That Filipino-style 'Y' kick in Mixed Martial Arts
MANILA, Philippines – “Give me your foot. Start from here. Twist!” the coach orders a teenage girl trying to perfect a Yaw-Yan kick, her printed blue leggings moving swiftly upon the contrasting backdrop of a yellow mat.
Yaw-Yan, a traditional Filipino martial arts, comes from the last syllables of the Filipino words “sayaw” (dance) and “kamatayan” (death). The practice markets itself as the dance of death due to its fatal dance-like movements.
Known for brutal kicks that when properly executed in combat can easily knock out an opponent, Yaw-yan is a homegrown kickboxing style that has branched out to various other more composite fighting techniques in the country.
The second-generation Yaw-Yan training centers now go by the names Yaw-Yan Fervilleon, Yaw-Yan Ardigma, Hybrid Yaw-Yan, Yaw-Yan Kampilan, and Yaw-Yan Buhawi, among others – each with their own striking and even grappling strengths quite neat both in practical self-defense and in the competitive mixed martials arts (MMA) cage.
“Bring up your hips,” the coach commands.
The coach, a bearded man with greying hair, reminds the girl of the small defining details in her quick turn.
The balancing foot should be flat on the floor and not on tiptoe. Knees should not be bent. The upper body should lean backwards as if your entire body attempts to mimic a wide-open letter “Y”.
“Make sure your legs are straight. Quick eyes, quick hands,” the coach tells the girl before another round of pad training.
Intent on improving her form, the girl shifts to fighting stance once again and starts continuously hitting the focus mitts with a might not typically expected from a fighter of her built.
“There you go,” the coach finally says in praise.
“Patience,” he reminds her. “Not bad.”
Rey Yap, head coach of the Yaw-Yan Buhawi Gym in Marikina City, has been doing this for a decade now. He has honed, inspired, and supported MMA lovers both in and out of cyclone wire-fenced stages.
Years before that, he himself was a decorated fighter, being one of the old-school followers of Yaw-Yan.
The Yaw-Yan Buhawi Gym boasts of mixed martial artists making a name in the local and international fight scene including Alvin “Kastigo” Ramirez, Jet Hermida, and Eddie “Balong” Estrada.
But Coach Yap is perhaps even prouder of the tight community the Buhawi Gym has become.
It all started in his house garage, and payment was by donation.
He says his MMA gym was never just a money-making venture, with every peso collected just enough to cover for actual costs.
At the gym today, he tells newly signed up members that it’s their obligation to keep up with the Buhawi training. They’re free to leave if they don’t have the will to do so.
“This gym’s standards won’t change for your convenience just because you’re a paying member,“ he warns.
Yaw-Yan in its most traditional form seeks disciples, which is understandable. After all, you will need a sleeping and eating regimen that enables you to regularly join trainings.
To become a disciple of Yaw-Yan, the recurring prescriptive joke is: healthy diet, no smoking, no alcohol, no illegal drugs, and just the right amount of bedroom romance.
In sessions at the Buhawi gym, it is clear when a member lacked sleep.
“Puyat ka, no (You didn’t get enough sleep, did you)?” Coach Rey would chide a member who’s lagging behind in the pre-pad work cardio exercises.
Even as the old form of the art has morphed into hybrid fighting styles, the more senior followers of the combat discipline are still brandished with the Yaw-Yan logo using hot metal iron.
Young people staying away from vices
One of Yaw-Yan Buhawi’s star fighters, known to members as “Sir Balong,” has made a home out of the Buhawi gym in so many ways.
Balong – a vernacular term for a young boy – was a no-read, no-write kid from the Northern Philippine province of Isabela who was being raised by a manicurist in a salon near the Marikina City gym when Coach Rey met him.
The young boy did not know then, but his life was at a crossroads. He was trading recyclable waste for a living and was among peers who sniffed Rugby, a brand of contact cement used by children of poor families as an addictive stimulant.
Balong would often peek at the gym’s entrance, watching paid members learn kicks and tricks from Coach Rey himself.
The coach decided to give him lessons at a discounted rate for a month, then offered to take care of him – feed him, teach him how to read and write, and train him the Yaw-Yan Buhawi style – if he agrees to help out at the gym.
As the old story plot goes, Yaw-Yan changed the young boy’s life.
The now 21-year-old fighter and coach Eddie “Balong” Estrada – full of zest for life – turned pro in 2015 with a professional record of 3-2-0. His amateur record stands at 11-1.
And he’s not the only one.
Parents of teenagers are a common sight at the Buhawi gym. The adrenaline keeps their sons and daughters’ energetic temperaments off of what could have been habits pernicious to their well-being.
“Itinuturing na rin naming extension ng pamilya ang mga estudyante ko sa gym (We consider my students at the gym an extension of our family),” Coach Rey says of the Buhawi gym members.
“Most of the kids don’t have their own equipment,” the coach explained.
According to his training philosophy, the discipline of Yaw-Yan will help you become physically stronger and equip you with martial arts skills but more importantly it will teach you to be compassionate and accept defeat graciously.
The new Buhawi gym – which has since moved out of his house garage – was a product of cash donations by members and their families who were touched one way or another by what they consider as the redemptive force of Yaw-Yan.
Members managed to raise P56,400 of the P123,614 needed for the punching bag railings, glove shelves, utility cabinet, toilet fixtures, ceiling lights, cable wire hooks, and the cement plastering of suspended materials for strength training.
This little nook – a haven for would-be fighters of all ages – is a testament to the enduring power of sports and in this case MMA to bring people together and make them better versions of themselves.
A printout of the expense breakdown and donations for the new gym is displayed prominently near the reception desk – a reminder that the mat-covered flooring and the walls plastered with inspirational quotes of successful athletes make more than just a lifeless structure. It is home in so many ways. – Rappler.com
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