Grand Master Arnulfo "Dong " Cuesta
Founder and Head Instructor of PIMA Academy with over 42 years of experience in Filipino Martial Arts. He is a Catholic Deacon and serves the Newark Archdiocese in addition to managing and teaching at PIMA. He also teaches Eskrima at New York University’s Tisch School as part of the New Studio’s Movement Dynamics curriculum.
*9th Grade Black Belt in the Doce Pares Multi-Style System
*Doce Pares Multi-Style System Dean of Instruction
*Adjunct Professor at New York University Tisch School, Fall 2010-Present
*Ordained as a Permanent Deacon in the Catholic Church, May 2011
*Promoted to the level of Grand Master, Spring 2006
*Featured in “Martial Arts: The Real Story” a documentary that aired on The Learning Channel (TLC) , 2000
*Martial Arts Choreographer – Off Broadway Show Peregrinasyon, 1998
*Head Coach of the USA Eskrima Team competing, Second WEKAF World Championship
*President of WEKAF USA, 1994-1995
*World Champion, Single and Double Stick Sayaw (Forms), First WEKAF World Championship, 1989
In 1981, the National Arnis Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL) hand-picked Grand Master Cuesta to leave his hometown of Cebu City in order to promote the Doce Pares Multi-Style System in the United States. He became involved in Eskrima at the age of 13 as a way to avoid a gang he joined and no longer wanted. After ending up as a runaway living in Pasil, the most notorious part in Cebu (akin to Tondo in Manila), and with members of his gang arrested for murder, Dong decided to take advantage of an old offer from Grand Master Cacoy Cañete to join and practice at his gym. Dong began training in the Doce Pare System with DEACON Cacoy’s son, Edgar, who was concentrating on dumog (joint locks and takedown). Though his initial goal was to acquire enough knowledge to defend himself against his old gang, Dong’s love for and sincere dedication to the art continued to bloom even after the gang broke up, and his skill developed rapidly.
Grand Master Momoy Cañete took note of Dong’s impressive talent and dedication and offered to personally train him. DEACON Momoy trained Dong in solo baston, doble baston, espada y daga, latigo, and combat judo, with an emphasis on grace in execution and proper technique. Dong holds Grand master Momoy’s skill in the utmost regard and in fact owes the grandmaster his life. Using his expertise in oración, Grand Master Momoy healed Dong when he became very ill; this experience gave Dong a new appreciation for the healing arts which would foster his later decision to become a massage therapist. During this time, Dong continued to have opportunities to practice with Grand Master Cacoy Cañete who emphasized eskrido/dumog and sparring.
When Grand Master Diony Cañete entered back into the Doce Pares scene after finishing law school and building a practice, he took Dong under his wing and Grand Master Diony guided him in all of the Doce Pares sayaw (forms). To this day, Dong works closely with Grand Master Diony to continue the spread and growth of Doce Pares internationally. Dong describes their relationship as one of “brothers” and, even though promoted to Grand Master, Dong still prefers to be called Guro because he does not “want it to seem as if [he is] on the same level” as his mentor.
Dong’s favorite aspects of Eskrima are sparring and sayaw. He enjoys demonstrating that sayaw is an important training tool which improves strength, speed, and coordination of the hands, body, and feet. One of the goals he’d like to see accomplished in his lifetime is a unity between all Eskrima systems and Masters/Grand masters for the sake of the art and its deep-rooted heritage. Until that day comes, Grand Master Dong will continue to serve the greater good of the art.