Monday 3 September 2012

Filipino Martial Arts

Kali, arnis, eskrima, silat kuntao - these are just some of the terms used to reference Filipino martial arts, where weapon and empty hand skills are used interchangeably, are taught using similar training methods, covering fighting ranges and defending against armed and unarmed attacks with whatever is available - thereby turning ordinary household items into lethal weapons.  The term used for the art, whether kali, arnis, eskrima, etc., normally implies the region of origin or the the time period of development.

It is said that one of the foremost masters of this martial art is the first Filipino hero, Lapu Lapu.  When Ferdinand Magellan and the Spaniards set out to conquer Mactan in 1521, they were met with wooden sticks, spears, Kampilan swords and bolos.  Miguel Lopez de Legaspi noted in 1564 the Filipinos’ skill in stick fighting and swordsmanship, after being entertained by a Kali demonstration by the warriors of Raja Malitik and other succeeding demonstrations in other parts of the country.

With the declaration of bladed weapons as illegal by the Spaniards, the development of skills with hardened wooden sticks rose.  With this came the realization that due to the different handling nature of the stick versus the curved sword, it opened up other lines of attack for blocking, parrying, thrusting, etc.

In 1972, Filipino martial arts was incorporated in the Philippine sports arena, in high school and post secondary physical education curriculum, and has since been mandatory training in the military and police force.  Considered as an advanced practical blade system in the world, it is also a core component in the US Army’s combatives program and used by the Russian Spetsnaz.

Its popularity has also been fueled by Hollywood films which has featured/employed this particular fighting style: Daniel Craig in Quantum of Solace; Matt Damon in the Bourne series, The Bourne Identity/Supremacy/Ultimatum; Tom Cruise & Keri Russel in Mission Impossible III; Denzel Washington in The Book of Eli; Wesley Snipes in Blade, Blade II and Blade: Trinity; Tommy Lee Jones & Benicio del Toro in The Hunted; Forest Whitaker & Jude Law in Repo Men; Vin Diesel for Chronicles of Riddick series; Milla Jovovich in Resident Evil: Apocalypse; Dave Batista’s scenes in The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption; Eric Bana and Saoirse Ronan in Hanna; Rob Schneider in Big Stan; Aaron Johnson in Kick-Ass; and movies like Ninja Assassin, Taken, and 300.

Last July 22, the 1st Edmonton Filipino Martial Arts Gathering, a free seminar, was held at the Hawrelak Park, from 1:00-5:00pm.  Organized by the Philippine Warrior Arts Society and the brainchild of founder Guro Oliver Salvador and members Herald Casana and Noah Walt, its objective was to bring cooperation, brotherhood and unity among the different schools/system of Filipino martial arts in Alberta.

Participating groups were the: Paclibar Bicol Arnis headed by Guro Rogelio Paclibar; Arnis de Mano lead by Guro Phil Mar Nadela; Edmonton Kali Combative Arts Group with Guro Carson McDonald; KPC Martial Arts with Randy King; Pekiti Tirsia Kali lead by Herald Casana; Okotoks Eskrimadors/FTSMA Arnis de Cadena with Guro Noah Walt; MK/Lighting Scientific with Mafel Dasilao; and Dog Brothers Martial Arts with David Powelson.

It had an impressive turn out.  Surprisingly, the Filipinos in this gathering were the minority.  Some participants were actually just strolling or hanging out in the park, and joined at the spur of the moment, out of curiosity.  The rest were enticed through word of mouth, social media and friends of Filipino martial arts practitioners.  At the end of the day, everyone felt that this gathering was a long overdue one, bringing together people engaged and interested in this martial art, creating one community.  A Winter Gathering (late 2012 or early 2013) of the same purpose and intent is in the works.  Considering that this is one form that is dependent on its being passed on from one generation to another by a guro/master, its propagation and preservation is vital.  So whatever your motivation - as a serious martial arts practitioner, for self defense or for physical fitness, go and check this out.  In the meantime, congratulations to the organizers and leaders of the Filipino martial arts in Alberta, and we hope to see more practitioners and events of this form.
Workshop Instructors from L to R: Guro Carson McDonald, Ms. Mafel Dasilao, Mr. Randy King, Guro Oliver Salvador, Mr. Herald Casana, Mr. David Powelson, Guro Noah Walt, Guro Phil Mar Nadela, Guro Roger Paclibar

* This was written for and published in the August 2012 issue of Pinoy Times.

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