As I have come to understand it, the Filipino Arts as commercial ventures in America can be traced to a small handful of “masters”. While there have been a number of people teaching the art in the US to individuals or small groups for many years, a couple of notable figures can be credited with its sudden popularity in American martial arts circles. The art that I am associated with gained popularity via the “seminar circuit”. The master hopped around giving weekend long seminars. He passed out rank certificates based on his opinion of the students skill level and how often they came to the seminars and demonstrated how they were progressing. I think that the masters concept of “rank” and how it was to influence his arts politics was ill conceived. Perhaps it was a cultural issue, perhaps he wasn’t concerned with politics and cared less about people squabbling over titles…either way, passing out rank “willy nilly” with no discernible framework or structure was the foundation upon which a lot of rivalry was formed. To add to the confusion, senior students began to form their own variations and associations with their own rank structures, resulting in rank issued by the master as well as rank titles in their own associations. It was against this backdrop that this particular story unfolded.
For myself, time went by…I did my military service, got married, started having children, got into law enforcement, SWAT, promotions, etc. All the while I kind of existed on the fringe of this martial arts group. I trained with Paul, attended seminars and training with DB and some of his close students. Through Paul I heard the stories about the politics and infighting going on in the Filipino Arts in general and the antics between DB and THin particular. He mentioned that some interesting discussions were taking place on an internet discussion forum and suggested that I take a look. I registered with this forum and shortly found out that the board was not only heavily trafficked by students and associates of TH, it was owned and administered by a student/associate of his as well. Discussion on the Filipino Martial arts quickly divided into what became known as “camps”. The “TH Camp” and the “DBCamp”. Being a childhood friend of Paul’s and of the same mind on many issues I of course agreed with most of the points he made in discussions and my own posts were of obviously similar philosophies. Because of this I was pigeonholed as being a member of the “DB Camp”. Even though I was only bumping into DB on a once or twice a year basis at this time and had no political ax to grind.
The bulk of the controversial posts were about TH and his rank. Admittedly, he was issued a fairly high belt level by the master of the art (for whatever that was worth). What was called into question was his formation of his own association and its separate belt structure. Within this association, TH formed a directors board of people from various arts, some that were his own students and juniors in the art. Eventually he had this board promote him to an extremely high rank. This caused squabbling amongst some senior students over who was the senior most student in the masters art.
It all sounds so juvenile, silly and confusing and to a large extent it is, but there were some good points made regarding various artistic and ethical problems with this too. However, the internet being what IT is, all sorts of silliness ensued on this discussion board. Various “sock puppet” accounts jumped into the mix adding fuel to the fires. Some were obviously the same people posting with different names. Some were girlfriends, friends and students from each “camp”. Names were called, threats were made…the age of the internet makes for some very strange circumstances.
What made our local situation even stranger was the fact that many of the people “getting into each others shit” either resided in or frequented the same geographical area. When you take the “6 degrees of separation” factor and add in close proximity it becomes a matter of time before you are dragged into stupid situations and that’s what eventually happened to me.
Stand by while I try to formulate part 3 without getting myself into more stupid situations. 🙂