Learning PHL history in a martial arts school

Legacy FMA owner and founder Joseph Bautista: Third-generation FilAm

More of a cultural center than just your typical martial arts studio, Legacy Filipino Martial Arts has opened its doors to both children and adults of all backgrounds.

This Daly City, Calif. school not only strives to help people with self-defense but also aims to promote Philippine history, culture, and traditions with the help of culture bearers who are experts in their craft.

Legacy FMA teaches:

  • Filipino Martial Arts and its history
  • Baybayin (ancient Philippine script)
  • Philippine history
  • Traditional Filipino music
  • First Aid and CPR 
  • Tagalog language

Classes are conducted in the studio but instructors are available to teach private workshops and seminars. 

Founded by California native Joseph Bautista who has been doing FMA for 20 years, Legacy FMA is his way to share with the community his Philippine roots.

“My family came to SF Bay area in 1919,” he said. He grew up in the city of Richmond, where there were a handful of Filipino families whose children were not exposed to Filipino culture.

School offers classes and workshops for women (top photo) and children.

“Growing up as a third generation Filipino American, I didn’t feel connected to my Filipino roots. I didn’t even care to identify as Filipino because I was unaware of what there was to be proud about.”

His stepfather introduced him to FMA and it was through martial arts that his education about Philippine history started and deepened.

When you walk into the Legacy FMA headquarters, it is like walking into a museum. The first thing you will see upon entering is a mural of Filipino heroes such as Gabriela Silang, Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, and Lapu Lapu. Framed artwork that depicts famous historical events is featured on the walls. The school has on display 100-year-old weapons that “you are allowed to hold.” Traditional Philippine instruments are demonstrated during warmups.

“This is a place where a person can truly experience Philippine history and culture,” said Bautista, the owner and founder of Legacy FMA. “Though our foundations are in martial arts, we want to make sure that different aspects of Filipino culture are made accessible to people of all ages and ethnic backgrounds.”

The priority of the martial arts program is self- defense, which covers how to use everyday items like pens, umbrellas, and more as tools for protection. This pulls from the Filipino Martial Arts, also known as Kali, Arnis or Eskrima. Additionally, the program teaches Filipino Dirty Boxing (Panantukan) as well as Filipino Ground Fighting/Wrestling (Dumog).

Bautista believes that anyone has the ability to learn how to defend and care for themselves and others.

“It is a matter of street smarts and versatility rather than brute strength and athleticism. Everyone has to think about what can be done if one is injured or no longer has their youth or fitness,” he said.

“This is what motivated me to create Legacy FMA. It is a place I wish I had growing up,” he said. “I envision a family-friendly community where you can get the discipline and self-empowerment that comes from learning a martial art, but can also explore how great Filipino culture is.”

© The FilAm 2022

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