I was over at MartialTalk and came across this discussion. The topic is whether or not the Filipino Martial Arts would become obsolete or insignificant because of the popularity of MMAs and other martial arts styles. According to the author, each style has its day and eventually end up being practiced by a small handful of people in backyard dojos scattered throughout the martial arts community. Think of how Karate and Kung Fu had their day in the 70s, ninjitsu had its day in the 80s and JKD/SEA had their time during the 90s. Right now, the thing to do is MMA and “reality-based” martial arts. Seems that traditional martial arts are “on their way out”…
But I don’t think so. Think about an obscure art, such as Kyudo–Japanese Archery. Most people don’t even know there is such a thing, let alone the idea that this is a martial arts style. But the International Kyudo Association has nearly 150,000 members, and it is estimated that there are 500,000 Kyudo students around the world. Obscure? Probably. But dead? I don’t think so, epecially for a fighting art that has been around since 500 BC. They aren’t going anywhere, despite the fact that you can’t learn this art by video or at your local McDojo.
So, why do people worry that martial arts die away? It had long been thought, since the 70s, that the Filipino arts in the Philippines had long been dead. Just because we don’t see styles taught to the masses, don’t believe for a second that there is something wrong. An individual style can die out, especially if the Master of that style had not designated teacher to propogate the system, but I don’t believe that an entire genre of the martial arts will become extinct. It is my opinion that many martial artists here in the West look at the martial arts from a Western point of view. That if there are no buildings that house groups, that if no one is making money from the style, that if the art is nonexistent in the media, that no DVDs are being sold teaching the art–that this style will die.
My grandfather left behind only family members who are trying to further his art, with the exception of a few students I do not know. But through me and my siblings, a few people will carry forward the teachings. My Kung Fu teacher had only a handful of students teaching at the time of this death. But Jow Ga is more widespread now than it was, 25 years ago when he died. Only in the last decade did you ever find Jow Ga schools that had more than 50 students. Most people had not heard of any of these styles 20 years ago, but today, there are thousands who not only know of these arts, but have actually studied them.
Whether they are being taught in backyard, garages, community centers, or commercial spaces, an art will live on as long as people teach them. The late Grandmaster Vince Tinga, who taught Shorinji Kempo and Jidokwan (later renamed “Minahune Karatedo“), hadn’t owned a school for nearly 20 years when I met him in 1999. He only had fewer than 10 students, and he taught them from his home and in friends’ schools. But when he died in 2007, he had possibly hundreds of students, through a network of groups spread throughout Northern California.
Not to mention that the arts being taught in these small groups will change lives in so many more ways than some fly-by-night seminar program; I would advise strongly against discounting the significance of a martial arts style by the number of practioners that know it. Most people who take on a mass-produced martial arts system will not only quit within a year, but they will neither excel at that art nor will they even remember the art 10 years later. This is rarely the case with systems taught in small groups.
Speaking of Grandmaster Vince Tinga, I was with him years ago at a tournament when he re-introduced me to a very rude and arrogant teacher I had actually met months earlier (by the way, that meeting didn’t go well either), and I was competing that day. When we got onto the subject of Filipino arts, this gentleman asked me who my teachers were, and I named Yun Gatdula, Ernesto Presas, Dean Chin, and Boggs Lao. He smirked and said that he had never heard of them, and Uncle Vince snapped back that they had never heard of him. It was a great comeback (I’d actually used it many times after that myself, it’s now part of my lingo), but I was still hot. So I asked him if he would be fighting that day–I knew he wasn’t, but he and I were about the same size–and he said he wasn’t. I told him that if he went one round with me, I guarantee him that he will never forget me.
So much for the significance of styles and teachers; he kisses my behind every time I see him, but for some strange reason I keep forgetting his name…
Never forget that regardless of how popular an art is, the proof is in the pummeling. Thanks for visiting my blog.