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It requires its practitioners to hit hard with a stick and to follow up with a barrage of punches, elbow and knee strikes as well as kicks. Pang-oran combines the elements of arnis and kickboxing. It is a new style Filipino martial art (FMA) founded by Punong Lakan Garitony Tonypet Nicolas.
The 42-year old Nicolas, who is also the founder of Modern Sinawali is among the youngest arnis masters in the Philippines. He remembered his father and mother disapproving his plans of studying martial arts, “I lied to them that I was held up. I really wanted to study martial arts because I am small physically,” he narrated lightheartedly. At 13, Nicolas and his father began scouting for martial arts schools.
They first went to a tae kwon do gym in Kamuning, Quezon City but the young boy disliked the sports orientation of the art. The father and son then went to Quiapo, at the Arjuken Gym of Grandmaster Ernesto Presas, “I was impressed then that he was promoting our very own Filipino martial art,” Nicolas narrated with nostalgia.
He stayed with Presas for 12-years eventually becoming club president and promotion chairman of Arjuken. “We had a very close relationship and I was treated almost like a member of the Presas family,” he said.
Nicolas revealed that the etymology of pang-oran is Ilocano and connotes striking or to exchange blows with a stick. “I want a name that is very Filipino in character,” he explained.
Nicolas recalled that he began conceptualizing pang-oran in 1995, “After watching arnis tournaments and various contests of other martial arts like karate and tae kwon do, I got the idea of combining the elements of stick fighting and kickboxing,” he narrated, adding, “I made up my mind then that if I would create my own style, it would contain these signature moves.”
Nicolas says that pang-oran is capable of giving more excitement to the usual kind of arnis contests therefore increasing its appeal to the viewing public. He said that his creation is also a way of preserving arnis so the art would not die, “It’s like transitioning from using typewriters to computers.
Using a computer to write definitely has a lot of advantages compared to using the typewriter but one thing remained constant in the process and that is the use of letters to construct words and sentences,” Nicolas pointed out.
Basic training in pang-oran involves holding the stick with one hand and wearing a glove with the other hand, “You can spar with a padded stick or a “live” rattan stick and you use the hand wearing a glove for punching,” Nicolas said.
Explaining the finer points of blocking, he said that the difference between pang-oran and most traditional systems is that in the former, hooking with the butt of the stick is often done after blocking a strike, “It is unlike the traditional and classical styles that strikes the hand then proceed to force-to-force or palis-palis,” Nicolas related.
The hooking with the butt of the stick he said, was usually followed with a punch, elbow, knee or whatever barehanded strike the fighter deemed fit.
Nicolas said that there are three levels of tournaments in sport pang-oran: amateur, professional-amateur and professional. Participants in the amateur level are required to wear prescribed body armor and gloves. The punches are restricted to body-level, which is not above the shoulder or below the belt.
The empty hand hits are followed by stick strikes. In professional-amateur, the contestant can punch or kick to the face with follow-up strikes with the stick. In the professional level, sweeping and throwing were allowed in addition to the barehanded and stick strikes.
Nicolas explained that he designed the different levels of tournaments to accommodate the various levels of skill of his students.
Training in pang-oran, Nicolas attested, would benefit traditional arnis practitioners and even martial artists from other styles like tae kwon do, muay thai or boxing, “It will definitely bring their coordination, reflex and timing to new heights,” he said, continuing, “It will also develop your speed, distancing, parrying, trapping and checking.”
He explained that fighting with the stick hand and the glove hand – two weapons of uneven length – is similar to traditional espada y daga, “The concept of pang-oran is similar to espada y daga,” Nicolas emphasized.
He remembered organizing the first pang-oran tournament in 1998 somewhere in Pangasinan followed by another contest in 2002 at the Pasay City Sports Complex, “Those tournaments were open to participants from any arnis style,” Nicolas said.
When asked if pang-oran is still evolving as a style, Nicolas said that it was already complete. He also stressed that pang-oran is an entirely different system from modern sinawali, the other style of FMA that he founded.
The concept of pang-oran is both old and new. Old, because the use of punches, kicks, sweeps and throws were originally allowed in juego todo and to-the-death escrima duels of yore. New, because it is something that is not seen for quite a while in mainstream FMA.