Arnis is making a comeback in next week’s Southeast Asian Games, returning to the regional competition just as its birth country serves as the host.
The team’s target? 15 gold medals.
Rodolfo Jay Garcia Jr., the national team’s strength and conditioning coach, said there will be a total of 20 arnis events to be participated by the 11 member countries.
He explained there will be three main categories for the arnis competitions — Full contact live stick, full contact padded stick, and anyo or form.
There will be eight weight classes each in live stick and padded stick which will also be divided into men’s and women’s. Anyo meanwhile will be divided into traditional and non-traditional with two divisions each.
“May dalawang weapon category tayo, may padded stick at may live stick. Parehong gumagamit ng armor. May 10 point must system parang boxing,” Garcia said.
“Dalawang klase naman ang anyo (form), traditional at non-traditional. ’Yung traditional malapit sa galaw ng nakakatanda yung ginagawa. ’Yung non-traditional naman ‘yung maganda sa mata ng kabataan, maraming talon, rolling, at very acrobatic.”
This year’s competitions was organized by Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (PEKAF), the sport’s national governing body that was formed in 2017. The PEKAF is headed by Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, an arnisador himself.
“Ang magandang ginawa ngayon sa PEKAF is lahat ng point of view at estilo, binigyan natin ng avenue sa loob ng iisang asosasyon,” said Garcia.
Garcia said to make sure his team will meet the 15-gold medal target, members of the national squad went through rigorous training.
“Una naming ginawa ‘yung general strength and conditioning tapos nag select sila kung sino maglalaro mismo sa specific events. Sa ngayon may panibagong training na kami specific sa events,” he said.
He said members of the national team came from various part of the country, from Tacurong city in Sultan Kudarat to Cebu, and from Negros to Baguio. Most of them are young athletes, while the oldest is 46 years old.
The sport was actually introduced in the SEA Games calendar when Manila hosted in 2005. Back then, there was a limited number of categories where the host country won 6 gold medals.
“Arnis was included sa 2005 SEA Games at now lang siya nasundan so it could be considered as its rebirth. What makes it different now is that we are working for arnis to be as regular event in the SEA games,” said Aniano "Jon" Lota, Jr., one of the team’s coaches.
“ ’Pag nakadalawang staging na sa SEA Games, magiging regular na sport na siya.”
Garcia said the team hopes to produce a new sports hero in arnis, which officially became the national sport and martial art in 2009 by virtue of Republic Act No. 9850.
“Napapanahon talaga, noong lumabas ang Arnis Law, nabuo ang malakas na asosasyon. Dalawa yan, may tinitingala ang mga tao. Sa weightliting may Hidilyn Diaz, bowling Paeng Nepomuceno, boxing si Manny Pacquiao. Mahalaga na may tinitingala na personality,” said Garcia.
Garcia also said members of the national team are extra motivated not just because of their love for the martial arts but also because of the support they have been getting from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).
“Ngayon maganda ang nakukuhang allowance. ’Yung iba nakapag tigil na sa trabaho dahil nakita ng magulang na mayroon silang nakukuhang maganda galing sa PSC,” said Garcia, who was also a member of the national team back in 2005.
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