Filipino martial art goes beyond fighting with sticks
By Leila Wai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Leila Wai
It was nearly lost, banned because of its deadliness. Disguised in dance forms to carry on the tradition, escrima — Filipino martial arts — survived and continues to be taught to new generations.
But 8-year-old Nate Roque likes it because it means fighting with sticks.
"He's excited about getting ready on that day," his mother, Marie said. "He gets all of his things together (beforehand)."
Escrima (pronounced eh-scream-ah) specializes in weaponry, usually with one hand holding a bladed weapon or more commonly a stick, and the other hand free. Escrima has 12 basic offensive and defensive movements, designed to disarm an opponent.
"In our school, self-discipline and character development is a top priority," said Grandmaster Tyrone J. Takahashi, who teaches at Pedoy's School of Escrima. The school specializes in derobio style, which emphasizes disarming techniques and defensive behaviors rather than aggressive actions, according to its Web site.
Nate is "more disciplined, he listens more and he's more alert," Marie Roque said.
Although he was intimidated at first, he said it was "pretty easy" to learn. Now, the hardest part of class is the duck walk at the end of training.
Takahashi also learned escrima at a young age, taking his first lessons at 5.
"Going through the years, having that positive attitude, over the years it has really taken place in my life," Takahashi said. "I can see that with the training, it has brought me to different levels with my private life and business life.
"It taught me how to be an effective leader and how to keep the positive values in everything I do. Aside from the teachings, that was one of the main, if not the main things I got from martials arts over the years."
Takahashi added that it is important to learn the history and the culture of the Philippines, especially because escrima "went underground for 300 years (during the Spanish occupation of the Philippines). It was so deadly they had to ban it. It turned up in forms of Filipino dances. That's how they hid the art back then."
Greg Leong, 38, a financial advisor from Kahalu'u, said he likes escrima so much he became a student of its history as well.
"Once you get into it, you like to read about it," he said.
Leong first learned and participated in escrima in 1991, and joined Pedoy's School of Escrima in December.
"Unlike any other martial arts, if you have two fighters who have equal skills and equal knowledge, usually the heavier person has the advantage," Leong said. "In escrima it comes down to the skill of the person, because the stick is the equalizer."
Takahashi learned escrima from his grandfather, the late Braulio Pedoy.
"It's a diverse art, where you not only utilize the stick, as people think with escrima," Takahashi said. "People don't realize that it has open-hand (no weapon) techniques. In our style, the stick is an extension of the hand.
"It is a very balanced art, where it can be matched up to karate, kung fu, all those disciplines of other ethnic groups. It's a very effective art."
He called it a "graceful, passive art."
Sarah Alegria, an 11-year-old from Waipahu, started taking escrima classes about two months ago. Her father wanted her to learn a form of martial arts for self-defense training, and one day in Mililani, she saw people "fighting with sticks," and became interested.
"It's fun, and it's addicting," she said.
So addicting, that she takes adult classes along with the children's classes. She picked it up easily, and although she finds some of the exercises tiring, she's grown much stronger.
Leong called escrima a "good stress reliever" that gives him a "good natural high."
"We train hard, and we know we're going to get exhausted for doing it," he said. "But we get a high doing it. We look forward to going to class."
Leong said he likes knowing he can protect himself in almost any situation. Because of the practicality of escrima, "you can walk into any place and pick up a weapon and know how to use it.
"But our master always teaches us to walk away. But once someone hits you, you have the right to defend yourself. It's all about self-control. Not bragging you know the art. It's about having the knowledge, but knowing how and when to use it. It should not be used for intimidation."
GARCIA CAPTURES WORLD TITLE IN SINGLE STICK
Robert Garcia, the chief instructor at the Hawai'i branch of the Bandalan Doce Pares Association, successfully defended his gold medal at the 9th World Escrima Kali Arnis Federation World Championships, July 2 to 8 in Orlando, Fla.
Garcia, a Honolulu resident, won gold in the lightweight single-stick fighting division.
Jdelo Dadulas, of Honolulu, earned a gold medal in the welterweight division of single-stick fighting.
At the World Invitational Tournament in Orlando, which followed the World Championships, Dadulas won a gold in double-stick fighting. Ray Dela Cruz, of Pearl City, won a bronze in the cruiseweight division of single-stick fighting, also at the World Invitational Tournament.
The championships are held every two years. The next competition will be in Cebu, Philippines, in 2008.
Reach Leila Wai at email@example.com.