New Martial Arts Class on Molokai

Modern arnis being taught in Kaunakakai.

By Léo Azambuja

One of the most underground types of martial arts in the United States is being taught right here on Molokai. The practice known as modern arnis is being taught by instructor Mark Crumpton. He recently moved from Los Angeles, and has started teaching a class at Home Pumehana.

Modern arnis is mostly known to be a martial arts practice that originated in the Philippines, and to be practiced with sticks. But this is just part of the story. “Most people don’t understand that modern arnis is a blade fight,” Crumpton said. “But it is actually a blade art.”

The martial art was created by Filipino Grandmaster Remy Presas. “It’s a combination of balintawak, arnis, karate, judo and wing tzun,” Crumpton said. Presas learned all those martial arts from different masters in the Philippines and started teaching them on a linear format, according to Crumpton.

But when modern arnis arrived in the United States, Presas switched the blades to sticks using similar moves. “Teaching the blade was so violent,” Crumpton said. “So they used sticks in place of blades.”

Over time, the martial art evolved and gained popularity as a stick martial art. “A lot of people forgot it was a blade art,” Crumpton said. Today, he said there are not many people training with the blades. Crumpton is one of the very few.

Although the stick and the blade portions of modern arnis are similar, there are some differences. “When you train with the stick you hit the hand, we hit the arm,” Crumpton said. “When you train with the blade you train closer.” Blade orientation also makes part of the differences between the two modern arnis variations.

Presas passed away in 2001. But not before handing over his knowledge to Bram Frank, who also became a modern arnis grandmaster. Crumpton was still training Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Los Angeles when he met Frank. “I’m pretty comfortable with my ground skills,” Crumpton said. “But I realized I had to have some stand up skills.”

After being introduced to modern arnis by Frank, Crumpton was hooked on it. “This made a lot of sense to me,” Crumpton said. It has been six years now, and three years since he got his license to teach modern arnis.

Proving modern arnis is not just a fighting style, but an art in itself, Crumpton said the two main factors in the martial art are flow and counter for counter.

“Everything is about the flow,” Crumpton said. “The flow is how the body moves naturally.”

Countering moves is equally important in modern arnis. “If I throw a punch and you counter, and I don’t know how to respond then I’m done,” Crumpton said. “I need to learn how to counter from here.”

But for those who think the modern arnis is complicated, there is hope. “It’s all about keeping it simple,” Crumpton said. “We can have fun doing it.”

Before moving to Molokai, Crumpton used to teach modern arnis in Hermosa Beach, Los Angeles. Some of the surrounding gyms were run by some of the biggest legends in martial arts. But he is still a humble person. “I come from a place of respect and humility,” he said.

Crumpton heard there are a lot of Filipinos who are experts in modern arnis on Molokai. “Most of the guys are teaching in their backyard,” he said. “It’s really secretive.” He acknowledged there are probably martial artists on Molokai more experienced than him. He says he is excited to train and learn with others an hopes to meet other martial artists on Molokai. “I know there are some good teachers on this island,” Crumpton said.

The versatile Crumpton has been training for over 20 years in several styles of martial arts, including tang soo do, tae kwon do, wing tzun and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. His teacher in this last art was Carlson Gracie Jr., son of the late Carlson Gracie Sr., who many in the jiu-jitsu community say was the best teacher the sport ever had.

Anyone who is skeptical or afraid about practicing modern arnis should give it a try. “I make a serious subject fun,” Crumpton said. The first class is free. He said he is still trying to figure out a fair price, but it won’t be expensive.

The outgoing instructor with movie-star looks is already in love with Molokai. And it doesn’t look like it’s a passing thing. Crumpton moved here to be with his girlfriend, a local girl with whom he has maintained a long-distance relationship for a year. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said. “I’m here to stay.”

Classes are held at Home Pumehana, at the Hale Maha`olu Senior Center, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 5-7 p.m., and on Saturdays from 12-3 p.m. For more information please contact Crumpton at 808-336-0936.


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