What Will Your Legacy Be?
There was a big name Filipino martial artist, a name you would recognize, I’m sure. I was thrilled at the prospect of meeting him and studying with him. In order to study with him I drove an hour to my teacher Tim Evans’ house, and then we drove another hour and a half to Bakersfield.
Yet once we got to Bakersfield this big name never really taught anything. He had not heard of GM Estalilla, and he was curious about what he taught, so I demonstrated some of Estalilla’s Kabaroan techniques. I hoped that Mr. Big Name might reciprocate by showing me something, but no. And I drove several hours home on the return trip late at night.
I was getting frustrated (I was paying for these lessons.), so I approached Mr. Big Name and told him I felt I was spinning my wheels. Well, in order for me to study with him, I would need to pay several thousand dollars (Keep in mind this was in the early 80’s). I wanted to study with him, but I just didn’t have that kind of money.
Mr. Big Name put on a seminar sponsored by my teacher, and so I drove long distances again and paid yet again for a “seminar” that was a slow motion train wreck, only without the excitement. Mr. Big Name taught us how to twirl a stick and later, after my teacher approached him with everyone’s complaints, admitted that he just made the whole thing up as he went.
It was in the middle of that disastrous pseudo-seminar that the late GM Leo Giron unexpectedly entered with two of his students and put on a demonstration. That was the highlight of that otherwise miserable day.
Years later I heard that Mr. Big Name had died. I was shocked because he was young. As I reflect on my experiences with him, I realize that I learned more from GM Giron, even though I was never a student of his and only met him a few times, than I did from Mr. Big Name’s classes. Hell, I taught Mr. Big Name more than he taught me. How ironic is that?
I’m writing this post because we are in a season symbolized by giving. What are you giving to the art and to others in the art?
I look at Mr. Big Name, and to me his legacy is empty. I am not suggesting that you should teach for free or let yourself be exploited by insincere takers and users. But my memory of Mr. Big Name is of a guy stalling, of someone angling for the big payoff, and willing to collect gas money from you until you were desperate enough to sell your kidney to pay his king’s ransom.
If this judgment seems harsh, that’s the real bitch of dying, in that you can’t change the impression you’ve made and the legacy you’ve created. The minister standing over your coffin is obligated to say nice things about you, even if you’re Jeffrey Dahmer, but the truth is out there, and as you’re lowered into the inky void there’s nothing you can do about it.
I’ve decided that I’m going to give. Sure, I like money, but I want my legacy to be of eskrimador who remember me for have shared something with them, for having given something of value, for having been a friend, and for having a passion for advancing the art.