Martial arts team to defend world championship World Arnis Tournament to be held in Los Angeles

April 05, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Every week, 17-year-old Aaron Seligson and his martial arts teammates at Kick Connection on Ritchie Highway in Pasadena spend at least seven hours jogging and hitting a punching bag as they prepare to defend the world title they won in 1994.

The group will travel to Los Angeles in June for the Third World Arnis Tournament, held every two years.

"We're going to try to win and keep the title," said Aaron, a senior at Broadneck High School. "We'll do our best to hold the title as long as possible."

The eight-member team, coached by chief instructor Carlos Patalinghug Jr., won the world title in a tournament in Manila, the Philippines, in 1994. The team took the national title in Chicago Saturday to get back to the world championships and compete with teams from 30 other countries.

Arnis, also called Eskrima, is a Philippine martial arts form in which combatants use 30-inch wooden sticks to land as many blows as they can to each other's head, chest, arms and thighs in a one-minute round.

The contestant with the most hits in three rounds is declared the winner.

Strange as it may seem, there is a strategy to the apparent madness, said Mr. Patalinghug, 30.

"Our style tends to be very angular," he said. "We are angular to get more shots and more points."

Mr. Patalinghug said his students have a plan during every match. In the first round, they strike as quickly as possible and add a "pump" -- a leap and downward blow with the sticks. In the second, they try to disarm their opponents. And in the third, Mr. Patalinghug permits his students to get creative, using a trick move that entails whipping the stick around the back with one arm to strike an opponent while using the free arm to fend off attacks.

Mr. Patalinghug claims to be a direct descendant of Lapu-Lapu, the 16th-century Filipino warrior who beheaded Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Lapu-Lapu was the founder of Arnis, he says.

Lapu-Lapu's sons changed their names to avoid persecution by the Spaniards. One changed his name to Patalinghug, which means "listen to me" or "spare my life."

"It's more like an honor," he said. "This man is considered a national hero in the Philippines, like George Washington [to Americans] and Geronimo to Native Indians. Being a part of this makes me proud to be Filipino."

His students said they will do everything to defend their teacher's honor. Arsen Tatevosyan, 14, said the team is well-conditioned to repeat as world champs.

"I think we'll do good because we have good training and we're better cardiovascularly," said Arsen, an eighth-grader at Franklin Middle School in Reisterstown.

Christina Zeller, a 17-year-old senior at Severna Park High School, said she's nervous but looks forward to the tournament.

"I'm excited, but it's scary because you don't know who you're going to fight," Christina said. "I'll just snarl."

Pub Date: 4/05/96

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