“Secrets” of the Filipino Fighting Arts
Words from a Modern-Day Warrior

Leave Mastership to the Masters

TheKuntawMan:

In your posts you make a strong case for reasons to study the FMAs full-time. Unfortunately, I cannot make this commitment, as my career requires long hours and the schedule is so sporadic that I cannot commit to any more than occasional teaching. I do have a few students and my group is ever-growing. I supplement my learning with seminar training-but only with the best-video (I know! I know!) research, and yes, I do cruise youtube for “neat tricks”, but mostly for training tips.
My question to you is would you or other Filipino-based teachers ever view me as an equal? Or what would I have to do in order to become a master in your eyes? I am only asking because while I don’t agree with every line of every article, I do value your opinion about the martial arts. I also happen to know that while some of my counterparts will argue against your blog and your views–they know that you are the real deal and many of them even use your ideas. And like you or not, we ALL read your blog because it is informative. If you have the time, please respond, because I am curious about your thoughts on this.

Ps, if you write an article about this subject, please do not use my name. Thank you.

I appreciate the compliments, but I’m afraid I might have to deliver more disliked news.

When a martial artists says, I would like to be a master, but I don’t have time to pursue the education and experience because I am a lawyer/doctor/teacher/etc., what they are doing is actually choosing another path over the martial arts. No criticism here… not everyone is going to be a career martial artist. It’s like me saying, I work at McDonald’s but in my spare time I study law books–and although I am never going to go to law school, in time I expect to be a lawyer…

And even if the guy at McDonald’s attends law school part time and gets his degree, it is a rare thing–a very rare thing indeed–for him to be equal with a lawyer who studied full-time and did nothing else but.

The martial arts is a pastime. Teaching the martial arts can be an occupation. But Mastery of the martial arts is neither a pastime or an occupation; it is a calling and not everyone who wants it is cut out for it. And not everyone who wants it is willing to do what is needed to pursue it. Yet the road to martial arts mastery is very simple:

  1. study the art full-time
  2. have a career of competing/applying your arts against opponents… an entire career
  3. teach the art full-time
  4. have a career of teaching, researching and training others who are in step two of the road, and
  5. be recognized as not just a practitioner, not just a teacher, but a Master of the art by those around you.

So, my point is this. There are some–whether by default or choice–who do the martial arts full-time. They are the ones who will put in enough time to study, research and experiment with the art to gain the level of understanding and proficiency to call oneself a master. You must make the decision to do this. If you choose to place martial arts in the position held by hobbies and pastimes, you will not be able to put forth the time and effort to achieve that level.

And Mastery is not the end of a 4 year journey or a level one can reach in a martial arts curriculum. It is the by-product of committing yourself to a life of being a martial artist. We do not undertake the journey saying, “I’m studying to be a martial arts master.” Yet that is how many people treat the martial arts. I have seen schools certify people as Masters!

Think about this… Ever called a guy you know a “smart guy”? Did he go to school to be a smart guy? Was there a level at school to achieve in order to be considered a smart guy? Who certifies these “smart guys”?

Yup, it’s kind of like that. 😉

So, seniority in the art–due to rank, skill or time-in-grade–can get one called a Master, if Mastership is a technical thing. But true mastery of the art is a very informal thing… it is something that everyone around you knows who you are without being introduced that way after experiencing what you know or can do. I always say that when a master is in the room, everyone knows who he is. So to answer the question, can you be called a master although you do not practice the art full-time? Yes. You can. You can be called anything you want. But if you want people to render you the respect of the masters, that is something that no one can answer for you. It is something that is answered later in your years and martial arts career, and it is earned by what you put into your martial arts journey, and the “certificate” you carry is evident in everything you do and say, and how people perceive you and your knowledge.

But you must make a decision, of which path you will take to mastery, and whether you will have everything that comes with mastery, or will you simply be called “Master”.

Thanks for visiting my blog.

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3 Responses to “Leave Mastership to the Masters”

  1. Very ,very well said my friend. Too many claim the title of master when indeed it is a title given by others. A recognition for time and energy spent perfecting your skill and your craft.

  2. >>I always say that when a master is in the room, everyone knows who he is. <<
    No, not all the time. I was at a gathering once where different individuals were teaching and observed two things:

    (1) This group of "experienced" martial artists mistook an individual to be a grandmaster, when in fact he wasn't even master level and actually a poor instructor at that.

    (2) This same group completely ignored a quiet old man sitting by himself, who in fact was the teacher of one of the legitimate grandmasters there.

    This was not a biased observation. I had no student-instructor relationship with any of them.

  3. Even masters make mistakes. Years ago, a martial arts practitioner with master level fighting skills told me of his visit to Japan. After his performance, which was very well received, a very friendly, hamless looking old man tried several times to strike up a conversation with him; but the young master sized him up and ignored him. Only after leaving Japan did he find out that the old man he ignored was the legendary Gogen “The Cat” Yamaguchi!!


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