Keeping the Filipino warrior spirit alive
Keeping the Filipino warrior spirit alive
By Michelle Chermaine Ramos
The Philippine Reporter
With new year resolutions, gym membership sales normally peak in winter. However, like many industries, martial arts schools have also been blindsided by COVID-19.
When SARS hit in 2003, dojos and gyms were still running classes with no social distancing. Now, after enduring COVID-19 lockdowns and capacity restrictions, gyms are struggling to survive. Martial arts schools found themselves facing the battle they never expected to fight, with some closing their training venues. Yet the warrior spirit still burns within. Ever resilient, the Filipino martial arts community has found ways to adapt and cross-train virtually.
Five instructors of different Filipino Martial Art (FMA) styles in various Canadian cities share how the pandemic has impacted their schools and what the experience has taught them. Here are Oliver Salvador of Salvador Arnis Martial Arts (SAMA) and Herald T. Casana of the Pekiti Tirsia Kali Society of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta; JB Ramos of Combat Science: Warrior Arts of Asia in Toronto, Ontario; Shishir Inocalla of Arnis BC in Richmond, British Columbia; and Marvin Ishmael of Western Canada Martial Arts Academy in Calgary, Alberta.
What is the name of your FMA style? How is it different from other FMA styles?
CASANA: Pekiti Tirsia Kali System is more combat oriented. It’s widely used in law enforcement and military around the Philippines and the world.
RAMOS: Our school is named Combat Science: Warrior Arts of Asia. We have our own 12-strike system.
SALVADOR: My system is Salvador Arnis Martial Arts (SAMA). It’s different as we took out of the primary material all the traditional techniques we did not directly observe anyone successfully apply (in combat). We kept what the lowest common denominator of student (of ability) was able to learn, perform, and apply with minimal training time. It is taught from a motor-skill-analytics perspective.
ISHMAEL: The Inosanto blend of FMA includes Guro Dan Inosanto’s learnings from numerous FMA instructors spanning over 7 decades. Additionally, we teach Pekiti Tirsia Kali under Grand Tuhon Supremo Leo Gaje Jr and Applied Eskrima under Master Virgil Cavada. All styles of FMA have their benefits depending on the application or situation and we learn and teach them with open minds. As Guro Dan says, “there are no superior styles, just superior individuals.”
INOCALLA: My group comes from the Original Modern Arnis under GM Remy Presas, “Father of Modern Arnis”. He acknowledged my knowledge in Yoga, meditation, spiritual and wellness training and asked me to integrate this training to our students.
Can its origins be traced back to a particular region in the Philippines?
CASANA: Bacolod in the Visayas region
SALVADOR: My first Arnis instructor Tito Carl, is actually in a group picture with Remy Presas’ (founder of Modern Arnis) original book on the subject and taught it at the Philippine Military Academy, but I don’t know where he is from. My most recent teacher, Daniel G. Rutano (Head of the Rutano Estokada System) is from Aklan, Panay. I don’t have a formal name for my school, just my system.
ISHMAEL: Most of Guro Dan’s instructors were from the Cebu region. GTS Leo Gaje Jr. and Master Virgil Cavada are also from the Philippines and live there today.
RAMOS: Not specifically. Our school’s founder trained with a number of teachers throughout the Philippines and she formed her own “style/system” that is the basis of our school’s teachings.
INOCALLA: Arnis Maharlika and the Inocalla family come from Paracale, Camarines Norte in Bicol region.
How has the pandemic impacted your school? What disadvantages or unexpected advantages/breakthroughs have you experienced? How are you keeping the FMA warrior spirit alive while social distancing?
CASANA: Zoom classes. But if it’s possible, one of the students go to their lead instructor to get training and guidance, but mostly we are doing Zoom classes every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. We also have instructors from the Philippines doing Zoom and we are joining them for support.
SALVADOR: I lost the Calgary branch a couple of weeks ago. I post videos of drills in our private Facebook group and the members post videos of themselves doing the drills. I learned that even if I had to close permanently, that my self-worth is not dependent on how good of a martial artist I am. It’s dependent on how good of a human being I am and how I treat others.
RAMOS: We had to unfortunately leave our in-person location/school, and move to online training, with the occasional outdoor sessions when safe to do so with strict safety measures. It was a big transition and still learning how to navigate teaching online, as martial arts practice needs hand-to-hand contact to fully grasp the skill/technical details of technique, etc. To keep our online students engaged and motivated, we have online classes twice a week. We also have various fun FMA fitness challenges to keep them active, they share together within our online community group.
INOCALLA: I was able to organize Arnis BC to be approved sport in BC and am assisting other provinces to do so for Arnis to be a recognized sport in Canada. We are also working in other countries to be approved sports and to ultimately apply to be a member of Sports Accord and the International Olympic Committee. We now have weekly Zoom with my families worldwide – meditation, yoga, chi, hilot. Pandemic and lockdown have enabled us to innovate and give priorities. Take care of our mind, body, heart, our family, friends and learn to listen, allow the “Source” higher power to guide us.
ISHMAEL: We were restricted to online only classes from March to June 2020 but reopened until November and are back to online only again. Many students see the benefits of continued training even though it’s online. The beauty of FMA is that the “art form” can be practiced solo in the comfort of your homes. When we train at the academy in person (instructors) we must restrict what we can do to avoid close contact. However, we see the full potential of the weapons as they can be trained from a safe distance. We also offer free self-defense sessions which include all aspects of FMA from the use of various weapons, empty hands and grappling. The spirit is very much alive in our teachings every day.