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What is a Datu… Not again?

Once more, my ‘Datu’ title is under attack, this time by a faceless Instagram critic, chevroletallday6161. Honestly, I couldn’t care less about what anyone thinks of my title. What I won’t tolerate is mockery of a meaningful Christmas gift—a license plate reading “DATU 1″—especially when it hurts someone close to me. This coward had every chance to confront me in person or pick any of my other public posts. But no, they chose a cheap, anonymous jab.

chevroletallday6161 wrote:

“If you are a Datu aka (chief) in the Filipino arts, do you even work with the Filipino community in your area? Do you cook or eat Filipino food? Speak Tagalog? You can’t call yourself Datu if you don’t know the cultural basics. I disagree with your Datu title.”

Well, I’ve already replied to this on Instagram, but I’m addressing it here too, for anyone else who might be wondering. Let’s break this down:

  • Working with the Filipino community?

Absolutely. I’ve been actively involved with the Filipino community in Western New York and the Toronto area since the 90s. In Buffalo, I’ve mentored countless students in Arnis, helping them connect with their roots. I’ve collaborated with the Filipino student association at the University of Buffalo. In Toronto, I was the sole American invited to perform at the Filipino Independence Day celebration.

  • Cooking and eating Filipino food?

What does that have to do with being a leader? Nonetheless, Filipino cuisine is a significant part of my life. I regularly cook and enjoy dishes like adobo, longanisa, and pancit.

  • Speaking Tagalog?

I’m not fluent, but I understand and speak some Tagalog—or Taglish, to be precise. I ensure my students learn commands, counting, colors, body parts, and other terms in Filipino languages.

  • The ‘Datu’ title?

This is where everyone gets it twisted. I didn’t self-appoint; the late Grandmaster Remy Amador Presas bestowed the title on me, among six individuals. Presas played a crucial role in reviving Filipino martial arts. Those who had issues with his decision should’ve confronted him, not cowardly complain now. If you’re too young to know, do your research before spouting nonsense.

Further, under Presas’ tutelage, I ran the only successful full-time professional Modern Arnis school. I’ve produced more black belts than any other instructor, taught in numerous countries, and even brought Arnis to places it had never been, like Iceland. I’ve also taught extensively in the Philippines, the heartland of Arnis.

Regarding the term ‘Datu’—it’s simply Filipino for ‘tribal leader,’ used widely in various contexts. If you’re hung up on my skin color, consider this: I’ve seen more interest in Arnis abroad than in the Philippines, where it’s often overshadowed by other pastimes.

So, should I use the title? I honor my teacher’s wishes, respecting the legacy and responsibility he entrusted to me. I continue his work, expanding his teachings worldwide.

And finally, to the instigator of this whole mess: I’m addressing this because you mocked a precious gift from someone I care deeply about. Attack me all you want; I can take it. But drag my friends, family, or loved ones into it, and you’ve crossed a line. They are off-limits, as should be anyone’s loved ones.


Tim Hartman
CEO, World Modern Arnis Alliance
Datu of Modern Arnis

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