It felt like a dream come true when I first heard that a Filipina character was joining the other Tekken martial artists. However, after looking her over, I couldn’t help but cock my head to the side in confusion.
Josie Rizal, whose name is an ode to the Philippine National Hero José Rizal, is a fighter specialized in Eskrima and Kick Boxing. My confusion first began with Josie’s name and, more importantly, who she was named after.
José Rizal is considered one of the greatest heroes of the Philippines and for anyone who is scratching the surface of Philippine history, he seems like a very good candidate to name the first Filipino Tekken character after. However, it is important to remember that Rizal was not known for violence but rather as a man who used his words to support a peaceful reformation of his motherland. Using his name as inspiration for a combat character makes Josie a walking paradox and has caused quite some controversy. Maybe naming her after the more militant Andrés Bonafacio, the “Father of the Philippine Revolution,” would be more fitting.
Next is her fighting style. For folks unfamiliar with the Philippine martial art, Eskrima is a fighting style that incorporates both hand-to-hand and weapon-based combat. Historically, Eskrima was practiced in secret amongst the commoner/peasant class, especially during Spanish colonization. It’s most popular form includes the arnis sticks–or “armor sticks”–made from bamboo. Some have commented that they would have liked to see Josie with this this key element.
The most debated aspect of Josie Rizal seems to be her costume design. Some point out that her clothing is no different from the dress of her other female counterparts, but others argue that her costume strays too far from traditional Filipino garb. For instance, her crop top seems to emulate the Japanese kimono with it’s bell sleeves and embroidery.
Aside from that, the costume tries very hard to showcase various aspects of Filipino culture– a lavish gold statement necklace that’s shaped into the iconic sun of the Filipino flag, sampaguita flowers that hang from the side of her hips, and even the colors of her costume (red, blue, white and yellow) which match the colors of the national flag. The critique? To some, her expensive accessories and even the material of her costume clash with the commoner/peasant fighting style.