So, have other systems of European martial arts (other than Spanish) had an impact or an influence on FMA?
This idea comes from a comment on one of my previous posts, any comment is appreciated, as they help to spur further articles. This question however, is a very loaded one which I shall try to answer, but my answers will not be definitive, as most evidence is anecdotal at best. We shall have to examine history, as well as some idiosyncratic bits of Filipino culture.
Historically, Spain by the early 19th century was impacted by political and economic changes happening on the European continent and thusly, so was the Philippines. The monopoly of the galleon trade ended and by the mid 1830's Manila was opened up to foreign merchants almost without restriction.
Did these individuals know any methods of fencing or self-defense? Possibly, though again there are no definitive answers. During this time period a new land holding class of Chinese-mestizo families emerged. This newly wealthy and politically active class, sent its children abroad to be educated in Europe. Along with bringing back new political and nationalistic ideas, these elites also practiced fencing, like their European counterparts. In Europe, they may have been influenced by both the modern sport, as well as older ideas of Self-protection. How and when any of these methods found their way into or influenced FMA is debatable. I personally have my own theories on this but you’ll have to buy my book.
Culturally with FMA one encounters multiple aspects which are idiosyncratic. The ones we shall be focusing on are Hyperbole, colonial mentality, and the problems of taxonomy and terminology.
Hyperbole, or tall tales are a part of FMA (Kali the mother of all arts anyone). Though I would say that this problem exists within all martial arts circles to one degree or another. The colonial mentality, is where anything foreign is somehow automatically considered better, or more legitimate than something native. Last, is the problem of Taxonomy and terminology; It should be noted there is a system of Escrima from the Philippines called Etaliano. Now, the question of how this system gets its name is debatable, was it called Italian, because someone thought it looked similar to Italian systems, or was it called Italian just to make it seem more legitimate? Whatever the reason, it may be lost to history. Most whom practice Italian fencing say it has nothing to do with their methods, so odds are good that it is not a transplanted Italian system.
All of these quirks can be found in the story of the founding of Doce Pares:
“In 1932, the Doce Pares club was formed, headed by Lorenzo Saavedra, the club was composed of three Saavedra eskrimadors and nine from the Canete family; this composed the original twelve needed to symbolically actualize the title Doce Pares, which was named in honor of a Frenchmen who befriended and shared his combat techniques with Lorenzo Saavedra in jail, and symbolized the twelve peers of France/Doce Pares SA Francis the Knights, or Paladins of King Charlemagne. Venancio Bacon was among the first members of the club. Although there were certain personalities in the club that ran counter to Venancio Bacon's own personality, he stayed and carried his weight as one of its representing eskrimadors.”
So, was there a Frenchmen? What did he teach Lorenzo Saavedra? History does not give us much, could this person have been real, possibly, but there still is much research to be done to untangle the Gordian knot of what is FMA.
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