It began when Grandmaster Melecio Balberde (founder of CASASAI Philippines based in Cabatuan, Iloilo, Philippines) on his regular visit to his wife (Melba C. Balberde) who has been working as a teacher/Principal in Indonesia for more than 12 years, was given the opportunity to open an Eskrima class at Sekolah Ichthus Jakarta West in July 2008. He had several students who were enthusiastic in learning Combative and Sportive Arnis System (CASAS). They were Frans Aldy, Theodore, Lans Gian Villanueva, Zoe Villanueva, Valerie Limasi, etc. (Elementary/SD students). In that school, GM Mel had the chance to meet some Filipino professionals who were enthusiastic in learning the Filipino martial arts. They were Rene Salvatierra, Nonie Ampusta, Bernard Harina, Mark Villanueva, and 3 other Indonesian professionals namely Pauline Jessica Storrie, Venty Dwiyanti and her friend.
Mr. Mark Villanueva, together with his two children Zoe Kristen and Lans Gian, religiously studied eskrima with GM Mel. In the course of their constant meetings, Mr. Mark expressed his willingness to help GM Mel organize CASASAI Indonesia with the help of some Filipino friends. Not long after that, he met Mr. Rey Damasco who signified his interest in studying Arnis/Eskrima and Mr. Mark arranged a meeting at Mitra Utama at Kedoya, Jakarta Barat. Since then, Mr. Rey became GM Mel’s student. He was given free training because of his promise to help establish CASASAI Indonesia.
Toward the end of year 2009, Mr. Rey met three martial artists who demonstrated keen interest in learning Eskrima. These gentlemen were: Nugy Nugraha (Silat Instructor), Arry Gautama (Silat Instructor), Akhmad Dharmawan (Silat Instructor) and Abraham Nugroho (Jujitsu & Kungfu practitioner/instructor). He introduced them to GM Mel who immediately started training them for the purpose of establishing CASASAI group in Jakarta, Indonesia. Gradually, several other Indonesians joined the group namely Hendra Bapux, Daniel Laihad, Dodit Setiadi, Andrizal and several others including Mr. Rey’s two sons.
After several months of training in Ciledug, Tangerang (Clinic Budi Asih, Jl. Raden Fatah Sudimara) some students were promoted to first level (blue belt). Some students including Arry Gautama and Akhmad Dharmawan persevered to practice and were promoted to higher level. Then the group opened an Eskrima class in Kelapa Gading under the ownership of Abraham Nugroho, also a martial artist who wanted to learn Eskrima. Mr. Rey had been requested to teach the students there and some of those students were promoted by GM Mel.
By the virtue of special promotion given to those who are professionals and also Martial artists who signified themselves to become faithful in promoting CASASAI, Mr. Rey was promoted. After more than a year of training as private student of GM Mel, he was promoted to 3rd degree black belt thru the GM Mel’s recommendation.
Due to his perseverance and interest in learning Eskrima, Arry Gautama was promoted to Black Belt on 23rd November 2010 before GM Mel went back to Philippines. The Eskrima group met to formally organize CASASAI in Indonesia under the leadership of Arry Gautama, Ahkmad Dharmawan and Abraham Nugroho. Mr Rey was appointed as the adviser of the group.
The three pillars of CASASAI in Indonesia all agreed to form a group to practice regularly this particular martial arts style and gave it a name as Eskrima – CASASAI Indonesia. The reason they used the name CASASAI was solely to introduce particularly in Indonesia and generally in the world, Eskrima, as one of the Martial Arts that originated from the Philippines and affiliated with CASASAI Philippines. It was not for personal gain but for the common good, respect and gratefulness to their Guru Grandmaster Mel and their brothers in Philippines who have worked hard and struggled to establish, introduce, help, teach them this beautiful Art and knowledge through CASAS and of course, with the blessings and permission of the founder and president of CASASAI Philippines, Grand Master Melecio O. Balberde.
When Mr. Rey was promoted to a higher level he began teaching Arnis privately and had several students. He also opened a class in Blok M with his assistant Daniel Laihad who by then was promoted to green belt.
But as time went near for the registration of CASASAI Indonesia, Mr. Rey informed GM Mel that he wanted to separate from the group and continue to teach his own Eskrima based on the principles that he learned from him. GM Mel always respected Mr. Rey’s decision.
The CASASAI Indonesia group had its first official training session with GM Mel on the 10th of January 2010. That was the beginning of a strong teacher-student bond. GM Mel appreciated those four (4) men’s enthusiasm in the art and so he decided to offer them an Intensive Instructors’ Training Program. After sets of rigid training and tests of skills as well as natural selection, on the 23rd of November 2010, Arry Gautama had been finally awarded a certificate of recognition to teach the Art of Eskrima as Indonesia’s First Black Belt under the umbrella of Combative and Sportive Arnis System Association Incorporated (CASASAI Philippines) by Grand Master Mel himself and subsequently followed by Akhmad Dharmawan and Abraham Nugroho in the Year 2011.
Now, Casasai Indonesia is owned and managed by Arry Gautama, Ahkmad Dharmawan, and Abraham Nugroho. Ahkmad Dharmawan and Abraham Nugroho also learned intensively with GM Mel and they were also promoted to Black belt degree and are now certified Instructors of CASASAI Indonesia. Nugy Nugraha will be joining the core group shortly after he finishes his Master’s degree in Education. He has been very supportive to this group.
Now, CASASAI INDONESIA is growing from Four (4) to twelve (12) members. As of the moment, the core group is developing/training candidates for new Eskrima Instructor through a very intensive training, 2 to 3 times a week of special training under the instruction of Arry Gautama, Akhmad Dharmawan, and Abraham Nugroho.