I recently saw an old, good friend of mine, Sensei Robert Dosty. He is a Kyokushinkai and Danzan Ryu Jujitsu teacher here in Sacramento, and one of the first men I exchanged with when I arrived to California.
Something about Sensei Dosty: He is a big, BIG man. I guess he must be around 6’3″, and every bit of 350 lbs and is about a decade older than me, about early 50s. But something I must tell you; he moves like any young slim man. He can tumble, he is agile, and can do things like jump kicks and point fight. He reminds me of another old friend from the East Coast, Master Gerald Dawson. Both men do things they are not supposed to do, and it is because of the martial arts that they can do them. They are sort of my generation’s answer to the late, great Moses Powell. Dosty is also one of a few men I have asked to teach in my school before getting to know the combat side of his skill. His personality alone–and I rarely do this–spoke for the kind of martial artist he is. I believe our first open gym sparring session at my second location was when I realized that he was a good fighter and he did not disappoint.
So he and I ended up at a club together back in 2002. My school was providing security for several Reggae spots around town (I love good music) and he was the warrior in his group when stuff hit the fan, as I was the warrior of mine. We had a good laugh and I told him that I was planning to spar with a gentleman from South Sacramento who had beat me in a tournament. I wanted to try him again, but tournament season was over, so I had a date to spar him (in November outside) at a park near the college. Shocked, Dosty asked me why, and I went on a rant about developing my skills on superior fighters, yet the young man I fought wasn’t superior, just tricky, blah blah blah–and to that, Dosty interrupted, “Mustafa, isn’t it time to let go of the ‘warrior’ thing?”
He went on to say that at my age–I was about 33 at the time–it was time to wind down my sparring career and focus on teaching, perhaps the guy who beat me was just younger and in better shape, stuff like that. I disagreed, but at 2 a.m. in a lobby full of drunk Jamaicans it was no place for a serious conversation. We committed to continuing the conversation and never did.
Not long after, he had a death in his family and took about a 6 year hiatus from teaching. He’s back, and that conversation still has yet to take place. I would like to give you my thoughts on this subject.
First, I don’t believe that in the Filipino martial arts, we ever grow up from being “warriors”. I recall over the years, being surrounded by many men in their 50s and 60s who still size each other up, compare fighting skills through matches, have rivalries and grudges, and even spar in matches. For many of these old men, they passed up careers in favor of pursuing their martial arts–even choosing a life of near poverty in order to keep skills honed. I see nothing wrong with this, as we all must choose our path. Some of us aspire to teach, some aspire to become famous masters, some are satisfied casually teaching and practicing the art–and some aspire to prove their fighting superiority over everyone they encounter. While one person will opine that this is ego or arrogance, I define it as the mindset of a warrior. For what is a warrior but one who struggles for combat superiority, and endeavors to find out where he stands?
I am reminded of another such man who made it into his 60s proving his worth over and over and over and over. Guro Billy Bryant. I know of a man in his 80s who did this as well… Late Grandmaster Antonio Illustrisimo. I know of another man also in his 80s who does this in every new town he travels to: Grandmaster Cacoy Cañete. Each of these men are known for picking up a stick and asking to see what you’ve got. And hundreds, maybe thousands, have expressed amazement that these men still have the ability to defeat younger men. Guro Bryant had a second life many FMA practitioners do not know, as he hung in Karate circles as much as he did in FMA circles (which mostly did not overlap). In the Karate circles, Billy actively fought in tournaments, both point and semi-pro (contact) and emerged not just victorious, but dominant. It was not ego for them, I’m sure. Most likely, it was simply what they do. Some people play music all their lives, some shoot pool, these men enjoyed fighting matches. And I only knew Bryant, but he was very passionate about winning and losing. When he lost, it was a very loud dispute, and the vehicle ride home was often very quiet. See, Billy’s livelihood depended on wins and losses. If he lost, he could not pay his rent or eat. This is why I say it was not ego for him–it was his way of life, and I know many of you know very little about this. It was also the reason he was in tip top shape, and many other masters stayed in good shape and sought to remain superior. I believe that if Billy has any ego at all, it was through his FMA that he expressed it, but he is a warrior in every sense of the word. I do not doubt that GMs Cacoy and Ilustrisimo were no different. This is how they made their living and after a lifetime of fighting matches, you don’t just stop because your hair is falling out.
And when you lose, you are not expected to just “grow up” and take it like a man. I heard a fighter once say, “If you can handle losing calmly, you’ll never be a champion.” To be a winner, you must despise losing. We’re not talking fun and games; to the warrior a loss spells inability to pay bills, damage to one’s reputation, training time being wasted, even death. We are in the business of dominating another human being, and there is no retirement pay. So warriors, unlike other professions, never give up the warrior thing.
Yet I will admit to being somewhat of a sore loser. Yes, I have a temper. But I also have a short memory, so anything I do after losing is not personal; it’s just business. So part of my business requires me to retest after a failed test, to revise or strengthen what I do, and I am pretty passionate about winning and losing. My students who compete heavily know this (as do members of the audience), so in the same way I yell and scream during Redskin games, boxing matches, I will scream at my students in tournaments (another reason I stay home) and may occasionally argue with a referee, opponent, or ask for a rematch if I lose. Just call me a diehard competitor and fan, but deep down inside I am a warrior who never plans to retire.
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