20 September 2017

Disunity in Filipino Martial Arts

Seven different systems coming together for the Day of Play.

It is an unspoken truth, but very well known to those in the Filipino Martial Arts community. Although the exact origin of the disunity is virtually unknown, it is certain it has existed since FMA’s conception. Grandmaster Robert Castro and Master Joseph Bautista have experienced this disunity firsthand and have suffered the consequences. They both have been asked to share their insight of this disunity.

According to the two, the disunity existed prior to their introduction in the martial arts, Castro having 35 years of experience and Bautista ten years. They explained that historically, Filipino Martial Arts were passed down and kept within families. Arguments ensued when one family claimed their art to be superior to another. “It all comes down to pride of family and their family style. It can also be construed as gangster mentality, ‘my stuff is better than yours and I’m going to prove it’” explained Bautista. As a result, individuals would challenge one another to death matches and thus began a never-ending cycle of vengeance.

Now, more than two thousand years later, the same disunity that put families against one another in the Philippines is now rooted into high-ranking Filipino martial artists and systems around the world. “There are a number of grandmasters and masters who are old school, don’t want to be open and share and won’t see it any other way.” Stated Bautista

“People are so used to their art and so loyal to it.  Once your loyal to your art, it becomes part of you so you look at other arts as secondary.  It’s nothing disloyal or anything, it just that you compare and in this comparison you get the positive and negative attitudes that people get. It plays a very heavy role in the martial arts because you have instructors there who are not grandmasters that have attitudes, they just want to show and prove how good they are. ” stated Castro.

As a result of this infighting, both men have experienced the consequences in their own way.

“I have heard stories that Filipino Martial Arts almost died because of various reasons; ego, pride, and narrow-mindedness, stated Bautista. But perhaps this disunity is the biggest reason that has held back FMA as a whole. “If FMA were as unified as any of the arts out there, FMA would still not be underground. All the other arts, aikido, tae kwon do, karate are unified and have expanded worldwide. Filipino martial arts as a unit have not done that because there’s so much infighting”

This disunity is not only felt on those within the martial arts community but to the Filipino/ Filipino-American community. “Most of people who are outside of the martial arts community, do not know about the marital arts. They don’t know about the rich cultural history the martial arts entails. So they are losing something that don’t even know. For those who are aware of the martial arts, they may come to the understanding of we aren’t as big therefore we may not be as good. It becomes a whole self-esteem issue because the art isn’t mainstream.” Explained Bautista

Despite all the dark history of Filipino Martial Arts and lost culture, both are optimistic that unity can be achieved and offer their own ideas of what it will take to reach it. Castro believes that the most important step to achieve unity is to let go of your ego. “Ego is the most treacherous thing in martial arts because that ego just takes you above what you should be. A man that’s highly trained should be one of the most humble people you know. The highest-ranking people you know should be the humblest people you know because through their training that’s where they learn humility, kindness, and integrity, all of the above, positive energy. But most of the problems that occur are from people trying to prove themselves. Why are they trying to prove themselves? It’s because of the ego. If you eliminate the ego, then you can have unity. That’s one of the problems I have is they give all these people high ranking ranks but the people are not spiritually, morally or ethically correct within themselves. How you are as person is the way to unify Filipino art, you have to humble yourself.”

Bautista on the other hand believes that FMA is headed in the right direction. “I think we may have the best chance of unifying if we go at the rate we are going, which is promote everyone and all FMAs and let the masses decide what styles the want to see. The systems aren’t unifying, it’s the arts having mutual respect for each other. We’re not unifying like judo or tae kwon do in terms of standardizing the art, FMA is too eclectic of an art to do that.”

Perhaps Filipino warrior faces the greatest enemy today ever in its existence. Much more than any samurai or conquistador, our enemy is an internal one and far more dangerous. Eskabo Daan strives for unification regardless of style or origin. And hopes will one day live to see Filipino Martial Arts become recognized as much as it’s Japanese and Chinese counterparts. 

Approved by: Grandmaster Robert Castro