written by Ann Monteclaro
“I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear….we are all seeking something better in life. So, I think the very motion of our life is toward happiness.”
– The Dalai Lama
I know one thing that makes me happy – training at the Inosanto Academy. Since enrolling in the young adult’s class in 1996, I have enjoyed the physical results and self-defense techniques I have gained from training in martial arts. At the age of 15, I was taking classes along with my older brother, who was far more into martial arts and far more familiar with the fame of Guro Dan Inosanto. Not knowing too much about Guro Dan, but being one of the few Filipinos in the neighborhood, I was proud to be part of an organization run by a prominent Filipino figure.
Unfortunately, after only one year of training, my brother had to leave for college, and my parents did not allow me to continue training. Throughout most of my childhood, my mother taught me that girls stayed in the house and that they did not go out alone. So, I accepted this way of thinking and stopped training when my brother left.
Deep down, I know this was of thinking is not universal. My girlfriends had the opportunity to go out alone or in a group, even when it was just to go to the mall or grab a bite to eat. Eventually, against my mother’s will, I began to leave the house more, until I had the freedom in college and began to take up martial arts training on my own.
I took it upon myself to return to the Academy during the summers and take Phase Classes during the week. My mother would always speak down to me about training. She thought that it was not for girls; that it would make me manly, and she would say things like, “No boy will like you if you do that martial arts.” In the back of my mind, I was self-conscious of what others thought of me and was concerned about becoming unattractive.
Although my mother did not approve of my training, I knew there was something about it that made me feel good. I noticed that I felt healthier and physically fit after a period of time and I realized that I enjoyed the fact that I actively worked my mind while I got a good physical workout. It beat working out at the gym. Running the treadmill or elliptical machine was boring and unproductive for me: I felt like a human machine. I craved something more interesting and constructive – something more satisfying.
While in college, I enrolled in a Thai Boxing class that was offered at my campus recreational center. It was at this time that I began to realize how much I wanted to train in the martial arts, and also to train at the Inosanto Academy. Once I mentioned it to my teacher; he acknowledged the Academy and I realized how renowned Guro Dan was.
I also felt fortunate to know how useful martial arts were in self-defense and in my philosophies of life. Compared to other students who trained in the class (where their expectations were to take a “Tae Bo” class and get a cardio workout) I perceived the class as a very efficient art for self-defense and training for my mind. I learned that I could control my body and take it to extremes that I never felt before. To me it was rewarding to know this. I gained a sense of self-awareness and confidence knowing what my limits and potentials were.
Right out of college, I took my first job in the very stressful entertainment world, working at a talent agency. I needed a way out, or at least a way to calm me down after work. Once again, I turned to martial arts and re-enrolled in the Inosanto Academy.
For the next two years, I only took the Saturday Thai Boxing class, since that was the most accommodating class for me. Throughout that time, I began to really appreciate martial arts. It was different from my young adult’s class back in 1996. The concepts and applications made more sense to me. I also developed an appreciation for my Filipino background, and eventually started taking the Kali and Silat classes because of the sense of identity. I learned from Guro Dan and his lectures about Southeast Asian culture. I have also learned respect and discipline from my teachers, and I am so grateful for the knowledge and wisdom they have shared with me.
At the Academy, I also gained a wonderful group of friends. I look up to them and appreciate the emotional support they give, and I learned that training at the Academy is not only a breeding ground for martial artists, but also a place to build and grow valuable relationships.
Most importantly to me, I found something that was really my own. I made the decision to take classes and continue training on my own. Although my mother gave me grief for it, at least I knew that it was my decision to continue training, and she could not take it away from me, indeed, no one could. Besides, I am convinced there is a feminine side to martial arts. The Wai Kru, for example, is a graceful dance to show our respects to our teacher. In no way do I feel like a man when I perform it.
At this point in my life, I feel that I have matured, and continue to mature, as an individual by training at the Academy. I have definitely come to know that at least one thing makes me happy in life, and that is training in martial arts at the Inosanto Academy.