Below is an essay from Marc Denny from The Dog Brothers. It is one in his 'Rambling Ruminations' series.
In the last post I talked about how information is meaningless until you own it and make it yours. How secrets are nothing if you do not put in the work, and how time and effort are required to know the answers to the questions - Does it work? And more importantly, does it work for you?
This, in the end, is the reason that a martial art is 'martial', and is not just about dancing by yourself. There is always an 'other', a thinking, moving, adversarial, other, who's only motivation is to take you out ... and this must not be forgotten.
Thing is, we all have a different 'dance' and adapt and move in different ways, so do our opponents ... So where does that leave any 'system' of material? And how does it move through people and time when people and time change all the time?
Sonny said - I don't teach you, I show you what I do. It's up to you to take it and make it yours.
His emphasis on understanding self and connecting that to the job at hand instead of copying the past ad infinitum, was key to keeping his art alive, at least in my opinion, and should go for other arts too.
Of course he taught the principles that underpin technique - about spatial geometry, timing, physiology, movement, human nature, the things that are constants, but he really did want all of us to be ourselves, not try to be carbon copies of him ... which would be impossible. If we could internalize all this information and use it out of our own eyes and bodies, then we could be said to 'own' it. And owning it looks very different from one person to the next.
And that's OK. His Art carries on because of this, not despite this.
Here is Crafty Dog's take on it -
Who is your teacher?
by Guro Crafty
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
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 Real
Contact Stickfighting so the class could 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 too 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?
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 Guro in Dog Brothers Martial Arts.
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." -END
In conclusion, when I
certify someone I am simply 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. If they do
that, they are Dog Brothers Martial Arts.
The Adventure continues,