Is it necessary to travel to the Philippines to become a Master of the FMAs?

This post was taken from a series of emails to the Eskrima Digest, answering the question above, possibly a pointed question. We did not edit this post from the original emails…. Enjoy!

i dont know how many times i saw this question, can you be a master of the art and you do not go to the philippines.
not because you must have the philippines to learn the art or to know how to fight. you can be a teacher of the art and never go. but you cannot be a true MASTER of the art if you do not go. why? because its like a woman. you say you love her, but you refuse to meet her parents, you refuse to visit her hometown in her country, you dont eat her cultures food, but you say you love her. but the next guy? he wants to know her parents to find out more about her. he learns to talk to her in her language. he can cook her country’s food, and he is not afraid to try “new food”. one guy says, i marry you, not your family. the other one ask her parents to stay with them for the summer (even if he doesnt like there habits). which one loves her more? you answer that question to yourself. no, ask your wife what she thinks.
if you are a FMA teacher, and you have no desire to go to the philippines, you would be nothing more than a guy who teaches people how to swing sticks around. i will even say either you are afraid of what you read about filipino FMA people, or you are so selfish you are only looking to see what you can benefit from the art. maybe even arrogant that there is nothing good over there you can learn (all the best masters are here).
one of the things, is, you have to uderstand there is a difference between a teacher and a MASTER. too many teachers throw the word master around, like, oh i got x many tapes and advertisements, i been doing the art 10, 15 years, i am a master. most of them, begin calling himself a master before everyone else, they put it in their ads, and businesscards, or they beg some old master to “certify” them master. so feelings get hurt when people say, your no master.
a master of the art really only goes one way–when the martial arts community sees you as a master. it does not matter what you call yourself if the others do not see you as a master, your not one, only in your own school (if you have one). i you are 45 years old with a set of videos, and a bunch of paper, but people still doubt your skill, guess what your not one.
so why go to the philippines? because there, not just anyone can call himself a master there and get away with it. i believe, this is why many US FMA people do not go to the philippines, too much to prove. so the excuses begin.

a real master, is one who lives and breathes the art. i been doing this my whole life and i’m not even 40 yet, but i do not call myself master even thoug its been 30 years for me, maybe not until i am 60. but you see, a real master also does not dream of becoming one it just comes. but can you become a master of an art you do not love like the woman in the beginning of this email? not at all.

After a few emotional responses from digest members, and a private email from a well-known New York-based teacher, Guro posted the following email. I’m positive he was pretty hot–we won’t post what was sent to him, but it was very offensive, and I’m told that this Master had once attended a seminar Guro taught when he was in his early 20s:

