Master Henry’s inside stories

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Grandmaster Henry Espera talks about his early days, training under Tatang, and more

He lives in Silang, Cavite so I was surprised when I saw him this morning in the park where Master Cris Pasindo and I train (Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City). That’s about 65 kms (40 mi) distance.

He said he was going to meet with someone but came early to get some solo practice.

I was eager to learn more about him, so when he was done, I requested Master Cris to invite him for breakfast. My husband, J-cip, joined us.

For more than two hours, while absent-mindedly eating a Filipino breakfast of tapa (beef jerky), sunny-side up eggs, fried rice, orange juice, and brewed coffee, Master Henry let me inside his fascinating world.

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His demeanor was gentle and humble, and he told his stories with fondness. I’m grateful for the privilege.

Early years

  • Born on December 1, 1953 in Sorsogon, Bicol
  • 4th child in a brood of thirteen (yes, 13!)
  • At 7 years old, his father gave Henry his own itak so he could do his daily chore of getting firewood for cooking.
  • At 21 years old, Henry went to Manila and got a job as a laborer at a Gravel and Sand company
  • After a few years he became a jeepney driver plying the Divisoria-Monumento route, driving from 6 PM to 6 AM
  • Every morning, as he went home to Moriones, Tondo, Manila, he would see many people walking towards a certain direction. After some time, he learned that those people were going to Luneta. That’s when he discovered that iconic park.
  • Since then, he would usually cut short his duty, bring back his jeepney to the garage at 3 AM and then by 6 AM he would already be in Luneta, doing some exercises and relaxing.

Training under Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo

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Photo credit 
  • Master Henry doesn’t remember exact dates. He knows that he met Tatang in the late 80’s and remembers that he was already training under him when there were airplanes bombing Malacanang “From Luneta, Tatang and I saw the planes but we didn’t know what was happening”.  (Note: I think that’s the 1989 Philippine coup attempt.)
  • They usually met Monday to Saturday, 6-9 AM
  • Robert Morales, also a student of Tatang, once suggested to him not to attend the Sunday trainings anymore since he already was with Tatang Monday to Saturday. So on Sundays, Henry would just sit at the side and watch the group training. “That’s maybe why some are questioning if I really trained under Tatang. But you can ask Maestro Siuox Glaraga. He was then (along with Grandmaster Jose Mena) also in Luneta on weekdays and he saw us.”   
  • Tatang always wore long-sleeves shirt (tucked in), formal pants, and leather shoes.
  • Tatang liked pandesal and coffee.
  • Training would consist of situationers and problem solving.
  • Tatang did not do numbers and counting. He gave no lectures on technique. He’d say, “What if someone hits you like this?” He’d show a move and then you follow him. If you ask him about your move, “Tama ba ito?” (Is this correct?). He’ll answer, “Kung tumama, tama.”  (If it hit, then it’s correct.”) Note: Because of the double meaning of the word “tama”, it sounds more poetic in Tagalog.)
  • Tatang wanted moves to be small but powerful. “Liitan mo lang ang galaw.”  
  • Training was always painful as Tatang did not have qualms of hitting you.
  • In the mid-90’s, Tatang became sick and was confined at the Quezon Institute for about a month. When he got well, he resumed training (although, he was not as strong as before). He continued for about two years more until he died.
  • The morning before his death, Henry still trained with Tatang. Tatang went home at around 9 AM. Around midnight he woke up and talked briefly with his wife. The next morning, he didn’t wake up anymore.
  • It took some time before Tatang was buried. The sad reason: They didn’t have money for burial.
  • Most important lesson from Tatang: Practical fighting.

Training under Alejandro “Andy” Abrian (Moro Moro Orabes Arnis Heneral)

  • Mang Andy worked as a maintenance man in Luneta. He was in charge of the maintenance of the flag poles and saw to it that flag rules were followed.
  • He watched Tatang and Henry practice, and after Tatang left, he would call Henry and comment about their training. He would then teach Henry his own techniques.
  • It was from him that Henry learned a lot. “Matagal nang namatay si Tatang, kasama pa rin ako ni Master Andy.” 

