January 12, 2017
Mastery and Legacy of the Filipino Martial Art Arnis, Kali, Escrima
My love affair with Arnis started many years ago, when I was a young teenager training in martial arts, fascinated by traditional Chinese and Japanese weaponry. As young boys, we all wanted to be just like Ezekiel Thompson of the movie, "Force Five" played by weapons expert Richard Norton for his expertise in different weapons systems.
Inspired by these icons, I started training with these weapons systems under 9th Dan, Sensie Robert Campbell of the Uechi-Ryu Okinawan Karate while doing my open hands training and kick boxing skills with Master Topher Ricketts of Bakbakan and Sagasa Karate System.
When Master Topher saw that I was interested in weapons, he asked me to try Arnis. My first reaction was "Why?". All 16 year olds at that time wanted to be like Sho Kusugi from all the Ninja films. But then he told me to trust him about the effectiveness of the Filipino Martial Art. I guess at that time, hindi uso maging Arnisador as it wasn't as famous as those weapons systems seen in the movies. Unlike today, where we see Tom Cruise or Matt Damon doing FMA on screen, to the delight of all FMA practitioners.
So one afternoon, in 1986, Master Topher introduced me to a short and stocky man in his mid-twenties who had the biggest forearms I had ever seen.
I clearly recall telling him that he had "Popeye arms", which broke the ice and started a wonderful friendship between student and master. His name was Master Edgar Sulite.
My first lesson from him was a realization of how deadly and effective our Arnis system was in the real world. He would ask me to throw sticks, and even tennis balls at him, while doing the sinawali and to my amazement; it was impossible for me to penetrate his defense.
He would then show Knife fighting techniques and empty hand techniques including takedowns, which were truly effective for real life situations and not just for fancy movie props and entertainment.
I was in love... in love with this martial art and there was no turning back.
I discovered for myself that we had a hidden gem, a secret treasure. A martial art that was so unassuming yet so effective, so complex and yet so simple, so graceful and yet so deadly. But most of all, it was our very own Filipino Martial Art. From then on, I met and trained with other legends like Grand Master Antonio Illustrissimo and GM Tony Diego, under the watchful eye of my adopted father figure Master Rickettes.
It was at this time that I saw how the art and sport grew. I had the opportunity to compete in several national competitions and the honor to represent the Philippines at the First World Arnis Tournament held at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in 1989, under the invitation of the Cañete Family of Doce Pares and WEKAF. I will forever be greatful to them for allowing me to compete in their tournament.
Unfortunately, as the sport grew, so did the intrigues. I have seen for myself how little by little, we have been tearing each other apart rather than staying united. On how groups were starting to feel unwelcome because of certain personalities. Or being deemed "disloyal" for joining certain activities not "sanctioned" by governing bodies.
This should never be the case. I, myself was a victim as well, of this brand of destructive politics in sports. In 1991, I was not allowed to participate in the SEA Games Arnis competition even if I was the reigning National Champion because of the simple reason that I had joined tournaments sponsored by other organizations. Again, this should never happen. I believe that every one of you, your students and your followers, should have the support and encouragement from the government and our national organization to enhance your skills and strengthen your art and style. No jealousy, no discrimination; only support and guidance.
Moving forward, through the efforts of Grand Master Roland Dantes and several Arnisador, I filed SB No. 3288 and in 2009, we finally passed it as RA 9850.
Unfortunately, GM Roland was never able to see it made into law as he passed away before it was approved. Let us recognize his efforts. Let us give GM Roland Dantes a rousing round of applause for all his efforts to unify our Martial Art and Sport through legislation, and this is what we are recognizing today. Not just the efforts of GM Roland, but of all our Masters and Grand Masters who have gone before us. This gathering today is for all their hopes and dreams that one day, Arnis, Kali and Escrima would be recognized, by our government, by our people, by the world.
The steps that we take today will make sure that no one should be left behind, that no student should be disallowed from joining competitions, that no organization, or school, should be discriminated from financial assistance from government or by the unified organization, and that no Grand Master, past or present, will ever be forgotten.
Today, we are at the crossroads of history my friends. Today, we forget that we are Doce Pares, Kalis Illustrissimo, Modern Arnis, Balintawak, Lightning, Pekiti Tirsia, Bakbakan, Lameco, etc...
Today, we are one in our mission to unite all our styles, all our beliefs, all our dreams, under one unified FMA Organization; promoting inclusivity, chosen democratically and run through constant consultation and guided by our RA 9850, under the guidance and support of the Philippine Sports Commission.
Change has come.
Today, let us make history! Mabuhay and Arnis, Kali and Escrima!
Mabuhay tayong lahat!
Sunday, March 26
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