When i was in sixth grade, my parents hired a karate master to teach me and my older brother the art of defense at home. We were then living in Davao City where i went to Ateneo. I found it strange that my folks saw the need for me to learn the martial arts because back then i had already been attending fine arts lessons for two years. Why learn another art?
i had never been a troublesome kid, being the youngest of five male siblings i had learned to blend in rather than stick out. I was never rowdy; as a matter of fact i was the most quiet and was geeky with my large black eyeglasses. But i always thought that i was special because my brothers were always nice to me.
i didn’t mind learning martial arts except that i didn’t see the benefit. With four older brothers to protect me, who would have dared to hurt me? There was a time when my eldest and second-to-the-eldest brothers picked me up at night from my best friend’s house casually armed with their guns. Her maids rushed inside the room looking alarmed “may mga baril sila,” i heard one whisper nervously.
i couldn’t place the maid's silly reaction; really, guns were no big deal. i grew up with all my siblings and male cousins target shooting tin cans on top of huge logs floating in our log pond in South Cotabato. We would also go up to the forest with our uncles to shoot birds and monkeys. i remember how they would always send the cans flying while i always got water splashing. i remember how something fell from the trees after they pulled the trigger while only leaves fluttered when i did. i also remember how fast they were at it while i trembled when we were asked to assemble and take apart a baby armalite in less than a minute.
i didn’t get why i had to do karate and arnis three times a week while i could only learn realism and impressionism on Saturdays with Mrs. Barba. Needless to say I enjoyed painting much more thus i always looked forward to it. Undoubtedly, the smell of turpentine and linseed oil was really much, much more appealing than the stink of sweaty uniforms and the unwashed clothes of my Arnis master then.
Japanese Swprdform: HYOHO NITEN ICHI RYU
It didn’t surprise me that my older brother Rhoem was also asked to learn martial arts with me. He was closest to me; it made the training easier and more fun. We both loved Martial arts flicks and he had a natural talent for choreography. Learning strikes and blocks was a breeze and he cued me on how to anticipate his moves then do a quick variation to make his choreography less obvious. We would spar, or pretend to spar at home in front of the master. i didn’t mind always being the loser; it was performance art. All seemed well till the day master Zabate declared that we were both ready to spar with the best students in his school the following weekend.
That very day i decided that i didn’t like hard style martial arts anymore. Sparring with complete strangers horrified me. Fear so consumed me that i got sick that weekend yet somehow i still insisted on going to my painting class. Then an idea hit me while i was working on my canvas. It was so brilliant that i mustered the guts to talk to mom when i got home.
“Mama, Mrs. Barba told me to stop doing martial arts next week because it ruined my brush strokes,” i said sweetly. “She really said that? “Mom queried. “Yes, look at my new painting,” i said proceeding to unveil my first ever attempt at abstract expressionism. Absolutely horrendous, it must have looked like Munch doing Monet's hyacinth pond.
THE SCREAM, Edvard Munch
I don’t know if i convinced her or if she saw how bad i was with Karate. Perhaps out of maternal fear of her youngest fledgling getting beaten up, only my brother was sent to spar with other students at the martial arts school.
My brother refused to talk to me while he had a black eye, he didn’t like the idea that i was spared from the ordeal. It was an ordeal that he brought upon himself though as i later learned that it was he who insisted that i take the lessons with him. He wouldn’t learn Karate if i didn’t learn it too.
I love my brother Rhoem dearly and even more so when i found out much later that it was because of our eldest brother’s suggestion that we had to go through the training. Rhoem had always been comfortable with his sexuality and had made passes at this cute guy from another school who turned out to be my big brother’s brother in fraternity. Richard found out on Rhoem and was determined to straighten up the "faggling" through martial arts.
My first exposure to martial had been triggered by the wrong reasons but I’m grateful to both my brothers equally; without their little skirmish the seed wouldn’t have been planted. It would be almost two decades later that i'd get motivated to learn martial arts again. That however is another story.
Meanwhile, here's a Martial Arts form that i'm still in the process of perfecting. it's called TAIJI SWORD 5-STAR FORM