Training under a certain Mang Juan (Automatic Arnis)

  • A friend told Henry that there was very good Arnis Master in Quiapo.
  • They went to meet him and Henry trained under him for about two weeks only. “I already knew the techniques he was teaching so I didn’t see the need to train under him.”

Training under Erning Espinosa (Boxing)

  • In 1992, with already a few years of Arnis training, Henry got into a fist fight versus five men. (They were trying to unjustly tow his jeepney).  Henry eventually chased them away but not before sustaining a lot of cuts and bruises. He went home discouraged and thought “Arnis is not enough to make me win a fight. I have to learn how to grab, hold, and punch also.”
  • Somebody introduced him to a boxing master, Erning Espinosa, based in Balintawak, Quezon City.
  • From him, Henry learned blocks and punches, even trapping, grappling and kicking.
  • He also remembers Master Erning’s favorite siete-siete technique: You make your opponent move forward to attack you… lead him to a corner… and then suddenly move sideways so that you can trap him (forming a “7”, hence the name)

Rapido Realismo Kali

  • Over the years Master Henry developed his own system: Arnis mixed with punches, kicks, grappling, and wrestling.
  • He emphasizes the use of small moves made powerful by footwork, body position, and timing.
  • He differentiates edged from impact weapons.
  • He espouses the repetition of a certain move hundreds or even thousands of time. “Muscle memory is crucial,” he says.
  • He first named his system, Espera Mixed Martial Arts.
  • With the suggestion of his student, Isagani Abon, he later changed it to Rapido Realismo Kali International.
  • He likes to be called Master Henry but his formal title is Punong Guro.

Words of Wisdom

Finally, I asked him for messages he wants to tell others. Here they are:

  • Show humility by being careful with your words. Do not say anything that would provoke.
  • If others insult you, show the strength of your character by keeping your cool.
  • Strive to be a good man. Having martial arts skills is dangerous if you don’t have character.
  • Teach young people to love the country and its national sport, Arnis. If you see an interested young person, teach him well.

Thank you very much Master Henry!

Important Note:

Before our talk, I asked permission if I can write about what he’s going to tell me. He said, “No problem. Go ahead.”

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8 pages of notes from the 2 hour talk

After our talk, I said I’m going to write things up and show him before I publish. He said, “No need. You go ahead and publish.”

So here’s my waiver: I’m telling these stories the way I understood them. If I got some information wrong, it’s not Master Henry’s fault, it’s mine.  Please accept my apologies and let me know in the comments below so I can correct things.

Salamat at pugay po.

P. S.  I still have stories about Tatang’s oracion but that will be for another post.

Thank you for taking time to read my blog, The Deadly Dance.

*****

Read more from around the web:

PG Henry Espera / Rapido Realismo Kali

Antonio Ilustrisimo / Kapisanang Mandirigma

Alejandro Abrian / Visayan Arnis Eskrima

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting to know some Filipino Martial Arts Maestros

 

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From left: Grandmasters Martin Raganas, Jr., Pepito Robas, Punong Guro Boy Pajo, Grandmasters Henry Espera, Roberto Labaniego, Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim

Most of them are soft-spoken, unassuming, and even slightly shy. If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t realize that you’re in the company of men who have contributed so much to Filipino Martial Arts.

During tournaments,  I sometimes cringe when I see young athletes not paying attention when Maestros speak or do exhibitions. This has to change. We’ve got to learn about our own history.

Knowing and respecting the great men (and women) who were before us help us know ourselves better.

I myself don’t know all of them. So during the latest (14th) Arnis Pasindo tournament, in my amateur-interviewer kind of way and amidst my other duties, I got some basic first hand information.

