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Voices of the Masters: Warrior Arts of the Philippines

Voices of the Masters: Warrior Arts of the Philippines
Lindsey M. Taylor

Punong Guro Myrlino P. Hufana is much more than an athlete and martial artist. He is interested in documenting the systems and compelling stories of the masters of Filipino Martial Arts, helping Filipinos understand a major part of their culture and FMA practitioners appreciate the traditions behind the sport.

Hufana was given the opportunity to make Voices of the Masters, a film intending to promote all styles and aspects of the FMA in early 2010 when one of his students, independent filmmaker Barclay Powers approached him about traveling to the Philippines to meet with and film several highly respected masters. In March 2010, Hufana and a film crew had arrived in the Philippines, ready to capture the rich history and promising future of the FMA with Voices of the Masters. Hufana also worked with Powers on another film titled Killing the Buddha: The Lost Secret of Immortality. Hufana is also featured in the Killing the Buddha motion comic, a bestseller on iTunes.

Voices of the Masters was a long-term project for me, maybe five years down the road, I thought. This movie came together much faster than I expected but I think we put together a great film that truly captures the spirit of the FMA,” Hufana said. Support for the movie and funds were quickly raised within the Hufana Traditional Arnis (HTAI) family, Hufana’s martial arts academy located in Bellevue, Wash., and affiliated schools in Spokane, Wash. and Anaheim, Calif.

A few HTAI instructors made the trip to the Philippines along with Hufana and the film crew. Senior Guro Dave DeVore commented on the importance of connecting with the FMA masters and grandmasters on their turf:

Training in the Filipino Martial Arts has been an incredible journey. Being an avid reader I have read just about everything I could get my hands on in regards to FMA and the Filipino Culture. One constant with the books I have read and researched has been ‘If you are a serious student of FMA, you must go to the homeland of your art.’ I am a firm believer in this and have been to the Philippines twice. Actually sitting down and talking with the Masters and Grandmasters is an experience I will never forget. Being able to ask them questions and to hear the stories of their family lineage and instructors is priceless. I am forever indebted to my instructor, Punong Guro Myrlino Hufana, for sharing his FMA experience and Filipino heritage with me.

Grandmaster Rodrigo Maraga & son Rico

The Masters and Grandmasters I have been exposed to all share common traits such as their willingness to share, and their beautiful yet deadly moves. It is truly awe inspiring to stand in front of them when they demonstrate a particular drill or movement. By being exposed to them I have been inspired to continue to learn, train, and grow in the FMA. Maraming Salamat Po to all the Guros, Masters, and Grandmasters I have been so fortunate to meet and train with. As my compadre has so eloquently put it, I am forever Pinoy-ing.

Senior Guro Paul Quinn, also an instructor at HTAI, spoke about his first journey to the homeland of the FMA and traveling to the Philippines again to participate in the making of Voices of the Masters:

My first trip to the Philippines was in 2005 with Punong Guro Hufana and four of my HTAI classmates. What started as a fairly casual trip morphed into an insane whirlwind of meeting Senators, going to the SEA Games, visiting relatives and training with more FMA Grandmasters and Masters than I can remember. We never knew what the next day was going to bring, let alone the next hour, and finally got to the point of simply asking PG to just tell us when we were supposed to meet in the hotel lobby and what we were wearing. We had the privilege of meeting and training with an amazing collection of FMA practitioners over our 17-day visit. We were meeting new Grandmasters so often, I was formally saluting everyone I met on the assumption that they were probably another Grandmaster. I think I accidentally saluted the doorman and a Jollibee driver out of sheer reflex!

One thing I do remember was that every Grand Master or Master we trained with seemed happy that we were there and that we wanted to learn about their system and the Filipino culture. They were very genuine people who really knew what they were doing. They are passionate about their culture and their fighting art. When you have the opportunity to train with them there is a feeling of stepping into history.

Image Left: Lapu Lapu Mactan Shrine Image Right: Tricycles in Cebu

I was privileged to travel again to the Philippines in 2010 to help film Voices of the Masters and was fortunate to see that same passion and link to historical culture from behind the camera. These are the Elder Statesmen of FMA with their hearts and minds reaching into the past and stretching towards the future. They are strong in their art, and passionate in their hearts.

Guro Edwin T. Peregrino, an instructor at HTAI along with DeVore and Quinn, explained how meeting so many influential masters and grandmasters had a strong impact on his career as a martial artist:

Meeting these Grandmasters and Masters is not only one of the highlights in any of my trips back to the Philippines, but definitely one of the most memorable times in my FMA career. Many times, we think we know about the Grandmasters by reading about them, watching their DVDs or videos on YouTube, but what you read or see on the web is nothing in comparison to actually meeting them and training with them. Meeting these Grandmasters is the ultimate experience a serious FMA practitioner need to have. Being able to sit down and listen to their stories, to how they started with FMA, how they trained, and especially their thoughts on where they would like to see FMA many years from now.

The Masters and Grandmasters are like the arnis sticks, the sticks seem harmless, but when used as a weapon, the sticks become lethal. These Grandmasters are the same, when you talk to them, they are very friendly and love to laugh and have fun – they’re harmless. But given a moment, these supposedly harmless Grandmasters can turn deadly and lethal. Meeting and training with these Grandmasters is a memory that I will have forever. They not only taught me their styles and techniques, but they also taught me things beyond any physical aspect of FMA. It gave me even more respect and appreciation for FMA.

