Mortal Kombat

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Putting a ball through a hoop may require some serious skills. But completely manhandling another human being? That requires a skill set so primal and unlike any other. In Loyola Heights, these three mentors know more than their fair share of how to take a man down. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Photo by Aih Mendoza

Alexander Sulit | Judo

There are two teams which steal the scene every single time they step onto competitive grappling mats. They dominate their opposition with unrivaled tenacity and unreal skill.

Ateneo Judo is now the country’s most dominant collegiate judo team, housing two fighters now being recruited into the national team. On the other hand, Team Atos-VPF is now considered the country’s premier grappling academy, having taken home more overall championships and gold medals than any other squad in recent history.

Both academies house extremely talented fighters. However, all these fighters—including the unreal human bulldozer that is Matthew Jao and Anjo “The Juggernaut” Gumila—were once harmless little boys. Yes, every single champion that has come out of Atos-VPF or Ateneo Judo, was once a clueless novice. Every fighter who fights under the banner of either academy can trace his roots, his gold medals, his trophies and his skills to one man: Alexander Sulit.

Sulit is a 5th Dan Judo Black Belt, and also holds the rank of Brown Belt in Atos Jiu Jitsu. His accomplishments span uncountable national titles, along with a series of international accomplishments, five championships at the UAAP level as a coach and a bevy of personal accolades himself.

However, it is Sulit’s ability to train fighters that has put both him and his teams in the limelight. Good fighters are a rare thing, but good coaches? One in a million.

Many fighters crumble under pressure, many lose their legs, forget their training and, at times, even their courage. It takes an authentic sort of personal grit to step up and fight a grown man. Few can stomach the idea of going head to head with a well-trained individual, and even fewer can imagine walking away victorious. Perhaps this is the defining difference between Ato-VPF, Ateneo Judo and the rest. It is their ability to look at hard times, defeat and fear in the eye and say, “Not today.”

Not everyone can inspire this sort of courage. Then again, not everyone is Alexander Sulit.

Photo by Kitkat S. Lastimosa

Paul Andre Puertollano | Muay Thai

It was in April of 2005 when Muay Thai was introduced for the first time in the Loyola Schools. Being given the opportunity to offer the sport as a summer PE program, fresh graduate Paul Andre Puertollano jumped on the suggestion in a snap.

More than five years later, and with the creation of a collegiate Muay Thai league still in the works, Team Ateneo’s rival squads often consist of student representatives from other training centers.

The sport, Puertollano maintains, is not about violence—while elbows, knees and clinching are part of the game, punching and kicking are not Muay Thai’s only facets. “There is another side to it that only a true Muay practitioner knows and understands,” says the coach.

Puertollano, called Kru or “master” in Muay Thai jargon, was able to deliver stellar standings for his fighters last year, with the first semester’s competition culminating in a 3-0 win-loss record—including the first-ever win from a female fighter—and the second semester’s in a 2-0 card.

“It’s a continuous learning process for me,” Puertollano says. “All the fights have been memorable. I can still point out how a fighter won or lost.”

This year, the core of the team is filled by veterans Robert Reyes, Fidel Ala and Elton Evidente. With eager bodies coming in to be tested, Puertollano will see to it that the entire team is still fear-worthy.

“My philosophy is that everyone has a role. If one of them improves drastically, the others must improve as well. Their success is driven by support from the team, who must dedicate themselves to a fighter’s vision,” he says.

Puertollano teaches his fighters four things: desire, dedication, discipline and respect. In a full-contact martial arts discipline such as Muay Thai, it’s imperative that athletes trust their master and teammates, and above all, believe in themselves.

“Never forget the sacrifices. You have to look to something higher than yourself,” he continues. “It’s not to say that I don’t have my limitations—but I try to rise above.”

Photo by Kitkat S. Lastimosa

Jobet Morales | Taekwondo

“In everything and anything that you do, you have to give your best and strive for the best.”

Coach Jobet Morales is a firm believer of discipline and magis. In his 25 years of coaching the Ateneo Taekwondo team, his coaching philosophy has been centered on going beyond what is expected. The former international gold medalist is keen on forming not only exceptional athletes, but disciplined and hardworking students.

His credentials extend beyond the realm of Loyola Heights. Apart from the Blue Jins, he has also coached the Philippine National Team and was part of the coaching staff to the Olympic Games in Sydney and Athens, as well as in other Asian and Southeast Asian competitions and world championships.

Following the result of last year’s UAAP season, Morales admits that the team is still a work in progress.

Although a talented breed of rookies has been added to the roster, they still have a long way to go: “It’s different. Even if you were a champion in your junior years, [it] doesn’t mean you’ll be a champion in your senior years.”

One of the major obstacles he faces as a coach is recruiting new players. “Most of the players are homegrown.  I cannot recruit from the outside,” he shares.

Despite being associated with the national team, recruitment is still a problem as potential first seed players fall short on the entrance test and are unable to join the team. This is precisely why Morales conducts PE taekwondo classes—it is his way of selecting students as possible recruits.

Despite the roadblocks, Coach Jobet is determined to make sure that the Ateneo Jins will perform better this year. With the right mindset and discipline, he is confident his players can maximize their potential.

“I encourage them not to miss training. Even the best athlete needs to train and follow instructions; otherwise, he is nothing. You have to focus, be determined and always aim for the best.”

More than anything, he leads his troops with firm discipline, and that’s exactly what they need in the heat of the storm.

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