FMA terminology: some thoughts about the old Spanish terms...

Discussion in 'Filipino Martial Arts - General' started by geezer, Jun 15, 2020.

  1. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    I'm starting this thread looking for a little clarification on general FMA terminology as commonly used, and maybe getting input from those who are native Filipino speakers of Tagalog, or other dialects such Ilocano, Cebuano, Hilgaynon, and so on.

    Warning!!! Wordy intro. to follow! Feel free to skip down to the "Questions" (bolded text) below!

    A little background to the question. I'm a non-Filipino American who practices "Escrima" ...that's an old variant spelling brought over to Stockton before WWII by Filipino immigrants to the States. Of course, nowadays in Tagalog the accepted spelling is Eskrima. Both are spellings derived from the Spanish word for fencing, Esgrima, and all three are pronounced the same way.

    My first instructor was a second generation Filipino-American who's native language was English, and he did not use a lot of Filipino terms. He learned his art from his father and other older first generation Filipino immigrants in the Stockton area. He was by temperament more of a fighter, who used whatever term was handy ...often English.

    In the decades since working with that instructor, I've met a lot of different FMA practitioners who use both Filipino and Spanish terms, and they often use them very differently, as one would expect considering the diverse background of the various FMAs. One of my instructors was Mexican American, and learned a lot from a tío who worked as a migrant laborer alongside Filipino migrants in Cali who shared stuff with him ...bringing even more Spanish to the mix.

    One thing that seems common for those arts with roots in more Spanish and Catholic dominated areas of the PI is the greater use of Spanish vs native terms. I've also noticed that this may be more characteristic of some of the older FMA branches in the USA, taught by earlier immigrants who arrived in America before WWII.

    Perhaps, for them, the legacy of Spanish Colonialism was still stronger? Certainly, for the older generations, Spanish had once been a "language of prestige". By today's thinking, this may seem odd, but it is well documented that in the 19th Century when much of the developing world was under European colonial rule, the languages of the colonial powers were often held to be the languages of status, acknowledged even by the indigenous freedom fighters and resistance forces who battled against them. José Rizal, for example, was brilliant and highly educated, having studied in Madrid, Paris, and Heidelberg. So even the rebels held European culture in high regard.

    Today, quite the opposite is true. And in modern FMA names derived from Spanish, such as Eskrima and Arnis, are often exchanged for non-European terms like Kali. This seems to be true both in the PI and abroad, where the legacy of colonialism is in justifiable disrepute!

    Nevertheless, as I mentioned at the outset, the FMA I train still uses a lot of terms derived from Spanish, from its name, Escrima (Esgrima), to terms like, bastón, abecedario, numerado, cinco tiros, larga mano, media mano, corta mano, directo, de fondo, cerrada, cadena de mano, cruzado, espada y daga, and so on.

    OK, so here's the questions:

    1.Do any of you practice FMAs that still favor Spanish-derived terminology? And if so, do you spell them the Spanish way, or phonetically, the Tagalog way, or using another variant?

    2. If you use such common terms as larga mano and corta mano - Are they written as in Spanish where long distance = distancia larga or larga mano, and close range = distancia corta or corta mano (ending with"a" in larga and corta since in Spanish, it's la mano).

    I ask that one, in particular, since so often I often hear terms like "largo mano" ...which sound really odd to me. Kinda like laying "No problemo". :confused:

    3. Or, do you use contemporary Filipino terms, and if so using Tagalog, or another dialect?

    4. Finally, especially for any native Filipino practitioners from the PI: Do you see your art as a pure expression of Filipino identity, or as a uniquely Filipino blending of indigenous and European influences ...kinda like a good adobo?
     
  2. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    Geezer, We use far more English terms than Filipino or the Spanish influenced terms. When Tuhon Leo Gaje first came to the U.S. he mostly use 'Do This'. The names of the curriculum sets are as he termed them at that time. He did first call it Arnis and changed it to Kali a few years after being here.
     
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  3. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    Man, you gotta love that! So....straightforward! :D
     
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  4. Rat

    Rat Master Black Belt

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    I imagine a lot of places do it like other martial arts, you learn some phrases in what ever langauge (could be spanish or tagalog or any regional langauge) but the bulk of the teaching and terminology is in your langauge. But then with that model you have people who go screw it and just translate everything to the home langauge. I have a personal pet peeve for how langauges are done in martial arts though.

    And just for the last one i wouldnt personally view anything with a big say european influence on it as domestic. Or a pure expression of a Filipino identity. I would yield if the styles that sowed the seeds for pre Spain Filipino martial arts were foreign (say from asia) then they have amalgamated into a semi unique Filipino expression, but the Spanish and U.S influence hasnt. Unless we play the game of technically most adopted the culture and customs of them thus became more like said country. That sort of argument gets a little muddy sometimes.
     
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  5. Monkey Turned Wolf

    Monkey Turned Wolf MT Moderator Staff Member

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    This reads like you know nothing about fma. Which begs the question of why you're responding to a thread where the OP was specifically asking fma practitioners what languages their school uses.
     
  6. Rat

    Rat Master Black Belt

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    The first bit was a left over of a joke i wrote and neglected to delete that bit, but the second one i will stick behind. And for the second one i dont fancy having a argument on who can or cannot critique cultures and influences etc.

