What is Inayan?

Holger Hoffmann (an interview with Tagaturo Klement, Inayan Eskrima)
Paris, France
August, 2004

Please introduce yourself...

S.K.: My name is Steve Klement and I learned a Filipino Martial Art called Eskrima in California from Suro Mike Inay and I started training in, approximately 1985.

Did you do anything else other than Eskrima?

S.K.: About eight years after I started Eskrima I did a little bit of cardio-workouts and learning in basic western-style boxing, that’s it.

Did you ever study teaching, how to teach a class?

S.K.: No, I have no degrees whatsoever. I went straight from American high school to the U.S. Military and then came back home, continuing just working & teaching in martial arts. I suppose I learned how to teach just by watching my instructor, and mimicking; trying to attain his way of doing things.

Do you think that your style is more a martial art or a combat sport?

S.K.: Both – if I can say both. It’s definitely first and foremost a combat type of martial art. I am sure I am opinionated about that because it’s the one I do and I would guess most martial artist are going to say that they have a combat application to their art. That is pride. The system I practice and teach, Inayan Eskrima, is also beautiful and has an artistic side to it. As an instructor in my style, a style learned from my instructor, I’ve committed to him to teach not just the combat side but the art and history and lineage as well because it was important to him. That is my obligation to my Instructor and so you don’t get one without the other in Inayan Eskrima.

Do you teach more than just skills?

S.K.: Skills like moves? We definitely, of course, teach the techniques and the skills but as far as the history – well we want the student to experience some of the culture of the origin of this art, which is the Philippine islands. So we do discuss the dates and the people behind the art and even, when we get the chance, we even have classes where we experience some of the food or dance. We have also brought in other people to help us to enrich the understanding of the Filipino culture.

What makes your art different to other martial arts?

S.K.: I think, generally speaking about the Filipino arts what makes it special is that it is combat ready and it gives the student combat effectiveness and reflex and it does this even within a shorter amount of time than most martial arts can do. Most martial arts must take a student and bring him up empty-handed and teach him empty handed skills until they are ready to use a weapon and show that they are responsibly ready to use a weapon. In the Filipino martial arts you have to be a little bit more specific about who you teach because most of the time on the first day in class you hold a weapon and we are directly teaching you about lines of attack and how to defend your life against a blade. So it’s a little bit more about saving your life right from the get go than getting your body in shape and understanding the philosophy first and then giving you the essence of blocking real attacks later.

What does philosophy mean to you?

S.K.: My philosophy, which came from my instructor, is the Inayan philosophy. It is to give you freedom through the martial arts. By gaining freedom you are more at liberty to choose what you do, what you say and where you go. You are more so able to live this way than someone who has no understanding of self-defense. Freedom through the martial arts so that you’re not a slave to society. You can go wherever you want and when you want. However, with this training you not only have the gift of freedom but you also carry the weight of responsibility as well. So you become careful and more thoughtful and sometimes you don’t go to those bad places and don’t walk down those dark alleys, hopefully most of the time, because you understand about that. You understand about being a victim or making someone a victim. And so your responsibility is also that you don’t hurt anything or anyone without a reason. That’s the responsibility part. You carry a high-level responsibility in that you know how to hurt someone, and if you do hurt someone for the wrong reasons that has a consequence that might not be immediate but will someday come back to you or your family. That is my philosophy. 

How do you make sure that your students don’t use your art to hurt somebody without a reason?

S.K.: The continued class interaction with them is my best tool. You try. There is no way to really know if they will someday hurt someone or if they won’t. But you certainly pass your philosophy on to them as an ongoing process and you watch how they deal with situations. You watch their temperament in class, especially if you put them through stress drills and you see how they react to that. Maybe most importantly in Inayan, we don’t just end class, salute and step off the matt and go home. We, in almost every class, encourage the students to go out to dinner and talk and get to know each other through different social interactions besides just swinging sticks at each other. I want my students to feel that there is more to the art than what they encounter on the training floor. In this way I can also gauge their character a little better and they can (hopefully) find what drives me to teach this art and to take the chance on each of them so that they one day may do the same. In the end I strive to build a sense of family.

