Arnis Tournament Review: Why I’m proud in a sad kind of way

So, I did go to my first Arnis tournament and I must say, ADRENALINE was the word of the day.

I got tired just watching from the sidelines!

If I didn’t know any better, it would have looked like two street thugs in strange gear, whacking each other with sticks–to death!

Arnis Tournament

It’s a good thing that before I went, I read the Sports Arnis rules and regulations (here and here), so I knew that the athletes were actually doing very complex techniques: strikes, footwork, body movements, blocking, and defending. They moved so fast and hit so hard that I couldn’t help but think that if this were a real fight, serious injury, or even death would be inevitable.

The referees and judges were alert (they had no choice!) and I looked with a fan’s admiration at how skilled they were knowing how to score such a fast sport.

A score for blue! I learned afterwards that these judges are all Arnis Masters. No wonder!
A score for blue! I learned afterwards that these judges are all Arnis Masters. No wonder!

It took the whole day for the tournament to finish. A new experience for me.

Well, I have mixed feelings about it.

I feel proud about of our national sport. It is complex yet practical, deadly yet beautiful, ethnic yet universal. I’m grateful to the masters who developed it and passed it on to us. I’m grateful to the people who are into it now — they love it, learn it, and propagate it.

I just sort of feel sad about how underrated Arnis is in the Philippines. Many do not know much about it. My friends are always surprised that I went into Arnis. “Why not go into Taekwondo or Boxing?” they ask.They say that Arnis is impractical because it’s not always that you carry a stick. Oh, if they only knew! I understand that it’s not their fault that they have these misconceptions about arnis. There are many deep-rooted reasons, I know.

I also feel sad that the Arnis Grandmasters and Masters are not so appreciated here, not that they are looking for it. Most of the ones I know remain humble both in attitude and lifestyle.

For example, Philippine Martial Arts Hall of Fame awardees 8th Dan Grandmaster Vicente Sanchez  and 9th Dan Grandmaster Rodel Dagooc attended the tournament without much fanfare. They were quiet and unassuming, sitting on the benches with the rest of us! I’m almost sure that outside of Arnis, not many Filipinos know them.

GM Vicente Sanchez (in pink), GM Rodel Dagooc (in black), with my master Cris Pasindo
GM Vicente Sanchez (in pink), GM Rodel Dagooc (in black), with my master Cris Pasindo

Very highly skilled. National treasures. Unsung heroes.

Hmmm… Oh well…

At least, with tournaments like the one I attended, more and more people will know and appreciate Arnis and its Grandmasters and Masters.

I just sincerely wish that there will come a time when Arnis would get the recognition it deserves, most importantly, here in its land of origin.

But whatever happens, Arnis, I want you to know: I am proud of you.

*************

Related posts:

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The Eskrimadors movie  briefly discusses why and how Dionisio Canete and the other eskrimadors decided to start tournaments (04:00). Very interesting! There are also video clips of the FIRST-EVER Arnis tournament (05:02).  Their sticks were not padded! To watch, click here.

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I thank these wise bloggers for their very articulate articles about Arnis misconceptions. I wholeheartedly agree with what they are saying.

“…only if you carry a stick with you…”/ Better Living Personal Development and Martial Arts

Ignorance, stereotypes, and misconceptions / Big Stick Combat Blog

7 thoughts on “Arnis Tournament Review: Why I’m proud in a sad kind of way

  1. stlcounterpoint March 31, 2013 / 4:55 AM

    The saddest part of the Eskrimadors documentary is when the masters are lamenting the decline of interest in Arnis’s homeland. Hopefully blogs like this one will help. Keep up the good work.

  2. Lester Usapdin August 15, 2014 / 3:18 PM

    Don’t worry. With the help of internet (mainly FMA documentaries YouTube) and Hollywood films such as Bourne, 300, James Bond, Hanna, etc, local Filipinos are starting to be educated and to appreciate their own martial art and culture.

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