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While everyone else is watching the tournament, I get insiders’ information from GM Martin Raganas, Jr. (first generation Ilustrisimo student) and Coach Arnold Narzo, current Chief Instructor of Kalis Ilustrisimo Repeticion Orihinal (KIRO)
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From left: Grandmasters Maximo Aldave, Lorenzo Magsico, Dr. Richard Gialogo, Grandmasters Jerry dela Cruz, Cris Pasindo, Henry Espera, Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim, Grandmaster Roger del Valle

Maestros Present (Names alphabetically arranged)

  1. Aldave, Maximo (Aikiyoi International Martial Arts)
  2. Buanjug, Eldie (Buanjug Eskrima / Lapunti Arnis de Abanico)
  3. Del Valle, Roger (Magkakaibang Arnis del Valle)*
  4. Dela Cruz, Jeremias “Jerry” (Arnis Cruzada)*
  5. Espera, Henry (Rapido Realismo Kali)*
  6. Ibrahim, Jimmy (Falcon Consolidated Martial Arts)*
  7. Labaniego, Roberto (Eskrima Labaniego)*
  8. Magsico, Lorenzo (Arnis Reform National)*
  9. Raganas, Martin Jr. (Punta Engano)*
  10. Robas, Pepito (Otsotiros Balintawak / Arnis Robas)*
  11. Valleno, Lemio “Romy” (Valleno Arnis Club /LSAI)*

*brief write up below

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From left: Grandmasters Lemio “Romy” Valleno, Maximo Aldave, Roger del Valle, Jerry dela Cruz, Henry Espera

Roger del Valle

  • Born on August 8, 1952 in Labangon, Cebu
  • Trained under Crispulo Atillo (Atillo Balintawak) and Filemon “Momoy” Canete (Doce Pares/ San Miguel Eskrima).
  • Founded Magkakaibang Arnis Ka Roger based in Manila
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From left: Grandmasters Jerry dela Cruz, Henry Espera; Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim

Jeremias “Jerry” Dela Cruz 

  • Born on April 21, 1947 in Sta. Rita, Pampanga
  • He initially trained in Karate (in Angeles, Pampanga) and in 1965 started training under Remy Presas (Modern Arnis).  He became head instructor and taught in many schools and even in the American Military Bases in Angeles.
  • In 1995, he founded Arnis Cruzada, based in Pasig City.

Henry Espera

  • Born on December 1, 1953 in Sorsogon, Bicol
  • Trained under Antonio Ilustrisimo (1980’s), Alejandro “Andy” Abrian of the Moromoro Orabis Arnis Heneral, and a certain Mang Juan.  GM Espera cannot remember Mang Juan’s surname but remembers that he headed Automatic Arnis based in Quiapo, Manila
  • Founded Rapido Realismo Kali (RRK), based in Manila

Jimmy Ibrahim

  • A Karate Sensei but very supportive of the Filipino Martial Arts
  • Born on November 5, 1953 in Cotabato City
  • Trained in Kuntao (with an “o” he emphasizes), Karate (under Dansalan Usman and then later, under Roberto Gonzales, the Karate King of the Philippine movies), and Silat under a certain Norodin
  • He is now with the Falcon Consolidated Martial Arts (Shotokan Karate)

Roberto Labaniego

  • Born on June 6, 1940 in Mambusao, Capiz
  • First trained by his grandfather on the use of  sibat (Filipino spear), then by his father on Largo Mano, Dumog, and some boxing. He later trained on Espada Y Daga under Benjamin Lema (Lightning Scientific Arnis)
  • For more information, click here.
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From left: Grandmasters Pepito Robas, Crisanto Pasindo, Roberto Labaniego

Lorenzo Magsico

  • National Training Director and Founder
  • Arnis Reform National
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From left: Grandmasters Martin Raganas, Jr., Pepito Robas, Eldie Buanjug

Martin Raganas, Jr.

  • Born on January 23, 1952 in Estaca, Minglanilla, Cebu
  • His first Arnis instructor was his father, Martin Raganas Sr., who was a member of Cebu’s Doce Pares. He also trained in Boxing, and in Karate where he became a blackbelt. In the mid 70’s, he met Antonio (Tatang) Ilustrisimo and from then on trained with him. His training-mates were Tony Diego, Yuli Romo, and Romy Macapagal. Sometimes the four of them would stay in Tatang’s house in Tondo, Manila. (Trivia: Tatang’s and Tony Diego’s houses were seperated only by a wall.)
  • Founded his own system, Punta Ingano, based in Manila.

