Kick Connection's tournament and demonstration team will help stage a sequel to the "Thrilla in Manila" this weekend when it represents the United States in the second annual World Eskrima, Kali, Arnis Federation Championships in Vito Cruz, Manila.
The Rizal Memorial Coliseum, site of the three-day tournament, is expected to attract more than 300 competitors from 30 countries who will go for the gold in thePhilippines' national martial art of arnis -- better known as "stickfighting."
Nine members of the Pasadena-based stick fighting academy enduredthe 20-hour flight to the Philippine island of Luzon earlier this week not only to compete in the international event, but to experience the culture and serve as missionaries to a nation devastated by natural disasters.
The team will visit with the victims of the volcaniceruption at Mount Pinutubo and the survivors of the typhoon in Oramoc City. As goodwill ambassadors from the United States, they will distribute money, clothing and medical supplies that they collected locally.
"I would like my students to get something out of this tournament other than the competition," said Carlos Patalinghug Jr., a Brooklyn resident whose family moved to the United States from Cebu City in the Philippines 20 years ago. "If they do well, good, and if they don't, fine, but to be able to experience something like this, that'sthe most important thing.
"I would like for them to really experience a Third World country and see how they live. When you go away and and come back, that's when you really appreciate what you have. I would like them to experience the hardship there."
All the athletesqualified for the world competition through their performances at regional competitions.
Three of Kick Connection's most promising young stick fighters earned the opportunity to compete for a world titlefollowing their success in last year's second annual North American Arnis Championships in Baltimore.
Severn resident Joy Bridges captured the North American regional sparring title in the women's 18-and-over division and now is seeking a world title.
"Once I'm there (in Manila) and size up my competition, no problem, I'm ready to go for it. But until I see who I have to fight, I stay nervous the entire time," said Bridges, a 1984 graduate of Old Mill.
"It will be a challenge, a big challenge." Jemmie Almuete of Glen Burnie took first in sparring and will compete in super heavyweight fighting.
"All the training I've been doing is taking its toll on my body and I just want to get it over with," said Almuete, 24, a graduate of Old Mill and a native of the Philippines. "It's going to be rough, but I just want to win at least the first match. If I can do that, I'll be happy."
Chris Sawyer, 18, a Pasadena resident and a recent graduate of Chesapeake High, captured the men's heavyweight and double stick fighting titles in Baltimore and is ready to contend against the world's best in both events.
"I just want to compete to the best of my ability," said Sawyer. "I'll go into each fight optimistic, plan my strategy and then pray for help."
Kick Connection's squad had many of its prayers answered last June when it captured eight regional titles at the East Coast Championships in Staten Island, N.Y.
Dr. Carlos Patalinghug Sr., 55, a medical internist and president of the East Coast chapter of the World Eskrima, Kali, Arnis Federation, captured first in the senior forms competition and is seeking a world title.
Michelle Brown, 13, of Glendale captured two regional titles in forms and sparring at the East Coast Championships and is slated to competein the girls advanced fight and children's single stick forms in Manila.
Erin McKay, an eighth-grader at Chesapeake Bay Middle, was runner-up to Brown in both sparring and forms and is expected to compete in the girls advanced fighting.
Leo Patalinghug, an assistant instructor at the 3-year-old academy, is the East Coast and Midwestern open forms champion. He will be competing in bantamweight fighting and men's open forms.
"I'm excited about the competition, but the most important thing to me is gaining touch with my heritage and the mission work we'll be doing," he said, noting that the team will be working with the Association of Philippine Physicians in America. "Whatever we can do to help the people, we'll do it. If it means getting dirty and digging out some things, we're going to do that, too."
Shane Bosworth, 13, of Glen Burnie took first in forms in the West CoastArnis Regional Tournament and will compete in the children's fighting and children's double stick forms.
"I'm excited and happy that they welcomed me and said that I could compete there," said Bosworth, an eighth-grader at Marley Middle School. "It's a great honor."
The junior Patalinghug, chief instructor at the Kick Connection, will compete in super lightweight fighting and men's forms after taking first in sparring at the Midwest regional qualifier last year in Wisconsin. He, too, relishes the opportunity to compete, but views the tournament as a chance to showcase the art globally.
"It's the martial art of the '90s, and it's really growing," he said, hoping the International Olympic Committee will consider making the art an exhibition sport in the 1996 Olympic Games in Madrid, Spain.
"A lot of countries are getting involved and it's spreading like wildfire. Our goal is to show the world that Americans are serious about the sport and serious about promoting it. We want to show them that the United Statesis on top of things."