By ROB HEDELT
The Free Lance-Star
SPOTSYLVANIA, Va. (AP) — When he was growing up in the Philippines, Amante Marinas was fascinated with watching his great uncle practice martial arts.
At 8 years old, Marinas began to learn the movements and forms of the long-pole martial art of pananandata. Working alongside his uncle, he came to believe that such workouts were important to his mind and body.
Marinas is 81 now, and on a good day, puts in three to four hours working out in his Spotsylvania County backyard. There, he deliberately practices hand-fighting, as well as martial arts with a long pole and short sticks, throwing knives, an ax, a blow gun and a bow and arrow.
The discipline and work ethic he hewed to as a chemical engineer means he not only works out each day, but keeps a log of every minute spent—and every knife, ax and arrow sent into targets.
“I’ve thrown knives close to 1.5 million times, and shot the blowgun 800,000 times,” he said.
Marinas moved from his native country to New York City in 1973, moving on from the long pole discipline of his great uncle to other fighting styles using different weapons. He taught himself those new disciplines, seeking out whatever sources existed to help him in his instructional journey.
“I learned how to throw knives in my basement in Staten Island,” he said. “There, I had to throw sidearm so it didn’t hit the ceiling.
Before long, he was teaching other people who were drawn to his workouts at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. Seven of his books on martial arts have been published since moving to this area in 1997, and they detail styles of Filipino martial arts not fully covered before. They include “The Art of Throwing,” “Blowgun Techniques,” and “Archery for Beginners.”
Marinas continues to give private lessons in pananandata, which he said is a fighting system from Central Luzon in the Philippines.
He’s had more than 100 articles published in martial arts magazines, some featuring photos of him and his son, Amante Jr., a New York City police detective.
I visited Marinas recently at his home, where he showed me the workout and practice stations he’s created in his backyard. He uses hanging pieces of wood and large soda bottles as targets for his long pole and short sticks, and there are targets for knives, axes and arrows safely tucked around the yard.
“The notes I kept in learning and practicing each of the disciplines were invaluable in writing the books,” he said. “After the first one or two, I kind of had learned the process.”
Marinas said that once he moved to Spotsylvania County—his sons had attended the University of Mary Washington and he had other relatives in the area—word got out that he taught martial arts and students sought him out.
“I now teach one or two students at a time, here in my backyard,” he said. “Most of my students are retired officers of some type, one a retired police captain, another a U.S. Army vet, still another a retired air marshal.”
He keeps teaching and writing because he likes to pass along what he’s learned, and because he’s been lonely since his wife died of cancer a few years ago. He also enjoys the company.
His students call him “Po,” an honorific for an older person in the Philippines, and he doesn’t just see them as students.
“I treat them as friends, and look forward to them coming to learn,” he said.
He’s taught some students for a long time—one woman has been with him since 2000.
Marinas said he had a group of air marshals come to learn to use extendable batons, and a police captain who wanted to learn disarming techniques—all skills in his martial arts wheelhouse.
“We have fun, as I will challenge them at times, telling them that if they stick four knives in a row, I’ll treat them to coffee,” he said laughing. “Then they come back at me and ask if two hits will get them half a cup.”
He even designed his own style of throwing knife, and said he has several finished manuscripts he still wants to get published on fighting styles and weapons he hasn’t fully covered yet.
“I’d like to get to having 20 books published. I’m a half dozen or so short of that now,” he said. “I hope that works out, but if the manuscripts I’ve finished don’t get published, I’ll just leave them to my grandchildren. I enjoy the writing and it keeps me sharp.”