Pepito Robas 

  • Born on May 31, 1952 in Hinigaran, Negros Occidental
  • Trained in Balintawak in the 60’s under Arnulfo Mongcal (a student of the Balintawak founder, Venancio Bacon). Then he also trained in Modern Arnis under Roberto Presas, a relative who lived near them in Hinigaran. Roberto is the younger brother of Remy and Ernesto Presas. Roberto then put up his own system, the Hinigaran Arnis de Mano, of which Robas became a head instructor.
  • Founded the Robas Balintawak System, based in Novaliches, Quezon City.
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From left: Grandmasters Roberto Labaniego, Lemio “Romy” Valleno, Punong Guro Boy Pajo

Lemio “Romy” Valleno

  • Born on May 17, 1950 in Monreal Masbate
  • Trained in Lightning Scientific Arnis by the founder himself, Benjamin Lema. Later he also trained under Roberto Labaniego (also LSAI).
  • Founded the Valleno Arnis Club (LSAI), based in Makati City.
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From left: Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim, Grandmaster Henry Espera, Dr. Richard Gialogo

***

These two maestros modestly didn’t want to be put in the same category as the above so I’m writing them as a valuable addendum here:

 Richardson Gialogo 

  • Born on January 17, 1974 in Manila
  • Trained in MoroMoro Orabes Heneral, Modern Arnis, Ilustrisimo, Doce Pares, and Pekiti Tirsia
  • Now the Director of the Loyola Schools Physical Education Program (Ateneo de Manila University) and a Senior Lecturer at the College of Human Kinetics (University of the Philippines, Diliman)
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Grandmaster Martin Raganas, Jr., Coach Arnold Narzo

Arnold Narzo

  • Born on June 22, 1970 in Tondo, Manila
  • Trained under Antonio “Tatang”Ilustrisimo and then later with Antonio “Tony” Diego. There was a time when he trained simultaneously with both of them.
  • Now Chief Instructor of Kalis Ilustrisimo Repiticion Orihinal (KIRO), based in Manila

This is basic information. Soon, I hope to get more including how long they trained with each master, their philosophy, and some words of wisdom. What else can I ask them? Please give me suggestions.

Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance.

Pugay.

Tournament Report: 14th Arnis Pasindo Invitational Tournament

 

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Grandmaster Crisanto Pasindo (8th from left) with the Tournament Judges and Referees

Arnis Pasindo Invitational Tournament. 5 December 2015. Volleyball Court, Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City, Philippines.

“The expert at anything was once a beginner.” –Helen Hayes

Do you know how it is when the court is full of new athletes who are nervous, but enthusiastic and had little or no expectations on themselves? It’s like a breath of fresh air.

Well, that was the general atmosphere of the 14th Arnis Pasindo Tournament. We had 120 athletes and about a third were first-time competitors. You can actually feel the positive vibe. They were eager and not jaded at all.

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Singing “Lupang Hinirang” during the Opening Ceremony

Of course, part of it was because more teams exhibited discipline and sportsmanship, and behaved the way Filipino Martial Artists should.

Over the last 13 tournaments, a number of individuals as well as whole teams, have been disallowed from participating again in any Arnis Pasindo Tournament because they disrupted the games and were disrespectful to officials and other athletes. “This is the only way we can usher in a new generation of Filipino Martial Artists — get rid of the bad and encourage the good,” Master Cris Pasindo said. “Even if that will mean only 50 players, then so be it.”  

Well, even when we had to change the date of this tournament from Sunday to Saturday which prevented many athletes and officials to join because they still had work or classes, we definitely had more than 50, and what a tournament we had!

Opening Ceremony

Master Cris welcomed and thanked everyone for participating. He said, “It’s great to be involved in a sport that also increases your appreciation of your own culture.”

And as he always does, he reminded everyone of the tournament’s objective: to bring Filipino Martial Arts tournaments to a higher level such that someday, it will be included in the Olympics. “We’re not even in the South East Asia  (SEA) Games,” he said. “I’m sad that even if Filipino Martial Arts is our national sport, it’s not one of the sports played in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines  (UAAP) nor the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). It’s tragic, but with our united efforts, we will surely make progress.”

