The coming change in government will also usher in the changes needed for the country’s new national sport. Though the arnis law clearly makes it the official sport and martial art of the Philippines, guidelines for its implementation are still being crafted.

There is a lot of good news and reason to be optimistic.In January, The Department of Education issued a directive on the implementation of the law, mandating that it be taught in all schools.

There are still no guidelines on how that will be done and whose expertise will be tapped, though, but some schools have already taken the initiative.

Tarlac National High School, Ateneo de Manila and most recently, Diliman Preparatory School (DPS) are among those with existing arnis programs.

DPS will introduce arnis as part of its PE program for grade 4 and first year high school, through the Philippine Council of Kali Escrima Arnis Masters (PCKEAM), one of the largest groups of arnis masters in the country.

PCKEAM was formed by the late Grandmaster Roland Dantes, who believed to his dying day that the sport would be best served by reuniting all of its masters.

“When we go, what will happen to all that we have learned?” GM Roland told this writer the week before he, ironically, died suddenly.

“Together, we will better be able to pass it on.”With the new government also comes the opportunity to make more visible changes.

The Republic Act 9850 also dictates that the logo of the Philippine Sports Commission be changed to include arnis, but it is still not clear who will initiate the change, and how the design will be arrived at. This will be up to the next PSC administration.

But speaking of the old administration, the PSC is reportedly considering to allocate funds for a training center in the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex or one of its other properties.

Still, with the sheer number of participants, regional training centers should also be considered. Perhaps provincial governments could be enticed into helping out in this regard.

The youth have also reacted to the exposure stick fighting has been given on programs on The National Geographic Channel and Discovery Channel.

Recent Hollywood movies like “Sherlock Holmes” and “Kick-Ass” also featured this fighting art. The latter even mentioned the famed Filipino fan knife or balisong.

A handful of local governments are already working with the PCKEAM and other groups to hold arnis clinics for barangay tanods, local law enforcement, and volunteer groups.

A few years ago, the Philippine National Police Academy already had an arnis training group, but it was not continued.

Peace and order has been positively impacted in the areas where arnis has already been taught to local law enforcers.

In the private sector, the forms or “anyo” training in arnis has slowly been making inroads. In its truest form, the moves are very similar to taichi, but with sticks, which helps firm up the muscles of those who cannot or do not prefer using weights.

Recently, the international magazine FMA Digest presented an award to Sen. Miguel Zubiri for his efforts in getting the arnis law passed. More and more events point to an impending snowballing of the sport.

A prominent building in the Makati business district, The Enterprise Center, is introducing arnis as part of its Sports Week for tenants and guests in July.

But there is still a lot of work to be done. There still has to be a unified set of rules for national and international competition. Most regions have their own styles, which must be respected.

These styles may still be served by “anyo” competitions.But a universal common ground must be found for competitions to carry more weight, especially internationally.

The PCKEAM, incidentally, is in the planning stages of an international event to follow the mammoth arnis festival scheduled in Palawan for the last week of July.

“What we’re really looking for is something consultative, to bring all the different styles together despite their differences,” Zubiri says. “Foreigners are looking to us to lead by example and present a unified front.”

Unknown to most people, arnis practitioners in the Philippines are also invited to show off their skills or teach overseas.

A large gathering of martial artists will be held in Iran, under the office of their national Olympic committee. Arnis will be making its debut.

Like our latest democratic exercise, arnis will need everyone to at least implicitly cooperate for it to prosper.

There will be gadflies and filibusters for certain, but it is building momentum. As CNN founder Ted Turner said “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

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