Associate Spotlight: A Champion Among Us
A crowd gathers in a circle as two athletes begin to face off. All you can hear over the roar of the crowd is the distinctly loud sound of wooden sticks as they collide. Sometimes these sticks make contact with the opposing athlete’s body. One point. Two points.
If you had just stumbled upon this scene, you might have been caught off guard. Stick fighting, or Eskrima, is the National sport of the Philippines and although it is not widely known in western culture, it’s quickly gaining popularity worldwide. The World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (WEKAF) held their United States National Championships in California this past April and named Staff Management | SMX associate, Sergio Mendoza, the champion.
This was Mendoza’s first Eskrima competition.
After practicing martial arts in general for almost thirty years, Mendoza was happy to see all of his hard work had prepared him for Eskrima. Mendoza will travel to the Philippines this July to represent the United States in the World Championships. “I was definitely excited,” Mendoza said about his win, “to be rewarded for all of my hard work and training is an amazing feeling. On top of that, to have the opportunity to represent the U.S. in the World Championships after a great fight is very motivating.”
The principles of Eskrima can be traced as far back as the 15th century, where sticks, as well as knives and other bladed weapons, were used. Modernly and in a competition setting, Eskrima has regulated safety gear similar to that of the western sport, fencing.
Mendoza trains twice a week with Grandmaster Ralph Chavez, under the Bandalan Doce Pares, which is one of the most respected Filipino martial arts organizations in the world and is headed by Grand Master Alfredo Bandaland Sr. He credits his ability to learn and excel at the sport in a short period of time to his Grandmaster, who continually presents him and his team with new challenges. Mendoza also credits his team for his success, saying, “The comradery is second to none. We consistently push each other to be great and we have a great time doing it.”
Although Mendoza is thrilled to be competing in the World Championships, he doesn’t practice Eskrima for the notoriety. As with most martial arts, he has found Eskrima to be a source of discipline as well as a great workout.
As Mendoza continues to prepare for the championships, he urges those interested in martial arts to give Eskrima a try. “From the conditioning and exercising to self-defense to learning the science of it once you become more experienced,” Mendoza explains, “there is something for everyone to take away from it. It adds value to whatever you’re doing in your life.”
The World Championships takes place July 20-24th and updates can be found on the WEKAF International’s Facebook page.
Good luck Sergio – the Staff Management | SMX family is cheering you on!