The martial arts world has seen another great
light extinguished, as this week we mourn the death of Professor Remy
Presas, the Grandmaster of Modern Arnis. The Professor was a great
inspiration to all that met him, and was perhaps the greatest
ambassador of his country's art, traveling the world to "spread the
Arnis", as he admonished all of us to do as well. With a quick smile
and a cane of lightning he would teach, not only technique but
concepts and interconnections. "Do you see?" he would say "It is all
Professor was both a gifted fighter and a patient and attentive instructor. He would let you pair off to practice and move through the room, correcting every student personally. He wanted to make sure you understood! At times, if your partner was slow to learn, this could be quite painful as Professor would repeat the technique on you again and again, teaching your slower friend its nuances. But this was always a treat and a great learning experience. You were feeling just how he did it, and while you might forget what you hear, you will not so easily forget what you feel!
He wanted to make sure that every person there, from novice to Black Belt, walked out understanding something new about the art of Arnis. He would take his advanced people and put them with the newer students "I want you to make sure they learn" he would tell us (and he would make sure we were!). By the end of the second day he would also know everyone's name that was at a camp and call them up at the end as we would all salute, then shake hands to end the session. It always amazed me to watch him name off 60 or more people from memory "...and Ron...and Tim..."
Professor loved to see what other arts people training in, and was quick to compliment a student on a new technique or variation, never chastising them for practicing another style. "Arnis is the art within your art" he would say. The Arnis would strengthen your other art and vice-versa. Learning the conceptual lines of motion and the flow in striking and grappling with or without weapons puts you ahead! Many Arnis people have told me that when they went to study another style, the people would ask them if they had studied it before. The Arnis gave them such a conceptual base to draw on that no matter if they were studying Kung Fu, Karate, Ju Jitsu, Silat or whatever, to them "It was all the same."
The Professor is also the man indirectly responsible for Alliance! It was in 1989 when Professor Presas told me over dinner to start teaching upon my return to Buffalo, NY. I did so, and have done so ever since. I will always be proud to have been promoted to Black Belt by him personally in 1991.
Professor Presas was a one of those special individuals that does not come along often, and I feel blessed to have known him. The world is a sadder place for your passing, Professor.