AGPS is a system of martial arts, primarily drawing from Indonesian Pencak Silat, intended to quickly provide students with physical tools to protect themselves and others and to provide a deep understanding of the principles that make those tools functional.

It focuses on close range combatives with and without weapons. It was developed by Guru Mike Casto based on over thirty-five years of martial arts training and his experiences with protecting people in his personal life and as a security professional.

What is AGPS?

AGPS is an acronym for Anjing Gembala Pencak Silat.

Pencak Silat is an umbrella term, like Karate or Gung Fu, that is used to categorize martial arts from Indonesia. Further, the term "Silat" is used in many other regions of Southeast Asia. There are hundreds of "official" Pencak Silat systems in Indonesia (e.g.: registered with the government). There are likely hundreds of other Pencak Silat systems that are unregistered.

Anjing Gembala is Indonesian for sheepdog. It's not an "animal" system; we don't train to fight like dogs. The name reflects my personal mindset and attitude and my reasons for teaching what and how I teach.

The name was inspired by an essay by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, U.S. Army (Ret.) titled On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs.

The essay discusses predators, prey and protectors in society and, as the title indicates, uses the labels of wolf, sheep and sheepdogs as analogies for these societal archetypes. I was bullied a lot as a child and first got into martial arts to protect myself but the more training I had the less trouble I had with bullies. I evolved into a protector and as an adult I have served as a protector in a variety of environments both professional and personal.

When I read Grossman's essay it resonated strongly with me and when I began considering names for my system the idea of the "sheepdog" seemed a logical choice. Since the primary influence for the system comes from Indonesian martial arts I chose to use the Indonesian phrase for "sheepdog."

AGPS is an American system that draws heavily from several systems of Pencak Silat and some other influences (primarily Filipino). I developed it to reflect my personal teaching methodology.

The system focuses on close range combatives. The curriculum is pretty streamlined and is intended to quickly provide students with physical tools to protect themselves and others and to provide a deep understanding of the principles that make those tools functional. Currently it is intended for civilian adults because that is my primary background but there are plans to develop targeted curriculums for law enforcement, military and children and I will work with experts in those areas to develop those curriculums.

Why A New System?

Many people in the martial arts world balk or even scoff at the idea of a "new" martial arts system. I completely understand the attitude. I used to have it myself.

For me, and I assume many others, it comes from having an "old school" background. I started training in martial arts in '78. While things were starting to open up in the American martial arts scene at that time they were still pretty closed and the "old school" mindset prevailed. Even people from younger generations than me tend to have an "old school" mentality because, as I did, they learned it from their teachers.

When I met Guru Ken Pannell, though, he was in the process of developing the Sikal curriculum and, gradually, I started coming to a new realization of what a martial arts system really is. Most of my training, all of my primary influences, in fact, have been in systems developed by my instructors. Sikal was developed by Guru Ken Pannell, Shen Chuan was developed by Professor Joe Lansdale, Cacoy Doce Pares was developed by Supreme Grand Master Cacoy Cañete and Kuntao Silat de Thouars was developed by Bapak Willem de Thouars.

I've also been something of a scholar, especially with regards to my martial arts training, so I realized that most of the martial arts practiced today are relatively new. A lot of them claim to be old and most all of them have roots in older systems but few of them have been around longer than 100 years.

At some point, though, all systems were new. Having been around for decades or centuries indicates that the system has been popular. It also implies effectiveness but not necessarily effectiveness as a fighting system. Some were popular and survived because they were effective forms of exercise or entertainment or whatever.

In the "old school" mindset a martial arts system is like a precious jewel that should be put on a pedestal and venerated. Over the years I've come to the realization that a martial arts system is really just a way of teaching. In the case of a fighting system it's a way of teaching people how to protect themselves and others. There is no "best" way to do this. Each instructor has to develop his or her own method of teaching based on personal preference, inclination and the type of student the instructor wants to teach.

There are as many ways to teach as there are teachers. There are as many "correct" ways to teach as there are students.