Martial arts team to defend world title in Philippines KICKS WITH STICKS

August 17, 1994|By TaNoah V. Sterling | TaNoah V. Sterling,Sun Staff Writer

Don't mess with Pasadena.

That's the message a martial arts team from the Pasadena-based Kick Connection on Ritchie Highway will send as they compete in the Third World Eskrima, Kali, Arnis Championship in the Philippines Aug. 27 and 28.

The team also will compete in the Eskrima, Kali, Arnis Invitational Championship on Aug. 20. The event also will be held in Manila.

The all-male team of 10, ranging in age from 11 to 56, will defend the world champion title that a Kick Connection team won two years ago.

This year's team, whose members come from Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Carroll and Baltimore counties, will join a California team to represent the United States against 20 other countries.

Eskrima, kali and arnis are different names used to describe a Filipino martial art form that employs wooden sticks. It is relatively new to the United States.

In the competition, the fighters, armed with 32-inch wooden sticks, pummel each other at lightning-fast speed. They focus on their opponent's chest and abdomen, sides, ears, and top and back of the head. At the same time, they must defend themselves from their opponent's blows.

The objective is to move as quickly as possible, striking as many areas as possible. The combatants are judged on the number of hits landed, with each hit equaling a point.

"When you see it, it looks like two cats going at each other," said Kelly Fink, a 23-year-old Pasadena resident who has been studying arnis for two years at the Kick Connection.

Because of the amount of energy expended in the furious competition, a match consists of only three 1-minute rounds.

Although competitors wear head gear, hand pads and a mid-thigh length padded body suit, the pounding from an experienced martial artist can leave a fighter in pain.

The art form does not focus solely on weaponry. Carlos Patalinghug Jr., arnis instructor and owner of the Kick Connection, also teaches hand-fighting techniques, low kicks and submission holds.

"Whether it be weapons or empty hands, we can work it," said Mr. Patalinghug, who can trace his family to the beginnings of arnis.

Lapu-Lapu, credited as creator of the fighting form, became a national hero in the Philippines for defending the central island of Mactan against invaders, such as Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who set out from Spain in 1519 to lead the first circumnavigation of the globe. He was beheaded by Lapu-Lapu after a battle in 1521.

In order to avoid persecution by the Spaniards, Lapu-Lapu's sons changed their names, Mr. Patalinghug said. One son changed his name to Patalinghug, which means "listen to me" or "spare my life." His descendants still carry the name.

Mr. Fink said knowing Mr. Patalinghug's connection to the martial art helps him feel closer to the technique. He also said Mr. Patalinghug is a teacher and a friend to his students.

"It's more than a martial art, it's a tight-knit thing," said Mr. Fink.

Jimmy Almuete, 27, of Towson said he was a hot-head when he came to the studio three years ago.

He soon began learning arnis, and said he has changed because of the morals Mr. Patalinghug teaches. Students are not to seek out fights, but to avoid them, to turn the other cheek. However, if they are forced into fighting, they can defend themselves.

"Now, if somebody calls me a name or throws a punch, I'll defend it, but I'm more relaxed," he said. "I would never throw a kick, I'll just walk away."

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