Arnis: Philippines’ national sport and martial art

Finally we got a national sport and martial art that we can identify with. On December 11, 2009, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed Republic Act 9850, or An Act Declaring Arnis as the National Martial Arts and Sports of the Philippines.

“We’ve done it. Now we have the law,” Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri told reporters as quoted by Sen. Zubiri is one of the co-author of the law that makes Arnis the national martial art and sport of the Philippines.

Cebuanos and Bisaya say Payter! for this development. Arnis is very popular in Cebu and the Visayas islands including Mindanao. Who haven’t heard of Doce Pares? Icons such as Eskrima Grandmasters Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete, Dionisio “Diony” Cañete, and Undo Caburnay are Cebuanos.

These legends are featured in Eskrimadors, a Cebuano-produced documentary about Filipino martial art. Clarence of Everything ubeC wrote about Eskrimadors. See the poster below.

Eskrimadors (a documentary film)


What is Eskrima or Arnis?

Eskrimadors’ producer Pointsource Films noted that although Eskrima is commonly perceived as a stickfighting art, it is a complete fighting system, encompassing punching (suntukan), kicking (sikaran), locks and submissions (dumog), and the use of a variety of impact and bladed weapons. Eskrima knife fighting techniques are considered the best in the world.

Pointsource Films added that Eskrima rose to popularity in the late 70’s when Bruce Lee and Filipino-American Dan Inosanto promoted the art through movies and seminars. Interest soon brought Doce Pares members to the U.S to conduct a series of demonstrations. That initial foray by Cebuano martial artists soon opened the floodgates and Cebu became known as the Mecca of Eskrima/Kali/Arnis.

Word Eskrima-Kali-Arnis Federation (Wekaf) Championships

In 2008, the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (Wekaf) championship was held in Cebu. It was an expected home court advantage but Americans got more gold than the Filipinos. Embarassed at home was Sun Star Cebu‘s sports page headline.

Atty. Dionisio Cañete, Wekaf Chairman Emeritus, was saddened by the loss of the home team but was overall happy that the event was successful, Karlon N. Rama wrote in Sun Star Cebu.

It was an eye-opener to all of us.

Now that we have the law, we all hope that we will regain our glorious days.