July 21, 2010

"Eskrimadors" - DVD Review

Some of my first memories of martial arts were training Modern Arnis every chance I got under Prof. Remy Presas (1936-2001). This was my first foray into a truly Filipino Cultural martial art, and it fascinated me to no end. My interest has led me to find an excellent teacher that I mesh with and I am excited to be training in Kali. So when "Eskrimadors" (Pointsource Films) came across my desk I was excited to see this groundbreaking documentary.

Kerwin Go has made a truly legit documentary on the fighting arts of Cebu Island, Philippines, and the masters who have propagated the arts of Eskrima / Arnis / Kali (all are very similar and a diatribe on their differences is not needed here). Focused solely on the teachers of Cebu island such as Cacoy Canete, Dionisio Canete, Undo Caburnay, Nick Elizar, Rodrigo Maranga, Uwit Jecong, Koloy Uy etc. For Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) geeks like me this is awesome, but trust me when I say you can sit down with your loved one who has little interest in men beating each other with sticks, and she will dig this film because it lays down the fabric in which the story of the Filipino people is woven into. The martial arts of any nation, or people, or tribe, or ethnicity are invaluable as they hold so much history and cultural aspects that it is essential that each generation passes down their knowledge to the next.

"Eskrimadors" is a nicely produced hour long documentary interlaced with training footage of the various masters demonstrating their unique approaches to the art of Eskrima. Re-enactments are played out with stories of the founding teachers who fought death matches (Juego Todo) long before video and Youtube! A great soundtrack coupled with photo's from the early 1900's, lay the groundwork for fun demonstrations as the story of Doce Pares Eskrima is told. Doce Pares is one of the main groups on Cebu, and the film is focused on the teachers and students of Doce Pares.

However, in 1952 Anciong Bacon split from Doce Pares and formed his own school focusing on single stick techniques later named Balintawak Eskrima. A good chunk of time is spent on this brewing rivalry fueled (as far as I can deduce anyways) purely on bullshit machismo. Fights, death matches, and bickering between Balintawak and Doce Pares students was given way too much time.

The late 70's brought about the formation of tournaments and seminars where the various instructors would share their arts. This is where the FMA really started to take off when they spread to North America and Europe. Interviews and highlight action shots from various competitions where stick fighting and form work are judged side by side and attended by people the world over. The camaraderie and sharing is evident in the smiles shared by both those who compete, those who learn, as well as those who teach.

More and more well done martial art documentaries are being produced and "Eskrimadors" sits up there with any and all of them. It is family friendly so pop some popcorn and sit down to view it with your kids and family and learn about some of the rich martial traditions the Filipino people have.

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