We all know him. We all love him. Quietly giving out instructions to torture his students or calmly navigating a sparring athlete in the ring. But what else do we really know about Kru Roberto Herrera???
For starters, he’s a talented and passionate visual artist who didn’t get his start in martial arts until his mid to late twenties. (YES, all you slackers have no excuses for ‘being too old’ to start anything!) He actually found martial arts out of “boredom” because although he and his friends loved basketball, he found wasn’t very good at it.
So a skinny 118 lbs, twenty-something Roberto (yes, it is hard to imagine him at that weight), found himself wandering into MAFA (Martial Arts Fitness Academy) in Wolfdale one day and experimenting with every martial art they had to offer, everything from: Savate to JKD to Kali to Wing Chun and Muay Thai. Originally from the Philippines (he’s the most Thai-looking Pilipino you’ll ever meet), the only thing Roberto knew about martial arts was watching Bruce Lee movies. Yet he found himself surprisingly adept at grappling and Wing Chun, but not so good at stand-up. That was when an instructor suggested that he start sparring and he did so, training 2-3 times per week while simultaneously gaining tips about how to gain weight by ditching his fish & rice meals and substituting them with chicken and steak (the lovely fattening North American diet).
Finally he was ready to enter the ring and put his skills to the test. Kru Roberto only started fighting into his late twenties but after numerous matches, he found himself searching for something more. Then he’d remembered his instructor, Neil, had always told him about the pride he felt when he saw one of his students succeed in the ring, but at the time, Roberto never understood what he meant. He’d always thought the only pride and glory to be sought was a shiny championship belt. Only when Roberto started teaching at a women’s fitness club himself and began to see his students excel, did the light finally turn on in his head.
“All of a sudden, I understood what Neil meant when he was talking about his pride in teaching,” Kru Roberto says. “It was a way to pass on Bruce Lee’s art and a way to help other people accomplish their goals. As an instructor, I am now able to take a student who knows nothing about martial arts and guide them to improve and perform at their best – that gives me a sense of fulfillment. I feel as if I’ve contributed something.”
But more than this, Kru Roberto is an artist at heart. A graduate from the Sheridan College Computer Design program, he has worked as a freelance designer, creating stunning editorial pieces for THE TORONTO STAR before becoming a Senior Game Designer at Pong Marketing & Promotions. He actually studied Fine Arts in the Philippines and admits his parents weren’t exactly thrilled when he informed them of his vocation. “Why can’t you just be a lawyer or doctor – they would say?” He laughs about it now, about how surprising this journey has been.
Yet it’s not hard to see why he is able to meld the two worlds together: the warrior and the artist. Both require a sense of divine inspiration and continual improvement. When asked what “martial arts” means to him, Kru Roberto simply states, “It’s Life.”
Yes, yes it is. 🙂
Thank you Kru Roberto for all you do.
ARTICLE BY: Alice Soon @AliceSoon1