Sikaran is a Filipino Martial Art said to have originated in the Tagalog region. Here, opponents for sport or for combat try to engage each other using kicks that mimic that of the farm animals. A Side Thrust Kick, for example, copies the kick of a cow. The Back Kick is inspired by the powerful backwards punt of a horse, while the Jumping Front Kick copies a steed as it rears. The most widely-used or “signature” kick is the Biyakid or Biyak Patagilid which engages the power of the whole body and channels it to the waist, leg, and feet, making it the most effective one in the combatant’s arsenal.
Hari Osias Banaag, a Filipino Sikaran Grand Master based in the US, is trying to bring global attention to the Filipino sport that he literally and figuratively discovered in his own backyard. Growing up in Baras, he was conscripted by his father to learn Karate as a form of self-defense. “I started with Karate in 1968, my father didn’t want me to be picked on by other children. I took lessons for three years, but my heart was not into it,” he recalls.
What he did enjoy were the roughhouse games that he and his playmates were wont to find themselves into. They fought each other using their legs and feet, falling on dayami (hay) cushions that were plentiful during harvest time. It was child’s play for him, until he saw how effective it was against an opponent. “One time, I saw my brother brawling in the street against someone who was wielding a belt. I was impressed when I saw him fend the attacker off using only his feet and legs. That was when I started looking into Sikaran seriously. As a son of Baras, Rizal, where the sport is thought to have originated, I could say that it was in my blood.”
In the course of his research, he found out more about the roots of Sikaran and was convinced that more than child’s play, it was a legitimate form of martial arts. “Sikaran is totally different from other Martial Arts styles: Karate employs hands for Punching and Chopping, Kung Fu uses the feet and hands, but focuses on displays for cinematic effect. I would say that Tae Kwon Do is the closest when it comes to the use of kicks, but the style and center of power is different. Karate originated from Japan, Kung Fu is from China and Tae Kwon Do is Korean. Sikaran is the ancient art of Filipino foot fighting. It is pure Filipino.”
Inspired by what he has learned and the potential for the sport, Hari put up his Martial Arts school in September 1976, calling it the Foremost Sikaran Brotherhood. “I called it Foremost because it was the first training school of its kind.”
In 1997, he attended the World Martial Arts for Peace event in Washington, D.C., representing Sikaran. He also decided to migrate to the US to bring the sport abroad, starting with training relatives and friends. By 1998, he was able to establish the Global Sikaran Federation DBA, a Sikaran-Arnis Academy in California.
News of the new form of martial art spread, and soon he was meeting with Hollywood luminaries and Martial Arts experts such as Cynthia Rothrock, Jerry Fisher, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, and Eric Lee. He was awarded by the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame as the Sole King of Sikaran in 2004, and received a Presidential Active Lifestyle Award by George Bush in the same year. By 2008 he was inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame and awarded a Doctorate of Martial Arts.
Under his leadership, Global Sikaran has grown to be known in 13 countries, where, aside from the Philippine and the US, it now has headquarters in Canada, Australia, Algeria, Korea, Sri Lanka, India, Italy Mexico, Argentina, Burundi and Saudi Arabia. Instructions are done in Filipino, Hari proudly reveals.
He recently attended and was warmly received at the UNESCO Collective Consultation Meeting on the Preservation and the Promotion of Traditional Sports and Game (TSG). “I am pushing for Sikaran to be included in the Olympics,” he shares. He also dreams of it as being included in Filipino school curriculums and to be recognized as a National Sport.
Aside from Sikaran being an effective form of self-defense, Hari says that it teaches discipline that one can practice in everyday life. “We teach the values of honor, respect, loyalty, self-discipline, and dedication. Without these, we would not achieve success. As some train for glory, power and greed, we choose to promote humility, honor and dignity.”