Monday, September 13, 2010

Return of the longwinded blog

Okaaaaay ... It's been nearly 9 months since I posted on this blog, a new record for letting it slide. A lot has gone on in that time, some events worth noting, many more perhaps now forgotten. Writing, or at least making a stab at good writing, takes time. Unfortunately I've never yet earned a penny at it. It's a bit disillusioning when one's best talent is financially of such little worth, but the illusion of contributing to society makes up for that. Regardless of motivation, when the muse sings, it's time to write again. Signs appear, such as:

I've finally heard from my half-dozen loyal readers, scolding me for having been derelict;
I received a writing award, a bribe if I've ever seen one (and if it is, it's the first) - more on this later;
I met a prospective student who is even more prolific a writer than me; can't have that, y'know!
So here, with no further ado or mea culpas, is a brief update:

Cacoy Canete was scheduled for a seminar this summer at Ron Lew's Tiger Eye Claw school in San Jose, but due to health problems he was unable to leave the Philippines. Instead grandmaster Ron Lew, one of Cacoy's top proteges, filled in for him with an exemplary seminar on Escrido, demonstrating the effortless flow through endless locks that characterizes that form of FMA. Loved it!

My scheduled foray again this year to SoCal to do a seminar and help officiate the FMA part of the Long Beach Internationals was not quite so successful. Injuries had me sidelined, and I'm at the age where the slowdown of the healing process is no longer mere speculation. Despite a place in the seminar lineup, I ended up staying home that weekend. It was probably the right thing to do.

This year has seen interesting developments within the Serrada community. Back in February master Darren Tibon hosted the Legacy FMA tournament in Stockton. The day before the tournament was organized for seminars with participants from Tres Manos, Kombutan, Pakamut and Serrada. This was a particularly significant event for the Serrada participants, especially taking place in Stockton, because many had not seen each other in years. It was the first time since Angel's passing that so many of his students came together to teach and share with such brotherhood.

I won't go into further detail here; anyone interested in a more complete description of the event should refer to the FMA Digest March 2010 Special Edition "Legacy Seminar & Tournament", for which I was the principal contributor. The significance of the seminar has been a renewal of many positive ties within the Serrada community. It's been nearly 20 years since grandmaster Angel Cabales passed away, during which time most of us have gone our own ways and several organizations have sprung up. There's been enough time to now see who is still active in and dedicated to the art. Over these years we've all honed our personal skills, yet still it is clear that we are flowing from the same root source.

Here are a couple of things that have evolved since this event which affect me directly.

On June 21st I received a "Master of the Pen" award (along with Marc Lawrence) from Steven Dowd, publisher of the FMA Digest, for excellence in writing. I personally think of my write-up of the Legacy weekend as my masterpiece. It's certainly the most meaningful thing I think I've ever written, and I'm especially appreciative of this award coming in recognition of that as well as previous submissions to the Digest. Meanwhile, my mom hung around into her late 90's and still managed to miss seeing me get anything like this.

I'd like to put in a plug here: If you are someone who can write about the Filipino martial arts and wants to get published, contact the FMA Digest! Publications always need material to put out, and frankly, a lot of people promise but don't deliver, so here's a chance to contribute to the community and get some recognition for whom or whatever you choose to cover!

The other item of personal significance is that shortly before Labor Day I received a Master's certificate in Escrima. Frankly, it's a bit hard for me to write objectively about this. I take pride in accomplishments but I'm not much into self-aggrandizement; I jokingly refer to this as "my official getting old award", which is far more truthful than I'd like to admit. Still, this is a milestone for a couple of reasons, and important to acknowledge.

Officially the award was presented by grandmaster Anthony Davis through his World Serrada Escrima Federation. Anthony was the instructor to whom Angel Cabales entrusted my basic training, and though I've run my own program independently for the past two decades, we've come together many times at a number of events. Like the writing award, it's a symbolic honor recognizing my growth and contribution within the art over a 25 year period. Both this and the writing award were presented in a spirit of authenticity - no money changed hands, no favors were demanded - for which reason I was happy to accept these honors.

There's a bit more to this story though. There are those who would say (correctly) that this is not an official Cabales Serrada Escrima diploma. I always expected that my Advanced diploma from Angel would be my last promotion, since I've been independent of any formal organizational ties since the death or retirement of all my teachers. While Angel was alive I asked him twice about going for a Master's. The first time I wasn't ready and both of us knew it; the next time he acknowledged the request but was already too ill to proceed.

Forward to now ... Evidently Angel informed some of his master graduates that if three of them agreed to promote someone up to their level, they would have the authority to do so. This was only recently disclosed to me, and as far as I know I'm the first to receive such an upgrade. With the signatures of Angel Cabales' master graduates Ron Saturno, Jerry Preciado and Darren Tibon also affixed to the document, it feels like further validation of the progress I've made through the years. I've known and respected these men since we were all students under Angel. To them I express my humble thanks.

I'd also like to acknowledge promotions awarded by the WSEF to the following:
* Mila Davis received a grandmaster certificate. She has been both training and life partner to GM Anthony Davis for 35 years.
* Tasi Alo received a grandmaster certificate. He has been a close associate and training partner with Anthony Davis for over 30 years and is also currently recognized as grandmaster in the GMT system.
* Darren Tibon received a grandmaster certificate as well. In my mind I've considered Darren a grandmaster for some time. If building a strong school and lineage is what defines the term, Darren is someone who has walked the walk.
* Last but not least, Ronnie Saturno was presented a grandmaster award from the WSEF. Ron was with Angel long before I came on the scene, though it's only recently that I've come to know him better. He's a wellspring of knowledge not just about Serrada or martial arts, but is a deep thinker on many subjects and a hidden treasure whom I feel is fully deserving of such recognition.

I applaud all of them for the hard work they've done for Serrada and Angel's legacy!

For my part, I realize this isn't a retirement award (not quite that old yet anyway) but an incentive to step up and re-energize my own endeavors within the art. The blog is part of it. A training manual, which Angel wanted for new students, and for which I had plans long ago, should get off the shelf. There's other projects, such as the CAD/CAM I'm learning for CNC machining. My "sparring grade" barongs, bolos and knives are showing up in the hands of top instructors on the West Coast, such as Remy Presas Jr., Alex France, Vincent Cabales, Darren Tibon, Anthony Davis and others.

Teaching is still to me the biggest part of it, what keeps my mind active and my body ... well ... still moving (and that's much better than the alternative!) I'd like to thank my students, in particular Jonathan Winter and Josh Newman, for keeping me on my toes and forcing me to always go deeper to find the answers.

Life hands us these moments. Many young men are bemused when they first begin hearing themselves addressed as "Mr." since that was a title previously associated with a father or other adults, but soon it becomes common to the ear. So I presume it will be with the lofty resonance of "master", which now separates me from the young bucks who are working hard to establish their identities. Having heard myself introduced more and more often as "master Finder" at FMA events, I've already given up on correcting those introductions, since it just seemed rude to contradict such politeness. It's also my excuse not to dye my hair dark again, since "silver" is getting me so much more respect.

Organically it's the passing of the torch from generation to generation. Just as Angel Cabales used to call himself the master of Escrima, as many of his students became recognized in their own rights, people began to call him grandmaster until finally he adopted the term. That kind of progression, taking the mantle of responsibility for carrying the art forward, is happening with my generation now. We need to move forward ourselves to create space for those coming up after us. In the end, titles and awards are no more nor less than what we make of them. It is in the sharing of experience that we provide meaning.

As an old saying goes, "Before enlightenment, chop wood and carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood and carry water."