They call me Bruce as my friends calls me back in high school days. My hours would be spent captivated when watching “Bruce Lee’s martial art” movies that included Big Boss, Chinese Connection, and Enter the Dragon, the latter which I had the opportunity to watch six times in less than a month! At the time, I was in high school living with my brother, Alex who was stationed in Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
I was an introvert who rarely socialized. One reason for this was due to my lack of proficiency in the English language. Nevertheless, I expressed a talent in painting, and was awarded a full-ride scholarship to study Fine Arts at New Mexico State University. I was active in team sports like basketball and cross country running. What I lacked in English, I excelled in other ways, especially in the martial arts. It was because of this that friends and classmates began calling me Bruce. This given nickname imprinted in my mind a self-image that encouraged me to further my martial arts training. Bruce Lee’s death in 1973, however, was a traumatic loss for the martial arts world, including my own world. Although I never studied under him, I felt that I had lost someone who had a great impact in my life.
In 1979, I met Guru Dan Inosanto and Guru Richard Bustillo during a martial arts workshop that they offered in Jeet Kune Do (JKD) and the Filipino martial art of Kali, FMA. It so happened that Inosanto was a protégé of Bruce Lee. He displayed such humility that he allowed me and my partner, Erwin Ballarta to demonstrate our style of Filipino Kali in front of the workshop attendees. The following year, I committed to learning more from Guru Dan. Every year, until 1995, I was flying him here to Dayton, Ohio so that he could impart to us his knowledge in the martial art styles of Jeet Kune Do, Kali, Panantukan, Silat, and Muay Thai.
Just recently, one of my private students, Scott Thomae presented me with a gift in the form of a framed print of the late Bruce Lee, taken during the filming of Enter the Dragon. Since then, I have hung that picture on the wall where I have hung other pictures of him. It is my way of honoring him – the man whom I was nicknamed after, “they call me Bruce“. It also serves as a reminder of his teachings that were passed on to us through Guru Dan.
The concepts and philosophies of Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do can be found in the classes that we offer here at TAMA Martial Arts center, including the Filipino Kali, Kempo Karate Jiujitsu, Muay Thai, BJJ, Aikido and Tien Shan Pai kung fu classes.