Martial Moves

Vicky Newman
Lenoir City News Herald
April, 2009

As a youth, Steve Klement was torn between Tennessee, his primary residence, and California, where his biological father lived. 

Klement attended Lenoir City High School during his freshman and sophomore years, then moved to California around 1984-85. Today, he is back in Tennessee, and returns regularly to his former school, this time as teacher. 

At the Inayan School of Eskrima, headquartered in Knoxville, Klement teaches a form of martial arts that originated in the Philippines. Klement was taught and ranked directly by the late Suro Mike Inay, Filipino founder of Inayan Eskrima. 

“I knew I wanted to take martial arts as a kid, but my parents didn’t want me to,” Klement says. “Mike Inay was teaching in Northern California. On a trip to see my father, I saw what he (Inay) was doing and fell in love with it. I didn’t want to do anything else.” 

Several things attracted Klement to the art of eskrima. “Mike Inay was teaching outside in the Santa Cruz mountains. It was beautiful, and family oriented,” he says. “If you trained there, you were part of the family.” 

For a time, Klement actually lived in the home with his teacher and mentor. After finishing school, he joined the military, serving a stint in the Navy, then returned to California to resume his eskrima training. “My Teacher (Mike Inay) was approached by the largest law enforcement defensive tactics training outfit in the world, and asked to write a knife defense curriculum for law enforcement. “There wasn’t anything viable at that point, so he wrote Reactive Knife Defense, used for spontaneous edge weapons attacks on officers.” 

In the mid-1990s, Klement opened an Inayan School of Eskrima in Lenoir City. Located on Broadway, it remained operational until after Klement got a second school started in Knoxville, around 2001. 

Klement has taught the art around the world. He taught with Inay until Inay’s death in 2000. While his primary pupils for the law enforcement techniques are law enforcement officers, Klement has relished the opportunity to teach the art to criminal justice students at LCHS. 

Nancy Lawrence, head of the criminal justice program at the LCHS Career And Technology Center, said students in the criminal justice program receive the identical Eskrima training given law enforcement officers. Klement, a former classmate of Lawrence, serves as chairman of the advisory committee for the program. 

“Eskrima is very different from other martial arts,” says Lawrence. “It is a true war art. The Filipinos were small people, and they had to learn to be fast and good with their hands.” 

David Vandergriff, a criminal justice student and senior, says he has enjoyed the Eskrima training. “You actually get to do something that they are doing in the (law enforcement) academy — it’s the same experience.” 

Another student, Stephanie Pratt, says, “I liked that it taught you how to react if you are in a situation. It is not difficult to remember, but you’ve got 

to practice. I think everyone should take a couple of these classes. Anyone can learn them.” 

Lawrence says, “This is a dangerous world, regardless of whether they are law enforcement students or not. It is important to learn self-defense, pressure points and edge weapons defense... (Inayan eskrima) helps increase awareness of their surroundings; it teaches them to be alert and aware. We constantly emphasize that, and we are fortunate to have an alumni like Steve Klement, who is world-renowned in martial arts as our criminal justice committee chairperson. He dedicates his time to the students. He’s good with the kids and discipline.” 

Eskrima training is just one part of the criminal justice program. The four-year-old program also includes crime scene investigation and forensic experience, with mock crime scenes and mock trails. The students learn the basics of fingerprinting and hand printing. Three years of criminal justice classes at high school level qualify students for college credit in all areas of law enforcement. 

“We use a lot of guest speakers and community speakers,” Lawrence says. “A lot of the students are interested in some type of law enforcement or military career,” Lawrence says. “They learn the civilian alphabet, how to do police reports and legal terminology. It gives them a head start.” 

For more information about the Inayan system of eskrima, or about Klement’s Inayan School of Eskrima in Knoxville, visit the Web site at