Have you ever seen any of your students acting badly outside your class or have you ever seen anyone acting with aggression within your class? Did you ever have contact with aggression within your style?

S.K.: Yes.

Can you tell me a little bit more about it?

S.K.: I have seen – what’s coming into my mind is a thing that happened about a year ago. I have seen a student who, because of love or because he thought he was in love with this girl, well he was making some poor choices about the girls’ ex-husband coming around and almost got himself into serious physical and/or legal trouble. You know, we come from the States, so you’ve got guns included in this picture too. Well without going into specifics sometimes students make the wrong decisions about where to go, where to hang out - like what we were talking about earlier – you have this burden to think more responsibly than most. Sometimes I’ve got to remind them that you have a responsibility not to be in a bad place because it’s all cause and effect. A bad thing will probably happen if you invite it to. Now I feel that something bad can always happen even in a good place so we try to better the odds and set out to be in a good place and hope nothing will happen and simply deal with it if it does. But when you include yourself with bad people or bad actions or bad places or your just making decisions based on irrational emotions then you are more likely to be involved with something bad. When students lose themselves in this kind of way then I kind of feel like it is their responsibility and they made a bad decision so they led themselves to a bad event. I am a little bit harsher about that with them and I give them a warning and I try to give them good advice and hopefully they’ll come around.

How do you react if some of your students are involved in a bad situation? Are there any consequences for your students?

S.K.: Sure. Either by me, by the law, or by life. But first is a compassionate side, I’ve been trying to go more that route and trying to talk and see how they react. It’s important that we try as hard as we can in that route. If that doesn’t work, then of course I have to be more direct. If being direct doesn’t work at all - then finally I remove them from class and from associations between them and my other students and I make it clear that they are not longer part of the family.

Did it ever happen?

S.K.: Yes.

Do you think that there is a danger that you might give bad people a potential tool to be even worse?

S.K.: It’s a very true possibility. You know, we are all walking around and you don’t know exactly what your personality is until you put yourself under stress or in a very, very uncomfortable situation. And so its hard when someone walks through your door or they are just walking down a sidewalk and they are having a good day and they see your school and wanna join your martial art – it’s hard to judge what kind of person they are. And even if they have some rough signs, tattoos or bandanna or they dress differently or in a rebellious type of way - it’s not always a sure sign of that they are bad. And it also goes the other way around. If they are coming in with a suit and they speak very well, it doesn’t mean that they are necessarily a good person. So you have to be careful. But one of the things we do, we just try to give everyone an opportunity, but we watch very carefully in the beginning. Very, very carefully. We also require that along our ranking structure you have to reach certain requirements. And one of the first things you have to do in my school, and this is particular to my school, is that, for your first level, to pass it – that’s three to six months in the beginning - you must have a State of Tennessee Drivers License. So you have to show me that you have or can get a drivers license. Not everybody can. If you can’t I must start wondering about what I’ve missed. Later on in the rankings, a few years later, you are required to get a Handgun Carry Permit and that’s very hard to do for some people. And if you cant do that… you have to send the application to the State and if you don’t get it approved then I know there is something serious wrong. After that, a level or two after that you are required to get a U.S. Passport. And if you cant get that – this is soon before you are becoming an instructor, then I need to know why. This does not mean to be in my school you must drive a car or carry a gun or travel out of the country. It’s just a measure that you can attain these privileges – or not. And so we have steps, but really there is no way to tell “absolutely”. It’s said that my instructor could read into someone’s eyes and tell if they had good intentions or bad, I am sure that the art eventually gives you that kind of keenness. He was good at it. I saw it with my own eyes that someone came to join the class and he just talked to them for a moment and just said “no”. And so I asked him “why did you say no?” And he just said, “I don’t feel good energy”. So with measures such as I have described and using your best judgment those are good breakers but ultimately you must try to give each person an opportunity and let them prove you wrong or right.

