take his headband and uniform off and join his students for dinner.
Grandmaster Tenio taught what he considered to be one of the strongest principles of DeCuerdas Eskrima and that was that a DeCuerdas Eskrimador never backs up, no matter how hard he or she is pressed. Instead, you press forward and end the battle before it develops further. He would say, “We may not strike first but we always hit first.”
Grandmaster Tenio also sat on the Board of Jujitsu America. He became good friends with Professor Wally Jay of Jujitsu America after they met while teaching at Camp Danzan Ryu, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. After teaching at a convention in Reno, Nevada with attendees from around the world, Grandmaster Tenio was recognized as the Jujitsu ‘Man of the Year’ after showing counters to most every high level Jujitsu technique known. Master Tenio was also inducted into Black Belt Magazine’s Hall of Fame for his contributions as an instructor in the martial arts.
Gilbert Tenio studied philosophy and psychology at San Joaquin Delta College, earning a general arts degree.
At his death, Grandmaster Gilbert Tenio’s devotion and service to his country were honored by President Bill Clinton and the Tenio family was sent a Certificate of Appreciation by the United States Government for his selfless service to the armed forces and the United States.
Grandmaster Gilbert Tenio passed away in 1994 and Tenio Decuerdas Eskrima was inherited by his son Richard Tenio.