As is well known to all, my teacher, Guro Dan Inosanto, is an extraordinary martial artist. Over the years he has developed many people in many different arts who can replicate his curriculum in the art in question with grace and style.
I am not one of them!
Indeed I was always one of the somewhat awkward ones who had a hard time remembering things.
Still, I persisted and worked on expressing myself honestly and one day Guro I. asked me to cover for his Kali class. Of course I said yes, it would be my honor, but inside I was shocked. Who? Me? My self-image had a hard time imagining clumsy, awkward me teaching his class.
Came the day in question and rather than be a poor imitation of the real thing I decided to offer to the class how what I had learned from him expressed for me and for other people I teach in Real Contact Stickfighting so they see how the Art expressed in the hands of real people in real time— so they could see that the Art worked. After all, this is what it says on my Guro certificate from Guro I.—that I may change the Art as I see fit.
People seemed to enjoy the class and Guro continued to use me for his Kali class when he was on the road during the week for a time. After one such class a visiting student came up to me and complimented me and the material I had taught. I thanked him and then he asked me “Who is your teacher?”
I was stunned. Was it not obvious?
“Guro Inosanto” I replied.
Obviously not– he was stunned.
On the drive home I took the route home that goes along the ocean behind the airport. Because of the airport there are no homes, only open space. There is a small road that cuts through this that has an ideal spot to park and look out over the ocean and this is what I did.
As I sat there I wondered how someone could not see that what I do, what I teach, is not Inosanto Blend. I mean, just because I move differently, teach differently, , , what does that have to do with it? Ha!
Bruce Lee spoke of the whole idea being a matter of “honestly expressing oneself” and that is what Guro I. had always taught me. When he asked me to cover for his class, he had to know that that is what I would have to do—be myself. Similarly that is why my certificate from him says I may change the Art as I see fit—the Art is not a “style”, it is free and open.
As Time has gone by, this is what I have done in my teaching. It is what I expect of the people whom I certify as Guros in Dog Brothers Martial Arts.
Certainly this is not the only way of doing things. Certainly there are good reasons for a teacher to require that someone certified in a system teach the system as it was taught to him. Certainly for the student there is value in knowing what he will be able to learn when he comes to someone flying the flag of that particular system!
Even though I do differently, I respect this.
That said, know this: If and when you approach someone certified in DBMA assume nothing. This is not a franchise wherein no matter you go, the product or the service is the same. All of our people are individuals. Talk with him and get a sense of what it is that he does with the system. His interest may be in Real Contact Stickfighting; it may be in Kali Tudo; it may be in “Die Less Often”; or it may be in any combination of the three.
Are there risks to this approach? Of course! Just as the uniformity approach runs the risk of stagnation, so too the free approach runs the risk of entropy.
As Konrad Lorenz has written:
BEGIN”The culture preserving and,consequently, life sustaining function of this mechanism has, however, as a necessary precondition, something similar to a state of equilibrium between the immutability of old traditions and the capacity for adaptability through which throwing overboard certain parts of the traditional inheritance cannot be avoided. A preponderance of that which is conservative causes exactly the same result in the biological development of species as in the development of cultures– the formation of “living fossils”; an overabundance of variability, on the other hand, causes in both the formation of abnormalities. Examples of such mal-developments in social behavior can be cited the emergence of such phenomena as terrorism and the current popularity of quite inept religious sects. , , , (However) , , , It is an error to believe that after the form and content of an old culture are thrown overboard a new and better, a ready-made one will quite naturally be brought into being to take its place instantaneously. We must seriously confront the sobering fact that there is no purpose oriented pre-determinism of what happens in our world to protect our culture. We must be clearly aware that we humans, ourselves, bear the burden of responsibility for preserving our culture both from erroneous developments and from rigidity.” -p.64oEND
In conclusion, when I certify someone I am but saying that they have trained with me in depth, and that I trust them to act with humility and a basis in the research of their own experiences to absorb what is useful, to reject what is useless, and to add what is specifically their own.
The Adventure continues,