Are you afraid that you might teach the wrong person?

S.K.: Always. The FMA, Eskrima, Inayan Eskrima, it is dangerous. Even right from the first day it’s dangerous. Cause you show someone how to hit someone else with a weapon. Blunt or edged – it doesn’t matter. It’s dangerous. So I’m always worried about it but it also keeps me honest about who I am teaching and why I am teaching them. 

What are the most important values you try to teach? Is it the techniques or the History?

S.K.: Honesty, integrity, honor and respect are four fundamental and important things to me. And then the art. And the art is the tool that can give these things to people or reinforce good character that they may already have - so it is full circle.

What are the reasons for your students to come to your class?

S.K.: Usually someone joins the martial arts, specifically the FMA because they want to learn how to defend themselves. Their reasons change after they’ve been in the art for a while but almost, to me and in my opinion, eight or nine times out of ten they initially join because they want to know how to fight.

You mentioned the values you want to teach, but you guess that most of your students come to learn how to fight. How does this fit together?

S.K.: They eventually see that the art is not just a way to swing a stick, but a way of life and most students become more interested in the reasons behind this and that, than swinging the stick - eventually anyway. It’s just a natural progression. They do not get the highest part of my art without eventually accepting the values and responsibility that come with it. 

Do you think there is a difference between martial arts and combat sports?

S.K.: By sport I assume you mean something like Judo or most Tae Kwon Do. I think there is a difference. I think that the two different venues can have the same reasons for teaching and develop the same things in students. But I do think that they are different. Different side of the coin is all. One thing is, martial means war, and when you go to war you take a weapon. Sport, you know, rolling around on the mat and learning to submit someone on the mat with Judo is good but its not war. If you stay on the ground you are gonna be kicked or hit with a stick or rock and so I think they are different but they can both bring the student to the same “way” or point eventually.

Where does self-defense fit into those two classes?

S.K.: Self defense courses in classes that are ongoing are great but I think it should be stressed, and I stress, whenever it happens that I teach one, that usually it’s just an awareness course and I try to make a participant and possibly a future student aware of what the situation can be and the ugly reality of it all and that they need to continue practicing. It’s only a start.

In Inayan Eskrima, what do you think: How much is self-defense, how much is sport, how much is even something else?

S.K.: It is all relevant to what you want or need the art to be. It is self-defense. It is sport. It is first and foremost combat or warfare but you can definitely mold it to your own taste or for your own particular situation. As far as the students perspective of why they join? Well, I think 80% join for combat protection, you know, to learn to fight. Maybe 10% join for sport and 10% join for other. But I can’t be sure. When I see students join, I usually see that they are looking for the practicality of the art. That’s what they like. 

How much of teaching is techniques, the history you mentioned and sporty things?

S.K.: My instructor taught me a formula for teaching class. I use that formula for most classes and that was to let the student learn something, usually a technique. Let them sweat; you now, moving around via cardio-vascular exercise and then also let them do something that is fun. And so that could be the sport, I don’t know. But I think for the most part, the bulk of class is techniques. Because it takes a long time, years, to learn the defense so most time is spent on that. History comes into play every time we speak the names of our Masters and Grandmasters or every time we try to improve our art they passed on to us. So you could say we are always working on the history part as well. So usually some of the class is techniques, some is exercising and some of it is understanding the reasons behind everything.

Do you think that your martial art is better then others?

S.K.: Yes. But if I may clarify my point - it’s the student that makes any art better then others. You know, every martial art is important and when I see someone doing Jiu-Jitsu or Hapkido or Karate, it puts a sparkle in my eye as well. So again, yes Inayan Eskrima is better than other arts – for me. It fits and maybe another art fits better for someone else. It’s all about matching and preference etc. But this one is personal to me because of my relationship with my Instructor. I “drive” this art because I believe in it – I know it works for me and I have tested it at high speed and so I believe my car is better than the other ones on the lot. But we are all on the same highway and we are hopefully going to the same destination and so all the other drivers are my comrades and friends on this passage of life no matter what vehicle they are in.