Grandmaster Remy Amador Presas (1936-2001)
Remgio Amador Presas (December 19, 1936 – August 28, 2001) was the founder of Modern Arnis, a popular Filipino martial art. Born in the Philippines, he moved to the United States in 1974, where he taught his art via seminars and camps. In 1982 he was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as Instructor of the Year. He published several books and videos on Modern Arnis and is recognised as the "Father of Modern Arnis".
Early life and training
Presas was born in the town of Hinigaran, Negros Occidental, Philippines, the son of Jose B. Presas, a businessman, and the former Lucia Amador. He began studying arnis with his father then with his grandfather, Leon Presas, and uncle at the age of six. By the age of fourteen he had his first stick fighting match with a Sinawali master that Presas knocked out with one stick hit. He continued to travel across the Philippine Islands to learn from other masters and to compete in stick-fighting competitions and many street fights. Presas eventually focused on Balintawak Eskrima, but earned a 6th degree black belt in Shotokan Karate and a black belt in judo. In 1966 Presas began developing his own system which he called "Modern Arnis" by identifying the basic concepts of the numerous systems he had learned and merging them. By 1969 Modern Arnis had been approved by the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation as a regular subject to be taught at the National College of Physical education.
Presas was the Arnis consultant in the 1974 Philippines produced film The Pacific Connection. While working on this film he instructed and became friends with US actor Dean Stockwell.
Presas instituted a ranking system with Modern Arnis to identify the ability level of each student: likas(green belt), likha(brown belt), and lakan(black belt). Lakan encompassed ten degrees. He issued certificates of rank, and began using the title Guro which became widespread throughout all Filipino Martial Arts Circles. Presas developed what came to be known as the "Arnis Uniform" consisting of loose fitting cotton trousers and a karate Gi style top low cut at the waist.
In 1982 Presas was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as Instructor of the Year. In 1994 he was again honored by Black Belt as Weapons Instructor of the Year.
Presas formed the International Modern Arnis Federation (IMAF) in 1970 as the principal organization for the promotion and administration of Modern Arnis in North America. The organization was responsible for maintaining records of promotions and other administrative tasks. After his 2001 death it has bifurcated into two groups, one headed by Jeff Delaney and often referred to as IMAF-Delaney, and the other headed by Randi Schea, often referred to as IMAF-Schea. The latter group is the larger of the two.
There are other notable Modern Arnis organizations, including International Modern Arnis Federation Philippines (IMAFP), based in the Philippines and led by the most senior Filipino masters of Modern Arnis; a group headed by the founder's children (MARPPIO); Arnis International founded by Bruce Chiu; a group headed by Tim Hartman (WMAA); a German group headed by Dieter Knuettel (DAV); and others.
Private and government sector employment
Presas earned a bachelor's degree in physical education and taught the subject at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos; because of this he was addressed as Professor Presas, and became known in martial arts circles as "the Professor". He later worked for the Philippine government in the area of physical education, spreading arnis instruction through the high schools. Presas was forced to leave the country in 1974 because of pressure from certain government officials. He moved to the United states, first staying in the home of his student, Dean Stockwell and spent the rest of his life living in North America, but traveled worldwide to conduct seminars.
Presas died on August 28, 2001 in Victoria, Canada from brain cancer. Since his death, several groups have emerged to carry on instruction in his art. His younger brothers Ernesto Presas and Roberto Presas, as well as several of his children (most notably his eldest son, Remy P. Presas), are active in the Filipino martial arts.
Presas was married twice, first to Rosemary Pascual Presas, with whom he had five children, and to Yvette Wong, with whom he had two children.