This article is written for two groups of people:
- Martial Arts “Groupies”
- Martial Arts Royalty
The rest of us, just sit back and read…
In the martial arts, we have martial arts “royalty”. You know what I mean–those who’s claim to fame is that they are related to some famous master, or happened to be in the company of a famous master during his lifetime either as a student, as a business associate or hanger-on. So years after this guy is gone–or worse, immediately after that master’s death–out they come with some martial arts titles or secrets that the master imparted right before dying.
By the way, I typed the word “master” in lower caps for a reason. No disrespect intended.
We must be careful in doing this. Thing about the martial arts, especially Filipino martial arts, is that titles and rank mean little while skill and knowledge mean everything. We don’t really have 9th degree Black Belters in the way that Japanese and Korean arts do. Where we have it, this is a recent innovation. But historically, respect in the Filipino art lies completely in the hands of the man (or woman) in question. Your last name is not as important as your ability, although there are many who believe that familial ties or lineage automatically guarantees skill and knowledge. Or, as some would call it: authenticity. I once had a conversation with an Eskrimador who laughed at the long stick style called “Tapado”, saying that the art had no history, the word didn’t even mean anything, and he had never heard of Tapado other than what he’d read about on the internet and a few youtube clips. Well, I only know a few Tapado strikes, and let me tell you, not only could I–not worthy of being called a Tapado beginner–disarm, crash through, kick ass… I could KILL this guy with my limited knowledge of Tapado–and he couldn’t do a damned thing about it. So I demonstrated the first strike for him, and asked if he would like to test my completely limited knowledge of the style (by the way, my cousin is a Tapado master and we were 10 minutes from his home if he needed an expert opinion). Naturally, he declined. Now, how’s that for authenticity?
In the FMA the primary concerns are function and truth. And if your art is functional enough to beat most comers, it’s pretty darned true as a fighting form. A guy could call his art “White Fu Do”, and if the art was functional and tested, it’s a real martial arts style. If you want to argue history, then do that. But let’s not get lost in silly stuff when talking apples and oranges.
So, excuse me if I don’t lick your boots just because your Dad gets monthly write ups in Black Belt Magazine; where I come from, your Dad may be a King but you’re just another man. And if your Dad was a King and you don’t carry yourself like royalty and are unworthy of carrying his jock strap, then you’re even more of a disappointment. No offense.
I recently encountered the son of a Grandmaster, and he looked like crap. I would have guessed him to be a beginner in the art, but he walked and talked like he was hot stuff so I figured something was up. Then he introduced himself, and asked if I had heard of his father. Of course, I asked if he had heard of me. He said my name sounded familiar, I told him to ask his father who I was. Then a week later, when I came back to the school to have coffee with his father, the young man was humble and respectful. While we waited, he handed me a stick and asked me to give him some advice on sparring. That’s more like it.
See, the guy on the street couldn’t care less if you were martial arts royalty. In fact, there are some who would go out of their way to fight you because you’re supposedly a Prince. If you’re going to write a check with your father’s name on it, you better have enough money in your ass to cash it.
At the same time, if you are around martial arts royalty, and you care about the old Master, share what knowledge you have to make sure to protect his good name. I have seen some try and topple the Prince in order to be seen as a Prince yourself and that does the opposite. When the master has left behind children who care to carry the art, the last thing I’m sure your Grandmaster wanted to have happen is for the students he trained with his own hands to compete against the boys he once carried in the palms of his hand. Don’t compete with your Master’s son: embrace him as a brother and show him what his father (or her father) showed you. If you’re going to have martial arts legacy, this is how you handle that. Sometimes the son is a little lazy; encourage him–don’t knock him over. Sometimes, the son is insecure because of students like you. How do you think your teacher would have wanted you to handle that?
Each man stands on his own exploits, or the shoulders of those before him if he does it right. But you cannot do so if you will be weak. Just some thoughts.
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