Grandmaster, what’s going to happen to your group when you die?


I’m sorry to be so blunt about it, GM. But death is inevitable and I’m wondering if you’ve ever thought of how your group will be after you passed on.

Death is a taboo subject for many Filipinos but it’s constantly on my mind these days because over the past few months there have been too many deaths in our family: first, my cousin Mauro, 65, then my Uncle Rod, 82 and then my cousin Dante, 76.

And then the other day, an FMA master posted a very insightful Facebook commentary about a controversy in their group: Their grandmaster died and now several people claim that they are the rightful heir. He said, I can’t begin to tell you how many of my martial brethren stress over heir related issues.”

Death is a reality. It’s going to happen whether we accept it or not.


So… what now?

I dare say to all of us: prepare to die.

Those who are prepared to die are most prepared to live. -Anonymous-

Please allow me to share my two cents’ worth:

Prepare your spirit. Think about your beliefs about death and do what you have to do.

Prepare your finances. It’s sad when Grandmasters who have dedicated their lives to FMA die in poverty. I hope I heard wrong but is it true that during the last days of his life, GM Antonio Illustrisimo wandered like a pauper in Luneta and Quiapo? And then when he died, he was buried in an unmarked tomb?  Is that just a cruel rumor? I hope so. Because if it’s true, then it’s really depressing. Please, what can we do to prepare in this aspect?

Prepare your group: First, write down who you are and what you do. A hundred years from now, you and your work will still be accurately remembered if there’s a written record. (This is why, among others, I really appreciate FMA Informative and authors like GM Mark Wiley for the wealth of knowledge they are preserving for all of us.)

Second, I think it’s best for the grooming of  successor(s) to start while a GM is still active because it takes time to mentor. You need energy to make sure that your core values, style, and vision are caught. It’s not cloning but just making sure that what you have worked hard for will not die with you. I’m sure this can be difficult but I think it’s better to stress about it now while you are still around to control egos.

In the end, I join the Psalmist in saying,

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.


What are your thoughts on this? Please share them in the comment section below because now’s a good time as any to talk about death.

I sincerely wish you all well. Pugay!


P.S. Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance 🙂







7 thoughts on “Grandmaster, what’s going to happen to your group when you die?

  1. HALFORD E. JONES April 23, 2014 / 11:03 PM

    DEATH is hardly taboo in the Philippines, since DEATH ANNIVERSARIES of family members, etc. are sometimes more commemorated than BIRTHDAYS! Funerals processions are common and when I was in the Philippines they often went down the main streets all the way to the cemetery, which is not the case in the US. All SOULS DAY is an important day of and for THE DEAD. In Manila, there is the CITY OF THE DEAD, a Chinese cemetery with mausoleums and tombs with running water, electricity and other things and people go there to visit at various times and to commune with the dead in a special sense. The DEAD are not DEAD in many ASIAN COUNTRIES but exist in various ways, the more common way is in MEMORY but here in the US we do not as a rule remember our ANCESTORS which, actually exist within our DNA if the truth were but known and understood, but I do not expect everyone to understand or realize that.
    AS FOR MASTERS, yes they die and often are buried with little or much fan-are but their followers still make use of what they learned from them and from what was taught to them, however little it may have been. I have seen this process over the years in various martial arts. Most of the old masters tend to die in poverty and often forgotten and neglected for many reasons. Such is the human condition to forget the obligations one has when one studies under a master and becomes a ‘disciple’ or ‘student’.
    As for GM ILUSTRISIMO (TATANG) I shall find out if I can where he was buried. YOu have to remember that burial in the Philippines is usually ABOVE GROUND and not in the ground and also that in come areas the tombs are eventually demolished and the bones stacked up in piles to make room for new arrivals. Other things enter into this and while there are wonderfully kept cemetaries in the Philippines, many are still mowed by KALABAW. HALFORD E. JONES

  2. thedeadlydance April 23, 2014 / 11:14 PM

    Oh yes, you’re right, Filipinos do talk a lot about death but it’s other people’s death NOT OUR OWN DEATH. Most of us are still uncomfortable to talk about that eventuality.
    As for your point about the human condition to forget the obligations one has to his master, I really wish it can change in FMA.

  3. raikey August 26, 2014 / 4:00 PM

    Master Tony Diego of Kalis Ilustrisimo just passed away. So sad.

  4. Halford Jones August 27, 2014 / 2:56 AM

    I met Tony Diego and Christopher Ricketts some years ago through Alexander Co as well as several members and others of GM ‘TATANG’ ILUSTRISIMO who was consolidating and clarifying his methods and system, which was extremely effective, deadly, and difficult for others to grasp, especially those not specifically combat oriented. I was shown many of the basics that were being included in a codified system at the time and asked not to write or mention or publish or make use of any of this prior to his book(s) and so forth. I have respected this request and never released anything but have discussed them with others who were perhaps more familiar and certainly more knowledgeable than I. Unfortunately, I was not able to meet GM ILUSTRISIMO and now regret that I can never meet him.
    His two top instructors as I recall them, worked together for many years and later went separate ways, as did some others in this group which was there on the Luneta and also I must add there were other groups practicing in the same area but of different styles, arts, and the like, such as, Silat, and they all seemed to get along and respect each other’s different orientations at the time.
    At any rate, the books on this ‘system’,’style’ and the like cannot really convey beyond a certain level, scale or range the essence of this art which belonged to ‘TATANG’ for many reasons that I will not mention here. This is true of most of the great masters whose disciples attempt to follow in the same path and retain the basic integrity of what they were taught, but most succumb to the trends to embrace other systems and add their own embellishments, and this indicates to me that everyone tries to ‘improve’ arnis, eskrima, kali, sikaran, etc. and this is what makes it a growing martial art in which each practitioner becomes his own unique expression and performance and stylist……

    • thedeadlydance August 28, 2014 / 8:07 PM

      Right. Books can only convey up to a certain level and nothing beats actual face-to-face training. It’s sad that one of the pillars of the KI style have passed on.
      Anyway, about books, I think all styles should publish at least one so their style can be documented for generations to come.

      • Halford Jones August 28, 2014 / 10:01 PM

        VIDEOS,however, are another matter and even here we are apt to be on most ‘shaky’ ground for several reasons. One reason is that most of these are informational/instrudctional ones and not actual ‘death matches’ or ‘grudge matches’ or ‘knock-down,drag out’ affairs that such persons as the LATE ANTONIO ILISTRISIMO actually fought. This is true of the late masters: FLORO VILLABRILLE, ANGEL CABALES, and even REMY PRESAS. Many similar encounters and incidents are not on video and remain simply tales and legends, attesting to a time when such was done and done better than it is today, when revenge killings involve things other than bolos and sticks. The death of one of Dan Inosantos’ teachers by being shot is an example of this in more recent times… Videos do not capture the moves and strategies of the late GM ILISTRISIMO even though you can watch them endlessly in some instances simply because they cannot impart to anyone the internal sense and awareness he possessed and the subtle aspects that elude most practitioners. Although his followers were highly skilled, experts and considered GM’s in their own right, imitating them is not the same or learning,if you did and were fortunate to absorb what they imparted, from the GM MASTER HIMSELF. Often many masters taught things to some they did not teach to others and kept a good deal more to themselves. For those who attempt to find these they are apt to be doomed to disappointment and merely substitute fantasies and speculation and assumptions to the mix they display or attempt to teach. You must realize, however,this is not a criticism but an observation and a human tendency in these matters.

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