On December 19th, 1936, in the small Filipino fishing village
of Hinigarin, Negros Occidental the face of martial arts changed forever.
We didn’t know it then, but sixty-odd years later the impact of Remy
Armador Presas is inarguable.
The Philippines are home to some of the most brutal and
effective combat arts but in the later 20th century, they were a dying art.
More glamorous were the Japanese arts such as Karate and Chinese Kung Fu,
with their crisp uniforms and organized classes. They also took less of a
toll on those training. Learning the Filipino arts often meant taking repeated
Remy Presas began his training at a young age, learning
the family system from his grandfather, Leon Presas. Insatiably hungry for
the arts, Remy would later stow away on a trip to Cebu. There he would be
introduced to the Balintawak style by his uncle Fredo and begin to study under
one of the top ranked practitioners, Timor Maranga.
He developed a reputation as a top tournament fighter, often
winning his fights by knockouts. While fighting, he caught the eye of Grand
Master Venancio “Anciong” Bacon, grandmaster of Balintawak and
became one of his personal students.
Challenge was a way of life in the Philippines. The Balintawak
and rival Doce Pares regularly issued and met challenges. The fighters frequently
tested and honed their skills in the back alleys. During this time, Remy began
to change his concept. Fighting all the time, he realized that with the constant
bloodshed, reputations suffered and training partners became hard to find.
With Grandmaster Bacon’s blessing, Remy left Cebu
to design his own system of fighting, one that would focus on self-defense
not just fighting. His goal? To become the best by spreading the art.
He did this by changing the focus. Traditionally, the cane
was sacred, and fighters would avoid hitting it aiming for their opponents
hand instead. Remy changed that by using the cane as a target. He also sought
to identify the basic concepts of the many Filipino systems he had learned
and merged them into what can be described as a melting pot of some of the
best of the Filipino arts.
With his art spreading, in 1975 the government sponsored
him on a world wide goodwill tour to help spread the art of Modern Arnis around
Since coming to the United States, the number of Modern
Arnis practitioners has soared world wide, with over 40,000 in his native
country alone. Billed as “The art within your art”, Modern Arnis
uses techniques based on patterns and theories of movement, rather than static
drills and movements. The simplicity of the art is its key. Rather than learning
complex forms and 1 step drills for each individual weapon, students instead
learn to use the basic fundamentals of attack and defense regardless of whether
they are holding a sword, knife, stick or nothing at all. Each technique is
open ended, leading into countless variations of locks, throws, disarms etc.
using what is available.
Remy Presas is best known for Modern Arnis. Many do not
realize that he also held rank in many other systems, including a 6th dan
in Karate. In 1982 and 1994 he was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame
as “Instructor of the Year”.
He has worked with and enjoyed friendships with many of
the notables such as Ed Parker Sr., Bruce Lee, Wally Jay and George Dillman.
Remy Presas saw his dream of a revival of the Filipino arts
come true. Today, they are known world wide and even lend their influence
to Hollywood’s fight scenes.
Grand Master Remy A. Presas passed away due to heart
failure and severe internal infection after battling brain cancer on
August 28, 2001 at Parkwood Home Care in Victoria, Canada. After extended
delays due to certain circumstances, his remains arrived in Manila,
Philippines on September 19, 2001. He received a posthumous award (for
propagation of Filipino Martial Arts worldwide) from PIGSSAI / Philippine
Tourism Authority. On September 23, 2001, his body was flown to Bacolod
City, Negros Occidental, Philippines. He was laid to rest on September
25, 2001 in the neighboring town of Hinigaran, his birthplace. The Municipal
Council of Hinigaran expressed its sorrow and sympathy over his passing
through a Resolution voted by all its members.
Many groups and individuals have stepped forward since his
death to keep the torch lit. From his family, to his “Datus’,
to the Masters of Tapi-Tapi to the independents. Each holds a piece of the
dream, ensuring that it will never die out.
For more information, please visit the following sites:
Remy Presas memorial site - http://martialtalk.com/remy
Modern Arnis Organization and Schools listing : http://martialtalk.com/forum/schools.html
Danish Arnis Federation
Jeffrey J. Delaneys’ International Modern Arnis Federation
German Arnis Federation
Remy P. Presas International Organization (MARPPIO)
Randi Scheas’ International Modern Arnis Federation
World Modern Arnis Alliance (WMAA)
World Modern Arnis Coalition (WMAC)
Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial
arts portal site MartialTalk.com. A student of all the arts, he is currently
studying Modern Arnis. Bob can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Originally published in MartialTalk Magazine
Copyright ©2003 Bob Hubbard - All Rights Reserved