Martial artist. Champion. Black belt. Advocate. Mutant. Ninja. Turtle.
Shishir Inocalla has them all on his impressive resumé.
At 68, the Vancouver-based actor is long removed from his teenage years but only in age, not in spirit. Inocalla has played the role of Michaelangelo (Mike/Mikey) in the wildly popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles TV series and movies since 1992.
Born in Bicol, Philippines, Inocalla brought his costume and his martial art skills to enthusiastic Vernon students at Kees Tae Kwon Do Monday, Oct. 24, demonstrating the Philippines’ national sport, Arnis, which looks like stick fighting (Michaelangelo, the mutant turtle, is highly proficient with nunchuks).
Arnis, though, is a comprehensive system that combines hard- and soft-style karate, tai chi, yoga, meditation and self-defence. Inocalla is a master of the sport with more than 30 years experience.
“I am an advocate for Sport Arnis,” he said, holding an original Filipino nunchuk that he used as Michaelangelo in a TMNT movie. “I travel worldwide advocating for the sport.”
Innocalla loves kids and working with children. He has adopted an entire tribe of kids in the Philippines and started a school there. But the beauty of Arnis, he said, is it’s a sport for everybody.
“When I work with kids and give them the sticks, they pound each other and that’s where Michaelangelo comes in as I’m able to talk to them in character about how to use them properly,” smiled Innocalla. “It’s also protection for women. The stick can be used for self-defence. You can use it for stretching. I’m teaching golf lessons with it. It’s universal.”
Inocalla is a former Canadian-U.S. light and heavyweight champ, having won more than 50 titles in fighting and forms. Retired from competition with a fifth degree black belt in karate, he is a certified instruction and Datu (Chief) in Arnis, and an instructor in Tai ChiQuigong. He also studied judo, jiu-jitsu, aikido and kickboxing.
He went to Hollywood, he said, “to become an action star” but that dream never materialized. He has appeared on McGyver and 21 Jump Street, acted in the movie The Process and was a stunt double for Jessica Alba. He had returned home to Vancouver when Inocalla got a call to audition for Michaelangelo a second time.
“I never thought I’d win (the part),” he said. “I auditioned in L.A., Toronto, New York and I was the last guy they called in Vancouver.”