A stereotype sometimes associated with Asian Martial Art Grandmasters, either because of their lack of proficiency in English or being from Asia, is that they are uneducated or lack formal education.
For example, Balintawak Founder and Grandmaster Venancio “Anciong” Bacon was reported not to have had much of a formal education. Nonetheless, it is undisputed that he possessed great knowledge of the art that he formulated and taught until his death in 1981. It is said that he had multiple counters to everything that he took to the grave.
Nothing is further from the truth.
Many of these amazing martial artists possess a degree of knowledge and application that very few people can comprehend. In many cases, they have spent a lifetime honing their martial art and passing on their knowledge.
The same can be said for many martial artists in the Western world who have trained and taught their arts for most of their lives. In a day and age where community college and university degrees are becoming more and more important, many of these martial arts Masters and Grandmasters in the Western world possess only a high school degree. Unfortunately, those who possess no education beyond high school in the 21st-century world are often looked down on.
What many outside of the martial arts universe don’t realize is that the depth and breadth of knowledge possessed by these martial artists are just impressive as many of my friends who possess post graduate or doctoral degrees. Many of them possess knowledge of violence, aggression, human anatomy, physiology, psychology, history, culture, ethics, self-defence laws, and superb analysis of movement. Not all martial artists are versed in all of those areas but I have known a few who are quite well rounded and have a deep understanding beyond the physical aspects of martial arts. They are masters of rhythm, timing, positioning, and teaching.
In short, many martial artists have a depth and breadth of knowledge in their field to be considered, in my opinion, to have the equivalent of a Ph.D. degree. Many have spent their entire lives in pursuit of knowledge.
Look at the below video of Tatang Antonio Illustrisimo. He is reportedly in his early 90s in this video. He started training in the martial arts as a young boy. That’s roughly 80+ years of martial arts training. The action really picks up at the 2:30 mark. As one can see, his movement is superb.
Look at this and tell me that this eskrimador, in terms of knowledge, skill and application, does not have the equivalent of a Ph.D.
If you are not able to view the video, click here.
Like those with Ph.Ds, they have spent many years learning, honing, testing, and teaching their arts. Many often meet and train with fellow Masters and Grandmasters to learn and expand their knowledge base. For example, the late Professor Remy A. Presas trained with, among others, his father, grandfather, Rodolfo Mongcal, Timoteo Maranga, Anciong Bacon, Guillermo Lengsen, Johnny Chuiten, He also trained in Shotokan karate and in judo. After moving to the U.S.A. he trained with GM Wally Jay, GM George Dillman, and many others to expand his knowledge. Many Modern Arnis players have often remarked on Professor’s amazing knowledge base and his ability to make the connections.
Are there wackos out there? Yes, there are. But that’s for another day.
Bottom line: many of these Masters and Grandmasters should be acknowledged and appreciated for the tremendous knowledge that they have accumulated, refined, and honed over a lifetime of study. They deserve the same respect as those holding actual Ph.D. degrees.
Over to you, what are your thoughts on this topic?