Women, Arnis, & the Fight Against COVID

And since we all came from a woman

Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman

I wonder why we take from our women

Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?

I think it’s time to kill for our women

Time to heal our women, be real to our women

And if we don’t, we’ll have a race of babies

That will hate the ladies that make the babies

  • By Tupac Shakur from his song Keep Ya Head Up (1993)


As the world recovers from COVID-19, societies will need everyone to contribute to its recovery, especially women. This may sound obvious, but a closer examination reveals that societies still have barriers against women from fully contributing to society. An imbalance of salary, gender bias for leadership roles, or denial of education. Even more gross, is the abuse of women, which can leave lasting mental and physical scars. So, why do these abuses still prominently exist … when women shoulder the responsibility of raising children, who will one day lead the world against a crisis like COVID-19.

Significant improvements have been made in the societal views of women, but as societies recover from COVID-19, they should take this opportunity to examine its delicate relationship with women. Society can dismantle gender biases and reconstruct a culture that fully embraces and recognizes women as a significant partner in the recovery from COVID-19.

In 1986 the Philippines voted Corazon Aquino as its first woman President. In 2020, Americans voted Kamala Harris as the first woman Vice President to the highest office in the US. But both women overcame improbable odds. In addition, women are increasingly active in professional sports, where physicality is associated with masculinity. Now, women are officials in professional sports, including head coaching for professional basketball or Superbowl referees for the National Football League. In martial arts, women have increasingly become key contributors, especially in the martial art sport of Arnis.

Arnis plays an important role for women because it gives them the ability to defend themselves through exercises of body and mind. In 2006, Tarana Burke memorialized the “me too movement”, by encouraging women to stand up for themselves by fighting back and speaking out against abuse. Since the “me too movement”, more Arnis training groups have been focused on teaching women the art of Arnis. This has led to an increase in more women instructors. Scanning social media, you can find women instructors such as Aubrey Manahan, who posts under the Instagram handler @aubsventurer. Aubrey is a woman instructor based in Southern California and shares her experiences as a female instructor.

Another female instructor is Jamie Yancovitz, who founded the Survival Arts Academy which is a training program with women instructors. The academy teaches young women to protect themselves from sexual misconduct or physical harm with Arnis skills. The academy has successfully taught hundreds of women per year to defend themselves.

It is important for women to be portrayed in the media as strong protagonists even if it is fictional roles because it can help shift the views of women in society from victims to heroes.

In the early 1970’s Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto paved the way for Arnis to be a part of the Hollywood film industry with the film Enter the Dragon. Today, women are beginning to play a significant role in the growth of Arnis in the industry.  Diana Lee Inosanto is one of these women. Diana Lee Inosanto is the daughter of Dan Inosanto and the goddaughter of Bruce Lee. (Hence her middle name is “Lee”.) In her most recent work, she plays Morgan Elsbeth in Disney’s Mandalorian Chapter 13 where she displays her Arnis training in a battle against the Jedi Ahsoka Tano. Diana is an Arnis expert, actor, film director, author, and most importantly a mother. She shares a bit of her experience raising a child with autism in her book The Curios Mind of Sebastian. In the short book, she shares her frustration of raising a child with autism, but she doesn’t give up and eventually finds a way to communicate with her son. In fact, he illustrated the images of the book. Diana sets an example of women’s leadership.

Other women have also contributed to the growth of Arnis in mainstream media. Caity Lotz displays her Arnis training as the fictional character the White Canary in Arrow, which had 8 successful seasons on Netflix. Lauren Mary Kim is Hollywood’s famous stunt woman and has expressed her appreciation of Arnis training which helped bring her characters to life. In one of her films, she battled Ray Park (Darth Maul) in the animated film Star Wars: The Clone Wars in the final season. Maisie Williams received Arnis training to prepare Arya Stark, the female heroine from Game of Thrones who defeated the infamous White Walker Night King. And in March 2021, Disney will release Raya, an animated film with a female protagonist trained in the art of Arnis. Although these women play fictional characters, their training is real. And this is important to give Arnis a stage to inspire young women.

Further, Arnis can claim that a woman is its greatest champion, when on December 11, 2009, madam President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed the Republic Act 9850 and the Philippines memorialized Arnis as the national martial art and sport.

As the world continues to grapple with the epidemic, things appear to get better. And women are playing prominent roles in society but also in the home.

The above music excerpt from Tupac Shakur’s song, Keep Ya Head Up, highlights society’s delicate love and abusive relationship with women. He challenges society to continue growing the opportunities and better treatment of women.

And why does this matter? Because only women can make babies. And the world will be a better place if we take care of our women. Women like Diana Inosanto, who is a mother and sparked imaginations and ambitions for her son and future leaders. She represents women who can have the potential to become presidents, Superbowl referees, Jedis, scientists, lawyers, doctors, and even bad-ass mothers.  And it will take all of us, in each of our professions to fight against COVID.

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3 years ago

Excellent article Jenner!

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