Book Review: "Modern Arnis" by Dan Anderson
Readers of this blog know that I train in style called "Presas Arnis". That is, what I do is a blend of (mostly) two styles - Remy Presas' Modern Arnis, and Ernesto Presas' Kombatan.
In truth, I started in Modern Arnis, and I would argue that I'm more Modern Arnis than Kombatan in my point of view and training, and I'm pretty sure my Kombatan friends would agree!
I started martial arts training in 2008, well after the passing of Professor Remy Presas in 2001. That makes me a 2nd generation student of the style.
I would argue that if you ever met and trained directly from Professor, even at a camp or seminar of his, you're 1st generation. Yes, even if you consider yourself a student of
student of Professor's.
As a 2nd Gen, I have been learning from the various students of Modern Arnis that I've been lucky to come into contact with.
Those include my direct instructor, Mark Lynn, as well as this list of well-known instructors, including this book's author, Dan Anderson, as well as Tim Hartman, Bruce Chiu, Dieter Knüttel, Chuck Gauss, Ken Smith, Tye Botting, Chad Bailey, Hock Hochheim, Bram Frank, Jaye Spiro, Rich Parsons, and many, many others.
So it's always welcome when a book comes along that can help fill in some of the gaps in knowledge we 2nd gens have about the founder and history of the style. It's also nice when that book confirms a lot of what you've been directly told by independent sources.
That's Dan Anderson's "Modern Arnis: The Martial Art of Remy Presas - History & Development - An American Perspective".
The first chunk of the book is about Professor's early life and training in the Philippines, and the events that led him to move to the United States, and what he did there in the early years of his arrival.
It tells the story of how Professor developed as a martial artist himself, as well as how he came to create the style that would become Modern Arnis.
I've known bits and pieces of this story before, but not in the comprehensive narrative Anderson presents. This, by itself, could have been plenty for this book, a value in its own right. Any serious student of Modern Arnis would be wise to pick up the book for this part alone.
That narrative ends around 1980.
Anderson deliberately skips over the period of 1980 through 2001. That period is pretty well documented in other media and places, so instead, he picks up the story just as Professor gets sick, diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Anderson then describes the aftermath of the illness and death of Remy Presas.
This part of the book documents a large portion of the fracturing and fallout of the students of after Professor died, focusing in on some of the major players: IMAF (which immediately split into two), Tim Hartman's affiliate that became the WMAA, IMAF-Philippines, the DAV, MARPIO, and a few others.
As others have repeatedly observed, if you know what happened to American Kempo after Ed Parker died, this story will seem very familiar.
My take on this part of the book is that it often lines up with what I've been told directly from other sources, with some interpretations that are (obviously) Anderson's point of view. While there's always many versions of the truth (Rashomon, anybody?), I think he attempted to get at as "objective" truth as he could.
If you're interested in the current politics of the Modern Arnis community, Anderson's perspective is valuable. There are other points of view, and you would be wise to seek them out, so you can decide for yourself.
One part of this second section that I think is neat is the listing of all of the variants of Modern Arnis styles and groups that he's identified. This originally can be found in his two-volume set "The Dan Anderson Encyclopedia of Modern Arnis", and he's expanded the count from 19 to 23 (although he missed one that I know of, Arnis International - Bruce Chiu).
In summary, if you want a nice, concise, and well-researched perspective on the beginning and end of Remy Presas' martial arts career, this book should be in your library.
You can buy a copy at the link at the top of the post directly from Dan Anderson, or buy from Amazon HERE.