Exhibitions

Exhibitions by different Grandmasters are always done so that the younger athletes will know that Filipino Martial Arts is not just what we play in tournaments– it also has combat, self defense, and other aspects.

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Grandmaster Jerry dela Cruz of Arnis Cruzada  doing a combat exhibition with his team. He was moving so fast that all our photos of him were blurred.
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Grandmaster Henry Espera of Rapido Realismo Kali doing a double bolo exhibition
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Coach Arnold Narzo and Coach TR Elicano after their rapid fire exhibition of Solo Baston, Dikitan, Punta y Daga, Empty Arms Disarming

 

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The Elite Team

A Sinawali and Basic Strikes exhibition was also done by the special needs students of Dynamic Thinkers Educational Center who call themselves, The Elite Team. Thanks to their patient coach, Dayang Helen Mae de Leon, the students did “a performance of their lives” and was given a big round of applause afterwards.

Tournament Proper

Anyo and Combat Demonstration Competitions

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They’re getting better and better at showing real Filipino Martial Arts moves,” Grandmaster Jerry dela Cruz remarked as he watched the competitors. They better be, because, as usual, moves that were clearly from the other arts like Wushu, Karate, or even from band majorettes and bartenders were scored low.

Point System Sparring

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The Arnis Pasindo tournament rules were used and that meant that the players were separated after a hit. There’s no continuous hitting so the fights are cleaner and safer and the scoring clearer.

The elimination rounds  of the Novice Category was a joy to watch. The way they flailed their arms, legs, and bodies were “fresh” moves as only beginners make.  “Whew! This is fierce. Avoiding getting hit is as important as hitting!” exclaimed one after his rounds. Oh yes, dear Novice, you are so right.

The cheering from their teammates was another level. “I don’t remember any of our tournaments having this much fun before,” said one official.

“Having many beginners is good,” Master Cris said. “Everybody starts as beginners and for all we know some of them will FMA Grandmasters in the future. They just need experience and exposure, and our tournaments will give them that.”

Time flew as we watched the rest of the sparring competitions. Athletes were sweaty in their armors with minds and bodies tense with anticipation and strategy. When they finally made their moves and padded sticks hit the armors and made those distinctive whacking sounds, the referees with their hand signals and instructions, and the judges’ red and blue flags going up and down, it was savagely beautiful to watch.

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The fights continued into the night, with the last round ending at just before 8 PM.

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Meticulously arranging the trophies and medals

 

Closing and Awarding Ceremony

 

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2nd Runner Up: Fort Bonifacio Blazing Phoenix
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First runner up: University of the Philippines Kamao / KAMAO
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Overall Champion: Paclibar Bicol Kali

When all the medals and trophies have been awarded, Master Cris Pasindo declared the 14th Arnis Pasindo Tournament close.  He then invited everyone to next year’s tournaments. “Continue to train, become better and better, and let’s see each other again in April, August, and December 2016. Mabuhay!” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Preparing for our 14th arnis tournament

 

FB announcement

Tomorrow’s the day of the Arnis Pasindo’s 14th tournament.

Oh wow, is it really the 14th now? I shake my head with amusement and disbelief because we’re a small group and except for Master Cris Pasindo who is a full time Arnis-Eskrima instructor, we are all amateurs with other day jobs.

Organizing a tournament is no easy task I tell you. You have to take care of a  million details. Over the years, we have learned a lot about how to do things.  It’s still difficult but compared to when we first started, it’s much better now.

Here are some behind the scenes stories.

 

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Quezon Memorial Circle, Quezon City, Philippines

The Venue. Thankfully, we’re based in Quezon City and we have the Quezon Memorial Circle (a 22-hectare public park in the center of the city).

We wanted the basketball court because it’s bigger but we couldn’t afford it so we settled for the Volleyball Court and paid the reservation fee several months back.

