The Martial Arts of the World

It seems that our ancestors had a lot of time in their hands. They were able to create different martial arts that served different purposes: self-defense, physical development, and even spiritual focus. Check out the most famous martial arts of the world, and what makes them so special.

Brazil: Capoeira

Do the back flips now.

A form of war dance that African slaves created to learn to defend themselves, and to survive the harsh world in the hope that they would soon be set free from slavery. It is a form of martial arts that incorporates music and rhythm, making it look like a relaxed and beautiful dance. However, capoeristas back in the days would work as hitmen, as mercenaries, terrorists that spread fear all over Brazil. Today, you wouldn’t imagine a capoeirista winning a battle over a skilled policeman, as the practice of it is now purely to promote the Brazilian culture and to enjoy the art as an expression of oneself.

Mexico: Lucha Libre

Pro wrestling at its best

If you have watched the movie Nacho Libre, you would know how lucha libre works, both in terms of game rules andwhat goes on in the politics of the game. Basically, it is a wrestling match much like the ones that we see on American TV, only freer and with masks! And although it is illegal to remove the mask of your opponent, matches called lucha de apuesta, or betting matches, the end goal is to remove the mask of your opponent or to remove a patch of his hair. Lucha libre continues to be a popular sport in Mexico, making it the country with the most number of professional wrestlers.

China: Kung Fu

A form of martial arts that traces its history to legendary dynasties that existed more than 4,000 years ago, kung fu utilizes the body for combat and also for self-improvement, particularly of the qi or the energy within an individual. With its rich history, it has evolved from being a fighting method to an aesthetically appealing form of art that champions precision and excellent execution. Although some moves that are used in routine competitions look beautiful, critics say that such movements are in fact unnecessary and useless in actual combat.

Japan: Karate

There have been too many films and even video games that depicted karate as an amazing way to kill a person, to win a battle, and to show one’s skills. However, true karate practitioners say that the karate shown in movies are ambitious modification of the true martial art, which is actually all about self-discipline and mastery. Kids love the sport very much, perhaps because of its popularity in movies, cartoons and games. The good thing is that you don’t really have to go to Clark Airport and board a plane to Japan. There are a lot of karate schools even in Manila.

Where to Learn Capoeira in Manila

I have been asked once or twice about what sport I enjoy. Unfortunately, my answers are always versions of the statement “None, but I would love to try <insert popular sport here>.” But one of my frustrations is capoeira, the Brazilian martial arts that has a rich history and an even richer style. Music plus songs and dance-like yet killer moves make capoeira the coolest thing since The Power Rangers. I don’t even know how to cartwheel, and these guys are doing all sorts of tumbles and spins! If, like me, you’d like to try some capoeira, here’s a list of classes you can attend around Metro Manila.

Sinha Bahia de Capoeira

Click on the image to get more info.

With classes in various gyms such as Club Six Fifty ad Gold’s Gym, Sinha Bahia de Capoeira exists not only to get people to pay for classes, but to encourage everybody to check out the sport and appreciate it. In fact, just a couple of months ago, they held a free capoeira workshop at the Shangri La Plaza Mall! Classes are offered for beginners, as well as for advanced students.

Escola de Brasiliera Capoeira

Click on the image to get more info.

Just watching a video of a capoeira event at Bonifacio High Street organized by Escola de Brasiliera Capoeira already got me energized. I love the songs, and how a kid can go up against a tall adult. Of course everything is in the name of fun, and Escola can give you your regular dose of Capoeira fun. They have classes at the Manila Polo Club, the Ateneo de Manila University campus and other key locations. By the way, you can also listen to some music that are played and sung during classes, right on their website!

Capoeira Angola

Just like any art form, capoeira has gone through different changes. Capoeira Angola is like a genre that preserves the sport in its form before the Regional style of performing became popular. Enthusiasts will definitely appreciate this refined version of the sport by dropping by at the Magdalena Park Community Hall in Magallanes Village, Makati.

This is one of the best things about Manila. You can experience everything and anything you’d like. Sure, the travel can become much of a hassle, but for less than P100 and in less than an hour, you can be from Manila to Brazil, experiencing the most exhilarating sport you have ever tried in your life. So while you wait for the next seat sale for your next great getaway and before you take off from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, spend some time here in Manila!

Surfing in Baler: Schools and Resorts

I’m scared of the ocean, or any other big intimidating body of water. I know how to swim but with the rage of the sea I don’t understand why we even attempt to go to the deeper parts. I semi-respect semi-find-crazy divers and surfers because they’re really brave and GET OUT OF THE WATER!

But surfers look really amazing right? When they’re on their surfboards riding the waves like there’s nothing dangerous under (there are, by the way, monsters.), I sometimes consider learning how to surf. And then my fear of the water overcomes me again.

One of my friends has been dragging my butt into surfing (she’s been unsuccessful in convincing me), and her favorite spot is Baler in Aurora. A five-hour drive away from Manila, Baler has become a favorite surf spot by those Facebook friends of yours who say that it’s a good day when it’s all stormy and windy. They love the big waves that I fear! Here’s a list of some surf schools in Baler, for your and my reference if and when I ever muster enough courage for it.

Mahdox Surfing School: P350/hour (includes surfboard rental)

Aliya Surf Camp: P350/hour (includes surfboard rental)

Charlie Does: P350/hour (includes surfboard rental)

But the sea and the shore aren’t only for surfing. They were also given to us for people like me who do not like getting drowned and are too paranoid to try surfing. Baler is home to stretches of beach, the most famous of which is Sabang Beach. Moreover, you can also check out other must-see spots such as Dicasalarin Cove and Cunaya Falls. The great thing about it is that you don’t even have to wait for cheap flights to go there, since it’s reachable by land travel. Here’s a list of resorts to choose from for your Baler trip:

Bay’s Inn: Rates start at P700 for a double bed room with fan and bathroom

Isla Virginia Resort: A room for five costs P2,000 a night

Bahia de Baler: Air conditioned rooms start at P1,200 a night.

How to Get to Baler 

By private car: It’s easier to tread the easy roads of NLEX and SCTEX highways to get to Baler. Just take the Mabalacat exit from NLEX, and then enter the SCTEX at La Paz. One you get to Cabanatuan City, take the Nueva Ecija-Aurora highway and pass through Talavera, Rizal and Pantabangan. The trip could take about five hours. This is the ideal travel option for large groups that can fill up a van for rent.

By commute: Genesis Transport has direct trips from Cubao to Baler. If you’re traveling alone or in a small group, it is best to take this bus to save on money and also to conserve your energy; driving for five hours can deplete your energy that’s supposed to be for surfing and enjoying the sights. Fare costs P450 or P600, depending on the type of bus that you choose to board.