By Romeo Maguigad Special to the Manila Times – Sunday, 18 April 2010 

Long before the Arnis Bill became a reality, Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) had traversed the boundaries of the Philippines. It was already promoted and shared with countless individuals across the globe.

Because of economic reasons Filipinos have a long history of migration in search of a better life. The great Diaspora of Filipinos overseas to countries like the United States brought more than farm workers, fish cannery workers and war veterans. Some of our forebearers were not only workers but also highly trained eskrimadors.

Those pillars of FMA who left the homeland for places like Hawaii or Stockton California laid the foundation for the growth of FMA outside the Philippines.

That growth in popularity of FMA has run its course parallel to that of FMA in the Philippines and I am just one individual who is reaping the benefits of that inheritance.

But this poses the question, why is FMA more vastly popular aboard than in the place of its birth?

We can only hope as overseas Filipinos that the passing of the Arnis Law can help solidify the identity of FMA and to promote the Filipino fighting arts to an audience the likes of which it has not seen before.

The passion for Filipino Martial Arts (FMA)

As an FMA practitioner and as a Filipino, I often hear Filipino-American youth say, “I did not know the Philippines has a martial art.” If I could have a dollar every time I have heard that statement I would be a rich man.

The truth of the matter is FMA outside the Philippines has been promulgated much more to non-Filipinos than to Filipinos. One could argue that is the case simply because there are less Filipinos overseas than in Philippines.

But this is more than just a numbers game. We can discount the immense contributions to FMA of non-Filipinos and Filipinos alike who are abroad.

This is what I call the passion for FMA, were non-Filipinos can peer into the very essence of what it means to be a Filipino through learning the Filipino fighting arts, which many Filipinos take for granted.

This is an opportunity for FMA to be at the vanguard of reconnecting Filipino youth to the rich history and culture of the Philippines.

As an owner of a FMA resource site, I believe in more than just showing the latest FMA technique but sharing the stories of people who do FMA and what it means to be a Filipino

Unity and responsibility

The passing of the Arnis Law has challenged the status quo of the FMA world. We know that FMA is being practiced throughout the world and that there is passion in promoting it, but the Arnis Law as seen in the United States has been met with great optimism for unity and growth, or skepticism.

We must realize that those who are tasked with systemizing the unified curriculum and the leadership body have an enormous responsibility to represent FMA in a positive way.

Many outside the organizing process have adopted a “wait and see” approach. In other words if we get this wrong, the Arnis Law and all its possibilities for unification will become nothing more than a faded memory.

This can also turn into a power struggle between whose system is better and who will profit most from this endeavor.

Most of us feel very positive about the Arnis Law, as Mataw Guro Louelle Lledo said in a recent Internet radio interview on “I believe this to be a great time for FMA, and the Arnis bill is good for FMA.”

Other martial arts disciplines have a unified identity and governing body, there is no better time than now to do this for FMA and the responsibility is on us to elevate FMA beyond where it is today.

Romeo Maguigad is a Filipino-American practitioner of FMA. He and another Filipino American, Michael Querubin, own a Chicago-based website aiming to unify the global FMA community.

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