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Martial arts studio in Daly City helping Filipinos connect to their culture

Filipino martial arts helping people connect to their culture
Filipino martial arts helping people connect to their culture 02:35

DALY CITY – Filipino martial arts has a long tradition of combining culture, history, and language but has remained relatively unknown, even in the Philippines. A Bay Area martial arts master and his students hope to change that by helping more members of their community and others who are interested learn the fighting style.

"Filipinos, we're 2,000-plus years of mixing and matching many different cultures and our fighting style reflects just that," said master Joseph Bautista, who runs Legacy Filipino Martial Arts. He has taught the fighting style for almost 15 years.

"I think for people to have a better understanding of what they are capable of doing they need to be able to identify with someone, which they see doing what they want to do themselves," he went on to say.

Bautista said what makes Filipino martial arts or FMA stand out is the use of weapons. He adds it has been recognized by military and law enforcement agencies for its versatility as well.

But schools that teach this fighting style are not common and so its appeal brings students of all ages from four to 80 years old.

Their location in Daly City is fitting because it has one of the largest Filipino populations in the world outside of the Philippines.

FMA is a gateway to the culture because it works in language and history, aspects covered at the school.

Walking around Legacy FMA there are reminders of all aspects of the culture, including the fact that martial arts were hidden in dance during the Spanish occupation of the country. Bautista says he felt a disconnect with his culture growing up until he found FMA.

"What I noticed is that the footwork pattern was similar to dance, so I was like, 'Oh this kind of makes sense to me, I kind of know what I'm doing,'" said Camille Sibucao, an instructor who considers herself a student as well at Legacy. "I feel like it was very serendipitous and what I needed at the moment."

Sibucao has earned the rank of Guro after spending five years learning FMA. She says it was a chance for her to find a new fitness routine and learn self-defense skills that were culturally relevant to her as a Filipina.

Sibucao quickly realized the similarity to Filipino folk dance and enjoyed picking up a new fighting style after learning Taekwondo as a child. Most of all, it gave her a sense of community at a time when she believes Filipino culture is having a moment with food, dance, fashion, and martial arts.

Bautista is especially proud of instructors like Sibucao because there are not many women teaching FMA. But he says some believe the fighting style was created by a woman so it is meaningful to have that representation in modern times and continue this tradition.

"To have a place that you can identify as something that comes from your own culture, from your own ancestors what not, right? It really speaks to the heart," he said.

Legacy FMA will celebrate its second anniversary in June, which is also when the Philippines celebrates its Independence Day from Spain. 

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