Monday, September 21, 2015

In Search of the Professor

Most of you know that my Filipino Martial Arts heritage - my lineage - is through the Presas Brothers, Remy Presas and Ernesto Presas.

Most of it is really through "the Professor", Remy Presas.

Professor Remy Presas

My teacher, +Mark Lynn, attended several camps and seminars and received his first degree Black Belt from Professor.  My original teacher in Modern Arnis, David Jones, is a student of Bruce Chiu, and I've had the pleasure of training directly with him several times.

Bruce Chiu, Mark Lynn, me, Kevin Bradbury, David Jones

I've attended seminars by a lot of other students of the Professor - Chuck Gauss, Ken Smith, Dieter Knüttel, Dan Anderson, Tim Hartman, Michael Hume and Hock Hochheim to name just a few, plus, at these seminars and camps I've been going to, there's plenty of others who trained under Professor while he still lived (Abel Martinez, Tye Botting, and John Bain immediately come to mind).  I've met (either online or in person) many, many others, including guys like +Brian Johns.

Chuck Gauss and I

I'm a second generation student of Professor's.  That is, I never got to train with Professor directly, because I started training long after he was gone.

I have all these first generation students to train with, plus the numerous videos and books Professor left behind.  I can "hear" his voice in my mind, either via these videos, or via the stories each of these first generation students love to tell. Invariably, they will adopt his accent when quoting Professor, and to a man, it's an identical accent.  Each of these has a "Professor" story of uniquely their own.  But they also tell other stories that I think, in some ways, have become part of Professor's legacy and legend.

Dan Anderson and I
This is how I, as second generation, can "know" the Professor - the videos, the books, and the people Professor left behind.  Of all of these, it is the people that matter most.

I think I'll always be a "lesser" Modern Arnis player in many ways, because I don't have any stories of Professor that belong to me.  I have the stories I've been told, but no direct experience. This is an accident of history and nothing that I could possibly fix without a time machine, but it's just the truth of it.

Kevin Bradbury, Dieter Knüttel, and I

My stories, the stories I'll pass along to students who come after me, won't be of Professor the way the first generation tells them. Many of these stories that the first generation has will pass away as the first generation hasn't completely recorded these stories so that we second (and third and fourth and so on) generation students will lose them. As we get further away from the living breathing reality of Professor Remy Presas, he will grow in legend, more of a myth than a real person.

He will be like Kano, or Funakoshi, or Ueshiba, or Choi.

Those of us who didn't train with Professor will always be in search of the reality of who he was, and why he was so influential, and what made him such an amazing martial artist and founder of our art.

Me, Tim Hartman, and Abel Martinez

The Professor lives on in his students, and that's why it's so important that the first generation pass on what they've learned.  Each of them, I've noticed, have different ideas and perspectives about the material and I've been told that was perfectly okay by Professor.  It makes sense, given how Modern Arnis was popularized in the west, that this should be so.

People like me in the Second Generation will also innovate.  It's just how things go, as we make the art our own.  It's what Professor himself did, with what he was taught.

That's how Modern Arnis will live, in all of its variants and incarnations.

So we'll have a Third Generation, Fourth Generation, and so on.

The Professor lives on in us.