If you spend some time perusing the online FMA forums you’ll notice that a few of the same topics keep popping up on a regular basis ad nauseum:
- Endless debates about the etymology/authenticity of the terms Arnis, Escrima, and Kali.
- Versions and reversions of stories recounting challenge matches between certain schools and/or masters.
- Point-counterpoint debates over Who-Learned-From-Who, or Who-Pirated-Which-Techniques-From-Who.
- The latest lucky guy who inherited a particular system after the previous guy was excommunicated.
- Comparisons of FMA’s with other more mainstream martial arts such as Karate, Kung-Fu, Aikido, etc.
To be honest, I completely stopped caring about all of the above topics and their variants about 20 years ago, and have since focused on more “immediate” issues such as refining my overall skill and mastering (or more realistically, just getting better at) the technique that Ama Guro Jun DeLeon calls Hagibis - from my left side. Come to think of it, the raging debate over the use of the term Kali might even be settled before I master the Hagibis on my left side…but I digress.
One reoccurring topic in particular that does happen to peak my interest concerns the various “supernatural” aspects of Filipino culture that are sometimes discussed in relation to the practice of certain FMA styles. These discussions often encompass: anting-anting (amulets), engkantos (spirits), and orasyon (incantations) among other things.
Now, you’re not likely to hear about such things if you training comes from a dojo that happens to offer a “Filipino Stick-Fighting Class” once a week, or if you train in a completely sport-oriented club. It’s true that the Filipino Martial Arts have finally become so American-ized over here that you can find many expressions of it which are devoid of all the cultural decorum. We call it “A Gi and a Stick”.
However, if you’ve spent time in the Philippines or your Guro has trained there, or especially if your Guro is Filipino, you’ll no doubt hear the legends from time to time. When I’ve seen such topics discussed online, the tone of the postings are usually framed as “Do you believe in…” or “Have you ever experienced…” The responses tend to follow a pattern as well. Some folks dismiss them outright as mere superstition. Others relate that although they have no direct experience with such phenomena, they still respect the traditions of their culture. And then there are some who will recount either anecdotal or direct personal experiences.
These topics tend to be my favorite – not only because I am intrigued by the subject matter, but because they are surprisingly the least dogmatic of the discussions. Unlike the above mentioned topics, no one claims to have the only or last word when it comes to metaphysical side!
At the request of one of my readers, in the next few posts I’ll give some background and perhaps relate a personal experience with Orasyon.