Friday, August 21, 2009

The One True Path™

There's a place where silat folks sometimes go to hang out on the web, Silat.TV. There are a bunch of clubhouses there where you can chat and visit with people in your branch, though they are open to anybody who wants to join.

Mostly, I've opted out of the silat wars, i.e., wherein we argue over tempest-in-a-teapot stuff about who has what lineage and whose old man can whip who else's old man. Now and then, though ...

Recently, we were chatting about what little and absolutely unverifiable history we have heard about our particular version, when a young man strolls in and allows that what we are doing is essentially naught but a pale shadow of what he's doing, and if we want to see the Real Silat™, why, we should come see him.

Half my age, this fellow, and having discovered the Real Silat™, full of himself and wanting to convert the heathen.

For a brief time a few years back, he trained in our style and a couple of its variants. Not enough to become adept at it, but he did drop by. I've met the guy, and he was likable enough. At the time ...

Only now, he has moved on, and now having found The Truth™ has returned to show us the error of our ways.

Got to love the arrogance of youth. Here's somebody who came to our house and proceeded to tell us that he knows way more about such things than we do, and in language that is insulting and obnoxious. Especially since some of us -- here I am -- have T-shirts older than he is ...

So, I politely -- at first, anyway -- allowed that I disagreed and explained my position.

Like talking to the wall. Only not as responsive.

One exchange led to another, and my politeness became somewhat less, my comments more pointed. If, I finally said, what you have is so superior, please, drop by and demonstrate that to me. I'll be happy to acknowledge your art's better qualities, but you have to show me. Personally.

This was not an invitation to a death-match, you understand, and not the kind of thing I would have thrown out willy-nilly to anybody. There are people out there who can tie me in a surgeon's knot without raising their heartbeats. My art isn't The One True Path™, it's just one that works for me. Yeah, I like it, and yeah , I think it's pretty good, else I wouldn't be bothering with it; however, against a guy with a twelve-gauge shotgun seven meters away, I wouldn't bet on me -- none of my moves work real well in that situation. There are a lot of other places where I got nothing. Chinese army comes over the hill, I'm toast. Old, slow, not as strong as once I was, I work with what I have.

I could allow this come-show-me comment to this know-in-all fellow because I have seen him move. In person, and later, after he had been exposed to the Real Silat™, I saw the videos that he kindly put up on YouTube to demonstrate what he knew.

There is a phrase: Vidi et scio. If my rusty Latin serves, that means, "I saw, and I know." I was, um, less than bowled over. There are people who, when you see them move, you go, Oh, wow! because their balance and flow are skills right there and obvious. Not so this guy. Yeah, he's got some skill. But what he's claiming, essentially, that what he's doing is intrinsically better than what I'm doing? Ain't but one way to convince me of that.

So, I never actually said, "You know, you are full of shit." in those words. But that's what I meant.

The moderator of the group finally had enough and bounced the young fellow out, to not much distress, far as I can tell.

Will he learn? Maybe. Maybe not. Might be the hard way if he does ...


Anonymous said...

People use the anonymity of the Internet to give themselves phantom muscles all the time. It takes a real daft duck to smack-talk people who have actually seen him in action.

It's a shame to say it, but some people need lessons in humility (i.e. to get their butts kicked).

Of course, I'm younger than some of your t-shirts, too; maybe I'm the pot calling the kettle black.

Anonymous said...

At least he wasn't an anonymous troll. I've met him in person and talked to him on the phone a few times. Nice enough adn serious enough about what he does.

But I've always gotten the impression he was looking for Something™ This time around he claims to have found it. Again. Maybe he's found it this time.

Steve Perry said...

Everybody is looking for something. And more power to them when they find it. And if you want to believe that what you've found is better that what the guy across the street has, no problem, I won't begrudge you that. What makes a horse race.

Unless I'm the guy across the street and have found my own something and you are trying to talk me out of it.

I'm perfectly happy to learn stuff from younger people. I've got a few years on my silat teacher, and youth is not an automatic disqualification. But if I've been doing something a whole lot longer than you have, I'm apt to be a little less convinced that you know more about it than I do without a demonstration.

Teach your grandfather to suck eggs?

If I have access to a world-class teacher offering an art I'm perfectly happy with, why would I want to chuck that and go looking for something that -- far as I can tell -- is not any better? Or even if is as good?

You have an emerald mine in your back yard, would you walk away from it on the notion that you might find diamonds on the other side of the country?

There are folks for whom the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Never happy with their own lawn. I'm not one of those.

Anonymous said...


"Everybody is looking for something. " -True, and if what you have found does not make you an instant expert most turn their backs and start to seek their magical grail from somewhere else.

The sarcasm is that the grail these people are looking for does exist in front of them but they refuse to accept it as it is. It appears too simple and cannot be true. How can it be just commitment, effort, trust in your teacher, faith in yourself and hard work in doing what you have been instructed to do? No, it just takes too much work and too long a time. So, the endless loop of searching what does not exist continues. There is no such thing as a mythical fountain of martial wisdom. Just hard work. - What is true though is that finding the right teacher may take time.

