Filipino Martial arts a popular piece of Pista
Martial arts a popular piece of Pista
By Rich Freedman / Times-Herald
Stick fighting has become a popular feature of the annual Pista sa Nayon on the Vallejo Waterfront, and the 10,000 or so expected June 5 can thank Bruce Lee.
It was the late martial arts master who inspired then 11-year-old Mel Orpilla.
"It wasn't until I was older that I came to appreciate my own culture's martial arts and learned that even Bruce Lee used Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) in his movie," Orpilla said.
When Seafood City opened in Vallejo and Orpilla was appointed the directing manager of the Bayanihan Center, "one of the things I wanted to do was bring FMA classes to the center," he said.
In 2004, Orpilla and Grand Master Ver Villasin began an FMA academy. Now it's a featured activity at Pista sa Nayon as the only FMA tournament conducted at a major Filipino festival in the United States, said Orpilla.
"At most FMA tournaments, only those interested in FMA attend," Orpilla said. "But here, the general public will be exposed to it in a big way and exposing the public is one way of sharing an art form that is indigenous to our Filipino culture as our languages, folk dances, and food."
FMA has historical significance, continued Orpilla, "in that it was used to fight the Spanish and gain independence for which we are celebrating with Pista sa Nayon."
FMA "is not just about sticks," Orpilla said. "But it is a complete martial art using bladed weapons, hands, feet and other body parts to subdue an opponent. It was developed
out of necessity and not as a sport."
The Philippines were susceptible to invaders, so the people developed fighting styles to protect themselves and their land, Orpilla said.
"Over the years, many of these styles were practiced and propagated by individual families and taught only to family members or those trusted by the family," Orpilla said. "Hence, the secrecy of the teachings. I like to say that it is easy to learn but difficult to master.
"The student has to commit themselves to the art art form for life in order to truly excel because it is a continuous learning process."
For many people, "FMA is shrouded in mystery because it has been taught mostly in secret or in small 'garage dojo' classes," Orpilla said. "However, FMA has become a more popular fighting style in Hollywood movies."
FMA was included in the "Bourne Identity" movies, the film "300" and, most recently, "Book of Eli," said Orpilla.
There's nothing like watching it in person, Orpilla said.
"Even for Filipinos, many have never seen FMA this close," he said.
Nice article and a good word for the FMA community.
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