FMA Media (RIP Eskrima Digest)

Today I received some sad news by email about an old, old friend of mine.

Master Ray Terry announced that he is shutting down the Eskrima Digest, which, to my knowledge, is the oldest online forum for Filipino Martial Artists. After 15 years, its archives must be a gold mine of information, as I don’t think a day passed in the 4 or 5 years I subscribed that I did not receive something from them. Prior to that, I had students who received them and would bring me pages of their messages, or forward issues by email. And before that… one of my students, who was stationed at NSA (attended the Baltimore location of my school) would bring me his laptop to read the issues after class (this was around 1996, so you know I didn’t have any form of technology). The Eskrima Digest was where I actually saw the American  as well as the Philippine Filipino Martial Arts community start to mature, as in this place people interacted–who normally would not have had access to each other.  I have seen some Filipinos who looked down on American practitioners develop respect without throwing a single strike between them, other than a few harmless insults and flames across the list. I saw Americans who thought the Filipinos questioning Dan Inosanto’s version of FMA were jealous or just “pricks”, and eventually befriend some of these Filipinos. The Digest was a community, and people exchanged ideas, shared information, learned from each other, forged friendships–even sparred– by email.

Mr. Terry, you made a great thing. Your list helped me grow up as a martial artist, because I interacted with people I knew nothing about, and probably would have never gotten to know. I have had students who found me on your list. I’ve learned about other styles and Masters there. I’ve learned new ideas about what I can do to make my classes better. I’m sure there are thousands of us who can say the same thing. God bless you.

So, what next?

I have heard that the forums have been slow too. Martialtalk  and  have not had the activity as in past years. Could it be that people are starting to train more? Or have they just found another place to interact? The benefit of the Eskrima Digest was that everything went straight to your email account and you could simply open messages whenever you wanted–even read them from your phone. Is it convenience? I don’t know.

But there is a magazine I have been receiving for a few years–an FMA magazine–by email. I have enjoyed the issues and I think many of you would too. It is the FMA Digest, published by Master Steven Dowd. For those unfamiliar with his name, Mr. Dowd is the author of the two books entitled Kuntaw:  Fist and Foot Fighting  (I am getting this from memory, because I actually haven’t even seen the books in about 20 years). It was written back in the 70s, I believe, and featured Master Lito Lanada’s system and forms. The last time I saw a copy, Master Billy Bryant showed me his, and had asked for me to take him to Virginia Beach to meet him. I learned the form in the book from Master Boggs Lao, and showed it to Billy (I can’t remember if there were all five forms in the book. Boggs had 5 versions of the form). Master Dowd is also a master of an Arnis style called Arnis Balite. He has been involved with the FMAs long before most people knew what FMAs were–even longer than many of you have been alive. He was a Black Belt in the arts when–as my son would call it–since the world was still in black and white. I’ll bet you a sweet potato pie, that this gentleman has a huge amount of FMA knowledge. His magazine is free, and it always features little-known about FMA styles and Masters. When you get over there to get your copy, make sure you tell them that thekuntawman sent ya.

So, anyway, where do we go from here? What can an FMA guy who wants to read about his art do? The martial arts magazines barely feature the FMAs, other than the occasional self-promoting jerk-offs who use the magazines to promote their new DVDs or give credibility to the new, “ancient” arts they just made. Anyone remember the Filipino Martial Arts magazines that Eliot Shearer produced? They were good, and I really crossed my fingers hoping it would grow to international levels, but personal problems kept him from moving the project forward. I suspect everyone was looking to take away but not put back in. It is like the parable of the pear tree (I’ll post more about it later), and to do something like this takes money and it is a time-consuming mission. Now, I hear that the Philippine-based Rapid Journal is now shutting down. They’ve been around forever too!

I’ll tell you what. Everyone should get behind the forms we have now–all the forums, the magazines, etc–and support them. That means FULL support:  time, energy, positive support as well as constructive criticism, attention (like spreading the word) and MONEY.  Because these things help you occupy your time, they entertain you, and they deserve something back from you.

And that’s all I need to say on that subject.

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