Less than three weeks before the date we reserved, we were informed that the former mayor wanted to use all the courts on that day. Hmmp! Of course we didn’t want to move our date because all our invitations have been sent out.  Well… no choice. We realized that that’s the way things are. They needed the court so… we moved.

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11/29/15. Master Cris (in brown) with some Arnis Pasindo members and friends on the last meeting and dry run for the 14th tournament.

The Officials. One of the difficulties we always have is estimating how many athletes will participate. That information will determine a lot of things, the most important of which is, how many referees and judges we would need.

In the  last tournament, there were more participants than we expected so the officials worked almost non-stop.  I think it was in the 6th tournament that we had more officials than athletes.

We always encourage people to register early, even giving them the incentive of a discount if they did. But only a few do so.

We usually hold our tournaments on Sundays but since we had to move to Saturday, we don’t know how many will be able to participate tomorrow. So, I think Master Cris made a lineup of twelve referees and judges (we’ll be having two courts).

The Finances: By far the biggest chunk of the expenses go to salaries. With all the hard work they do, you have to at least give the officials and staff fair wages.

Every tournament, we pay around 35 people (judges, referees, table committee members, scorers, timers, armorers) And that’s already lean. Our security marshals, housekeeping, medic, set up and clean up people, are all volunteers.

Aside from the salaries, you have to pay for the venue,  food and drinks for the officials and staff, padded sticks, medals, trophies, certificates, etc, etc.

So far, we have no financial support from any national sports group like Philippine Sports Commission or Arnis Philippines.  Maybe in the future this will change. I hope soon.

A few friends and some local government officials who understand our advocacy of advancing Filipino Martial Arts help us financially and they are very much appreciated.

But most of the expenses are shouldered by our group — small amounts put together and managed well accomplish a lot.

There are many more stories and one of these days, I’ll write about them. But for now, I have to go back to my own preparations for tomorrow. Just like the other Arnis Pasindo members, I will multitask.

  1. Member, Food Committee: Make sure that special guests (Grandmasters), officials, and staff are fed and hydrated.
  2. Member, Documentation Committee: Make a report of the whos and whats of the day.
  3. Medic.

Ok, bye for now.

Pugay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father and son in Filipino Martial Arts

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One of my training-mates is a father and son tandem, Eli and his 17 year old son, Bot, a college student taking up Civil Engineering.

This morning, after our practice I did a quick interview:

Joy: How did you start in Filipino Martial Arts?

Eli: In college, I joined a martial arts club called Arjuka which stood for Arnis, Judo, Karate, and Aikido.  We would practice three times a week learning the basics of each.

Bot: When I was in first year high school, Arnis was our PE.  I was bored with it because almost all we did was practice Redonda and Sinawali for one hour every week, for 5 months. And for the final exam, we were asked to get a partner and if we were able to make our sticks “contact well”, we passed.  Easy enough, so I passed.  I didn’t enjoy the class.

Joy: Why are you in Filipino Martial Arts now?

Eli: I always wanted to learn Filipino Martial Arts because it’s Filipino and I’m Filipino.  Aside from that, I like it because it’s a system that uses different weapons and that it’s very applicable to real-life fights.

Bot: My dad convinced me (chuckling softly).

Joy: Why did you want your son to learn Filipino Martial Arts?

Eli: When he was in high school, I knew that soon, his school work would require him to stay late in school. I wanted him to learn skills to make him confident when he has to commute home alone. I believe that Filipino Martial Arts could teach him those skills.

Bot: Dad explained the reason why I needed to learn it and then showed me some movies like Game of Death with Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto.  In the Bourne series, Dad said “See, with Filipino Martial Arts, even a ballpen can be deadly.”  That convinced me.

Joy: In high school you were bored with Filipino Martial Arts. How do you feel about it now?

Bot: I enjoy training now. Of course the training is more serious. I have to learn more challenging techniques and I usually go home with sore muscles. But I like it because it helps me be fit and healthy, and teaches me techniques I can use in the streets if ever something bad would happen.

Joy: Do you see yourself staying in Filipino Martial Arts for years to come?

Eli: Yes.

Bot: Most definitely.

