Catching Father Time

An interesting day

It’s been an interesting day. Sir Alex Ferguson announced he was retiring from football at the age of 71, quite against all the expectations of most people who had no thought that he would retire. This afternoon I was going through an old notebook and found my training notes from the European Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Conference which was held in April 2001. This was an excellent weekend and brought together many of Bruce Lee’s original students as well as Linda and Shannon Lee. As I looked through the notes I name checked all those who taught that weekend: Dan Lee, Cass Magda, Chris Kent, Steve Golden, Pete Jacobs, Allen Joe, George Lee, Taky Kimura, Andrew Kimura, Ted Wong, Jesse Glover, Richard Bustillo, Tim Tackett and Bob Bremer. Almost all of these gentlemen had trained with Bruce Lee and knew him as a man and as a friend. I had a brilliant weekend, meeting many of these people for the first time and gaining a really deep understanding of the art that Bruce Lee had developed. What struck me today, looking back over the names was how many of them are no longer with us. Almost half have died in the 12 years since the seminar. Ted Wong, Allen Joe, George Lee, Jesse Glover and Bob Bremer. When you also add in Larry Hartsell and Herb Jackson you realise that now is the time to take careful notice of those that remain.

That thirst for knowledge

The most active of the JKD teachers on the seminar circuit remain Richard Bustillo (71) and Dan Inosanto (76), their verve and vigour putting many a younger person to shame. When I first trained with these two they were in their 40’s and at the height of their powers; who imagined back then that one day they may consider retirement? Both of these top teachers have flown thousands of miles and taught thousands of students from around the world, but if one thing that Sir Alex’s resignation announcement proved today, no-one knows when it will end. As students of the martial arts it is our hunger for knowledge that sets us apart and who has more than these two amazing men? I’ve trained many times with Inosanto, but Richard has been my teacher since 1990, when I first met him in Nottingham. I am always surprised by him, either a story I haven’t heard before, a new drill or a deeper understanding of something that I knew before. At the time of writing this piece I am hosting a seminar with Richard in a couple of days; I have people travelling across the UK, two people from France and one from Poland. Last year I missed a seminar due to illness, my first in 22 years and I felt like I’d missed something important, like the feeling you have when you miss out on a big event that other people get to experience. The feeling of loss, despite being ill, was tangible. That seems to make very little sense, but to me it does.

What will you think of in your rocking chair?

So my question to you, dear reader, is what are you afraid of missing out on? What did you not have enough money for? What could you not be bothered to get out of bed for? What was the cost of your inertia? What have you decided you no longer needed only for that decision to come back and haunt you? Too many people ask ‘What if it goes wrong?” rather than asking “What if it goes right?” Someone else once said “If you think knowledge is expensive, try ignorance.” For me martial arts, and life, is about learning and applying those lessons. We learn to fight and then spend most of our lives avoiding trouble, we learn new knowledge and grow from those lessons. We are imperfect beings and the process of self development is to become a better person. Through Richard Bustillo being my teacher I have learned many lessons which have improved me in those 23 years. The lessons that he passed on that he learned from Bruce Lee and the other greats that he learned from; I wrote many of them down and read them to absorb the knowledge. The experiences of travelling abroad to Los Angeles, New York, Paris and Norway to learn from him helped me to understand those places as well. The knowledge wasn’t just learnt on the mat, but over meals with Richard and my peers. I developed friendships that exist to this day, all for the sake of being a student, taking the time, paying my money and practising daily. It is said that we covert money and love, but the only thing we chase is time. It never comes again and passes too quickly. I like the lesson that Tony Robbins talks about: the rocking chair test. Imagine being 85 years old, sitting in your rocking chair and looking back on your life. What do you regret? Who do you wish you had kissed? What decision should you have made, but fear stopped you from making it? Should you have begun that business? Written that book? Gone on that holiday or taken on that challenge? We’re here only once, just like Richard Bustillo and Sir Alex Ferguson, as they grow older it is our job to absorb as much as we can for them, for, as Sir Isaac Newton observed “We grow by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

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