Sunday, July 02, 2006

FMA's Ship Finally Pulling In?!!

I’ve been actively involved in Filipino martial arts now for over 25 years, and for much of that time I’ve heard that it is about to become “the next big thing” in martial arts.

Judo, Karate, Taekwondo, Kung-Fu, Kenpo, Ninjutsu, JKD, Aikido, Brazilian Jujitsu; the list seems endless for all the arts that have had their moment in the media’s spotlight as the featured flavor. For the most part, the FMA have remained the worst kept secret in martial arts, an insider’s connection that was often hidden in plain view by those who incorporated elements of the training into other styles.

Since the late 1980’s there has been significant growth within the FMA community as there have been more teachers to bring the art forward, promoting various legacies in their own right. Tournaments have evolved to provide opportunities for newcomers to test their courage and skills and to promote visibility to the general public. There have been various full-contact and point rules for both live and padded sticks. Some tournaments have been all-FMA, others have been divisions within other martial art tournaments, but few if any have had access to mass exposure through public media.


For the past half-dozen years Disney World has promoted the Disney Martial Arts Festival, a monumental event that has grown to include over 1000 athletes in 16 different disciplines ranging from traditional to modern expressions of punching, kicking and grappling arts from around the world. What have been conspicuously absent until now are the Filipino martial arts.

Every competition within the Festival is affiliated with a national organization that creates the formats and rules for their particular art, and which bring competitors together for this event. Disney becomes the sponsor, providing everything necessary to run the tournament, from mats, tables and chairs all the way to medals.

But wait! There’s more! (as they say on infomercials).


That’s right folks. We’re talking martial arts with major corporate sponsorship and national television exposure! This is a world-class event, as close to “Wide World of Sports” or the Olympics as most martial arts will ever get. (Then again, some participating organizations are IOC affiliates …)

Anyway, here is your chance to shine and let your friends and family see you on TV, and for those who are ambitious, you could even try combining different competitions, such as FMA and BJJ, Kajukenbo, TKD, Karate or even Tai Chi or Savate!

Oh, and if you thought one tournament was good, there are two! Disney holds events on each coast; there will be an FMA demonstration at the one this fall in Orlando, then competition will commence in Anaheim in February.

To meet Disney’s protocols and promote FMA participation, a group has been created, the “U.S. Filipino Martial Arts Federation” (USFMAF), whose role is to promote a high quality FMA tournament at this and other sanctioned events.

Over the past couple of weeks a group of volunteers from across the country have met via meetings and conference calls, forming a board of governors that has selected an executive board to take on responsibility for making this tournament a success.

Members of the executive board are:

Elrick Jundis, Executive Director; FMA teacher, promoter and organizer, a strong consensus builder;
Darren Tibon, President; a highly motivated and effective teacher, tournament coach and organizer;
Alex France, Vice President; Secretary General of Ernesto Presas’ IPMAF, FMA teacher, another strong consensus builder;
Darlene Tibon, Secretary General; a key member of Darren’s organization;
Anthony Wade, Treasurer.

I’ve known most of these people for years; they are hard-working, with a love and dedication to the art that is second to none. While this group is all from northern California, that was decided by consensus on a national conference call to facilitate launching an organization on a tight deadline. Moreover, this is a group with depth of experience in promoting tournaments, seminars and other public events. I have no qualms about the quality of this board; it is a first-rate list, and one I am sure will make this event an outstanding showcase competition for Filipino martial arts.

In addition there is one other special mention. Eugene Tibon is Technical Advisor to the USFMAF, and really its godfather. Gene has a list of credentials that would take all day to type, but to be brief, he is our contact to Disney, someone with the credentials to present a new federation to their board of directors and a guide through the ins-and-outs of joining forces with an organization of this magnitude.

More in depth, besides running one of the more successful martial arts chain of schools I know, also Gene holds positions as: President, USANKF of Northern California, Inc.; Regional Sports Organization for Karate; Executive Vice President, USA National Karate-do Federation; Member of the USA Olympic Committee; President, Goju Ryu Uchiage Kai, Western United States; Executive Board Member, City of Stockton Sports Commission. In fact, the list seems to update constantly, as today he said he now has additional roles with Disney’s organization. In other words, he’s been there, done that, knows how national organizations work, and is willing to share his expertise to make the FMA an integral part of this Festival. Already his input has given invaluable insight into what needs to be done to get up and running on short notice.

Now for the best part – everyone is invited!

The USFMAF needs people to work on committees for a variety of things, including: non-profit incorporation and legal issues; a technical committee for rules and regulations; judging and refereeing committee to establish training and standards; equipment (oh yeah – there’s a major martial arts manufacturer that is interested in making whatever gear we need!); medical supervision; organizing committee; etc.

If you think you, your school, your teacher, or anybody else you know in FMA, ought to know more about this tournament, here is a chance to have some input on the ground floor of what could become a major ongoing event. The goal is to be INCLUSIVE, not based on or biased towards one style or organization. Input is both welcome and vital!

Once all these things are done, we get to enjoy a world-class tournament on a national stage! I can say from personal experience, as a participant in world championship tournaments in the Philippines and here in the U.S., that an event like this will long be remembered and be a highlight for a lifetime for those who participate.

This tournament currently proposes a number of formats for competitors. Divisions include both forms and self-defense techniques. Sparring will be both padded and live stick (point fighting); padded single stick (continuous fighting); and live double stick (continuous fighting). There are ideas to expand other areas in the future, but right now the need is to prepare for that first competition.

You can join this group online through Google or go there to contact people. You can also mail me if you need help reaching someone on the executive board.

No comments: