February 21, 2024

HER SIDE OF THE COURT | From jiu-jitsu to kun bukator: 4 Pinay martial artists who struck gold in the 2023 SEA Games

HER SIDE OF THE COURT | From jiu-jitsu to kun bukator: 4 Pinay martial artists who struck gold in the 2023 SEA Games
Art by Royce Nicdao

The 2023 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Cambodia saw Filipina martial artists shine, with several of them bringing home gold medals in their respective sports. From jiu-jitsu to kun bokator, these powerful Pinays have proven that they have what it takes to excel.

Here are four Pinay martial artists who deserve a bigger spotlight for their outstanding performances in the 2023 SEA Games:

Kaila Napolis and Annie Ramirez (Jiu-Jitsu)

Kaila Napolis won the Philippines' first gold medal for Team Philippines in this year's SEA Games, defeating Cambodian-Mexican Jessa Khan in the ne-waza Gi 52-kilogram class.

The victory was made sweeter with the taste of redemption. Napolis had previously lost the gold medal to Khan in the 2019 SEA Games held in Manila, but this year, it was Napolis’ turn to beat her rival in her own home court.

Then, Annie Ramirez, a former judo athlete who switched to jiu-jitsu nearly a decade ago, defeated Vietnam’s Thi Thuong Le via knee bar to win the women’s ne-waza No Gi 57-kilogram event. This is Ramirez’ third straight gold medal in the SEA Games.

Sakura Alforte (Karate, women's individual kata)

The 20-year-old Filipina-Japanese athlete Sakura Alforte beat defending SEA Games champion Phuong Nguyen of Vietnam in the women's individual kata event. This marks the most recent accomplishment for Alforte, on the heels of gold medals in the Karate 1 Youth League A in Coruna, Spain; and the Southeast Asian Championship in Manila.

With her impressive performances, Alforte moves closer to her goal of competing in the Asian Games.

Angel Gwen Derla (Kun bokator, women's bamboo shield form)

The average Filipino might be wondering, “What is kun bokator?” Indeed, the sport isn’t well-known in the Philippines, but kun bokator is a Cambodian martial art that’s considered to be one of the oldest existing fighting systems. With a name that literally translates to 'to pound a lion,’ kun bokator is thought to have begun 1700 years ago on the battlefields of the ancient Khmer Empire.

Which makes it even more impressive that In the women's bamboo shield form event, SEA Games first-timer Angel Gwen Derla defeated Cambodia’s own Chanchhorvy Puth to win the gold medal!

These Pinay martial artists may not yet be as well-known as some of the athletes in more popular sports, but they’ve proven that they have what it takes to win big and bring honor to the country in their respective disciplines. Let's celebrate and highlight their achievements, and watch out for them in future competitions as they continue to showcase the talent and determination of Filipino athletes.