MMA Gym Review: Yaw-Yan Buhawi

Yaw-yan Buhawi

Yaw-yan Buhawi has an authentic Pinoy fighting style and one of the deadliest in the world.

MMA is booming across the globe, and the Philippines has certainly caught the MMA wave. While MMA in the United States is dominated by Muay Thai strikers, boxers, wrestlers and BJJ practitioners, one art stands out in the Manila fight scene: Yaw-yan.

Seeing Yaw-yan fighters slug it out and dominate top-level MMA competition in the Ultimate Reality Combat Championship (URCC) is very common sight. However, despite the success of Yaw-yan practitioners in the URCC, many Filipinos remain alien to this authentic (and deadly) Pinoy fighting style.

Yaw-yan derived its name from the last syllables of Sayaw ng Kamatayan (Dance of Death) and was founded by All-Asian and Far-East kickboxing champion, Grand Master Napoleon Fernandez in the 1970’s. This art practices more than 70 different kicks and 8-limb striking, making use of the legs, knees, fists and elbows. Yaw-yan has often been said to resemble Muay Thai, when in fact, the two have a number of subtle differences.

First of all, Yaw-yan kicks have a unique downward slicing and hip-torquing movement. Secondly, Muay Thai concerns itself greatly with striking from within the clinch while Yaw-yan practices many kicks that can be launched from long distance. The two fighting styles also differ in blocking and defensive techniques.

One of the most intriguing things about this deadly art is its incorporation of techniques from other disciplines like BJJ, wrestling, Capoiera, and Taekwondo. It even teaches knife and stick fighting, including self-defense techniques that can be used in real-life confrontations. After training in this martial art, you’ll soon come to realize that saying that Yaw-yan is “deadly” is a gross understatement.

With gyms across the country (Cubao, Manila, Cebu, etc.) and in the States, Yaw-yan is sure to only get bigger. I’ve trained at Yaw-yan Buhawi in Marikina, and the training there is top-notch. And the gym isn’t called Buhawi (tornado) just because it sounds cool; it’s because the spinning kicks and punches of their fighters are fast, really fast.

Led by kickboxing champion Master Rey Yap, the program at Buhawi is intense and not for the faint at heart. Beginners need not worry though because the training is doable and I’m sure that anybody could appreciate that extra push in the gym. The atmosphere in the gym is great, with die-hard and fun-loving students. The gym is a bit small but it’s sufficient, and it provides top-quality gloves, shin pads, and other gear for students who don’t have their own. In addition to that, the grappling techniques they teach are also very impressive. Being in Yaw-yan Buhawi is like being in a brotherhood or a family, where you’re on equal footing with both first-timers and professional fighters like Alvin Ramirez and former URCC lightweight champ Carl Sabeniano.

This gym is open to both men and women, and even has a kick-ass kids program during the summer. I really suggest that everybody try Yaw-yan, whether you’re a local or a foreigner, whether you’re looking to lose weight or compete professionally. Yaw-yan is deadly, fun, and one that is our own. Give it a go, you won’t regret it.

Gab Pangalangan

Gab Pangalangan is a former collegiate national Judo champ and the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of You can find his other works in the Philippines' leading magazines and websites.
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