History of Arnis Essay

Modern Arnis is the system of Filipino martial arts founded by the late Remy Presas as a self-defense system. His goal was to create an injury-free training method as well as an effective self-defense system in order to preserve the older Arnis systems. The term Modern Arnis was also used by Remy Presas’ younger brother Ernesto Presas to describe his style of Filipino martial arts; since 1999 Ernesto Presas has called his system Kombatan. It is derived principally from the traditional Presas family style of the Bolo (machete) and the stick-dueling art of Balintawak Eskrima, with influences from other Filipino and Japanese martial arts.

Remy Presas studied his family’s system from an early age. He went on to study the Japanese systems of Shotokan Karate and Judo, achieving high rank in each; but he also studied a variety of other Filipino systems, most notablyVenancio Bacon’s Balintawak. Beginning with a small gymnasium in Bacolod in the 1950s, he attempted to spread the art to the local youth as both a cultural legacy and a form of physical development or sport. He also taught the art at theUniversity of Negros Occidental-Recoletos.

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His desire to reinvigorate interest in his country’s traditional martial art grew over time, and he began making modifications and improvements to what he had learned. In 1969 he moved to Manila at the request of a government official, and formed the Modern Arnis Federation of the Philippines. He was assisted by individuals such as those who now are on the Modern Arnis Senior Masters Council: Rodel Dagooc, Jerry dela Cruz, Roland Dantes, Vincente Sanchez, Rene Tongson and Cristino Vasquez.

He continued to develop and spread his art, including via books, until political considerations forced him to relocate to North America. There he met Wally Jay, George Dillman, and other martial artists who influenced his development of the art of Modern Arnis. In particular, many locks from Small Circle Jujitsu were added to Modern Arnis. The art continued to grow and change, in technique and in emphasis, though it always retained a focus on the single stick and on general self-defense.

Those who trained with Remy Presas in the United States in the 1970s and early 1980s experienced the art differently from those who began training in the late 1990s. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s he traveled extensively for seminars – the principal form of instruction in the system was through weekend training camps held around the world but especially in the U. S. – and also produced books and videos. During this time he also experimented with different forms of titles and leadership in the art.

The International Modern Arnis Federation Philippines would come to be the lead Modern Arnis organization in the Philippines, and the Deutschen Arnis Verband of Germany would be the lead organization in Europe. In the United States, the International Modern Arnis Federation (IMAF) was the principal organization as far as certification was concerned, but the founder created a variety of titles that indicated some level of organizational or leadership authority in the art (as opposed to titles such as guro (“teacher”) or Punong Guro (“Head teacher”) that recognized teaching and/or technical ability).

Most prominent among these titles were Datu, meaning a chieftain or leader, awarded in this order to Shishir Inocalla, Kelly Worden and Ric “Bong” Jornales (of Arnis Sikaran) (all in the 1980s), Dieter Knuettel (1996), Tim Hartman and David Hoffman (both in 2000); and Master of Tapi-Tapi, awarded to Jeff Delaney, Chuck Gauss, Jim Ladis, Gaby Roloff, Randi Schea, Ken Smith, and Brian Zawilinski.

The Masters of Tapi-Tapi titles were created to provide leadership and steerage for the IMAF following Remy Presas’ passing; the Datus were expected to take leadership roles that might see them move in different, and perhaps less conventional, directions. Through 2001, however, the art remained largely united under the founder.

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