i can tell from the comments exactly why there is a difference of opinions about this subject. excuse me now, because some people are going to be offended.
the idea, that you can become a master without going to the philippines, shows the same understanding of a guy who says you can become an expert of the fighting arts, without fighting. this is the thinking of beginners, or those with very little knowledge of the arts.
first we have to understand what makes somebody a master and what makes someone an expert, or we will never agree on this subject. (but of course, we dont have to agree on everything right?)
there is a HUGE difference between, what is advance practioner (fighter) of the art, and what is an expert / what is an expert of the art, and what is a qualified teacher / and what is a teacher of the art, and what is a MASTER of the art.
this, is why i say, you must go to the philippines if you want to be more than just “another guy with a stick”. the comments i read, are embarassing, you should hope one day they get deleted. the idea, that all that matters is, can you fight? of course that is not all that matters, unless you never want to become any more than a fighter. even the expert knows you need more understanding than that, which is what is a fighter, vs. what is an expert—it is his understanding of the art. a fool with a stick can break heads. he might be able to break the heads of most people, he is nothing more than a fighter. when he counters a younger, stronger, bigger man with a bigger stick, he has no option because his level of understanding in the art is low. here, i am not talking concept, or even amount of technicques you know. i am talking about knowing and the ability to carry that out, whatever it is you can do when you are outclassed physical ability. this is what the difference between the fighter, and the expert is. one knows how to fight. the other is an expert at fighting. notice i am not talking drills and concept. drills and concept, is for the beginner, who is not ready to fight.
fighting, then, is the next level up from the concepts/theory/drill approach. why? because fighting is the application of those concepts. it isnt easy and it takes more skill and practice to make them happen.
experts is the next level up from the fighter, because he has to learn to change his plan and beat the person with better skills (the fighter). this is not easy, and you cant learn to this level in a seminar. there are very few people who learned in seminars, who call himself an expert, who really is an expert.
next level from the expert, is the teacher, who has used his expertise so much, he been there, done that. his fighting career by this time, is over. he teaches more than “just technique”, he teaches from experience. EXPERIENCE is a big word, which people throw around too much, like EXPERT, and MASTER. experience is USING what you KNOW. so, dakilang guro so and so is “experienced”. experienced, doing what? teaching seminars? doing drills? no, the experience of a teacher is in the art/skill he says he is an expert in, which for us, is fighting. i read somebody say, fighting with rules/sparring/tournament is not “realistic” enough. what is, fighting in the street? fighting in a bar? fighting to death? how much of that did you done? the teacher has had a whole career of sparring and developing his path, not in front of a video camera and some students showing his ideas. he has had hundreds maybe thousands of opponents in front of him, who want to show that he is not very good and his art dont work, all to the point that he can teach from his experience proven, not theories, to his student.
so, any teacher who is against sparring, or against tournament, cannot be a qualified teacher of anything other than drills, but not fighting arts, because he has no experience in fighting. a good test of who is qualified? challenge him on his ability and his knowledge. if he gets mad, he cant be good, and he cant have experience fighting. see fighters, feelings dont get hurt easy, only the people who sit around worry about it. any fighter knows this. a teacher should have been challenged so many times, he is not afraid of it. another reason to go to the philippines.
(oh, and dont tell me about rock newman and steve hernandez, and others. yes, they are trainers, but one champion out of hundreds means nothing. the best trainers have been to “the show” many times. how many times have you brought somebody to “the show”?)
many people think all you need is a black belt / certificate and youre a teacher. not true. if that’s a case, then i can take my high school diploma and get me a job teaching school!
so now, we are at the master. what is the difference between a master and a teacher? why do you have to go to the philippines to be a master?
if you have to ask, you are not a master. take that word off your website.
And the final say on this subject:

you dont need to go to the moon to enjoy astronomy. but if you dont go into space, you’re no astronaut. really, if you think listening to rap music makes you a rapper, i already understand your problem. btw, suburban kids who like rap music and there not from the “hood”, everyone knows he’s not from the hood and he looks like a fool. just like 40 year old americans who calls themself “master” saying “i dont need to go to the philippines. i’m already a master”. yeah, right.

i know my last post was long, i dont like long posts, so i want to say it shorter.
there is a difference between a person who knows the art, some one who is an expert in the art, someone who is qualified to teach the art, and a master. some of you are confusing all four words.
1. you “know” the art – you can swing a stick, maybe you can swing with power and you know lots of different ways to swing it.
2. you are “expert” – you can fight with the stick to a very high level. not “know” ways to fight. you can actually fight, and you are very good at fighting, so good physical ability alone cannot beat you.
3. you are qualified to be a teacher – you fought so much, been doing the art so long, you can teach a student EVERYTHING about using this art. you cannot be a teacher unless you have your own experiences.
4. master – this is a secret. but heres a hint. people begin to call you master FIRST. this is not a level you get on paper, it is not something you call youself. there is such a big world between teacher and master, there is no reason to ask what they are.
some people are very quick to strap on the words you use to describe yourself, that they see no difference between a beginner and advanced, between a fighter and expert, between an expert and a teacher, between a teacher and a master. they sound like a 17 years old kid with a 1st degree black belt after 2 years, who calls himself, “expert”.
or worse, the 45 year old teacher of that kid, who calls himself “master”.oos!
*** Something I noticed. If you look at the threads Master Gatdula posts in, often the last comment in a thread will be his. I think this is significant. ***