One of the impressive aspects of the late Professor Remy Presas is that he was open to any source of knowledge when it came to the practical aspects of the martial arts. He did not care where that knowledge came from whether it be from a Chinese martial artist, a Japanese, another Filipino, or an American. Indeed, one can argue that he was an unwitting proponent of the globalizing power of the exchange of knowledge, in this case martial knowledge. He not only studied martial arts from different cultures but more importantly, he was known to be willing to train with anyone and at anytime. I remember reading an interview of Leo Fong who recounted that Professor knocked on his hotel room door at 6am ready to train and exchange knowledge.
A great example of Professor’s willingness to seek out and share knowledge was his friendships with GM George Dillman and GM Wally Jay. Their “Big Three” seminars was well known. They shared knowledge with each other and with each other’s students. Each was influenced by others. Professor Presas’ joint locking techniques was greatly influenced by GM Wally Jay. Today, it is not uncommon to see DKI, Small Circle and Modern Arnis students attending each other’s camps and seminars, particularly in the American Midwest.
If one looks at Professor’s life, his martial arts world expanded from Negros Occidental to Cebu to Manila to the United States and then eventually worldwide. I suspect that, along the way, his worldview expanded and consequently, his knowledge base expanded as well. I recently had an exchange with a Modern Arnis practitioner in the Philippines who seemed to suggest that Professor’s tapi tapi was Ilonggan* in origin. Although he was vague, he seemed to imply that Professor’s Modern Arnis was mostly developed in Negros Occidental. I showed this exchange to two Filipinos who were taken aback by this assertion. Both pointed out that this assertion completely omitted the Cebuano roots of Modern Arnis and perhaps by extension, Professor’s innovations after he left the Philippines in 1975. I think that it’s safe to say that Professor likely had a much broader worldview than this Modern Arnis practitioner. The Masters of Tapi Tapi have the same trait as all cross train in arts outside of Modern Arnis, thereby strengthening their Modern Arnis base.
I have to admit that my martial arts worldview has vastly expanded since I graduated from law school in 1990. When I first moved to Columbus, Ohio in June of 1990, I did research into the local martial arts schools. I recall that there was a school that taught the Dan Inosanto version of Filipino Martial Arts. This school was located about 30 minutes from my apartment. I quickly ruled it out thinking that it was too much of a drive. I was lucky enough to find Master Dan McConnell teaching Modern Arnis just 10 minutes from my house. After I got into Modern Arnis in 1998, I thought nothing of driving with Master McConnell 3 to 4 hours each way to attend Modern Arnis seminars on the weekend or flying cross country to attend many Modern Arnis camps. Through these events, I met many Small Circle and DKI folks. My martial arts world view expanded further after moving to the Toronto area and encountering the Filipino community as well as meeting many martial artists in the Toronto area. I constantly see Master Chuck Gauss for additional training and at seminars and camps.
The more I have interacted with other martial artists and the more I have traveled, the more I have to come to realize that “knowledge knows no boundaries” and that no group or style has a monopoly on great knowledge. All you need is curiosity and a willingness to open your mind.
*Ilonggo/Ilonggan refers to people and dialect native to Negros Occidental.