Many of the celebrated superstars in the constantly-evolving world of mixed martial arts have come from different martial arts backgrounds such as boxing, Muay Thai, wrestling and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
However, the extraordinary Chinese discipline of Wushu has given birth to many of the most talented athletes in the sport today, particularly in the Philippines, where its practitioners such as Eduard Folayang, Geje Eustaquio, Kevin Belingon and Rene Catalan smoothly transitioned to mixed martial arts.
Folayang has won several international Wushu tournaments, including a gold medal performance at the 2011 Southeast Asian Games, which he won with a flashy spinning back fist knockout in the finals.
The 34-year-old Baguio City native has also earned two gold medals at the same event in 2003 and 2005, a silver medal at the 2006 Doha Asian Games, and bronze medals at the 2002 Busan Asian Games and the 2005 World Wushu Championships.
After a successful Wushu stint, Folayang transitioned to mixed martial arts in 2007 and is now an 11-year veteran of the sport.
“Wushu is an excellent base to have as it has two of the three main important elements necessary for success in mixed martial arts,” said Folayang, who knocked out Japanese legend Shinya Aoki to become the ONE Lightweight World Champion in November 2016.
Wushu will be among the 40 sports that are set to be contested at the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia from 18 August to 2 September.
The Philippines is fielding 272 athletes for the quadrennial extravaganza, including eight representatives in the Wushu category that is composed of two disciplines: Taolu and Sanda.
Taolu involves martial art patterns, acrobatic movements and techniques for which competitors are judged and given points according to specific rules, while Sanda is a full-contact sport that appears much like kickboxing bouts.
Daniel Parantac seeks to capture the gold medal for the Philippines in the Asiad, competing in the men’s Taolu contest.
Parantac, who brought home silver at the aforementioned continental multi-sport spectacle four years ago, will be joined by Jones Llabres Inso, Thorton Quieney Lou Sayan and Agatha Chrystenzen Wong.
Meanwhile, Jean Claude Saclag will lead the Philippine’s Sanda national squad along with Francisco Solis, Clemente Tabugara Jr. and Divine Wally.
Despite going head-to-head with powerhouse nations such as China, Iran and South Korea, Folayang remains optimistic that the Philippines’ homegrown Wushu athletes are more than able to cop medals at the upcoming Asian Games.
“The chances to bring home medals are high. The country has already established an impressive track record in Wushu. We have been competing in the sport since 1990. I am confident that they will be able to hoist the country’s flag aloft on the Asian Games stage,” Folayang stated.
Catalan, who bagged the gold medal at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, believes that the Philippines should not be counted out in the competition.
“We cannot say or calculate. Once they are on the Wushu stage, anything can happen. Like in mixed martial arts, Wushu is a game of chance, wherein everyone has a chance and deserves a chance. We have done it before. I believe we can do it again,” Catalan expressed.
Currently ranked No. 9 in the region, the Philippines hopes to improve its 0-2-3 gold-silver-bronze production during the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.