GM Nap Fernandez
Yaw-Yan was officially established in 1972. It is a highly-aggressive and hard fighting style created by Napoleon “Nap” Fernandez, who was born in Quezon Province eight decades ago. He will turn 81 on Aug. 17.
His first self-defense teacher was his father, a magician by trade who not only taught his son the conjurer’s art but also the Japanese martial art of jiujitsu starting at the age of seven. His father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and pull rabbits out of hats but the martial-art bug bit him hard and his lifelong path has followed that route ever since, running away from home when he was 13.
Like the great Bruce Lee, one can call Fernandez an innovator and iconoclast.
He was not content to stop his martial arts study on jiujitsu. Older students of Yaw-Yan admit that they wore a gi in the dojo before and that they had karate lessons. Like its founder, Yaw-Yan has evolved to what it is now – an unpretentious economical system that teaches its adherents to hit and hit hard.
Hands, elbows, feet, knees are employed to strike. Whoever hits the fastest and the hardest wins. A favorite tool to help one do this is the Yaw-Yan hitting bag, the stuff of legend. Most martial arts styles use the Western boxing punching bag to accustom students to striking. Take the usual punching bag, take away the rope that suspends it from the ceiling, multiply its size 50-fold and you have the Yaw-Yan striking bag.
Even the most hardy of strikers will be shocked at first sight of the Yaw-Yan striking bag. This forces Yaw-Yan stylists to hit hard and accurately. The indentation on the side of the bag bears witness to the thousands of strikes it has received. If a person can do that to a huge stationary bag, imagine what that same person can do to a human being who weighs a 50th less.
It wasn’t uncommon until 10 years ago for martial-arts clubs to come uninvited and challenge other clubs for sparring sessions. Full-contact sparring sessions.
Yaw-Yan clubs had their fair share of these challenges and Yaw-Yan old-timers still brag of the free and humbling lessons they gave those intrepid adventurers.
Such a robust self-defense technique should come from an equally tough source. At 80, Fernandez still trains daily. Being a believer in good nutrition, preferring fruits and vegetables to meat, helps explain his health and longevity.
You might ask that the founder of a popular martial-arts system has gotten rich on his creation. The opposite is true. Even the BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) would attest to Fernandez’s humble finances. Schools all over the country bearing the Yaw-Yan imprint don’t exactly pay Fernandez royalties. He has granted full management of his school in Bulacan to somebody else.
With so many Yaw-Yan schools around, some that may even be called splinter groups, Fernandez decided to affix the Ardigma (Arnis Mandirigma) tag to the ones that have his imprimatur. By gathering diverse techniques from other martial arts and adding his own, Fernandez has created something unique to call his own that he shares with all those interested to learn it.
Fernandez is truly an artist. Not just a martial artist. He is also an illustrator and painter. He is both adept at destruction and creation. He can rearrange your face or render it on canvas. Take this sensible advice – go for the latter.