Sayaw ng Kamatayan, (Dance of Death) also known as Yaw-Yan, is the Filipino style of kickboxing.

Yaw-Yan: The Dance of Death

Sayaw ng Kamatayan, (Dance of Death) also known as Yaw-Yan, is the Filipino style of kickboxing. Created in 1972 by Grandmaster Napoleon “Nap” Fernandez, Yaw-Yan draws similarities to Muay Thai kickboxing in the sense that it relies heavily on the torqueing of the hips to create powerful kicks. To best explain this unique Filipino Martial Art, Master Joseph Bautista of Eskabo Daan was asked to give his insight.
 
When asked what the similarities are between Yaw-Yan and Muay Thai, Bautista explained both arts “…look dead on the same.  I haven’t seen or met any Yaw-Yan practitioners. I’ve only seen certain Youtube clips and read very little. But from what I’ve seen, it looks the same. Just like you’re comparing Sikaran (Filipino Martial Art of kicking) and Tae Kwon Do, it’s very similar. I’m sure there are certain applications that are different but the foundations are roughly the same.” Furthermore, Yaw-Yan relies mostly on its kicks to attack. “Yaw-Yan practitioners have to learn 40 basic kicks, advanced disciples have to be able to execute and apply complex advanced kicks requiring great dexterity, flexibility, and mastery.” Yaw-Yan does not only draw similarities to Muay Thai but from other Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) as well.
 
Despite the fact that most Filipino Martial Arts were created as a form of survival, Yaw-Yan bears heavy influence from its lethal counterparts.  In an interview with FMAPulse, Orlando Lapuz (Yaw-Yan practitioner) explained the integration of other Filipino Martial Arts into Yaw-Yan. “The hand techniques and kicks of the original yaw-yan were patterned after the movements of the Arnis stick,” explained Lapuz. The 12 bolo punches in Arnis are incorporated into Yaw-Yan as well as a technique known as Palis-Palis (Sweeping from one side to another). “Every angle of attack possible with the arnis stick, we can do the same with our kicks” declared Lapuz. But perhaps, the hallmark of Yaw-Yan is its training and conditioning.
 
Orland Lapuz recalls his training in the Yaw-Yan temple vividly as he “…had to clean the gym and polish it’s floors with a bonut [coconut husk used as a floor polisher] That task conditioned our legs for delivering kicks” Lapuz also described the hitting bag for Yaw-Yan as “A solid piece of timber wrapped with layers of abaca rope coated with rugby [A brand of rubber cement]’ Another account describes the hitting bag in the Yaw-Yan Temple as “the usual punching bag, take away the rope that suspends it from the ceiling, multiply its size 50 fold and you have the Yaw-Yan striking bag.”
 
Currently Lapuz is the incumbent president of the Yaw-Yan Sports Association of the Philippines (YSAP). The goal of the organization is to “revive and promote the original way of fighting.” The group is also working towards making Yaw-Yan recognized as a national sport of the Philippines.
 
Yaw-Yan is just one example of Filipino Martial Arts that is overlooked but is very much alive to this day. We at Eskabo Daan will strive to promote FMA into the mainstream and give arts such as Yaw-Yan its due respect and recognition.
 
References:
Yaw-Yan, FMApulse.com
Perry Gil S. Mallari: Orlando M. Lapuz: Paladin of Original Yaw Yan – January 7, 2010

Picture: Courtesy of FMApulse.com