Whenever I'm asked to chart out the path I've taken as a martial artist, I hesitate... not because it would be difficult to scribble out a chronologically ordered list of the various teachers I've trained with, but because many of the more important steps I've taken and lessons I've learned along the way had nothing to do with that traditional teacher-student paradigm. Moreover, I've never been one to put much stock in the whole lineage thing. When it comes to teaching, who you studied with makes very little difference unless you distinguished yourself as a teacher with your own voice and unique point of view. No one needs or wants a teacher who is merely parroting the words of their teacher, no matter how famous he was, or his teacher was, or his teacher's teacher was... blah, blah, blah. Ultimately, no matter who you study with, it is you who teaches the art to yourself. Imitating your teacher may seem like the way to go, but imitating is not creating and art is about creativity. Creativity in the martial arts is no different than it is in painting or dance. It's about not being bound by the medium of the art, but being free to spontaneously create effective technique in the moment, without relying on memory or being in any way compelled to follow a particular approach because of the influence of a teacher, no matter how skillful or famous he was. No one who understands that wants to study with an imitator, but to be an original requires a combination of personality traits that is rare in any field of endeavor. To align yourself with a particular school or teacher provides a sense of security and camaraderie that can be very appealing, but no one who embraces that approach will ever be anything more than a follower.
Over the years, a veritable legion of misguided individuals have come through the door of my school with their nifty little certificates in hand, presuming that their 'certified instructor' status would mean something to me. It didn't. A sheet of paper that you spent an inordinate amount of money to get signed by whoever doesn't tell me that you have taken possession of the art to such a depth and degree that your personal insights will be of value to students. On the contrary, it will more than likely send the message that the opposite is true. It 'certifies' that you're willing to tow the party line, to kowtow to a teacher or organization to get a piece of paper. I wouldn't study with such a teacher myself and I certainly wouldn't allow them to infect my students with that approach to learning and mastering these arts. So, when it comes to my path, how do I shine light on the things that have made me who I am? It's certainly not an easy thing to do... I had a teacher in high school who refused to do things the way the board of education required. When we were supposed to be visiting a government building to gain some understanding of what those corrupt bureaucrats were doing with our tax dollars, he took us instead to a car dealership to learn how to buy a car without getting ripped off. His whole approach was to teach us how to navigate in the real world. Great teacher. Around that same time, I met a physician who took a similarly iconoclastic approach to health and healing. His influence utterly changed the course of my life and, coupled with the self-discipline I had developed through training in the martial arts as a boy, his simple, uncompromising approach to treating my body right is the key reason I have always been able to stay in great shape. Great teacher. My mother and father taught me about honor and integrity. They also made it very clear that learning was not a passive endeavor. They instilled the notion that it was my job to 'steal' knowledge, meaning it was up to me to ask questions and to be voracious in learning anything that was of interest to me. It's also their influence that inspired me to expand my interests and study science, culture, traditions, history and art. That approach to becoming a better man made me a better martial artist and teacher as well. By comparison, the time I spent learning a technique or principle from a particular martial arts teacher was important but nowhere near as influential. My personal passion for learning the martial arts was built on a solid foundation poured by those other 'peripheral' mentors and teachers, and it is to them that I feel most indebted. As to the path I have followed, I studied tradition Korean, Japanese and Chinese martial arts for decades. At the same time, I trained in western fencing, boxing and kickboxing. Inspired by my father's wartime experiences fighting in the Philippines, I sought out Filipino martial arts at an early age and have continued to seek out new teachers and new perspectives in those brilliant arts.
The Filipino martial arts are the foundation of what I teach and I have distinguished myself as a teacher by having my own point of view, my own insights and my own way of teaching. I follow no particular teacher and am beholding to no political organization. If you study with me, you will be the teacher, as it will be up to you to steal the art from me and teach it to yourself. My job is to provide an environment that is most conducive to that approach, an environment where you can ask questions and get detailed answers rather than vague 'concepts' or stories about what other people supposedly do or once did. We train smart, meaning you won't ever be thrown into a pit to engage in machismo-based weapon sparring that encourages you to lead with your head and disregard developing an effective defense. You'll learn to take the offensive initiative swiftly and intelligently and hold onto it with the indomitable prowess that distinguishes an Eskrimador from a testosterone-addled Neanderthal with a stick. Most importantly, though, you'll have the opportunity to change your life's path and actually become the person you have always aspired to be. I don't believe that anyone who walks though my door wants only to learn my art but is otherwise fully satisfied with who they are. Training for potentially decades to win a fight you will very likely never have is a waste of time, but utilizing those years of dedication and discipline to become the best version of yourself that you can possibly be is a noble and worthwhile endeavor. So there you have it. That's my path and I invite you to join me in forging it.
Video Interview With Mark Mikita