Thursday, January 12, 2012

12 of 30: Arnis - Because I'm a Proud Filipino

When I was in Fifth Grade, I was in a school play called Rajah Malakas and Dewi Maganda. I played Dewi Maganda’s father, Rajah Daraya (I went to an all girl school)
We had a really elaborate fight sequence, and our stunt coordinator (read: P.E. teacher) instructed us to use ARNIS to practice with, instead of the swords our characters were supposed to have. I remember having a lot of fun with it, but I never thought of that ‘weapon’ ever since.

Which is why when I found out that Arnis is technically a Martial Art being practiced in the Philippines, I was more than shocked. Turns out, my good friend R and her boyfriend G train with a “Master” every week!

Initiating Arnis Background Research from Wikipedia…


Modern Arnis is the system of Filipino martial arts founded by the late Remy Presas as a self-defense system. His goal was to create an injury-free training method as well as an effective self-defense system in order to preserve the older Arnis systems. The term Modern Arniswas used by Remy Presas' younger brother Ernesto Presas to describe his style of Filipino martial arts; since 1999 Ernesto Presas has called his system Kombatan. It is derived principally from the traditional Presas family style of the Bolo (machete) and the stick-dueling art of Balintawak Eskrima, with influences from other Filipino and Japanese martial arts.
Escrima  is the umbrella term for the traditional 
martial arts of the Philippines, which emphasize weapon-based fighting with sticks, knives and other bladed weapons, and various improvised weapons. It also includeshand-to-hand combat
 and weapon disarming techniques.

So apparently, Arnis is the Philippines’ national martial art and sport! For some reason I thought it would either be boxing or cock fighting. I know…Shame on me. 
To make ammeds with my country, I decided to try it out… Train with the “master” and see if I have what it takes.

I tagged along with R at 7 in the morning on a rainy Sunday in Manila. G was hammered from the night before so he couldn’t join us, and it was a good thing he didn’t because I got to use his arnis. Oh, and those sticks aren’t actually called arnis – they’re called batons. 

Guro Alan teaching me good form

I got introduced to the Master… His name is Alan. Master Alan. I don’t have my facts straight but he’s either a descendant of the founder, Remy Presas, or he was one of his students. Either way, this guy is legitimate.
Master Alan or Guro Alan (Guro means teacher) has a scar on his left cheek. A long one that starts from the edge of his lip all the way to his ear. 
G thinks (with all his heart) that he got it from a knife fight (Arnis training involves knife fighting too), and if he’s right, then Guru Alan’s battle scar definitely makes him more interesting.

Anyway, he was nice enough to demonstrate a few moves for me because I was new. He probably wanted to show off a little bit to encourage me to keep going back for the training. He asked one of his star pupils to ‘spar’ with him, and once they started, I couldn’t keep my eyes away from them.

They looked like they were dancing. It’s so hard not to believe what they were doing wasn’t choreographed, but it really wasn’t. The sound that the batons make when they hit each other, and the way their hands sway to their back before they make an attack – it’s all very graceful. 

Bigay Pugay
Before we even started, Guro Alan taught us “Pagbibigay Pugay” – which means, giving respect. It’s a little bowing movement you make to give respect to your teacher.
Afterwards, we did Sinawali exercises. It refers to a two-person, two-weapon exercise using double batons, with offensive and defensive maneuvers. I think it helps develop hand eye coordination and body positioning.

Then when that was ‘perfected’ – in our case, this meant when we stopped poking each others eye out, Guro Alan taught us 14 offensive and 14 defensive moves to use on each other for practice. I can’t really describe it properly… the best way I can explain it is that R and I looked like we were dancing the tinikling with batons.

Me and R

The uniform with Alibata writing

It was a fun way to spend our Sunday morning… It wasn’t so much of a workout, but it was nice to learn about all that from Guro Alan because he was so passionate about it. I also loved that all of it was or is SO Filipino. From “pagbibigay pugay” to their uniforms, which had Alibata (Ancient Filipino writing language) writing in it.
I hope this martial art kicks off and makes its mark all over the world. It’s a graceful and beautiful sport, that could be deadly as well… and hopefully it could be another one of those things that could help my country get recognized. :)

Guro Alan’s scar, as it turns out, was not obtained from a knife fight. It’s just a birthmark. :)
G, if you’re reading this… SORRY!!!