Filipino martial arts are not widely known, but that could change

Gregory Manalo was in the midst of a personal renaissance in the late 1990s when he discovered Filipino Martial Arts (FMA).

“I didn’t find eskrima,” he told NBC Asian America, referring to the Filipino martial arts style. “Eskrima found me.”

For Manalo, who has been training in FMA for about 25 years and teaching in the San Francisco Bay Area, FMA was an entry point to learning more about his identity as a Filipino American which allowed him to draw on his culture and ancestry. He said that performing the movements makes him feel meditative and powerful.

“Through training, we evoke our ancestors going back centuries and communicate with them,” Manalo said. “And just knowing that I can directly benefit by doing these moves is really meaningful to me.”

Filipino martial arts are not as widely known as other Asian martial arts such as Karate and Kung Fu, but they have been practiced in the United States for decades. However, even with less visibility than other martial arts, some practitioners say they see signs of FMA gaining in popularity and hope it will continue to become more widely known.

All the FMA coaches who spoke with NBC Asian America indicated that martial arts can be seen in Hollywood films including porn movies, “Book of Eli, “reckless, “Duneand the Star Wars seriesThe Mandalorian. “

said Mel Urbella, historian and martial artist who has been practicing FMA for more than two decades.

Joseph Bautista, a Filipino martial arts instructor at Eskabo Daan in San Francisco and a practitioner for more than 30 years, said the changes he’s seen in the FMA over the past 20 years, including more instructors wanting to teach it more broadly, make him hopeful about it. future. Orpilla said that the FMA show in Hollywood, the ability to share it more widely Through social mediaThe increase in FMA seminars and tournaments in Northern California has also been beneficial.

Orpilla said Filipino-American martial artist Dan Inosanto, known for being one of Bruce Lee’s training partners, is an important figure in the FMA. He added that Inosanto taught me the FMA used in a dungeon scene from the 1974 movie “Enter the Dragon”.

“The methodology of teaching Filipino martial arts is the foundation for teaching choreography when it comes to weapons, standing punching and kicking,” said Elrik Jundis, who has trained in the FMA for over 30 years and has done extensive research on it. “This is the bread and butter of all Hollywood action movies.”

There are three main styles of FMA: eskrima, arnis, and kali. Elrik Jundis, who has trained in the FMA for more than 30 years and has done extensive research on the topic, said that while there are subtle differences between the three, they are often used interchangeably. Orpilla said it is a martial art that is unique from the others because training begins immediately with weapons, while others such as Karate and Taekwondo start empty-handed.

“[A] The main objective of a Filipino martial artist in battle is to finish it as quickly and efficiently as possible using offensive, defensive and counterattack movements depending on the weapons used and the fighting distance between each other,” he said.

Despite its presence in Hollywood, the FMA is not more commonly known for a number of reasons. Orbela said that practicing martial arts was banned in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial rule from 1521 to 1898 because they did not want the Filipinos to use it for the revolution.

Jundis also noted that the most popular Asian martial arts have roots in countries with a long-standing national identity.

Meanwhile, he said the concept of what it means to be a Filipino is still taking shape. The Philippines has been an independent country for less than a century. It gained its independence in 1946 after nearly 400 years of colonial rule under Spain and the United States.

Bautista said that the Philippine Islands operated separately and not as a single country before Spanish colonization. Urbella said the islands were vulnerable to invasion from other nations and had to fight to protect themselves, their tribes, and their families.

Jundis added that the FMA is not as big of an organized sport as it is martial arts like taekwondo and judo – both of which are categories in the Olympics.

He also said that details of the history and origins of the FMA vary depending on who is being asked due to a lack of documentation.

The popularity of FMA occurred in the United States rather than the Philippines, practitioners and historians told NBC Asian America. It is not clear exactly where or when it started in the US, but they said its presence in the US is linked to Filipino farm workers exodus In the early twentieth century. They also said that FMA was first taught publicly in Stockton, a city in California’s Central Valley, which has spawned a number of martial arts masters, including Inosanto.

Orpilla said another reason knowledge of FMA has not spread is because it has historically been kept within families, and people have not wanted to teach it to others.

“I don’t know about Filipino martial arts in the mainstream of my life, but [there’s] It was a good push towards Filipino martial arts,” Bautista said.

The FMA is also gaining traction outside the US. Manalo said that one of his professors held seminars on the topic in Europe, where he said it was well received.

For Manalo, FMA was not only a way to protect himself but also a satisfying practice and a source of pride for his culture.

“Knowing we had our thing and saying this was ours made me feel proud that so many people around the world at this point appreciated Filipino martial arts, specifically knife fighting and sword fighting,” he said. “It was something that people knew in a world where people don’t even know who Filipinos are. It was a good entry point to delve deeper into history, culture, arts and practice.”

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