The old saying "you do not choose Silat, Silat chooses you" rings a bell even at this time and age.

Dan Moran said...

>Everybody is looking for something.

Not really. I am, a little, but much less so than I used to be, and I see a day coming when everything will work Well Enough for my purposes. I don't think I have the Answers, don't misunderstand ... but I have bits and pieces that work for me, and I feel the need for Big Truths less than I used to.

Steve Perry said...

Yeah, mostly the big stuff in my life I've gotten a handle on -- mostly. But there's always the little stuff, and the lessons that somehow I just can't seem to get.

Expecation is still the man with a thousand faces for me. I keep thinking I can recognize him, but he shows up in a new disguise and fools me again.

It's all relative, isn't it ... ?

Stan said...

What I don't get, never have gotten and probably never will, is why anyone feels this burning need to prove that the system they study is "THE System."

I AM older than your T-shirts. I'm not an expert. I've seen, practiced, learned and taught...then gone back to seeing with better, older eyes and learned a little more...rinse and repeat.

My point is that the biggest opponent we ever seem to face is ego...either our own or someone else's.

When MA folk start insisting that "my style is the best" it begins to sound too much like religion...and not enough like a personal way of life. I'm glad I haven't seen that in these pages.

Humans spend approximately the first 18-years fully forming their ego...and the rest of their life getting over it!

Thanks for the thoughts, Folki!

Steve Perry said...

The fellow of whom I was speaking in this post claims to have "researched extensively Jun Fan Gung Fu, Jeet Kune Do, Wing Chun, Kali Escrima-Kuntao, Pukulan Pencak Silat, Muay Thai Kick boxing, Hoshinjutsu, and Martial Qi gong."

He also lists training with no less than eleven high-level MA teachers, (not to mention expertise in yoga and assorted healing arts, which he was into before he got into MA's.)

But what is really impressive is that he began his MA training in 1999, so he got all that in less than ten years.

He aso has a picture up on his website that, if you look at it for a few minutes and allow the energy to flow, will help heal your ailments, right over the internet.

I rest my case.

Stan said...

Have you ever felt truly fortunate that you DIDN'T meet someone? This fellow sounds like a great example of that "blessing of omission!"

Steve, when you first listed the arts he claimed to have "studied extensively," I thought that maybe he was making a pitch for "past life lessons!"

I regret the annoyance he may have created, but, hey, at least he's a great lesson of what you don't want to become....I guess it is true that "everyone is a teacher!"

Thank you, Sir!

Steve Perry said...

We all get to be young, arrogant, and full of ourselves when we are young, arrogant, and full of ourselves. I did it, and I don't begrudge others their experience. Usually I just grin and let it go because I can recall how foolish I must have sounded to people who decided not to kill me.

Until they get so obnoxious with their claims that they have invented fire and the wheel.

That's the real problem with many of the young un's -- not that they haven't found good stuff, but that they think they are the only ones who ever have, and us old fogies couldn't possibly understand.

I've been young, and though it's been a while, I can still remember some of it. I've been there. They haven't been old, and they don't know that part -- they haven't been here. Being older doesn't make you necessarily wiser, but it does give you more opportunity to learn from your stupid mistakes.

Old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots ...

I truly don't think this guy understands that claiming expertise in nine or ten arts garnered in ten years isn't going to impress folks who know how long it takes to master just one.

That going to a weekend seminar with half a dozen top-grade instructors doesn't mean you can claim them to any depth whatsoever.

I looked at the video Guy shot in Las Vegas last year. I can see me in the b.g. several times, so I know I was there. I can't remember most of what I saw on the vid.
Some of it I pushed out of my mind before I got on the plane going home, because it didn't work with the principles I already had. Most of it just didn't stick.

I hear this a lot:, I studied dese, dem, and doze over there, and I internalized the essence of them all, distilled them, got rid of the useless frippery, and now have synthesized them into something totally new and improved!

Uh huh.

Guy picks up a revolver, doesn't understand that six bullets are better than one, so he takes five of them out and claims he's made a better weapon.

Spare me.

Stan said...

Two more thoughts (so I'd better use them sparingly...) First, the passion of the artist who has "discovered" the refined arts reminds me of a teenager who has just "discovered" sex! Not only is he convinced that he discovered it, he has to tell everyone about it!

Second, a quote attributed to several intellectuals during the middle ages. "We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.

If any of us don't recognize the enormous debt to our teachers, and their teachers, there's a very good chance that we've also missed other important lessons.

Thanks, Folki!

Anonymous said...

"He aso has a picture up on his website that, if you look at it for a few minutes and allow the energy to flow, will help heal your ailments, right over the internet."


No more questions your Honor.

You see kids, this is what we call a crazy person.

Steve Perry said...

For a counter-example, showing that youth is not always wasted on the young, check out The Kid's vid, here: