We had just come back from a day of sightseeing after having taught a huge seminar in Milano, Italy. My wife and I were preparing for a well deserved rest. The phone in our room rang and I knew without picking it up what had happened. It was nearly 10:00 at night. We got the call that Grand Master Leo Giron had passed away. Maria jumped into action and by 3:00 AM, we were booked on the next flight back to California. Fortunately, we had already completed the seminar and so we bid a hasty, late night farewell to our hosts as we packed in a flash and jetted our way home that same night. I can still smell the early morning, damp air that hung with a lonely, profound sense of loss.
That was ten years ago yesterday. And, as I think back through the years, I still remember nearly every detail of the funeral. What I remember most was the long procession of mourners who came to pay respect to one of the true legends of our art. I also remember vividly being asked to read the letter from Guro Dan Inosanto to the attendees. I had to draw on all my training to keep a steady voice and clear purpose; making sure to allow Guro Dan’s words their due respect. I don’t know if it was intentional or coincidental that I was chosen to read that letter. You see, Guro Dan was in the first graduating class under Uncle Leo and as it turned out, I was in the last class. It has been a special privilege to be one student who bracketed the end of such an illustrious career and to know that on the other end of those many years stood some of our arts most legendary figures: Dan Inosanto, Richard Bustillo, Ted Lucaylucay, Jerry Poteet and Dentoy Revillar. In the interim, only a relative handful made it through all the training to graduate under Grand Master Leo; just 83 of us. Even fewer went on to be instructors. We share a common experience though each of us has taken that experience and shaped it differently. Grand Master Leo commanded us to make the art our own and so we each have a different insight that makes our collective understanding of his art a diverse and rich fabric that shares a common thread. And, as we continue to weave forward, that fabric becomes even stronger through diversity.
Grand Master Michael Giron would like to acknowledge those who studied directly under his father, put in the work to graduate and now are conservators of his legacy. If you get a chance to meet any of these people, take a moment to ask about Grand Master Leo Giron and what it was like to train with him. Since there is no published list of these graduates and OGE has a mandate to preserve the original art as passed from father to son, we would like to put out a call to all those who graduated directly under Grand Master Leo Giron to contact OGE so we can record and maintain the original list of graduates and continue to share our memories of our teacher. It’s an honor to stand in the company of the men and women who graduated under Grand Master Leo Giron. May we all continue to keep his legacy alive.