Champion Filipino-Canadian martial artist trains kids

Philippine martial art forms like sikaran, arnis are being taught in Winnipeg

By Charmaine Y. Rodriguez

Winnipeg teen Jayzelle Policarpio became a champion in sikaran and arnis, ancient Filipino martial art forms, at age 12. Today, she trains younger students and is helping promote part of her culture.

“As a Filipino-Canadian who has not been to the Philippines or cannot speak the language, learning the sport and doing it is the closest thing to me to being in touch with the motherland,” the 14-year-old told CBC News.

Policarpio is currently a member of the Winnipeg Sikaran Arnis Academy (WSAA), where she trains and teaches the two sports to kids.

She was part of the 12-person delegation from WSAA that brought home seven gold, four silver, and eight bronze medals from the World Karate Championships held in Ireland from October 8 to 13, 2022.

The 12 young athletes of WSAA trained hard to become members of the Canadian National Martial Arts Team/Team Canada 2022.

Policarpio, herself, brought home the silver medal for (Girls 11-12) in Creative Weapons and the bronze medal in Team Sparring.

She was trained by Filipino-Canadian Kelly Legaspi, a fifth-degree sikaran and arnis black belt who teaches in Winnipeg.

Policarpio is dedicated to the two martial art forms and hopes to continue her growth in the sport.

She started training in the two ancient Philippine fighting styles—sikaran, a kick-based martial arts sport, and arnis, which uses sticks as a weapon in combat at age nine.

Sikaran and arnis may be as technical as other more well-known martial arts styles, but they’re creative by nature, which what drives Policarpio’s interest.

“They’re unique and different from other styles like karate and wushu. It’s a way to test your creativity and discipline your body on different ways to move,” she also told CBC News.

Legaspi said the two martial art forms existed since the Spanish colonial era. Back then, Filipinos made the martial arts styles look like dances so they could train for battles in disguise.

For Policarpio, being one of the most promising sikaran and arnis athletes is her way of connecting to her roots.

“Connecting to my culture is important to me. My Filipino friends know a lot about their heritage, and I feel a bit excluded from them because I wasn’t raised like how they were. They know dishes and words that I don’t, but I can learn just as much by being around people at [the WSAA],” she also said in the interview.

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