Do Martial Arts Styles Die?

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.


Author: thekuntawman

full time martial arts teacher, full time martial arts philosopher, and full time martial arts critic

5 thoughts on “Do Martial Arts Styles Die?”

  1. Hello, my name is Lawrence . I’m so moved finding this on google. If you can email me, I’d like for us to get to know each other. I’ve practiced under the late Grandmaster Tinga. My brother Vincent opened up his Dojo in Modesto, CA and named it Shorin-Ji Karate Do . I have assisted in his classes once in a while due to my work was a 70 miles away . My brother and his students attended many Tournaments in California . I attended one and took home one Trophy (2nd place Black belt division 40’s age group which I was at the time ) . All the tournaments they have attended was of course authorized and known by our Grandmaster, in which he was also there most of the time doing the ‘Referre’ , along with my brother Sensei Vince . After a while everybody moved on, and so did I, now here in another State . And my brother also have stopped from teaching as we both approach the old age ! I’m now 62 and semi-retired from my Job. I’d like to mention one of our Co-black belts to name one was Alan Gayo ! Along with other named Louie . Heading for retirement could be in the Philippines because that’s the only place that I know where I can retire with my few dollars retirement pension . I’m thinking of perhaps also opening a school over there ! But being older now and afflicted with Type 2 diabetis, I’d perhaps find somebody that already knows Martial arts, then I can show him our Style and to blend in with his . In this way, our Style would not just disappear and go in vain . In this way, it will keep it alive and until the next Centuries to come . Thank you for reading my email/message. My email address is ‘ ‘ . God bless ! Respectfully, Lawrence

  2. Hello all it’s me , Kancho Rudy H. Torres , Grand Master Tingas’ last and to the best of our knowledge his only 6th Dan under him. I am pleased to see some current activity in his name and honor. I am currently training in Stockton California and soon to be back in the Sacramento area once again. If anyone would like to join me in making our Grand Masters wishes come true , Please don’ t hesitate to contact me direct, you may reach me at 209-275-2716 or, or on face book Torres Dojo T.E.K. , Grand Master Tinga had many lessons and stories to tell , only the closest got the rare and raw ones , it would be great to share them. He also wanted Dr. Daniels , Professor Ponde , and myself to come together some day, with any luck , I hope this reaches them.

  3. Found you while looking for information about Master Vince Tinga. LOVED the article, and any information you can share about him would be greatly appreciated.

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