THE FUTURE OF ARNIS
MANILA, MAY 11, 2009 (STAR) THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco - A powerful succession of events has prompted the masters, practitioners and patrons of arnis to move with more speed, in an attempt to harness the growing demand for the sport, and the increasing momentum for change.
Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, himself a practitioner, is optimistic that he will be able to get Senate Bill 1424, which will designate arnis as the official sport of the Philippines, up to third reading very soon. He also believes that getting consensus on a similar version in the House can be done within the year.
“The sport is dying, and we want to do something about it,” said the former congressman from Bukidnon.”We want to make arnis a national sport because this is our own sport, unlike those most commonly practiced that originated from other countries. And I know it can be done.”
Meanwhile, fellow Filipino martial artist and sports patron Mikee Romero and several other martial arts icons have thrown their full support behind Zubiri’s bill.
“We want to rally support for arnis and the FMA to be the Philippines’ answer to Thailand’s muay thai, Japan’s karate-do and Korea’s taekwondo.
Romero is also calling for a national Filipino Martial Arts congress this year to consolidate the many arnis and FMA groups in the country, with sole aim of bringing the country’s martial arts culture back from near oblivion.
“With the demise of many arnis grandmasters like Grandmaster Illustrisimo, Grandmaster Romy Presas, Grandmaster Bustamante and recently Grandmaster and former Mr. Philippines Roland Dantes, the death of the Filipino martial art known as arnis has become a reality facing our country in the next several years,” Romero warned. “It is a reality that in less than 10 years, arnis and the Filipino martial arts could be wiped out of the Philippines’ rich cultural heritage. We are here to restore and preserve our own national treasure – arnis. If nobody would help arnis now, our 400-year old martial art would just die a natural death.”
Romero’s vision is to incorporate a world body for arnis similar to FIBA for basketball and FIFA for soccer. Zubiri, Romero, URCC founder Alvin Aguilar, members of the Philippine Council of Kali, Escrima and Arnis Masters (PCKEAM) and this writer are in all-out support for the revival and rebirth of arnis and the Filipino Martial Arts in the country. Eighty-nine year old Supreme Grandmaster Cacoy Canete of Cebu, founder of the world-famous Doce Pares, has thrown his support behind the move.
One of the things holding back the sport is the disagreement over how it should be played. In some tournaments, play is stopped each time a point is scored, as in fencing. But Supreme Grandmaster Cacoy Canete, who organized the recent World Escrima-Arnis Championships in Cebu, prefers fighters competing over three rounds, like in boxing.
On the technological side, there is development that can actually make the sport look less cumbersome. Currently, stick fighters wear body armor similar to the one used in kendo, with a metal screen to protect the face.
“There is a new material we are checking out that looks like neoprene, but absorbs up to 94 percent of impact,” reveals Grandmaster Glen Gardiner of Indonesia. “Using that, we can get rid of the bulky body armor, and make it look more streamlined. Visually, it’s much more appealing.”
The next target is a material that can hold built-in sensors to detect contact each time it is made, and record points scored. These innovations can make arnis faster, more dynamic, and more exciting for spectators.
In the meantime, the major groups of arnis are looking for a common ground for banding together. The loophole that will help them is that there is no world governing body for the sport, since it is Filipino, and should be based here. On top of that, it will be easier to receive Philippine Olympic Committee recognition if they have the majority of stakeholders. And third, Philippine Sports Commission chair Harry Angping has already expressed his discontent at the inaction of the current national sports association.
The future is starting to look brighter for arnis.
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Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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