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Beating Down Diabetes

Posted on May 11, 2019 | No Comments on Beating Down Diabetes

When you first meet Edmundo Ongsiako, you’ll know immediately that this is not a guy to cross.

Standing at 5’10” in height, with log-like biceps, surprising agility and a menacing goatee, the 49-year-old Edmundo is one of four official instructors of Krav Maga, a self-defense method that neutralizes threats by dealing devastating blows to the vital parts.

“It was 30 days of hell,” said Edmundo, recalling the training he had to go trough to become a certified instructor. “I had to train five times a week, from 9 am to 9 pm. The only rest day we had were during Sundays.”

But turn the pendulum seven years back and you’ll see a different side to this fighter, one that is a far cry from the spitting image of “kick-ass” that he is today. During a routine checkup one morning in 2003, the doctor found out that Edmundo’s blood sugar level was hitting 121, which was higher than normal. After further assessment, the doctor confirmed Edmundo’s initial fears – he had type-1 diabetes.

“I was surprised but I kind of expected it, since my father was diabetic so there was a chance I would get it,” said Edmundo. “However, I was expecting (my diagnosis) at a later age pa.”

It was this life-changing news that made Edmundo do a complete 180-turn around with his life. A self-confessed foodie, he had to cut back on his meal intake exponentially and complement this with a strenuous workout. This, however, proved to be harder that he initially thought, as all routine seemed to be monotonous for him. His quest to find the ultimate fitness regimen eventually led him to the doors of the Krav Maga Philippines Gym in San Juan.

Life after diabetes

“My lifestyle before diabetes? I loved to eat,” said Edmundo. “I never really went on a diet, and I’d go to the gym once in awhile only to count the calories, so I know how much I can eat the next time.”

“I also loved to drink wine and mix it with food to find the ultimate taste,” he added. In fact, the term food lover might be an understatement, considering that this guy once ate 16 servings of tempura in an eating contest when he was younger. That’s 10 shrimp tempura’s to one serving, making his record as 160 tempuras all in all (sadly, this amazing feat only got him to third place in the contest).

After his diagnosis, Edmundo started to slowly break away from his old lifestyle. He went to the gym more often and started to seriously count his calorie intake. The only problem was, the repetitive action of lifting weights bored him to the point that he found going to the gym tiresome.

“It wasn’t working. If I exercised three times a week, it wasn’t enjoyable,” said Edmundo. “I decided to try something more exiting so I reviewed my past, because back then I took up Judo and escrima (Arnis).”

Instead of having to redo training all over again, Edmundo opted for other close combat sports, like boxing, kickboxing and muay thai. But like his previous experience at the gym, he found the routine-based workout of these sports too cumbersome for his taste. It was after seeing UFC (ultimate fighting championship) videos that Edmundo and his daughter first got interested in the sport. The father-daughter tandem hired a submission coach and got into submission fighting.

“She enjoyed how to punch and how to grapple, but my wife complained that it was too combative for my daughter. That’s when I heard about Krav Maga, which is actually a lot worse,” he said.

Edmundo said that he had heard about Krav before but it wasn’t until a fateful event in Rockwell that he seriously considered taking it up. After seeing a group of Israellis performing Krav, he asked to join but the group said they weren’t authorized to teach.

“Out of memory, one of them wrote the address and contact details of a gym in San Juan that teaches Krav,” said Edmundo. “I went here and I inquired how much, then a week after I signed up to join.” “After that I kept training almost every week,” he added.

Got Krav?
Compared to his previous failed attempts at crafting a lasting relationship with other sports, Krav Maga was a different story. Here, Edmundo said that he never got bored, partly due to the dynamic nature and problem solving-aspect of Krav Maga.

“The beauty here is that the drills are very unpredictable,” he said. “As an instructor, I can set a scenario with a knife or a gun attack on one person, so he has to escape or survive the attack. If there are more than two students in class, I make it two versus one, or three versus one.”

“Sometimes the third student will have a knife in his body and puts it out at the last minute, so we test how the person reacts to the stressful situation,” added Edmundo.

Edmundo further states that compared to people who train in taekwondo, karate, jiujitsu or other such martial arts – wherein most of them are training for sport – in Krav, you only train to survive in the real world. “We don’t have a creed wherein we say that you learn Krav to be a better person,” said Edmundo. “No. We always say you learn Krav because of one thing: to survive a violent encounter.”

It was also because of Krav that he found a reason to kick his diet into high gear. The techniques taught by Krav required him to be fast on his feet or risk being hit. He wouldn’t also be able to execute the strategies or survive the scenarios if he was heavy, so he cut back on his food intake. Apart from this, Edmundo augments his speed and strength further by doing kettlebell exercises, which is incidentally also good for his gout.

“In some instances during the past, I had to walk with a cane when my gout attacked,” he said. “The solution was that I do weights since aerobic exercise will not help it. But as I said, I got bored with it since there was no life! So my partners, Kenneth and Dindo, decided to put up Kettleballs here.”

“The real reason that we did kettleball was to complement the Krav training, to hone a warrior’s physique,” recalled Edmundo. “But there was an influx of people just going in and out of the gym so Dindo suggested ‘Hey, why don’t we charge them?'” Edmundo recalled fondly.

Eventually, the kettleball exercise and teaching Krav Maga improved Edmundo’s overall health by leaps and bounds. The threat diabetes once brought seemed to be a thing of the past, one which he had managed to beat into a pulp through the intense training he poured into learning Kray. For Edmundo, battling diabetes was just a matter of finding a regiment that works – one that he really likes –and doing his best in it.

“The lowest point in my struggle was having gout and diabetes at the same time,” he recalled. “I woke up one morning and said ‘I cannot live like this, I don’t want to be dependent on a machine later on just to keep me alive.”

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