Martial artist is author of 14 books (Wants to write 6 more)

Community News & Features Aug 9, 2019 at 3:34 pm
Mariñas I shooting the recurve bow

Mariñas I shooting the recurve bow

Book Review and Author Interview: Archery for Beginners by Amante P. Mariñas

By Michelle Chermaine Ramos
The Philippine Reporter

Amante P. Mariñas, Sr., the most published practitioner of Filipino martial arts recently launched his latest book, Archery for Beginners, a detailed guide on how to get started in archery and much more.

The book focuses on recurve and compound bows since they are the most commonly used in the sport and has over 150 full-color photos accompanying detailed instructions on choosing the right bow, equipment care, safe shooting, exercises to avoid injuries, etc.

It even goes beyond the basics exploring the physics of arrow flight and includes a short section with instructions on how to make your own bow and arrow which will appeal to survivalists who enjoy do-it-yourself projects. It is an enjoyable read and a thorough primer for beginners and would make a valuable addition to any archer or martial artist’s library.

book coverMariñas grew up in the village of Pambuan, Gapan, Nueva Ecija, Philippines. At eight years old, he started training in pananandata under his granduncle Ingkong Leon Marcelo.

Mariñas also holds black belts in aikido and shorin-ryu karate and also trained briefly in the snake form of kung fu. Now based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, he has been expanding his family’s system of pananandata and writing books since the 70s. He has authored 13 books on traditional Filipino martial arts and various weaponry including thrown weapons from around the world. He was inducted into the International Knife Throwers Hall of Fame in October 2010 and is an honorary chairman of the International Fukiyado Association for the sport of blowgun shooting based in Nagaoka, Japan. Archery, he says, is part of pananandata, which is the art of using weapons as he explains further in our interview.

THE PHILIPPINE REPORTER: What weapons do you teach in this system?

Author Amante P. Mariñas                        (Courtesy, Tuttle Publishing)

Author Amante P. Mariñas
(Courtesy, Tuttle Publishing)

AMANTE P. MARIÑAS: Pananandata teaches four groups of weapons:

(1) rigid weapons such as sticks of different lengths, knives, tabak (32” bladed weapon)

(2) flexible weapons such as the lubid (rope) and tanikala (chain)

(3) part flexible & part rigid weapons such as the Philippine horse whip and tabak toyok

(4) (a) projectiles propelled with the hands such as throwing knives, stones

(b) projectiles propelled using stored energy such as the blowgun, slingshot, and the bow and arrow

I introduced this grouping of weapons in my book Pananandata: Its History & Techniques (Paladin Press, 2002)

TPR: What exactly is the philosophy of the art of pananandata?

APM: One should never stop learning particularly the Filipinos’ traditional weapons. For example: the sumpit (blowgun), pana (bow & arrow), bagakay (throwing darts) are traditional Filipino weapons. I have published books on these weapons but using their modern versions. I have introduced mathematics into the FMA (Filipino Martial Arts). I have introduced the use of the learning curve in the throwing of knives, in the shooting of the blowgun, and in the shooting of the bow. There is some high school physics in Archery for Beginners.

TPR: Where are its martial roots from? Is it indigenous Filipino or influenced by other styles? How was the system created?

APM: I do not know its martial roots but it is indigenous Filipino. Filipinos do not keep records. For example: I doubt if you would meet an older Filipino who knows the name of his great grandfather. Pananandata, originally, did not have tabak (32” bladed weapon) and balaraw (12” dagger). I have adapted it from the system taught in Bulacan by the great Placido Yambao.

TPR: In what ways does pananandata differ from other Filipino martial arts?

APM: All FMA teach fighting. Pananandata is different in a way. It offers a few more options. For example: In time of need, if Plan A doesn’t work, one might need to resort to Plan B. For example: It would be too late to learn how to throw a knife during a fight. Throwing a knife could be the Plan B.

TPR: How old is the art and how has it evolved over the years?

Mariñas I  practicing  tabak at balaraw with his son Amante II. The practice of the tabak at balaraw is not the same as espada y daga. (Photos courtesy of  Amante P. Mariñas)

Mariñas I
tabak at balaraw with his son Amante II. The practice of the tabak at balaraw is not the same as espada y daga. (Photos courtesy of Amante P. Mariñas)

APM: Filipinos do not keep records of how long their family system has been in existence. Most can only trace its history to as far back as a grandfather or in my case my granduncle. Pananandata has grown from a rigid weapons-based system to its present state. My philosophy is once I have written a book on a traditional Filipino weapon, it becomes part of pananandata.

