Sometime during my college years, I came across a book that truly captivated me and significantly influenced my views on Filipino Martial Arts. That book was “Filipino Martial Culture” by Mark V. Wiley. Growing up, I loved going to bookstores and my local mall had at least two or three. I would scourge the graphic novels and fictions sections, but eventually grew into (and stayed with) martial arts. It was from those bookstores that I read Claremont’s X-Men seminal “From the Ashes”, Tolkien’s vast History of Middle Earth including the epic poem “The Lays of Beleriand” and Forrest E. Morgan’s “Living the Martial Way”. I collected the Bruce Lee’s Fighting Method Books, and on trips up to New York City’s Chinatown I even purchased books on Muscle/Tendon Changing and Bone/Marrow Washing Qigong.
It was in those college years that I started studying Eskrima. Everything I knew about Filipino Martial Arts I had learned from my teachers and martial arts magazines, but “Filipino Martial Culture” presented the art in a broader cultural context. It incorporated the anthropological and sociological aspects. It talked about land migration theories, folk dances, town festivals and even anting-anting. But most of all, there were amazing stories of Tatang Illustrisimo, the formal salutation of the LaCoste Kali system demonstrated by Guro Inosanto, and in-depth details about martial artists I’d only seen in Panther Productions video ads such as Professor Vee. I followed Dr. Mark Wiley’s writings through the years, but when a memory echoed within me of the late Pamana Tuhon Chris Sayoc recalling meeting him for the first time, I decided to reach out. I had wanted to make a trip up to Pennsylvania to meet him myself, as I have only ever conducted these interviews in person but when Covid hit I thought this was a good of a time as any to actually try via Zoom.
Like his Integrated Eskrima Distance Learning Program (DLP), Guro Mark was as personable online as I imagine him to be in person, full of knowledge and story, insight and thought. And while I had more questions for him than swords on my wall, he was a gracious guest and shared his memories on authoring Filipino Martial Culture, his admiration for his teachers, experiences The Philippines and even his perspective on the warrior/healer dichotomy in martial arts.