Image Left: Grandmaster Jerson Total Sr. & Jr. Image Right: Grandmaster Radel Dagooc

The purpose of Voices of the Masters is to bring the experience of meeting and training with FMA Masters and Grandmasters to a large audience. As many grandmasters age, the importance and urgency of recording their unique styles became clear, Hufana said. No film has attempted to present such a comprehensive view of the FMA; Voices of the Masters seeks to include a wide variety of styles, philosophies, and Masters in a high quality feature-length film.

Image Left: Grandmaster Ricketts Image Right: Balisong Maker in Batangas

Hufana is the founder of the World Filipino Martial Arts Association (WFMAA) and has always supported unifying these combative arts with openness and respect without emphasizing a specific system, region, or person.

In addition to Voices of the Masters, Hufana has been propagating the FMA through seminars throughout the United States for nearly 15 years, as well as teaching FMA. Hufana is currently teaching more than 75 students in Washington state alone.

Two of Hufana’s longtime students are his children Michael Hufana, 22, and Lizelle Hufana, 21. Michael and Lizelle are instructors at the Bellevue Martial Arts Academy and are featured in Voices of the Masters.

Punong Guro Hufana, Lizelle & Michael

“This is the first time FMA has been in a well-produced movie,” Michael said. “I think Voices of the Masters will let people know that the Philippines have a martial art, too.” Michael and Lizelle, both first-degree black belts in HTAI Arnis and third-degree black belts in Traditional Taekwondo, cited connecting with their culture as a major part of their interest in pursuing FMA.

Hufana and his children are hoping that Voices of the Masters will help increase awareness of the sport among Filipinos and all martial artists around the world. Arnis recently became the national sport of the Philippines, so now is the perfect time for a film like Voices of the Masters, Hufana said. “We wanted to represent the whole FMA and promote the entire umbrella of the art. We respect them all and we are proud of them all.”

Although Hufana started the WFMAA in 2003, he said a unified association seems unlikely because of the temperament, nature, pride, culture, and tradition of the Filipinos. However, Hufana is still hopeful about the future of FMA. He wants to promote open communication, appreciation, and respect between leaders in order to develop a stronger FMA around the world, not declare one style, philosophy, or lineage to be superior.

Hufana and his family are excited about the opportunity to show their combat art to the world and expose FMA to people who may be unfamiliar with it. “I think that women can really gain a lot from seeing the movie and from getting involved in FMA. It’s great for building confidence and discipline,” Lizelle said.

Michael wants Filipinos to see Voices of the Masters: “I think that Filipinos are obligated to know about our national martial art; Japan has karate, Korea has taekwondo, FMA is our sport and our art.”

Hufana encourages law enforcement professionals and military personnel to incorporate FMA into their training regimens because of the art’s relevance to real-life combat situations. The Armed Forces of the Philippines are trained in FMA because it is seen as an efficient and practical method for close quarter combat and edged weapons defense. FMA training is also effective in restraining suspects and often prevents police officers from having to use their guns. Just as it is important for civilians to learn how to defend themselves with FMA training, it is important for military and law enforcement officers to be confident in their abilities to realistically handle situations involving weapons.

PG Hufana & PNP Security Escorts

Everyone involved in the production and filming of Voices of the Masters is passionate about the propagation and preservation of FMA traditions and techniques. Even as the FMA gain popularity around the world, it is important to understand the traditions and cultures behind the combat art, Hufana said, and that is something that Voices of the Masters strives to do.

FMA has been practiced by many for several centuries, and for the first time the magic of the combat art is captured on film in Voices of the Masters. Hufana and his team at HTAI are working to bring FMA into the 21st century, bringing training resources to modern practitioners. An iTunes application is now available in iTunes App Store titled Weapon Arts 1: Filipino Combat Stick Fighting. A series of apps covering different techniques is anticipated.

Voices of the Masters will be available for purchase as a download, on DVD, and on Pay-Per-View. Visit to learn more about the film and where to see it.

Views: 4711

Comment by terry joven on September 21, 2010 at 12:34pm
Can't wait to see the movie!
Comment by Black Swan Tactical on September 21, 2010 at 1:52pm
Looks great..... Not at Amazon yet.
Comment by Guro Dave "Bubba" DeVore on September 21, 2010 at 3:07pm
Nice to see PG, WAY TO GO! SG Bubba
Comment by adam t babb on September 26, 2010 at 10:33pm
looks good when is it being released
Comment by Dan Medina on October 20, 2010 at 3:39pm
Its good to see that we are not forgeting our origins.
Comment by Jacinto R. Rocales on February 9, 2011 at 12:21am

When will this video be released and how can we get a copy of such timeless and monumental film of our Philippine national heritage - the art of kali/arnis/escrima.... I can't wait to view the film...

Jessie Rocales

Senate of the Republic of the Philippines

Comment by Steven Johnson on February 12, 2011 at 11:29am
I want this video very much. My family is going to try and visit this area again this Summer. It would be an honor to visit one of the training sessions live in Cebu / Mactan area. Thank you for posting!


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