Before I met him, before I even saw him, I heard him. I heard his voice. From his emanating voice you are immersed in his kindness, his warmth, his compassion and his keen sense of humor. At the same time you can sense the focus, strength, character, intensity and vitality of this one-of-a-kind individual. This was my introduction to Sigung Richard Bustillo.
The 2013 IMB Instructors and Coaches Clinic had been on my calendar since the summer of 2012. Yes, it had been on my calendar for over a year. Though I didn’t know the exact dates, the last week of August 2013 seemed like a good guess. To say that I was looking forward to the experience, is most certainly an understatement.
I first heard of the clinic from my, as Sigung Bustillo says, “future Father-in-law,” Pete Israel. Sifu Pete, as I refer to him, began his training under Sigung Bustillo in the 1970s, and is still a loyal, humble and devoted supporter to this day. Over the years, I had heard wonderful stories of Sigung Bustillo and the IMB Academy from Sifu Pete. Even before meeting Sigung Bustillo, I already had a sincere admiration and appreciation for him. I had often wondered when I would have the chance to meet the man that I had heard so much about, but had yet never met.
That day finally came when I had the opportunity to attend the 2013 Cacoy Doce Pares Charity Seminar. Entering the IMB Academy for the first time is truly an exhilarating and awe-inspiring experience. Up until this day, I had only imagined what it must look and feel like inside. I bowed my head in respect and gratitude as I entered the Academy. I felt a wave of emotion hit me as I immediately experienced a sense of the rich history and legacy of the IMB Academy. The deep respect for the tradition, culture and spirit of the martial arts is felt from the time you walk through the door. I felt myself getting a little choked up upon entering, taken by emotion and genuinely thankful to have been given the opportunity to be there, in the space, in this moment.
The profound reverence for history is explored to an even stronger degree upon entering the training rooms. The photos, posters, certifications, letters of appreciation, mementos and heirlooms in the training rooms all add to the sense of heritage. But the message and overall theme goes even further. The IMB Academy provides a space which emphasizes and affirms complete respect for the value of community, family and unity. I believe that is part of the reason why I felt so welcome and comfortable from my very first visit. Though I didn’t know anyone there, it already felt like an extended family. You can tell that this is a place of family tradition. Generations come here. Mothers, sons, fathers, daughters, siblings and friends all come here and consider The IMB Academy as a home away from home. Of course, all of this energy is a direct reflection of a great man. You can feel his presence throughout.
Needless to say, the seminar was exceptional. Made all the more special and significant by virtue of the teacher and his connection with Supreme Grandmaster Ciriaco “Cacoy” Canete. I highly recommend to those with good intentions, an open mind and a positive attitude, to attend next year’s seminar, or any of Sigung Bustillo’s seminars for that matter, be it locally, nationally or globally.
My experience continued two days later with the 2013 IMB Coaches and Instructors Clinic. The clinic was superb. Five days of training, for five or more hours per day, each day featuring a different discipline – Boxing, Eskrima, Muay Thai, Jeet Kune Do and Grappling. The content of the seminar is marvelous, the level of instruction is outstanding and the course material and curriculum is among the very best in the world. But honestly, it’s the teacher that we are all there for. Sigung Bustillo is a Master Teacher through and through. He could be teaching us anything, quite frankly, and he would have a captive audience. Sigung Bustillo knows how to motivate and bring out the best in each individual. If you do well, he may say, “good boy!” A moment later, if you drop your hands during a boxing drill, he may whack you in the head. Personally, I appreciate both. Both are helpful and constructive learning tools which are truly inspiring when delivered out of love, as is the case with Sigung Bustillo.
One of my favorite elements of the training day was the Q and A session that Sigung would hold at the beginning of each and every morning. Sigung Bustillo said that one time at a seminar, he answered questions for two hours straight. The seminar participants were in awe and said that it was the best seminar that they had ever attended. And I can see why. During the morning discussions, you get insights, clarification, and a positive realignment to the program, beliefs, core values, code of ethics and integrity of Sigung Bustillo.
Sigung Bustillo’s stories of training under Sijo Bruce Lee are a unique treasure and are sincerely a one-of-a-kind experience. Hearing the tales of Sigung Bustillo and Guro Inosanto in the early days, is profoundly moving for me. Listening to Sigung reminisce of their time together while training with Grandmasters of the Filipino Martial Arts is invigorating and enlightening. Brief snippets of the two friends simply driving in a car, eating together at an Asian restaurant, comparing training notes or just sitting and waiting for the other to finish teaching a class – those are the moments in time, those brief stories, that will stay with me forever. For it is those moments of camaraderie that truly drive home the message of what true friendship is all about. And more importantly, what lifelong friendship is all about and what the spirit of family truly means. Though subtle, these anecdotes invoke a deeply moving experience for me.
In addition to taking questions, Sigung Bustillo generously presents scenarios that he encounters or has encountered along the path. He asks the students how they would respond or react or adapt in a given situation. In this way, we can learn from Sigung’s vast knowledge and experience. An excellent teaching tool for sure. Interestingly, since the clinic, I have found myself thinking, “what would Sigung Bustillo do in this particular situation?” And that’s usually when I go and whack one my students in the head. Just kidding.
Everyone I met while at The IMB Academy, from the instructors and assistant instructors, to the students, to the clinic participants were all very kind and welcoming. The seminar participants all come from different styles and backgrounds, mine being contemporary Wushu. Everyone I met is very respectful and appreciative of all styles, systems and backgrounds. The spirit of Ohana is very much present, and it comes from the top down – all a clear reflection of Sigung Bustillo. You can just image how proud Sijo Bruce Lee must be of Sigung Bustillo. You can just imagine how all of Sigung Bustillo’s teachers would be so proud of all of his accomplishments and achievements and all the individuals who he has inspired. I can truly say that this experience has inspired me to be a better teacher, and to strive to be at my best at all times. Though this was my first visit to the IMB Academy, it will certainly not be my last.
At the end of the week of training, I sent a message to Sifu Pete (future Father-in-law) thanking him for the introduction. He wrote back, “Yes, Sifu Bustillo is AMAZING! I’m glad that you were able to experience and train under the voice of Sifu Bustillo.” It’s true, the voice of Sifu Bustillo is something that I will keep with me for the rest of my life.
To all of the seminar participants and instructors, thank you for making the 2013 Instructors and Coaches Clinic such a memorable journey. I will always remember the experience with much fondness and enthusiasm. To Grandmaster Bustillo, sincere gratitude, love and respect for all that you do.
In kindness and compassion,