I've heard and read from many sources that the martial arts practice the PI was woven into dance to mask it from the Spaniards during the colonial period. Does anyone know of any research based articles that document this? There are some dances that seem obviously related to FMA (sakuting and maglalatik for example), and a few that seem to have potential as footwork drills (such as tinikling and singkil), but I'd love to know if anyone out there has access to any documented evidence about this.
Gat Puno Abon has a Moro-Moro book available that will undoubtedly answer a lot of your questions. I don't have a copy yet, so I can't tell you exactly what's contained therein. However, after having learned/practiced some of the bataylas, I can tell you that you won't be disappointed with Moro-Moro.
As for learning the battle dances themselves, back when I was training in FL with Gap Puno, everyone in class is taught them as part of the normal Garimot training sessions. Whether beginner or more advanced, the Moro-Moros are usually always a part of each training session. Gat Puno Abon can enlighten more about the training aspects of these bataylas themselves -- esp. since these dances cover the 3 ranges of Arnis (largo, medio and corto) and can be performed with either weapons or empty-handed...which can only help to always augment your normal training beneficially.
This question caught my eye. So I decided to contribute my understanding. Actually, many respondents here have their own understanding backwards. The traditional dances of the modern Filipinos come from three regions: North, Central, and South. Southern dances have movements in which you might choose to "perceive" silat techniques. Such moves are similar to those "seen" in Kuntaw. However, the dances in the North and Central regions were certainly influenced by or copied verbatim from Spanish sources. The irony here is that most modern Filipino martial arts techniques are not shown to be influenced either by Southern Muslim culture, silat, or Kuntaw. Rather, their development has taken place mostly in the Visayas and in the North, such as on Luzon. There, the predominant influence on FMA is from Spanish dance, NOT the other way around. Rather than hiding the martial movement in dance, the Spanish dances have inspired the modern Filipino martial arts techniques. That is why none of you can locate an historical source for something that is just untrue. Contemporary FMA practitioners are copying Spanish dances without realizing their source material. I find this amusing.
Interesting thoughts on this topic. You seem to be saying that FMA developed from Spanish Dance? While the Spaniards did teach their cultural practice (including dance) to the locals, I'm having a hard time accepting that this would have laid a foundation for the development of the Filipino Martial Arts. I'd love to see your source material on this, as its a perspective I've never encountered before.
You do emphasize an important reality - lack of credible source material leaves us with only anecdote, legend, and folklore. That makes it extremely difficult to construct a deeper understanding of the roots of our art.
It will be impossible to find any documented evidence if the purpose was to HIDE the martial methods in the dances, isn't it? The dances will be the medium of practice or maybe even instruction. The possible proof that there was something like this that happened in the past is when you find men from a direct lineage of this method, (e.g. the moro-moro style of FMA). I've met some guys who claimed to practice the moro-moro style but the reverse was true, i.e. they are not hiding the martial methods in the dances but rather extracting martial techniques from the dances.
There are all kinds of historical documentation, and most of them are not actual documents. Drawings and paintings, music and nursery rhymes, and even dance itself is used to tell the stories and values of a culture. But there's a great difference between celebrating great battles and heroes through art, and masking the training and practice of the martial arts in dance. If the FMA was hidden in the dance, there had to be an intention to preserve it and pass it on (otherwise why hide it at all?). If this happened, how did it happen? Are there dances out there that we know have connections to martial arts training? Are elements of dance still present in the way we train in FMA today?
History is history, and what happened in the past doesn't dictate our practice in the present nor the path for our future. But it does play an important role in understanding the path that got us here. Is there a connection between FMA and Philippine Dance? I'm just trying to separate fact from folklore.