Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.

Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~

Friday, August 28, 2020

The Life and Wisdom of Dan Inosanto

Below is an excerpt from a blog post at Century Martial Arts. It contains a brief biography and many quotes from Dan Inosanto. The full post may be read here.

On July 24, 1936, Dan Inosanto was born. As a 4th-grader, he received his first exposure to the martial arts when his uncle taught him te [the Okinawan word for “hand.”]. In college, he studied judo, then dabbled in the Korean, Okinawan and Japanese striking arts.

“The exposure to the various schools in the beginning taught me not to be one-sided, because everyone had his own philosophies and each school seemed to have its good points and bad points. When I learned from Bruce [Lee], we never classified whether a technique was from taekwondo or boxing. If it was usable, we used it.”
—Dan Inosanto

While he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Inosanto was impressed by a kenpo brown belt he met. Specifically, he liked the fluid manner in which the martial artist moved. 

As soon as he was discharged, Inosanto relocated to Southern California.

“In 1961, I started taking kenpo from Ed Parker at his Pasadena school. At that time, kenpo reached my expectations of what I was seeking in karate. I was looking for a self-defense and also a body-conditioning sport. I became fascinated by the martial arts field and how there could be so many different ways of fighting.”

At age 28, Inosanto received his 1st-degree black belt in kenpo after three years under Parker. On his master’s suggestion, he began training in the blade arts of kali and escrima. His teachers included John Lacoste and Angel Cabales.

“There has always been a stigma that if you fight with a sword, it’s a gentlemanly duel, but if you pull out a knife, it’s a dirty fight. Now, we are pointing out that there is an art to this also.”

Inosanto met Bruce Lee in 1964 at the 1st International Karate Championships in Long Beach, California, where Inosanto was competing. The more he learned about Lee’s fighting philosophy, the more he longed to study under him. But Lee was a man on the go, with one foot in the East and one in the West. So, Inosanto spent his time learning various arts in Southern California. He quickly discovered that what he was doing was a far cry from what Lee advocated for self-defense.
“What they were teaching — the forms, the blocks, the posturing — wasn’t realistic. The means to get good at self-defense became the ultimate end. Their teachings didn’t seem to have any direct relationship to self-defense, although it probably taught me to be graceful and helped with my coordination, posture and smooth, correct body movements. [The instructors were] attempting to teach how to fight without actually fighting.”

At the 1965 Salt Lake City Regional Karate Championships, Inosanto, representing Parker, placed second in the lightweight black belt division. A year later, Inosanto finally got to start training with Lee. Slowly, Dan Inosanto, lover of all things martial, became Dan Inosanto, lover of all things practical.

“It wasn’t until I started learning jeet kune do under Bruce [that] I found a style that used all three important aspects of fighting (speed, power and deceptiveness). Bruce was able to take all the pieces of the puzzle and make them fit together in an integrated system.
“Bruce took something from everybody. He liked Muhammad Ali’s footwork and admired his outside fighting. He liked [Rocky] Marciano’s short punches. He used to study all the knockout punches of Joe Louis.
“It’s not that he embraced Western boxing completely. He felt there were many flaws in boxing, too. But he also felt that out of all the arts in the hand range, boxing had more truth than, let’s say, karate. Not that karate was all flaws — he saw the truth in karate, too. Boxing, he felt, was over-daring, whereas he found karate to be overprotective.”
And, most importantly, Dan Inosanto, martial arts philosopher, was born.
“A man doesn’t excel because of his style. It’s only when a man can go outside the bounds set by his system that he excels. If a martial artist can practice a style without being bound and limited to his particular school, then and only then can he be liberated to fit in with any type of opponent.”
While studying under Lee at the Los Angeles JKD school, the path Inosanto walked didn’t get any easier in terms of philosophy.
“By that time, I had stumbled across many partial truths, and I had become more aware of workable and unworkable techniques. Being a die-hard kenpo man, I found myself confused and frustrated. I began to actually rebel against jeet kune do. I was bound by loyalty to my former instructor and his style.
“Looking back on it, I really didn’t want to see the truth in self-defense. I began to mentally criticize the informal and unstylized way JKD moved, kicked, punched and trained. Yet, I found myself using what I had learned and liking it better than kenpo, finding it more functional, powerful, faster, freer and, above all, the easiest style to express.”

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