Saturday Morning Cartoon: The Ballad of Magellan
Knowing what Magellan's fate was, historically, I really wasn't sure how it'd be reconciled at the end of this video, as I was watching. I "lol'ed" at the gentle, cute interpretation of a violent end to Magellan's life, in cartoon-humor, palatable for kids.
A bit of personal and unconventional history....
Before the mainstream discovered mixed martial arts (popularized with the rise of NBA and MMA-type of competitions) and the value of cross-training by not limiting yourself to a single art, I was already practicing the concepts and principles espoused by Bruce Lee (I was also a longtime student of Dan Inosanto):
- Research your own experience
- Absorb what is useful
- Discard what isn't
- Add what is specifically your own
Why do I bring this up? Two reasons.
There was a time in my life when as much as I hated talking about martial arts, I also loved talking about martial arts! I loved serious training and hated the "pretense" and "mystique" that surrounded it.
The charlatans and samurai-wannabes.
In a fight between a lousy boxer and a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, I'd bet my money 9 out of 10 times, that the boxer would come out on top (generally speaking). There is just so much bs in martial arts, that it used to drive me crazy. My idea of martial arts was an F15. A sig-sauer. A finger jab through the eye-socket; sinking your teeth into your attacker's throat and ripping out his jugular. That was martial art. A zero-tolerance for violence by the use of violence as last resort.
That attitude of "overkill", went against the philosophy of aikido, one of the many arts I also studied ("....no stone unturned"). But I felt it was the more realistic one. The one that could keep you alive.
So many martial artists I knew would avoid serious delving into the nature of "the beast" and in serious study of violence; they circumvented it, by remaining in the civilized world with Mr. Miyagi-style esoteric philosophy of non-violence preaching.
In my opinion, most martial artists live in a fantasy world of fancy dance routines and memorized technique. Real training, to me, was dipping your carry-folder in baby oil, to simulate the viscosity of blood while slashing through a side of beef. It was bringing in psychological and emotional realism into the sparring. And we had all kinds of ways to spar. It was smart training and survivable training.
Other martial arts I had studied before (such as aikido) gave me a false sense of security. The kind that can get you killed. But kali as taught by my primary teacher, gave me a weird kind of confidence- because it made me realize just how vulnerable we all are. And it doesn't matter if you are purported to be the "best fighter on the planet"- anyone on any given day can be sucker punched and have his ass kicked in. Nor can you be the "best fighter" in every conceivable environment and under all types of circumstances.
I remember one story relayed to me by Dan Inosanto, about how, a bunch of martial artists had gathered together at, I think it was a pool-side party, boasting about what they could do. Finally, one guy contemptuously scoffed at all this talk, and announced that he could take them all on. He went into the swimming pool and challenged all comers. The karate guy went in there, and got his head dunked down, giving up when he ran out of air. The boxer tried his luck, but was also held under water, flapping his arms. The wrestler faired no better and was held under as well. No one could beat the guy. They all finally asked him what style he practiced. His response? He didn't do martial arts. He was a water polo player. In that particular environment, the water polo guy was king.
To my knowledge, it's a true story (even though I know the details have my own embellishment to them from faulty memory), based upon Inosanto's personal experience. But he told it, to illustrate the point.
My second reason for talking about the warfare, tribal art of kali is that Lapu-Lapu- the chieftain who is said to have slain Magellan- is celebrated in Filipino martial tradition.
My primary teacher wrote this up for one of the old school brochures:
In elementary school we learned about a Portuguese navigator named Ferdinand Magellan who was, supposedly, the first man to circumnavigate the earth in 1522. That's interesting, because in the Philippines, they tell of a courageous Moro chieftain named Lapu Lapu who killed a pirate named Magellan in 1521 when he raided their island (Mactan) in search of plunder. The truth, of course, is somewhere in between. We do know that Magellan never finished his famous voyage; his crew went on to carry his name into the history books.
Perhaps of further interest, from the brochure, is the following:
Kali's brutal effectiveness was felt in the Americas as far back as the Revolutionary War, when Filipino merchant marines utilized it in service to the army of George Washington, under the command of Lafayette.The claims on the history of the term, "leatherneck", I've never been able to substantiate, as it's told in this account. The boxing influence, although also not found in any western books that I'm aware of, I am sure is rooted in factual history. Much of the knowledge and evolutionary history, in terms of specifics, have been lost, through the passage of time, unwritten and unrecorded. Dan Inosanto is a walking national treasure of information on the seldom-known history, having personally met and known some of the history-makers, who passed their knowledge onto Dan (including the jigsaw history).
More recently, after the United States received the Philippines as reparations for the Spanish-American War (1898), the U.S. Marines learned, first-hand, why the southern islands, the realm of the fierce Moros, were never conquered by the Spanish. Charged with halting the insurrections of the Jurimentados (fanatical Moslem Moros who had taken an oath to die in battle killing Christians), the marines faced literally unstoppable warriors who so frequently beheaded their enemies that the American government issued thick leather collars to be worn as protection, hence the nickname "leathernecks".
It was around this time that Kali's most profound, yet least recognized impact on the western world took place. Boxing was already an established tradition in the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. This was the era of John L. Sullivan and western boxing was firmly rooted in the English style, which was characterized by the upright stance and palm-up position of the fists. During the American occupation of the Philippines, sailors and marines witnessed a centuries-old unarmed sub-art of Kali called Panantukan, a sophisticated, rapid-fire striking art utilizing the open hand, forearm and elbow. Most intriguing to the Americans, though, was its use of the closed fist. Derived from Daga y daga- a double knife-fighting method- Panantukan training was done with teh fists bound in Manila rope, turning them into equally formidable wapons, to say the least. Immediately recognizing this ancient method as being far superior to traditional western boxing, the Americans offered the Filipinos boxing gloves in trade for instruction. This exchange changed the history of boxing forever, and nearly destroyed the art of Panantukan in the process. Today, Kali is practiced (in a highly-diluted form of Panantukan) in every boxing ring in the world.
The problem of scholarly accuracy is compounded by the many Filipino martial arts that have added their own spin to legend and lore, over time.