When I decided to pursue training in the martial arts I was a young kid growing up in New York City just trying to find a way to protect myself against the neighborhood bullies. Now I enjoy martial arts training much like others enjoy any other hobby or interest.
In the fall of 1999 I was in Birmingham England for a Filipino Martial Arts workshop. A day prior to the event my teacher sent word for me to meet with him and two other instructors outside of the guest house where we were staying. We got into a van and were driven to the home of the host instructor where my teacher spoke of well-known Filipino Martial Artists such as the late GM Vernancio Bacon, GM Antonio Ilustrisimo, GM Vincent Carin, and others I hadn’t heard of before. Then we had sparring sessions but not with pads and/or soft sticks but real weapons and no protective gear.
I recall my teacher explaining to me that in the Philippines, whenever he would face someone that relied on protective gear he would examine all of the places the protective gear didn’t cover and those were the areas he targeted during the fight. My teacher was taught that not only was it important to fight efficiently in order to survive, it was just as important to have superb control while sparring so protective gear was never used, not even eye protection. The belief was that having such protection a student wouldn’t feel an urgency in defending that protected area as much as if it weren’t protected.
During this sparring session it was clear to see whose skills were superior. There was no speculation, no one sitting behind the keyboard of a computer spouting absolutes about this or that. No, just martial artists enjoying the moment and the lesser skilled martial artists being taught by the greater skilled exponents of the art. At this moment I believed that I had found what I was searching for in my pursuit of the martial arts. A fellowship of individuals that trained with passion for the sake of enjoyment and proficiency of fighting and something that I strive to pass on to individuals that train with me today.
This is my experience and I can’t speak for others and their goals, expectations, and ideals when it comes to the martial arts. I believe that everyone has his or her own reasons for pursuing the martial arts but for me, for now, it’s more than just self-defense.