El J, nice quote from PG Edgar!
G, although I thank you for your kind description of us as "on top", I prefer to see it simply as a matter of continuing to grow. As we say in DBMA "If you ain't the lead sled dog, the view is all the same. No one beats everyone. Everyone looks at someone's ass sometimes-- so be not humble, be not proud. Do if for yourself and not in reference to others."
That said, putting oneself on the line on a regular basis seems to be very useful to continued growth. Dilemas -- which is written in Chinese by combining the characters for "danger" and "opportunity" I am told-- present themselves all the time and the search for answers is perennial
One of the great advantages of being a student of Guro Inosanto is the vast network of superb people and systems with which he is connected-- for example my connection with Tuhon Chris and Sayoc Kali began due to his introduction.
That said, that is not necessarily enough-- it greatly helps if there is common thread. For example the Sayoc system's understanding of what in DBMA is called "Snake Range" is very high.
Sometimes random luck and curiosity play a role. I had briefly met GM Ramiro Estalilla of Kabaroan Eskrima in 1988 and in the late 90s attended a seminar of his that led to fruitful learning with common thread-- he too had a sense of snake range, as well as good material with large weapons which was a weak area.
Sometimes its just an itch (often provoked by Guro I.
) in search of a scratch. The awareness of the need for scientific grappling was provoked by Guro I around 1989 when he brought in Shootfighting, but it was through other channels that I found the Machado Brothers and brought the BJJ in to our fighting. In this case I am very proud to have been able for once to return a favor to Guro Inosanto-- I am the one who introduced him to the Machados and persuaded him to start with them.
Mostly though it is a matter of always being on the lookout combined with honestly assessing oneself, one's students, and others for strengths and weaknesses. Juan Matus spoke of hunting with intent-- something like that , , ,
Does this help?