The Filipino Martial Arts Legacy

This post is dedicated to SGM Cacoy Cañete.  I never had the distinct honor of ever training directly with this legend, but I have met many who have.  If the character of the teacher is measured by the character of his students, then SGM Cacoy Cañete was indeed an honorable man.

As I write this, I am actively doing everything within my power to propagate the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA).  I have hosted seminars and tournaments, and I believe I have done a lot to showcase these beautiful martial arts.  But just like many journeys, it requires a point of origin.  It is easy to forget that the Philippines is still a relatively young country.  Although it’s people have existed there for hundreds (and maybe thousands) of years, the Spanish occupied the Philippines from 1565 to1898, and after that the United States colonized the Philippines from 1898 to 1946 – so  the Philippines has been under foreign rule for over 300 years.  It is only now in recent times that we are coming into our own identity.

The Filipino Martial Arts are experiencing a renaissance, where more practitioners are joining, and great instructors are emerging.  On July 27, 2009, Republic Act 9850, declaring Arnis as the National Martial Art and Sport of the Philippines, was brought into existence.  Hollywood has started to recognize the beauty, combat effectiveness, and dynamic nature of FMA, and the rest of the world will soon follow.  Instructors such as Ray Dionaldo, Doug Marcaida, and Percival Pableo are starting to break ground and are increasingly recognized by a growing audience of Filipino martial arts enthusiasts.  I know there are many more instructors out there that haven’t been recognized yet, but I strongly believe that they will soon, for FMA is growing – and this era of social media is helping to push the Filipino martial arts into the front and center of people’s awareness.

It is important to appreciate the future, and to appreciate the future we must covet the journey, which must inevitably start at the beginning.  George Santayana said, “To know your future you must know your past.”  This is surely a journey that will bring us full circle.

No matter how fast the Filipino martial arts seem to be growing, we must never forget where we came from.  Many of the Filipino Grand Masters, the true pioneers of FMA, are dying at a rate faster than anyone can fill in the void that they have left in their passing. How many more times will be left where we can we say that we trained with those people who proved the effectiveness of the Filipino martial arts on the battlefield?

These Grand Masters are national cultural treasures, and as such, we must seek to preserve both their knowledge and the spirit of their arts.  They are the last vital link to our past – our proud heritage that is soaked with the blood of our warrior ancestors.  We must cling to them with all of our might and study the fundamentals of critical knowledge that they left for us, so that we may take the art to new and higher levels.  Advancing the Fundamentals begins with mastery of them, and the practitioner’s journey begins from there.  The only way for us to take FMA to the next level is to know and respect where we came from…to walk the path of our venerable ancestors – and walk new paths to greatness, so that one day, we may stand beside them…kindred spirits from the past and the future, connected by a timeless art, and a warrior’s destiny.

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