TPR: Has your practice of Japanese martial arts and kung fu influenced or added to your particular instruction of pananandata?

APM: The martial spirit carries over from one martial art to the next. The Japanese martial arts have not influenced the way I teach the use of traditional pananandata weapons. However, my son and I have co-written manuscripts on the straight baton, side handle baton (PR-24), and extendable baton (ASP). We use takedown techniques, with the batons in the hand, that are similar to aikido. Similarities cannot be avoided. There are only certain ways that we can move the hands and the feet.

TPR: What is the minimum age for a student to start training?

APM: All my students are adults. I introduced my son to stick fighting when he was 4 years old. However, at that age, I started him like it was a game. Fortunately, he liked it. He is still practicing. His work requires proficiency in the martial arts.

TPR: In any martial art, you are teaching techniques that can cause serious bodily harm. When people say that martial arts training is good for everybody, do you agree or disagree?  Or should it be accessible only to a select few?

APM: Martial arts training is good for everybody. Its short-term goal is for self defense. Its long-term goal is for self-discipline. Ultimately, the continued practice of a martial art keeps one healthy as one gets on in years. Those who are prone to violence will not have the patience to train long hours. They will drop out of a martial arts class. Only the select few will remain. Most of my students find me through their friends, which in one way is selective.

TPR: What should students expect when they start training under you?

APM: The understanding is the student comes to train and to learn fighting skills. Those who train with me is either a student or an instructor. There is no rank in between. It is kind of traditional. I teach under a tree in my backyard in Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA. I do not use armor.

TPR: How can people find qualified pananandata instructors? How does one qualify to begin with?

APM: There are very few. And none outside the US. A pananandata student becomes an instructor after seven years of training.

TPR: You’ve been a prolific author of Filipino martial arts books since the 70s. What inspired you to write in the first place?

APM: The first book I wrote was “Solved Problems in Physical Chemistry” which I used when I taught at Adamson University.  The second was Arnis de Mano. The first was intellectual; the second was physical. Arnis de Mano is a simple book but it made history. It is the first book on Philippine stick fighting ever published in the United States. I love to read. Pride in my heritage is one of the reasons I started writing. In one case, other authors “inspired” me to write. For example, I started to throw knives in my basement in New York City. This led me to look for books on knife throwing. I found some. After reading the books, I told myself, “I can write better than these authors.” So, I wrote my book The Art of Throwing and it is selling well.

At one time, I was talking with one of my students about ropes. I finished the book in my mind while talking to him. It took me about six months to finish writing the book titled Rope Fighting published by Paladin Press. I have a habit of keeping a log of what I train on every day. I have a log book full of notes on shooting the bow. I wrote Archery for Beginners on an impulse. If I didn’t have a log book, I wouldn’t have been able to do so.

TPR: And based on your observation of the FMA publishing industry, in your opinion, how has the FMA community evolved over the decades? Do you see a void or need for change in terms of its focus or current needs?

Mariñas I practices one-stick fighting against his son Amante

Mariñas I practices one-stick fighting against his son Amante

APM: Each FMA system contributes in its own unique way that keeps the FMA community healthy and vibrant. Sadly, paper book publishers such as Unique Publications and Paladin Press have closed shop. It is now very difficult to get published. But of course, there are e-books. Self-publication (of paper books) is quite expensive.
Most FMA systems have used armor in free fighting. A wise decision since lawyers are very expensive. The way I look at it is: One might be a better fighter. But the other guy might have a better lawyer. FMA will become more popular. Unfortunately, this opens up opportunities for unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of students who wouldn’t know the difference between a qualified and an unqualified instructor. Caveat emptor!

TPR: Is there anything else you would like the readers to know?

APM: I have a dream of having 20 published books. I have now 14. I am six books short. I have co-written with my son other completed unpublished manuscripts. It is very unlikely that they will get published. But this will not stop me from writing. Indeed, I am about to finish another manuscript by end of next month (August 2019). If they do not get published, I will leave the manuscripts to my two grandchildren Amante III (7 years old) and Nadia (3 years old). Perhaps, they will get them published – yet – when they come of age. By the way, I have never been to Canada. If anybody is interested in having a workshop on knife throwing, I am available.

TPR: What advice do you have for aspiring FMA authors?

APM: To aspiring authors: Write your book. Who knows in the future, one of your friends might become an editor in a publishing company. Be prepared for rejection. If you do not try, you will never know. Don’t give up. Even if your book does not get published, it is your family’s legacy.