Get Real

It is amusing to read the Japanese stylists protesting that jukendo is not Japanese (?) and is too violent. I particularly like the guy with an avatar that looks like Marilyn Manson complaining that jukendo has “nothing positive” to offer.

Every year I had to work to get my eskrima group included in the Filipino-American dance program. Some people may not like it, but knife fighting and bolo fighting is just as Filipino as the tinikling (the dance where a couple hops in and out among two long poles that are alternately pounded on the floor and then snapped together.)

In both cases there is a mental distancing from reality, maybe because that reality is too unpleasant and doesn’t square with a sanitized version of how some people would like the world to be. Kendo is based on killing with the sword. Sure, you may enjoy dressing up in feudal Japanese clothes, and love practicing your Japanese, but the martial arts are rooted in killing, often in horrific ways. Some “martial artists” are so far removed from the warrior spirit that they are really just involved in a colorful hobby, like stamp collecting, radio controlled model airplanes, or country line dancing.

Why is a bayonet not Japanese? Like cars are not Japanese, or television sets? The best explanation I’ve seen for the hard karate styles, like Shotokan, is that the Japanese were looking to instill a military mindset. If you’ve seen it, the teacher barks out orders like a drill sergeant, and the students move in unison and shout like military recruits. There is an emphasis on physical and mental toughness, on repetition, on authority and hierarchy.

Boot Camp?

As for Filipinos, a few in the Philippines are attuned to reality, and are trying to promote the FMA. Credit has to be given to the Doce Pares people for their promotion of the FMA. In the last eskrima championships they held in Cebu City, the tournament was in a major shopping mall, and they had almost daily write-ups in the local newspapers, not to mention the dozens of foreign practitioners they brought into the country. Yet the Philippine government is slow to promote the FMA, as though foreigners will get in a plane and fly thousands of miles, then run a gauntlet of beggars in order to wash down balut (fertilized eggs with developing embryos) with Red Horse (which is truthfully advertised as “extra strong beer”) in a polluted city with people sleeping on cardboard on the sidewalk.

There is a huge potential to draw foreigners to train in the Filipino martial arts in the Philippines that is still untapped. For years I went to Cebu looking to train, but just couldn’t find anybody. Senator Zubiri is an eskrima practitioner and advocate for the FMA, but I think too many Filipinos are ignorant of the FMA and look down the arts as too violent or unsophisticated (Look at the You Tube videos and you see people practicing on dirt floors or in shanty towns.). In Senator Zubiri’s words, “The sport of arnis/kali/eskrima has become more popular abroad than it is in the Philippines.”

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One Response to “Get Real”

  1. adambadger88 Says:

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