Jessie Santiago has been interested in martial arts since childhood. The popularity of Japanese and Chinese martial arts movies from the 1980’s always peaked his interest in the various fighting forms. At the age of 5, Jessie was enrolled in an after-school Karate program for 3 months. After that, he also trained in fighting against his two older brothers (which he lost on numerous occasions).
When he reached high school, Jessie played football for two years and enjoyed the full contact hitting of the sport. As he approached his early 20’s, he was fascinated with the rise of Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and mixed martial arts (MMA). He started to train in hopes of fighting in “the cage.” He started out learning more of the combative kung-fu styles like Sunda, JKD, and combative tai-chi applications. He later transitioned into cross-training in boxing, Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Though he did not get any formal ranking in either style, he trained for the love of martial arts. He was first introduced to the Filipino Martial Arts in 2004, but due to the costs of training, he had to drop out after 3 months. After 2 years of training (and injuries), Jessie began to lose interest in martial arts because it no longer was about the passion, but felt like it was a job. He gave up on martial arts training and fighting MMA to pursue his other passion in video production.
After 5 years of running his own video production company, the economic crash forced him to close his business in 2009 and he went into a slump. He ran into his old Filipino Martial Arts instructor and said he would like to get back into training, but did not have the funds to pay. His instructor gave him a scholarship as long as he would remain loyal to the group and support in any events, demos or seminars.
This began his journey into the Filipino Martial Arts and learning about not only the combative aspect, but also it’s rich history. He is currently teaching Filipino Martial Arts in Evanston and Chicago, IL. He is currently a level 3 instructor under the Defensor Method of Filipino Martial Arts, and is also a level 3 practitioner in the FMA Balintawak system.