Transmitting Tradition

“I’m destined to live the dream for all my peeps who never made it
Cause yeah, we were beginners in the hood as five percenters
But somethin must of got in us cause all of us turned to sinners
Now some, restin in peace and some are sittin in San Quentin
Others such as myself are tryin to carry on tradition.” – AZ

One of my peers from the Inosanto Academy, Ryan Gray recently shared a documentary that he had made on Capoiera Regional.  What I loved about it was not only the beautiful cinematography and production polish, but how it demonstrated how a martial art like Capoiera can reflect so much of a people’s culture and history.

In that way it reminded me of Kali, and how for me as a Filipino American (or American born Filipino as Guro Dan would say) my journey into martial arts has been as much if not more about my own search for my identity as much as it has been about my evolution as a martial artist.  Pamana Tuhon Sayoc had remarked once that for many Filipinos training in Filipino Martial Arts was also a means to learn and connect to their culture.  There is a French Documentary on Arnis, from the 1950’s that a young girl incredibly followed up on and posted just a few months ago.

Here is the original:

This phenomenon of martial arts, particularly Filipino Martial Arts as a vehicle to carry history (through oral tradition), preserve culture and transmit it across generations was also conveyed in Felipe “Bot” Jocano’s TEDx talk in the Philippines.

On a recent interview on The Champs, Black Thought (Tariq) of The Roots (aka The Legendary Roots Crew, Jimmy Fallon’s band) and the hosts talked about how hip hop and rap was able to capture the soul of his experiences in an art form.  And speaking of soul, Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg once described “soul” as “the melting point of struggle, passion and expression”.  I know Peter from when we both had hip hop radio shows in college, and I never ever thought I would quote him, particularly on a Filipino Martial Arts website!

This ability to transmit history is exemplified in a vintage 1977 article written by Pamana Tuhon Sayoc on the “bothoan”, a term that described a place of learning, not just of martial arts but of many disciplines.

This was also written about in Levinsen and Christensen’s Encyclopedia of World Sport.

Filipino Martial Arts have played a role in the now popular Baybayin ancient script, and now in the revival of Filipino tribal tattoos.

For me, Filipino Martial Arts are a vehicle for me to grow as a person, father and husband.  It has been a vehicle for me to know my culture and even remember my own family.  Lakas is the name chosen in tribute to my grandfather’s secret unit.  Because of my training, my late grandfather told me stories of knife duals in the village square and of his own grandfather that was a “master of Sinawali”.  Guro Dan himself has often talked about his reluctance to learn Filipino “stick stuff”, but how his own father was overjoyed when he “finally learned something from [his] own culture!” The history and stories of Filipino Americans and his own experiences as a Filipino American are what I love more than anything when I am with Guro Dan, and these shared experiences are in part what I connect with when I am with Pamana Tuhon Sayoc, Tuhon Carl Atienza or any other Tuhon.

It it my most genuine and respectful intention to share not only the ferocious combative arts of the Philippines, but to celebrate the history and culture from which they came.

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