    As for why, why not? A useless post is at best neutral in that it would just be buried/ignored when the thread gains traction. (i dont belive the post is useless, but that is the presumed stance of yours by the reply)
     
  7. Rat

    Rat Master Black Belt

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    Just thought of a good question, but i did TLDR the bit before the questions. (so it may have been answered there)

    If FMA doesnt usually have formal ranks (beyond teacher) that means there arent any form of formal test in it, so by that premise does that mean there are no formal terminology tests? I am now curious if that impacts retention of terms or not. Barring teachers obviously.


    Addendum for the above post: I will give you credit the first statement is so-so dogy in terms of use though. @Monkey Turned Wolf
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2020
  8. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    FMA systems vary a LOT. Some have many ranks, up to and beyond instructor level. Check out this summary of the Modern Arnis Ranking system:
    Welcome to Official Website of Grandmaster Remy A. Presas (Modern Arnis) and MARPPIO

    Other systems are not so "karate-like" in their ranks, do not use belts, and may not have a formal curriculum after you reach a certain level. In the system I train, there are really no meaningful ranks after "full instructor" except maybe "head instructor". There are however still great differences in skill and knowledge. Not sure how any of this relates to terminology, though.
     
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  9. ap Oweyn

    ap Oweyn Purple Belt

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    I know this thread is a bit long in the tooth, but I've been off the scene for a while. So this seems like a good place to start in again.

    My primary FMA has been Doce Pares, which is itself derived from the Spanish. I'm no expert in Tagalog or any other dialect, so I'm not sure whether the name "Doce Pares" even could exist in the indigenous alphabet. I was under the impression that the "c" wasn't present, hence the "eskrima/escrima" divide.

    We used "abecedario," "mano mano" (empty hands), and various other terms derived from Spanish. And, it seems to me, generally spelled as they would be in Spanish. (I speak SOME Spanish. More than I do Tagalog, in any event.)

    There are plenty of obvious examples from our practice, like "espada y daga" (lit. "sword and dagger"), baston (stick), "doble olisi" (which is a bit of a hybrid, with "doble" being Spanish), "retrada," "arko," etc. That last one is a Filipino spelling of a Spanish word.

    To be clear, it wasn't all Spanish derived. We used the term "Guro" for instance (versus the Spanish version "Maestro" or "Maestra").

    So, as with every FMA school I've ever seen, it's a mix of influences. Frankly, I wouldn't have it any other way.
     
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  10. geezer

    geezer Grandmaster

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    Great post! Sorry, for the late response. I don´t check in here myself as often as I used too.
     
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  11. isshinryuronin

    isshinryuronin Black Belt

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    My Kali knowledge is very basic and my skill in any Filipino dialect is zero. But I do know Okinawan karate and a bit of history and see some strong parallels between Okinawan MA and FMA in several respects. I'll try to stay in my lane, and if I veer across the line, I hope FMA adepts will please correct me.

    China did not have influence in Okinawa until about 1400. The Philippines (OK to use this spelling?) are a good bit further out, so any meaningful MA from China would have most likely been decades later. This leaves a narrow window until the Spanish came in. Based on this, it seems FMA owes little to the Orient. In fact, there is reason to think that Indonesian MA and perhaps FMA sowed some seeds in Southern China and Okinawa. That takes care of Rat's example.

    Now, to the issue of terminology. There is virtually no written info on Okinawan MA before 1800 and very little before 1920. There were no written manuals, the teachings being passed on orally. Their TMA was not taught to outsiders. Even though they were subject to China, then Japan, their TMA language remained native Okinawan. While Japanese terminology dominated most of the 1900's, Okinawan language seems to be making a comeback.

    Am I correct in guessing that most/all the above history (of course plugging in the appropriate languages and countries) is also true of FMA? If so, it's an interesting parallel in cultural anthropology.

    As complex as tracking Okinawan karate is, FMA must be even more so, given the size of the island group and number of dialects. I would think the variations in terminology make it hard to discuss/teach the subject between schools. This was not a problem in early Okinawa as the instructor simply said, as Danny T likewise relates concerning FMA, "Do this."
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2020
  12. Rat

    Rat Master Black Belt

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    Indonesia is in Asia or considered asia to most people though isnt it? As far as i recall, the main infleucnes for FMA and Indonesian martial arts were each other at least until other countries came in, or that sort of quadrent of asia, how ever i ahevnt looked into the diffrent branches of Sialt, or the other domestic martial arts of the region, beyond just overview of Silat and FMA.

    As just for generic FMA, i think most of the common ones now avable are mixtures of now rare or uncommon or dead styles of FMA, like modern arnis is a mizture of FMA styles, a few other modern ones or recent ones are this person went and learnt at these places then made their own system off of that mixing what they were tuaght for what works for them and their goals.

    Kind of amuses me why you would bother with the foreign langauge part if everyone who teach to and where you live uses say English. There is little point in teaching them a broken limited version of Spanish or direct translation of a few phrases, even more so of a langauge you wont find outside the Phlipines very often. (Tagalong, or what ever the offical langauge of theirs is i forgot how to spell it just now, or one of the still present regional langauges) Hell, its so uncommon (Tagalong) i saw some people say they were learning it just so they had a secret langauge they could talk in and no one else would understand and they had like a one in million chance of finding somone who knew it and to a sufficent level to understand them in the U.S, or their area of it.123
     

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