HISTORY OF EARLY SIKARAN
1800’s – 1946
The confiscation and outlawing of weapons created a fertile environment for the development and propagation of an ancient system of physical activity using the empty hands and the bare feet in offensive and defensive maneuvers. This physical activity was eventually called SIKARAN. The Spanish authorities viewed the system as a pastime and recreational activity, rather than an unarmed system of fighting that could very well be lethal. The Spaniards, being armed with muskets and swords, did not consider it a threat.
There is no written history or record of SIKARAN. What is known about SIKARAN was passed on by word of mouth from generation to generation. In fact, it is unequivocally believed that this is the first authoritative and only complete written account about SIKARAN. This written account is based, not on history books or official archives. It is the unimpeachable recollection of the people who were part of SIKARAN from its inception.
The following is a verbatim chronicle of an interview in 1960, with the last Hari of SIKARAN, Cipriano Geronimo, (father of Meliton and Jaime Geronimo). Cipriano Geronimo’s, knowledge of the history of SIKARAN was how he remembered it as told by his father Bonifacio Geronimo, a Hari ng mga Hari (Champion of champions) and Bonifacio’s mentor, a man who was simply remembered as Ka Rumagit (Ka is a Filipino term of respect for an elder).
Ka Rumagit and Bonifacio Geronimo’s SIKARAN bond lasted all through their lives. Ka Rumagit was also Bonifacio Geronimo’s alalay (second) and tagasanay (coach), during the latter’s competitive years, as a SIKARAN fighter.
Melencio Bigasin and Manuel Ocampo, two elder contemporaries of Cipriano Geronimo who were Haris (champions) turned guros (teachers), helped in clarification and confirmation of information and events that time had shrouded with confusion, even doubts.
Ka Rumagit was a kaingngero (clearing the forest by fire) farmer in the mountains bordering the towns of Baras and Tanay, in Rizal province. He was soft spoken, to the point of being an introvert. He did not say where he was from or who his parents were. Nobody even knew what his real name was. However, he volunteered the fact that he learned the fighting systems out of sheer necessity. It was suspected that he is the son of an Ita (mountain people called Negrito) due to his physiognomy.
Standing no more than five-feet tall, Ka Rumagit was built like a rock, massive and hard. His size camouflaged his agility. He favored a maneuver called the daluhong ng unggoy (monkey attack), where he jumps on his opponent’s hips preventing the opponent from drawing his itak at the same time gouging off the eyes. He is also partial to Sibasib ng Tamaraw (head-butt to the nose). Ka Rumagit claims that he learned these tactics from his Ita (mountain tribe in the Philippines, called Negrito) friends. Another technique he favors is attacking the knee to break it in order to “bring the opponent down to his size.” He called the technique pangbali ng tuhod (breaking the knee). If he does not want to seriously injure his opponent, he just grabs the testicles and squeezes it hard. He said that the pain is intensified by the fact that most mountain people have salt deficiency and develops what he calls bayag ng kabayo (horse testicles) where the testicles are swollen and very sensitive to the touch.
Ka Rumagit said he spent a good deal of his young life in the mountainsides, where Tulisan (bandits), roam freely and prey on innocent farmers. The fighting system popular at the time was Arnis de Mano. However, even as a child Ka Rumagit’s favorite physical activity was the “kicking game.” The “kicking game” was a favorite pastime of farmers. However, Ka Rumagit regarded this activity in a more serious manner. By combining kicking with Arnis de Mano in combat situations, the opponent may be easily caught off guard. Ka Rumagit was an expert on both systems. He used his fighting skill to successfully defend his life.
The “kicking game” originated from animal behavior. By imitating the horse, they developed the damba (horse kick with the front legs) and the sipang kabayo (horse kick with the rear legs). By emulating the carabao (water buffalo) the padyak ng kalabaw was developed. A carabao, by nature is a very docile animal. However, it has the habit of stomping the rear foot and swaying its tail when annoyed with the birds that feed on the insects on the carabao. They also mimicked the agila (eagle), the labuyo (wild fowl), and the bulik or panabong (fighting cock).
In order to gain speed and height, they jump up to kick from a running start, just as an eagle swoops down on its prey and called the kick dagit ng agila.
Imitating the pagaspas (flapping) of the wings of the labuyo (wild fowl) to repulse and get away from threats, allowed them to refine the movement for open hand blocking and slapping techniques. These hand techniques were incorporated with the kicking techniques, making the system a more exciting game and a more effective fighting system.
The direct frontal attack of the panabong (fighting cock) inspired techniques they called salpok ng bulik (frontal assault of a type of fighting cock).
SIKARAN (then referred to as kicking game) was widely practiced by the farmers and it became a favorite past time. The term SIKARAN was derived from the challenge “magpanikaran tayo” (lets play the “kicking game”) when they want to enjoy that physical activity.
“Nagsikaran kami” (we played the “kicking game”) became a favorite verbalization of the activity by people after they played the game. Parents scolded their sons for playing the “kicking game” with the term “nagsikaran ka na naman maghapon” (you played the “kicking game” again all day long).
With the constant repetition of the term, the activity or the game became known formally as SIKARAN. For centuries, SIKARAN was an informal unorganized game.
In the 1800’s, rules governing “official” matches were established. Offensive techniques, other than foot kicking maneuvers were drastically restricted. Use of hand techniques was limited to blocking, pushing, and pulling. SIKARAN became a methodized foot-fighting system. The term Hari (king) was adopted as the title for the champion. This resulted in a wider acceptance and more accelerated propagation of SIKARAN. Every SIKARANista coveted the title Hari and the glory associated with the title.
Unlike Arnis de Mano, SIKARAN was not used in an organized manner of fighting the foreign aggressors. Arnis de Mano was developed by warriors, for warfare. On the other hand, SIKARAN was developed by farmers more for amusement. It was used for personal defense only in extreme circumstances. The first choice of defense of the farmer, then and now, is his utilitarian tool used for farming and harvesting, the itak (straight-edged machete-like long knife), the karit (sickle), the dulos (reaper), and the palakol (axe).