Much like Filipino culture itself, Filipino Martial Arts evolved by adapting to the changes in current society. FMA incorporates elements from both Western and Eastern martial arts and because of its flexible and adaptable nature, you’ll find many schools teaching different FMA styles.
Thanks to modern masters such as Cacoy Canete, Dionisio Canete, Dan Inosanto, Venancio Bacon, Mike Inay and brothers Ernesto and Remy Presas, FMA has increased in prominence globally.
Cacoy Canete is the last surviving member of the original Doce Pares club, which was formed in 1932. He is a 12th degree black belt, and was instrumental in spreading the popularity of eskrima in the Philippines by spearheading the campaign to create unified sport rules to use in regional and national tournaments.
Grandmaster Ciriaco “Cacoy” Canete, Cacoy Doce Pares
His nephew, Dionisio Canete, initiated the formation of the Cebu Eskrima (Arnis) Association. He effectively helped end the widespread in-fighting among the different FMA schools and masters, and unified FMA as a sport. (*He is currently the head of the martial art school I belong to)
Supreme Grandmaster Dionisio Canete, Doce Pares
Venancio Bacon or “Anciong” as he is known to many, was a veteran of many death matches in Cebu–back when Arnis/Eskrima was more streetfight than sport. He founded Balintawak Eskrima in the 1950’s in order to preserve the combative nature of Arnis, and developed many single stick techniques.
(October 15, 1912 – 1981)
Balintawak Eskrima heavily influenced Remy Presas, who is known as the father of Modern Arnis. He instituted a ranking system to identify each student’s level, taught his art via seminars and camps all over the Philippines and in the US and also published several books and videos on modern arnis.
Grandmaster Remy Presas, father of Modern Arnis
(December 19, 1936 – August 28, 2001)
His brother, Ernesto Presas, founded the Kombatan school of FMA and helped revive the art by teaching seminars in the Philippines and abroad.
Grandmaster Ernesto Presas, Kombatan Eskrima
(May 20, 1945 – November 1, 2010)
Mike Inay founded Inayan Eskrima and was instrumental in promoting FMA in USA’s west coast. He co-founded the West Coast Eskrima Society in Los Gatos, CA and became known in the law enforcement community when he started teaching FMA all over the US and in Europe.
Grandmaster Mike Inay, Inayan Eskrima
(December 11, 1944 – September 27, 2000)
Among all the masters, perhaps the most well-known is Dan Inosanto.He and martial arts icon Bruce Lee were very good friends. Dan Inosanto taught Bruce Lee FMA, particularly the use of the nunchaku, which Bruce Lee used in his famous film, “Game of Death”.
Grandmaster Dan Inosanto
Dan continues to promote Filipino Martial Arts through his school and the Hollywood scene. Dan has many famous students including Denzel Washington, who had to learn FMA for his role in the Book of Eli; and Damon Caro, stunt coordinator and fight choreographer who worked on films such as the Bourne series, Watchmen and 300.
Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto
These men are only a few of the trailblazers in the world of Filipino Martial Arts. I’m sure there are many FMA masters and grandmasters, whom I have failed to mention, but these men were the ones whose names and legacies I encountered during my training in FMA.
While Grandmasters Cacoy Canete, Dionisio Canete and Dan Inosanto are still continuing to promote FMA in their own circles, most of these other Grandmasters are no longer around. Although they are no longer with us their legacy has been cemented in Filipino Martial Arts and their lessons continue to influence many Filipino martial artists today.
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