When Kick Connection's stick-fighting team traveled to the Philippines last month to compete in two separate international competitions, the nine-member squad viewed it as an opportunity to face the best.
What they learned, however, was that a simple look in the mirror could have saved them a 20-hour flight.
No one was better than the seven members of the Pasadena-based team which captured 10 world titles at the second annual World Eskrima,Kali, Arnis Federation Championships in Manila and the InternationalInvitational in Cebu City.
"We kicked some serious butt," said Leo Patalinghug, an assistant instructor at the academy. He was a dual champion in double stick forms and champ in super featherweight fighting at the World Championships conducted at the Ninoy Aquino MemorialColiseum.
"We are literally starting a whole new era of martial arts in the Philippines. We had grand masters from the Philippines asking us for autographs."
Two other Kick Connection team members finished as second runners-up. Pasadena's Christopher Sawyer, 18, fell just short of a world title in men's double stick fighting, while teammate Jemmie Almuete, 24, of Glen Burnie, took second runner-up in men's heavyweight fighting at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum.
Among those being sought for their signatures was Carlos Patalinghug Jr., chiefinstructor at Kick Connection, who emerged as world champion in single stick forms at the World Invitational and first runner-up in featherweight fighting in Cebu City.
Severn's Joy Bridges, a 1984 graduate of Old Mill, was co-world champion in women's heavyweight fighting at the World Invitational, while Erin McKay, an eighth-grader at Chesapeake Bay Middle, was world champion in girls middleweight fighting at the same event.
Dr. Carlos Patalinghug Sr., 55, president of the East Coast chapter of the World Eskrima, Kali, Arnis Federation, was world champion in the senior forms competition at the World Invitational and was second runner-up in Cebu City.
Michelle Brown, 13,of Glendale was the most decorated local contingent, as she capturedworld titles in girls forms and girls lightweight fighting at both events.
Shane Bosworth, 13, an eighth-grader at Marley Middle
School, was world champion in boys forms at both events and was honoredas world champion in junior boys fighting at the international competition.
While abroad, the team visited with the victims of the volcanic eruption at Mount Pinutubo and the survivors of the typhoon in Oramoc City, where they distributed money, clothing and medical supplies that they collected locally.
Leo Patalinghug said many of the team members experienced a culture shock, but believed it was a positive experience nonetheless.
"We did as much mission work as we could under the conditions," he said. "There were some political reasonswhy we couldn't do as much mission work as we wanted to, but overall, the trip, in and of itself, was a huge success.
"This is a trip that literally changed the lives of many of our team members. It humbled them and showed them how lucky they are to be Americans."