One of the core tenets of Filipino Martial Arts – whether you call it arnis, eskrima, or kali – is if you don’t have a weapon, take one from the enemy; if you can’t, then improvise one. I had to think kinda the same way while shooting the 2016 Filipino Martial Arts Expo last weekend.
The performing area was backlighted and the spotlights were often missing the martial artists as they circled and feinted all over the place during the totally unchoreographed fight demonstrations. Flash of course was forbidden since it might distract the fighters and so cause an accident. What to do? Since I was shooting for personal pleasure this time, I had the freedom to just hoick up my ISO and go black and white. And since even then I knew I couldn’t get the shutter speeds necessary to freeze the movement, I decided to work with the motion blur. I was betting it would suit the balletic, frenetic action – and it did.
Having had a long interest in swords and sword-fighting, FMA is of perpetual interest to me. Though now known primarily as a stick-fighting system, it’s actually a comprehensive combat system akin to Japanese bujutsu, and its teachings are rooted in blade techniques. In fact several of the FMA schools participating demonstrated maneuvers using blades, both bolos and knives. If you’ve thrilled to the knife fights in The Bourne Identity or Steven Segal movies, you would’ve seen familiar moves here because the fight choreographers for those movies incorporated FMA moves. The expo was a really interesting display of different styles and forms, from the traditional training methods to freestyle sparring to full-contact fighting. The popularity of FMA was highlighted by a demo from a Korean boy who’d trained under a Korean disciple of the Mandirigmang Kaliradman school.
Kudos and thanks to Regional Director Robby Alabado from the Department of Tourism for making this expo happen, and to Mandirigmang Kaliradman master and founder Manolo del Rosario for hosting the event and for accommodating us.