he month of June not only sees summer in full swing, but also the celebrations surrounding Philippine Independence Day. Throughout the month, The Score will feature Filipino athletes making a difference in our local community. This week we feature Filipino martial arts teacher Vlad Navasca.
Navasca has spent 10 years practicing Filipino Martial Arts. Some names given to the indigenous fighting styles by the Philippines are also Arnis, Eskrima or Kali.
He was first influenced to take up the practice when he saw “Enter the Dragon”. Navasca recognized in the film and several others later that Filipino martial arts have been included for decades and how they continue to influence popular fight scenes in cinema and television. “The films that piqued my curiosity were the series ‘The Bourne,’ ‘300,’ and my personal favorite, ‘The Book of Eli,'” Navasca said. “From there, I’ve been digging deeper on the internet and learning more about FMA through TV shows like Fight Quest and Human Weapon, as well as countless articles.”
He then began training with Timothy Kashino, founder of the Cadenilla Eskrima Group. The longer he trained with Kashino, the more opportunities opened up to improve his skills in the Filipino Martial Arts. “I was also trained by Daniel Murray, the group’s collaborator, and other teachers from the Philippines,” Navasca said. Murry currently teaches in Tennessee.
Navasca continued his training with Filipino martial arts teachers such as Filipe Jocano Jr., Nathan Dominguez and Bram Frank. He then got the opportunity to train with the group’s grandmaster, Vincente Sanchez, before dying. “I’ve only had the opportunity to train with him for a couple of years, he’s considered our nuno or grandparent in Tagalog by our group because of his gentle nature,” Navasca said.
Years of various training sessions have inspired Navasca to teach Filipino Martial Arts on the island. While teaching under the Cadenilla Eskrima Group, Navasca had students of various abilities attempting to develop the functional skills of Filipino Martial Arts. “I’ve trained people from all walks of life, from military personnel on and off base, law enforcement officials and ordinary people who want to learn how to defend themselves using different tools and the like,” he said.
He’s recently expanded classes to include children, but he has one rule when it comes to teaching children: “At least one parent must be present during training sessions.” Whenever possible, Navasca takes the opportunity to encourage parents to attend invite to the training sessions.
‘Light a Flame’
Despite his years of practice of the techniques, Navasca remains humble as he represents a part of Filipino culture. “Teaching FMA allows me to continue education in the arts through dissemination. Even though I teach, I still consider myself a student who happened to have studied for 10 years,” Navasca said. “It also allows me to spread the culture and lesser-known history of Filipinos told through FMA.”
He pointed out that unlike other tactical sports such as Brazilian jiujitsu or judo, the island does not yet have Filipino martial arts as a regularly practiced sport.
“Although Guam has a fairly large Filipino community, it does not have a strong interest in FMA,” Navasca said. “In other countries and also in the USA, the FMA is growing exponentially and it will only continue to expand. I hope that I and other FMA practitioners here on Guam can light a flame to bring the art out of secrecy.”
Navasca plans to re-establish the practice of Filipino martial arts on the island, first by reviving the Filipino Martial Arts Club at the University of Guam. He also wants to raise awareness among his fellow Kababayan, “friends” in English, that even Filipinos have their own martial arts that they can practice and be proud to study and use to defend themselves.
He also hopes to show off his skills in multiple competitions such as the Arnis competitions at the Southeast Asian Games. With enough fire in him, Navasca wants to hold his own competitions on the island. “Yes, I would like to start a tournament here in Guam one day, even if it’s just an exhibition to show the different systems and styles in the FMA,” he said.
Those interested in learning Filipino martial arts can contact Navasca at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Navasca has some advice for those interested in the FMA: “You never know how far you can go if you don’t take the first step out of your comfort zone. This is exactly what happened to me 10 years ago.”