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  • Louella Esguerra

José Rizal the Swordsman

I just went down the history rabbit hole and found out that one of our national heroes was passionate about martial arts and the sword. José Rizal had visited what is probably one of the most famous expos to be held in Paris, the Exposition Universelle (1889). To get an idea of how important this expo was the Eiffel Tower amongst other buildings was built specifically for this event. People all over the world were invited to be apart of its opening and some of its guests were Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, Shah of Persia Nasarredin, Prince of Wales, Princess Alexandra, Antoni Gaudi, Paul Gaugin, and Edvard Munch. This expo was a landmark in showing its guests new ways of seeing the world. If you know about orientalism this would be one of those moments. Anyway, Rizal started two clubs, the first was the Kidlat (Lightning) Club.


"We have thought of it and formed it in one hour. It will disappear also like lightning".

The second replaced the former and was called Indios Bravos (Brave Indians) inspired by the American Indians who were showcasing at the expo. Rizal viewed them as elegantly dressed in native attire.


"Why should we resent being called Indios by the Spaniards? Look at those Indios from North America – they are not ashamed of their name. Let us be like them."

The members of this club wanted to win the admiration of foreigners, particularly the Spaniards. Rizal practiced his skills on the rapier, the pistol, arnis sticks, buno wrestling which he learnt from his uncle Manuel as a child, taught judo, was a weightlifter and bodybuilder.


"My hands are shaking because I have just had a fencing bout; you know I want to be a swordsman."

During this time Rizal was a wanted man in Philippines, which is why he fled to Europe, for writing a book that inspired the Philippine revolution against Spanish colonisers. That story doesn't end well for him, and it gets more intense, but I'm not that far down the hole yet.

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FMA aka Kali, Arnis or Escrima is an Indigenous martial arts of the Philippines with a significant connection to key historical events that have shaped the islands and its people. This blade based mar