Fil-Ams looking to martial arts to cope with rising threats on Asians
FAIRFAX, Virginia – The unprovoked attack on Noel Quintana, a 61-year-old Filipino American in New York City, seemed to drive closer to home the appalling rise of anti-Asian violence across the nation, and has some worried Fil-Ams looking for ways to avoid becoming the latest victims.
“We’ve had a considerable rise in membership lately, and they’re of all age groups,” said Wesley Crisostomo who together with his brother Walter formed the Pinakatay Arnis Sigidas (PAS) in Silver Spring, Maryland. Growing out the Virginia-Washington D.C.-Maryland tristate area, the group has opened branches in California, North Carolina, Arizona, Guam and outside the U.S. in Britain, Slovenia and Italy.
There are many Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) groups across America, Crisostomo revealed. “We have Balintawak, Doce Pares, Atillo FMA, Modern Arnist and many others.”
And there are almost as many FMA styles, explained Rommel Lacap, who’s noticed the surge of Fil-Am parents worried about their children. “There are many good teachers in the West and East coasts,” he pointed out, “Dan Inosanto who trained under Bruce Lee learned FMA from Pinoy grandmasters and has a school in southern California.”
He said he took up teaching high school students in the 1990s when the dangers of school bullying first reared its head.
“A misconception of FMA is that it’s just stick fighting,” explained Mr. Lacap, “but it’s the whole cake – both armed and unarmed because a weapon is just an extension of your body and every part can be a weapon.”
“Any type of martial arts training regardless of its origins (Muay Thai from Thailand, Kung Fu from China, Karate from Japan) is always good,” stressed Crisostomo.
“They incorporate awareness of potential dangers, physical fitness, discipline, humility and self-confidence,” he added.
“Learning FMA is a wholesome experience because of its unorthodox approach, starting with weapons training before going empty-handed,” he averred, “And it makes you feel good to be Pinoy, to know you have the ability to defend yourself.”
Students from various backgrounds
“My students come from different backgrounds. Some come from other FMA disciplines, some are researchers, some are fitness enthusiasts and others are just curious if it can help defend them in the streets.”
“They’re doctors, lawyers, merchants, professional stuntmen and even artists and activists. We have kids with time on their hands, veterans, soccer moms and we even have a homeless man,” Crisostomo shared.
Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez has delivered a note to the U.S. State Department, laying out the government’s concern over the rising tide of anti-Asian violence that’s taken its toll on Fil-Ams like. Quintana whose face was slashed with a box cutter.
Filipinos are the fourth most targeted ethnic group next to Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese, according to Stop AAPI Hate.
Last March 12, a former journalist from Iloilo, 51-year-old Alex Vidal, was assaulted too in the New York subway. It was the second time he experienced harassment on his commute a week apart, a sure indication that the threat against Asians was real.
“If an elderly woman in San Francisco can wield a stick to effectively protect herself, what more for someone who has some self-defense training,” said Lacap. He was referring to 75-year-old Xiao Zhen Xie who fought back against a bigger and younger Steven Jenkins, causing him to be wheeled off on a stretcher.
Though he’s now preoccupied with other endeavors, Lacap can take solace that some of his former students, including his sons, have fared well, “Five of my past students made it out of college fine and are now in the medical field.”
For those in the Metro DC region, “Haniti” Welfredo Wesley Crisostomo and “Iti” Walter Crisostomo can be reached at their Maryland headquarters at (301( 646 9851 or in Phoenix, AZ at (623) 300 8837.