Editor's Note: This article was originally published as "Remy Presas, Founder of Modern Arnis: Pioneer of the Philippine Arts Is Still Polishing and Spreading His System" in the August 1998 issue of Black Belt — prior to Remy Presas' passing in 2001. To preserve the article's tone and historical context, the time references have been left intact. Read Part 1 of this profile here.
Editor's 2nd Note: As stipulated at the top of this article, this piece was originally printed before Remy Presas' death. These testimonies are presented in the interest of celebrating modern-arnis founder Remy Presas' legacy as a stick-combat technician and instructor. Our hope is that today's modern-arnis instructors and students will appreciate and learn from such comments as guides for how they themselves may teach or practice arnis techniques as part of their own martial arts curriculum. Please note that small-circle jujitsu developer Wally Jay was also alive during the article's original run.
Dr. Randi Schea, a modern-arnis black belt from Houston and grandson of tai chi expert Kwie Tjeng Schea, began studying with Remy Presas in 1982 and attended many of the first camps. “Professor Presas is able to stimulate the creative mindset in his students,” Dr. Randi Schea says.
“His exciting teaching methods enable him to cut across egos, stylistic barriers and biases. I especially like the way his various drills and exercises interconnect and develop practical applications. He taught me to allow my techniques to flow. When I first started modern-arnis training, the camps were 14 days long and not once were we ever bored. The professor’s energy was contagious, and we only stopped for meals and sleep because he insisted we needed to. Professor Presas is not only the most creative and gifted fighter in the martial arts today; he is also the most generous teacher and human being I’ve ever met.”
Ron Van Browning, an expert in san soo kung fu and trainer of world-class submission fighters and kickboxers in Dallas, credits Remy Presas with bringing a fluidity and directness to his techniques. “The professor forces you to relax and realize that your techniques are already there,” Ron Van Browning says.
“The whole point of blending styles is not to water down your system but to strengthen and expand it. The professor accomplishes this through his own willingness to grow and learn. Just being around him renews my excitement toward the martial arts. He’s a lot of fun.”
Chuck Gauss, defensive-tactics instructor for the Taylor Police Department near Detroit, uses his modern-arnis training daily. “I was bored with judo and went to a one-day seminar featuring the professor and Wally Jay of small-circle jujitsu,” Chuck Gauss says.
“That was it; I was hooked. The techniques fit right in with the pressure-point control tactics that we teach, but they are much more complete and effective. Since a police officer always carries a gun, every confrontation is an armed confrontation. If the one technique the officer learned during basic training doesn’t work, the result is panic, which almost always leads to excessive force. With modern arnis, a following technique is always there, and it represents an avenue to avoid excessive force while maintaining control of the suspect and the situation.”
Terry Wareham has been hosting camps at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, for the past 10 years. Originally a tang soo do stylist, he began working with Remy Presas in the early 1980s. “The professor is a fascinating character and truly exciting to be around,” Terry Wareham says. “He likes to expand and work with ideas in a way that is truly unique.”
Remy Presas: Recognition of the Modern Arnis Founder's Achievements
In 1982 stick-combat legend Remy Presas was inducted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as Instructor of the Year. In 1994, he was again honored by Black Belt as Weapons Instructor of the Year.
“When I think of how modern arnis has grown in the United States and around the world, I cannot help but feel proud,” Remy Presas says. “As I travel from seminar to seminar, I look forward to seeing each and every student. It is their dedication to self-improvement that is my inspiration.”
Remy Presas’ students, in turn, describe him as gifted, compassionate, energizing and engaging. These endearing terms, however, should not be confused with the savage fire that burns in his eyes as he bears down on an opponent or with the deadly efficiency of the techniques he teaches.
Now in his 60s, Presas continues to hone and add to his art while helping others do the same. Through his association with Wally Jay, pressure-point specialist George Dillman and san soo expert Ron Van Browning, Presas’ seminars and training camps are never lacking when it comes to the sheer volume of devastating techniques available.
“I owe a lot to Remy [Presas],” Wally Jay says. “He helped me a lot.” This phrase is repeated over and over again by martial artists fortunate enough to have crossed paths with this legendary stick-combat fighter, teacher and master of modern-arnis techniques. His teaching skills, charisma and energy are inspiring to all, and his seminars and training camps should be added to the schedules of martial artists of all styles and systems.
Modern-arnis founder Remy Presas passed away in August 2001. Small-circle jujitsu developer Wally Jay passed away in May 2011.
About the Author: Jeffrey J. Delaney is head of the International Modern Arnis Federation.