Andres Bonifacio movie fight scenes: too dark

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I’m Filipino but I don’t care much about our local movies. Sure, I love many things about the Philippines– our people, natural resources, culture, food, clothes, history, music, sports and games, and of course, our martial arts. The movies, however are different. In my mind, many are slapstick, commercialized, and haphazardly done.

So I was glad that the recent Metro Manila Film Festival  included Andres Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo . If you don’t know yet, Andres Bonifacio was the leader of the Philippine Revolution and especially interesting to us Filipinio Martial Artists, is his fighting prowess. He usually fought holding an itak in one hand and a revolver in the other. Now, that’s impressive!

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Andres Bonifacio Monument showing him holding an itak on the right hand and a revolver on the left.

I looked forward to watching the movie because I knew it would be educational (we Filipinos are not experts in our own history) and it would also be a show of support to movie makers who strive to make quality, patriotic films.

And of course, I wanted to see the fights! Later on I found out that the fight scenes were choreographed by Sonny Sison, who did a lot of work in Hollywood.

Well anyway, according to one interview I watched on TV, the movie aimed to present an aspect of Andres Bonifacio’s life not known to many: his love love. Okay, I accept that.  So, I sat through those lovey-dovey parts and waited for the fight scenes.

Well, my reaction? The fight scenes were too few and too dark!

The fights were mostly done in the dark that I had to strain my eyes to catch the details of the moves. There were lots of running, jumping over fires, grunting, and blade against blade sounds.  I saw a lot of powerful, long-range strikes utilizing a lot of our angles.   But disappointingly, that’s about it. It was just too dark to see.

Maybe the director did not want the scenes to be too gory so he made the lighting dim.  But for me, whose main goal was to enjoy the fight scenes, it was a let-down.

The last scene where Bonifacio and his men ran in a large open field, towards the enemies guns and canyons was dramatic but I wonder if they were really that “brave” to face the enemies that way.

My main take home thoughts?

  • Fighters should learn how to fight in darkness or dimly lighted areas. In fact, I agree with my friend Mio that all martial artists should get a stint as a Barangay Tanod to get the feel of how it is to fight in the dark or dimply lighted areas where opponents would suddenly spring out of nowhere.
  • Fighters should do lots of cardiovascular exercises also. In the movie, the revolutionaries would jump over fires and run fast in big open fields carrying their weapons. Now, that would be hard to do if all you train in are weapon techniques, right?

So anyway, thank you for this  intelligent and  high-quality movie. It helped clarify some points in our history.

It’s just sad that this movie did not make a lot in the box office but I hope that it won’t deter movie makers from going this path again. Maybe us Filipinos will shape up and finally learn to appreciate good history films.

I hope so.

Pugay to all!

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You can watch the whole movie here. The longest fight scene is at around 1:05

Tsako, Chako, Chaku

 

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Until recently, I’ve never known nanchaku, nanchuks, or even tabak-toyok by any other name than tsako, chako, or chaku. Ask any man on the streets of Manila and more often than not, they’ll identify them as such.

I was surprised to learn that it was a tool used by Filipino farmers. “Really? I’ve always thought that they were weapons, from China!”

Master Cris said that in Davao, they would dry rice grains in the sun for several weeks and then thresh them with tsako.

My friend Eli, an agriculturist working at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources,  confirmed it but said that farmers no longer use tsako now. Farmers now have threshing machines or if not, they use the traditional but easier method of “threshing grains with their feet.”

Anyway, he tried to demonstrate how to thresh with tsako but because of my zero farming background, I couldn’t visualize it.

Now here’s serendipity: One day I was in a bookstore leafing through a Tagalog Bible comic book about Gideon, the Mighty Warrior of Israel when I saw an illustration of him threshing grains using what looked like a tsako!

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Image Credit: ICI Ministries

You hold one stick and flail the other one against the grains!

I don’t know if it was just a Filipino illustrator’s rendering of the Biblical account, “Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress”. Do you suppose ancient Isrealites had tsako as well?

Anyway, what’s important is I now know more about this farm tool/weapon.

That, I believe, enriches the experience of training with it.