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How Calcutta Bamboo Makes a Weapon Carved in Tradition

Updated: Jul 20

An interview with Master Mel Orpilla



What we love the most about our work is connecting with our customers and learning about all the things they do with the bamboo and products we sell. In today’s blog post, we are delighted to introduce you to Master Mel Orpilla of Balintawak Arnis.


What is Balintawak Arnis you may ask? Read on to learn more…


Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do?

A: My name is Master Mel Orpilla and I teach and train in the Filipino Martial Art (FMA) called Balintawak Arnis.


Q: Wow! That sounds super interesting, how is Balintawak Arnis different from other martial arts?

A: Unlike other martial arts, FMA starts out with weapons, sticks to be exact. The sticks are a stand-in for the bladed weapons our Warrior ancestors used to protect their families, islands, villages, and from foreign invaders as well as other tribes.


Q: We can see how this may lead to you connecting with our bamboo.

A: As a practitioner of FMA, I am always searching for a better "stick." Traditionally, rattan is used as the standard training stick. However, I found out that Calcutta Bamboo has better qualities for training in FMA. It is denser, stronger, and more solid than rattan. As such, it will last longer and save money in the long run.



Q: We agree! The high quality of our Calcutta Bamboo is proving to be utilized in so many interesting ways. Speaking of which, can you share with us the symbolism of the markings on your Balintawak Arnis weapons/sticks?

A: I am also a Filipino cultural historian. I've authored many articles and books on Filipino and Filipino American history and culture. One area that I have explored and researched is traditional Filipino Warrior tattoos. The tattoos are sacred, spiritual, and protective. They also represent the wearer as a Warrior, identifies their tribe, and their status in the tribe. I wanted to put these markings on the Calcutta sticks to impart the fighting spirit of our ancestors and give the sticks more meaning.


Q: Have you found that the weapons ‘feel’ or help you practice your martial art in a better way once you add the traditional carvings?

A: The carvings provide a better grip when wielding the sticks. It is my way of honoring our Filipino Warrior heritage with something meaningful and tangible.



Q: Fascinating! How can we learn more about your martial arts and training weapons/fighting sticks?

A: Island Warrior Fighting Sticks was founded by me and my brother, Phil. After we receive the raw sticks, we draw the designs on the sticks then carve and stain them. We have carved sticks for clients all over the United States, the Philippines, and Canada. You can find us on FaceBook or at http://www.islandwarriorfightingsticks.com.



Thank you to Master Mel Orpilla for sharing his amazing story and artistry. We are inspired each day by our customers and followers. If you would like to share your story of how you are using Orion Trading products, please contact us to be featured.

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