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The Importance of Lineage in Martial Arts

      Let me first tell you how I met GM Dr. Guillermo Lengson .

I was a high school student then when I trained under him at the gym of the Quirino Grandstand (in Luneta, Manila). To me, he was just an ordinary man and the way I saw him was he was not so impressive, like the martial art actors in a movie. He’s not tall; around 5’5 and had a big belly. I even wondered if I can learn something from this guy. But through a matter of faith, submissiveness, hard training and humility, I had learned so much. He even taught me for free.  In return, I do some chores like scrubbing and sweeping the floor of our gym to make it clean for us to use. In other words, don’t just believe what is said.  You have first to try it and experience it for yourself.

      Now, about the term lineage.  A lineage for me is something that is important because it is a gesture of respect and an honour that I trained under this person. A lineage is like family : you can’t  exist without it. It symbolizes that you learned from somebody; a mentor that you submitted to and humbled yourself for the sake of learning.  I acknowledge my lineage with pride because it adds credibility to my ability to perform and teach the craft for the simple reason that there are many charlatans. Pretenders. These are those who claim to be self-taught. My pride in my martial arts lineage is a deep hearted gesture with which I emulate and honour a person who is of great influence and value to my life. I am proud and humbled at the same time to have been one of his many first-generation students. To mention his name is to repay the man with honor and gratitude. True, your martial arts lineage will not assure anyone that you are a good instructor as well. A good instructor will always depend upon the person who learns the craft with passion and dedication; discipline and humility. Recognizing my martial art lineage is a matter of acknowledging my loyalty to the person who has taught and treated me well.

       The martial arts you had learned will always depend upon how you use it; not only in an actual arena but in the way you carry yourself in your everyday life. Martial arts is not just about defending yourself. It is about the principles you have learned in the craft. What you learned and re-learned and continue to propagate through teaching.  In our case, once you’re under the tutelage of GM Dr. “Doc” Lengson, we have what we called a common denominator- a distinct movement that he taught us; principles on how to apply these techniques. The terms like T, 9, 12 and Series (to mention a few), that only a first generation student of his will understand. A lineage is a brotherhood with mutual respect and aspiration.  It is a pride and honor for us to uphold. However, the first thing that I learned from “Doc” Lengson is to finish my College course, for me to make life easier.  Teaching Martial arts as an occupation in the Philippines is not so financially rewarding and will not consistently bring food on the table. And that principle, I continue to teach to my present students. There is also the risk of making martial arts as a “business enterprise” which is something that Doc Lengson (a dentist by profession) detested. For him, teaching and learning martial arts should be primarily a passion borne out of one’s desire to learn and teach with dedication, perseverance and humility. On its own, it should not be used as a stepping stone to enrich oneself at the expense of the art and science of it. Hence, the reason why our technique is something that was never commercially known. Our Blackbanders Fraternity is an organization Doc Lengson created. During our heyday, our group was met with trepidation by the other competing teams. They knew that once we entered a tournament, we were there to win. And we never failed to bring it home. It was something that Doc Lengson engrained in us. He never allowed us to enter competitions just for the sake of joining. And he never let us join unless we were absolutely ready. He instilled upon us to carry our banner with honor. And we always did.                                                                    

         A lineage is not a guarantee for a person that he can be a good or even the best instructor but it is a basis to know where he belongs and is proud enough to say it.  Some people are too proud to admit that they learned from somebody. For whatever selfish reasons, who knows? In the martial arts world there’s a saying that “Somewhere, there’s a person better than you so keep yourself well prepared so that you won’t meet him”.  

    In my martial arts lineage, I am proud to say, the late GM Dr. Guillermo “Doc” B. Lengson, was mine.

GM Sony P. Sy

Palis Sagasa Arnis Pilipino    

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