David Riggs is a rare individual. An artist and teacher for most of his life, he has always held the martial arts as something close to his heart.
“I was fascinated by combat arts from all over. As a kid it was Errol Flynn’s swashbuckling films that lit me up… Later as most of my friends began learning this or that style of karate, I found myself at a loss. Something didn’t seem right.” – DR
That changed around 1980, when he discovered the Filipino martial art of Arnis (also popularized under the names of Kali and Eskrima). Passing a neighborhood storefront (in Hollywood), he was amazed to see fighting drills being done at full speed –not just with empty hands but with sticks, knives and kicking. Disarms and throws happened as if by magic.
“At the time, no one was doing anything like arnis. It was just before the US martial arts explosion that brought masters from many arts and countries to the states seeking their fortunes. I began studying at a really interesting time.” -DR
David threw himself into training full time, working at what would become the American Arnis Academy of Hollywood round the clock. He trained extensively with senior class men proving his ability to adapt quickly, expanding his from solo baston, siniwali and espada y daga with Tae Kwon Do and Judo.
That was when Michael Replogle, and Jeffrey Arnold announced American Arnis to the world. American Arnis, a blend of Filipino Martial arts (Modern Arnis, Arnis De Mano) and martial arts already popular in America at the time. It was hoped that this would allow people of different systems to have a common footing, filling the holes in training with only Arnis.
As the first black belt of American Arnis, Mr. Riggs taught students of all ages and backgrounds. He acted as his instructor’s chalk-board, constantly retraining as the curriculum changed. In 1985 he took over the responsibility of the Academy allowing the founders to focus on research and development. He taught for many years, first under the American Arnis Academy name, and later as his own methods evolved apart from AA as Defience: the Academy of Defensive Science.
He continued teaching for 12 years before moving on to interests in motion pictures and art.
Now after many years, David Riggs picks up his weapons again to train a new generation of warriors. Gladiator School brings together his extensive knowledge of history, combat skills and love for the martial arts to create a system of self defense that encompasses the evolution of combat from ancient Rome to today.