DVD Review: “Martial Arts: Secrets of the Asian Masters

Welcome to our Filipino Martial Art (FMA) stocking stuffer edition of  the Ground Never Misses.  Today we check out local FMA teacher Myrlino Hufana, and Barclay Powers who have produced, written, directed, and presented “Martial Arts: Secrets of the Asian Masters.” A full length documentary featuring various teachers representing various systems and traditions found throughout the islands of the Philippines, “Secrets of the Asian Masters” brings to light the beauty and practicality the FMA are renown for.

imageThe 2011 “Best Sports Documentary” recipient at the New York International Film Fest, “Secrets…” offers footage of some of the least known masters of their respective styles (different teachers refer to their arts under one of three general terms; Arnis / Kali / Escrima), and insight into their thinking.  Each segment is different, where Hufana seemed to just let the teachers speak and offer everything from stories to teaching methods, to the future of FMA.  Admittingly a couple teachers boast a bit more bravado then needed, but overall the general theme is the preservation and concern for the future of what many believe is a integral cultural export from the Philippines.

Over a dozen teachers are featured including Rolando Hong / Jayson Vicente / Rodel Dagooc / Frank Sobrino / Jerry Dela Cruz / Nico Palma / Manolo Del Rosario / Rodrigo Maranga & his son / Romulo Romo / Peachie Baron Seguin / Antonio Diego / Jason & Jerson Tortal /  and the Hufana family.  Many of these teachers have NEVER been featured in any book, DVD, or even online in many cases!  Access to these teachers is not easy and the pre-production of this venture was not cheap nor easy.  But in the end I feel Hufana has reached his goal, and that is to make accessible the great teachers of the FMA!

I had the pleasure of meeting Myrlino Hufana Friday night at the screening of the “Bladed Hand,” and I must say though our time was short, the sincerity and passion he has to share the FMA cannot be understated!  The way he looks at both himself and his film, as an extension of his persona, is as a conduit for the masses to garner access to some of the living legends that most of us would never have an opportunity to train with, see, or learn from.

That said, it is important for me to note that this is NOT an instructional DVD by any means.  Yes we get small glimpses of each instructor moving and demonstrating both solo and partner techniques.  But overall you are not sitting down “learning” anything in terms of movements or techniques.  What the viewer takes away from a documentary like “Secrets of the Asian Masters” is just how rich and important the martial tradition of any culture is, let alone the various ethnicity’s found within the Philippine Islands!

Technically “Secrets” is shot very well with decent production work.  Some of the interviews and shots are a bit tight for my liking, but overall each scene and interview offers clear video and excellent audio production coupled with sharp editing, and one can see how this won the Best Sports Documentary category of the 2011 New York International Film Festival.  Whether you are a martial artist, a fan of Philippine culture, or just someone interested in great independent documentary work, you do not want to miss “Martial Arts: Secrets of the Asian Masters.”

To order “Martial Arts: Secrets of the Asian  Masters” click here to be redirected to the website (this used to be title “Voices of the Masters”) where you can pay with Paypal!  

“Secrets” marks the first step we need to take towards exposing the world to the cultural tradition of the Philippines.  A great professional production and addition to your FMA library.