EA Doce Pares, London, is an Independent Doce Pares school based in the UK Led by Master Ermar ‘Alex’ Alexander. Diana Fauner is the first female student from EA Doce Pares to attain the level of Blackbelt. Alex and Diana are big supporters of Philippine Generations from our first ever event at the Meet and Greet at the Philippine Embassy in 2007, ever since then, we have always been helping each other out with events and promoting Philippine Culture. I caught up with Diana on her return from the Philippines after her fantastic achievement!
“Hi Dhay (Diana’s nickname) congratulations and welcome back! Do PhilGen have a pasalubong? How was your 3 months stay in the Philippines, what did you get up to? I’m sure you had a fantastic time with family and the weather too.”
All pasalubongs have already been taken!!! My 3 months stay was the best holiday in my life. During the first month, I stayed with my parents in Davao where they got to enjoy their first grandchild who was 5 months old at the time. It was also a good break for me as I had people around me who could help me care for him.
On my 2nd and 3rd month, Alex and I flew to Cebu to begin our martial art training. We trained at the Doce Pares International gym under SGM Dionisio Cañete and also at the Yaw-Yan ArDigma gym under Master Ekin Caniga. I had to focus more on my black belt grading on top of all the reviews that I had to make for our curriculum.
“Really just admit it you forgot to get me something..haha! I wish I had a break after having my children. So your son Andre is 8 months old now, how is motherhood treating you?”
That’s right, it’s a bit tricky juggling work, training and Andre all at the same time. Although I am very lucky that work has allowed me to work from home twice a week. The training has gone down the hole but I am aiming to pick this up as soon as possible. I love being a mother. Andre is so adorable and funny. I wouldn’t change anything despite of the difficulties. But I’m also lucky that Andre’s daddy is doing most of the hard work of child rearing. He helps me a LOT, from nappy changing to feeding to bathing and even baby sitting.
“Andre is very cute! It’s great that Daddy is getting so involved aside from training everyday! I know how difficult it is to balance, commitments with kids. Once work and training is back on track, what is your role with EA Doce pares?”
Alex is the senior instructor of EA Doce Pares. Since the beginning, I’ve been assisting him in everything he does. I help him with teaching, with advertising, with purchasing gym equipment (I am acting Treasurer for the club) and I make sure that every member in our club is happy! I serve them tea and buy them biscuits!!
“Wow! that’s like 4 or 5 different roles in there! For those who don’t know or are unfamiliar with the club and what you do, can you explain what Eskrima is?”
Eskrima is an indigenous martial art which developed in the Philippines. There is no one source of Eskrima. It sprung from all the different islands, each group having their own style (hence the many schools that there are now). The components include single and double stick eskrima, single and double dagger/knife fighting, long stick fighting, long and short weapon fighting (espada y daga), long blade/sword fighting, empty hands (under which are four components: throws and takedowns, locks and immobilisations, punching and kicking, groundwork and grappling). It also covers short, medium and long ranges of fighting. This seems to sound like it’s a lot (and it is!), hence Grandmaster Cañete developed this into a systematic curriculum which can be finished in 5 years.
“That does sound like a lot! So, how does it feel to be the 1st female black belt under Master Alex? What is your proper title now?”
I am glad that it is over! I have accomplished something in my life! Well, it’s not really over. More is coming! There is no ‘title’. We don’t do titles in Doce Pares. We just have Grandmaster, Instructor and Student. I guess I can be called a Junior Instructor (which I have always been to Alex).
“Why do you think there hasn’t been any female blackbelts before you?”
Well, there are loads! I am just the first from EA Doce Pares!
“First of many hopefully! What inspired you to get involved in martial arts and Eskrima specifically?”
When I was looking for a hobby, I came across Eskrima accidentally. On my first day of training, I fell in love with it straight away. It was as simple as that. And the fact that it is a Filipino art made it even more meaningful to myself.
“You mentioned all the things you do at the gym earlier, tell us about your gym and who looked after it while you were away?”
It is not easy to leave the gym. We don’t like leaving our students on their own. On the other hand, our Senior students (particularly the Brown Belts) need to practice on how to teach. We make sure that all our Senior students get the chance to lead the classes. We don’t want (future) black belts who can do techniques but we want them to be good teachers as well. We have left the gym twice to our Seniors and on both occasions we have been happy with the Senior’s performance. This also gives them a sense of responsibility which will prepare them if they want to open their own gyms in the future.
“What’s it like being a partner and a student of Master Ermar ‘Alex’ Alexander, is he bossy? Strict? Will your son be following in your footsteps and is he already holding his sticks?”
Alex is very sweet and he does everything for me. He is not bossy at all! In decision making, we always discuss things and make sure that we both agree on it. Andre is already doing single and double stick twirls – it looks so cute! He loves grabbing sticks! We will not force Andre into it but if he is interested we will teach him everything we can.
“I have seen a couple of pictures, Andre looks strong already! For all the ladies reading this, young and old, what message would you give to women thinking about taking up a martial art?”
Don’t be intimidated by men! If in training someone squeezes or twists your wrists too hard, don’t be afraid to tell them. Actually men are very caring that they don’t really like hurting the ladies. So the ladies have to say something!
The Filipino martial arts is also a very good art for the ladies! Most of the curriculum is weapons based and this is perfect as the stick and knife techniques can be translated to any item like handbags, keys and pens. In training there are no sweaty bodies rubbing against each other. You develop your sense of personal space in Eskrima and so does your training partners.
“Very Inspiring! ‘…no sweaty bodies rubbing against each other’ sounds ideal! Now that you’re back in the UK at your gym what are your future plans?”
We are currently focused on our Brown Belts because they are aiming to grade for their Black Belts this December. But we can’t forget the others either, we also have to make sure that they are progressing properly.
“Daghang Salamat Dhay, well it sounds like you still have so much to do! I hope more ladies join EA Doce Pares as you have shown with training, work and motherhood what can be accomplished. Good luck with the training, Andre, the gym and the students!”
by Mae Williams